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Across the Zodiac by Percy Greg

Part 4 out of 9

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of your journey, and I want you to take me with you when you go."

"You have quite settled in your own mind that I shall go! And in truth
you have now removed, as you yesterday created, the only obstacle. If
you would not go with me, I might, rather than give you up, have given
up the whole purpose of my enterprise, and have left my friends, and
the world from which I came, ignorant whether it had ever been
accomplished. But if you accompany me, I shall certainly try to regain
my own planet."

"Then," she said hopefully, but half confidently, "when you go, if I
have not given you cause of lasting displeasure, you _will_ take me
with you? Most men do not think much of promises, especially of
promises made to women; but I have heard you speak as if to break a
plighted word were a thing impossible."

"I promise," I returned earnestly, very much moved by a proof of real
affection such as I had no right to expect, and certainly had not
anticipated. "I give you the word of one who has never lied, that if,
when the time comes, you wish to go with me, you shall. But by that
time, you will probably have a better idea what are the dangers you
are asking to share."

"What can that matter?" she answered. "I suppose in almost any case we
should escape or die together? To leave me here is to inflict
certainly, and at once, the worst that can possibly befall me; to take
me gives me the hope of living or dying with you; and even if I were
killed, I should be with you, and feel that you were kind to me, to
the last."

"I little thought," said I, hesitating long for some expression of
tenderness, which the language of Mars refuses to furnish,--"I little
thought to find in a world of which selfishness seems to be the
paramount principle, and the absence of real love even between man and
woman the most prevalent characteristic, a wife so true to the best
and deepest meaning of wedlock. Still less could I have hoped to find
such a wife in one who had scarcely spoken to me twenty-four hours
before our marriage. If my unexampled adventure had had no other
reward--if I had cared nothing for the triumph of discovering a new
world with all its wonders--Eveena, this discovery alone is reward in
full for all my studies, toils, and perils. For all I have done and
risked already, for all the risks of the future, I am tenfold repaid
in winning you."

She looked up at these words with an expression in which there was
more of bewilderment and incredulity than of satisfaction, evidently
touched by the earnestness of my tone, but scarcely understanding my
words better than if I had spoken in my own tongue. It would not be
worth while to record the next hour's conversation; I would only note
the strong and painful impression it left upon my mind. There was in
Eveena's language and demeanour a timidity--a sort of tentative
fearful venturing as on dangerous ground, feeling her way, as it were,
in almost every sentence--which could not be wholly attributed to the
shyness of a very young and very suddenly wedded bride. There was
enough and to spare of this shyness; but more of the sheer physical or
nervous fear of a child suddenly left in hands whose reputed severity
has thoroughly frightened her; not daring to give offence by silence,
but afraid at each word to give yet more fatal offence in speaking.
Longer experience of a world in which even the first passion of love
is devoid of tenderness--in which asserted equality has long since
deprived women of that claim to indulgence which can only rest on
acknowledged weakness--taught me but too well the meaning of this
fearful, trembling anxiety to please, or rather not to offend. I
suppose that even a brutal master hardly likes to see a child cower in
his presence as if constantly expecting a blow; and this cowering was
so evident in my bride's demeanour, that, after trying for a couple of
hours to coax her into confidence and unreserved feminine fluency, I
began to feel almost impatient. It was fortunate that, just as my tone
involuntarily betrayed to her quick and watchful ear some shade of
annoyance, just as I caught a furtive upward glance that seemed to ask
what error she had committed and how it might be repaired, a
scratching on the door startled her. She did not, however, venture to
disengage herself from the hand which now held her own, but only moved
half-imperceptibly aside with a slight questioning look and gesture,
as if tacitly asking to be released. As I still held her fast, she was
silent, till the unnoticed scratching had been two or three times
repeated, and then half-whispered, "Shall I tell them to come in?"
When I released her, there appeared to my surprise at her call, no
human intruder, but one of the ambau, bearing on a tray a goblet,
which, as he placed it on a table beside us, I perceived to contain a
liquid rather different from any yet offered me. The presence of these
mute servants is generally no more heeded than that of our cats and
dogs; but I now learnt that Martial ideas of delicacy forbid them,
even as human servants would be forbidden, to intrude unannounced on
conjugal privacy. When the little creature had departed, I tasted the
liquid, but its flavour was so unpleasant that I set down the vessel
immediately. Eveena, however, took it up, and drinking a part of it,
with an effort to control the grimace of dislike it provoked, held it
up to me again, so evidently expecting and inviting me to share it
that courtesy permitted no further demur. A second sign or look, when
I set it down unemptied, induced me to finish the draught. Regarding
the matter as some trivial but indispensable ceremonial, I took no
further notice of it; but, thankful for the diversion it had given to
my thoughts, continued my endeavours to soothe and encourage my fair
companion. After a few minutes it seemed as if she were somewhat
suddenly gaining courage and confidence. At the same time I myself
became aware of a mental effect which I promptly ascribed to the
draught. Nor was I wrong. It contained one of those drugs which I have
mentioned; so rarely used in this house that I had never before seen
or tasted any of them, but given, as matter of course, on any occasion
that is supposed to involve unusual agitation or make an exceptional
call on nerves or spirits. But for the influence of this cup I should
still have withheld the remark which, nevertheless, I had resolved to
make as soon as I could hope to do so without annoying or alarming
Eveena.

"Are you afraid of me?" I asked somewhat abruptly. The question may
have startled her, but I was more startled by the answer.

"Of course," she said in a tone which would have been absolutely
matter of fact, except that the doubt evidently surprised her. "Ought
I not to be so? But what made you ask? And what had I done to
displease you, just before they sent us the 'courage cup'?"

"I did not mean to show anything like displeasure," I replied. "But I
was thinking then, and I may tell you now, that you remind me not of
the women of my own Earth, but of petted children suddenly transferred
to a harsh school. You speak and look like such a child, as if you
expected each moment at least to be severely scolded, if not beaten,
without knowing your fault."

"Not yet," she murmured, with a smile which seemed to me more painful
than tears would have been. "But please don't speak as if I should
fear anything so much as being scolded by you. We have a saying that
'the hand may bruise the skin, the tongue can break the heart.'"

"True enough," I said; "only on Earth it is mostly woman's tongue that
breaks the heart, and men must not in return bruise the skin."

"Why not?" she asked. "You said to my mother the other day that Arga
(the fretful child of Esmo's adoption) deserved to be beaten."

"Women are supposed," I answered, "to be amenable to milder
influences; and a man must be drunk or utterly brutal before he could
deal harshly with a creature so gentle and so fragile as yourself."

"Don't spoil me," she said, with a pretty half-mournful, half-playful
glance. "'A petted bride makes an unhappy wife.' Surely it is no true
kindness to tempt us to count on an indulgence that cannot last."

"There is among us," I rejoined, "a saying about 'breaking a butterfly
on the wheel'--as if one spoke of driving away the tiny birds that
nestle and feed in your flowers with a hammer. To apply your proverbs
to yourself would be to realise this proverb of ours. Can you not let
me pet and spoil my little flower-bird at least till I have tamed her,
and trust me to chastise her as soon as she shall give reason--if I
can find a tendril or flower-stem light enough for the purpose?"

"Will you promise to use a hammer when you wish to be rid of her?"
said she, glancing up for one moment through her drooping lashes with
a look exactly attuned to the mingled archness and pathos of her tone.

CHAPTER XI - A COUNTRY DRIVE.

Like all Martialists, I had been accustomed since my landing to wake
with the first light of dawn; but the draught, though its earlier
effects were anything but narcotic or stupifying, deepened and
prolonged my sleep. It was not till the rays of sunlight came clear
and full through the crystal roof of the peristyle, and the window of
our bridal chamber, that my eyes unclosed. The first object on which
they opened startled me into full waking recollection. Exactly where
the sunbeams fell, just within reach of my hand, Eveena stood; the
loveliest creature I ever beheld, a miniature type of faultless
feminine grace and beauty. By the standard of Terrestrial humanity she
was tiny rather than small: so light, so perfect in proportion, form,
and features, so absolutely beautiful, so exquisitely delicate, as to
suggest the ideal Fairy Queen realised in flesh and blood, rather than
any properly human loveliness. In the transparent delicacy of a
complexion resembling that of an infant child of the fairest and most
tenderly nurtured among the finest races of Europe, in the ideally
perfect outline of face and features--the noble but even forehead--the
smooth, straight, clearly pencilled eyebrows--the large almond-shaped
eyes and drooping lids, with their long, dark, soft fringe--the little
mouth and small, white, even regular teeth--the rosy lips, slightly
compressed, save when parted in speech, smile, or eager attention--she
exhibited in their most perfect but by no means fullest development
the characteristics of Martial physiognomy; or rather the
characteristic beauty of a family in which the finest traits of that
physiognomy are unmixed with any of its meaner or harsher
peculiarities. The hands, long, slight, and soft, the unsandalled
feet, not less perfectly shaped, could only have belonged to the child
of ancestors who for more than a hundred generations have never known
hard manual toil, rough exposure, or deforming, cramping costume; even
as every detail of her beauty bore witness to an immemorial
inheritance of health unbroken by physical infirmity, undisturbed by
violent passions, and developed by an admirable system of physical and
mental discipline and culture. The absence of veil and sleeves left
visible the soft rounded arms and shoulders, in whose complexion a
tinge of pale rose seemed to shine through a skin itself of
translucent white; the small head, and the perfection of the slender
neck, with the smooth unbroken curve from the ear to the arm. Her long
hair, fastened only by a silver band woven in and out behind the small
rounded ears, fell almost to her knee; and, as it caught the bright
rays of the morning sun, I discerned for the first time the full
beauty of that tinge of gold which varied the colour of the rich,
soft, brown tresses. As her sex are seldom exposed to the cold of the
night or the mists, their underclothing is slight and close fitting.
Eveena's thin robe, of the simplest possible form--two wide straight
pieces of a material lustrous as satin but rivalling the finest
cambric in texture (lined with the same fabric reversed), sewn
together from the hem of the skirt to the arm, and fastened again by
the shoulder clasps--fell perfectly loose save where compressed by the
zone or by the movements of the wearer; and where so compressed,
defined the outlines of the form as distinctly as the lightest wet
drapery of the studio. Her dress, in short, achieved in its pure
simplicity all at which the artistic skill of matrons, milliners, and
maidens aims in a Parisian ball costume, without a shadow of that
suggestive immodesty from which ball costumes are seldom wholly free.
Exactly reversing Terrestrial practice, a Martial wife reserves for
strictest domestic privacy that undressed full-dress, that frank
revelation of her beauty, which the matrons of London, Paris, or New
York think exclusively appropriate to the most public occasions. Till
now, while still enjoying the liberty allowed to maidens in this
respect, Eveena, by the arrangement of her veil, had always given to
her costume a reserve wholly unexceptionable, even according to the
rules enforced by the customs of Western Europe on young girls not yet
presented in the marriage market of society. A new expression, or one,
at least, which I had never before seen there, gave to her face a
strange and novel beauty; the beauty, I wish to think, of shy, but
true happiness; felt, it may be, for the first time, and softened, I
fear, by a doubt of its possible endurance which rendered it as
touching as attractive. Never was the sleep even of the poet of the
_Midsummer Night's Dream_ visited by a lovelier vision--especially
lovely as the soft rose blush suffused her cheeks under my gaze of
admiration and delight. Springing up, I caught her with both hands and
drew her on my knee. Some minutes passed before either of us cared to
speak. Probably as she rested her head on my arm and looked into my
eyes, each read the other's character more truly and clearly than
words the most frank and open could ever enable us to do. I had taught
her last night a few substitutes in the softest tongue I knew for
those words of natural tenderness in which her language is signally
deficient: taught her to understand them, certainly not to use them,
for it was long before I could even induce her to address me by name.

"My father bade me yesterday," she said at last, "ask you in future to
wear the dress of our people. Not that you will be the less an object
of attention and wonder, but that in retaining a distinction which
depends entirely on your own choice, you will seem intentionally to
prefer your own habits to ours."

"I comply of course," I observed. "Naturally the dress of every
country is best suited to its own conditions. Yet I should have
thought that a preference for my own world, even were it wholly
irrational, might seem at least natural and pardonable."

"People don't," she answered simply, "like any sign of individual
fancy or opinion. They don't like any one to show that he thinks them
wrong even on a matter of taste."

"I fear, then, _carissima_, that I must be content with unpopularity.
I may wear the costume of your people; but their thought, their
conduct, their inner and outer life, as your father reports them, and
as thus far I have seen them, are to me so unnatural, that the more I
resemble them externally the more my unlikeness in all else is likely
to attract notice. I am sorry for this, because women are by nature
prone to judge even their nearest and dearest by the standard of
fashion, and to exact from men almost as close a conformity to that
standard as they themselves display. I fear you will have to forgive
many heresies in my conduct as well as in my thoughts."

"You cannot suppose," she answered earnestly--she seemed incapable of
apprehending irony or jest,--"that I should wish you more like others
than you are. Whatever may happen hereafter, I shall always feel
myself the happiest of women in having belonged to one who cares for
something beside himself, and holds even life cheaper than love."
"I hope so, _carissima_. But in that matter there was scarcely more of
love than of choice. What I did for you I must have done no less for
Zevle [her sister]. If I had feared death as much as the Regent does,
I could not have returned alive and alone. My venture into infinite
space involved possibilities of horror more appalling than the mere
terrors of death. You asked of me as my one bridal gift leave to share
its perils. How unworthy of you should I be, if I did not hold the
possession of Eveena, even for the two years of her promise, well
worth dying for!"

The moral gulf between the two worlds is wider than the material.
Utterly unselfish and trustful, Eveena was almost pained to be
reminded that the service she so extravagantly overprized was rendered
to her sex rather than herself; while yet more deeply gratified,
though still half incredulous, by the commonplace that preferred love
to life. I had yet to learn, however, that Eveena's nature was as
utterly strange in her own world as the ideas in which she was
educated would seem in mine.

I left her for a few minutes to dress for the first time in the
costume which Esmo's care had provided. The single under-vestment of
softest hide, closely fitting from neck to knees, is of all garments
the best adapted to preserve natural warmth under the rapid and
extreme changes of the external atmosphere. The outer garb consisted
of blouse and trousers, woven of a fabric in which a fine warp of
metallic lustre was crossed by a strong silken weft, giving the effect
of a diapered scarlet and silver; both fastened by the belt, a broad
green strap of some species of leather, clasped with gold. Masculine
dress is seldom brilliant, as is that of the women, but convenient and
comfortable beyond any other, and generally handsome and elegant. The
one part of the costume which I could never approve is the sandal,
which leaves the feet exposed to dust and cold. Rejoining my bride, I
said--

"I have had no opportunity of seeing much of this country, and I fancy
from what I have seen of feminine seclusion that an excursion would be
as much a holiday treat to you as to myself. If your father will lend
us his carriage, would you like to accompany me to one or two places
Kevima has described not far from this, and which I am anxious to
visit?"

She bent her head, but did not answer; and fancying that the proposal
was not agreeable to her, I added--

"If you prefer to spend our little remaining time here with your
mother and sister, I will ask your brother to accompany me, though I
am selfishly unwilling to part with you to-day."

She looked up for a moment with an air of pain and perplexity, and as
she turned away I saw the tears gather in her eyes.

"What _is_ the matter?" I asked, surprised and puzzled as one on Earth
who tries to please a woman by offering her her own way, and finds
that, so offered, it is the last thing she cares to have. It did not
occur to me that, even in trifles, a Martial wife never dreams that
her taste or wish can signify, or be consulted where her lord has a
preference of his own. To invite instead of commanding her
companionship was unusual; to withdraw the expression of my own wish,
and bid her decide for herself, was in Eveena's eyes to mark formally
and deliberately that I did not care for her society.

"What have I done," she faltered, "to be so punished? I have not, save
the day before yesterday, left the house this year; and you offer me
the greatest of pleasures only to snatch it away the next moment."

"Nay, Eveena!" I answered. "If I had not told you, you must know that
I cannot but wish for your company; but by your silence I fancied you
disliked my proposal, yet did not like to decline it."

The expression of surprise and perplexity in her face, though half
pathetic, seemed so comical that I with difficulty suppressed a laugh,
because for her it was evidently no laughing matter. After giving her
time, as I thought, to recover herself, I said--

"Well, I suppose we may now join them at the morning
meal?"

Something was still wrong, the clue to which I gathered by observing
her shy glance at her head-dress and veil.

"Must you wear those?" I asked--a question which gave her some such
imperfect clue to my thoughts as I had found to hers.

"How foolish of me," she said, smiling, "to forget how little you can
know of our customs! Of course I must wear my veil and sleeves; but
to-day you must put on the veil, as you removed it last night."

The awkwardness with which I performed this duty had its effect in
amusing and cheering her; and the look of happiness and trust had come
back to her countenance before the veil concealed it.

I made my request to Esmo, who answered, with some amusement--

"Every house like ours has from six to a dozen larger or lighter
carriages. Of course they cost nothing save the original purchase.
They last for half a lifetime, and are not costly at the outset. But I
have news for you which, I venture to think, will be as little
agreeable to you as to ourselves. Your journey must begin tomorrow,
and this, therefore, is the only opportunity you will have for such an
excursion as you propose."

"Then," I said, "will Eveena still wish to share it?"

Even her mother's face seemed to ask what in the world that could
matter; but a movement of the daughter's veiled head reminded me that
I was blundering; and pressing her little hand as she lay beside me, I
took her compliance for granted.

The morning mist had given place to hot bright sunshine when we
started. At first our road lay between enclosures like that which
surrounded Esmo's dwelling.

Presently the lines were broken here and there by such fields as I had
seen in descending from Asnyca; some filled with crops of human food,
some with artificial pastures, in which Unicorns or other creatures
were feeding. I saw also more than one field wherein the _carvee_ were
weeding or gathering fruit, piling their burdens in either case as
soon as their beaks were full into bags or baskets. Pointing out to
Eveena the striking difference of colour between the cultivated fields
and gardens and the woods or natural meadows on the mountain sides, I
learned from her that this distinction is everywhere perceptible in
Mars. Natural objects, plants or animals, rocks and soil, are for the
most part of dimmer, fainter, or darker tints than on Earth; probably
owing to the much less intense light of the Sun; partly, perhaps, to
that absorption of the blue rays by the atmosphere, which diminishes,
I suppose, even that light which actually reaches the planet. But
uncultivated ground, except on the mountains above the ordinary range
of crops or pastures, scarcely exists in the belt of Equatorial
continents; the turf itself, like the herbage or fruit shrubs in the
fields, is artificial, consisting of plants developed through long
ages into forms utterly unlike the native original by the skill and
ingenuity of man. Even the great fruit trees have undergone material
change, not only in the size, flavour, and appearance of the fruits
themselves, which have been the immediate object of care, but,
probably through some natural correlation between, the different
organs, in the form and colour of the foliage, the arrangement of the
branches, and the growth of the trunk, all of which are much more
regular, and, so to speak, more perfect, than is the case either here
or on Earth with those left to the control of Nature and locality, or
the effects of the natural competition, which is in its way perhaps as
keen among plants and animals as among men. Martialists have the same
delight in bright colours as Orientals, with far greater taste in
selection and combination; and the favourite hues not only of their
flowers, tame birds, fishes, and quadrupeds, but of plants in whose
cultivation utility has been the primary object, contrast signally, as
I have said, with the dull tints of the undomesticated flora and
fauna, of which comparatively scanty remnants were visible here and
there in this rich country.

Presently we came within sight of the river, over which was a single
bridge, formed by what might be called a tube of metal built into
strong walls on either bank. In fact, however, the sides were of open
work, and only the roof and floor were solid. The river at this, its
narrowest point, was perhaps a furlong in breadth, and it was not
without instinctive uneasiness that I trusted to the security of a
single piece of metal spanning, without even the strength afforded by
the form of the arch, so great a space.

The first object we were to visit lay at some distance down the
stream. As we approached the point, we passed a place where the river
widened considerably. The main channel in the centre was kept clear
and deep to afford an uninterrupted course for navigation; but on
either side were rocks that broke the river into pools and shallows,
such as here, no less than on Earth, form the favourite haunts or
spawning places of the fish. In some of the lesser pools birds larger
than the stork, bearing under the throat an expansible bag like that
of the pelican, were seeking for prey. They were watched and directed
by a master on the shore, and carried to a square tank, fixed on a
wheeled frame not unlike that of the ordinary carriage, which
accompanied him, each fish they took. I observed that the latter were
carefully seized, with the least possible violence or injury, placed
by a jerk head-downmost in the throat-bag, which, though when empty it
was scarcely perceptible, would contain prey of very considerable size
and weight, and as carefully disgorged into the tank. In one of the
most extensive pools, too deep for these birds, a couple of men had
spread a sort of net, not unlike those used on Earth, but formed of
twisted metal threads with very narrow meshes, enclosing the whole
pool, a space of perhaps some 400 square yards. In the centre of this
an electric lamp was let down into the water, some feet below the
surface. The fish crowded towards it, and a sudden shock of
electricity transmitted through the meshes of the net, as well as from
the wires of the lamp circuit, stunned for a few minutes all life
within the enclosure. The fish then floated on the surface, the net
was drawn together, and they were collected and sorted; some which, as
I afterwards learned, were required for breeding, being carefully and
separately preserved in a smaller tank, those fit for food cast into
the larger one, those too small for the one purpose and not needed for
the other being thrown back into the water. I noted, however, that
many fish apparently valuable were among those thus rejected. I spoke
to one of the fishermen, who, regarding me with great surprise and
curiosity, at last answered briefly that a stringent law forbids the
catching of spawning fish except for breeding purposes. Those,
therefore, for which the season was close-time were invariably spared.

In sea-fishing a much larger net, sometimes enclosing more than 10,000
square yards, is employed. This fishing is conducted chiefly at night,
the electric lamp being then much more effective in attracting the
prey, and lowered only a few inches below the surface. Many large
destructive creatures, unfit for food, generally of a nature
intermediate between fish and reptiles, haunt the seas. It is held
unwise to exterminate them, since they do their part in keeping down
an immense variety of smaller creatures, noxious for one reason or
another, and also in clearing the water from carrion and masses of
seaweed which might otherwise taint the air of the sea-coasts,
especially near the mouths of large tropical rivers. But these
sea-monsters devour enormous quantities of fish, and the hunters
appointed to deal with them are instructed to limit their numbers to
the minimum required. Their average increase is to be destroyed each
year. If at any time it appear that, for whatever cause, the total
number left alive is falling off, the chief of this service suspends
it partially or wholly at his discretion.

We now came to the entrance of a vast enclosure bordering on the
river, the greatest fish-breeding establishment on this continent, or
indeed in this world. One of its managers courteously showed me over
it. It is not necessary minutely to describe its arrangements, from
the spawning ponds and the hatching tanks--the latter contained in a
huge building, whose temperature is preserved with the utmost care at
the rate found best suited to the ova--to the multitude of streams,
ponds, and lakes in which the different kinds of fish are kept during
the several stages of their existence. The task of the breeders is
much facilitated by the fact that the seas of Mars are not, like ours,
salt; and though sea and river fish are almost as distinct as on
Earth, each kind having its own habitat, whose conditions are
carefully reproduced in the breeding or feeding reservoirs, the same
kind of water suits all alike. It is necessary, however, to keep the
fishes of tropical seas and streams in water of a very different
temperature from that suited to others brought from arctic or
sub-arctic climates; and this, like every other point affecting the
natural peculiarities and habits of the fish, is attended to with
minute and accurate care. The skill and science brought to bear on the
task of breeding accomplish this and much more difficult operations
with marvellous ease and certainty.

On one of the buildings I observed one of the most remarkable,
largest, and most complete timepieces I had yet seen; and I had on
this occasion an opportunity of examining it closely. The dial was
oblong, enclosed in a case of clear transparent crystal, somewhat
resembling in form the open portion of a mercurial barometer. At the
top were three circles of different colours, divided by twelve
equidistant lines radiating from the centres and subdivided again and
again by the same number. Exactly at the uppermost point of each was a
golden indicator. One of these circles marked the temperature,
graduated from the lowest to the highest degree ever known in that
latitude. Another indicated the direction of the wind, while the depth
of colour in the circle itself, graduated in a manner carefully
explained to me, but my notes of which are lost, showed the exact
force of the atmospheric current. The third served the purpose of a
barometer. A coloured band immediately below indicated by the
variations of tint the character of the coming weather. This band
stretched right across the face; below it were figures indicating the
day of the year. The central portion of the face was occupied by a
larger circle, half-green and half-black; the former portion
representing the colour of the daylight sky, the latter emblematic of
night. On this circle the Sun and the planets were represented by
figures whose movement showed exactly the actual place of each in the
celestial sphere. The two Moons were also figured, their phases and
position at each moment being accurately presented to the eye. Around
this circle was a narrow band divided into strips of different length
of various colours, each representing one of the peculiar divisions of
the Martial day; that point which came under the golden indicator
showing the _zyda_ and the exact moment of the _zyda_, while the
movement of the inner circle fixed with equal accuracy the period of
day or night. Below were other circles from which the observer could
learn the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, the intensity of the
sunlight, and the electric tension at the moment. Each of the six
smaller circles registered on a moving ribbon the indications of every
successive moment, these ribbons when unrolled forming a perfect
record of temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind, and so forth, in
the form of a curve--a register kept for more than 8000 Martial years.

Four times during the revolution of the great circle each large clock
emits for a couple of minutes a species of chime, the nature of which
my ignorance of music renders me unable to describe:--viz., when the
line dividing the green and black semicircles is horizontal at noon
and midnight, and an hour before, at average sunrise and sunset, it
becomes perpendicular. The individual character of the several chimes,
tunes, or peals, whatever they should be called, is so distinct that
even I appreciated it. Further, as the first point of the coloured
strip distinguishing each several _zyda_ reaches the golden indicator,
a single slightly prolonged sound--I fancy what is known on Earth as a
single chord--is emitted. Of these again each is peculiar, so that no
one with an ear for music can doubt what is the period of the day
announced. The sound is never, even in the immediate vicinity of the
clock, unpleasantly loud; while it penetrates to an amazing distance.
It would be perfectly easy, if needful, to regulate all clocks by
mechanical control through the electric network extended all over the
face of the planet; but the perfect accuracy of each individual
timepiece renders any such check needless. In those latitudes where
day and night during the greater part of the year are not even
approximately equal, the black and green semicircles are so enlarged
or diminished by mechanical means, that the hour of the day or night
is represented as accurately as on the Equator itself.

The examination of this establishment occupied us for two or three
hours, and when we remounted our carriage it seemed to me only
reasonable that Eveena should be weary both in mind and body. I
proposed, therefore, to return at once, but against this she earnestly
protested.

"Well," I said, "we will finish our excursion, then. Only remember
that whenever you do feel tired you must tell me at once. I do not
know what exertion you can bear, and of course it would be most
inconsiderate to measure your endurance by my own."

She promised, and we drove on for another hour in the direction of a
range of hills to the north-eastward. The lower and nearer portion of
this range might he 400 feet above the general level of the plain;
beyond, the highest peaks rose to perhaps 1500 feet, the average
summit being about half that height. Where our road brought us to the
foot of the first slope, large groves of the _calmyra_, whose fruit
contains a sort of floury pulp like roasted potato, were planted on
ground belonging to the State, and tenanted by young men belonging to
that minority which, as Esmo had told me not being fortunate enough to
find private employment, is thus provided for. Encountering one of
these, he pointed out to us the narrow road which, winding up the
slope, afforded means of bringing down in waggons during the two
harvest seasons, each of which lasts for about fifty days, the fruit
of these groves, which furnishes a principal article of food. The
trees do not reach to a higher level than about 400 feet; and above
this we had to ascend on foot by a path winding through meadows, which
I at first supposed to be natural. Eveena, however, quickly undeceived
me, pointing out the prevalence of certain plants peculiar to the
cultivated pastures we had seen in the plain. These were so
predominant as to leave no reasonable doubt that they had been
originally sown by the hand of man, though the irregularity of their
arrangement, and the encroachment of one species upon the ground of
another, enabled my companion to prove to me with equal clearness that
since its first planting the pasture had been entirely neglected. It
was, she thought, worth planting once for all with the most nutritious
herbage, but not worth the labour of subsequent close cultivation. Any
lady belonging to a civilised people, and accustomed to a country
life, upon Earth might easily have perceived all that Eveena
discovered; but considering how seldom the latter had left her home,
how few opportunities she had to see anything of practical
agriculture, the quickness of her perception and the correctness of
her inferences not a little surprised me. The path we pursued led
directly to the object of our visit. The waters of the higher hills
were collected in a vast tank excavated in an extensive plateau at the
mid-level. At the summit of the first ascent we met and were escorted
by one of the officials entrusted with the charge of these works,
which supply water of extraordinary purity to a population of perhaps
a quarter of a million, inhabiting a district of some 10,000 square
miles in extent. The tank was about sixty feet in depth, and perhaps a
mile in length, with half that breadth. Its sides and bottom-were
lined with the usual concrete. Our guide informed me that in many
cases tanks were covered with the crystal employed for doors and
windows; but in the-pure air of these hills such a precaution was
thought unnecessary, as it would have been exceedingly costly. The
water itself was of wonderful purity, so clear that the smallest
object at the bottom was visible where the Sun, still high in the
heavens, shone directly upon the surface. But this purity would by no
means satisfy the standard of Martial sanitary science. In the first
place, it is passed into a second division of the tank, where it is
subjected to some violent electric action till every kind of organic
germ it may contain is supposed to be completely destroyed. It is then
passed through several covered channels and mechanically or chemically
cleansed from every kind of inorganic impurity, and finally oxygenated
or aerated with air which has undergone a yet more elaborate
purification. At every stage in this process, a phial of water is
taken out and examined in a dark chamber by means of a beam of light
emanating from a powerful electric lamp and concentrated by a huge
crystal lens. If this beam detect any perceptible dust or matter
capable of scattering the light, the water is pronounced impure and
passed through further processes. Only when the contents of the bottle
remain absolutely dark, in the midst of an atmosphere whose floating
dust renders the beam visible on either side, so that the phial, while
perfectly transparent to the light, nevertheless interrupts the beam
with a block of absolute darkness, is it considered fit for human
consumption. It is then distributed through pipes of concrete, into
which no air can possibly enter, to cisterns equally, air-tight in
every house. The water in these is periodically examined by officers
from the waterworks, who ascertain that it has contracted no impurity
either in the course of its passage through hundreds of miles of
piping or in the cisterns themselves. The Martialists consider that to
this careful purification of their water they owe in great measure
their exemption from the epidemic diseases which were formerly not
infrequent. They maintain that all such diseases are caused by organic
self-multiplying germs, and laugh to scorn the doctrine of spontaneous
generation, either of disease, or of even such low organic life as can
propagate it. I suggested that the atmosphere itself must, if their
theory were true, convey the microscopic seeds of disease even more
freely and universally than the water.

"Doubtless," replied our guide, "it would scatter them more widely;
but it does not enable them to penetrate and germinate in the body
half so easily as when conveyed by water. You must be aware that the
lining of the upper air-passages arrests most of the impurities
contained in the inhaled air before it comes into contact with the
blood in the lungs themselves. Moreover, the extirpation of one
disease after another, the careful isolation of all infectious cases,
and the destruction of every article that could preserve or convey the
poisonous germs, has in the course of ages enabled us utterly to
destroy them."

This did not seem to me consistent with the confession that disorders
of one kind or another still not infrequently decimate their
highly-bred domestic animals, however the human race itself may have
been secured against contagion. I did not, however, feel competent to
argue the question with one who had evidently studied physiology much
more deeply than myself; and had mastered the records of an experience
infinitely longer, guided by knowledge far more accurate, than is
possessed by the most accomplished of Terrestrial physiologists.

The examination of these works of course occupied us for a long time,
and obliged us to traverse several miles of ground. More than once I
had suggested to Eveena that we should leave our work unfinished, and
on every opportunity had insisted that she should rest. I had been too
keenly interested in the latter part of the explanation given me, to
detect the fatigue she anxiously sought to conceal; but when we left
the works, I was more annoyed than surprised to find that the walk
down-hill to our carriage was too much for her. The vexation I felt
with myself gave, after the manner of men, some sharpness to the tone
of my remonstrance with her.

"I bade you, and you promised, to tell me as soon as you felt tired;
and you have let me almost tire you to death! Your obedience, however
strict in theory, reminds me in practice of that promised by women on
Earth in their marriage-vow--and never paid or remembered afterwards."

She did not answer; and finding that her strength was utterly
exhausted, I carried her down the remainder of the hill and placed her
in the carriage. During our return neither of us spoke. Ascribing her
silence to habit or fatigue, perhaps to displeasure, and busied in
recalling what I had seen and heard, I did not care to "make
conversation," as I certainly should have done had I guessed what
impression my taciturnity made on my companion's mind. I was heartily
glad for her sake when we regained the gate of her father's garden.
Committing the carriage to the charge of an amba, I half led, half
carried Eveena along the avenue, overhung with the grand conical
bells--gold, crimson, scarlet, green, white, or striped or variegated
with some or all these colours--of the glorious _leveloo_, the Martial
convolvulus. Its light clinging stems and foliage hid the _astyra's_
arched branches overhead, and formed a screen on either side. From its
bells flew at our approach a whole flock of the tiny and beautiful
caree, which take the chief part in rendering to the flora of Mars
such services as the flowers of Earth receive from bees and
butterflies. They feed on the nectar, farina, syrup, and other
secretions, sweet or bitter, in which the artificial flowers of Mars
are peculiarly abundant, and make their nests in the calyx or among
the petals. These lovely little birds--about the size of a hornet, but
perfect birds in miniature, with wings as large as those of the
largest Levantine _papilio_, and feathery down equally fine and
soft--are perhaps the most shy and timid of all creatures familiar
with the presence of Martial humanity. The varied colours of their
plumage, combined and intermingled in marvellously minute patterns,
are all of those subdued or dead tints agreeable to the taste of
Japanese artists, and perhaps to no other. They signally contrast the
vivid and splendid colouring of objects created or developed by human
genius and patience, from the exquisite decorations and jewel-like
masses of domestic and public architecture to the magnificent flowers
and fruit produced, by the labour of countless generations, from
originals so dissimilar that only the records of past ages can trace
or the searching comparisons of science recognise them. I am told that
the present race of flower-birds themselves are a sort of indirect
creation of art. They certainly vary in size, shape, and colour
according to the flower each exclusively frequents; and those which
haunt the cultivated bells of the _leveloo_ present an amazing
contrast to the far tinier and far less beautiful _caree_ which have
not yet abandoned the wildflowers for those of the garden. Above two
hundred varieties distinguished by ornithologists frequent only the
domesticated flowers.

The flight of this swarm of various beauty recalled the conversation
of last night; and breaking off unobserved a long fine tendril of the
leveloo, I said lightly--

"Flower-birds are not so well-trained as _esvee_, bambina."

Never forgetting a word of mine, and never failing to catch with quick
intelligence the sense of the most epigrammatic or delicate metaphor,
Eveena started and looked up, as if stung by a serious reproach.
Fancying that overpowering fatigue had so shaken her nerves, I would
not allow her to speak. But I did not understand how much she had been
distressed, till in her own chamber, cloak and veil thrown aside, she
stood beside my seat, her sleeveless arms folded behind her, drooping
like a lily beaten down by a thunderstorm. Then she murmured sadly--

"I did not think of offending. But you are quite right; disobedience
should never pass."

"Certainly not," I replied, with a smile she did not see. Taking both
the little hands in my left, I laid the tendril on her soft white
shoulders, but so gently that in her real distress she did not feel
the touch. "You see I can keep my word; but never let me tire you
again. My flower-bird cannot take wing if she anger me in earnest."

"Are you not angered now?" she asked, glancing up in utter surprise.

My eyes, or the sight of the leveloo, answered her; and a sweet bright
smile broke through her look of frightened, penitent submission, as
she snatched the tendril and snapped it in my hand.

"Cruel!" she said, with a pretty assumption of ill-usage, "to visit a
first fault with the whip."

"You are hard to please, bambina! I knew no better. Seriously, until I
can measure your strength more truly, never again let me feel that in
inviting your company I have turned my pleasure into your pain."

"No, indeed," she urged, once more in earnest. "Girls so seldom pass
the gate, and men never walk where a carriage will go, or I should not
have been so stupid. But if I had blistered my feet, and the leveloo
had been a nut-vine, the fruit was worth the scratches."

"What do you know, my child, either of blisters or stripes?"

"You will teach me----No, you know I don't mean that! But you will
take me with you sometimes till I learn better! If you are going to
leave me at home in future "----

"My child, can you not trust me to take you for my own pleasure?"

The silvery tone of her low sweet laugh was truly perfectly musical.

"Forgive me," she said, nestling in the cushions at my knee, and
seeking with upturned eyes, like a child better assured of pardon than
of full reconciliation, to read my face, "it is very naughty to laugh,
and very ungrateful, when you speak to please me; but is it real
kindness to say what I should be very silly to believe?"

"You will believe whatever I tell you, child. If you wish to anger a
man, even with you, tell him that he is lying."

"I do nothing but misbehave," she said, in earnest despondency.
"I----" But I sealed her lips effectually for the moment.

"Why did you not speak as we came home?"

"You were tired, and I was thinking over all I had seen. Besides, who
talks air?" [makes conversation].

"You always talk when you are pleased. The lip-sting (scolding) and
silence frightened me so, you nearly heard me crying."

"Crying for fear? You did well to break the leveloo!... And so you
think I must be tired of my bride, before the colours have gone round
on the dial?"

"Not tired of her. You will like a little longer to find her in the
cushions when you are vexed or idle; but you don't want her where her
ignorance wearies and her weakness hampers you."

"Are you an _esve_, to be caged at home, and played with for lack of
better employment? We shall never understand each other, child."

"What more can I be? But don't say we shall never understand each
other," she pleaded earnestly. "It took time and trouble to make my
pet understand and obey each word and sign. Zevle gave hers more slaps
and fewer sweets, and it learned sooner. But, like me, you want your
esve to be happy, not only to fly straight and play prettily. She will
try hard to learn if you will teach her, and not be so afraid of
hurting her, as if she expected sweets from both hands. It is easy for
you to see through her empty head: do cot give her up till she has had
time to look a little way into your eyes."

"Eveena," I answered, almost as much pained as touched by the
unaffected humility which had so accepted and carried out my ironical
comparison, "one simple magnet-key would unlock the breast whose
secrets seem so puzzling; but it has hardly a name in your tongue, and
cannot yet be in your hands."

"Ah, yes!" she said softly, "you gave it me; do you think I have lost
it in two nights? But the esve cannot be loved as she loves her
master. I could half understand the prodigal heart that would buy a
girl's life with yours, and all that is bound up in yours. No other
_man_ would have done it--in our world," she added, answering my
gesture of dissent; "but they say that the terrible _kargynda_ will
stand by his dying mate till he is shot down. You bought my heart, my
love, all I am, when you bought my life, and never asked the cost."
She continued almost in a whisper, her rose-suffused cheeks and moist
eyes hidden from my sight as the lips murmured their loving words into
my ear,--"Though the nestling never looked from under the wing, do you
think she knows not what to expect when she is bought from the nest?
She dares not struggle in the hand that snatches her; much more did
she deserve to be rated and rapped for fluttering in that which saved
her life. Bought twice over, caged by right as by might--was her
thought midnight to your eyes, when she wondered at the look that
watched her so quietly, the hand that would not try to touch lest it
should scare her, the patience that soothed and coaxed her to perch on
the outstretched finger, like a flower-bird tamed at last? Do you
think that name, given her by lips which softened even their words of
fondness for her ear, did not go to her heart straight as the esve
flies home, or that it could ever be forgotten? There is a chant young
girls are fond of, which tells more than I can say."

Her tones fell so low that I should have lost them, had her lips not
actually touched my ear while she chanted the strange words in the
sweetest notes of her sweet voice:--

"Never yet hath single sun
Seen a flower-bird tamed and won;
Sun and stars shall quit the sky
Ere a bird so tamed shall fly.

"Never human lips have kissed
Flower-bird tamed 'twixt mist and mist;
Bird so tamed from tamer's heart
Night of death shall hardly part."

CHAPTER XII - ON THE RIVER.

The next morning saw our journey commenced. Eveena's wardrobe, with my
own and my books, portfolios, models, and specimens of Terrestrial art
and mechanism, were packed in light metallic cases adapted to the
larger form of carriage whereof I have made mention. I was fortunate
in escaping the actual parting scene between Eveena and her family,
and my own leave-taking was hurried. Esmo and his son accompanied us,
leading the way in one carriage, while Eveena and myself occupied that
which we had used on our memorable trip to the Astronaut. Half an hour
brought us to the road beside the river, and a few minutes more to the
point at which a boat awaited us. The road being some eight or ten
feet above the level of the water, a light ladder not three feet long
was ready to assist our descent to the deck. The difference of size
between the Martial race and my own was forcibly impressed upon me, in
seeing that Esmo and his son found this assistance needful, or at
least convenient, while I simply stepped rather than jumped to the
deck, and lifted Eveena straight from her carriage to her seat under
the canopy that covered the stern of the vessel. Intended only for
river navigation, propelled by a small screw like two fishtails set at
right angles, working horizontally; the vessel had but two cabins, one
on either side of the central part occupied by the machinery. The
stern apartment was appropriated to myself and my bride, the
forecastle, if I may so call it, to our companions, the boatmen having
berths in the corners of the machine-room. The vessel was
flat-bottomed, drawing about eighteen inches of water and rising about
five feet from the surface, leaving an interior height which obliged
me to be cautious in order not to strike my head against every
projection or support of the cabin roof. We spent the whole of the
day, however, on deck, and purposely slackened the speed of the boat,
which usually travels some thirty miles an hour, in order to enjoy the
effect and observe the details of the landscape. For the first few
miles our voyage lay through the open plain. Then we passed, on the
left as we ascended the stream, the mountain on whose summit I tried
with my binocular to discern the Astronaut, but unsuccessfully, the
trees on the lower slopes intercepting the view. Eveena, seeing my
eyes fixed on that point, extended her hand and gently drew the glass
out of mine.

"Not yet," she said; which elicited from me the excuse--

"That mountain has for me remembrances more interesting than those of
my voyage, or even than the hopes of return."

Presently, as we followed the course of the stream, we lost sight
altogether of the rapidly dwindling patches of colour representing the
enclosures of Ecasfe. On our left, at a distance varying from three to
five miles, but constantly increasing as the stream bent to the
northward, was the mountain range I had scanned in my descent. On our
right the plain dipped below the horizon while still but a few feet
above the level of the river; but in the distant sky we discerned some
objects like white clouds, which from their immobility and fixedness
of outline I soon discovered to be snow-crowned hills, lower, however,
than those to the northward, and perhaps some forty miles distant. The
valley is one of the richest and most fertile portions of this
continent, and was consequently thoroughly cultivated and more densely
peopled than most parts even of the Equatorial zone. An immediate
river frontage being as convenient as agreeable, the enclosures on
either bank were continuous, and narrow in proportion to their depth;
the largest occupying no more than from one hundred and fifty to two
hundred yards of the bank, the smaller from half to one quarter of
that length. Most had a tunnel pierced under the road bordering the
river, through which the water was admitted to their grounds and
carried in a minute stream around and even through the house; for
ornament rather than for use, since every house in a district so
populous has a regular artificial water supply, and irrigation, as I
have explained, is not required. The river itself was embellished with
masses of water-flowers; and water-birds, the smallest scarcely larger
than a wagtail, the largest somewhat exceeding the size of a swan, of
a different form and dark grey plumage, but hardly less graceful,
seemed to be aware of the stringent protection they enjoyed from the
law. They came up to our boat and fed out of Eveena's hand with
perfect fearlessness. I could not induce any of them to be equally
familiar with myself, my size probably surprising them as much as
their masters, and leading them to the same doubt whether I were
really and wholly human. The lower slopes of the hills were covered
with orchards of every kind, each species occupying the level best
suited to it, from the reed-supported orange-like _alva_ of the
lowlands to the tall _astyra_, above which stretched the timber
forests extending as high as trees could grow, while between these and
the permanent snow-line lay the yellowish herbage of extensive
pastures. A similar mountain range on earth would have presented a
greater variety of colouring and scenery, the total absence of
glaciers, even in the highest valleys, creating a notable difference.
The truth is that the snows of Mars are nowhere deep, and melt in the
summer to such an extent that that constant increase whose downward
tendency feeds Terrestrial glaciers cannot take place. Probably the
thin atmosphere above the snow-line can hold but little watery vapour.
Esmo was of opinion that the snow on the highest steeps, even on a
level plateau, was never more than two feet in depth; and in more than
one case a wind-swept peak or pinnacle was kept almost clear, and
presented in its grey, green, or vermilion rocks a striking contrast
to the masses of creamy white around it. This may explain the very
rapid diminution of the polar ice-caps in the summer of either, but
especially of the Southern hemisphere; and also the occasional
appearance of large dark spots in their midst, where the shallow snow
has probably been swept away by the rare storms of this planet from an
extensive land surface. It is supposed that no inconsiderable part of
the ice and snow immediately surrounding the poles covers land; but,
though balloon parties have of late occasionally reached the poles,
they have never ventured to remain there long enough to disembark and
ascertain the fact.

Towards evening the stream turned more decidedly to the north, and at
this point Esmo brought out an instrument constructed somewhat on the
principle of a sextant or quadrant, but without the mirror, by which
we were enabled to take reliable measures of the angles. By a process
which at that time I did not accurately follow, and which I had not
subsequently the means of verifying, the distance as well as the angle
subtended by the height was obtained. Kevima, after working out his
father's figures, informed me that the highest peak in view--the
highest in Mars--was not less than 44,000 feet. No Martial balloonist,
much less any Martial mountain-climber, has ever, save once, reached a
greater height than 16,000 feet--the air at the sea-level being
scarcely more dense than ours at 10,000 feet. Kevima indicated one
spot in the southern range of remarkable interest, associated with an
incident which forms an epoch in the records of Martial geography. A
sloping plateau, some 19,000 feet above the sea-level, is defined with
remarkable clearness in the direction from which we viewed it. The
forests appeared to hide, though they do not of course actually
approach, its lower edge. On one side and to the rear it is shut in by
precipices so abrupt that the snow fails to cling to them, while on
the remaining side it is separated by a deep, wide cleft from the
western portion of the range. Here for centuries were visible the
relics of an exploring party, which reached this plateau and never
returned. Attempts have, since the steering of balloons has become an
accomplished fact, been made to reach the point, but without success,
and those who have approached nearest have failed to find any of the
long-visible remains of an expedition which perished four or five
thousand years ago. Kevima thought it probable that the metallic poles
even then employed for tents and for climbing purposes might still be
intact; but if so, they were certainly buried in the snow, and Esmo
believed it more likely that even these had perished.

As the mists of evening fell we retreated to our cabin, which was
warmed by a current of heated air from the electric machinery. Here
our evening meal was served, at which Esmo and his son joined us,
Eveena resuming, even in their presence, the veil she had worn on deck
but had laid aside the moment we were alone. An hour or two after
sunset, the night (an unusual occurrence in Mars) was clear and fine,
and I took this opportunity of observing from a new standpoint the
familiar constellations. The scintillation so characteristic of the
fixed stars, especially in the temperate climates of the Earth, was
scarcely perceptible. Scattered once more over the surface of a
defined sky, it was much easier than in space to recognise the several
constellations; but their new and strange situations were not a little
surprising at first sight, some of those which, as seen on Earth
revolved slowly in the neighbourhood of the poles, being now not far
from the tropics, and some, which had their place within the tropics,
now lying far to north or south. Around the northern pole the Swan
swings by its tail, as in our skies the Lesser Bear; Arided being a
Pole-Star which needs no Pointers to indicate its position. Vega is
the only other brilliant star in the immediate neighbourhood; and,
save for the presence of the Milky Way directly crossing it, the
arctic circle is distinctly less bright than our own. The south pole
lies in one of the dullest regions of the heavens, near the chief star
of the Peacock. Arcturus, the Great Bear, the Twins, the Lion, the
Scorpion, and Fomalhaut are among the ornaments of the Equatorial
zone: the Cross, the Centaur, and the Ship of our antarctic
constellations, are visible far into the northern hemisphere. On the
present occasion the two Moons were both visible in the west, the
horns of both crescents pointing in the same direction, though the one
was in her last, the other in her first phase.

As we were watching them, Eveena, wrapped in a cloak of fur not a
little resembling that of the silver fox, but far softer, stole her
hand into mine and whispered a request that I would lend her the
instrument I was using. With some instruction and help she contrived
to adjust it, her sight requiring a decided alteration of the focus
and an approach of the two eye-pieces; the eyes of her race being set
somewhat nearer than in an average Aryan countenance. She expressed no
little surprise at the clearness of definition, and the marked
enlargement of the discs of the two satellites, and would have used
the instrument to scan the stars and visible planets had I not
insisted on her retirement; the light atmosphere, as is always the
case on clear nights, when no cloud-veil prevents rapid radiation from
the surface, being bitterly cold, and her life not having accustomed
her to the night air even in the most genial season.

As we could, of course, see nothing of the country through which we
passed during the night, and as Esmo informed me that little or
nothing of special interest would occur during this part of our
voyage, our vessel went at full speed, her pilot being thoroughly
acquainted with the river, and an electric light in the bow enabling
him to steer with perfect confidence and safety. When, therefore, we
came on deck after the dissipation of the morning mist, we found
ourselves in a scene very different from that which we had left. Our
course was north by west. On either bank lay a country cultivated
indeed, but chiefly pastoral, producing a rich herbage, grazed by
innumerable herds, among which I observed with interest several flocks
of large birds, kept, as Esmo informed me, partly for their plumage.
This presented remarkable combinations of colour, far surpassing in
brilliancy and in variety of pattern the tail of the peacock, and
often rivalling in length and delicacy, while exceeding in beauty of
colouring, the splendid feathers which must have embarrassed the Bird
of Paradise, even before they rendered him an object of pursuit by
those who have learnt the vices and are eager to purchase the wares of
civilised man. Immediately across our course, at a distance of some
thirty miles, stretched a range of mountains. I inquired of Esmo how
the river turned in order to avoid them, since no opening was visible
even through my glass.

"The proper course of the river," he said, "lies at the foot of those
hills. But this would take us out of our road, and, moreover, the
stream is not navigable for many stoloi above the turning-point. We
shall hold on nearly in the same direction as the present till we land
at their foot."

"And how," I said, "are we to cross them?"

"At your choice, either by carriage or by balloon," he said. "There is
at our landing-place a town in which we shall easily procure either."

"But," said I, "though our luggage is far less heavy than would be
that of a bride on Earth, and Eveena's forms the smallest portion of
it, I should fancy that it must be inconveniently heavy for a
balloon."

"Certainly," he replied; "but we could send it by carriage even over
the mountain roads. The boat, however, will go on, and will meet us
some thirty miles beyond the point where we leave it."

"And how is the boat to pass over the hills?"

"Not over, but under," he said, smiling. "There is no natural passage
entirely through the range, but there is within it a valley the bottom
of which is not much higher than this plain. Of the thirty miles to be
traversed, about one-half lies in the course of this valley, along
which an artificial canal has been made. Through the hills at either
end a tunnel has been cut, the one of six, the other of about nine
miles in length, affording a perfectly safe and easy course for the
boat; and it is through these that nearly all the heavy traffic
passing in this direction is conveyed."

"I should like," I said, "if it be possible, to pass through one at
least of these tunnels, unless there be on the mountains themselves
something especially worth seeing."

"Nothing," he replied. "They are low, none much exceeding the height
of that from which you descended."

Eveena now joined us on deck, and we amused ourselves for the next two
hours in observing the different animals, of which such numbers were
to be seen at every turn, domesticated and trained for one or other of
the many methods in which the brutes can serve the convenience, the
sustenance, or the luxury of man. Animal food is eaten on Mars; but
the flesh of birds and fish is much more largely employed than that of
quadrupeds, and eggs and milk enter into the cuisine far more
extensively than either. In fact, flesh and fish are used much as they
seem to have been in the earlier period of Greek civilisation, as
relish and supplement to fruits, vegetables, and farinaceous dishes,
rather than as the principal element of food. As their training and
their extreme tameness indicate, domestic creatures, even those
destined only to serve as food or to furnish clothing, are treated not
indeed with tenderness, but with gentleness, and without either the
neglect or the cruelty which so revolt humane men in witnessing the
treatment of Terrestrial animals by those who have personal charge of
them. To describe any considerable number of the hundred forms I saw
during this short period would be impossible. I have drawings, or
rather pictures, of most, taken by the light-painting process, which I
hope herewith to remit to Earth, and which at least serve to give a
general idea of the points in which the Martial chiefly differs from
the Terrestrial fauna. Those animals whose coats furnish a textile
fibre more resemble reindeer and goats than sheep; their wool is
softer, longer, and less curly, free also from the greasiness of the
sheep.

It seemed to me that an extreme quaintness characterised the domestic
creatures kept for special purposes. This was not the effect of mere
novelty, for animals like the _amba_ and birds like the _esve_,
trained to the performance of services congenial to their natural
habits, however dissimilar to Terrestrial species, had not the same
air of singularity, or rather of monstrosity. But in the creatures
bred to furnish wool, feathers, or the like, some single feature was
always exaggerated into disproportionate dimensions. Thus the
_elnerve_ is loaded with long plumes, sometimes twice the length of
the body, and curled upward at the extremity, so that it can neither
fly nor run; and though its plumage is exquisitely beautiful, the
creature itself is simply ludicrous. It bears the same popular repute
for sagacity as the goose of European farmyards. The _angasto_ has
hair or wool so long that its limbs are almost hidden, just before
shearing-time, in the tresses that hang from the body half way to the
ground. The _calperze_, a bird no larger than a Norfolk turkey, has
the hinder part developed to an enormous size, so that the graceful
peacock-like neck and shoulders appear as if lost in the huge
proportions of the body, and the little wings are totally unfit to
raise it in the air; while it lays almost daily eggs as large as those
of the ostrich and of peculiar richness and flavour. Nearly all the
domestic birds kept for the sake of eggs or feathers have wings that
look as if they had been clipped, and are incapable of flight.
Creatures valued for their flesh, such as the _quorno_ (somewhat like
the eland, but with the single horn so common among its congeners in
Mars, and with a soft white hide), and the _viste_, a bird about the
size of the peacock, with the form of the partridge and the flavour of
grouse or black game, preserve more natural proportions. The
wing-quills of the latter, however, having been systematically plucked
for hundreds of generations, are now dwarfed and useless. These
animals are not encouraged to make fat on the one hand, or to develop
powerful muscles and sinews on the other. They are fed for part of the
year on the higher and thinner pastures of the mountains. When brought
down to the meadows of the plain, they are allowed to graze only for a
few hours before sunset and after sunrise. They thus preserve much of
the flavour of game or mountain sheep and cattle, which the oxen and
poultry of Europe have lost; flavour, not quantity, being the chief
object of care with Martial graziers. Sometimes, however, some
peculiarity perfectly useless, or even inconvenient, appears to be
naturally associated with that which is artificially developed. Thus
the beak of the _elnerve_ is weak and often splits, so as to render
its rearing troublesome and entail considerable losses; while the
horns of the wool-bearing animals are long and strong enough to be
formidable, but so rough and coarsely grained that they are turned to
no account for use or ornament.

We were rapidly approaching the foot of the hills, where the river
made another and abrupt turn. At this point the produce of the whole
upper valley is generally embarked, and supplies from all other
quarters are here received and distributed. In consequence, a town
large and important for this planet, where no one who can help it
prefers the crowded street to the freedom and expanse of the country,
had grown up, with about a hundred and fifty houses, and perhaps a
thousand inhabitants. It was so much matter of course that voyagers
should disembark to cross the hills or to pursue their journey along
the upper part of the river by road, that half-a-dozen different
partnerships made it their business to assist in the transfer of
passengers and light wares. Ahead of us was a somewhat steep
hill-slope, in the lower part of which a wall absolutely perpendicular
had been cut by those who pierced the tunnel, the mouth of which was
now clearly visible immediately before us. It was about twelve feet in
height, and perhaps twenty feet in width. The stream, which, like
nearly all Martial rivers, is wide and shallow, had during the last
fifty miles of our course grown narrower, with a depth at the same
time constantly lessening, so that some care was required on the part
of the pilot to avoid running aground. A stream of twenty inches in
depth, affording room for two boats to pass abreast, is considered
navigable for vessels only carrying passengers; thirty inches are
required to afford a course which for heavy freight is preferable to
the road. Eveena had taken it for granted that we should disembark
here, and it was not till we had come within a hundred yards of the
landing-place--where the bank was perpendicular and levelled to a
height above the water, which enabled passengers to step directly from
the deck of the boat--without slackening our speed, that the
possibility of our intending to accompany the boat on its subterrene
course occurred to her. As she did not speak, but merely drew closer
to me, and held fast my hand, I had no idea of her real distress till
we were actually at the mouth of the black and very frightful-looking
passage, and the pilot had lighted the electric lamp. As the boat shot
under the arch she could not repress a cry of terror. Naturally
putting my arm round her at this sign of alarm, I felt that she was
trembling violently, and a single look, despite her veil, convinced me
that she was crying, though in silence and doing her utmost to conceal
her tears.

"Are you so frightened, child?" I asked. "I have been through many
subterranean passages, though none so long and dark as this. But you
see our lamp lights up not only the boat but the whole vault around
and before us, and there can be no danger whatever."

"I am frightened, though," she said, "I cannot help it. I never saw
anything of the kind before; and the darkness behind and before us,
and the black water on either side, do make me shiver."

"Stop!" I called to the boatman.

"Now, Eveena," I said, "I do not care to persist in this journey if it
really distresses you. I wished to see so wonderful a work of
engineering; but, after all, I have been in a much uglier and more
wonderful place, and I can see nothing here stranger than when I was
rowed for three-quarters of a mile on the river in the Mammoth Cave.
In any case I shall see little but a continuation of what I see
already; so if you cannot bear it, we will go back."

By this time Esmo, who had been in the bows, had joined us, wishing to
know why I had stopped the boat.

"This child," I said, "is not used to travelling, and the tunnel
frightens her; so that I think, after all, we had better take the
usual course across the mountains."

"Nonsense!" he answered. "There is no danger here; less probably than
in an ordinary drive, certainly less than in a balloon. Don't spoil
her, my friend. If you begin by yielding to so silly a caprice as
this, you will end by breaking her heart before the two years are
out."

"Do go on," whispered Eveena. "I was very silly; I am not so
frightened now, and if you will hold me fast, I will not misbehave
again."

Esmo had taken the matter out of my hands, desiring the boatman to
proceed; and though I sympathised with my bride's feminine terror much
more than her father appeared to do, I was selfishly anxious, in spite
of my declaration that there could be no novelty in this tunnel, to
see one thing certainly original--the means by which so narrow and so
long a passage could be efficiently ventilated. The least I could do,
however, was to appease Eveena's fear before turning my attention to
the objects of my own curiosity. The presence of physical strength,
which seemed to her superhuman, produced upon her nerves the quieting
effect which, however irrationally, great bodily force always
exercises over women; partly, perhaps, from the awe it seems to
inspire, partly from a yet more unreasonable but instinctive reliance
on its protection even in dangers against which it is obviously
unavailing.

Presently a current of air, distinctly warmer than that of the tunnel,
which had been gradually increasing in force for some minutes, became
so powerful that I could no longer suppose it accidental. Kevima being
near us, I asked him what it meant.

"Ventilation," he answered. "The air in these tunnels would be foul
and stagnant, perhaps unbreathable, if we did not drive a constant
current of air through them. You did not notice, a few yards from the
entrance, a wheel which drives a large fan. One of these is placed at
every half mile, and drives on the air from one end of the tunnel to
the other. They are reversed twice in a zyda, so that they may create
no constant counter-current outside."

"But is not the power exerted to drive so great a body of air
exceedingly costly?"

"No," he answered. "As you are aware, electricity is almost our only
motive power, and we calculate that the labour of two men, even
without the help of machines, could in their working zydau [eight
hours] collect and reduce a sufficient amount of the elements by which
the current is created to do the work of four hundred men during a
whole day and night."

"And how long," I inquired, "has electricity had so complete a
monopoly of mechanical work?"

"It was first brought into general use," he replied, "about eight
thousand years ago. Before that, heated air supplied our principal
locomotive force, as well as the power of stationary machines wherever
no waterfall of sufficient energy was at hand. For several centuries
the old powers were still employed under conditions favourable to
their use. But we have found electricity so much cheaper than the
cheapest of other artificial forces, so much more powerful than any
supplied by Nature, that we have long discontinued the employment of
any other. Even when we obtain electricity by means of heat, we find
that the gain in application more than compensates the loss in the
transmutation of one force into another."

In the course of little more than half an hour we emerged from the
tunnel, whose gloom, when once the attraction of novelty was gone, was
certainly unpleasant to myself, if not by any means so frightful as
Eveena still found it. There was nothing specially attractive or
noticeable in the valley through which our course now ran, except the
extreme height of its mountain walls, which, though not by any means
perpendicular, rose to a height of some 3000 feet so suddenly that to
climb their sides would have been absolutely impossible. Only during
about two hours in the middle of the day is the sun seen from the
level of the stream; and it is dark in the bottom of this valley long
before the mist has fallen on the plain outside. We had presently,
however, to ascend a slope of some twenty-five feet in the mile, and I
was much interested in the peculiar method by which the ascent was
made. A mere ascent, not greater than that of some rapids up which
American boatmen have managed to carry their barques by manual force,
presented no great difficulty; but some skill is required at
particular points to avoid being overturned by the rush of the water,
and our vessel so careened as to afford much more excuse for Eveena's
outbreak of terror than the tunnel had done. Had I not held her fast
she must certainly have been thrown overboard, the pilot, used to the
danger, having forgotten to warn us. For the rest, in the absence of
rocks, the vessel ascended more easily than a powerful steamer, if she
could find sufficient depth, could make her way up the rapids of the
St. Lawrence or similar streams. We entered the second tunnel without
any sign of alarm from Eveena perceptible to others; only her clinging
to my hand expressed the fear of which she was ashamed but could not
rid herself. Emerging from its mouth, we found ourselves within sight
of the sea and of the town and harbour of Serocasfe, where we were
next day to embark. Landing from the boat, we were met by the friend
whose hospitality Esmo had requested. At his house, half a mile
outside the town, for the first time since our marriage I had to part
for a short period with Eveena, who was led away by the veiled
mistress of the house, while we remained in the entrance chamber or
hall. The evening meal was anticipated by two hours, in order that we
might attend the meeting at which my bride and I were to receive our
formal admission into the Zinta.

CHAPTER XIII - THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT.

"Probably," said Esmo, when, apparently at a sign from him, our host
left us for some minutes alone, "much through which you are about to
pass will seem to you childish or unmeaning. Ceremonial rendered
impressive to us by immemorial antiquity, and cherished the more
because so contrary to the absence of form and ceremony in the life
around us--symbolism which is really the more useful, the more
valuable, because it contains much deeper meaning than is ever
apparent at first sight--have proved their use by experience; and, as
they are generally witnessed for the first time in early youth, make a
sharper impression than they are likely to effect upon a mind like
yours. But they may seem strangely inconsistent with a belief which is
in itself so limited, and founded so absolutely upon logical proof or
practical evidence. The best testimony to the soundness of our policy
in this respect is the fact that our vows, and the rites by which they
are sanctioned, are never broken, that our symbols are regarded with
an awe which no threats, no penalties, can attach to the highest of
civil authorities or the most solemn legal sanctions. The language of
symbol, moreover, has for us two great advantages--one dependent upon
the depth of thought and knowledge with which the symbols themselves
were selected by our Founder, owing to which each generation finds in
them some new truth of which we never dreamed before; the other
arising from the fact that we are a small select body in the midst of
a hostile and jealous race, from whom it is most important to keep the
key of communications which, without the appearance, have all the
effect of ciphers."

"I find," I replied, "in my own world that every religion and every
form of occult mysticism, nay, every science, in its own way and
within its own range, attaches great importance to symbols in
themselves apparently arbitrary. Experience shows that these, symbols
often contain a clue to more than they were originally meant to
convey, and can be employed in reasonings far beyond the grasp of
those who first invented or adopted them. That a body like the _Zinta_
could be held together without ceremonial and without formalities,
which, if they had no other value, would have the attraction of
secresy and exclusiveness, seems obviously impossible."

Here our host rejoined us. We passed into the gallery, where several
persons were awaiting us; the men for the most part wearing a small
vizor dependent from the turban, which concealed their faces; the
women all, without exception, closely veiled. As soon as Esmo
appeared, the party formed themselves into a sort of procession two
and two. Motioning me to take the last place, Esmo passed himself to
its head. If the figure beside me were not at once recognised, I could
not mistake the touch of the hand that stole into my own. The lights
in the gallery were extinguished, and then I perceived a lamp held at
the end of a wand of crystal, which gleamed above Esmo's head, and
sufficed to guide us, giving light enough to direct our footsteps and
little more. Perhaps this half-darkness, the twilight which gave a
certain air of mystery to the scene and of uncertainty to the forms of
objects encountered on our route, had its own purpose. We reached very
soon the end of the gallery, and then the procession turned and passed
suddenly into another chamber, apparently narrow, but so faintly
lighted by the lamp in our leader's hands that its dimensions were
matter of mere conjecture. That we were descending a somewhat steep
incline I was soon aware; and when we came again on to level ground I
felt sure that we were passing through a gallery cut in natural rock.
The light was far too dim to enable me to distinguish any openings in
the walls; but the procession constantly lengthened, though it was
impossible to see where and when new members joined. Suddenly the
light disappeared. I stood still for a moment in surprise, and when I
again went forward I became speedily conscious that all our companions
had vanished, and that we stood alone in utter darkness. Fearing to
lead Eveena further where my own steps were absolutely uncertain, I
paused for some time, and with little difficulty decided to remain
where I was, until something should afford an indication of the
purpose of those who had brought us so far, and who must know, if they
had not actual means of observing, that in darkness and solitude I
should not venture to proceed.

Presently, as gradually as in Northern climates the night passes into
morning twilight, the darkness became less absolute. Whence the light
came it was impossible to perceive. Diffused all around and slowly
broadening, it just enabled me to discern a few paces before us the
verge of a gulf. This might have been too shallow for inconvenience,
it might have been deep enough for danger. I waited till my eyes
should be able to penetrate its interior; but before the light entered
it I perceived, apparently growing across it, really coming gradually
into view under the brightening gleam, a species of bridge which--when
the twilight ceased to increase, and remained as dim as that cast by
the crescent moon--assumed the outline of a slender trunk supported by
wings, dark for the most part but defined along the edge by a narrow
band of brightest green, visible in a gleam too faint to show any
object of a deeper shade. Somewhat impatient of the obvious symbolism,
I hurried Eveena forward. Immediately on the other side of the bridge
the path turned almost at right angles; and here a gleam of light
ahead afforded a distinct guidance to our steps. Approaching it, we
were challenged, and I gave the answer with which I had been
previously furnished; an answer which may not be, as it never has
been, written down. A door parted and admitted us into a small
vestibule, at the other end of which a full and bright light streamed
through a portal of translucent crystal. A sentinel, armed only with
the antiquated spear which may have been held by his first predecessor
in office ten thousand Martial years ago, now demanded our names. Mine
he simply repeated, but as I gave that of Eveena, daughter of Esmo, he
lowered his weapon in the salute still traditional among Martial
sentries; and bending his head, touched with his lips the long sleeve
of the cloak of _therne_-down in which she was on this occasion again
enveloped. This homage appeared to surprise her almost as much as
myself, but we had no leisure for observation or inquiry. From behind
the crystal door another challenge was uttered. To this it was the
sentry's part to reply, and as he answered the door parted; that at
the other end of the vestibule having, I observed, closed as we
entered, and so closed that its position was undiscoverable. Before us
opened a hall of considerable size, consisting of three distinct
vaults, defined by two rows of pillars, slender shafts resembling tall
branchless trees, the capital of each being formed by a branching head
like that of the palm. The trunks were covered with golden scales; the
fern-like foliage at the summit was of a bright sparkling emerald. It
was evident to my observation that the entire hall had been excavated
from solid rock, and the pillars left in their places. Each of the
side aisles, if I may so call them, was occupied by four rows of seats
similarly carved in the natural stone; but lined after Martial
fashion, with cushions embroidered in feathers and metals, and covered
by woven fabrics finer than any known to the looms of Lyons or
Cashmere. About two-thirds of the seats were occupied; those to the
right as we entered (that is, on the left of the dais at the end of
the hall) by men, those opposite by women. All, I observed, rose for a
moment as Eveena's name was announced, from the further end of the
hall, by the foremost of three or four persons vested in silver, with
belts of the crimson metal which plays the part of our best-tempered
steel, and bearing in their hands wands of a rose-coloured jewel
resembling a clouded onyx in all but the hue. Each of them wore over
his dress a band or sash of gold, fastened on the left shoulder and
descending to the belt on the right, much resembling the ribbons of
European knighthood. These supported on the left breast a silver star,
or heraldic mullet, of six points. Throughout the rest of the assembly
a similar but smaller star glimmered on every breast, supported,
however, by green or silver bands, the former worn by the body of the
assembly, the latter by a few persons gathered together for the most
part at the upper end of the chamber.... The chief who had first
addressed us bade us pass on, and we left the Hall of the Novitiate as
accepted members of the Order.... That into which we next entered was
so dark that its form and dimensions were scarcely defined to my eyes.
I supposed it, however, to be circular, surmounted by a dome
resembling in colour the olive green Martial sky and spangled by
stars, among which I discerned one or two familiar constellations, but
most distinctly, brightened far beyond its natural brilliancy, the
arch of the _Via Lactea_. Presently, not on any apparent sheet or
screen but as in the air before us, appeared a narrow band of light
crossing the entire visible space. It resembled a rope twisted of
three strands, two of a deep dull hue, the one apparently orange, the
other brown or crimson, contrasting the far more brilliant emerald
strand that formed the third portion of the threefold cord. I had
learnt by this time that metallic cords so twined serve in Mars most
of the uses for which chains are employed on Earth, and I assumed that
this symbol possessed the significance which poetry or ritual might
attach to the latter.

This cord or band retained its position throughout, crossing the dark
background of the scenes now successively presented, each of which
melted into its successor--rapidly, but so gradually that there was
never a distinct point of division, a moment at which it was possible
to say that any new feature was first introduced.

A bright mist of various colours intermixed in inextricable confusion,
an image of chaos but for the dim light reflected from all the
particles, filled a great part of the space before us, but the cord
was still discernible in the background. Presently, a bright
rose-coloured point of light, taking gradually the form of an Eye,
appeared above the cord and beyond the mist; and, emanating from it, a
ray of similar light entered the motionless vapour. Then a movement,
whose character it was not easy to discern, but which constantly
became more and more evidently rhythmical and regular, commenced in
the mist. Within a few moments the latter had dissolved, leaving in
its place the semblance of stars, star-clusters, and golden nebulae,
as dim and confused as that in the sword-belt of Orion, or as well
defined as any of those called by astronomers planetary.
"What seest thou?" said a voice whose very direction I could not
recognise.

"Cosmos evolved out of confusion by Law; Law emanating from Supreme
Wisdom and irresistible Will."

"And in the triple band?"

"The continuity of Time and Space preserved by the continuity of Law,
and controlled by the Will that gave Law."

While I spoke a single nebula grew larger, brighter, and filled the
entire space given throughout to the pictures presented to us; stars
and star-clusters gradually fading away into remoter distance. This
nebula, of spherical shape--formed of coarser particles than the
previous mist, and reflecting or radiating a more brilliant
effulgence--was in rapid whirling motion. It flattened into the form
of a disc, apparently almost circular, of considerable depth or
thickness, visibly denser in the centre and thinner towards the
rounded edge. Presently it condensed and contracted, leaving at each
of the several intervals a severed ring. Most of these rings broke up,
their fragments conglomerated and forming a sphere; one in particular
separating into a multitude of minuter spheres, others assuming a
highly elliptical form, condensing here and thinning out there; while
the central mass grew brighter and denser as it contracted; till there
lay before me a perfect miniature of the solar system, with planets,
satellites, asteroids, and meteoric rings.

"What seest thou?" again I heard.

"Intelligence directing Will, and Will by Law developing the microcosm
of which this world is one of the smallest parts."

The orb which represented Mars stood still in the centre of the space,
and this orb soon occupied the whole area. It assumed at first the
form of a vast vaporous globe; then contracted to a comparatively
small sphere, glowing as if more than red-hot, and leaving as it
contracted two tiny balls revolving round their primary. The latter
gradually faded till it gave out no light but that which from some
unseen source was cast upon it, one-half consequently contrasting in
darkness the reflected brightness of the other. Ere long it presented
the appearance of sea and land, of cloud, of snow, and ice, and became
a perfect image of the Martial sphere. Then it gave place to a globe
of water alone, within which the processes of crystallisation, as
exhibited first in its simpler then in its more complicated forms,
were beautifully represented. Then there appeared, I knew not how, but
seemingly developed by the same agency and in the same manner as the
crystals, a small transparent sphere within the watery globe,
containing itself a spherical nucleus. From this were evolved
gradually two distinct forms, one resembling very much some of the
simplest of those transparent creatures which the microscope exhibits
to us in the water drop, active, fierce, destructive in their scale of
size and life as the most powerful animals of the sea and land. The
other was a tiny fragment of tissue, gradually shaping itself into the
simplest and smallest specimens of vegetable life. The watery globe
disappeared, and these two were left alone. From each gradually
emerged, growing in size, complexity, and distinctness, one form after
another of higher organisation.

"What seest thou?"

"Life called out of lifelessness by Law."

Again, so gradually that no step of the process could be separately
distinguished, formed a panorama of vegetable and animal life; a
landscape in which appeared some dozen primal shapes of either
kingdom. Each of these gradually dissolved, passing by slow degrees
into several higher or more perfect shapes, till there stood before
our eyes a picture of life as it exists at present; and Man in its
midst, more obviously even than on Earth, dominating and subduing the
fellow-creatures of whom he is lord. From which of the innumerable
animal forms that had been presented to us in the course of these
transmutations this supreme form had arisen, I did not note or cannot
remember. But that no true ape appeared among them, I do distinctly
recollect, having been on the watch for the representation of such an
epoch in the pictured history.

What was now especially noteworthy was that, solid as they appeared,
each form was in some way transparent. From the Emblem before
mentioned a rose-coloured light pervaded the scene; scarcely
discernible in the general atmosphere, faintly but distinctly
traceable in every herb, shrub, and tree, more distinguishable and
concentrated in each animal. But in plant or animal the condensed
light was never separated and individualised, never parted from,
though obviously gathered and agglomerated out of, the generally
diffused rosy sheen that tinged the entire landscape. It was as though
the rose-coloured light formed an atmosphere which entered and passed
freely through the tissues of each animal and plant, but brightened
and deepened in those portions which at any moment pervaded any
organised shape, while it flowed freely in and out of all. The
concentration was most marked, the connection with the diffused
atmosphere least perceptible, in those most intelligent creatures,
like the _amba_ and _carve_, which in the service of man appear to
have acquired a portion of human intelligence. But turning to the type
of Man himself, the light within his body had assumed the shape of the
frame it filled and appeared to animate. In him the rose-coloured
image which exactly corresponded to the body that encased it was
perfectly individualised, and had no other connection with the
remainder of the light than that it appeared to emanate and to be fed
from the original source. As I looked, the outward body dissolved, the
image of rosy light stood alone, as human and far more beautiful than
before, rose upward, and passed away.

"What seest thou?" was uttered in an even more earnest and solemn tone
than heretofore.

"Life," I said, "physical and spiritual; the one sustained by the
other, the spiritual emanating from the Source of Life, pervading all
living forms, affording to each the degree of individuality and of
intelligence needful to it, but in none forming an individual entity
apart from the race, save in Man himself; and in Man forming the
individual being, whereof the flesh is but the clothing and the
instrument."

The whole scene suddenly vanished in total darkness; only again in one
direction a gleam of light appeared, and guided us to a portal through
which we entered another long and narrow passage, terminating in a
second vestibule before a door of emerald crystal, brilliantly
illuminated by a light within. Here, again, our steps were arrested.
The door was guarded by two sentries, in whom I recognised Initiates
of the Order, wearers of the silver sash and star. The password and
sign, whispered to me as we left the Hall of the Novitiate, having
been given, the door parted and exposed to our view the inmost
chamber, a scene calculated to strike the eye and impress the mind not
more by its splendour and magnificence than by the unexpected
character it displayed. It represented a garden, but the boundaries
were concealed by the branching trees, the arches of flowering
creepers, the thickets of flowers, shrubs, and tall reeds, which in
every direction imitated so perfectly the natural forms that the
closest scrutiny would have been required to detect their
artificiality. The general form, however, seemed to be that of a
square entered by a very short, narrow passage, and divided by broad
paths, forming a cross of equal arms. At the central point of this
cross was placed on a pedestal of emerald a statue in gold, which
recalled at once the features of the Founder. The space might have
accommodated two thousand persons, but on the seats--of a material
resembling ivory, each of them separately formed and gathered in
irregular clusters--there were not, I thought, more than four hundred
or five hundred men and women intermingled; the former dressed for the
most part in green, the latter in pink or white, and all wearing the
silver band and star. At the opposite end, closing the central aisle,
was a low narrow platform raised by two steps carved out of the
natural rock, but inlaid with jewellery imitating closely the
variegated turf of a real garden. On this were placed, slanting
backward towards the centre, two rows of six golden seats or thrones,
whose occupants wore the golden band over silver robes. That next the
interval, but to the left, was filled by Esmo, who to my surprise wore
a robe of white completely covering his figure, and contrasting
signally the golden sash to which his star was attached. On his left
arm, bare below the elbow, I noticed a flat thick band of plain gold,
with an emerald seal, bearing the same proportion to the bracelet as a
large signet to its finger ring. What struck me at once as most
remarkable was, that the seats on the dais and the forms of their
occupiers were signally relieved against a background of intense
darkness, whose nature, however, I could not discern. The roof was in
form a truncated pyramid; its material a rose-coloured crystal,
through which a clear soft light illuminated the whole scene. Across
the floor of the entrance, immediately within the portal, was a broad
band of the same crystal, marking the formal threshold of the Hall.
Immediately inside this stood the same Chief who had received us in
the former Hall; and as we stood at the door, stretching forth his
left hand, he spoke, or rather chanted, what, by the rhythmical
sequence of the words, by the frequent recurrence of alliteration and
irregular rhyme, was evidently a formula committed to the verse of the
Martial tongue: a formula, like all those of the Order, never written,
but handed down by memory, and therefore, perhaps, cast in a shape
which rendered accurate remembrance easier and more certain.

"Ye who, lost in outer night,
Reach at last the Source of Light,
Ask ye in that light to dwell?
None we urge and none repel;
Opens at your touch the door,
Bright within the lamp of lore.
Yet beware! The threshold passed,
Fixed the bond, the ball is cast.
Failing heart or faltering feet
Find nor pardon nor retreat.
Loyal faith hath guerdon given
Boundless as the star-sown Heaven;
Horror fathomless and gloom
Rayless veil the recreant's doom.
Warned betimes, in time beware--Freely
turn, or frankly swear."

"What am I to swear?" I asked.

A voice on my left murmured in a low tone the formula, which I
repeated, Eveena accompanying my words in an almost inaudible
whisper--

"Whatsoe'er within the Shrine
Eyes may see or soul divine,
Swear we secret as the deep,
Silent as the Urn to keep.
By the Light we claim to share,
By the Fount of Light, we swear."

As these words were uttered, I became aware that some change had taken
place at the further end of the Hall. Looking up, the dark background
had disappeared, and under a species of deep archway, behind the seats
of the Chiefs, was visible a wall diapered in ruby and gold, and
displaying in various interwoven patterns the several symbols of the
Zinta. Towards the roof, exactly in the centre, was a large silver
star, emitting a light resembling that which the full moon sheds on a
tropical scene, but far more brilliant. Around this was a broad golden
circle or band; and beneath, the silver image of a serpent--perfectly
reproducing a typical terrestrial snake, but coiled, as no snake ever
coils itself, in a double circle or figure of eight, with the tail
wound around the neck. On the left was a crimson shield or what seemed
to be such, small, round, and swelling in the centre into a sharp
point; on the right three crossed spears of silver with crimson blades
pointed upward. But the most remarkable object--immediately filling
the interval between the seats of the Chiefs, and carved from a huge
cubic block of emerald--was a Throne, ascended on each side by five or
six steps, the upper step or seat extending nearly across the whole
some two feet below the surface, the next forming a footstool thereto.
Above this was a canopy, seemingly self-supported, of circular form. A
chain formed by interlaced golden circles was upheld by four great
emerald wings. Within the chain, again, was the silver Serpent, coiled
as before and resting upon a surface of foliage and flowers. In the
centre of all was repeated the silver Star within the golden band; the
emblem from which the Order derives its name, and in which it embodies
its deepest symbolism. Following again the direction of my unseen
prompter, I repeated words which may be roughly translated as
follows:--

"By the outer Night of gloom,
By the ray that leads us home,
By the Light we claim to share,
By the Fount of Light, we swear.
Prompt obedience, heart and hand,
To the Signet's each command:
For the Symbols, reverence mute,
In the Sense faith absolute.
Link by link to weld the Chain,
Link with link to bear the strain;
Cherish all the Star who wear,
As the Starlight's self--we swear.
By the Life the Light to prove,
In the Circle's bound to move;
Underneath the all-seeing Eye
Act, nor speak, nor think the lie;
Live, as warned that Life shall last,
And the Future reap the Past:
Clasp in faith the Serpent's rings,
Trust through death the Emerald Wings,
Hand and voice we plight the Oath:
Fade the life ere fail the troth!"

Rising from his seat and standing immediately before and to the left
of the Throne, Esmo replied. But before he had spoken half-a-dozen
words, a pressure on my arm drew my eyes from him to Eveena. She stood
fixed as if turned to stone, in an attitude which for one fleeting
instant recalled that of the sculptured figures undergoing sudden
petrifaction at the sight of the Gorgon's head. This remembered
resemblance, or an instinctive sympathy, at once conveyed to me the
consciousness that the absolute stillness of her attitude expressed a
horror or an awe too deep for trembling. Looking into her eyes, which
alone were visible, their gaze fixed intently on the Throne, at once
caught and controlled my own; and raising my eyes again to the same
point, I stood almost equally petrified by consternation and
amazement. I need not say how many marvels of no common character I
have seen on Earth; how many visions that, if I told them, none who
have not shared them would believe; wonders that the few who have seen
them can never forget, nor--despite all experience and all theoretical
explanation--recall without renewing the thrill of awe-stricken dismay
with which the sight was first beheld. But no marvel of the Mystic
Schools, no spectral scene, objective or subjective, ever evoked by
the rarest of occult powers, so startled, so impressed me as what I
now saw, or thought I saw. The Throne, on which but a few moments
before my eyes had been steadily fixed, and which had then assuredly
been vacant, was now occupied; and occupied by a Presence which,
though not seen in the flesh for ages, none who had ever looked on the
portrait that represented it could forget or mistake. The form, the
dress, the long white hair and beard, the grave, dignified
countenance, above all the deep, scrutinising, piercing eyes of the
Founder--as I had seen them on a single occasion in Esmo's house--were
now as clearly, as forcibly, presented to my sight as any figure in
the flesh I ever beheld. The eyes were turned on me with a calm,
searching, steady gaze, whose effect was such as Southey ascribes to
Indra's:--

"The look he gave was solemn, not severe;
No hope to Kailyal it conveyed,
And yet it struck no fear."

For a moment they rested on Eveena's veiled and drooping figure with a
widely different expression. That look, as I thought, spoke a grave
but passionless regret or pity, as of one who sees a child
unconsciously on the verge of peril or sorrow that admits neither of
warning nor rescue. That look happily she did not read; but we both
saw the same object and in the same instant; we both stood amazed and
appalled long enough to render our hesitation not only apparent, but
striking to all around, many of whom, following the direction of my
gaze, turned their eyes upon the Throne. What they saw or did not see
I know not, and did not then care to think. The following formula,
pronounced by Esmo, had fallen not unheard, but almost unheeded on my
ears, though one passage harmonised strangely with the sight before
me:--

"Passing sign and fleeting breath
Bind the Soul for life and death!
Lifted hand and plighted word
Eyes have seen and ears have heard;
Eyes have seen--nor ours alone;
Fell the sound on ears unknown.
Age-long labour, strand by strand,
Forged the immemorial band;
Never thread hath known decay,
Never link hath dropped away."

Here he paused and beckoned us to advance. The sign, twice repeated
before I could obey it, at last broke the spell that enthralled me.
Under the most astounding or awe-striking circumstances, instinct
moves our limbs almost in our own despite, and leads us to do with
paralysed will what has been intended or is expected of us. This
instinct, and no conscious resolve to overcome the influence that held
me spell-bound, enabled me to proceed; and I led Eveena forward by
actual if gentle force, till we reached the lower step of the
platform. Here, at a sign from her father, we knelt, while, laying his
hands on our heads, and stooping to kiss each upon the brow--Eveena
raising her veil for one moment and dropping it again--he continued--

"So we greet you evermore,
Brethren of the deathless Lore;
So your vows our own renew,
Sworn to all as each to you.
Yours at once the secrets won
Age by age, from sire to son;
Yours the fruit through countless years
Grown by thought and toil and tears.
He who guards you guards his own,
He who fails you fails the Throne."

The last two lines were repeated, as by a simultaneous impulse, in a
low but audible tone by the whole assembly. In the meantime Esmo had
invested each of us with the symbol of our enrolment in the Zinta, the
silver sash and Star of the Initiates. The ceremonial seemed to me to
afford that sort of religious sanction and benediction which had been
so signally wanting to the original form of our union. As we rose I
turned my eyes for a moment upon the Throne, now vacant as at first.
Another Chief, followed by the voices of the assembly, repeated, in a
low deep tone, which fell on our ears as distinctly as the loudest
trumpet-note in the midst of absolute silence, the solemn
imprecation--

"Who denies a brother's need,
Who in will, or word, or deed,
Breaks the Circle's bounded line,
Rends the Veil that guards the Shrine,
Lifts the hand to lips that lie,
Fronts the Star with soothless eye:--.
Dreams of horror haunt his rest,
Storms of madness vex his breast,
Snares surround him, Death beset,
Man forsake--and God forget!"

It was probably rather the tone of profound conviction and almost
tremulous awe with which these words were slowly enunciated by the
entire assemblage, than their actual sense, though the latter is
greatly weakened by my translation, that gave them an effect on my own
mind such as no oath and no rite, however solemn, no religious
ceremonial, no forms of the most secret mysteries, had ever produced.
I was not surprised that Eveena was far more deeply affected. Even the
earlier words of the imprecation had caused her to shudder; and ere it
closed she would have sunk to the ground, but for the support of my
arm. Disengaging the bracelet, Esmo held out to our lips the signet,
which, as I now perceived, reproduced in miniature the symbols that
formed the canopy above the throne. A few moments of deep and solemn
silence had elapsed, when one of the Chiefs, who, except Esmo, had now
resumed their seats, rose, and addressing himself to the latter,
said--

"The Initiate has shown in the Hall of the Vision a knowledge of the
sense embodied in our symbols, of the creed and thoughts drawn from
them, which he can hardly have learned in the few hours that have
elapsed since you first spoke to him of their existence. If there be
not in his world those who have wrought out for themselves similar
truths in not dissimilar forms, he must possess a rare and almost
instinctive power to appreciate the lessons we can teach. I will ask
your permission, therefore, to put to him but one question, and that
the deepest and most difficult of all."

Esmo merely bent his head in reply.

"Can you," said the speaker, turning to me with marked courtesy, "draw
meaning or lesson from the self-entwined coil of the Serpent?"

I need not repeat an answer which, to those familiar with the oldest
language of Terrestrial symbolism, would have occurred as readily as
to myself; and which, if they could understand it, it would not be
well to explain to others. The three principal elements of thought
represented by the doubly-coiled serpent are the same in Mars as on
Earth, confirming in so far the doctrine of the Zinta, that their
symbolic language is not arbitrary, but natural, formed on principles
inherent in the correspondence between things spiritual and physical.
Some similar but trivial query, whose purport I have now forgotten,
was addressed by the junior of the Chiefs to Eveena; and I was struck
by the patient courtesy with which he waited till, after two or three
efforts, she sufficiently recovered her self-possession to understand
and her voice to answer. We then retired, taking our place on seats
remote from the platform, and at some distance from any of our
neighbours.

On a formal invitation, one after another of the brethren rose and
read a brief account of some experiment or discovery in the science of
the Order. The principles taken for granted as fundamental and
notorious truths far transcend the extremest speculations of
Terrestrial mysticism. The powers claimed as of course so infinitely
exceed anything alleged by the most ardent believers in mesmerism,
clairvoyance, or spiritualism, that it would be useless to relate the
few among these experiments which I remember and might be permitted to
repeat. I observed that a phonographic apparatus of a peculiarly
elaborate character wrote down every word of these accounts without
obliging the speakers to approach it; and I was informed that this
automatic reporting is employed in every Martial assembly, scientific,
political, or judicial.

I listened with extreme interest, and was more than satisfied that
Esmo had even underrated the powers claimed by and for the lowest and
least intelligent of his brethren, when he said that these, and these
alone, could give efficient protection or signal vengeance against all
the tremendous physical forces at command of those State authorities,
one of the greatest of whom I had made my personal enemy. One
battalion of Martial guards or police, accompanied by a single battery
of what I may call their artillery, might, even without the aid of a
balloon-squadron, in half-an-hour annihilate or scatter to the winds
the mightiest and bravest army that Europe could send forth. Yet the
Martial State had deliberately, and, I think, with only a due
prudence, shrunk during ages from an open conflict of power with the
few thousand members of this secret but inevitably suspected
organisation.

Esmo called on me in my turn to give such account as I might choose of
my own world, and my journey thence. I frankly avowed my indisposition
to explain the generation and action of the apergic force. The power
which a concurrent knowledge of two separate kinds of science had
given to a very few Terrestrials, and which all the science of a far
more enlightened race had failed to attain, was in my conscientious
conviction a Providential trust; withheld from those in whose hands it
might be a fearful temptation and an instrument of unbounded evil. My
reserve was perfectly intelligible to the Children of the Star, and
evidently raised me in their estimation. I was much impressed by the
simple and unaffected reliance placed on my statements, as on those of
every other member of the Order. As a rule, Martialists are both, and
not without reason, to believe any unsupported statement that might be
prompted by interest or vanity. But the _Zveltau_ can trust one
another's word more fully than the followers of Mahomet that of his
strictest disciples, or the most honest nations of the West the most
solemn oaths of their citizens; while that bigotry of scientific
unbelief, that narrowness of thought which prevails among their
countrymen, has been dispelled by their wider studies and loftier
interests. They have a saying, whose purport might be rendered in the
proverbial language of the Aryans by saying that the liar "kills the
goose that lays the golden eggs." Again, "The liar is like an
opiatised tunneller" (miner), i.e., more likely to blow himself to
pieces than to effect his purpose. Again, "The liar drives the point
into a friend's heart, and puts the hilt into a foe's hand." The maxim
that "a lie is a shield in sore need, but the spear of a scoundrel,"
affirms the right in extremity to preserve a secret from impertinent
inquisitiveness. Rarely, but on some peculiarly important occasions,
the Zveltau avouch their sincerity by an appeal to their own symbols;
and it is affirmed that an oath attested by the Circle and the Star
has never, in the lapse of ages, been broken or evaded.

Before midnight Esmo dismissed the assembly by a formula which dimly
recalled to memory one heard in my boyhood. It is not in the power of
my translation to preserve the impressive solemnity of the immemorial
ritual of the Zinta, deepened alike by the earnestness of its
delivery, and the reverence of the hearers. There was something
majestic in the mere antiquity of a liturgy whereof no word has ever
been committed to writing. Five hundred generations have, it is
alleged, gathered four times in each year in the Hall of Initiation;
and every meeting has been concluded by the utterance from the same
spot and in the same words of the solemn but simple _Zulvakalfe_ [word
of peace]:--

"Peace be with you, near and far,
Children of the Silver Star;
Lore undoubting, conscience clean,

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