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Across the Zodiac by Percy Greg

Part 3 out of 9

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the standard of the State Nurseries, there was no question, and placed
them in families, mostly childless, that were willing to receive them.
Of this one it was our turn to take charge; and certainly his chance
is better for being brought up among other children, and under the
influence of their gentler dispositions and less exacting
temperaments."

"And is such ill-temper and selfishness," I asked, "generally found
among the deformed?"

"I don't think," replied Esmo, "that this child is much worse than
most of my neighbours' children, except that physical discomfort makes
him fretful. What you call selfishness in him is only the natural
inheritance derived from an ancestry who for some hundred generations
have certainly never cared for anything or any one but themselves. I
thought I had explained to you by what train of circumstances and of
reasoning family affection, such as it is reputed to have been
thousands of years ago, has become extinct in this planet; and, family
affection extinguished, all weaker sentiments of regard for others
were very quickly withered up."

"You told me something of the kind," I said; "but the idea of a life
so utterly swallowed up in self that no one even thinks it necessary
to affect regard for and interest in others, was to me so
unintelligible and inconceivable that I did not realise the full
meaning of your account. Nor even now do I understand how a society
formed of such members can be held together. On Earth we should expect
them either to tear one another to pieces, or to relapse into
isolation and barbarism lower than that of the lowest tribe which
preserves social instincts and social organisation. A society composed
of men resembling that child, but with the intelligence, force, and
consistent purpose of manhood, would, I should have thought, be little
better than a congregation of beasts of prey."

"We have such beasts," said Esmo, "in the wild lands, and they are
certainly unsociable and solitary. But men, at least civilised men,
are governed not only by instinct but by interest, and the interest of
each individual in the preservation of social co-operation and social
order is very evident and very powerful. Experience and school
discipline cure children of the habit of indulging mere temper and
spite before they come to be men, and they are taught by practice as
well as by precept the absolute necessity of co-operation. Egotism,
therefore, has no tendency to dissolve society as a mere organisation,
though it has utterly destroyed society as a source of pleasure."

"Does your law," I asked, "confine the principle of euthanasia to
infants, or do you put out of the world adults whose life is supposed,
for one reason or another, to be useless and joyless?"

"Only," he answered, "in the case of the insane. When the doctors are
satisfied that a lunatic cannot be cured, an inquest is held; and if
the medical verdict be approved, he is quietly and painlessly
dismissed from existence. Logically, of course, the same principle
should be applied to all incurable disease; and I suspect--indeed I
know--that it is applied when the household have become weary, and the
patient is utterly unable to protect himself or appeal to the law. But
the general application of the principle has been successfully
resisted, on the ground that the terror it would cause, the constant
anxiety and alarm in which men would live if the right of judging when
life had become worthless to them were left to others, would far
outweigh any benefit which might be derived from the legalised
extinction of existences which had become a prolonged misery; and such
cases, as I have told you, are very rare among us. A case of hopeless
bodily suffering, not terminating very speedily in death, does not
occur thrice a year among the whole population of the planet, except
through accident. We have means of curing at the outset almost all of
those diseases which the observance for hundreds of generations of
sound physical conditions of life has not extirpated; and in the worst
instances our anaesthetics seldom fail to extinguish the sense of pain
without impairing intellect. Of course, any one who is tired of his
life is at liberty to put an end to it, and any one else may assist
him. But, though the clinging to existence is perhaps the most
irrational of all those purely animal instincts on emancipation from
which we pride ourselves, it is the strongest and the most lasting.
The life of most of my countrymen would be to me intolerable
weariness, if only from the utter want, after wealth is attained, of
all warmer and less isolated interest than some one pet scientific
pursuit can afford; and yet more from the total absence of affection,
family duties, and the various mental occupations which interest in
others affords. But though the question whether life is worth living
has long ago been settled among us in the negative, suicide, the
logical outcome of that conviction, is the rarest of all the methods
by which life is terminated."

"Which seems to show that even in Mars logic does not always dominate
life and prevail over instinct. But what is the most usual cause of
death, where neither disease nor senility are other than rare
exceptions?"

"Efflux of time," Esmo replied with an ironical smile. "That is the
chief fatal disease recognised by our physicians."

"And what is its nature?"

"Ah, that neither I nor any other physician can tell you. Life 'goes
out,' like a lamp when the materials supplying the electric current
are exhausted; and yet here all the waste of which physic can take
cognisance is fully repaired, and the circuit is not broken."

"What are the symptoms, then?"

"They are all reducible to one--exhaustion of the will, the prime
element of personality. The patient ceases to _care_. It is too much
trouble to work; then too much trouble to read; then too much trouble
to exert even those all but mechanical powers of thought which are
necessary to any kind of social intercourse--to give an order, to
answer a question, to recognise a name or a face: then even the
passions die out, till the patient cannot be provoked to rate a stupid
amba or a negligent wife; finally, there is not energy to dress or
undress, to rise up or sit down. Then the patient is allowed to die:
if kept alive perforce, he would finally lack the energy to eat or
even to breathe. And yet, all this time, the man is alive, the self is
there; and I have prolonged life, or rather renewed it, for a time, by
some chance stimulus that has reached the inner sight through the
thickening veil, and shocked the essential man into willing and
thinking once more as he thought and willed when he was younger than
his grandchildren are now.... It is well that some of us who know best
how long the flesh may be kept in life, are, in right of that very
knowledge, proof against the wish to keep the life in the flesh for
ever."

CHAPTER VII - ESCORT DUTY.

Immediately after breakfast the next morning my host invited me to the
gate of his garden, where stood one of the carriages I had seen before
in the distance, but never had an opportunity of examining. It rested
on three wheels, the two hind ones by far larger than that in front,
which merely served to sustain the equilibrium of the body and to
steer. The material was the silver-like metal of which most Martial
vessels and furniture are formed, every spar, pole, and cross-piece
being a hollow cylinder; a construction which, with the extreme
lightness of the metal itself, made the carriage far lighter than any
I had seen on Earth. The body consisted of a seat with sides, back,
and footboard, wide enough to accommodate two persons with ease. It
was attached by strong elastic fastenings to a frame consisting of
four light poles rising from the framework in which the axles turned;
completely dispensing with the trouble of springs, while affording a
more complete protection from anything like jolting. The steering gear
consisted of a helm attached to the front wheel and coming up within
easy reach of the driver's hand. The electric motive power and
machinery were concealed in a box beneath the seat, which was indeed
but the top of this most important and largest portion of the
carriage. The poles sustained a light framework supporting a canopy,
which could be drawn over the top and around three sides of the
carriage, leaving only the front open. This canopy, in the present
instance, consisted of a sort of very fine silken material, thickly
embroidered within and without with feathers of various colours and
sizes, combined in patterns of exquisite beauty. My host requested me
to mount the carriage with him, and drove for some distance, teaching
me how to steer, and how, by pressing a spring, to stop or slacken the
motion of the vehicle, also how to direct it over rough ground and up
or down the steepest slope on which it was available. When we
returned, the Regent's carriage was standing by the gate, and two
others were waiting at a little distance in the rear. The Regent, with
a companion, was already seated, and as soon as we reached the gate,
Eveena appeared. She was enveloped from head to foot in a cloak of
something like swans-down covering her whole figure, loose, like the
ordinary outer garments of both sexes, and gathered in at the waist by
a narrow zone of silver, with a sort of clasp of some bright green
jewel; and a veil of white satin-looking material covered the whole
head and face, and fell half-way to the waist. Her gloved right hand
was hidden by the sleeve of her cloak; that of the left arm was turned
back, and the hand which she gave me as I handed her to the seat on my
left was bare--a usage both of convenience and courtesy. At Esmo's
request, the Regent, who led the way, started at a moderate pace, not
exceeding some ten miles an hour. I observed that on the roofs of all
the houses along the road the inhabitants had gathered to watch us;
and as my companion was so completely veiled, I did not baulk their
curiosity by drawing the canopy. I presently noticed that the girl
held something concealed in her right sleeve, and ventured to ask her
what she had there.

"Pardon me," she said; "if we had been less hurried, I meant to have
asked your permission to bring my pet _esve_ with me." Drawing back
her sleeve, she showed a bird about the size of a carrier-pigeon, but
with an even larger and stronger beak, white body, and wings and tail,
like some of the plumage of the head and neck, tinted with gold and
green. Around its neck was a little string of silver, and suspended
from this a small tablet with a pencil or style. Since by her look and
manner she seemed to expect an answer, I said--

"I am very glad you have given me the opportunity of making
acquaintance with another of those curiously tame and manageable
animals which your people seem to train to such wonderful intelligence
and obedience. We have birds on Earth which will carry a letter from a
strange place to their home, but only homewards."

"These," she answered, "will go wherever they are directed, if they
have been there before and know the name of the place; and if this
bird had been let loose after we had left, he would have found me, if
not hidden by trees or other shelter, anywhere within a score of
miles."

"And have your people," I asked, "many more such wonderfully
intelligent and useful creatures tamed to your service, besides the
ambau, the tyree, and these letter-carriers?"

"Oh yes!" she answered. "Nearly all our domestic animals will do
anything they are told which lies within their power. You have seen
the tyree marching in a line across a field to pick up every single
worm or insect, or egg of such, within the whole space over which they
move, and I think you saw the ambau gathering fruit. It is not very
usual to employ the latter for this purpose, except in the trees. Have
you not seen a big creature--I should call it a bird, but a bird that
cannot fly, and is covered with coarse hair instead of feathers? It is
about as tall as myself, but with a neck half as long as its body, and
a very sharp powerful beak; and four of these _carvee_ would clear a
field the size of our garden (some 160 acres) of weeds in a couple of
days. We can send them, moreover, with orders to fetch a certain
number of any particular fruit or plant, and they scarcely ever forget
or blunder. Some of them, of course, are cleverer than others. The
cleverest will remember the name of every plant in the garden, and
will, perhaps, bring four or even six different kinds at a time; but
generally we show them a leaf of the plant we want, or point out to
them the bed where it is to be found, and do not trouble their memory
with more than two different orders at a time. The Unicorns, as you
call them, come regularly to be milked at sunset, and, if told
beforehand, will come an hour earlier or later to any place pointed
out to them. There were many beasts of burden before the electric
carriages were invented, so intelligent that I have heard the rider
never troubled himself to guide them except when he changed his
purpose, or came to a road they had not traversed before. He would
simply tell them where to go, and they would carry him safely. The
only creature now kept for this purpose is the largest of our birds
(the _caldecta_), about six feet long from head to tail, and with
wings measuring thrice as much from tip to tip. They will sail through
the air and carry their rider up to places otherwise inaccessible. But
they are little used except by the hunters, partly because the danger
is thought too great, partly because they cannot rise more than about
4000 feet from the sea-level with a rider, and within that height
there are few places worth reaching that cannot be reached more
safely. People used to harness them to balloons till we found means to
drive these by electricity--the last great invention in the way of
locomotion, which I think was completed within my grandfather's
memory."

"And," I asked, "have you no animals employed in actually cultivating
the soil?"

"No," she replied, "except the weeding birds of whom I have told you.
When we have a piece of ground too small for our electric ploughs, we
sometimes set them to break it up, and they certainly reduce the soil
to a powder much finer than that produced by the machine."

"I should like to see those machines at work."

"Well," answered Eveena, "I have no doubt we shall pass more than one
of them on our way."

As she said this we reached the great road I had crossed on my
arrival, and turning up this for a short distance, sufficient,
however, to let me perceive that it led to the seaport town of which I
have spoken, we came to a break in the central footpath, just wide
enough to allow us to pass. Looking back on this occasion, I observed
that we were followed by the two other carriages I have mentioned, but
at some distance. We then proceeded up the mountain by a narrow road I
had not seen in descending it. On either side of this lay fields of
the kind already described, one of which was in course of cultivation,
and here I saw the ploughs of which my companion had spoken. Evidently
constructed on the same principle as the carriages, but of much
greater size, and with heavier and broader wheels, they tore up and
broke to pieces a breadth of soil of some two yards, working to a
depth of some eighteen inches, with a dozen sharp powerful triangular
shares, and proceeding at a rate of about fifty yards per minute.
Eveena explained that these fields were generally from 200 to 600
yards square. The machine having traversed the whole field in one
direction, then recommenced its work, ploughing at right angles to the
former, and carrying behind it a sort of harrow, consisting of hooks
supported by light, hollow, metallic poles fixed at a certain angle to
the bar forming the rearward extremity of the plough, by which the
surface was levelled and the soil beaten into small fragments; broken
up, in fact, as I had seen, not less completely than ordinary garden
soil in England or Flanders. When it reached the end of its course,
the plough had to be turned; and this duty required the employment of
two men, one at each end of the field, who, however, had no other or
more difficult labour than that of turning the machine at the
completion of each set of furrows. In another field, already doubly
ploughed, a sowing machine was at work. The large seeds were placed
singly by means of an instrument resembling a magnified ovipositor,
such as that possessed by many insects, which at regulated intervals
made a hole in the ground and deposited a seed therein. Eveena
explained that where the seed and plant were small, a continuous
stream was poured into a small furrow made by a different instrument
attached to the same machine, while another arm, placed a little to
the rear, covered in the furrow and smoothed the surface. In reply to
another question of mine--"There are," she said, "some score of
different wool or hair bearing animals, which are shorn twice in the
year, immediately after the rains, and furnish the fibre which is
woven into most of the materials we use for dress and other household
purposes. These creatures adapt themselves to the shearing machines
with wonderful equanimity and willingness, so that they are seldom or
never injured."

"Not even," I asked, "by inexperienced or clumsy hands?"

"Hands," she said, "have nothing to do with the matter. They have only
to send the animal into the machine, and, indeed, each goes in of his
own accord as he sees his fellow come out."

"And have you no vegetable fibres," I said, "that are used for
weaving?"

"Oh yes," she answered, "several. The outer dress I wear indoors is
made of a fibre found inside the rind of the fruit of the algyro tree,
and the stalks of three or four different kinds of plants afford
materials almost equally soft and fine."

"And your cloak," I asked, "is not that made of the skin of some
animal?"

"Yes," she replied, "and the most curious creature I have heard of. It
is found only in the northern and southern Arctic land-belts, to which
indeed nearly all wild animals, except the few small ones that are
encouraged because they prey upon large and noxious insects, are now
confined. It is about as large as the Unicorns, and has, like them,
four limbs; but otherwise it more resembles a bird. It has a bird's
long slight neck, but a very small and not very bird-like head, with a
long horny snout, furnished with teeth, something between a beak and a
mouth. Its hind limbs are those of a bird, except that they have more
flesh upon the lowest joints and are covered with this soft down. Its
front limbs, my father says, seem as if nature had hesitated between
wings and arms. They have attached to them several long, sharp,
featherless quills starting from a shrivelled membrane, which make
them very powerful and formidable weapons, so that no animal likes to
attack it; while the foot has four fingers or claws with, which it
clasps fish or small dragons, especially those electric dragons of
which you have seen a tame and very much enlarged specimen, and so
holds them that they cannot find a chance of delivering their electric
shock. But for the _Thernee_ these dragons, winged as they are, would
make those lands hardly habitable either for man, or other beasts. All
our furs are obtained from those countries, and the creatures from
which they are derived are carefully preserved for that purpose, it
being forbidden to kill more than a certain number of each every year,
which makes these skins by far the costliest articles we use."

By this time we had reached the utmost point to which the carriages
could take us, about a furlong from the platform on which I had rested
during my descent. Seeing that the Regent and his companion had
dismounted, I stopped and sprang down from my carriage, holding out my
hand to assist Eveena's descent, an attention which I thought seemed
to surprise her. Up to the platform the path was easy enough; after
that it became steep even for me, and certainly a troublesome and
difficult ascent for a lady dressed as I have described, and hardly
stronger than a child of the same height and size on earth. Still my
companion did not seem to expect, and certainly did not invite
assistance. That she found no little difficulty in the walk was
evident from her turning back both sleeves and releasing her bird,
which hovered closely round her. Very soon her embarrassments and
stumbles threatened such actual danger as overcame my fear of
committing what, for aught I knew, might be an intrusion. Catching her
as she fell, and raising her by the left hand, I held it fast in my
own right, begging to be permitted to assist her for the rest of the
journey. Her manner and the tone of her voice made it evident that
such an attention, if unusual, was not offensive; but I observed that
those who were following us looked at us with some little surprise,
and spoke together in words which I could not catch, but the tone of
which was not exactly pleasant or complimentary. The Regent, a few
steps in advance of us, turned back from time to time to ask me some
trivial question. At last we reached the summit, and here I released
my companion's hand and stepped forward a pace or two to point out to
the Regent the external structure of the Astronaut. I was near enough,
of course, to be heard by Eveena, and endeavoured to address my
explanations as much to her as to the authority to whom I was required
to render an account. But from the moment that we had actually joined
him she withdrew from all part and all apparent interest in the
conversation. When our companions moved forward to reach the entrance,
which I had indicated, I again offered my hand, saying, "I am afraid
you will find some little difficulty in getting into the vessel by the
window by which I got out."

The Regent, however, had brought with him several light metal poles,
which I had not observed while carried by his companion, but which
being put together formed a convenient ladder of adequate length. He
desired me to ascend first and cut the riband by means of which the
window had been sealed; the law being so strict that even he would not
violate the symbol of private ownership which protected my vessel.
Having done this and opened the window, I sprang down, and he,
followed by his companion, ascended the ladder, and resting himself
upon the broad inner ledge of the window--which afforded a convenient
seat, since the crystal was but half the thickness of the wall--first
took a long look all round the interior, and then leaped down,
followed by his attendant. Eveena drew back, but was at last persuaded
to mount the ladder with my assistance, and rest on the sill till I
followed her and lifted her down inside. The Regent had by this time
reached the machinery, and was examining it very curiously, with
greater apparent appreciation of its purpose than I should have
expected. When we joined them, I found little difficulty in explaining
the purpose and working of most parts of the apparatus. The nature and
generation of the apergic power I took care not to explain. The
existence of such a repulsive force was the point on which the Regent
professed incredulity; as it was, of course, the critical fact on
which my whole narrative turned--on which its truth or falsehood
depended. I resolved ere the close of the inspection to give him clear
practical evidence on this score. In the meantime, listening without
answer to his expressions of doubt, I followed him round the interior,
explaining to him and to Eveena the use and structure of the
thermometer, barycrite, and other instruments. My fair companion
seemed to follow my explanation almost as easily as the officials. Our
followers, who had now entered the vessel, kept within hearing of my
remarks; but, evidently aware that they were there on sufferance,
asked no questions, and made their comments in a tone too low to allow
me to understand their purport. The impression made on the Regent by
the instruments, so far as I could gather from his brief remarks and
the expression of his face, was one of contemptuous surprise rather
than the interest excited by the motive machinery. Most of them were
evidently, in his opinion, clumsy contrivances for obtaining results
which the scientific knowledge and inventive genius of his countrymen
had long ago secured more completely and more easily. But he was
puzzled by the combination of such imperfect knowledge or
semi-barbaric ignorance with the possession of a secret of such
immense importance as the repulsive current, not yet known nor, as I
gathered, even conceived by the inhabitants of this planet. When he
had completed his inspection, he requested permission to remove some
of the objects I had left there; notably many of the dead plants, and
several books of drawings, mathematical, mechanical, and ornamental,
which I had left, and which had not been brought away by my host's son
when he visited the vessel. These I begged him to present to the
Campta, adding to them a few smaller curiosities, after which I drew
him back towards the machinery. He summoned his attendant, and bade
him take away to the carriages the articles I had given him, calling
upon the intruders to assist.

I was thus left with him and with Eveena alone in the building; and
with a partly serious, partly mischievous desire to prove to him the
substantial reality of objects so closely related to my own disputed
existence, and to demonstrate the truth of my story, I loosened one of
the conductors, connected it with the machinery, and, directing it
against him, sent through it a very slight apergic current. I was not
quite prepared for the result. His Highness was instantly knocked head
over heels to a considerable distance. Turning to interrupt the
current before going to his assistance, I was startled to perceive
that an accident of graver moment, in my estimation at least, than the
discomfiture of this exalted official, had resulted from my
experiment. I had not noticed that a conductive wire was accidentally
in contact with the apergion, while its end hung down towards the
floor Of this I suppose Eveena had carelessly taken hold, and a part
of the current passing through it had lessened the shock to the Regent
at the expense of one which, though it could not possibly have injured
her, had from its suddenness so shaken her nerves as to throw her into
a momentary swoon. She was recovering almost at soon as I reached her;
and by the time her fellow-sufferer had picked himself up in great
disgust and astonishment, was partly aware what had happened. She was,
however; much more anxious to excuse herself, in the manner of a
frightened child, for meddling with the machinery than to hear my
apologies for the accident. Noting her agitation, and seeing that she
was still trembling all over, I was more anxious to get her into the
open air, and out of reach of the apparatus she seemed to regard with
considerable alarm, than to offer any due apology to the exalted
personage to whom I had afforded much stronger evidence, if not of my
own substantiality, yet of the real existence of a repulsive energy,
than I had seriously intended. With a few hurried words to him, I
raised Eveena to the window, and lifted her to the ground outside. I
felt, however, that I could not leave the Regent to find his own way
out, the more so that I hardly saw how he could reach the window from
the inside without my assistance. I excused myself, therefore, and
seating her on a rock close to the ladder, promised to return at once.
This, however, I found impossible. By the time the injured officer had
recovered the physical shock to his nerves and the moral effect of the
disrespect to his person, his anxiety to verify what he had heard
entirely occupied his mind; and he requested further experiments, not
upon himself, which occupied some half-hour. He listened and spoke, I
must admit, with temper; but his air of displeasure was evident
enough, and I was aware that I had not entitled myself to his good
word, whether or not he would permit his resentment to colour his
account of facts. He was compelled, however, to request my help in
reaching the window, which I gave with all possible deference.

But, to my alarm, when we reached the foot of the ladder, Eveena was
nowhere to be seen. Calling her and receiving no reply, calling again
and hearing what sounded like her voice, but in a faint tone and
coming I knew not whither, I ran round the platform to seek her. I
could see nothing of her; but at one point, just where the projecting
edge of the platform overhung the precipice below, I recognised her
bird fluttering its wings and screaming as if in pain or terror. The
Regent was calling me in a somewhat imperious tone, but of course
received neither answer nor attention. Reaching the spot, I looked
over the edge and with some trouble discovered what had happened. Not
merely below but underneath the overhanging edge was a shelf about
four feet long and some ten inches in breadth, covered with a flower
equally remarkable in form and colour, the former being that of a
hollow cylindrical bell, about two inches in diameter; the latter a
bluish lilac, the nearest approach to azure I have seen in Mars--the
whole ground one sheet of flowers. On this, holding in a
half-insensible state to the outward-sloping rock above her, Eveena
clung, her veil and head-dress fallen, her face expressing utter
bewilderment as well as terror. I saw, though at the moment I hardly
understood, how she had reached this point. A very narrow path, some
hundred feet in length, sloped down from the table-rock of the summit
to the shelf on which she stood, with an outer hedge of shrubs and the
summits of small trees, which concealed, and in some sort guarded, the
precipice below, so that even a timid girl might pursue the path
without fear. But this path ended several feet from the commencement
of the shelf. Across the gap had lain a fallen tree, with boughs
affording such a screen and railing on the outward side as might at
once conceal the gulf below, and afford assistance in crossing the
chasm. But in crossing this tree Eveena's footsteps had displaced it,
and it had so given way as not only to be unavailable, but a serious
obstacle to my passage. Had I had time to go round, I might have been
able to leap the chasm; I certainly could not return that way with a
burden even so light as that of my precious charge. The only chance
was to lift her by main force directly to where I stood; and the
outward projection of the rock at this point rendered this peculiarly
difficult, as I had nothing to cling or hold by. The Regent had by
this time reached me, and discerned what had occurred.

"Hold me fast," I said, "or sit upon me if you like, to hold me with
your weight whilst I lean over." The man stood astounded, not by the
danger of another but by the demand on himself; and evidently without
the slightest intention of complying.

"You are mad!" he said. "Your chance is ten times greater to lose your
own life than to save hers."

"Lose my life!" I cried. "Could I dare return alive without her? Throw
your whole weight on me, I say, as I lean over, and waste no more
time!"

"What!" he rejoined. "You are twice as heavy as I, and if you are
pulled over I shall probably go over too. Why am I to endanger myself
to save a girl from the consequences of her folly?"

"If you do not," I swore, "I will fling you where the carcass of which
you are so careful shall be crushed out of the very form of the
manhood you disgrace."

Even this threat failed to move him. Meantime the bird, fluttering on
my shoulder, suggested a last chance; and snatching the tablet round
its neck, I wrote two words thereon, and calling to it, "Home!" the
intelligent creature flew off at fullest speed.

"Now," I said, "if you do not help me I will kill you here and now. If
you pretend to help and fail me, that bird carries to Esmo my request
to hold you answerable for our lives."

I invoked, in utter desperation, the awe with which, as his hints and
my experience implied, Esmo was regarded by his neighbours; and
slender as seemed this support, it did not fail me. The Regent's
countenance fell, and I saw that I might depend at least on his
passive compliance. Clasping his arm with my left hand, I said, "Pull
back with all your might. If I go over, you _shall_ go over too." Then
pulling him down with me, and stretching myself over the precipice so
far that but for this additional support I must have fallen, I reached
Eveena, whose closed eyes and relaxing limbs indicated that another
moment's delay might be fatal.

"Give me your hand," I cried in despair, seeing how tightly she still
grasped the tough fibrous shoots growing in the crevices of the rock,
whereof she had taken hold. "Give me your hand, and let go!"

To give me her hand was beyond the power of her will; to let go
without giving me hold would have been fatal. Beaching over to the
uttermost, I contrived to lay a firm grasp upon her wrist. But this
would not do. I could hardly drag her up by one arm, especially if she
would not relax her grasp. I must release the Regent and depend upon
his obedience, or forfeit the chance of saving her, as in a few more
moments she would certainly swoon and fall.

"Throw yourself upon me, and sit firm, if you value your life," I
cried, and I relaxed my hold on his arm, stretching both hands to
grasp Eveena. I felt the man's weight on my body, and with both arms
extended to the uttermost hanging over the edge, I caught firm bold of
the girl's shoulders. Even now, with any girl of her age on earth, and
for aught I know with many Martial damsels, the case would have been
hopeless. My whole strength was required to raise her; I had none to
spare to force her loose from her hold. Fortunately my rough and tight
clasp seemed to rouse her. Her eyes half opened, and semi-consciousness
appeared to have returned.

"Let go!" I cried in that sharp tone of imperious anger which--with
some tempers at least--is the natural expression of the outward
impulse produced by supreme and agonizing terror. Obedience is the
hereditary lesson taught to her sex by the effects of equality in
Mars. Eveena had been personally trained in a principle long discarded
by Terrestrial women; and not half aware what she did, but yielding
instinctively to the habit of compliance with imperative command
spoken in a masculine voice, she opened her hands just as I had lost
all hope. With one desperate effort I swung her fairly on to the
platform, and, seeing her safe there, fell back myself scarcely more
sensible than she was.

The whole of this terrible scene, which it has taken so long to
relate, did not occupy more than a minute in action. I know not
whether my readers can understand the full difficulty and danger of
the situation. I know that no words of mine can convey the impression
graven into my own memory, never to be effaced or weakened while
consciousness remains. The strongest man on Earth could not have done
what I did; could not, lying half over the precipice, have swung a
girl of eighteen right out from underneath him, and to his own level.
But Eveena was of slighter, smaller frame than a healthy French girl
of twelve, while I retained the full strength of a man adapted to the
work of a world where every weight is twice as heavy as on Mars. What
I had practically to do was to lift not seven or eight stone of
European girlhood, not even the six Eveena might possibly have weighed
on Earth, but half that weight. And yet the position was such that all
the strength I had acquired through ten years of constant practice in
the field and in the chase, all the power of a frame in healthful
maturity, and of muscles whose force seemed doubled by the tension of
the nerves, hardly availed. When I recovered my own senses, and had
contrived to restore Eveena's, my unwilling assistant had disappeared.

It was an hour before Eveena seemed in a condition to be removed, and
perhaps I was not very urgent to hurry her away. I had done no more
than any man, the lowest and meanest on Earth, must have done under
the circumstances. I can scarcely enter into the feelings of the
fellow-man who, in my position, could have recognised a choice but
between saving and perishing with the helpless creature entrusted to
his charge. But hereditary disbelief in any power above the physical
forces of Nature, in any law higher than that of man's own making, has
rendered human nature in Mars something utterly different from,
perhaps, hardly intelligible to, the human nature of a planet forty
million miles nearer the Sun. Though brought up in an affectionate
home, Eveena shared the ideas of the world in which she was born; and
so far accepted its standards of opinion and action as natural if not
right, that the risk I had run, the effort I had made to save her,
seemed to her scarcely less extraordinary than it had appeared to the
Zampta. She rated its devotion and generosity as highly as he
appreciated its extravagance and folly; and if he counted me a madman,
she was disposed to elevate me into a hero or a demi-god. The tones
and looks of a maiden in such a temper, however perfect her maidenly
reserve, would, I fancy, be very agreeable to men older than I was,
either in constitution or even in experience. I doubt whether any man
under fifty would have been more anxious than myself to cut short our
period of repose, broken as it was, when I refused to listen to her
tearful penitence and self-reproach, by occasional words and looks of
gratitude and admiration. I did, however, remember that it was
expedient to refasten the window, and re-attach the seals, before
departing. At the end of the hour's rest I allowed my charge and
myself, I had recovered more or less completely the nervous force
which had been for a while utterly exhausted, less by the effort than
by the terror that preceded it. I was neither surprised, nor perhaps
as much grieved as I should have been, to find that Eveena could
hardly walk; and felt to the full the value of those novel conditions
which enabled me to carry her the more easily in my arms, though much
oppressed even by so slight an effort in that thin air, to the place
where we had left our carriage--no inconsiderable distance by the path
we had to pursue. Before starting on our return I had, in despite of
her most earnest entreaties, managed to recover her head-dress and
veil, at a risk which, under other circumstances, I might not have
cared to encounter. But had she been seen without it on our return,
the comments of the whole neighbourhood would have been such as might
have disturbed even her father's cool indifference. We reached her
home in safety, and with little notice, having, of course, drawn the
canopy around us as completely as possible. I was pleased to find that
only her younger sister, to whose care I at once committed her, was
there at present, the elders not having yet returned. I took care to
detach from the bird's neck the tablet which had served its purpose so
well. The creature had found his way home within half-an-hour after I
dismissed him, and had frightened Zevle [Stella] not a little; though
the message, which a fatal result would have made sufficiently
intelligible to Esmo, utterly escaped her comprehension.

CHAPTER VIII - A FAITH AND ITS FOUNDER.

On the return of the family, my host was met at the door with such
accounts of what had happened as led him at once to see and question
his daughter. It was not, therefore, till he had heard her story that
I saw him. More agitated than I should have expected from one under
ordinary circumstances so calm and self-possessed, he entered my room
with a face whose paleness and compressed lips indicated intense
emotion; and, laying his hand on my shoulder, expressed his feeling
rather in look and tone than in his few broken and not very
significant words. After a few moments, however, he recovered his
coolness, and asked me to supply the deficiencies of Eveena's story. I
told him briefly but exactly what had passed from the moment when I
missed her to that of her rescue. He listened without the slightest
symptom of surprise or anger to the tale of the Regent's indifference,
and seemed hardly to understand the disgust and indignation with which
I dwelt upon it. When I had finished--

"You have made," he said, "an enemy, and a dangerous one; but you have
also secured friends against whose support even the anger of a greater
than the Zampta might break as harmlessly as waves upon a rock. He
behaved only as any one else would have done; and it is useless to be
angry with men for being what they habitually and universally are.
What you did for Eveena, one of ourselves, perhaps, but no other,
might have risked for a first bride on the first day of her marriage.
Indeed, though I am most thankful to you, I should, perhaps, have
withheld my consent to my daughter's request had I supposed that you
felt so strongly for her."

"I think," I replied with some displeasure, "that I may positively
affirm that I have spoken no word to your daughter which I should not
have spoken in your presence. I am too unfamiliar with your ideas to
know whether your remark has the same force and meaning it would have
borne among my own people; but to me it conveys a grave reproach. When
I accepted the charge of your daughter during this day's excursion, I
thought of her only as every man thinks of a young, pretty, and gentle
girl of whom he has seen and knows scarcely anything. To avail myself
of what has since happened to make a deeper impression on her feelings
than you might approve would have seemed to me unpardonable
treachery."

"You do utterly misunderstand me," he answered. "It may be that Eveena
has received an impression which will not be effaced from her mind. It
may be that this morning, could I have foreseen it, I should have
decidedly wished to avoid anything that would so impress her. But that
feeling, if it exist, has been caused by your acts and not by your
words. That you should do your utmost, at any risk to yourself, to
save her, is consistent with what I know of your habit of mind, and
ought not much to surprise me. But, from your own account of what you
said to the Zampta, you were not merely willing to risk life for life.
When you deemed it impossible to return without her, you spoke as few
among us would seriously speak of a favourite bride."

"I spoke and felt," I replied, "as any man trained in the hereditary
thought of my race and rank would have spoken of any woman committed
to his care. All that I said and did for Eveena, I should have said
and done, I hope, for the least attractive or least amiable maiden in
this planet who had been similarly entrusted to my charge. How could
any but the vilest coward return and say to a father, 'You trusted
your daughter to me, and she has perished by my fault or neglect'?"

"Not so," he answered, "Eveena alone was to blame--and much to blame.
She says herself that you had told her to remain where you left her
till your return; and if she had not disobeyed, neither her life nor
yours would have been imperilled."

"One hardly expects a young lady to comply exactly with such
requests," I said. "At any rate, Terrestrial feelings of honour and
even of manhood would have made it easier to leap the precipice than
to face you and the world if, no matter by whose fault, my charge had
died in such a manner under my eyes and within my reach."

Esmo's eyes brightened and his cheek flushed a little as I spoke, with
more of earnestness or passion than any incident, however exciting, is
wont to provoke among his impassive race.

"Of one thing," he said, "you have assured me--that the proposal I was
about to make rather invites honour than confers it. I have been
obliged, in speaking of the manners and ideas of my countrymen, to let
you perceive not only that I differ from them, but that there are
others who think and act as I do. We have for ages formed a society
bound together by our peculiar tenets. That we individually differ in
conduct, and, therefore, probably in ideas, from our countrymen, they
necessarily know; that we form a body apart with laws and tenets of
our own, is at least suspected. But our organisation, its powers, its
methods, its rules of membership, and its doctrines are, and have
always been, a secret, and no man's connection with it is avowed or
provable. Our chief distinctive and essential doctrines you hold as
strongly as we do--the All-perfect Existence, the immortal human soul.
From these necessarily follow conceptions of life and principles of
conduct alien to those that have as necessarily grown up among a race
which repudiates, ignores, and hates our two fundamental premises.
After what has happened, I can promise you immediate and eager
acceptance among those invested with the fullest privileges of our
order. They will all admire your action and applaud your motives,
though, frankly speaking, I doubt whether any of us would carry your
views so far as you have done. The best among us would have flinched,
unless under the influence of the very strongest personal affection,
from the double peril of which you seemed to think so lightly. They
might indeed have defied the Regent but it would have been in reliance
on the protection of, a power superior to his of which you knew
nothing."

"Then," I said, "I suppose your engagement of to-day was a meeting of
this society?"

"Yes," he answered, "a meeting of the Chamber to which I and the elder
members of my household, including my son and his wife, belong."
"But," I said, "if you are more powerful than the rulers of your
people, what need of such careful secrecy?"

"You will understand the reason," he answered, "when you learn the
nature of our powers. Hundreds among millions, we are no match for the
fighting force of our unbelieving countrymen. Our safety lies in the
terror inspired by a tradition, verified by repeated and invariable
experience, that no one who injures one of us but has reason to rue
it, that no mortal enemy of _the Star_ has ever escaped signal
punishment, more terrible for the mystery attending it. Were we known,
were our organisation avowed, we might be hunted down and
exterminated, and should certainly suffer frightful havoc, even if in
the end we were able to frighten or overcome our enemies. But if you
are disposed to accept my offer--and enrolment among us gives you at
once your natural place in this planet and your best security against
the enmity you have incurred and will incur here--I should prefer to
make the rest of the explanation that must precede your admission in
presence of my family. The first step, the preliminary instruction in
our creed and our simpler mysteries, which is the work of the
Novitiate, is a solemn epoch in the lives of our children. They are
not trusted with our secret till we can rely on the maturity of their
intelligence and loyalty of their nature. Eveena would in any case
have been received as a novice within some dozen days. It will now be
easy for me, considering her education and intelligence and my own
position in the Order, to obtain, for her as for you, exemption from
the usual probation on proof that you both know all that is usually
taught therein, and admission on the same occasion; and it will add
solemnity and interest to her first initiation, that this chief lesson
of her life should be shared this evening with him to whom she owes it
that she lives to enter the society, to which her ancestors have
belonged since its institution."

We passed into the peristyle, where the ladies were as usual
assembled; but the children had been dismissed, and of the maidens
Eveena only was present. Fatigue and agitation had left her very pale,
and she was resting at full length on the cushions with her head
pillowed on her mother's knee. As we approached, however, they all
rose, the other ladies greeting me eagerly and warmly, Eveena rising
with difficulty and faltering the welcome which the rest had spoken
with enthusiastic earnestness. Forgetting for the moment the prudence
which ignorance of Martial customs had hitherto dictated, I lifted to
my lips the hand that she, following the example of the rest, but
shyly and half reluctantly, laid on my shoulder--a form very different
to the distant greeting I had heretofore received, and marking that I
was no longer to be treated as a stranger to the family. My unusual
salute brought the colour back to her cheeks, but no one else took
notice of it. I observed, however, that on this occasion, instead of
interposing himself between me and the ladies as usual, her father
left vacant the place next to her; and I seated myself at her feet.
She would have exchanged her reclining posture for that of the others,
but her mother gently drew her down to her former position.

"Eveena," said my host, "I have told our friend, what you know, that
there is in this world a society, of which I am a member, whose
principles are not those of our countrymen, but resemble rather those
which supplied the impulses on which he acted to-day. This much you
know. What you would have learned a few days hence, I mean that you
and he shall now hear at the same time."

"Before you enter on that subject," interposed Zulve timidly--for it
is most unusual for a lady to interfere in her husband's conversation,
much more to offer a suggestion or correction--but yet earnestly, "let
me say, on my own part, what I am sure you must have said already on
yours. If there be now, or ever shall be, anything we can do for our
guest, anything we can give that he would value, not in requital, but
in memory of what he has done for us--whatever it should cost us,
though he should ask the most precious thing we possess, it will be
our pride and pleasure--the greatest pleasure he can afford us--to
grant it."

The time and the surroundings were not perhaps exactly suitable to the
utterance of the wish suggested by these words; but I knew so little
what might be in store for me, and understood so well the difficulty
and uncertainty of finding future opportunities of intercourse with
the ladies at least of the family, that I dared not lose the present.
I spoke at once upon the impulse of the moment, with a sense of
reckless desperation not unlike that with which an artillerist fires
the train whose explosion may win for him the obsidional wreath or
blow him into atoms. "You and my host," I said, "have one treasure
that I have learned to covet, but it is exactly the most precious
thing you possess, and one which it would be presumptuous to ask as
reward; even had I not owed to Esmo the life I perilled for Eveena,
and if I had acted from choice and freely, instead of doing only what
only the vilest of cowards could have failed to attempt. In asking it
indeed, I feel that I cancel whatever claim your extravagant estimate
of that act can possibly ascribe to me."

"We don't waste words," answered Esmo, "in saying what we don't mean,
and I confirm fully what my wife has said. There is nothing we possess
that we shall not delight to give as token of regard and in
remembrance of this day to the saviour of our child."

"If," I said, "I find a neighbour's purse containing half his fortune,
and return it to him, he may offer me what reward I ask, but would
hardly think it reasonable if I asked for the purse and its contents.
But you have only one thing I care to possess--that which I have, by
God's help, been enabled to save to-day. If I must ask a gift, give me
Eveena herself."

Utilitarianism has extinguished in Mars the use of compliment and
circumlocution; and until I concluded, their looks of mild perplexity
showed that neither Zulve nor her husband caught my purpose. I
fancied--for, not daring to look them in the face, I had turned my
downcast glance on Eveena--that she had perhaps somewhat sooner
divined the object of my thoughts. However, a silence of surprise--was
it of reluctance?--followed, and then Zulve bent over her daughter and
looked into her half-averted face, while Esmo answered--

"What you should ask I promised to give; what you have asked I give,
in so far as it is mine to give, in willing fulfilment of my pledge.
But, of course, what I can give is but my free permission to my
daughter to answer for herself. You will be, I hope, within a few days
at furthest, one of those in whose possession alone a woman of my
house could be safe or content; and, free by the law of the land to
follow her own wish, she is freed by her father's voice from the rule
which the usage of ten thousand years imposes on the daughters of our
brotherhood."

Zulve then looked up, for Eveena had hidden her face in her mother's
robe, and said--

"If my child will not speak for herself I must speak for her, and in
my own name and in hers I fulfil her father's promise. And now let my
husband tell his story, for nothing can solemnise more appropriately
the betrothal of a daughter of the Star, than her admission to the
knowledge of the Order whose privileges are her heritage."

"At the time," Esmo began, "when material science had gained a decided
ascendant, and enforced the recognition of its methods as the only
ones whereby certain knowledge and legitimate belief could be
attained, those who clung most earnestly to convictions not acquired
or favoured by scientific logic were sorely dismayed. They were
confounded, not so much by the yet informal but irrevocable
majority-vote against them, as by an instinctive misgiving that
Science was right; and by irrepressible doubts whether that which
would not bear the application of scientific method could in any sense
be true or trustworthy knowledge. At the same time, to apply a
scientific method to the cherished beliefs threatened only to dissolve
them. Fortunately for them and their successors, there was living at
that time one of the most remarkable and original thinkers whom our
race has produced. From him came the suggestions that gave impulse to
our learning and birth to our Order. 'The reasonings, the processes of
Science,' he affirmed,'are beyond challenge. Their trustworthiness
depends not on their subject-matter, but on their own character; not
on their relation to outward Nature, but on their conformity to the
laws of thought. Their upholders are right in affirming that what will
not ultimately bear the test of their application cannot be knowledge,
and probably--for the practical purposes of human life we may say
certainly--cannot be truth. They are wrong in alleging that the ideas
for which they can find no foundation in the subjects to which
scientific method has hitherto been applied, are therefore
unscientific, or sure to disappear under scientific investigation. I
hold that the existence of a Creator and Ruler of the Universe can be
logically deduced from first principles, as well as justly inferred
from cumulative evidences of overwhelming weight. The existence of
something in Man that is not merely corporeal, of powers that can act
beyond the reach of any corporeal instruments at his command, or
without the range of their application, is not proven; it may be, only
because the facts that indicate without proving it have never yet been
subject to systematic verification or scientific analysis. But of such
facts there exists a vast accumulation; unsifted, untested, and
therefore as yet ineffective for proof, but capable, I can scarcely
doubt, of reduction to methodical order and scientific treatment.
There are records and traditions of every degree of value, from utter
worthlessness to the worth of the most authentic history, preserving
the evidences of powers which may be generally described as spiritual.
Through all ages, among all races, the living have alleged themselves
from time to time to have seen the forms and even heard the voices of
the dead. Scientific men have been forced by the actual and public
exercise of the power under the most crucial tests--for instance, to
produce insensibility in surgical operations--to admit that the will
of one man can control the brain, the senses, the physical frame of
another without material contact, perhaps at a distance. There are
narratives of marvels wrought by human will, chiefly in remote, but
occasionally in recent times, transcending and even contradicting or
overruling the known laws of Nature. All these evidences point to one
conclusion; all corroborate and confirm one another. The men of
science ridicule them because in so many cases the facts are
imperfectly authenticated, and because in others the action of the
powers is uncertain, dependent on conditions imperfectly ascertained,
and not of that material kind to which material science willingly
submits. But if they be facts, if they relate to any element of human
nature, all these things can be systematically investigated, the true
separated from the false, the proven from the unproven. The powers can
be investigated, their conditions of action laid down. Probably they
may be so developed as to be exercised with comparative certainty,
whether by every one or only by those special constitutions in which
they may inhere. Such investigations will at present only enlist the
attention and care of a few qualified persons, and, that they may be
carried on in peace and safety, should be carried on in secrecy. But
upon them may, I hope, be founded a certainty as regards the higher
side of man's nature not less complete than that which science, by
similar methods, has gradually acquired in regard to its purely
physical aspects.'

"For this end he instituted a secret society, which has subsisted in
constantly increasing strength and cohesion to the present hour. It
has collected evidence, conducted experiments, investigated records,
studied methodically the abnormal phenomena you call occult or
spiritual, and reduced them to something like the certainty of
science. Discoveries from the first curious and interesting have
become more and more complete, practical, and effective. Our results
have surpassed the hopes of our Founder, and transcend in importance,
while they equal in certainty, the contemporary achievements of
physical science,--some of the chief of which belong to us. All that
profound knowledge of human nature could suggest to bring its weakness
to the support of its strength, and enlist both in the work, was done
by our Founder, and by those who have carried out his scheme. The
corporate character of the society, its rites and formularies, its
grades and ranks, are matter of deep interest to all its members, have
linked them together by an inviolable bond, and given them a strength
infinitely greater than numbers without such cohesion could possibly
have afforded. The Founder left us no moral code, imposed on us none
of his own most cherished ethical convictions, as he pledged us to
none of the conclusions which his own occult studies had led him to
anticipate, nearly all of which have been verified by later
investigation. Such rules as he imposed were directed only to the
cohesion and efficiency of the Order. Our creed still consists only of
the two fundamental doctrines; two settled principles only are laid
down by our aboriginal law. We are taught to cultivate the closest
personal affection, the most intimate and binding ties among
ourselves; to defend the Order and one another, whether by strenuous
resistance or severe reprisals, against all who injure us individually
or collectively, and especially against persecutors of the Order. But
the few laws our Founder has left are given in the form of striking
precepts, brief, and often even paradoxical. For example, the law of
defence or reprisal is concentrated in one antithetic phrase:--_Gavart
dax Zvelta, gavart gedex Zinta_ [Never let the member strike, never
let the Order spare]. As it is a rule with us to embody none of our
symbols, forms, or laws in writing, this manner of statement served to
impress them on the memory, as well as to leave the utmost freedom in
their application, by the gathered experience of ages, and the
prudence of those who had to deal with the circumstances of each
successive period. Another maxim says, 'Who kisses a brother's hand
may kick the Campta,' thus enforcing at once the value of ceremonial
courtesy, and the power conferred by union. We observe more ceremony
in family life than others in the most formal public relations. Their
theory of life being utterly utilitarian, no form is observed that
serves no distinct practical purpose. We wish to make life graceful
and elegant, as well as easy. Principles originally inculcated upon us
by the necessity of self-protection have been enforced and graven on
our very nature, by the reaction of our experience against the rough
and harsh relations, the jarring and often unfriendly intercourse, of
external society. Aliens to our Order--that is, ninety-nine hundredths
of our race--take delight in the infliction of petty personal
annoyance, at least never take care not to 'jar each other's
elbow-nerves,' or set on edge the teeth that never bit them. _We_ are
careful not to wound the feelings or even the weaknesses of a brother.
Punctilious courtesy, frank apology for unintentional wrong, is with
us a point of honour. Disputes, when by any chance they arise, are
referred to the arbitration of our chiefs, who never consider their
work done till the disputants are cordially reconciled. Envy, the most
dangerous source of ill-will among men, can hardly exist among us.
Rank has been well earned by its holder, or in a few cases by his
ancestors; and authority is a trust never to be used for its holder's
benefit. Wealth never provokes covetousness, since no member is ever
allowed to be poor. Not only the Order but each member is bound to
take every opportunity of assisting every other by every method within
his power. We employ them, we promote them, we give them the
preference in every kind of patronage at our command. But these
obligations are points of honour rather than of law. Only apostasy or
treason to the Order involve compulsory penalties; and the latter, if
it ever occurred in these days, would be visited with instant
death,--inflicted, as it is inflicted upon irreconcilable enemies, in
such a manner that none could know who passed the sentence, or by whom
it was executed."

"And have you," I asked, "no apostates, as you have no traitors?"

"No," he said. "In the first place, none who has lived among us could
endure to fall into the ordinary Martial life. Secondly, the
foundations of our simple creed are so clear, so capable of being made
apparent to every one, that none once familiar with the evidences can
well cease to believe them."

Here he paused, and I asked, "How is it possible that the means you
employ to punish those who have wronged you should not, in some cases
at least, indicate the person who has employed them?"

"Because," he said, "the means of vengeance are not corporeal; the
agency does not in the least resemble any with which our countrymen,
or apparently your race on Earth, are acquainted. A traitor would be
found dead with no sign of suffering or injury, and the physician
would pronounce that he had died of apoplexy or heart disease. A
persecutor, or one who had unpardonably wronged any of the Children of
the Star, might go mad, might fling himself from a precipice, might be
visited with the most terrible series of calamities, all natural in
their character, all distinctly traceable to natural causes, but
astonishing and even apparently supernatural in their accumulation,
and often in their immediate appropriateness to the character of his
offence. Our neighbours would, of course, destroy the avenger, if they
could find him out--would attempt to exterminate our society, could
they prove its agency."

"But surely your countrymen must either disbelieve in such agency, in
which case they can hardly fear your vengeance, or they must believe
it, and then would deem it just and necessary to retaliate."

"No," he said. "They disbelieve in the possibility while they are
forced to see the fact. It is impossible, they would say, that a man
should be injured in mind or body, reputation or estate, that the
forces of Nature or the feelings of men should be directed against
him, without the intervention of any material agent, by the mere will
of those who take no traceable means to give that will effect. At the
same time, tradition and even authentic history record, what
experience confirms, that every one who has wronged us deeply has come
to some terrible, awe-striking end. Each man would ridicule heartily a
neighbour who should allege such a ground for fearing to injure one of
us; but there is none who is so true to his own unbelief as to do that
which, in every instance, has been followed by signal and awful
disaster. Moreover, we do by visible symbols suggest a relation
between the vengeance and the crime. Over the heart of criminals who
have paid with their lives, no matter by what immediate agency, for
wrong to us, is found after death the image of a small blood-red star;
the only case in which any of our sacred symbols are exposed to
profane eyes."

"Surely," I said, "in the course of generations, and with your
numbers, you must be often watched and traced; and some one spy, on
one out of a million occasions, must have found access to your
meetings and heard and seen all that passed."

"Our meetings," he said, "are held where no human eye can possibly
see, no human ear hear what passes. The Chambers meet in apartments
concealed within the dwellings of individual members. When we meet the
doors are guarded, and can be passed only by those who give a token
and a password. And if these could become known to an enemy, the
appearance of a stranger would lead to questions that would at once
expose his ignorance of our simplest secrets. He would learn nothing,
and would never tell his story to the outer world." ...

Opening the door, or rather window, of his private chamber, Esmo
directed our eyes to a portrait sunk in the wall, and usually
concealed by a screen which fitted exactly the level and the patterns
of the general surface. It displayed, in a green vesture not unlike
his own, but with a gold ribbon and emerald symbol like the cross of
an European knighthood over the right shoulder, a spare soldierly
form, with the most striking countenance I have ever seen; one which,
once seen, none could forget. The white long hair and beard, the
former reaching the shoulders, the latter falling to the belt, were
not only unlike the fashion of this generation, but gave tokens of age
never discerned in Mars for the last three or four thousand years. The
form, though erect and even stately, was that of one who had felt the
long since abolished infirmity of advancing years. The countenance
alone bore no marks of old age. It was full, unwrinkled, firm in
physical as in moral character; calm in the unresisted power of
intellect and will over the passions, serene in a dignity too absolute
and self-contained for pride, but expressing a consciousness of
command over others as evident as the unconscious, effortless command
of self to which it owed its supreme and sublime quietude. The lips
were not set as with a habit of reserve or self-restraint, but close
and even as in the repose to which restraint had never been necessary.
The features were large, clearly defined, and perfect in shape,
proportion, and outline. The brow was massive and broad, but strangely
smooth and even; the head had no single marked development or
deficiency that could have enlightened a phrenologist, as the face
told no tale that a physiognomist could read. The dark deep eyes were
unescapable; while in presence of the portrait you could not for a
moment avoid or forget their living, fixed, direct look into your own.
Even in the painted representation of that gaze, almost too calm in
its absolute mastery to be called searching or scrutinising, yet
seeming to look through the eyes into the soul, there was an almost
mesmeric influence; as if, across the abyss of ten thousand years, the
Master could still control the wills and draw forth the inner thoughts
of the living, as he had dominated the spirits of their remotest
ancestors.

CHAPTER IX - MANNERS AND CUSTOMS.

Next morning Esmo asked me to accompany him on a visit to the seaport
I have mentioned. In the course of this journey I had opportunities of
learning many things respecting the social and practical conditions of
human life and industry on Mars that had hitherto been unknown to me,
and to appreciate the enormous advance in material civilisation which
has accompanied what seems to me, as it would probably seem to any
other Earth-dweller, a terrible moral degeneration. Most of these
things I learned partly from my own observation, partly from the
explanations of my companion; some exclusively from what he told me.
We passed a house in process of building, and here I learned the
manner in which the wonders of domestic architecture, which had so
surprised me by their perfection and beauty, are accomplished. The
material employed in all buildings is originally liquid, or rather
viscous. In the first place, the foundation is excavated to a depth of
two or three feet, the ground beaten hard, and the liquid concrete
poured into the level tank thus formed. When this has hardened
sufficiently to admit of their erection, thin frames of metal are
erected, enclosing the spaces to be occupied by the several outer and
interior walls.

These spaces are filled with the concrete at a temperature of about
80 deg. C. The tracery and the bas-reliefs impressed on the walls are
obtained by means of patterns embossed or marked upon thinner sheets
placed inside the metallic frames. The hardening is effected partly by
sudden cooling, partly by the application of electricity under great
hydraulic pressure. The flat roof is constructed in the same manner,
the whole mass, when the fluid concrete is solidified, being simply
one continuous stone, as hard and cohesive as granite. Where a flat
roof would be liable to give way or break from its own weight, the
arch or dome is employed to give the required strength, and
consequently all the largest Martial buildings are constructed in the
form of vaults or domes. As regards the form of the building,
individual or public taste is absolutely free, it being just as easy
to construct a circular or octagonal as a rectangular house or
chamber; but the latter form is almost exclusively employed for
private dwellings. The jewel-like lustre and brilliancy I have
described are given to the surfaces of the walls by the simultaneous
action of cold, electricity, and pressure, the principle of which Esmo
could not so explain as to render it intelligible to me. Almost the
whole physical labour is done by machinery, from the digging and
mixing of the materials to their conveyance and delivery into the
place prepared for them by the erection of the metallic frames, and
from the erection to the removal of the latter. The translucent
material for the windows I have described is prepared by a separate
process, and in distinct factories, and, ready hardened and cut into
sheets of the required size, is brought to the building and fixed in
its place by machinery. It can be tinted to the taste of the
purchaser; but, as a rule, a tintless crystal is preferred. The entire
work of building a large house, from the foundation to the finishing
and removal of the metallic frames, occupies from half-a-dozen to
eighteen workmen from four to eight days. This, like most other labour
in Mars, goes on continuously; the electric lamps, raised to a great
height on hollow metallic poles, affording by night a very sufficient
substitute for the light of the sun. All work is done by three relays
of artisans; the first set working from noon till evening, the next
from evening till morning, and the third from morning to noon. The
Martial day, which consists of about twenty-four hours forty minutes
of our time, is divided in a somewhat peculiar manner. The two-hour
periods, of which "mean" sunrise and sunset are severally the middle
points, are respectively called the morning and evening _zydau_. Two
periods of the same length before and after noon and midnight are
distinguished as the first and second dark, the first and second
mid-day zyda. There remain four intervals of three hours each,
popularly described as the sleeping, waking, after-sunrise, and
fore-sunset zyda respectively. This is the popular reckoning, and that
marked upon the instruments which record time for ordinary purposes,
and by these the meals and other industrial and domestic epochs are
fixed. But for purposes of exact calculation, the day, beginning an
hour before mean sunrise, is distributed into twelve periods, or
antoi, of a little more than two terrestrial hours each. These again
are subdivided by twelve into periods of a little more than 10m.,
50s., 2-1/2s., and 5/24s respectively; but of these the second and
last are alone employed in common speech. The uniform employment of
twelve as the divisor and multiplier in tables of weight, distance,
time, and space, as well as in arithmetical notation, has all the
conveniences of the decimal system of France, and some others besides
due to the greater convenience of twelve as a base. But as regards the
larger divisions of time, the Martials are placed at a great
disadvantage by the absence of any such intermediate divisions as the
Moon has suggested to Terrestrials. The revolutions of the satellites
are too rapid and their periods too brief to be of service in dividing
their year of 668-2/3 solar days. Martial civilisation having taken
its rise within the tropics--indeed the equatorial continents, which
only here and there extend far into the temperate zone, and two minor
continents in the southern ocean, are the only well-peopled portions
of the planet--the demarcation of the seasons afforded by the
solstices have been comparatively disregarded. The year is divided
into winter and summer, each beginning with the Equinox, and
distinguished as the North and South summer respectively. But these
being exceedingly different in duration--the Northern half of the
planet having a summer exceeding by seventy-six days that of the
Southern hemisphere--are of no use as accurate divisions of time. Time
is reckoned, accordingly, from the first day of the year; the 669th
day being incomplete, and the new year beginning at the moment of the
Equinox with the 0th day. In remote ages the lapse of time was marked
by festivals and holidays occurring at fixed periods; but the
principle of utility has long since abolished all anniversaries,
except those fixed by Nature, and these pass without public observance
and almost without notice.

The climate is comparatively equable in the Northern hemisphere, the
summer of the South being hotter and the winter colder, as the planet
is much nearer the Sun during the former. On an average, the solar
disc seems about half as large as to eyes on Earth; but the continents
lying in a belt around the middle of the planet, nearly the whole of
its population enjoy the advantages of tropical regularity. There are
two brief rainy seasons on the Equator and in its neighbourhood, and
one at each of the tropics. Outside these the cold of winter is
aggravated by cloud and mist. The barometer records from 20 inches to
21 inches at the sea-level. Storms are slight, brief, and infrequent;
the tides are insignificant; and sea-voyages were safe and easy even
before Martial ingenuity devised vessels which are almost independent
of weather. During the greater part of the year a clear sky from the
morning to the evening zyda may be reckoned upon with almost absolute
confidence. A heavy dew, thoroughly watering the whole surface,
rendering the rarity of rain no inconvenience to agriculture, falls
during the earlier hours of the night, which nevertheless remains
cloudy; while the periods of sunset and sunrise are, as I have already
said, marked almost invariably by dense mist, extending from one to
four thousand feet above the sea-level, according to latitude and
season. From the dissipation of the morning to the fall of the evening
mist, the tropical temperature ranges, according to the time of the day
and year, from 24 deg. to 35 deg. C. A very sudden change takes place at
sunset. Except within 28 deg. of the Equator, night frosts prevail during
no small part of the year. Fine nights are at all times chilly, and
men employed out of doors from the fall of the evening to the
dispersal of the morning mists rely on an unusually warm under-dress
of soft leather, as flexible as kid, but thicker, which is said to
keep in the warmth of the body far better than any woven material.
Women who, from whatever reason, venture out at night, wear the
warmest cloaks they can procure. Those of limited means wear a loosely
woven hair or woollen over-robe in lieu of their usual outdoor
garment, resembling tufted cotton. Those who can afford them
substitute for the envelope of down, described a while back, warm skin
or fur overgarments, obtained from the sub-arctic lands and seas, and
furnished sometimes by a creature not very unlike our Polar bear, but
passing half his time in the water and living on fish; sometimes by a
mammal more resembling something intermediate between the mammoth and
the walrus, with the habits of the hippopotamus and a fur not unlike
the sealskin so much affected in Europe.

Outside the city, at a distance protecting it from any unpleasant
vapours, which besides were carried up metallic tubes of enormous
height, were several factories of great extent, some chemical, some
textile, others reducing from their ores, purifying, forging, and
producing in bulk and forms convenient for their various uses, the
numerous metals employed in Mars. The most important of
these--_zorinta_--is obtained from a tenacious soil much resembling
our own clay. [12] It is far lighter than tin, has the colour and
lustre of silver, and never tarnishes, the only rust produced by
oxidation of its surface being a white loose powder, which can be
brushed or shaken off without difficulty. Of this nearly all Martial
utensils and furniture are constructed; and its susceptibility to the
electric current renders it especially useful for mechanical purposes,
electricity supplying the chief if not the sole motive-power employed
in Martial industry. The largest factories, however, employ but a few
hands, the machinery being so perfect as to perform, with very little
interposition from human hands, the whole work, from the first
purification to the final arrangement. I saw a mass of ore as dug out
from the ground put into one end of a long series of machines, which
came out, without the slightest manual assistance, at the close of a
course of operations so directed as to bring it back to our feet, in
the form of a thin sheet of lustrous metal. In another factory a mass
of dry vegetable fibre was similarly transformed by machinery alone
into a bale of wonderfully light woven drapery resembling satin in
lustre, muslin or gauze in texture.

The streets were what, even in the finest and latest-built American
cities, would be thought magnificent in size and admirable in
construction. The roadway was formed of that concrete, harder than
granite, which is the sole material employed in Martial building, and
which, as I have shown, can take every form and texture, from that of
jewels or of the finest marble to that of plain polished slate. Along
each side ran avenues of magnificent trees, whose branches met at a
height of thirty feet over the centre. Between these and the houses
was a space reserved for the passage of light carriages exclusively.
The houses, unlike those in the country, were from two to four stories
in height.

All private dwellings, however, were built, as in the country, around
a square interior garden, and the windows, except those of the front
rooms employed for business purposes, looked out upon this. The space
occupied, however, was of course much smaller than where ground was
less precious, few dwellings having four chambers on the same floor
and front. The footway ran on the level of what we call the first
story, over a part of the roof of the ground floor; and the business
apartments were always the front chambers of the former, while the
stores of the merchants were collected in a single warehouse occupying
the whole of the ground front. No attempt was made to exhibit them as
on Earth. I entered with my host a number of what we should call
shops. In every case he named exactly the article he wanted, and it
was either produced at once or he was told that it was not to be had
there, a thing which, however, seldom happened. The traders are few in
number. One or two firms engaged in a single branch of commerce do the
whole business of an extensive province. For instance, all the textile
fabrics on sale in the province were to be seen in one or other of two
warehouses; all metals in sheets, blocks, and wires in another; in a
third all finished metal-work, except writing materials; all writing,
phonographic, and telegraphic conveniences in a fourth; all furs,
feathers, and fabrics made from these in a fifth. The tradesman sells
on commission, as we say, receiving the goods from the manufacturer,
the farmer, or the State, and paying only for what are sold at the end
of each year, reserving to himself one-twenty-fourth of the price.
Prices, however, do not vary from year to year, save when, on rare
occasions, an adverse season or a special accident affects the supply
and consequently the price of any natural product--choice fruit,
skins, silver, for instance--obtained only from some peculiarly
favoured locality.

The monetary system, like so many other Martial institutions, is
purely artificial and severely logical. It is held that the exchange
value of any article of manufacture or agricultural produce tends
steadily downwards, while any article obtained by mining labour, or
supplied by nature alone, tends to become more and more costly. The
use of any one article of either class as a measure of value tends in
the long-run to injustice either towards creditors or debtors. Labour
may be considered as the most constant in intrinsic value of all
things capable of sale or barter; but the utmost ingenuity of Martial
philosophers has failed to devise a fixed standard by which one kind
of labour can be measured against another, and their respective
productive force, and consequently their value in exchange,
ascertained. One thing alone retains in their opinion an intrinsic
value always the same, and if it increase in value, increases only in
proportion as all produce is obtained in greater quantities or with
greater facility. Land, therefore, is in their estimation
theoretically the best available measure of value--a dogma which has
more practical truth in a planet where population is evenly diffused
and increases very slowly, if at all, than it might have in the
densely but unevenly peopled countries of Europe or Asia. A _stalta_,
or square of about fifty yards (rather more than half an acre), is the
primary standard unit of value. For purposes of currency this is
represented by a small engraved document bearing the Government stamp,
which can always at pleasure be exchanged for so much land in a
particular situation. The region whose soil is chosen as the standard
lies under the Equator, and the State possesses there some hundreds of
square miles, let out on terms thought to ensure its excellent
cultivation and the permanence of its condition. The immediate
convertibility of each such document, engraven on a small piece of
metal about two inches long by one in breadth, and the fortieth part
of an inch in thickness, is the ultimate cause and permanent guarantee
of its value. Large payments, moreover, have to be made to the State
by those who rent its lands or purchase the various articles of which
it possesses a monopoly; or, again, in return for the services it
undertakes, as lighting roads and supplying water to districts
dependent on a distant source. Great care is taken to keep the issue
of these notes within safe limits; and as a matter of fact they are
rather more valuable than the land they represent, and are in
consequence seldom presented for redemption therein. To provide
against the possibility of such an over-issue as might exhaust the
area of standard land at command of the State, it is enacted that,
failing this, the holder may select his portion of State domain
wherever he pleases, at twelve years' purchase of the rental; but in
point of fact these provisions are theoretically rather than
practically important, since not one note in a hundred is ever
redeemed or paid off. The "square measure," upon which the coinage, if
I may so call it is based, following exactly the measure of length,
each larger area in the ascending scale represents 144 times that
below it. Thus the _styly_ being a little more than a foot, the
_steely_ is about 13 feet, or one-twelfth of the _staly_; but the
_steelta_ (or square steely) is 1/144th part of the _stalta_. The
_stolta_, again, is about 600 yards square, or 360,000 square yards,
144 times the _stalta_. The highest note, so to speak, in circulation
represents this last area; but all calculations are made in _staltau_,
or twelfths thereof. The _stalta_ will purchase about six ounces of
gold. Notes are issued for the third, fourth, and twelfth parts of
this: values smaller than the latter are represented by a token
coinage of square medals composed of an alloy in which gold and silver
respectively are the principal elements. The lowest coin is worth
about threepence of English money.

Stopping at the largest public building in the city, a central hexagon
with a number of smaller hexagons rising around it, we entered one of
the latter, each side of which might be some 30 feet in length and 15
in height. Here were ranged a large number of instruments on the
principle of the voice-writer, but conveying the sound to a vast
distance along electric wires into one which reverses the
voice-recording process, and repeats the vocal sound itself. Through
one of these, after exchanging a few words with one of the officials
in charge of them, Esmo carried on a conversation of some length, the
instrument being so arranged that while the mouth is applied to one
tube another may be held to the ear to receive the reply. In the
meantime I fell in with one of the officers, apparently very young,
who was strongly interested at the sight of the much-canvassed
stranger, and, perhaps on this account, far more obliging than is
common among his countrymen. From him I learnt that this, with another
method I will presently describe, is the sole means of distant
communication employed in Mars. Those who have not leisure or do not
care to visit one of the offices, never more than twelve-miles distant
from one another, in which the public instruments are kept, can have a
wire conveyed to their own house. Almost every house of any pretension
possesses such a wire. Leading me into the next apartment, my friend
pointed out an immense number of instruments of a box-like shape, with
a slit in which a leaf of about four inches by two was placed. These
were constantly ejected and on the instant mechanically replaced. The
fallen leaves were collected and sorted by the officers present, and
at once placed in one or other of another set of exactly similar
instruments. Any one possessing a private wire can write at his own
desk in the manual character a letter or message on one of these
slips. Placing it in his own instrument, it at once reproduces itself
exactly in his autograph, and with every peculiarity, blot, or
erasure, at the nearest office. Here the copy is placed in the proper
box, and at once reproduced in the office nearest the residence of the
person to whom it is addressed, and forwarded in the same manner to
him. A letter, therefore, covering one of these slips, and saying as
much as we could write in an average hand upon a large sheet of
letter-paper, is delivered within five minutes at most from the time
of despatch, no matter how great the distance.

I remarked that this method of communication made privacy impossible.

"But," replied the official, "how could we possibly have time to
indulge in curiosity? We have to sort hundreds of these papers in an
hour. We have just time to look at the address, place them in the
proper box, and touch the spring which sets the electric current at
work. If secrecy were needed a cipher would easily secure it, for you
will observe that by this telegraph whatever is inscribed on the sheet
is mechanically reproduced; and it would be as easy to send a picture
as a message."

I learnt that a post of marvellous perfection had, some thousand years
ago, delivered letters all over Mars, but it was now employed only for
the delivery of parcels. Perhaps half the commerce of Mars, except
that in metals and agricultural produce, depends on this post.
Purchasers of standard articles describe by the telegraph-letter to a
tradesman the exact amount and pattern of the goods required, and
these are despatched at once; a system of banking, very completely
organised, enabling the buyer to pay at once by a telegraphic order.

When Esmo had finished his business, we walked down, at my request, to
the port. Around three sides of the dock formed by walls, said to be
fifty feet in depth and twenty in thickness, ran a road close to the
water's edge, beyond which was again a vast continuous warehouse. The
inner side was reserved for passenger vessels, and everywhere the
largest ships could come up close, landing either passengers or cargo
without even the intervention of a plank. The appearance of the ships
is very unlike that of Terrestrial vessels. They have no masts or
rigging, are constructed of the zorinta, which in Mars serves much
more effectively all the uses of iron, and differ entirely in
construction as they are intended for cargo or for travel. Mercantile
ships are in shape much like the finest American clippers, but with
broad, flat keel and deck, and with a hold from fifteen to twenty feet
in depth. Like Malayan vessels, they have attached by strong bars an
external beam about fifty feet from the side, which renders
overturning almost impossible. Passenger ships more resemble the form
of a fish, but are alike at both ends. Six men working in pairs four
hours at a time compose the entire crew of the largest ship, and half
this number are required for the smallest that undertakes a voyage of
more than twelve hours.

I may here mention that the system of sewage is far superior to any
yet devised on Earth. No particle of waste is allowed to pollute the
waters. The whole is deodorised by an exceedingly simple process, and,
whether in town or country, carried away daily and applied to its
natural use in fertilising the soil. Our practice of throwing away,
where it is an obvious and often dangerous nuisance, material so
valuable in its proper place, seemed to my Martial friends an
inexplicable and almost incredible absurdity.

As we returned, Esmo told me that he had been in communication with
the Campta, who had desired that I should visit him with the least
possible delay.

"This," he said, "will hurry us in matters where I at any rate should
have preferred a little delay. The seat of Government is by a direct
route nearly six thousand miles distant, and you will have opportunity
of travelling in all the different ways practised on this planet. A
long land-journey in our electric carriages, with which you are not
familiar, is, I think, to be avoided. The Campta would wish to see
your vessel as well as yourself; but, on the whole, I think it is
safer to leave it where it is. Kevima, and I propose to accompany you
during the first part of your journey. At our first halt, we will stay
one night with a friend, that you may be admitted a brother of our
Order."

"And," said I, "what sort of a reception may I expect at the end of my
journey?"

"I think," he answered, "that you are more likely to be embarrassed by
the goodwill of the Campta than by the hostility of some of those
about him. His character is very peculiar, and it is difficult to
reckon upon his action in any given case. But he differs from nearly
all his subjects in having a strong taste for adventure, none the less
if it be perilous; and since his position prevents him from indulging
this taste in person, he is the more disposed to take extreme interest
in the adventures of others. He has, moreover, a great value for what
you call courage, a virtue rarely needed and still more rarely shown
among us; and I fancy that your venture through space has impressed
him with a very high estimate of your daring. Assuredly none of us,
however great his scientific curiosity, would have dreamed of
incurring such a peril, and incurring it alone. But I must give you
one warning. It is not common among us to make valuable gifts: we do
not care enough for any but ourselves to give except with the idea of
getting something valuable in return. Our princes are, however, so
wealthy that they can give without sacrifice, and it is considered a
grave affront to refuse any present from a superior. Whatever, then,
our Suzerain may offer you--and he is almost sure, unless he should
take offence, to give you whatever he thinks will induce you to settle
permanently in the neighbourhood of his Court--you must accept
graciously, and on no account, either then or afterwards, lead him to
think that you slight his present."

"I must say," I replied, "that while I wish to remain in your world
till I have learnt, if not all that is to be learnt, yet very much
more than I at present know about it, the whole purpose of my voyage
would be sacrificed if I could not effect my return to Earth."

"I suppose so," he answered, "and for that reason I wish to keep your
vessel safe and within your reach; for to get away at all you may have
to depart suddenly. But you will not do wisely to make the Prince
suspect that such is your intention. Tell him of what you wish to see
and to explore in this world; tell him freely of your own, for he will
not readily fancy that you prefer it to this; but say as little as
possible of your hopes of an ultimate return, and, if you are forced
to acknowledge them, let them seem as indefinite as possible."

By this time, returning by another road, Esmo stopped the carriage at
the gate of an enclosed garden of moderate size, about two miles from
Ecasfe. Entering alone, he presently returned with another gentleman,
wearing a dress of grey and silver, with a white ribbon over the
shoulder; a badge, I found, of official rank or duties. Mounting his
own carriage, this person accompanied us home.

CHAPTER X - WOMAN AND WEDLOCK.

We arrived at home in the course of some few minutes, and here my host
requested us to wait in the hall, where in about half-an-hour he
rejoined us, accompanied by all the members of his family, the ladies
all closely veiled. Looking among them instinctively for Eveena, I
observed that she had exchanged her usual light veil for one fuller
and denser, and wore, contrary to the wont of maidens indoors, sleeves
and gloves. She held her father's hand, and evinced no little
agitation or alarm. The visitor stood by a table on which had been
placed the usual pencils or styles, and a sort of open portfolio, on
one side of which was laid a small strip of the golden tafroo,
inscribed with crimson characters of unusual size, leaving several
blanks here and there. Most of these he filled up, and then, leading
forward his daughter, Esmo signed to me also to approach the table.
The others stood just behind us, and the official then placed the
document in Eveena's hand. She looked through it and replaced it on
the table with the gesture of assent usual among her people, inclining
her head and raising her left hand to her lips. The document was then
handed to me, but I, of course, was unable to read it. I said so, and
the official read it aloud:--

"Between Eveena, daughter of Esmo dent Ecasfen, and ---- [13]
_reclamomorta_ (the alleged arch-traveller), covenant: Eveena will
live with ---- in wedlock for two years, foregoing during that period
the liberty to quit his house, or to receive any one therein save by
his permission. In consideration whereof he will maintain her,
clothing her to her satisfaction, at a cost not exceeding five staltau
by the year. He will provide for any child or children she may bear
while living with him, or within twice twelve dozen days thereafter.
And if at any time he shall dismiss her or permit her to leave him, or
if she shall desire to leave him after the expiration of eight years,
he will ensure to her for her life an annual payment of fifteen
staltau. Neither shall appeal to a court of law or public authority
against the other on account of anything done during the time they
shall live together, except for attempt to kill or for grave bodily
injury."

Such is the form of marriage covenant employed in Mars. The occasion
was unfit for discussion, and I simply intimated my acceptance of the
covenants, oo which Eveena and myself forthwith were instructed to
write our names where they appear in the above translation. The
official then inquired whether I recognised the lady standing beside
me as Eveena, daughter of Esmo. It then struck me that, though I felt
pretty certain of her identity, marriage under such conditions might
occasionally lead to awkward mistakes. There was no such difference
between my bride and her companions as, but for her dress and her
agitation, would have enabled me positively to distinguish them,
veiled and silent as all were. I expressed no doubt, however, and the
official then proceeded to affix his own stamp to the document; and
then lifting up that on which our names had actually been written,
showed that, by some process I hardly understand, the signature had
been executed and the agreement filled up in triplicate, the officer
preserving one copy, the others being given to the bride and
bridegroom respectively. The ladies then retired, Esmo, his son, and
the official remaining, when two ambau brought in a tray of
refreshments. The official tasted each article offered to him,
evidently more as a matter of form than of pleasure. I took this
opportunity to ask some questions regarding the Martial cuisine, and
learnt that all but the very simplest cookery is performed by
professional confectioners, who supply twice a day the households in
their vicinity; unmarried men taking their meals at the shop. The
preparation of fruit, roasted grain, beverages consisting of juices
mixed with a prepared nectar, and the vegetables from the garden,
which enter into the composition of every meal, are the only culinary
cares of the ladies of the family. Everything can be warmed or
freshened on the stove which forms a part of that electric machinery
by which in every household the baths and lights are supplied and the
house warmed at night. The ladies have therefore very little household
work, and the greater part of this is performed under their
superintendence by the animals, which are almost as useful as any
human slaves on earth, with the one unquestionable advantage that they
cannot speak, and therefore cannot be impertinent, inquisitive, or
treacherous. No fermented liquors form part of the Martial diet; but
some narcotics resembling haschisch and opium are much relished. When
the official had retired, I said to my host--

"I thought it best to raise no question or objection in signing the
contract put before me with your sanction; but you must be aware, in
the first place, that I have no means here of performing the pecuniary
part of the covenant, no means of providing either maintenance or
pin-money."

The explanation of the latter phrase, which was immediately demanded,
produced not a little amusement, after which Esmo replied gravely--

"It will be very easy for you, if necessary, to realise a competence
in the course of half a year. A book relating your adventures, and
describing the world you have left, would bring you in a very
comfortable fortune; and you might more than double this by giving
addresses in each of our towns, which, if only from the curiosity our
people would entertain to see you with their own eyes, would attract
crowded audiences. You could get a considerable sum for the exclusive
right to take your likeness; and, if you chose to explain it, you
might fix your own price on the novel motive power you have
introduced. But there is another point in regard to the contract which
you have overlooked, but which I was bound to bear in mind. What you
have promised is, I believe, what Eveena would have obtained from any
suitor she was likely to accept. But since you left the matter
entirely to my discretion, I am bound to make it impossible that you
should be a loser; and this document (and he handed me a small slip
very much like that which contained the marriage covenant) imposes on
my estate the payment of an income for Eveena's life equal to that you
have promised her."

With much reluctance I found myself obliged to accept a dowry which,
however natural and proper on Earth, was, I felt, unusual in Mars. I
may say that such charges do not interfere with the free sale of land.
They are registered in the proper office, and the State trustee
collects them from the owner for the time being as quit-rents are
collected in Great Britain or land revenue in India. Turning to
another but kindred question, I said--

"Your marriage contract, like our own laws, appears to favour the
weaker sex more than strict theoretical equality would permit. This is
quite right and practically inevitable; but it hardly agrees with the
theory which supposes bride and bridegroom, husband and wife, to enter
on and maintain a coequal voluntary partnership."

"How so?" he inquired.

"The right of divorce," I said, "at the end of two years belongs to
the wife alone. The husband cannot divorce her except under a heavy
penalty."

"Observe," he answered, "that there is a grave practical inequality
which even theory can hardly ignore. The wife parts with something by
the very fact of marriage. At the end of two years, when she has borne
two, three, or four children, her value in marriage is greatly
lessened. Her capacity of maintaining herself, in the days when women
did work, was found practically to be even smaller than before
marriage. You may say that this really amounts to a recognition by
custom of the natural inequality denied by law; but at any rate, it is
an inequality which it was scarcely possible to overlook. Examine the
practical working of the covenants, and you will find that in
affecting to treat unequals as equals they merely make the weaker the
slave of the stronger."

"Surely," I said, "husband and wife are so far equal, where neither is
tied to the children, that each can make the other heartily glad to
assent to a divorce."

"Perhaps, where law interferes to enforce monogamy, and thereby to
create an artificial equality of mutual dependence. But our law cannot
dictate to equals, whose sex it ignores, the terms or numbers of
partnership. So, the terms of the contract being voluntary, men of
course insist on excluding legal interference in household quarrels;
and before the prohibitive clause was generally adopted, legal
interposition did more harm than good. As you will find, equality
before the law gives absolute effect to the real inequality, and
chiefly through its coarsest element, superior physical force. The
liberty that is a necessary logical consequence of equality takes from
the woman her one natural safeguard--the man's need of her goodwill,
if not of her affection."

"In our world," I replied, "I always held that even slaves, so they be
household slaves, are secure against gross cruelty. The owner cannot
make life a burden to them without imperilling his own. To reduce the
question to its lowest terms--malice will always be a match for
muscle, and poison an efficient antidote to the _ferula_."

"So," rejoined Esmo, "our men have perceived, and consequently they
have excepted attempts to murder, as the women have excepted serious
bodily injury, from the general rule prohibiting appeals to a court of
law."

"And," said I, "are there many such appeals?"

"Not one in two years," he replied; "and for a simple reason. Our law,
as matter of course and of common sense, puts murder, attempted or
accomplished, on the same footing, and visits both with its supreme
penalty. Consequently, a wife detected in such an attempt is at her
husband's mercy; and if he consent to spare her life, she must submit
to any infliction, however it may transgress the covenanted limit. In
fact, if he find her out in such an attempt, he may do anything but
put her to death on his own authority."

"Still," I answered, "as long as she remains in the house, she must
have frequent opportunity of repeating her attempt at revenge; and to
live in constant fear of assassination would break down the strongest
nerves."

"Our physicians," he said, "are more skilful in antidotes than our
women in poisons, even when the latter have learned chemistry. No
poisonous plants are grown near our houses; and as wives never go out
alone, they have little chance of getting hold of any fatal drug. I
believe that very few attempts to poison are successful, and that many
women have suffered very severely on mere suspicion."

"And what," I asked, "is the legal definition of 'grave bodily
injury'?"

"Injury," he said, "of which serious traces remain at the end of
twenty-four days; the destruction of a limb, or the deprivation,
partial or total, of a sense. I have often thought bitterly," he
continued, "of that boasted logic and liberality of our laws under
which my daughters might have to endure almost any maltreatment from
their husbands, so long as these have but the sense not to employ
weapons that leave almost ineffaceable marks. This is one main reason
why we so anxiously avoid giving them save to those who are bound by
the ties of our faith to treat them as kindly as children--for whom,
at the worst, they remain sisters of the Order. If women generally had
parents, our marriage law could never have carried out the fiction of
equality to its logical perfection and practical monstrosity."

"Equality, then, has given your women a harder life and a worse
position than that of those women in our world who are, not only by
law but by fact and custom, the slaves of their husbands?"

"Yes, indeed," he said; "and our proverbs, though made by men, express
this truth with a sharpness in which there is little exaggeration. Our
school textbooks tell us that action and reaction are equal and
opposite; and this familiar phrase gives meaning to the saw, _Pelmave
dakal dake,_ 'She is equal, the thing struck to the hammer,' meaning
that woman's equality to man is no more effective than the reaction of
the leather on the mallet. 'Bitterer smiles of twelve than tears of
ten' (referring to the age of marriage). _Thleen delkint treen lalfe
zevleen_, ''Twixt fogs and clouds she dreams of stars.'"

"What _does_ that mean?"

"Would you not render it in the terminology of the hymn you translated
for us, 'Between Purgatory and Hell, one dream of Heaven?' Still
puzzled? 'Between the harshness of school and the misery of marriage,
the illusions of the bride.' Again, _Zefoo zevleel, zave marneel,
clafte cratheneel_, 'A child [cries] for the stars, a maiden for the
matron's dress, a woman for her shroud.'"

"Do you mean to say that that is not exaggerated?"

"I suppose it is, as women are even less given to suicide than men.
That is perhaps the ugliest proverb of its kind. I will only quote one
more, and that is two-edged--

"'Fool he who heeds a woman's tears, to woman's tongue replies;
Fool she who braves man's hand--but when was man or woman wise?'"

Here Zulve came to the door and made a sign to her husband. Waiting
courteously to ascertain that I had finished speaking, and until his
son had somewhat ceremoniously taken leave of me, he led me to the
door of a chamber next to that I had hitherto occupied. Pausing here
himself, he motioned me to go on, and the door parting, I found myself
in a room I had not before entered, about the same size as my own and
similarly furnished, but differently coloured, now communicating with
it by a door which I knew had not previously existed. Here were
Eveena's mother and sister, dressed as usual.

Eveena herself had exchanged her maiden white for the light pink of a
young matron, but was closely veiled in a similar material. Her mother
and sister kissed her with much emotion, though without the tears and
lamentations, real or affected, with which--alike among the nomads of
Asia and the most cultivated races of Europe--even those relatives who
have striven hardest to marry a daughter or sister think it necessary
to celebrate the fulfilment of their hopes, and the termination of
their often prolonged and wearisome labours. I was then left alone
with my bride, who remained half-seated, half-crouching on the
cushions in a corner of the room. I could not help feeling keenly how
much a marriage so unceremonious and with so little previous
acquaintance, or rather so great a reserve and distance in our former
intercourse, intensified the awkwardness many a man on Earth feels
when first left alone with the partner of his future life. But a
single glance at the small drooping figure half-hidden in the cushions
brought the reflection that a situation, embarrassing to the
bridegroom, must be in the last degree alarming and distressing to the
bride. But for her visit to the Astronaut we should have been almost
strangers; I could hardly have recognised even her voice. I must,
however, speak; and naturally my first sentence was a half-articulate
request that she would remove her veil.

"No," she whispered, rising, "_you_ must do that."

Taking off the glove of her left hand, she came up to me shyly and
slowly, and placed it in my right--a not unmeaning ceremony. Having
obeyed her instruction, my lips touched for the first time the brow of
my young wife. That she was more than shy and startled, was even
painfully agitated and frightened, became instantly apparent now that
her countenance was visible. What must be the state of Martial brides
in general, when the signature of the contract immediately places them
at the disposal of an utter stranger, it was beyond the power of my
imagination to conceive, if their feelings were at all to be measured
by Eveena's under conditions sufficiently trying, but certainly far
better than theirs. Nothing was so likely to quiet her as perfect
calmness on my side; and, though with a heart beating almost as fast
as her own, if with very different emotions, I led her gently back to
her place, and resting on a cushion just out of reach, began to talk
to her. Choosing as the easiest subject our adventure of yesterday, I
asked what could have induced her to place herself in a situation so
dangerous.

"Do not be angry with me now," she pleaded. "I am exceedingly fond of
flowers; they have been my only amusement except the training of my
pets. You can see how little women have to do, how little occupation
or interest is permitted us. The rearing of rare flowers, or the
creation of new ones, is almost the only employment in which we can
find exercise for such intelligence as we possess. I had never seen
before the flower that grew on that shelf. I believe, indeed, that it
only grows on a few of our higher mountains below the snow-line, and I
was anxious to bring it home and see what could be made of it in the
garden. I thought it might be developed into something almost as
beautiful as that bright _leenoo_ you admired so greatly in my
flower-bed."

"But," said I, "the two flowers are not of the same shape or colour;
and, though I am not learned in botany, I should say hardly belong to
the same family."

"No," she said. "But with care, and with proper management of our
electric apparatus, I accomplished this year a change almost as great.
I can show you in my flower-bed one little white flower, of no great
beauty and conical in shape, from which I have produced in two years
another, saucer-shaped, pink, and of thrice the size, almost exactly
realising an imaginary flower, drawn by my sister-in-law to represent
one of which she had dreamed. We can often produce the very shape,
size, and colour we wish from something that at first seems to have no
likeness to it whatever; and I have been told that a skilful farmer
will often obtain a fruit, or, what is more difficult, an animal, to
answer exactly the ideal he has formed."

"Some of our breeders," I said, "profess to develop a sort of ideal of
any given species; but it takes many generations, by picking and
choosing those that vary in the right direction, to accomplish
anything of the kind; and, after all, the difference between the
original and the improved form is mere development, not essential
change."

She hardly seemed to understand this, but answered--

"The seedling or rootlet would be just like the original plant, if we
did not from the first control its growth by means of our electric
frames. But if you will allow me, I will show you to-morrow what I
have done in my own flower-bed, and you will have opportunities of
seeing afterwards how very much more is done by agriculturists with
much more time and much more potent electricities."

"At any rate," I said, "if I had known your object, you certainly
should have had the flowers for which you risked so much: and if I
remain here three days longer, I promise you plenty of specimens for
your experiment."

"You do not mean to go back to the Astronaut?" she asked, with an air
of absolute consternation.

"I had not intended to do so," I replied, "for it seems to be
perfectly safe under your father's seal and your stringent laws of
property. But now, if time permit, I must get these flowers to which
you tell me I am so deeply indebted."

"You are very kind," returned Eveena earnestly, "but I entreat you not
to venture there again. I should be utterly miserable while you were
running such a risk again, and for such a trifle."

"It is no such terrible risk to me, and to please you is not quite a
trifle. Besides, I ought to deserve my prize better than I have yet
done. But you seem to have some especial spite against the unlucky
vessel that brought me here; and that," I added, smiling, "seems
hardly gracious in a bride of an hour."

"No, no!" she murmured, evidently much distressed; "but the vessel
that brought you here may take you away."

"I will not pain you yet by saying that I hope it may. At all events,
it shall not do so till you are content that it should."

She made no answer, and seemed for some time to hesitate, as if afraid
or unwilling to say something which rose irrepressibly to her lips. A
few persuasive words, however, encouraged her, and she found her
voice, though with a faltering accent, which greatly surprised me when
I learned at last the purport of her request.

"I do not understand," she said, "your ideas or customs, but I know
they are different from ours. I have found at least that they make you
much more indulgent and tender to women than our own; and I hope,
therefore, you will forgive me if I ask more than I have any right to
do."

"I could scarcely refuse my bride's first request, whatever it might
be. But your hesitation and your apologies might make me fear that you
are about to ask something which one or both of us may wish hereafter
had neither been asked nor granted."

She still hesitated and faltered, till I began to fancy that her wish
must have a much graver import than I at first supposed. Perhaps to
treat the matter lightly and sportively would be the course most
likely to encourage her to explain it.

"What is it, child," I asked, "which you think the stranger of another
world more likely to grant than one of your own race, and which is so
extravagant, nevertheless, that you tremble to ask it even from me? Is
it too much to be bound not to appeal against me to the law, which
cannot yet determine whether I am a reality or a fiction? Or have I
proved my arm a little too substantial? Must the giant promise not to
exercise the masculine prerogative of physical force safely conceded
to the dwarf? Fie, Eveena! I am almost afraid to touch you, lest I
should hurt you unawares; lest tenderness itself should transgress the
limit of legal cruelty, and do grave bodily harm to a creature so much
more like a fairy than a woman!"

"No, no!" she expostulated, not at all reciprocating the jesting tone
in which I spoke. "If you would consent to give such a promise, it is
just one of those we should wish unmade. How could I ask you to
promise that I may behave as ill as I please? I dare say I shall be
frightened to tears when you are angry; but I shall never wish you to
retain your anger rather than vent it and forgive. The proverb says,
'Who punishes pardons; who hates awaits.' No, pray do not play with
me; I am so much in earnest. I know that I don't understand where and
why your thoughts and ways are so unlike ours. But--but--I thought--I
fancied--you seemed to hold the tie between man and wife something
more--faster--more lasting--than--our contract has made it."

"Certainly! With us it lasts for life at least; and even here, where
it may be broken at pleasure, I should not have thought that, on the
very bridal eve, the coldest heart could willingly look forward to its
dissolution."

She was too innocent of such a thought--perhaps too much absorbed by
her own purpose--to catch the hint of unjust reproach.

"Well, then," she said, with a desperate effort, in a voice that
trembled between the fear of offending by presumption or exaction, and
the desire to give utterance to her wish--"I want ... will you say
that--if by that time you do not think that I have been too faulty,
too undeserving--that I shall go with you when you quit this world?"
And, her eagerness at last overpowering her shyness, she looked up
anxiously into my face.

We wholly misconceived each other. She drooped in bitter
disappointment, mistaking my blank surprise for displeasure; her words
brought over my mind a rush of that horror with which I ever recall
the scenes I witnessed but too often at Indian funerals.

"That, of course, will rest with yourself. But even should I hereafter
deserve and win such love as would prompt the wish, I trust you will
never dream of cutting short your life because--in the ordinary course
of nature--mine should end long before the term of yours."

Her face again brightened, and she looked up more shyly but not less
earnestly.

"I did not make my meaning clear," she replied. "I spoke not, as my
father sometimes speaks, of leaving this world, when he means to
remind us that death is only a departure to another; though that was,
not so long ago, the only meaning the words could bear. I was thinking

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