Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Across the Zodiac by Percy Greg

Part 5 out of 9

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.0 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Hope assured, and life serene.
By the Light that knows no flaw,
By the Circle's perfect law,
By the Serpent's life renewed,
By the Wings' similitude--
Peace be yours no force can break;
Peace not death hath power to shake;
Peace from passion, sin, and gloom,
Peace of spirit, heart, and home;
Peace from peril, fear, and pain;
Peace, until we meet again--
Meet--before yon sculptured stone,
Or the All-Commander's Throne."

Before we finally parted, Esmo gave me two or three articles to which
he attached especial value. The most important of these was a small
cube of translucent stone, in which a multitude of diversely coloured
fragments were combined; so set in a tiny swivel or swing of gold that
it might be conveniently attached to the watch-chain, the only
Terrestrial article that I still wore. "This," he said, "will test
nearly every poison known to our science; each poison discolouring for
a time one or another of the various substances of which it is
composed; and poison is perhaps the weapon least unlikely to be
employed against you when known to be connected with myself, and, I
will hope, to possess the favour of the Sovereign. If you are curious
to verify its powers, the contents of the tiny medicine-chest I have
given you will enable you to do so. There is scarcely one of those
medicines which is not a single or a combined poison of great power. I
need not warn you to be careful lest you give to any one the means of
reaching them. I have shown you the combination of magnets which will
open each of your cases; that demanded by the chest is the most
complicated of all, and one which can hardly be hit upon by accident.
Nor can any one force or pick open a case locked by our electric
apparatus, save by cutting to pieces the metal of the case itself, and
this only special tools will accomplish; and, unless peculiarly
skilful, the intruder would 'probably be maimed or paralysed, if not
killed by ...

"Thoughts he sends to each planet,
Uranus, Venus, and Mars;
Soars to the Centre to span it,
Numbers the infinite Stars."

_Courthope's Paradise of Birds_

CHAPTER XIV - BY SEA.

An hour after sunrise next morning. Esmo, his son, and our host
accompanied us to the vessel in which we were to make the principal
part of our journey. We were received by an officer of the royal
Court, who was to accompany us during the rest of our journey, and
from whom, Esrno assured me, I might obtain the fullest information
regarding the various objects of interest, to visit which we had
adopted an unusual and circuitous course. We embarked on a gulf
running generally from east to west, about midway between the northern
tropic and the arctic circle. As this was the summer of the northern
hemisphere, we should thus enjoy a longer day, and should not suffer
from the change of climate. After taking leave of our friends, we went
down below to take possession of the fore part of the vessel, which
was assigned as our exclusive quarters. Immediately in front of the
machine-room, which occupied the centre of the vessel, were two
cabins, about sixteen feet square, reaching from side to side. Beyond
these, opening out of a passage running along one side, were two
smaller cabins about eight feet long. All these apartments were
furnished and ornamented with the luxury and elegance of chambers in
the best houses on shore. In the foremost of the larger cabins were a
couple of desks, and three or four writing or easy chairs. In the
outer cabin nearest to the engine-room, and entered immediately by the
ladder descending from the deck, was fixed a low central table. In all
we found abundance of those soft exquisitely covered and embroidered
cushions which in Mars, as in Oriental countries, are the most
essential and most luxurious furniture. The officer had quarters in
the stern of the vessel, which was an exact copy of the fore part. But
the first of these rooms was considered as public or neutral ground.
Leaving Eveena below, I went on deck to examine, before she started,
the construction of the vessel. Her entire length was about one
hundred and eighty feet, her depth, from the flat deck to the wide
keel, about one half of her breadth; the height of the cabins not much
more than eight feet; her draught, when most completely lightened, not
more than four feet. Her electric machinery drew in and drove out with
great force currents of water which propelled her with a speed greater
than that afforded by the most powerful paddles. It also pumped in or
out, at whatever depth, the quantity of water required as ballast, not
merely to steady the vessel, but to keep her in position on the
surface or to sink her to the level at which the pilot might choose to
sail. At either end was fixed a steering screw, much resembling the
tail-fin of a fish, capable of striking sideways, upwards, or
downwards, and directing our course accordingly.

Ergimo, our escort, had not yet reached middle age, but was a man of
exceptional intellect and unusual knowledge. He had made many voyages,
and had occupied for some time an important official post on one of
those Arctic continents which are inhabited only by the hunters
employed in collecting the furs and skins furnished exclusively by
these lands. The shores of the gulf were lofty, rocky, and
uninteresting. It was difficult to see any object on shore from the
deck of the vessel, and I assented, therefore, without demur, after
the first hour of the voyage, to his proposal that the lights,
answering to our hatches, should be closed, and that the vessel should
pursue her course below the surface. This was the more desirable that,
though winds and storms are, as I have said, rare, these long and
narrow seas with their lofty shores are exposed to rough currents,
atmospheric and marine, which render a voyage on the surface no more
agreeable than a passage in average weather across the Bay of Biscay.
After descending I was occupied for some time in studying, with
Ergimo's assistance, the arrangement of the machinery, and the simple
process by which electric force is generated in quantities adequate to
any effort at a marvellously small expenditure of material. In this
form the Martialists assert that they obtain without waste all the
potential energy stored in ... [About half a score lines, or two pages
of an ordinary octavo volume like this, are here illegible.] She
(Eveena?) was somewhat pale, but rose quickly, and greeted me with a
smile of unaffected cheerfulness, and was evidently surprised as well
as pleased that I was content to remain alone with her, our
conversation turning chiefly on the lessons of last night. Our time
passed quickly till, about the middle of the day, we were startled by
a shock which, as I thought, must be due to our having run aground or
struck against a rock. But when I passed into the engine-room, Ergimo
explained that the pilot was nowise in fault. We had encountered one
of those inconveniences, hardly to be called perils, which are
peculiar to the waters of Mars. Though animals hostile or dangerous to
man have been almost extirpated upon the land, creatures of a type
long since supposed to be extinct on Earth still haunt the depths of
the Martial seas; and one of these--a real sea-serpent of above a
hundred feet in length and perhaps eight feet in circumference--had
attacked our vessel, entangling the steering screw in his folds and
trying to crush it, checking, at the same time, by his tremendous
force the motion of the vessel.

"We shall soon get rid of him, though," said Ergimo, as I followed him
to the stern, to watch with great interest the method of dealing with
the monster, whose strange form was visible through a thick crystal
pane in the stern-plate. The asphyxiator could not have been used
without great risk to ourselves. But several tubes, filled with a soft
material resembling cork, originally the pith of a Martial cane of
great size, were inserted in the floor, sides, and deck of the vessel,
and through the centre of each of these passed a strong metallic wire
of great conducting power. Two or three of those in the stern were
placed in contact with some of the electric machinery by which the
rudder was usually turned, and through them were sent rapid and
energetic currents, whose passage rendered the covering of the wires,
notwithstanding their great conductivity, too hot to be touched. We
heard immediately a smothered sound of extraordinary character, which
was, in truth, no other than a scream deadened partly by the water,
partly by the thick metal sheet interposed between us and the element.
The steering screw was set in rapid motion, and at first revolving
with some difficulty, afterwards moving faster and more regularly,
presently released us. Its rotation was stopped, and we resumed our
course. The serpent had relaxed his folds, stunned by the shock, but
had not disentangled himself from the screw, till its blades, no
longer checked by the tremendous force of his original grasp, striking
him a series of terrific blows, had broken the vertebrae and paralysed
if not killed the monstrous enemy.

At each side of the larger chambers and of the engine-room were fixed
small thick circular windows, through which we could see from time to
time the more remarkable objects in the water. We passed along one
curious submarine bank, built somewhat like our coral rocks, not by
insects, however, but by shellfish, which, fixing themselves as soon
as hatched on the shells below or around them, extended slowly upward
and sideways. As each of these creatures perished, the shell, about
half the size of an oyster, was filled with the same sort of material
as that of which its hexagonic walls were originally formed, drawn in
by the surrounding and still living neighbours; and thus, in the
course of centuries, were constructed solid reefs of enormous extent.
One of these had run right across the gulf, forming a complete bridge,
ceasing, however, within some five feet of the surface; but on this a
regular roadway had been constructed by human art and mechanical
labour, while underneath, at the usual depth of thirty feet, several
tunnels had been pierced, each large enough to admit the passage of a
single vessel of the largest size. At every fourth hour our vessel
rose to the surface to renew her atmosphere, which was thus kept purer
than that of an ordinary Atlantic packet between decks, while the
temperature was maintained at an agreeable point by the warmth
diffused from the electric machinery.

On the sixth day of our voyage, we reached a point where the Gulf of
Serocasfe divides, a sharp jutting cape or peninsula parting its
waters. We took the northern branch, about fifteen miles in width, and
here, rising to the surface and steering a zigzag course from coast to
coast, I was enabled to see something of the character of this most
extraordinary strait. Its walls at first were no less than 2000 feet
in height, so that at all times we were in sight, so to speak, of
land. A road had been cut along the sea-level, and here and there
tunnels ascending through the rock rendered this accessible from the
plateau above. The strata, as upon Earth, were of various character,
none of them very thick, seldom reproducing exactly the geology of our
own planet, but seldom very widely deviating in character from the
rocks with which we are acquainted. The lowest were evidently of the
same hard, fused, compressed character as those which our terminology
calls plutonic. Above these were masses which, bike the carboniferous
strata of Earth, recalled the previous existence of a richer but less
highly organised form of vegetation than at present exists anywhere
upon the surface. Intermixed with these were beds of the peculiar
submarine shell-rock whose formation I have just described. Above
these again come strata of diluvial gravel, and about 400 feet below
the surface rocks that bore evident traces of a glacial period. As we
approached the lower end of the gulf the shores sloped constantly
downward, and where they were no more than 600 feet in height I was
able to distinguish an upper stratum of some forty yards in depth,
preserving through its whole extent traces of human life and even of
civilisation. This implied, if fairly representative of the rest of
the planet's crust, an existence of man upon its surface ten, twenty,
or even a hundred-fold longer than he is supposed to have enjoyed upon
Earth. About noon on the seventh day we entered the canal which
connects this arm of the gulf with the sea of the northern temperate
zone. It varies in height from 400 to 600 feet, in width from 100 to
300 yards, its channel never exceeds 20 feet in depth, Ergimo
explained that the length had been thought to render a tunnel
unsuitable, as the ordinary method of ventilation could hardly have
been made to work, and to ventilate such a tunnel through shafts sunk
to so great a depth would have been almost as costly as the method
actually adopted. A much smaller breadth might have been thought to
suffice, and was at first intended; but it was found that the current
in a narrow channel, the outer sea being many inches higher than the
water of the gulf, would have been too rapid and violent for safety.
The work had occupied fifteen Martial years, and had been opened only
for some eight centuries. The water was not more than twenty feet in
depth; but the channel was so perfectly scoured by the current that no
obstacle had ever arisen and no expense had been incurred to keep it a
clear. We entered the Northern sea where a bay ran up some half dozen
miles towards the end of the gulf, shortening the canal by this
distance. The bay itself was shallow, the only channel being scarcely
wider than the canal, and created or preserved by the current setting
in to the latter; a current which offered a very perceptible
resistance to our course, and satisfied me that had the canal been no
wider than the convenience of navigation would have required in the
absence of such a stream, its force would have rendered the work
altogether useless. We crossed the sea, holding on in the same
direction, and a little before sunset moored our vessel at the wharf
of a small harbour, along the sides of which was built the largest
town of this subarctic landbelt, a village of some fifty houses named
Askinta.

CHAPTER XV - FUR-HUNTING.

Ergimo landed to make arrangements for the chase, to witness which was
the principal object of this deviation from what would otherwise have
been our most convenient course. Not only would it be possible to take
part in the pursuit of the wild fauna of the continent, but I also
hoped to share in a novel sport, not unlike a whale-hunt in Baffin's
Bay. A large inland sea, occupying no inconsiderable part of the area
of this belt, lay immediately to the northward, and one wide arm
thereof extended within a few miles of Askirita, a distance which,
notwithstanding the interposition of a mountain range, might be
crossed in a couple of hours. One or two days at most would suffice
for both adventures. I had not yet mentioned my intention to Eveena.
During the voyage I had been much alone with her, and it was then only
that our real acquaintance began. Till then, however close our
attachment, we were, in knowledge of each other's character and
thought, almost as strangers. While her painful timidity had in some
degree worn off, her anxious and watchful deference was even more
marked than before. True to the strange ideas derived chiefly from her
training, partly from her own natural character, she was the more
careful to avoid giving the slightest pain or displeasure, as she
ceased to fear that either would be immediately and intentionally
visited upon herself. She evidently thought that on this account there
was the greater danger lest a series of trivial annoyances, unnoticed
at the time, might cool the affection she valued so highly. Diffident
of her own charms, she knew how little hold the women of her race
generally have on the hearts of men after the first fever of passion
has cooled. It was difficult for her to realise that her thoughts or
wishes could truly interest me, that compliance with her inclinations
could be an object, or that I could be seriously bent on teaching her
to speak frankly and openly. But as this new idea became credible and
familiar, her unaffected desire to comply with all that was expected
from her drew out her hitherto undeveloped powers of conversation, and
enabled me day by day to appreciate more thoroughly the real
intelligence and soundness of judgment concealed at first by her
shyness, and still somewhat obscured by her childlike simplicity and
absolute inexperience. In the latter respect, however, she was, of
course, at the less disadvantage with a stranger to the manners and
life of her world. A more perfectly charming companion it would have
been difficult to desire and impossible to find. If at first I had
been secretly inclined to reproach her with exaggerated timidity, it
became more and more evident that her personal fears were due simply
to that nervous susceptibility which even men of reputed courage have
often displayed in situations of sudden and wholly unfamiliar peril.
Her tendency to overrate all dangers, not merely as they affected
herself, but as they might involve others, and above all her husband,
I ascribed to the ideas and habits of thought now for so many
centuries hereditary among a people in whom the fear of
annihilation--and the absence of all the motives that impel men on
earth to face danger and death with calmness, or even to enjoy the
excitement of deadly peril--have extinguished manhood itself.

I could not, however, conceal from Eveena that I was about to leave
her for an adventure which could not but seem to her foolhardy and
motiveless. She was more than terrified when she understood that I
really intended to join the professional hunters in an enterprise
which, even on their part, is regarded by their countrymen with a
mixture of admiration and contempt, as one wherein only the hope of
large remuneration would induce any sensible man to share; and which,
from my utter ignorance of its conditions, must be obviously still
more dangerous to me. The confidence she was slowly learning from what
seemed to her extravagant indulgence, to me simply the consideration
due to a rational being, wife or comrade, slave or free, first found
expression in the freedom of her loving though provoking
expostulations.

"You must be tired of me," she said at last, "if you are so ready to
run the risk of parting out of mere curiosity."

"Sheer petulance!" I answered. "You know well that you are dearer to
me every day as I learn to understand you better; but a man cannot
afford to play the coward because marriage has given new value to
life. And you might remember that I have threefold the strength which
emboldens your hunters to incur all the dangers that seem to your
fancy so terrible."

That no shade of mere cowardice or feminine affectation influenced her
remonstrance was evident from her next words.

"Well, then, if you will go, however improper and outrageous the thing
may be, let me go with you. I cannot bear to wait alone, fancying at
every moment what may be happening to you, and fearing to see them
carry you back wounded or killed."

Touched by the unselfishness of her terror, and feeling that there was
some truth in her representation of the state of mind in which she
would spend the hours of my absence, I tried to quiet her by caresses
and soft words. But these she received as symptoms of yielding on my
part; and her persistence brought upon her at last the resolute and
somewhat sharp rebuke with which men think it natural and right to
repress the excesses of feminine fear.

"This is nonsense, Eveena. You cannot accompany me; and, if you could,
your presence would multiply tenfold the danger to me, and utterly
unnerve me if any real difficulty should call for presence of mind.
You must be content to leave me in the hands of Providence, and allow
me to judge what becomes a man, and what results are worth the risks
they may involve. I hear Ergimo's step on deck, and I must go and
learn from him what arrangements he has been able to make for
to-morrow."

My escort had found no difficulty in providing for the fulfilment of
both my wishes. We were to beat the forests which covered the southern
seabord in the neighbourhood, driving our game out upon the open
ground, where alone we should have a chance of securing it. By noon we
might hope to have seen enough of this sport, and to find ourselves at
no great distance from that part of the inland sea where a yet more
exciting chase was to employ the rest of the day. Failing to bring
both adventures within the sixteen hours of light which at this season
and in this latitude we should enjoy, we were to bivouac for the night
on the northern sea-coast and pursue our aquatic game in the morning
of the morrow, returning before dark to our vessel.

Ergimo, however, was more of Eveena's mind than of mine. "I have
complied," he said, "with your wishes, as the Campta ordered me to do.
But I am equally bound, by his orders and by my duty, to tell you that
in my opinion you are running risks altogether out of proportion to
any object our adventure can serve. Scarcely any of the creatures we
shall hunt are other than very formidable. Eyen the therne, with the
spikes on its fore-limbs, can inflict painful if not dangerous wounds,
and its bite is said to be not unfrequently venomous. You are not used
to our methods of hunting, to the management of the _caldecta_, or to
the use of our weapons. I can conceive no reason why you should incur
what is at any rate a considerable chance, not merely of death, but of
defeating the whole purpose of your extraordinary journey, simply to
do or to see the work on which we peril only the least valuable lives
among us."

I was about to answer him even more decidedly than I had replied to
Eveena, when a pressure on my arm drew my eyes in the other direction;
and, to my extreme mortification, I perceived that Eveena herself, in
all-absorbing eagerness to learn the opinion of an intelligent and
experienced hunter, had stolen on deck and had heard all that had
passed. I was too much vexed to make any other reply to Ergimo's
argument than the single word, "I shall go." Really angry with her for
the first and last time, but not choosing to express my displeasure in
the presence of a third person, I hurried Eveena down the ladder into
our cabin.

"Tell me," I said, "what, according to your own rules of feminine
reserve and obedience, you deserve? What would one of your people say
to a wife who followed him without leave into the company of a
stranger, to listen to that which she knew she was not meant to hear?"

She answered by throwing off her veil and head-dress, and standing up
silent before me.

"Answer me, child," I repeated, more than half appeased by the mute
appeal of her half-raised eyes and submissive attitude. "I know you
will not tell me that you have not broken all the restraints of your
own laws and customs. What would your father, for instance, say to
such an escapade?"

She was silent, till the touch of my hand, contradicting perhaps the
harshness of my words, encouraged her to lift her eyes, full of tears,
to mine.

"Nothing," was her very unexpected reply.

"Nothing?" I rejoined. "If you can tell me that you have not done
wrong, I shall be sorry to have reproved you so sharply."

"I shall tell you no such lie!" she answered almost indignantly. "You
asked what would be _said_."

I was fairly at a loss. The figure which Martial grammarians call "the
suppressed alternative" is a great favourite, and derives peculiar
force from the varied emphasis their syntax allows. But, resolved not
to understand a meaning much more distinctly conveyed in her words
than in my translation, I replied, "_I_ shall say nothing then,
except--don't do it again;" and I extricated myself promptly if
ignominiously from the dilemma, by leaving the cabin and closing the
door, so sharply and decidedly as to convey a distinct intimation that
it was not again to be opened.

We breakfasted earlier than usual. My gentle bride had been subdued
into a silence, not sullen, but so sad that when her wistful eyes
followed my every movement as I prepared to start, I could willingly,
to bring back their brightness, have renounced the promise of the day.
But this must not be; and turning to take leave on the threshold, I
said--

"Be sure I shall come to no harm; and if I did, the worst pang of
death would be the memory of the first sharp words I have spoken to
you, and which, I confess, were an ill return for the inconvenient
expression of your affectionate anxiety."

"Do not speak so," she half whispered. "I deserved any mark of your
displeasure; I only wish I could persuade you that the sharpest sting
lies in the lips we love. Do remember, since you would not let me run
the slightest risk of harm, that if you come to hurt you will have
killed me."

"Rest assured I shall come to no serious ill. I hope this evening to
laugh with you at your alarms; and so long as you do not see me either
in the flesh or in the spirit, you may know that I am safe. I _could
not_ leave you for ever without meeting you again."

This speech, which I should have ventured in no other presence, would
hardly have established my lunacy more decisively in Martial eyes than
in those of Terrestrial common sense. It conveyed, however, a real if
not sufficient consolation to Eveena; the idea it implied being not
wholly unfamiliar to a daughter of the Star. I was surprised that,
almost shrinking from my last embrace, Eveena suddenly dropped her
veil around her; till, turning, I saw that Ergimo was standing at the
top of the ladder leading to the deck, and just in sight.

"I will send word," he said, addressing himself to me, but speaking
for her ears, "of your safety at noon and at night. So far as my
utmost efforts can ensure it you will be safe; an obligation higher,
and enforced by sanctions graver, than even the Campta's command
forbids me to lead a _brother_ into peril, and fail to bring him out
of it."

The significant word was spoken in so low a tone that it could not
possibly reach the ears of our companions of the chase, who had
mustered on shore within a few feet of the vessel. But Eveena
evidently caught both the sound and the meaning, and I was glad that
they should convey to her a confidence which seemed to myself no
better founded than her alarms. To me its only value lay in the
friendly relation it established with one I had begun greatly to like.
I relied on my own strength and nerve for all that human exertion
could do in such peril as we might encounter; and, in a case in which
these might fail me, I doubted whether even the one tie that has
binding force on Mars would avail me much.

Immediately outside the town were waiting, saddled but not bridled,
some score of the extraordinary riding-birds Eveena had described. The
seat of the rider is on the back, between the wings; but the saddle
consists only of a sort of girth immediately in front, to which a pair
of stirrups, resembling that of a lady's side-saddle, were attached.
The creature that was to carry my unusual weight was the most powerful
of all, but I felt some doubt whether even his strength might not
break down. One of the hunters had charge of a carriage on which was
fixed a cage containing two dozen birds of a dark greenish grey, about
the size of a crow, and with the slender form, piercing eyes, and
powerful beak of the falcon. They were not intended, however, to
strike the prey, but simply to do the part of dogs in tracing out the
game, and driving it from the woods into the open ground. Our birds,
rising at once into the air, carried us some fifty feet above the tops
of the trees. Here the chief huntsman took the guidance of the party,
keeping in front of the line in which we were ranged, and watching
through a pair of what might be called spectacles, save that a very
short tube with double lenses was substituted for the single glass,
the movement of the hawks, which had been released in the wood below
us. These at first dispersed in every direction, extending at
intervals from end to end of a line some three miles in length, and
moving slowly forwards, followed by the hunters. A sharp call from one
bird on the left gathered the rest around him, and in a few moments
the rustling and rushing of an invisible flock through the glades of
the forest apprised us that we had started, though we could not see,
the prey. Ergimo, who kept close beside me, and who had often
witnessed the sport before, kept me informed of what was proceeding
underneath us, of which I could see but little. Glimpses here and
there showed that we were pursuing a numerous flock of large
white-plumed or white-haired creatures, standing at most some four
feet in height; but what they were, even whether birds or quadrupeds,
their movements left me in absolute uncertainty. Worried and
frightened by the falcons, which, however, never ventured to close
upon them, they were gradually driven in the direction intended by the
huntsman towards the open plain, which bordered the forest at a
distance of about six miles to the northward. In half-an-hour after
the "find," the leader of the flock broke out of the wood two or three
hundred yards ahead of us, and was closely followed by his companions.
I then recognised in the objects of the chase the strange _thernee_
described by Eveena, whose long soft down furnished the cloak she wore
on our visit to the Astronaut. Their general form, and especially the
length and graceful curve of the neck, led one instinctively to regard
them as birds; but the fore-limbs, drawn up as they ran, but now and
then outstretched with a sweep to strike at a falcon that ventured
imprudently near, had, in the distance, much more resemblance to the
arm of a baboon than to the limb of any other creature, and bore no
likeness whatever to the wing even of the bat. The object of the
hunters was not to strike these creatures from a distance, but to run
them down and capture them by sheer exhaustion. This the great
wing-power of the _caldectaa_ enabled us to do, though by the time we
had driven the thernee to bay my own Pegasus was fairly tired. The
hunters, separating and spreading out in the form of a semicircle,
assisted the movements of the hawks, driving the prey gradually into a
narrow defile among the hills bordering the plain to the
north-eastward, whose steep upward slope greatly hindered and fatigued
creatures whose natural habitat consists of level plains or seabord
forests. At last, under a steep half-precipitous rock which defended
them in rear, and between clumps of trees which guarded either
flank--protected by both overhead--the flock, at the call of their
leader, took up a position which displayed an instinctive strategy,
whereof an Indian or African chief might have been proud. The
_caldectaa_, however, well knew the vast superiority of their own
strength and of their formidable beaks, and did not hesitate to carry
us close to but somewhat above the thernee, as these stood ranged in
line with extended fore-limbs and snouts; the latter armed with teeth
about an inch and a half in length tapering singly to a sharp point,
the former with spikes stronger, longer, and sharper than those of the
porcupine; but, as I satisfied myself by a subsequent inspection,
formed by rudimentary, or, more properly speaking, transformed or
degenerated quills. The bite was easily avoided. It was not so easy to
keep out of reach of the powerful fore-limb while endeavouring to
strike a fatal blow at the neck with the long rapier-like cutting
weapons carried by the hunters. My own shorter and sharp sword, to
which I had trusted, preferring a familiar weapon to one, however
suitable, to which I was not accustomed, left me no choice but to
abandon the hope of active participation in the slaughter, or to
venture dangerously near. Choosing the latter alternative, I received
from the arm of the thernee I had singled out a blow which, caught
upon my sword, very nearly smote it from my hand, and certainly would
have disarmed at once any of my weaker companions. As it was, the
stroke maimed the limb that delivered it; but with its remaining arm
the creature maintained a fight so stubborn that, had both been
available, the issue could not have been in my favour. This conflict
reminded me singularly of an encounter with the mounted swordsmen of
Scindiah and the Peishwah; all my experience of sword-play being
called into use, and my brute opponent using its natural weapon with
an instinctive skill not unworthy of comparison with that of a trained
horse-soldier; at the same time that it constantly endeavoured to
seize with its formidable snout either my own arm or the wing or body
of the caldecta, which, however, was very well able to take care of
itself. In fact, the prey was secured at last not by my sword but by a
blow from the caldecta's beak, which pierced and paralysed the slender
neck of our antagonist. Some twenty thernee formed the booty of a
chase certainly novel, and possessing perhaps as many elements of
peril and excitement as that finest of Earthly sports which the
affected cynicism of Anglo-Indian speech degrades by the name of
"pig-sticking."

When the falcons had been collected and recaged, and the bodies of the
thernee consigned to a carriage brought up for the purpose by a
subordinate who had watched the hunters' course, our birds, from which
we had dismounted, were somewhat rested; and Ergimo informed me that
another and more formidable, as well as more valuable, prey was
thought to be in sight a few miles off. Mounted on a fresh bird, and
resolutely closing my ears to his urgent and reasonable dissuasion, I
joined the smaller party which was detached for this purpose. As we
were carried slowly at no great distance from the ground, managing our
birds with ease by a touch on either side of the neck--they are
spurred at need by a slight electric shock communicated from the hilt
of the sword, and are checked by a forcible pressure on the wings--I
asked Ergimo why the thernee were not rather shot than hunted, since
utility, not sport, governs the method of capturing the wild beasts of
Mars.

"We have," he replied, "two weapons adapted to strike at a distance.
The asphyxiator is too heavy to be carried far or fast, and pieces of
the shell inflict such injuries upon everything in the immediate
neighbourhood of the explosion, as to render it useless where the
value of the prey depends upon the condition of its skin. Our other
and much more convenient, if less powerful, projective weapon has also
its own disadvantage. It can be used only at short distances; and at
these it is apt to burn and tear a skin so soft and delicate as that
of the thernee. Moreover, it so terrifies the caldecta as to render it
unmanageable; and we are compelled to dismount before using it, as you
may presently see. Four or five of our party are now armed with it,
and I wish you had allowed me to furnish you with one."

"I prefer," I answered, "my own weapon, an air-gun which I can fire
sixteen times without reloading, and which will kill at a hundred
yards' distance. With a weapon unknown to me I might not only fail
altogether, but I might not improbably do serious injury, by my
clumsiness and inexperience, to my companions."

"I wish, nevertheless," he said, "that you carried the _mordyta_. You
will have need of an efficient weapon if you dismount to share the
attack we are just about to make. But I entreat you not to do so. You
can see it all in perfect safety, if only you will keep far enough
away to avoid danger from the fright of your bird."

As he spoke, we had come into proximity to our new game, a large and
very powerful animal, about four feet high at the shoulders, and about
six feet from the head to the root of the tail. The latter carries, as
that of the lion was fabled to do, a final claw, not to lash the
creature into rage, but for the more practical purpose of striking
down an enemy endeavouring to approach it in flank or rear. Its hide,
covered with a long beautifully soft fur, is striped alternately with
brown and yellow, the ground being a sort of silver-grey. The head
resembles that of the lion, but without the mane, and is prolonged
into a face and snout more like those of the wild boar. Its limbs are
less unlike those of the feline genus than any other Earthly type, but
have three claws and a hard pad in lieu of the soft cushion. The upper
jaw is armed with two formidable tusks about twelve inches in length,
and projecting directly forwards. A blow from the claw-furnished tail
would plough up the thigh or rip open the abdomen of a man. A stroke
from one of the paws would fracture his skull, while a wound from the
tusk in almost any part of the body must prove certainly fatal.
Fortunately, the _kargynda_ has not the swiftness of movement
belonging to nearly all our feline races, otherwise its skins, the
most valuable prize of the Martial hunter, would yearly be taken at a
terrible cost of life. Two of these creatures were said to be reposing
in a thick jungle of reeds bordering a narrow stream immediately in
our front. The hunters, with Ergimo, now dismounted and advanced some
two hundred yards in front of their birds, directing the latter to
turn their heads in the opposite direction. I found some difficulty in
making my wish to descend intelligible to the docile creature which
carried me, and was still in the air when one of the enormous
creatures we were hunting rushed out of its hiding-place. The nearest
hunter, raising a shining metal staff about three and a half feet in
length (having a crystal cylinder at the hinder end, about six inches
in circumference, and occupying about one-third the entire length of
the weapon), levelled it at the beast. A flash as of lightning darted
through the air, and the creature rolled over. Another flash from a
similar weapon in the hands of another hunter followed. By this time,
however, my bird was entirely unmanageable, and what happened I
learned afterwards from Ergimo. Neither of the two shots had wounded
the creature, though the near passage of the first had for a moment
stunned and overthrown him. His rush among the party dispersed them
all, but each being able to send forth from his piece a second flash
of lightning, the monster was mortally wounded before they fairly
started in pursuit of their scared birds, which--their attention being
called by the roar of the animal, by the crash accompanying each
flash, and probably above all by the restlessness of my own _caldecta_
in their midst--had flown off to some distance. My bird, floundering
forwards, flung me to the ground about two hundred yards from the
jungle, fortunately at a greater distance from the dying but not yet
utterly disabled prey. Its companion now came forth and stood over the
tortured creature, licking its sores till it expired. By this time I
had recovered the consciousness I had lost with the shock of my fall,
and had ascertained that my gun was safe. I had but time to prepare
and level it when, leaving its dead companion, the brute turned and
charged me almost as rapidly as an infuriated elephant. I fired
several times and assured, if only from my skill as a marksman, that
some of the shots had hit it, was surprised to see that at each it was
only checked for a moment and then resumed its charge. It was so near
now that I could aim with some confidence at the eye; and if, as I
suspected, the previous shots had failed to pierce the hide, no other
aim was likely to avail. I levelled, therefore, as steadily as I could
at its blazing eyeballs and fired three or four shots, still without
doing more than arrest or rather slacken its charge, each shot
provoking a fearful roar of rage and pain. I fired my last within
about twenty yards, and then, before I could draw my sword, was dashed
to the ground with a violence that utterly stunned me. When I
recovered my senses Ergimo was kneeling beside me pouring down my
throat the contents of a small phial; and as I lifted my head and
looked around, I saw the enormous carcass from under which I had been
dragged lying dead almost within reach of my hand. One eye was pierced
through the very centre, the other seriously injured. But such is the
creature's tenacity of life, that, though three balls were actually in
its brain, it had driven home its charge, though far too unconscious
to make more than convulsive and feeble use of any of its formidable
weapons. When I fell it stood for perhaps a second, and then dropped
senseless upon my lower limbs, which were not a little bruised by its
weight. That no bone was broken or dislocated by the shock, deadened
though it must have been by the repeated pauses in the kargynda's
charge and by its final exhaustion, was more than I expected or could
understand. Before I rose to my feet, Ergimo had peremptorily insisted
on the abandonment of the further excursion we had intended, declaring
that he could not answer to his Sovereign, after so severe a lesson,
for my exposure to any future peril. The Campta had sent him to bring
me into his presence for purposes which would not be fulfilled by
producing a lifeless carcass, or a maimed and helpless invalid; and
the discipline of the Court and central Administration allowed no
excuse for disobedience to orders or failure in duty. My protest was
very quickly silenced. On attempting to stand, I found myself so
shaken, torn, and shattered that I could not again mount a _caldecta_
or wield a weapon; and was carried back to Askinta on a sort of
inclined litter placed upon the carriage which had conveyed our booty.

I was mortified, as we approached the place where our vessel lay, to
observe a veiled female figure on the deck. Eveena's quick eye had
noted our return some minutes before, and inferred from the early
abandonment of the chase some serious accident. Happily our party were
so disposed that I had time to assume the usual position before she
caught sight of me. I could not, however, deceive her by a desperate
effort to walk steadily and unaided. She stood by quietly and calmly
while the surgeon of the hunters dressed my hurts, observing exactly
how the bandages and lotions were applied. Only when we were left
alone did she in any degree give way to an agitation by which she
feared to increase my evident pain and feverishness. It was impossible
to satisfy her that black bruises and broad gashes meant no danger,
and would be healed by a few days' rest. But when she saw that I could
talk and smile as usual, she was unsparing in her attempts to coax
from me a pledge that I would never again peril life or limb to
gratify my curiosity regarding the very few pursuits in which, for the
highest remuneration, Martialists can be induced to incur the
probability of injury and the chance of that death they so abjectly
dread. Scarcely less reluctant to repeat the scolding she felt so
acutely than to employ the methods of rebuke she deemed less severe, I
had no little difficulty in evading her entreaties. Only a very
decided request to drop the subject at once and for ever, enforced on
her conscience by reminding her that it would be enforced no
otherwise, at last obtained me peace without the sacrifice of liberty.

CHAPTER XVI - TROUBLED WATERS.

We were now in Martial N. latitude 57 deg., in a comparatively open part
of the narrow sea which encloses the northern land-belt, and to the
south-eastward lay the only channel by which this sea communicates
with the main ocean of the southern hemisphere. Along this we took our
course. Bather against Ergimo's advice, I insisted on remaining on the
surface, as the sea was tolerably calm. Eveena, with her usual
self-suppression, professed to prefer the free air, the light of the
long day, and such amusement as the sight of an occasional sea-monster
or shoal of fishes afforded, to the fainter light and comparative
monotony of submarine travelling. Ergimo, who had in his time
commanded the hunters of the Arctic Sea, was almost as completely
exempt as myself from sea-sickness; but I was surprised to find that
the crew disliked, and, had they ventured, would have grumbled at, the
change, being so little accustomed to any long superficial voyage as
to suffer like landsmen from rough weather. The difference between
sailing on and below the surface is so great, both in comfort and in
the kind of skill and knowledge required, that the seamen of passenger
and of mercantile vessels are classes much more distinct than those of
the mercantile and national marine of England, or any other maritime
Power on Earth. I consented readily that, except on the rare occasions
when the heavens were visible, the short night, from the fall of the
evening to the dissipation of the morning mists, should he passed
under water. I have said that gales are comparatively rare and the
tides insignificant; but the narrow and exceedingly long channels of
the Martial seas, with the influence of a Solar movement from north to
south more extensive though slower than that which takes place between
our Winter and Summer Solstices, produce currents, atmospheric and
oceanic, and sudden squalls that often give rise to that worst of all
disturbances of the surface, known as a "chopping sea." When we
crossed the tropic and came fairly into the channel separating the
western coast of the continent on which the Astronaut had landed from
the eastern seabord of that upon whose southern coast I was presently
to disembark, this disturbance was even worse than, except on
peculiarly disagreeable occasions, in the Straits of Dover. After
enduring this for two or three hours, I observed that Eveena had
stolen from her seat beside me on the deck. Since we left Askinta her
spirits had been unusually variable. She had been sometimes lively and
almost excitable; more generally quiet, depressed, and silent even
beyond her wont. Still, her manner and bearing were always so equable,
gentle, and docile that, accustomed to the caprices of the sex on
Earth, I had hardly noticed the change. I thought, however, that she
was to-day nervous and somewhat pale; and as she did not return, after
permitting the pilot to seek a calmer stratum at some five fathoms
depth, I followed Eveena into our cabin or chamber. Standing with her
back to the entrance and with a goblet to her lips, she did not hear
me till I had approached within arm's length. She then started
violently, so agitated that the colour faded at once from her
countenance, leaving it white as in a swoon, then as suddenly
returning, flushed her neck and face, from the emerald shoulder clasps
to the silver snood, with a pink deeper than that of her robe.

"I am very sorry I startled you," I said. "You are certainly ill, or
you would not be so easily upset."

I laid my hand as I spoke on her soft tresses, but she withdrew from
the touch, sinking down among the cushions. Leaving her to recover her
composure, I took up the half-empty cup she had dropped on the central
table. Thirsty myself, I had almost drained without tasting it, when a
little half-stifled cry of dismay checked me. The moment I removed the
cup from my mouth I perceived its flavour--the unmistakable taste of
the _dravadone_ ("courage cup"), so disagreeable to us both, which we
had shared on our bridal evening. Wetting with one drop the test-stone
attached to my watch-chain, it presented the local discoloration
indicating the narcotic poison which is the chief ingredient of this
compound.

"I don't think this is wise, child," I said, turning once more to
Eveena. To my amazement, far from having recovered the effect of her
surprise, she was yet more overcome than at first; crouching among the
cushions with her head bent down over her knees, and covering her face
with her hands. Reclining in the soft pile, I held her in my arms,
overcoming perforce what seemed hysterical reluctance; but when I
would have withdrawn the little hands, she threw herself on my knee,
burying her face in the cushions.

"It is very wicked," she sobbed; "I cannot ask you to forgive me."

"Forgive what, my child? Eveena, you are certainly ill. Calm yourself,
and don't try to talk just now."

"I am not ill, I assure you," she faltered, resisting the arm that
sought to raise her; "but ..."

In my hands, however, she was powerless as an infant; and I would hear
nothing till I held her gathered within my arm and her two hands fast
in my right. Now that I could look into the face she strove to avert,
it was clear that she was neither hysterical nor simply ill; her
agitation, however unreasonable and extravagant, was real.

"What troubles you, my own? I promise you not to say one word of
reproach; I only want to understand with what you so bitterly reproach
yourself."

"But you cannot help being angry," she urged, "if you understand what
I have done. It is the _charny_, which I never tasted till that night,
and never ought to have tasted again. I know you cannot forgive me;
only take my fault for granted, and don't question me."

These incoherent words threw the first glimpse of light on the meaning
of her distress and penitence. I doubt if the best woman in
Christendom would so reproach and abase herself, if convicted of even
a worse sin than the secret use of those stimulants for which the
_charny_ is a Martial equivalent. No Martialist would dream of
poisoning his blood and besotting his brain with alcohol in any form.
But their opiates affect a race addicted to physical repose, to
sensuous enjoyment rather than to sensual excitement, and to lucid
intellectual contemplation, with a sense of serene delight as
supremely delicious to their temperament as the dreamy illusions of
haschisch to the Turk, the fierce frenzy of bhang to the Malay, or the
wild excitement of brandy or Geneva to the races of Northern Europe.
But as with the luxury of intoxication in Europe, so in Mars
indulgence in these drugs, freely permitted to the one sex, is
strictly forbidden by opinion and domestic rule to the other. A lady
discovered in the use of _charny_ is as deeply disgraced as an
European matron detected in the secret enjoyment of spirits and
cigars; and her lord and master takes care to render her sufficiently
conscious of her fault.

And there was something stranger here than a violation of the
artificial restraint of sex. Slightly and seldom as the Golden Circle
touches the lines defining personal or social morality--carefully as
the Founder has abstained from imposing an ethical code of his own, or
attaching to his precepts any rule not directly derived from the
fundamental tenets or necessary to the cohesion of the Order--he had
expressed in strong terms his dread and horror of narcotism; the use
for pleasure's sake, not to relieve pain or nervous excitement, of
drugs which act, as he said, through the brain upon the soul. His
judgment, expressed with unusual directness and severity and enforced
by experience, has become with his followers a tradition not less
imperative than the most binding of their laws. It was so held, above
all, in that household in which Eveena and I had first learnt the
"lore of the Starlight." Esmo, indeed, regarded not merely as an
unscientific superstition, but as blasphemous folly, the rejection of
any means of restoring health or relieving pain which Providence has
placed within human reach. But he abhorred the use for pleasure's sake
of poisons affirmed to reduce the activity and in the long-run to
impair the energies of the mind, and weaken the moral sense and the
will, more intensely than the strictest follower of the Arabian
Prophet abhors the draughts which deprive man of the full use of the
senses, intelligence, and conscience which Allah has bestowed, and
degrade him below the brute, Esmo's children, moreover, were not more
strictly compelled to respect the letter than carefully instructed in
the principle of every command for which he claimed their obedience.

But in such measure as Eveena's distress became intelligible, the
fault of which she accused herself became incredible. I could not
believe that she could be wilfully disloyal to me--still less that she
could have suddenly broken through the fixed ideas of her whole life,
the principles engraved on her mind by education more stringently than
the maxims of the Koran or the Levitical Law on the children of
Ishmael or of Israel; and this while the impressive rites of
Initiation, the imprecation at which I myself had shuddered, were
fresh in her memory--their impression infinitely deepened, moreover,
by the awful mystery of that Vision of which even yet we were half
afraid to speak to one another. While I hesitated to reply, gathering
up as well as I could the thread of these thoughts as they passed in a
few seconds through my mind, my left hand touched an object hidden in
my bride's zone. I drew out a tiny crystal phial three parts full,
taken, as I saw, from the medicine-chest Esmo had carefully stocked
and as carefully fastened. As, holding this, I turned again to her,
Eveena repeated: "Punish, but don't question me!"

"My own," I said, "you are far more punished already than you deserve
or I can bear to see. How did you get this?"

Releasing her hands, she drew from the folds of her robe the electric
keys, which, by a separate combination, would unlock each of my
cases;--without which it was impossible to open or force them.

"Yes, I remember; and you were surprised that I trusted them to you.
And now you expect me to believe that you have abused that trust,
deceived me, broken a rule which in your father's house and by all our
Order is held sacred as the rings of the Signet, for a drug which
twelve days ago you disliked as much as I?"

"It is true."

The words were spoken with downcast eyes, in the low faltering tone
natural to a confession of disgrace.

"It is not true, Eveena; or if true in form, false in matter. If it
were possible that you could wish to deceive me, you knew it could not
be for long."

"I meant to be found out," she interrupted, "only not yet."

She had betrayed herself, stung by words that seemed to express the
one doubt she could not nerve herself to endure--doubt of her loyalty
to me. Before I could speak, she looked up hastily, and began to
retract. I stopped her.

"I see--when you had done with it. But, Eveena, why conceal it? Do you
think I would not have given this or all the contents of the chest
into your hands, and asked no question?"

"Do you mean it? Could you have so trusted me?"

"My child! is it difficult to trust where I know there is no
temptation to wrong? Do you think that to-day I have doubted or
suspected you, even while you have accused yourself? I cannot guess at
your motive, but I am as sure as ever of your loyalty. Take these
things,"--forcing back upon her the phial and the magnets,--"yes, and
the test-stone." ... She burst into passionate tears.

"I cannot endure this. If I had dreamed your patience would have borne
with me half so far, I would never have tried it so, even for your own
sake. I meant to be found out and accept the consequences in silence.
But you trust me so, that I must tell you what I wanted to conceal.
When you kept on the surface it made me so ill"---

"But, Eveena, if the remedy be not worse than the sickness, why not
ask for it openly?"

"It was not that. Don't you understand? Of course, I would bear any
suffering rather than have done this; but then you would have found me
out at once. I wanted to conceal my suffering, not to escape it."

"My child! my child! how could you put us both to all this pain?"

"You know you would not have given me the draught; you would have left
the surface at once; and I cannot bear to be always in the way, always
hindering your pleasures, and even your discoveries. You came across a
distance that makes a bigger world than this look less than that
light, through solitude and dangers and horrors I cannot bear to think
of, to see and examine this world of ours. And then you leave things
unseen or half-seen, you spoil your work, because a girl is seasick!
You ran great risk of death and got badly hurt to see what our hunting
was like, and you will not let my head ache that you may find out what
our sea-storms and currents are! How can I bear to be such a burden
upon you? You trust me, and, I believe," (she added, colouring), "you
love me, twelvefold more than I deserve; yet you think me unwilling or
unworthy to take ever so small an interest in your work, to bear a few
hours' discomfort for it and for you. And yet," she went on
passionately, "I may sit trembling and heart-sick for a whole day
alone that you may carry out your purpose. I may receive the only real
sting your lips have given, because I could not bear that pain without
crying. And so with everything. It is not that I must not suffer pain,
but that the pain must not come from without. Your lips would punish a
fault with words that shame and sting for a day, a summer, a year;
your hand must never inflict a sting that may smart for ten minutes.
And it is not only that you do this, but you pride yourself on it.
Why? It is not that you think the pain of the body so much worse than
that of the spirit:--you that smiled at me when you were too badly
bruised and torn to stand, yet could scarcely keep back your tears
just now, when you thought that I had suffered half an hour of sorrow
I did not quite deserve. Why then? Do you think that women feel so
differently? Have the women of your Earth hearts so much harder and
skins so much softer than ours?"

She spoke with most unusual impetuosity, and with that absolute
simplicity and sincerity which marked her every look and word, which
gave them, for me at least, an unspeakable charm, and for all who
heard her a characteristic individuality unlike the speech or manner
of any other woman. As soon suspect an infant of elaborate sarcasm as
Eveena of affectation, irony, or conscious paradox. Nay, while her
voice was in my ears, I never could feel that her views _were_
paradoxical. The direct straightforwardness and simple structure of
the Martial language enhanced this peculiar effect of her speech; and
much that seems infantine in translation was all but eloquent as she
spoke it. Often, as on this occasion, I felt guilty of insincerity, of
a verbal fencing unworthy of her unalloyed good faith and earnestness,
as I endeavoured to parry thrusts that went to the very heart of all
those instinctive doctrines which I could the less defend on the
moment, because I had never before dreamed that they could be doubted.

"At any rate," I said at last, "your sex gain by my heresy, since they
are as richly gifted in stinging words as we in physical force."

"So much the worse for them, surely," she answered simply, "if it be
right that men should rule and women obey?"

"That is the received doctrine on Earth," I answered. "In practice,
men command and women disobey them; men bully and women lie. But in
truth, Eveena, having a wife only too loyal and too loving, I don't
care to canvass the deserts of ordinary women or the discipline of
other households. I own that it was wrong to scold you. Do not insist
on making me say that it would have been a little less wrong to beat
you!"

She laughed--her low, sweet, silvery laugh, the like of which I have
hardly heard among Earthly women, even of the simpler, more child-like
races of the East and South; a laugh still stranger in a world where
childhood is seldom bright and womanhood mostly sad and fretful. Of
the very few satisfactory memories I bore away from that world, the
sweetest is the recollection of that laugh, which I heard for the
first time on the morrow of our bridals, and for the last time on the
day before we parted. I cherish it as evidence that, despite many and
bitter troubles, my bride's short married life was not wholly unhappy.
By this time she had found out that we had left the surface, and began
to remonstrate.

"Nay, I have seen all I care to see, my own. I confess the justice of
your claim, as the partner of my life, to be the partner of its
paramount purpose. You are more precious to me than all the
discoveries of which I ever dreamed, and I will not for any purpose
whatsoever expose you to real peril or serious pain. But henceforth I
will ask you to bear discomfort and inconvenience when the object is
worth it, and to help me wherever your help can avail."

"I can help you?"

"Much, and in many ways, my Eveena. You will soon learn to understand
what I wish to examine and the use of the instruments I employ; and
then you will be the most useful of assistants, as you are the best
and most welcome of companions."

As I spoke a soft colour suffused her face, and her eyes brightened
with a joy and contentment such as no promise of pleasure or
indulgence could have inspired. To be the partner of adventure and
hardship, the drudge in toil and sentinel in peril, was the boon she
claimed, the best guerdon I could promise. If but the promise might
have been better fulfilled!

It was not till in latitude 9 deg. S. we emerged into the open ocean, and
presently found ourselves free from the currents of the narrow waters,
that, in order to see the remarkable island of which I had caught
sight in my descent, I requested Ergimo to remain for some hours above
the surface. The island rises directly out of the sea, and is
absolutely unascendible. Balloons, however, render access possible,
both to its summit and to its cave-pierced sides. It is the home of
enormous flocks of white birds, which resemble in form the heron
rather than the eider duck, but which, like the latter, line with down
drawn from their own breasts the nests which, counted by millions,
occupy every nook and cranny of the crystalline walls, about ten miles
in circumference. Each of the nests is nearly as large as that of the
stork. They are made of a jelly digested from the bones of the fish
upon which the birds prey, and are almost as white in colour as the
birds themselves. Freshly formed nest dissolved in hot water makes
dishes as much to the taste of Martialists as the famous bird-nest
soup to that of the Chinese. Both down and nests, therefore, are
largely plundered; but the birds are never injured, and care is taken
in robbing them to leave enough of the outer portion of the nest to
constitute a bed for the eggs, and encourage the creatures to rebuild
and reline it.

One harvest only is permitted, the second stripping of feathers and
the rebuilt nest being left undisturbed. The caverns are lined with a
white guano, now some feet thick, since it has ceased to be sought for
manure; the Martialists having discovered means of saturating the soil
with ammonia procured from the nitrogen of the atmosphere, which with
the sewage and other similar materials enables them to dispense with
this valuable bird manure. Whether the white colour of the island,
perceptible even in a large Terrestrial telescope, is in any degree
due to the whiteness of the birds, their nests, and leavings, or
wholly to reflection from the bright spar-like surface of the rock
itself, and especially of the flat table-like summit, I will not
pretend to say.

From this point we held our course south-westward, and entered the
northernmost of two extraordinary gulfs of exactly similar shape,
separated by an isthmus and peninsula which assume on a map the form
of a gigantic hammer. The strait by which each gulf is entered is
about a hundred miles in length and ten in breadth. The gulf itself,
if it should not rather be called an inland sea, occupies a total area
of about 100,000 square miles. The isthmus, 500 miles in length by 50
in breadth, ends in a roughly square peninsula of about 10,000 square
miles in extent, nearly the whole of which is a plateau 2000 feet
above the sea-level. On the narrowest point of the isthmus, just where
it joins the mainland, and where a sheltered bay runs up from either
sea, is situated the great city of Amakasfe, the natural centre of
Martial life and commerce. At this point we found awaiting us the
balloon which was to convey us to the Court of the Suzerain. A very
light but strong metallic framework maintained the form of the
"fish-shaped" or spindle-shaped balloon itself, which closely
resembled that of our vessel, its dimensions being of necessity
greater. Attached to this framework was the car of similar form, about
twelve feet in length and six in depth, the upper third of the sides,
however, being of open-work, so as not to interfere with the survey of
the traveller. Eveena could not help shivering at the sight of the
slight vehicle and the enormous machine of thin, bladder-like material
by which it was to be upheld. She embarked, indeed, without a word,
her alarm betraying itself by no voluntary sign, unless it were the
tight clasp of my hand, resembling that of a child frightened, but
ashamed to confess its fear. I noticed, however, that she so arranged
her veil as to cover her eyes when the signal for the start was given.
She was, therefore, wholly unconscious of the sudden spring,
unattended by the slightest jolt or shake, which raised us at once 500
feet above the coast, and under whose influence, to my eyes, the
ground appeared suddenly to fall from us. When I drew out the folds of
her veil, it was with no little amazement that she saw the sky around
her, the sea and the city far below. An aerial current to the
north-westward at our present level, which had been selected on that
account, carried us at a rate of some twelve miles an hour; a rate
much increased, however, by the sails at the stern of the car, sails
of thin metal fixed on strong frames, and striking with a screw-like
motion. Their lack of expanse was compensated by a rapidity of motion
such that they seemed to the eye not to move at all, presenting the
appearance of an uniform disc reflecting the rays of the Sun, which
was now almost immediately above us. Towards evening the Residence of
the Campta became visible on the north-western horizon. It was built
on a plateau about 400 feet above the sea-level, towards which the
ground from all sides sloped up almost imperceptibly. Around it was a
garden of great extent with a number of trees of every sort, some of
them masses of the darkest green, others of bright yellow, contrasting
similarly shaped masses of almost equal size clothed from base to top
in a continuous sheet of pink, emerald, white or crimson flowers. The
turf presented almost as great a variety of colours, arranged in.
every conceivable pattern, above which rose innumerable flower-beds,
uniform or varied, the smallest perhaps two, the largest more than 200
feet in diameter; each circle of bloom higher than that outside it,
till in some cases the centre rose even ten feet above the general
level. The building itself was low, having nowhere more than two
stories. One wing, pointed out to me by Ergimo, was appropriated to
the household of the Prince; the centre standing out in front and
rear, divided by a court almost as wide as the wings; the further wing
accommodating the attendants and officials of the Court. We landed,
just before the evening mist began to gather, at the foot of an
inclined way of a concrete resembling jasper, leading up to the main
entrance of the Palace.

CHAPTER XVII - PRESENTED AT COURT.

Leading Eveena by the hand--for to hold my arm after the European
fashion was always an inconvenience and fatigue to her--and preceded
by Ergimo, I walked unnoticed to the closed gate of pink crystal,
contrasting the emerald green of the outer walls. Along the front of
this central portion of the residence was a species of verandah,
supported by pillars overlaid with a bright red metal, and wrought in
the form of smooth tree trunks closely clasped by creepers, the silver
flowers of the latter contrasting the dense golden foliage and
ruby-like stems. Under this, and in front of the gate itself, were two
sentries armed with a spear, the shaft of which was about six feet in
length, hollow, and almost as light as the cane or reed handle of an
African assegai. The blade more resembled the triangular bayonet.
Beside each, however, was the terrible asphyxiator, fixed on its
stand, with a bore about as great as that of a nine-pounder, but
incomparably lighter. These two weapons might at one discharge have
annihilated a huge mob of insurgents threatening to storm the palace,
were insurrections known in Mars, These men saluted us by dropping the
points of their weapons and inclining the handle towards us; gazing
upon me with surprise, and with something of soldierly admiration for
physical superiority. The doors, wide enough to admit a dozen
Martialists abreast, parted, and we entered a vaulted hall whose
arched roof was supported not by pillars but by gigantic statues, each
presenting the lustre of a different jewel, and all wrought with
singular perfection of proportion and of beauty. Here we were met by
two officers wearing the same dress as the sentries outside--a diaper
of crimson and silver. The rank of those who now received us, however,
was indicated by a silver ribbon passing over the left shoulder, and
supporting what I should have called a staff, save that it was of
metal and had a sharp point, rendering it almost as formidable a
weapon as the rapier. Exchanging a word or two with Ergimo, these
gentlemen ushered us into a small room on the right, where
refreshments were placed before us. Eveena whispered me that she must
not share our meal in presence of these strangers; an intimation which
somewhat blunted the keen appetite I always derived from a journey
through the Martial atmosphere. Checked as it was, however, that
appetite seemed a new astonishment to our attendants; the need of food
among their race being proportionate to their inferior size and
strength. When we rose, I asked Ergimo what was to become of Eveena,
as the officers were evidently waiting to conduct me into the presence
of their Sovereign, where it would not be appropriate for her to
appear. He repeated my question to the principal official, and the
latter, walking to a door in the farther corner of the room, sounded
an electric signal; a few seconds after which the door opened, showing
two veiled figures, the pink ground of whose robes indicated their
matronhood, if I may apply such a term to the relation of his hundred
temporary wives to the Campta. But this ground colour was almost
hidden in the embroidery of crimson, gold, and white, which, as I soon
found, were the favourite colours of the reigning Prince. To these
ladies I resigned Eveena, the officer saying, as I somewhat
reluctantly parted from her, "What you entrust to the Campta's
household you will find again in your own when your audience is over."
Whether this avoidance of all direct mention of women were matter of
delicacy or contempt I hardly knew, though I had observed it on former
occasions.

When the door closed, I noticed that Ergimo had left us, and the
officers indicated by gesture rather than by words that they were to
lead me immediately into the presence. I had considered with some care
how I was, on so critical an occasion, to conduct myself, and had
resolved that the most politic course would probably be an assumption
of courteous but absolute independence; to treat the Autocrat of this
planet much as an English envoy would treat an Indian Prince. It was
in accordance with this intention that I had assumed a dress somewhat
more elaborate than is usually worn here, a white suit of a substance
resembling velvet in texture, and moire in lustre, with collar and
belt of silver. On my breast I wore my order of [illegible], and in my
belt my one cherished Terrestrial possession--the sword, reputed the
best in Asia, that had twice driven its point home within a finger's
breadth of my life; and that clove the turban on my brow but a minute
before it was surrendered--just in time to save its gallant owner and
his score of surviving comrades. In its hilt I had set the emerald
with which alone the Commander of the Faithful rewarded my services.
The turban is not so unlike the masculine head-dress of Mars as to
attract any special attention. Re-entering the hall, I was conducted
along a gallery and through another crystal door into the immediate
presence of the Autocrat. The audience chamber was of no extraordinary
size, perhaps one-quarter as large as the peristyle of Esmo's
dwelling. Along the emerald walls ran a series of friezes wrought in
gold, representing various scenes of peace and war, agricultural,
judicial, and political; as well as incidents which, I afterwards
learnt, preserved the memory of the long struggles wherein the
Communists were finally overthrown. The lower half of the room was
empty, the upper was occupied by a semicircle of seats forming part of
the building itself and directly facing the entrance. These took up
about one-third of the space, the central floor being divided from the
upper portion of the room by a low wall of metal surmounted by arches
supporting the roof and hung with drapery, which might be so lowered
as to conceal the whole occupied part of the chamber. The seats rose
in five tiers, one above the other. The semicircle, however, was
broken exactly in the middle, that is, at the point farthest from the
entrance, by a broad flight of steps, at the summit of which, and
raised a very little above the seats of the highest tier, was the
throne, supported by two of the royal brutes whose attack had been so
nearly fatal to myself, wrought in silver, their erect heads forming
the arms and front. About fifty persons were present, occupying only
the seats nearest to the throne. On the upper tier were nine or ten
who wore a scarlet sash, among whom I recognised a face I had not seen
since the day of my memorable visit to the Astronaut; not precisely
the face of a friend--Endo Zampta. Behind the throne were ranged a
dozen guards, armed with the spear and with the lightning gun used in
hunting. That a single Martial battalion with its appropriate
artillery could annihilate the best army of the Earth I could not but
be aware; yet the first thought that occurred to me, as I looked on
these formidably armed but diminutive soldiers, was that a score of my
Arab horsemen would have cut a regiment of them to pieces. But by the
time I had reached the foot of the steps my attention was concentrated
on a single figure and face--the form and countenance of the Prince,
who rose from his throne as I approached. Those who remember that
Louis XIV., a prince reputed to have possessed the most majestic and
awe-inspiring presence of his age, was actually beneath the ordinary
height of Frenchmen, may be able to believe me when I say that the
Autocrat of Mars, though scarcely five feet tall, was in outward
appearance and bearing the most truly royal and imposing prince I have
ever seen. His stature, rising nearly two inches over the tallest of
those around him, perhaps added to the effect of a mien remarkable for
dignity, composure, and self-confidence. The predominant and most
immediately observable expression of his face was one of serene calm
and command. A closer inspection and a longer experience explained
why, notwithstanding, my first conception of his character (and it was
a true one) ascribed to him quite as much of fire and spirit as of
impassive grandeur. His voice, though its tone was gentle and almost
strikingly quiet, had in it something of the ring peculiar to those
which have sent the word of command along a line of battle. I felt as
I heard it more impressed with the personal greatness, and even with
the rank and power, of the Prince before me, than when I knelt to kiss
the hand of the Most Christian King, or stood barefooted before the
greatest modern successor of the conqueror of Stamboul.

"I am glad to receive you," he said. "It will be among the most
memorable incidents of my reign that I welcome to my Court the first
visitor from another world, or," he added, after a sudden pause, and
with an inflection of unmistakable irony in his tone, "the first who
has descended to our world from a height to which no balloon could
reach and at which no balloonist could live."

"I am honoured, Prince," I replied, "in the notice of a greater
potentate than the greatest of my own world."

These compliments exchanged, the Prince at once proceeded to more
practical matters, aptly, however, connecting his next sentence with
the formal phrases preceding it.

"Nevertheless, you have not shown excessive respect for my power in
the person of one of my greatest officers. If you treated the princes
of Earth as unceremoniously as the Regent of Elcavoo, I can understand
that you found it convenient to place yourself beyond their reach."

I thought that this speech afforded me an opportunity of repairing my
offence with the least possible loss of dignity.

"The proudest of Earthly princes," I replied, "would, I think, have
pardoned the roughness which forgot the duty of a subject in the first
obligations of humanity. No Sovereign whom I have served, but would
have forgiven me more readily for rough words spoken at such a moment,
than for any delay or slackness in saving the life of a woman in
danger under his own eyes. Permit me to take this opportunity of
apologizing to the Regent in your presence, and assuring him that I
was influenced by no disrespect to him, but only by overpowering
terror for another."

"The lives of a dozen women," said the Campta, still with that covert
irony or sarcasm in his tone, "would seem of less moment than threats
and actual violence offered to the ruler of our largest and wealthiest
dominion. The excuse which Endo Zampta must accept" (with a slight but
perceptible emphasis on the imperative) "is the utter difference
between our laws and ideas and your own."

The Regent, at this speech from his Sovereign, rose and made the usual
gesture of assent, inclining his head and lifting his left hand to his
mouth. But the look on his face as he turned it on me, thus partly
concealing it from the campta, boded no good should I ever fall into
his power. The Prince then desired me to give an account of the
motives which had induced my voyage and the adventures I had
encountered. In reply, I gave him, as briefly and clearly as I could,
a summary of all that is recorded in the earlier part of this
narrative, carefully forbearing to afford any explanation of the
manner in which the apergic force was generated. This omission the
Prince noticed at once with remarkable quickness.

"You do not choose," he said, "to tell us your secret, and of course
it is your property. Hereafter, however, I shall hope to purchase it
from you."

"Prince," I answered, "if one of your subjects-found himself in the
power of a race capable of conquering this world and destroying its
inhabitants, would you forgive him if he furnished them with the means
of reaching you?"

"I think," he replied, "my forgiveness would be of little consequence
in that case. But go on with your story."

I finished my narration among looks of surprise and incredulity from
no inconsiderable part of the audience, which, however, I noticed the
less because the Prince himself listened with profound interest;
putting in now and then a question which indicated his perfect
comprehension of my account, of the conditions of such a journey and
of the means I had employed to meet them.

"Before you were admitted," he said, "Endo Zampta had read to us his
report upon your vessel and her machinery, an account which in every
respect consists with and supports the truth of your relation. Indeed,
were your story untrue, you have run a greater risk in telling it here
than in the most daring adventure I have ever known or imagined. The
Court is dismissed. Reclamomorta will please me by remaining with me
for the present."

When the assembly dispersed, I followed their Autocrat at his desire
into his private apartments, where, resting among a pile of cushions
and motioning me to take a place in immediate proximity to himself, he
continued the conversation in a tone and manner so exactly the same as
that he had employed in public as to show that the latter was not
assumed for purposes of monarchical stage-play, but was the natural
expression of his own character as developed under the influence of
unlimited and uncontradicted power. He only exchanged, for unaffected
interest and implied confidence, the tone of ironical doubt by which
he had rendered it out of the question for his courtiers to charge him
with a belief in that which public opinion might pronounce impossible,
while making it apparent to me that he regarded the bigotry of
scepticism with scarcely veiled contempt.

"I wish," he said, "I had half-a-dozen subjects capable of imagining
such an enterprise and hardy enough to undertake it. But though we all
profess to consider knowledge, and especially scientific knowledge,
the one object for which it is worth while to live, none of us would
risk his life in such an adventure for all the rewards that science
and fame could give."

"I think, Prince," I replied, "that I am in presence of one inhabitant
of this planet who would have dared at least as much as I have done."

"Possibly," he said. "Because, weary as most of us profess to be of
existence, the weariest life in this world is that of him who rules
it; living for ever under the silent criticism which he cannot answer,
and bound to devote his time and thoughts to the welfare of a race
whose utter extermination would be, on their own showing, the greatest
boon he could confer upon them. Certainly I would rather be the
discoverer of a world than its Sovereign."

He asked me numerous questions about the Earth, the races that inhabit
it, their several systems of government, and their relations to one
another; manifesting a keener interest, I thought, in the great wars
which ended while I was yet a youth, than in any other subject. At
last he permitted me to take leave. "You are," he said, "the most
welcome guest I ever have or could have received; a guest
distinguished above all others by a power independent of my own. But
what honour I can pay to courage and enterprise, what welcome I can
give such a guest, shall not be unworthy of him or of myself. Retire
now to the home you will find prepared for you. I will only ask you to
remember that I have chosen one near my own in order that I may see
you often, and learn in private all that you can tell me."

At the entrance of the apartment I was met by the officer who had
introduced me into the presence, and conducted at once to a door
opening on the interior court or peristyle of the central portion of
the Palace. This was itself a garden, but, unlike those of private
houses, a garden open to the sky and traversed by roads in lieu of
mere paths; not serving, as in private dwellings, the purposes of a
common living room. Here a carriage awaited us, and my escort
requested me to mount. I had some misgivings on Eveena's account, but
felt it necessary to imitate the reserve and affected indifference on
such subjects of those among whom I had been thrown, at least until I
somewhat better understood their ways, and had established my own
position. Traversing a vaulted passage underneath the rearward portion
of the Palace, we emerged into the outer garden, and through this into
a road lighted with a brilliancy almost equal to that of day. Our
journey occupied nearly half an hour, when we entered an enclosure
apparently of great size, the avenue of which was so wide that,
without dismounting, our carriage passed directly up to the door of a
larger house than I had yet seen.

CHAPTER XVIII - A PRINCE'S PRESENT.

"This," said my escort, as we dismounted, "is the residence assigned
to you by the Campta. Besides the grounds here enclosed, he has
awarded you, by a deed which will presently be placed in your hands,
an estate of some ten _stoltau_, which you can inspect at your
leisure, and which will afford you a revenue as large as is enjoyed by
any save by the twelve Regents. He has endeavoured to add to this
testimony of his regard by rendering your household as complete as
wealth and forethought could make it. What may be wanting to your own
tastes and habits you will find no difficulty in adding."

We now entered that first and principal chamber of the mansion wherein
it is customary to receive all visitors and transact all business. The
hall was one of unusual size and magnificence. Here, at a table not
far from the entrance, stood another official, not wearing the uniform
of the Court, with several documents in his hand. As he turned to
salute me, his face wore an expression of annoyance and discomfiture
which not a little surprised me, till, by following his sidelong,
uncomfortable glances, I perceived a veiled feminine figure, which
could be no other than Eveena's. Misreading my surprise, the official
said--

"It is no fault of mine, and I have not spoken except to remonstrate,
as far as might be allowed, against so unusual a proceeding."

He must have been astonished and annoyed indeed to take such notice of
a stranger's wife; and, above all, to take upon himself to comment on
her conduct for good or ill. I thought it best to make no reply, and
simply saluted him in form as I received the first paper handed to me,
to which, by the absence of any blank space, I perceived that my
signature was not required. This was indeed the document which
bestowed on me the house and estate presented by the Sovereign. The
next paper handed to me appeared to resemble the marriage-contract I
had already signed, save that but one blank was left therein. Unable
to decipher it, I was about to ask the official to read it aloud, when
Eveena, who had stolen up to me unperceived, caught my arm and drew me
a little way aside, indifferent to the wondering glances of the
officials; who had probably never seen a woman venture uncalled into
the public apartments of her husband's house, still less interpose in
any matter of business, and no doubt thought that she was taking
outrageous advantage of my ignorance and inexperience.

"I will scold you presently, child," I said quickly and low. "What is
it?"

"Sign at once," she whispered, "and ask no questions. Deal with me as
you will afterwards. You must take what is given you now, without
comment or objection, simply expressing your thanks."

"_Must_! Eveena?"

"It is not safe to refuse or slight gifts from such a quarter," she
answered, in the same low tone. "Trust me so far; please do what I
entreat of you now. I must bear your displeasure if I fail to satisfy
you when we are alone."

Her manner was so agitated and so anxious that it recalled to me at
once the advice of Esmo upon the same point, though the fears which
had prompted so strange an intervention were wholly incomprehensible
to me. I knew her, however, by this time too well to refuse the trust
she now for the first time claimed, and taking the documents one by
one as if I had perfectly understood them, I wrote my name in the
space left blank for it, and allowed the official to stamp the slips
without a word. I then expressed briefly but earnestly my thanks both
to the Autocrat and to the officials who had been the agents of his
kindness. They retired, and I looked round for Eveena; but as soon as
she saw that I was about to comply with her request, she had quitted
the room. Alone in my own house, knowing nothing of its geography,
having no notion how to summon the brute domestics--if, indeed, the
dwelling were furnished with those useful creatures, without whom a
Martial household would be signally incomplete--I could only look for
the spring that opened the principal door. This should lead into the
gallery which, as I judged, must divide the hall and the front
apartments from those looking into the peristyle. Having found and
pressed this spring, the door opened on a gallery longer, wider, and
more elaborately ornamented than that of the only Martial mansions
into which I had been hitherto admitted. Looking round in no little
perplexity, I observed a niche in which stood a statue of white
relieved by a scarlet background; and beside this statue, crouching
and half hidden, a slight pink object, looking at first like a bundle
of drapery, but which in a moment sprang up, and, catching my hand,
made me aware that Eveena had been waiting for me.

"I beg you," she said with an earnestness I could not understand, "I
beg you to come _this_ way," leading me to the right, for I had turned
instinctively to the left in entering the gallery, perhaps because my
room in Esmo's house had lain in that direction. Reaching the end of
the gallery, she turned into one of the inner apartments; and as the
door closed behind us, I felt that she was sinking to the ground, as
if the agitation she had manifested in the hall, controlled till her
object was accomplished, had now overpowered her. I caught and carried
her to the usual pile of cushions in the corner. The room, according
to universal custom in Martial houses after sunset, was brilliantly
lighted by the electric lamp in the peristyle, and throwing back her
veil, I saw that she was pale to ghastliness and almost fainting. In
my ignorance of my own house, I could call for no help, and employ no
other restoratives than fond words and caresses. Under this treatment,
nevertheless, she recovered perhaps as quickly as under any which the
faculty might have prescribed. She was, still, however, much more
distressed than mere consciousness of the grave solecism she had
committed could explain. But I had no other clue to her trouble, and
could only hope that in repudiating this she would explain its real
cause.

"Come, bambina!" I expostulated, "we understand one another too well
by this time for you to wrong me by all this alarm. I know that you
would not have broken through the customs of your people without good
reason; and you know that, even if your reason were not sufficient, I
should not be hard upon the error."

"I am sure you would not," she said. "But this time you have to
consider others, and you cannot let it be supposed that you do not
know a wife's duty, or will allow your authority to be set at naught
in your own household."

"What matter? Do you suppose I listen in the roads?" [care for
gossip], I rejoined. "Household rule is a matter of the veil, and no
one--not even your autocratic Prince--will venture to lift it."

"You have not lifted it yourself yet," she answered. "You will
understand me, when you have looked at the slips you were about to
make them read aloud, had I not interrupted you."

"Bead them yourself," I said, handing to her the papers I still held,
and which, after her interposition, I had not attempted to decipher.
She took them, but with a visible shudder of reluctance--not stronger
than came over me before she had read three lines aloud. Had I known
their purport, I doubt whether even Eveena's persuasion and the
Autocrat's power together could have induced me to sign them. They
were in very truth contracts of marriage--if marriage it can be
called. The Sovereign had done me the unusual, but not wholly
unprecedented, favour of selecting half a dozen of the fairest maidens
of those waiting their fate in the Nurseries of his empire; had
proffered on my behoof terms which satisfied their ambition, gratified
their vanity, and would have induced them to accept any suitor so
recommended, without the insignificant formality of a personal
courtship. It had seemed to him only a gracious attention to complete
my household; and he had furnished me with a bevy of wives, as I
presently found he had selected a complete set of the most intelligent
_amlau, carvee,_ and _tyree_ which he could procure. Without either
the one or the other, the dwelling he had given me would have seemed
equally empty or incomplete.

This mark of royal favour astounded and dismayed me more than Eveena
herself. If she had entertained the wish, she would hardly have
acknowledged to herself the hope, that she might remain permanently
the sole partner of my home. But so sudden, speedy, and wholesale an
intrusion thereon she certainly had not expected. Even in Mars, a
first bride generally enjoys for some time a monopoly of her husband's
society, if she cannot be said to enchain his affection. It was hard,
indeed, before the thirtieth day after her marriage, to find herself
but one in a numerous family--the harder that our union had from the
first been close, intimate, unrestrainedly confidential, as it can
hardly be where neither expects that the tie can remain exclusive; and
because she had learned to realise and rest upon such love as belongs
to a life in which woman, never affecting the independence of coequal
partnership, has never yet sunk by reaction into a mere slave and toy.
It was hard, cruelly hard, on one who had given in the first hour of
marriage, and never failed to give, a love whose devotion had no
limit, no reserve or qualification; a submission that was less
self-sacrifice or self-suppression than the absolute surrender of
self--of will, feeling, and self-interest--to the judgment and
pleasure of him she loved: hard on her who had neither thought nor
care for herself as apart from me.

When I understood to what I had actually committed myself, I snatched
the papers from her, and might have torn them to pieces but for the
gentle restraining hand she laid upon mine.

"You cannot help it," she said, the tears falling from her eyes, but
with a self-command of which I could not have supposed her capable.
"It seems hard on me; but it is better so. It is not that you are not
content with me, not that you love me less. I can bear it better when
it comes from a stranger, and is forced upon you without, and even, I
think, against your will."

The pressure of the arm that clasped her waist, and the hand that held
her own, was a sufficient answer to any doubt that might be implied in
her last words; and, lifting her eyes to mine, she said--

"I shall always remember this. I shall always think that you were
sorry not to have at least a little while longer alone with me. It is
selfish to feel glad that you are pained; but your sympathy, your
sharing my own feeling, comforts me as I never could have been
comforted when, as must have happened sooner or later, you had found
for yourself another companion."

"Child, do you mean to say there is 'no portal to this passage;' and
that, however much against my will, I am bound to women I have never
seen, and never wish to see?"

"You have signed," replied Eveena gently. "The contracts are stamped,
and are in the official's hands; and you could not attempt to break
them without giving mortal offence to the Prince, who has intended you
a signal favour. Besides, these girls themselves have done no wrong,
and deserve no affront or unkindness from you."

I was silent for some minutes; at first simply astounded at the calm
magnanimity which was mingled with her perfect simplicity, then,
pondering the possibilities of the situation--

"Can we not escape?" I said at last, rather to myself than to her.

"Escape!" she repeated with surprise. "And from what? The favour shown
you by our Sovereign, the wealth he has bestowed, the personal
interest he has taken in perfecting every detail of one of the most
splendid homes ever given save to a prince--every incident of your
position--make you the most envied man in this world; and you would
escape from them?"

Gazing for a few moments in my face, she added--

"These maidens were chosen as the loveliest in all the Nurseries of
two continents; every one of them far more beautiful than I can be,
even in your eyes. Pray do not, for my sake, be unkind to them or try
to dislike them. What is it you would escape?"

"Being false to you," I answered, "if nothing else."

"False!" she echoed, in unaffected wonder. "What did you promise me?"

Again I was silenced by the loyal simplicity with which she followed
out ideas so strange to me that their consequences, however logical, I
could never anticipate; and could hardly admit to be sound, even when
so directly and distinctly deduced as now from the intolerable
consistency of the premises.

"But," I answered at last, "how much did _you_ promise, Eveena? and
how much more have you given?"

"Nothing," she replied, "that I did not owe. You won your right to all
the love I could give before you asked for it, and since."

"We 'drive along opposite lines,' Madonna; but we would both give and
risk much to avoid what is before us. Let me ask your father whether
it be not yet possible to return to my vessel, and leave a world so
uncongenial to both of us."

"You cannot!" she answered. "Try to escape--you insult the Prince; you
put yourself and me, for whom you fear more, in the power of a
malignant enemy. You cannot guide a balloon or a vessel, if you could
get possession of one; and within a few hours after your departure was
known, every road and every port would be closed to you."

"Can I not send to your father?" I said.

"Probably," she replied. "I think we shall find a telegraph in your
office, if you will allow me to enter there, now there is no one to
see; and it must be morning in Ecasfe."

Familiar with the construction and arrangement of a Martial house,
Eveena immediately crossed the gallery to what she called the
office--the front room on the right, where the head of the house
carries on his work or study. Here, above a desk attached to the wall,
was one of those instruments whose manipulation was simple enough for
a novice like myself.

"But," I said, "I cannot write your stylic characters; and if I used
the phonic letters, a message from me would be very likely to excite
the curiosity of officials who would care about no other."

"May I," she suggested, "write your message for you, and put your
purport in words that will be understood by my father alone?"

"Do," I rejoined, "but do it in my name, and I will sign it."

Under her direction, I took the stylus or pencil and the slip of
_tafroo_ she offered me, and wrote my name at the head. After
eliciting the exact purport of the message I desired to send, and
meditating for some moments, she wrote and read out to me words
literally translated as follows:--

"The rich aviary my flower-bird thought over full. I would breathe
home [air]. Health-speak." The sense of which, as I could already
understand, was--

"A splendid mansion has been given us, but my flower-bird has found it
too full. I wish for my native air. Prescribe."

The brevity of the message was very characteristic of the language.
Equally characteristic of the stylography was the fact that the words
occupied about an inch beyond the address. Following her pencil as she
pointed to the ciphers, I said--

"Is not _asny care_ a false concord? And why have you used the past
tense?"

This ill-timed pedantry, applying to Martial grammar the rules of that
with which my boyhood had been painfully familiarised, provoked, amid
all our trouble, Eveena's low silver-toned laugh.

"I meant it," she answered. "My father will look at his pupil's
writing with both eyes."

"Well, you are out of reach even of the leveloo."

She laughed again.

"Asnyca-re," she said; the changed accentuation turning the former
words into the well-remembered name of my landing-place, with the
interrogative syllable annexed.

This message despatched, we could only await the reply. Nestling among
the cushions at my knee, her head resting on my breast, Eveena said--

"And now, forgive my presumption in counselling you, and my reminding
you of what is painful to both. But what to us is as the course of the
clock, is strange as the stars to you. You must see--_them_, and must
order all household arrangements; and" (glancing at a dial fixed in
the wall) "the black is driving down the green."

"So much the better," I said. "I shall have less time to speak to
them, and less chance of speaking or looking my mind. And as to
arrangements, those, of course, you must make."

"I! forgive me," she answered, "that is impossible. It is for you to
assign to each of us her part in the household, her chamber, her rank
and duties. You forget that I hold exactly the same position with the
youngest among them, and cannot presume even to suggest, much less to
direct."

I was silent, and after a pause she went on--

"It is not for me to advise you; but"--

"Speak your thought, now and always, Eveena. Even if I did not stand
in so much need of your guidance in a new world, I never yet refused
to hear counsel; and it is a wife's right to offer it."

"Is it? We are not so taught," she answered. "I am afraid you have
rougher ground to steer over than you are aware. Alone with you, I
hope I should have done nay best, remembering the lesson of the
leveloo, never to give you the pain of teaching a different one. But
we shall no longer be alone; and you cannot hope to manage seven as
you might manage one. Moreover, these girls have neither had that
first experience of your nature which made that lesson so impressive
to me, nor the kindly and gentle training, under a mother's care and a
father's mild authority, that I had enjoyed. They would not understand
the control that is not enforced. They will obey when they must; and
will feel that they must obey when they cannot deceive, and dare not
rebel. Do not think hardly of them for this. They have known no life
but that of the strict clockwork routine of a great Nursery, where no
personal affection and no rule but that of force is possible."

"I understand, Madonna. Your Prince's gift puts a man in charge of
young ladies, hitherto brought up among women only, and, of course,
petty, petulant, frivolous, as women left to themselves ever are! I
wish you could see the ridiculous side of the matter which occurs to
me, as I see the painful aspect which alone is plain to you. I can
scarcely help laughing at the chance which has assigned to me the
daily personal management of half-a-dozen school-girls; and
school-girls who must also be wives! I don't think you need fear that
I shall deal with them as with you: as a man of sense and feeling must
deal with a woman whose own instincts, affection, and judgment are
sufficient for her guidance. I never saw much of girls or children. I
remember no home but the Western school and the Oriental camp. I
never, as soldier or envoy, was acquainted with other men's homes.
While still beardless, I have ruled bearded soldiers by a discipline
whose sanctions were the death-shot and the bastinado; and when I left
the camp and court, it was for colleges where a beardless face is
never seen. I must look to you to teach me how discipline may be
softened to suit feminine softness, and what milder sanction may
replace the noose and the stick of the _ferash_" (Persian
executioner).

"I cannot believe," Eveena answered, taking me, as usual, to the
letter, "that you will ever draw the zone too tight. We say that
'anarchy is the worst tyranny.' Laxity which leaves us to quarrel and
torment each other, tenderness which encourages disorder and
disobedience till they must be put down perforce, is ultimate
unkindness. I will not tell you that such indulgence will give you
endless trouble, win you neither love nor respect, and probably teach
its objects to laugh at you under the veil. You will care more for
this--that you would find yourself forced at last to change 'velvet
hand for leathern band.' Believe me, my--our comfort and happiness
must depend on your grasping the helm at once and firmly; ruling us,
and ruling with a strong hand. Otherwise your home will resemble the
most miserable of all scenes of discomfort--an ungoverned school; and
the most severe and arbitrary household rule is better by far than
that. And--forgive me once more--but do not speak as if you would deal
one measure with the left hand and another with the right. Surely you
do not so misunderstand me as to think I counselled you to treat
myself differently from others? 'Just rule only can be gentle.' If you
show favouritism at first, you will find yourself driven step by step
to do what you will feel to be cruel; what will pain yourself perhaps
more than any one else. You may make envy and dislike bite (hold)
their tongues, but you cannot prevent their stinging under the veil.
Therefore, once more, you cannot let my interference pass as if none
but you knew of it."

"Madonna, if I _am_ to rule such a household, I will rule as
absolutely as your autocratic Prince. I will tolerate no criticism and
no questions."

"You surely forget," she urged, "that they know my offence, and do not
know--must not know--what in your judgment excuses it. Let them once
learn that it is possible so to force the springs [bolts] without a
sting, it will take a salt-fountain [of tears] to blot the lesson from
their memory."

"What would you have, Eveena? Am I to deal unjustly that I may seem
just? That course steers straight to disaster. And, had you been in
fault, could, I humble you in other eyes?"

"If I feel hurt by any mark of your displeasure, or humbled that it
should be known to my equals in your own household," she replied, "it
is time I were deprived of the privileges that have rendered me so
overweening."

My answer was intercepted by the sound of an electric bell or
miniature gong, and a slip of tafroo fell upon the desk. The first
words were in that vocal character which I had mastered, and came from
Esmo.

"Hysterical folly," he had said. "Mountain air might be fatal; and
clear nights are dangerously cold for more than yourselves."

"What does he mean?" I asked, as I read out a formula more studiously
occult than those of the Pharmacopoeia.

"That I am unpardonably silly, and that you must not dream of going
back to your vessel. The last words, I suppose, warn you how carefully
in such a household you need to guard the secrets of the Starlight."

"Well, and what is this in the stylic writing?"

Eveena glanced over it and coloured painfully, the tears gathering in
her eyes.

"That," she said, pointing to the first cipher, "is my mother's
signature."

"Then," I said, "it is meant for you, not for me."

"Nay," she answered. "Do you think I could take advantage of your not
knowing the character?"--and she read words quite as incomprehensible
to me as the writing itself.

"Can a star mislead the blind? I should veil myself in crimson if I
have trained a bird to snatch sugar from full hands. Must even your
womanhood reverse the clasps of your childhood?"

"It chimes midnight twice," I said--a Martial phrase meaning, 'I am as
much in the dark as ever.' "Do not translate it, carissima. I can read
in your face that it is unjust--reproachful where you deserve no
reproach."

"Nay, when you so wrong my mother I must tell you exactly what she
means:--'Can a child of the Star take advantage of one who relies on
her to explain the customs of a world unknown to him? I blush to think
that my child can abuse the tenderness of one who is too eager to
indulge her fancies.'

"You see she is quite right. You do trust me so absolutely, you are so
strangely over-kind to me, it is shameful I should vex you by fretting
because you are forced to do what you might well have done at your own
pleasure."

"My own, I was more than vexed; chiefly perhaps for your sake, but not
by you. Where any other woman would have stung the sore by sending
fresh sparks along the wire, you thought only to spare me the pain of
seeing you pained. But what do the last words mean? No"--for I saw the
colour deepen on her half-averted face--"better leave unread what we
know to be written in error."

But the less agreeable a supposed duty, the more resolute was Eveena
to fulfil it.

"They were meant to recall a saying familiar in every school and
household," she said:--

"'Sandal loosed and well-clasped zone--
Childhood spares the woman grown.
Change the clasps, and woman yet
Pays with interest childhood's debt.'"

"This"--tightening and relaxing the clasp of her zone--"is the symbol
of stricter or more indulgent household rule." Then bending so as to
avert her face, she unclasped her embroidered sandal and gave it into
my hand;--"and this is what, I suppose, you would call its sanction."

"There is more to be said for the sandal than I supposed, bambina, if
it have helped to make you what you are. But you may tell Zulve that
its work and hers are done."

Kneeling before her, I kissed, with more studied reverence than the
sacred stone of the Caaba, the tiny foot on which I replaced its
covering.

"Baby as she thinks and I call you, Eveena, you are fast unteaching me
the lesson which, before you were born and ever since, the women of
the Earth have done their utmost to impress indelibly upon my
mind--the lesson that woman is but a less lovable, more petulant, more
deeply and incurably spoilt child. Your mother's reproach is an exact
inversion of the truth. No one could have acted with more utter
unselfishness, more devoted kindness, more exquisite delicacy than you
have shown in this miserable matter. I could not have believed that
even you could have put aside your own feelings so completely, could
have recognised so promptly that I was not in fault, have thought so
exclusively of what was best and safe for me in the first place, and
next of what was kind and just and generous to your rivals. I never
thought such reasonableness and justice possible to feminine nature;
and if I cannot love you more dearly, you have taught me how deeply to
admire and honour you. I accept the situation, since you will have it
so; be as just and considerate henceforward as you have been to-night,
and trust me that it shall bring no shadow between us--shall never
make you less to me than you are now."

"But it must," she insisted. "I cannot now be other than one wife
among many; and what place I hold among them is, remember, for you and
you alone to fix. No rule, no custom, obliges you to give any
preference in form or fact to one, merely because you chanced to marry
her first."

"Such, nevertheless, did not seem to be the practice in your father's
house. Your mother was as distinctly wife and mistress as if his sole
companion."

"My father," she replied, "did not marry a second time till within my
own memory; and it was natural and usual to give the first place to
one so much older and more experienced. I have no such claim, and when
you see my companions you may find good reason to think that I am the
least fit of all to take the first place. Nor," she added, drawing me
from the room, "do I wish it. If only you will keep in your mind one
little place for the memory of our visit to your vessel and your
promise respecting it, I shall be more than content."

Eveena's humble, unconscious self-abnegation was rendering the
conversation intolerably painful, and even the embarrassing situation
now at hand was a welcome interruption. Eveena paused before a door
opening from the gallery into one of the rooms looking on the
peristyle.

"You will find them there," she said, drawing back.

"Come with me, then," I answered; and as she shrank away, I tightened
my clasp of her waist and drew her forward. The door opened, and we
found ourselves in presence of six veiled ladies in pink and silver,
all of them, with one exception, a little taller and less slight than
my bride. Eveena, with the kindness which never failed under the most
painful trial or the most powerful impulses of natural feeling,
extricated herself gently from my hold, took the hand of the first,
and brought her up to me. The girl was evidently startled at the first
sight of her new possessor, and alarmed by a figure so much larger and
more powerful than any she had ever seen, exceeding probably the
picture drawn by her imagination.

"This," said Eveena gently and gravely, "is Eunane, the prettiest and
most accomplished scholar in her Nursery."

As I was about to acknowledge the introduction with the same cold
politeness with which I should have bowed to a strange guest on Earth,
Eveena took my left hand in her own and laid it on the maiden's veil,
recalling to me at once the proprieties of the occasion and the
justice she had claimed for her unoffending and unintentional rivals;
but at the same time bringing back in full force a remembrance she
could not have forgotten, but whose effect upon myself the ideas to
which she was habituated rendered her unable to anticipate. To accept
in her presence a second bride, by the same ceremonial act which had
so lately asserted my claim to herself, was intensely repugnant to my
feelings, and only her own self-sacrificing influence could have
overcome my reluctance. My hesitation was, I fear, perceptible to
Eunane; for, as I removed her veil and head-dress, her expression and
a colour somewhat brighter than that of mere maiden shyness indicated
disappointment or mortified pride. She was certainly very beautiful,
and perhaps, had I now seen them both for the first time, I might have
acquiesced in the truth of Eveena's self-depreciation. As it was,
nothing could associate with the bright intelligent face, the clear
grey eyes and light brown hair, the lithe active form instinct with
nervous energy, that charm which from our first acquaintance their
expression of gentle kindness, and, later, the devoted affection
visible in every look, had given to Eveena's features.

It is, I suppose, hardly natural to man to feel actual unkindness
towards a young and beautiful girl who has given no personal offence.
Having once admitted, the justice of Eveena's plea, and feeling that
she would be more pained by the omission than by the fulfilment of the
forms which courtesy and common kindness imperatively demanded, I
kissed Eunane's brow and spoke a few words to her, with as much of
tenderness as I could feel or affect for Eveena's rival, after what
had passed to endear Eveena more than ever. The latter waited a
little, to allow me spontaneously to perform the same ceremony with
the other girls; but seeing my hesitation, she came forward again and
presented severally four others--Enva ("Snow" = Blanche), Leenoo
("Rose"), Eirale, Elfe, all more or less of the usual type of female
beauty in Mars, with long full tresses varying in tinge from flax to
deep gold or the lightest brown; each with features almost faultless,
and with all the attraction (to me unfailing) possessed for men who
have passed their youth by _la beaute du Diable_--the bloom of pure
graceful girlhood. Eive, the sixth of the party, standing on the right
of the others, and therefore last in place according to Martial usage,
was smaller and slighter than Eveena herself, and made an individual

Book of the day: