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Across the Zodiac by Percy Greg

Part 6 out of 9

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impression on my attention by a manifest timidity and agitation
greater than any of the rest had evinced. As I removed her veil I was
struck by the total unlikeness which her face and form presented to
those I had just saluted. Her hair was so dark as by contrast to seem
black; her complexion less fair than those of her companions, though
as fair as that of an average Greek beauty; her eyes of deepest brown;
her limbs, and especially the hands and feet, marvellously perfect in
shape and colour, but in the delicacy and minuteness of their form
suggesting, as did all the proportions of her tiny figure, the
peculiar grace of childhood; an image in miniature of faultless
physical beauty. In Eive alone of the bevy I felt a real interest; but
the interest called forth by a singularly pretty child, in whose
expression the first glance discerns a character it will take long to
read, rather than that commanded by the charms of earliest womanhood.

When I had completed the ceremonial round, there was a somewhat
awkward silence, which Eveena at last broke by suggesting that Eunane
should show us through the house, with which she had made the earliest
acquaintance. This young girl readily took the lead thus assigned to
her, and by some delicate manoeuvre, whose authorship I could not
doubt, I found her hand in mine as we made our tour. The number of
chambers was much greater than in Esmo's dwelling, the garden of the
peristyle larger and more elaborately arranged, if not more beautiful.
The ambau were more numerous than even the domestic service of so
large a mansion appeared to require. The birds, whose duties lay
outside, were by this time asleep on their perches, and we forbore to
disturb them. The central chamber of the seraglio, if I may so call
it, the largest and midmost of those in the rear of the garden,
devoted as of course to the ladies of the household, was especially
magnificent.

When we stood in its midst, shy looks askance from all the six
betrayed their secret ambition; though Eive's was but momentary, and
so slight that I felt I might have unfairly suspected her of
presumption. I left this room, however, in silence, and assigned to
each, of my maiden brides, in order as they had been presented to me,
the rooms on the left; and then, as we stood once more in the
peristyle, having postponed all further arrangements, all distribution
of household duties, to the morrow (assigning, however, to Eunane,
whose native energy and forwardness had made early acquaintance with
the dwelling and its dumb inhabitants, the charge of providing and
preparing with their assistance our morning meal), I said, "I have let
the business of the evening zyda actually encroach on midnight, and
must detain you from your rest no longer. Eveena, you know, I still
have need of you."

She was standing at a little distance, next to Eunane; and the latter,
with a smile half malicious, half triumphant, whispered something in
her ear. There was a suppressed annoyance in Eveena's look which
provoked me to interpose. On Earth I should never have been fool
enough to meddle in a woman's quarrel. The weakest can take her own
part in the warfare of taunt and innuendo, better and more venomously
than could dervish, priest, or politician. But Eveena could no more
lower herself to the ordinary level of feminine malice than I could
have borne to hear her do so; and it was intolerable that one whose
sweet humility commanded respect from myself should submit to slight
or sneer from the lips and eyes of petulant girls. Eunane started as I
spoke, using that accent which gives its most peremptory force to the
Martial imperative. "Repeat aloud what you have chosen to say to
Eveena in my presence."

If the first to express the ill-will excited by Eveena's evident
influence, though exerted in their own behalf, it was less that Eunane
surpassed her companions in malice than that they fell short of her in
audacity. Her school-mates had found her their most daring leader in
mischief, the least reluctant scapegoat when mischief was to be
atoned. But she was cowed, partly perhaps by her first collision with
masculine authority, partly, I fear, by sheer dread of physical force
visibly greater than she had ever known by repute. Perhaps she was too
much frightened to obey. At any rate, it was from Eveena, despite her
pleading looks, that I extorted an answer. She yielded at last only to
that formal imperative which her conscience would not permit her to
disobey, and which for the first time I now employed in addressing
her.

"Eunane only repeated," Eveena said, with a reluctance so manifest
that one might have supposed her to be the offender, "a school-girl's
proverb:--

"'Ware the wrath that stands to cool:
Then the sandal shows the rule.'"

The smile that had accompanied the whisper--though not so much
suggestive of a woman's malignity as of a child's exultation in a
companion's disgrace--gave point and sting to the taunt. It is on
chance, I suppose, that the effect of such things depends. Had the
saying been thrown at any of Eunane's equals, I should probably have
been inclined to laugh, even if I felt it necessary to reprimand. But,
angered at a hint which placed Eveena on their own level, I forgot how
far the speaker's experience and inexperience alike palliated the
impertinence. That the insinuation shocked none of those around me was
evident. Theirs were not the looks of women, however young and
thoughtless, startled by an affront to their sex; but of children
amazed at a child's folly in provoking capricious and irresponsible
power. The angry quickness with which I turned to Eunane received a
double, though doubly unintentional, rebuke, equally illustrative of
Martial ideas and usages. The culprit cowered like a child expecting a
brutal blow. A gentle pressure on my left arm evinced the same fear in
a quarter from which its expression wounded me deeply. That pressure
arrested not, as was intended, my hand, but my voice; and when I spoke
the frightened girl looked up in surprise at its measured tones.

"Wrong, and wrong thrice over, Eunane. It is for me to teach you the
bad taste of bringing into your new home the ideas and language of
school. Meanwhile, in no case would you learn more of my rule than
concerned your own fault. Take in exchange for your proverb the
kindliest I have learned in your language:--

"'Whispered warnings reach the heart;
Veil the blush and spare the smart.'

"But, happily for you, your taunt had not truth enough to sting; and I
can tell the story about which you are unduly curious as frankly as
you please.--Let me speak now, Eveena, that I may spare the need to
speak again and in another tone.--That Eveena seemed to have put us
both in a false position only convinced me that she had a motive she
knew would satisfy me as fully as herself. When I learned what that
motive was, I was greatly surprised at her unselfishness and courage.
If you threw me your veil to save me from drowning, how would you feel
if my first words to you were:--'No one must think I could not swim,
therefore even the household must believe you, in unveiling, guilty of
an unpardonable fault'?... Answer me, Eunane."

"I should let you sink next time," she replied, with a pretty
half-dubious sauciness, showing that her worst fears at least were
relieved.

"Quite right; but you are less generous than Eveena. To hide how I had
acted on her advice, she would have had you suppose her guilty. That
you might not laugh at my authority, and 'find a dragon in the esve's
nest,' she would have had me treat her as guilty."

"But I deserved it. A girl has no right to break the seal in the
master's absence," interposed Eveena, much more distressed than
gratified by the vindication to which she was so well entitled.

"Let your tongue sleep, Eveena. So [with a kiss] I blot your first
miscalculation, Eunane. Earth [the Evening Star of Mars] light your
dreams."

It was with visible reluctance that Eveena followed me into the
chamber we had last left; and she expostulated as earnestly as her
obedience would permit against the fiat that assigned it to her.

"Choose what room you please, then," I said; "but understand that, so
far as my will and my trust can make you, you are the mistress here."

"Well, then," she answered, "give me the little octagon beside your
own:"--the smallest and simplest, but to my taste the prettiest, room
in the house. "I should like to be near you still, if I may; but,
believe me, I shall not be frozen (hurt) because you think another
hand better able to steer the carriage, if mine may sometimes rest in
yours."

Leading her into the room she had chosen, and having installed her
among the cushions that were to form her couch, I silenced decisively
her renewed protest.

"Let me answer you on this point, once and for ever, Eveena. To me
this seems matter of right, not of favour or fitness. But favour and
fitness here go with right. I could no more endure to place another
before or beside you than I could break the special bond between us,
and deny the hope of which the Serpent" (laying my hand on her
shoulder-clasp, which, by mere accident, was shaped into a faint
resemblance to the mystic coil) "is the emblem; the hope that alone
can make such love as ours endurable, or even possible, to creatures
that must die. She who knelt with me before the Emerald Throne, who
took with me the vows so awfully sanctioned, shall hold the first
place in my home as in my heart till the Serpent's promise be
fulfilled."

Both were silent for some time, for never could we refer to that
Vision--whether an objective fact, or an impression communicated from
one spirit to the other by the occult force of intense sympathy--save
by such allusion; and the remembrance never failed to affect us both
with a feeling too deep for words. Eveena spoke again--

"I am sorry you have so bound yourself; perhaps only because you knew
me first. And it shames me to receive fresh proof of your kindness
to-night."

"And why, my own?"

"Do not make me feel," she said, "that--though the measured sentences
you have taught me to call scolding seemed the sharpest of all
penances--there is a heavier yet in the silence which withholds
forgiveness."

"What have I yet to forgive, Madonna?"

But Eveena could read my feelings in spite of my words, and knew that
the pain she had given was too recent to allow me to misconceive her
penitence.

"I _ought_ to say, my interference. It was your right to rule as you
chose, and my meddling was a far worse offence than Eunane's malice.
But it was not _that_ you felt too deeply to reprove."

"True! Eunane hurt me a little; but I expected no such misjudgment
from you. By the touch that proved your alarm I know that I gave no
cause for it."

"How so?" she asked in surprise.

"You laid your hand instinctively on my _left_ arm, the one your
people use. Had I made the slightest angry gesture, you would have
held back my _right_. Had I deserved that Eveena should think so ill
of me--think me capable of doing such dishonour to her presence and to
my own roof, which should have protected an equal enemy from that
which you feared for a helpless girl? For what you would have checked
was such a blow as men deal to men who can strike back; and the hand
that had given it would have been unfit to clasp man's in friendship
or woman's in love. You yourself must have shrunk from its touch."

She caught and held it fast to her lips.

"Can I forget that it saved my life? I don't understand you at all,
but I see that I have frozen your heart. I did fancy for one moment
you would strike, as passionate men and women often do strike
provoking girls, perhaps forgetting your own strength; and I knew you
would be miserable if you did hurt her--in that way. The next moment I
was ashamed, more than you will believe, to have wronged you so. Like
every man, from the head of a household to the Arch-Judge or the
Campta, you must rule by fear. But your wrath _will_ 'stand to cool;'
and you will hate to make a girl cry as you would hate to send a
criminal to the electric-rack, the lightning-stroke, or the
vivisection-table. And, whatever you had done, do you fancy that I
could shrink from you? I said, 'If you weary of your flower-bird you
must strike with the hammer;' and if you could do so, do you think I
should not feel for your hand to hold it to the last?"

"Hush, Eveena! how can I bear such words? You might forgive me for any
outrage to you: I doubt your easily forgetting cruelty to another. I
have not a heart like yours. As I never failed a friend, so I never
yet forgave a foe. Yet even I might pardon one of those girls an
attempt to poison myself, and in some circumstances I might even learn
to like her better afterwards. But I doubt if I could ever touch again
the hand that had mixed the poison for another, though that other were
my mortal enemy."

CHAPTER XIX - A COMPLETE ESTABLISHMENT.

Before I slept Eveena had convinced me, much to my own discomfiture,
how very limited must be any authority that could be delegated to her.
In such a household there could be no second head or deputy, and an
attempt to devolve any effective charge on her would only involve her
in trouble and odium. Even at the breakfast, spread as usual in the
centre of the peristyle, she entreated that we should present
ourselves separately. Eunane appeared to have performed very
dexterously the novel duty assigned to her. The _ambau_ had obeyed her
orders with well-trained promptitude, and the _carvee_, in bringing
fruit, leaves, and roots from the outer garden, had more than verified
all that on a former occasion Eveena had told me of their cleverness
and quick comprehension of instructions. Eunane's face brightened
visibly as I acknowledged the neatness and the tempting appearance of
the meal she had set forth. She was yet more gratified by receiving
charge for the future of the same duty, and authority to send, as is
usual, by an amba the order for that principal part of each day's food
which is supplied by the confectioner. By reserving for Eveena the
place among the cushions immediately on my left, I made to the
assembled household the expected announcement that she was to be
regarded as mistress of the house; feminine punctiliousness on points
of domestic precedence strikingly contrasting the unceremonious
character of intercourse among men out of doors. The very ambau
recognise the mistress or the favourite, as dogs the master of their
Earthly home.

The ladies were at first shy and silent, Eunane only giving me more
than a monosyllabic answer to my remarks, and even Eunane never
speaking save in reply to me. A trivial incident, however, broke
through this reserve, and afforded me a first taste of the petty
domestic vexations in store for me. The beverage most to my liking was
always the _carcara_--juice flavoured with roasted kernels, something
resembling coffee in taste. On this occasion the _carcara_ and another
favourite dish had a taste so peculiar that I pushed both aside almost
untouched. On observing this, the rest--Enva, Leenoo, Elfe, and
Eirale--took occasion to criticise the articles in question with such
remarks and grimaces as ill-bred children might venture for the
annoyance of an inexperienced sister. I hesitated to repress this
outbreak as it deserved, till Eunane's bitter mortification was
evident in her brightening colour and the doubtful, half-appealing
glance of tearful eyes. Then a rebuke, such as might have been
appropriately addressed yesterday to these rude school-girls by their
governess, at once silenced them. As we rose, I asked Eveena, who,
with more courtesy than the rest of us, had finished her portion--

"Is there any justice in these reproaches? I certainly don't like the
carcara to-day, but it does not follow that Eunane is in fault."

The rest, Eunane included, looked their annoyance at this appeal; but
Eveena's temper and kindness were proof against petulance.

"The carcara is in fault," she said; "but I don't think Eunane is. In
learning cookery at school she had her materials supplied to her; this
time the _carve_ has probably given her an unripe or overripe fruit
which has spoiled the whole."

"And do you not know ripe from unripe fruit?" I inquired, turning to
Eunane.

"How should she?" interposed Eveena. "I doubt if she ever saw them
growing."

"How so?" I asked of Eunane.

"It is true," she answered. "I never went beyond the walls of our
playground till I came here; and though there were a few flower-beds
in the inner gardens, there were none but shade trees among the turf
and concrete yards to which we were confined."

"I should have known no better," observed Eveena; "but being brought
up at home, I learned to know all the plants in my father's grounds,
which were more various, I believe, than usual."

"Then," I said, "Eunane has a new life and a multitude of new
pleasures before her. Has this peristyle given you your first sight of
flowers beyond those in the beds of your Nursery? And have you never
seen anything of the world about you?"

"Never," she said. "And Eveena's excuse for me is, I believe,
perfectly true. The carve must have been stupid, but I knew no
better."

"Well," I rejoined, "you must forgive the bird, as we must excuse you
for spoiling our breakfast. I will contrive that you shall know more
of fruits and flowers before long. In the meantime, you will probably
have a different if not a wider view from this roof than from that of
your Nursery."

After all, Eunane's girlhood, typical of the whole life of many
Martial women, had not, I suppose, been more dreary or confined than
that of children in London, Canton, or Calcutta. But this incident,
reminding me how dreary and limited that life was, served to excuse in
my eyes the pettiness and poverty of the characters it had produced. A
Martial woman's whole experience may well be confined within a few
acres, and from the cradle to the grave she may see no more of the
world than can be discerned from the roof of her school or her
husband's home.

Eunane, with the assistance of the ambau, busied herself in removing
the remains of the meal. The other five, putting on their veils,
scampered up the inclined plane to the roof, much like children
released from table or from tasks. Turning to Eveena, who still
remained beside me, I said--

"Get your veil, and come out with me; I have not yet an idea where we
are, and scarcely a notion what the grounds are like."

She followed me to my apartment, out of which, opened the one she had
chosen, and as the window closed behind us she spoke in a tone of
appeal--

"Do not insist on my accompanying you. As you bade me always speak my
thought, I had much rather you would take one of the others."

"You professed," I said, "to take especial pleasure in a walk with me,
and this time I will be careful that you are not overtired."

"Of course I should like it," she answered; "but it would not be just.
Please let me this time remain to take my part of the household
duties, and make myself acquainted with the house. Choose your
companion among the others, whom you have scarcely noticed yet."

Preferring not only Eveena's company, but even my own, to that of any
of the six, and feeling myself not a little dependent on her guidance
and explanations, I remonstrated. But finding that her sense of
justice and kindness would yield to nothing short of direct command, I
gave way.

"You forget _my_ pleasure," I said at last. "But if you will not go,
you must at least tell me which I am to take. I will not pretend to
have a choice in the matter."

"Well, then," she answered, "I should be glad to see you take Eunane.
She is, I think, the eldest, apparently the most intelligent and
companionable, and she has had one mortification already she hardly
deserved."

"And is much the prettiest," I added maliciously. But Eveena was
incapable of even understanding so direct an appeal to feminine
jealousy.

"I think so," she said; "much the prettiest among us. But that will
make no difference under her veil."

"And must she keep down her veil," I asked, "in our own grounds?"

Eveena laughed. "Wherever she might be seen by any man but yourself."

"Call her then," I answered.

Eveena hesitated. But having successfully carried her own way on the
main question, she would not renew her remonstrances on a minor point;
and finding her about to join the rest, she drew Eunane apart. Eunane
came up to me alone, Eveena having busied herself in some other part
of the house. She approached slowly as if reluctant, and stood silent
before me, her manner by no means expressive of satisfaction.

"Eveena thought," I said, "that you would like to accompany me; but if
not, you may tell her so; and tell her in that case that she _must_
come."

"But I shall be glad to go wherever you please," replied Eunane.
"Eveena did not tell me why you sent for me, and"----

"And you were afraid to be scolded for spoiling the breakfast? You
have heard quite enough of that."

"You dropped a word last night," she answered, "which made me think
you would keep your displeasure till you had me alone."

"Quite true," I said, "if I had any displeasure to keep. But you might
spoil a dozen meals, and not vex me half as much as the others did."

"Why?" she asked in surprise. "Girls and women always spite one
another if they have a chance, especially one who is in disfavour or
disgrace with authority."

"So much the worse," I answered. "And now--you know as much or as
little of the house as any of us; find the way into the grounds."

A narrow door, not of crystal as usual, but of metal painted to
resemble the walls, led directly from one corner of the peristyle into
the grounds outside. I had inferred on my arrival, by the distance
from the road to the house, that their extent was considerable, but I
was surprised alike by their size and arrangement. On two sides they
were bounded by a wall about four hundred yards in length--that
parting them from the road was about twice as long. They were laid out
with few of the usual orchard plots and beds of different fruits and
vegetables, but rather in the form of a small park, with trees of
various sorts, among which the fruit trees were a minority. The
surface was broken by natural rising grounds and artificial terraces;
the soil was turfed in the manner I have previously described, with
minute plants of different colours arranged in bands and patterns.
Here and there was a garden consisting of a variety of flower-beds and
flowering shrubs; broad concrete paths winding throughout, and a
beautiful silver stream meandering hither and thither, and filling
several small ponds and fountains. That the grounds immediately
appertaining to the house were not intended as usual for the purposes
of a farm or kitchen-garden was evident. The reason became equally
apparent when, looking towards the north, where no wall bounded them,
I saw--over a gate in the middle of a dense hedge of flowering shrubs,
which, with a ditch beyond it, formed the limit of the park in that
direction--an extensive farm divided by the usual ditches into some
twenty-five or thirty distinct fields, and more than a square mile in
extent. This, as Eunane's native inquisitiveness and quickness had
already learnt, formed part of the estate attached to the mansion and
bestowed upon me by the Campta. It was admirably cultivated,
containing orchards, fields rich with various thriving crops, and
pastures grazed by the Unicorn and other of the domestic birds and
beasts kept to supply Martial tables with milk, eggs, and meat;
producing nearly every commodity to which the climate was suited, and,
as a very short observation assured me, capable of yielding a far
greater income than would suffice to sustain in luxury and splendour a
household larger than that enforced upon me. We walked in this
direction, my companion talking fluently enough when once I had set
her at ease, and seemingly free from the shyness and timidity which
Eveena had at first displayed. She paused when we reached a bridge
that spanned the ditch dividing the grounds from the farm, aware that,
save on special invitation, she might not, even in my company, go
beyond the former. I led her on, however, till soon after we had
crossed the ditch I saw a man approaching us. On this, I desired
Eunane to remain where she was, seating her at the foot of a fruit
tree in one of the orchard plots, and proceeded to meet the stranger.
After exchanging the usual salute, he came immediately to the point.

"I thought," he said, "that you would not care yourself to undertake
the cultivation of so extensive an estate. Indeed, the mere
superintendence would occupy the whole of one man's attention, and its
proper cultivation would be the work of six or eight. I have had some
little experience in agriculture, and determined to ask for this
charge."

"And who has recommended you?" I said. "Or have you any sort of
introduction or credentials to me?"

He made a sign which I immediately recognised. Caution, however, was
imposed by the law to which that sign appealed.

"You can read," I said, "by starlight?"

"Better than by any other," he rejoined with a smile.

One or two more tokens interchanged left me no doubt that the claim
was genuine, and, of course, irresistible.

"Enough," I replied. "You may take entire charge on the usual terms,
which, doubtless, you know better than I."

"You trust me then, absolutely?" he said, in a tone of some little
surprise.

"In trusting you," I replied, "I trust the Zinta. I am tolerably sure
to be safe in hands recommended by them."

"You are right," he said, "and how right this will prove to you," and
he placed in my hand a small cake upon which was stamped an impression
of the signet that I had seen on Esmo's wrist. When he saw that I
recognised it, he took it back, and, breaking it into fragments,
chewed and swallowed it.

"This," he said, "was given me to avouch the following message:--Our
Chiefs are informed that the Order is threatened with a novel danger.
Systematic persecution by open force or by law has been attempted and
defeated ages ago, and will hardly be tried again. What seems to be
intended now is the destruction of our Chiefs, individually, by secret
means--means which it is supposed we shall not be able to trace to the
instigators, even if we should detect their instruments."

"But," I remarked, "those who have warned you of the danger must know
from whom it proceeds, and those who are employed in such an attack
must run not only the ordinary risk of assassins, but the further risk
entailed by the peculiar powers of those they assail."

"Those powers," he answered, "they do not understand or recognise. The
instruments, I presume, will be encouraged by an assurance that the
Courts are in their favour, and by a pledge in the last resort that
they shall be protected. The exceptional customs of our Order,
especially their refusal to send their children into the public
Nurseries, mark out and identify them; and though our places of
meeting are concealed and have never been invaded, the fact that we do
meet and the persons of those who attend can hardly be concealed."

"But," I asked, "if a charge of assassination is once made and proved,
how can the Courts refuse to do justice? Can the instigators protect
the culprit without committing themselves?"

"They would appeal, I do not doubt, to a law, passed many ages ago
with a special regard to ourselves, but which has not been applied for
a score of centuries, putting the members of a secret religious
society beyond the pale of legal protection. That we shall ultimately
find them out and avenge ourselves, you need not doubt. But in the
meantime every known dissentient from the customs of the majority is
in danger, and persons of note or prominence especially so. Next to
Esmo and his son, the husband of his daughter is, perhaps, in as much
peril as any one. No open attempt on your life will be adventured at
present, while you retain the favour of the Campta. But you have made
at least one mortal and powerful enemy, and you may possibly be the
object of well-considered and persistent schemes of assassination. On
the other hand, next to our Chief and his son, you have a paramount
claim on the protection of the Order; and those who with me will take
charge of your affairs have also charge to watch vigilantly over your
life. If you will trust me beforehand with knowledge of all your
movements, I think your chief peril will lie in the one sphere upon
which we cannot intrude--your own household; and Clavelta directs your
own special attention to this quarter. Immediate danger can scarcely
threaten you as yet, save from a woman's hand."

"Poison?"

"Probably," he returned coolly. "But of the details of the plot our
Council are, I believe, as absolutely ignorant as of the quarter from
which it proceeds."

"And how," I inquired, "can it be that the witness who has informed
you of the plot has withheld the names, without which his information
is so imperfect, and serves rather to alarm than to protect us?"

"You know," he replied, "the kind of mysterious perception to which we
can resort, and are probably aware how strangely lucid in some points,
how strangely darkened in others, is the vision that does not depend
on ordinary human senses?"

As we spoke we had passed Eunane once or twice, walking backwards and
forwards along the path near which she sat. As my companion was about
to continue, we were so certainly within her hearing that I checked
him.

"Take care," I said; "I know nothing of her except the Campta's
choice, and that she is not of us."

He visibly started.

"I thought," he said, "that the witness of our conversation was one at
least as reliable as yourself. I forgot how it happened that you have
diverged from the prudence which forbids our brethren to admit to
their households aliens from the Order and possible spies on its
secrets."

"Of whom do you speak as Clavelta?" I asked. "I was not even aware
that the Order had a single head."

"The Signet," replied my friend in evident surprise, "should have
distinguished the Arch-Enlightener to duller sight than yours."

We had not spoken, of course, till we were again beyond hearing; but
my companion looked round carefully before he proceeded--

"You will understand the better, then, how strong is your own claim
upon the care of your brethren, and how confidently you may rely upon
their vigilance and fidelity."

"I should regret," I answered, "that their lives should be risked for
mine. In dangers like those against which you could protect me, I have
been accustomed from boyhood to trust my own right hand. But the fear
of secret assassination has often unnerved the bravest men, and I will
not say that it may not disturb me."

"For you," he answered, "personally we should care as for one of our
brethren exposed to especial danger, For him who saved the descendant
of our Founder, and who in her right, after her father and brother,
would be the guardian, if not the head, of the only remaining family
of his lineage, one and all of us are at need bound to die."

After a few more words we parted, and I rejoined Eunane, and led her
back towards the house. I had learnt to consider taciturnity a matter
of course, except where there was actual occasion for speech; but
Eunane had chattered so fluently and frankly just before, that her
absolute silence might have suggested to me the possibility that she
had heard and was pondering things not intended for her knowledge, had
I been less preoccupied. Enured to the perils of war, of the chase, of
Eastern diplomacy, and of travel in the wildest parts of the Earth, I
do not pretend indifference to the fear of assassination, and
especially of poison. Cromwell, and other soldiers of equal nerve and
clearer conscience, have found their iron courage sorely shaken by a
peril against which no precautions were effective and from which they
could not enjoy an hour's security. The incessant continuous strain on
the nerves is, I suppose, the chief element in the peculiar dread with
which brave men have regarded this kind of peril; as the best troops
cannot endure to be under fire in their camp. Weighing, however, the
probability that girls who had been selected by the Sovereign, and had
left their Nursery only to pass directly into my house, could have
been already bribed or seduced to become the instruments of murderous
treachery, I found it but slight; and before we reached the house I
had made up my mind to discard the apprehensions or precautions
recommended to me on their account. Far better, if need be, to die by
poison than to live in hourly terror of it. Better to be murdered than
to suspect of secret treason those with whom I must maintain the most
intimate relations, and whose sex and years made it intolerable to
believe them criminal. I dismissed the thought, then; and believing
that I had probably wronged them in allowing it to dwell for a moment
in my mind, I felt perhaps more tenderly than before towards them, and
certainly indisposed to name to Eveena a suspicion of which I was
myself ashamed. Perhaps, too, youth and beauty weighed in my
conclusion more than cool reason would have allowed. A Martial proverb
says--

"Trust a foe, and you may rue it;
Trust a friend, and perish through it.
Trust a woman if you will;--
Thrice betrayed, you'll trust her still."

As to the general warning, I was wishful to consult Eveena, and
unwilling to withhold from her any secret of my thoughts; but equally
averse to disturb her with alarms that were trying even to nerves
seasoned by the varied experience of twenty years against every open
peril.

CHAPTER XX - LIFE, SOCIAL AND DOMESTIC.

As we approached the house I caught sight of Eveena's figure among the
party gathered on the roof. She had witnessed the interview, but her
habitual and conscientious deference forbade her to ask a confidence
not volunteered; and she seemed fully satisfied when, on the first
occasion on which we were alone, I told her simply that the stranger
belonged to the Zinta and had been recommended by her father himself
to the charge of my estate. Though reluctant to disturb her mind with
fears she could not shake off as I could, and which would make my
every absence at least a season of terror, the sense of insecurity
doubtless rendered me more anxious to enjoy whenever possible the only
society in which it was permissible to be frank and off my guard. No
man in his senses would voluntarily have accepted the position which
had been forced upon me. The Zveltau never introduce aliens into their
households. Their leading ideas and fundamental principles so deeply
affect the conduct of existence, the motives of action, the bases of
all moral reasoning--so completely do the inferences drawn from them
and the habits of thought to which they lead pervade and tinge the
mind, conscience, and even language--that though it may be easy to
"live in the light at home and walk with the blind abroad," yet in the
familiar intercourse of household life even a cautious and reserved
man (and I was neither) must betray to the keen instinctive
perceptions of women whether he thought and felt like those around
him, or was translating different thoughts into an alien language.
This difficulty is little felt between unbelievers and Christians. The
simple creed of the Zinta, however, like that of the Prophet, affects
the thought and life as the complicated and subtle mysteries of more
elaborate theologies, more refined philosophic systems rarely do.

One of Eveena's favourite quotations bore the unmistakable stamp of
Zveltic mysticism:--

"Symbols that invert the sense
Form the Seal of Providence;
Contradiction gives the key,
Time unlocks the mystery."

The danger in which my relation to the Zinta and its chief involved
me, and the presence of half a dozen rivals to Eveena--rivals also to
that regard for the Star which at first I felt chiefly for her
sake--likely as they seemed to impair the strength and sweetness of
the tie between us, actually worked to consolidate and endear it. To
enjoy, except on set occasions, without constant liability to
interruption, Eveena's sole society was no easy matter. To conceal our
real secret, and the fact that there was a secret, was imperative.
Avowedly exclusive confidence, conferences from which the rest of the
household were directly shut out, would have suggested to their
envious tempers that Eveena played the spy on them, or influenced and
advised the exercise of my authority. To be alone with her, therefore,
as naturally and necessarily I must often wish to be, required
manoeuvres and arrangements as delicate and difficult, though as
innocent, as those employed by engaged couples under the strict
conventions of European household usage; and the comparative rarity of
such interviews, and the manner in which they had often to be
contrived beforehand, kept alive in its earliest freshness the love
which, if not really diminished, generally loses somewhat of its first
bloom and delicacy in the unrestrained intercourse of marriage.
Absolutely and solely trusted, assured that her company was eagerly
sought, and at least as deeply valued as ever--compelled by the ideas
of her race to accept the situation as natural and right, and wholly
incapable of the pettier and meaner forms of jealousy--Eveena was
fully content and happy in her relations with me. That, on the whole,
she was not comfortable, or at least much less so than during our
suddenly abbreviated honeymoon, was apparent; but her loss of
brightness and cheerfulness was visible chiefly in her weary and
downcast looks on any occasion when, after being absent for some hours
from the house, I came upon her unawares. In my presence she was
always calm and peaceful, kind, and seemingly at ease; and if she saw
or heard me on my return, though she carefully avoided any appearance
of eagerness to greet me sooner than others, or to claim especial
attention, she ever met me with a smile of welcome as frank and bright
as a young bride on Earth could give to a husband returning to her
sole society from a long day of labour for her sake.

In so far as compliance was possible I was compelled to admit the
wisdom of Eveena's plea that no open distinction should be made in her
favour. Except in the simple fact of our affection, there was no
assignable reason for making her my companion more frequently than
Eunane or Eive. Except that I could trust her completely, there was no
distinction of age, social rank, or domestic relation to afford a
pretext for exempting her from restraints which, if at first I thought
them senseless and severe, were soon justified by experience of the
kind of domestic control which just emancipated school-girls expected
and required. Nor would she accept the immunity tacitly allowed her.
It was not that any established custom or right bounded the arbitrary
power of domestic autocracy. The right of all but unbounded wrong, the
liberty of limitless caprice, is unquestionably vested in the head of
the household. But the very completeness of the despotism rendered its
exercise impossible. Force cannot act where there is no resistance.
The sword of the Plantagenet could cleave the helmet but not the quilt
of down. I could do as I pleased without infringing any understanding
or giving any right to complain.

"But," said Eveena, "you have a sense of justice which has nothing to
do with law or usage. Even your language is not ours. You think of
right and wrong, where we should speak only of what is or is not
punishable. You can make a favourite if you will pay the price. Could
you endure to be hated in your own home, or I to know that you
deserved it? Or, if you could, could you bear to see me hated and my
life made miserable?"

"They dare not!" I returned angrily fearing that they had dared, and
that she had already felt the spite she was so careful not to provoke.

"Do you think that feminine malice cannot contrive to envenom a dozen
stings that I could not explain if I would, and you could not deal
with if I did?"

"But," I replied, "it seems admitted that there is no such thing as
right or custom. As Enva said, I have bought and paid for them, and
may do what I please within the contract; and you agree that is just
what any other man in this world would do."

"Yes," returned Eveena, "and I watched your face while Enva spoke. How
did you like her doctrine? Of course you may do as you please--if you
can please. You may silence discontent, you may suppress spiteful
innuendos and even sulky looks, you may put down mutiny, by sheer
terror. Can you? You may command me to go with you whenever you go
out; you may take the same means to make me complain of unkindness as
to make them conceal it; you may act like one of our own people, if
you can stoop to the level of their minds. But we both know that you
can do nothing of the kind. How could you bear to be driven into
unsparing and undeserved severity, who can hardly bring yourself to
enforce the discipline necessary to peace and comfort on those who
will only be ruled by fear and would like you better if they feared
you more? Did you hear the proverb Leenoo muttered, very unjustly,
when she left your room yesterday, 'A favourite wears out many
sandals'? No! You see the very phrase wounds and disgusts you. But you
would find it a true one. Can you take vengeance for a fault you have
yourself provoked? Can you decide without inquiry, condemn without
evidence, punish without hearing? Men do these things, of course, and
women expect them. But you--I do not say you would be ashamed so to
act--you cannot do it, any more than you can breathe the air of our
snow-mountains."

"At all events, Eveena, I no more dare do it in your presence than I
dare forswear the Faith we hold in common."

But whatever Eveena might exact or I concede, the distinction between
the wife who commanded as much respect as affection, and the girls who
could at best be pets or playthings, was apparent against our will in
every detail of daily life and domestic intercourse. It was alike
impossible to treat Eveena as a child and to rule Enva or Eirale as
other than children. It was as unnatural to use the tone of command or
rebuke to one for whom my unexpressed wishes were absolute law, as to
observe the form of request or advice in directing or reproving those
whose obedience depended on the consequences of rebellion. It only
made matters worse that the distinction corresponded but too
accurately to their several deserts. No faults could have been so
irritating to Eveena's companions as her undeniable faultlessness.

The ludicrous aspect of my relation to the rest of the household was
even more striking than I had expected. That I should find myself in
the absurd position of a man entrusted with the direct personal
government of half-a-dozen young ladies was even "more truly spoke
than meant." One at least among them might singly have made in time a
not unlovable wife, and all, perhaps, might severally and separately
have been reduced to conjugal complaisance. Collectively, they were,
as Eveena had said, a set of school-girls, and school-girls used to
stricter restraint and much sharper discipline than those of a French
or Italian convent. They would have made life a burden to a vigorous
English schoolmistress, and imperilled the soul of any Lady-Abbess
whose list of permissible penances excluded the dark cell and the
scourge. Fortunately for both parties, I had the advantage of
governess and Superior in the natural awe which girls feel for the
authority of manhood--till they have found out of what soft fibre men
are made--and in the artificial fear inspired by domestic usage and
tradition. For I was soon aware that even on its ridiculous side the
relation was not to be trifled with. The simple indifference a man
feels towards the escapades of girlhood was not applicable to women
and wives, who yet lacked womanly sense and the feeling of conjugal
duty. This serious aspect of their position soon contracted the
indulgence naturally conceded to youth's heedlessness and animal
spirits. These, displayed at first only in the energy and eagerness of
their every movement within the narrow limits of conventional usage,
broke all bounds when, after one or two half-timid, half-venturous
experiments on my patience, they felt that they had, at least for the
moment, exchanged the monotony, the mechanical routine, the stern
repression of their life in the great Nurseries, not for the harsh
household discipline to which they naturally looked forward, but for
the "loosened zone" which to them seemed to promise absolute liberty.
When not immediately in my presence or Eveena's, their keen enjoyment
of a life so new, the sudden development of the brighter side of their
nature under circumstances that gave play to the vigorous vitality of
youth, gave as much pleasure to me as to themselves. But in contact
with myself or Eveena they were women, and showed only the wrong side
of the varied texture of womanhood. To the master they were slaves,
each anxious to attract his notice, win his preference; before the
favourite, spiteful, envious of her and of each other, bitter,
malicious, and false. For Eveena's sake, it was impossible to look on
with indolent indifference on freaks of temper which, childish in the
form they assumed, were envenomed by the deliberate dislike and
unscrupulous cunning of jealous women.

But even on the childish side of their character and conduct, they
soon displayed a determination to test by actual experiment the utmost
extent of the liberty allowed, and the nature and sufficiency of its
limits. Eunane was always the most audacious trespasser and
representative rebel. Fortunately for her, the daring which had
bewildered and exasperated feminine guardians rather amused and
interested me, giving some variety and relief to the monotonous
absurdity of the situation. Nothing in her conduct was more remarkable
or more characteristic than the simplicity and good temper with which
she generally accepted as of course the less agreeable consequences of
her outbreaks; unless it were the sort of natural dignity with which,
when she so pleased, the game played out and its forfeit paid, the
naughty child subsided into the lively but rational companion, and the
woman simply ignored the scrapes of the school-girl.

As her character seemed to unfold, Eive's individuality became as
distinctly parted from the rest as Eunane's, though in an opposite
direction. Comparatively timid and indolent, without their fulness of
life, she seemed to me little more than a child; and she fell with
apparent willingness into that position, accepting naturally its
privileges and exemptions. She alone was never in the way, never
vexatious or exacting. Content with the notice that naturally fell to
her share, she obtained the more. Never intruding between Eveena and
myself, she alone was not wholly unwelcome to share our accidental
privacy when, in the peristyle or the grounds, the others left us
temporarily alone. On such occasions she would often draw near and
crouch at my feet or by Eveena's side, curling herself like a kitten
upon the turf or among the cushions, often resting her little head
upon Eveena's knee or mine; generally silent, but never so silent as
to seem to be a spy upon our conversation, rather as a favourite child
privileged, in consideration of her quietude and her supposed
harmlessness and inattention, to remain when others are excluded, and
to hear much to which she is supposed not to listen. Having no special
duties of her own in the household, she would wait upon and assist
Eveena whenever the latter would accept her attendance. When the whole
party were assembled, it was her wont to choose her place not in the
circle, still less at my side--Eveena's title to the post of honour on
the left being uncontested, and Eunane generally occupying the
cushions on my right. But Eive, lying at our feet, would support
herself on her arm between my knee and Eunane's, content to attract my
hand to play with her curls or stroke her head. Under such
encouragement she would creep on to my lap and rest there, but seldom
took any part in conversation, satisfied with the attention one pays
half-consciously to a child. A word that dropped from Enva, however,
on one occasion, obliged me to observe that it was in Eveena's absence
that Eive always seemed most fully aware of her privileges and most
lavish of her childlike caresses. The kind of notice and affection she
obtained did not provoke the envy even of Leenoo or Eirale. She no
more affected to imitate Eveena's absolute devotion than she ventured
on Eunane's reckless petulance. She kept my interest alive by the
faults of a spoiled child. Her freaks were always such as to demand
immediate repression without provoking serious displeasure, so that
the temporary disgrace cost her little, and the subsequent
reconciliation strengthened her hold on my heart. But with Eveena, or
in her presence, Eive's waywardness was so suppressed or controlled
that Eveena's perceptible coolness towards her--it was never coldness
or unkindness--somewhat surprised me.

Few Martialists, when wealthy enough to hand over the management of
their property to others, care to interfere, or even to watch its
cultivation. This, however, to me was a subject of as much interest as
any other of the many peculiarities of Martial society, commerce, and
industry, which it concerned me to investigate and understand; and
when not otherwise employed, I spent great part of my day in watching,
and now and then directing, the work that went on during the whole of
the sunlight, and not unfrequently during the night, upon my farm.
Davilo, the superintendent, had engaged no fewer than eight
subordinates, who, with the assistance of the ambau, the carvee, and
the electric machines, kept every portion of the ground in the most
perfect state of culture. The most valuable part of the produce
consisted of those farinaceous fruits, growing on trees from twenty to
eighty feet in height, which form the principal element of Martial
food. Between the tropics these trees yield ripe fruit twice a year,
during a total period of about three of our months--perhaps for a
hundred days. Various gourds, growing chiefly on canes, hanging from
long flexile stalks that spring from the top of the stem at a height
of from three to eight feet, yield juice which is employed partly in
flavouring the various loaves and cakes into which the flour is made,
partly in the numerous beverages (never allowed to ferment, and
consequently requiring to be made fresh every day), of which the
smallest Martial household has a greater variety than the most
luxurious palace of the East. The best are made from hard-skinned
fruits, whose whole pulp is liquified by piercing the rind before the
fruit is fully ripe, and closing the orifice with a wax-like
substance, almost exactly according to a practice common in different
parts of Asia. The drinks are made, of course, at home. The
farinaceous fruits are sold to the confectioners, who take also a
portion of the milk and all the meat supplied by the pastures. Many
choice fruits grow on shrubs, ranging from the size of a large black
currant tree to that of the smallest gooseberry bush. Vines growing
along the ground bear clustering nuts, whose kernels are sometimes as
hard as that of a cocoa-nut, sometimes almost as soft as butter. The
latter with the juicy fruits, are preserved if necessary for a whole
year in storehouses dug in the ground and lined with concrete, in
which, by chemical means, a temperature a little above the
freezing-point is steadily maintained at very trivial cost. The number
of dishes producible by the mixture of these various materials, with
the occasional addition of meat, fish, and eggs, is enormous; and it
is only when some particular compound is in special favour with the
master of the house that it makes its appearance more than perhaps
once in ten days upon the same table. The invention of the
confectioners is exquisite and inexhaustible; and every table is
supplied with a variety of dainties sufficient for a feast in the most
hospitable and wealthy household of Europe. Many of the smaller
fruit-trees and shrubs yield two crops in the year. The vegetables,
crisper, and of much more varied taste than the best Terrestrial
salads, sometimes possessing a flavour as _piquant_ as that of
cinnamon or nutmeg, are gathered continuously from one end of the year
to the other.

The vines, tough and fibrous, supply the best and strongest cordage
used in Mars. For this purpose they are dried, stripped, combed, and
put through an elaborate process of manufacture, which, without
weakening the fibres, renders them smooth, and removes the, knots in
which they naturally abound. The twisted cord of the nut-vine is
almost as strong as a metallic wire rope of half its measurement.
There is another purpose for which these fibres in their natural state
are employed. Simply dried and twisted, they form a scourge as
terrible as the Russian knout or African cowhide, though of a
different character--a scourge which, even in its lightest form,
reduces the wildest herd to instant order; and which, as employed on
criminals, is hardly less dreaded than that electric rack whereby
Martial science inflicts on every nerve a graduated torture such as
even ecclesiastical malignity has not invented on Earth--such as I
certainly will not place in the hands of Terrestrial rulers.

All these crops are raised with marvellously little human labour, the
whole work of ploughing and sowing being done by machinery, that of
weeding and harvesting chiefly by the carvee. The ambau climb the
trees and pick the fruit from the ends of the branches, which they are
also taught to pinch in, so that none grow so long as to break with
the weight of these creatures, as clever and agile as the smaller
monkeys, but almost as large as an ordinary baboon. It must always be
remembered that, size for size, and _caeteris paribus,_ all bodies,
animate and inanimate, on Mars weigh less than half as much as they
would on Earth. Eunane's blunder about the _carcara_ was not explained
by any subsequent errors of the ambau or carvee, which always selected
the ripe fruit with faultless skill, leaving the immature untouched,
and throwing aside in small heaps to manure the ground the few that
had been allowed to grow too ripe for use. The sums paid from time to
time into my hands, received from the sales of produce, were far
greater than I could possibly spend in gratifying any taste of my own;
and, as I presently found, the idea that the surplus might indulge
those of the ladies never entered their minds.

Before we had been settled in our home for three days Eveena had made
two requests which I was well pleased to grant. First, she entreated
that I would teach her one at least of the languages with which I was
familiar--a task of whose extreme difficulty she had little idea.
Compared with her native tongue, the complication and irregularities
of the simplest language spoken on Earth are far more arbitrary and
provoking than seems the most difficult of ancient or Oriental tongues
to a Frenchman or Italian. In order to fulfil my promise that she
should assist me in recording my observations and writing out my
notes, I chose Latin. Unhappily for her, I found myself as impatient
and unsuccessful as I was inexperienced in teaching; and nothing but
her exquisite gentleness and forbearance could have made the lessons
otherwise than painful to us both. Well for me that the "right to
govern wrong" was to her a simple truth--an inalienable marital
privilege, to be met with that unqualified submission which must have
shamed the worst temper into self-control. Eive on one occasion made a
similar request; but besides that I realised the convenience of a
medium of communication understood by ourselves alone, I had no
inclination to expose either my own temper or Eive's to the trial.
Eveena's second request came naturally from one whose favourite
amusement had been the raising and modification of flowers. She asked
to be entrusted with the charge of the seeds I had brought from Earth,
and to be permitted to form a bed in the peristyle for the purpose of
the experiment. Though this disfigured the perfect arrangement of the
garden, I was delighted to have so important and interesting a problem
worked out by hands so skilful and so careful. I should probably have
failed to rear a single plant, even had I been familiar with those
applications of electricity to the purpose which are so extensively
employed in Mars. Eveena managed to produce specimens strangely
altered, sometimes stunted, sometimes greatly improved, from about
one-fourth of the seeds entrusted to her; and among those with which
she was most brilliantly successful were some specimens of Turkish
roses, the roses of the attar, which I had obtained at Stamboul. My
admiration of her patience and pleasure in her success deeply
gratified her; and it was a full reward for all her trouble when I
suggested that she should send to her sister Zevle a small packet of
each of the seeds with which she had succeeded. It happened, however,
that the few rose seeds had all been planted; and the flowers, though
apparently perfect, produced no seed of their own, probably because
they were not suited to the taste of the flower-birds, and Eveena
somehow forgot or failed to employ the process of artificial
fertilisation.

If anything could have fully reconciled my conscience to the household
relations in which I was rather by weakness than by will inextricably
entangled, it would have been the certainty that by the sacrifice
Eveena had herself enforced on me, and which she persistently refused
to recognise as such, she alone had suffered. True that I could not
give, and could hardly affect for the wives bestowed on me by
another's choice, even such love as the head of a Moslem household may
distribute among as many inmates. But to what I could call love they
had never looked forward. But for the example daily presented before
their own eyes they would no more have missed than they comprehended
it. That they were happier than they had expected, far happier than
they would have been in an ordinary home, happier certainly than in
the schools they had quitted, I could not doubt, and they did not
affect to deny. If my patience were not proof against vexations the
more exasperating from their pettiness, and the sense of ridicule
which constantly attached to them, I could read in the manner of most
and understand from the words of Eunane, who seldom hesitated to speak
her mind, whether its utterances, were flattering or wounding, that
she and her companions found me not only far more indulgent, but
incomparably more just than they had been taught to hope a man could
be. Of justice, indeed, as consisting in restraint on one's own temper
and consideration for the temper of others, Martial manhood is
incapable, or, at any rate, Martial womanhood never suspects its
masters.

Moreover, though no longer blest with the spirits of youth, and
finding little pleasure in what youth calls pleasure, I had escaped
the kind of satiety that seems to attend lives more softly spent than
mine had been; and found a very real and unfading enjoyment in
witnessing the keen enjoyment of these youthful natures in such
liberty as could be accorded and such amusements as the life of this
dull and practical world affords.

Among these, two at least are closely similar to the two favourite
pleasures of European society. Music appears to have been carried,
like most arts and sciences, to a point of mechanical perfection
which, I should suppose, like much of the artificial accuracy and ease
which civilisation has introduced, mars rather than enhances the
natural gratification enjoyed by simpler ages and races. Almost deaf
to music as distinguished from noise, I did not attempt to comprehend
the construction of Martial instruments or the nature of the concords
they emitted. One only struck me with especial surprise by a
peculiarity which, if I could not understand, I could not mistake. A
number of variously coloured flames are made to synchronise with or
actually emit a number of corresponding notes, dancing to, or, more
properly, weaving a series of strangely combined movements in accord
with the music, whose vibrations were directly and inseparably
connected with their motion. But all music is the work of professional
musicians, never the occupation of woman's leisure, never made more
charming to the ear by its association with the movement of beloved
hands or the tones of a cherished voice. Electric wires, connected
with the vast buildings wherein instruments produce what sounds like
fine choral singing as well as musical notes, enable the householder
to turn on at pleasure music equal, I suppose, to the finest operatic
performances or the grandest oratorio, and listen to it at leisure
from the cushions of his own peristyle. This was a great though not
wholly new delight to Eunane and most of her companions. For their
sake only would Eveena ever have resorted to it, for though herself
appreciating music not less highly, and educated to understand it much
more thoroughly, than they, she could derive little gratification from
that which was clearly incomprehensible if not disagreeable to
me--could hardly enjoy a pleasure I could not share.

The theatre was a more prized and less common indulgence. It is little
frequented by the elder Martialists; and not enjoying it themselves,
they seldom sacrifice their hours to the enjoyment of their women. But
it forms so important an aid to education, and tends so much to keep
alive in the public memory impressions which policy will not permit to
fade, that both from the State and from the younger portion of the
community it receives an encouragement quite sufficient to reward the
few who bestow their time and talent upon it. Great buildings, square
or oblong in form, the stage placed at one end, the arched boxes or
galleries from which the spectators look down thereon rising tier
above and behind tier to the further extremity, are constantly filled.
There are no actors, and Martial feeling would hardly allow the
appearance of women as actresses. But an art, somewhat analogous to,
but infinitely surpassing, that displayed in the manipulation of the
most skilfully constructed and most complicated magic lanterns,
enables the conductors of the theatre to present upon the stage a
truly living and moving picture of any scene they desire to exhibit.
The figures appear perfectly real, move with perfect, freedom, and
seem to speak the sounds which, in fact, are given out by a gigantic
hidden phonograph, into which the several parts have long ago been
carefully spoken by male and female voices, the best suited to each
character; and which, by the reversal of its motion, can repeat the
original words almost for ever, with the original tone, accent, and
expression. The illusion is far more perfect than that obtained by all
the resources of stage management and all the skill of the actor's art
in the best theatres of France. After the first novelty, the first
surprise and wonder were exhausted, I must confess that these
representations simply bored me, the more from their length and
character. But even Eveena enjoyed them thoroughly, and my other
companions prized an evening or afternoon thus spent above all other
indulgences. A passage running along at the back of each tier admits
the spectator to boxes so completely private as to satisfy the
strictest requirements of Martial seclusion.

The favourite scenes represent the most striking incidents of Martial
history, or realise the life, usages, and manners of ages long gone
by, before science and invention had created the perfect but
monotonous civilisation that now prevails. One of the most interesting
performances I witnessed commenced with the exhibition of a striking
scene, in which the union of all the various States that had up to
that time divided the planet's surface, and occasionally waged war on
one another, in the first Congress of the World, was realised in the
exact reproduction of every detail which historic records have
preserved. Afterwards was depicted the confusion, declining into
barbarism and rapid degradation, of the Communistic revolution, the
secession of the Zveltau and their merely political adherents, the
construction of their cities, fleets, and artillery, the terrible
battles, in which the numbers of the Communists were hurled back or
annihilated by the asphyxiator and the lightning gun; and finally, the
most remarkable scene in all Martial history, when the last
representatives of the great Anarchy, squalid, miserable, degraded,
and debased in form and features, as well as indicating by their dress
and appearance the utter ruin of art and industry under their rule,
came into the presence of the chief ruler of the rising
State--surrounded by all the splendour which the "magic of property,"
stimulating invention and fostering science, had created--to entreat
admission into the realm of restored civilisation, and a share in the
blessings they had so deliberately forfeited and so long striven to
deny to others.

CHAPTER XXI - PRIVATE AUDIENCES.

I spent my days between mist and mist, according to the Martial
saying, not infrequently in excursions more or less extensive and
adventurous, in which I could but seldom ask Eveena's company, and did
not care for any other. Comparatively courageous as she had learned to
be, and free from all affectation of pretty feminine fear, Eveena
could never realise the practical immunity from ordinary danger which
a strength virtually double that I had enjoyed on Earth, and thorough
familiarity with the dangers of travel, of mountaineering, and of the
chase, afforded me. When, therefore, I ventured among the hills alone,
followed the fishermen and watched their operations, sometimes in
terribly rough weather, from the little open surface-boat which I
could manage myself, I preferred to give her no definite idea of my
intentions. Davilo, however, protested against my exposure to a peril
of which Eveena was happily as yet unaware.

"If your intentions are never known beforehand," he said, "still your
habit of going forth alone in places to which your steps might easily
be dogged, where you might be shot from an ambush or drowned by a
sudden attack from a submarine vessel, will soon be pretty generally
understood, if, as I fear, a regular watch is set upon your life. At
least let me know what your intentions are before starting, and make
your absences as irregular and sudden as possible. The less they are
known beforehand, even in your own household, the better."

"Is it midnight still in the Council Chamber?" I asked.

"Very nearly so. She who has told so much can tell us no more. The
clue that placed her in mental relations with the danger did not
extend to its authorship. We have striven hard to find in every
conceivable direction some material key to the plot, some object
which, having been in contact with the persons of those we suspect,
probably at the time when their plans were arranged, might serve as a
link between her thoughts and theirs; but as yet unsuccessfully.
Either her vision is darkened, or the connection we have sought to
establish is wanting. But you know who is your unsparing personal
enemy; and, after the Sovereign himself, no man in this world is so
powerful; while the Sovereign himself is, owing to the restraints of
his position, less active, less familiar with others, less acquainted
with what goes on out of his own sight. Again I say we can avenge; but
against secret murder our powers only avail to deter. If we would
save, it must be by the use of natural precautions."

What he said made me desirous of some conversation with Eveena before
I started on a meditated visit to the Palace. If I could not tell her
the whole truth, she knew something; and I thought it possible on this
occasion so far to enlighten her as to consult with her how the secret
of my intended journeys should in future be kept. But I found no
chance of speaking to her until, shortly before my departure, I was
called upon to decide one of the childish disputes which constantly
disturbed my temper and comfort. Mere fleabites they were; but fleas
have often kept me awake a whole night in a Turkish caravanserai, and
half-a-dozen mosquitos inside an Indian tent have broken up the sleep
earned on a long day's march or a sharply contested battlefield. I
need only say that I extorted at last from Eveena a clear statement of
the trifle at issue, which flatly contradicted those of the four
participants in the squabble. She began to suggest a means of proving
the truth, and they broke into angry clamour. Silencing them all
peremptorily, I drew Eveena into my own chamber, and, when assured
that we were unheard, reproved her for proposing to support her own
word by evidence.

"Do you think," I said, "that any possible proof would induce me to
doubt you, or add anything to the assurance I derive from your word?"

"But," she urged, "that cannot be just to others. They must feel it
very hard that your love for me makes you take all I say for truth."
"Not my love, but my knowledge. 'Be not righteous overmuch.' Don't
forget that they _know_ the truth as well as you."

I would hear no more, and passed to the matter I had at heart....

Earnestly, and in a sense sincerely, as upon my second audience I had
thanked the Campta for his munificent gifts, no day passed that I
would not thankfully have renounced the wealth he had bestowed if I
could at the same time have renounced what was, in intention and
according to Martial ideas, the most gracious and most remarkable of
his favours. On the present occasion I thought for a moment that such
renunciation might have been possible.

The Prince had, after our first interview, observed with regard to
every point of my story on which I had been carefully silent a
delicacy of reserve very unusual among Martialists, and quite
unintelligible to his Court and officers. To-day the conversation in
public turned again upon my voyage. Endo and another studiously
directed it to the method of steering, and the intentional diminution
of speed in my descent, corresponding to its gradual increase at the
commencement of the journey--points at which they hoped to find some
opening to the mystery of the motive force. The Prince relieved me
from some embarrassment by requesting me as usual to attend him to his
private cabinet.

He said:--"I have not, as you must be aware, pressed you to disclose a
secret which, for some reason or other, you are evidently anxious to
preserve. Of course the exclusive possession of a motive power so
marvellous as that employed in your voyage is of almost incalculable
pecuniary value, and it is perfectly right that you should use your
own discretion with regard to the time and the terms of its
communication."

"Pardon me," I interposed, "if I interrupt you, Prince, to prevent any
misconception. It is not with a view to profit that I have carefully
avoided giving any clue whatever to my secret. Tour munificence would
render it most ungrateful and unjust in me to haggle over the price of
any service I could render you; and I should be greedy indeed if I
desired greater wealth than you have bestowed. If I may say so without
offending, I earnestly wish that you would permit me, by resigning
your gifts, to retain in my own eyes the right to keep my secret
without seeming undutiful or unthankful."

"I have said," he replied, "that on that point you misconceive our
respective positions. No one supposes that you are indebted to us for
anything more than it was the duty of the Sovereign to give, as a mark
of the universal admiration and respect, to our guest from another
world; still less could any imagine that on such a trifle could be
founded any claim to a secret so invaluable. You will offend me much
and only if you ever again speak of yourself as bound by personal
obligation to me or mine. But as we are wishful to buy, so I cannot
understand any reluctance on your part to sell your secret on your own
terms."

"I think, Prince," I replied, "that I have already asked you what you
would think of a subject of your own, who should put such a power into
the hands of enemies as formidable to you as you would be to the races
of the Earth."

"And _I_ think," he rejoined with a smile, "that I reminded you how
little my judgment would matter to one possessed of such a power. I
have gathered from your conversation how easily we might conquer a
world as far behind us in destructive powers as in general
civilisation. But why should you object? You can make your own terms
both for yourself and for any of your race for whom you feel an
especial interest."

"A traitor is none the less a despicable and loathsome wretch because
his Prince cannot punish him. I am bound by no direct tie of loyalty
to any Terrestrial sovereign. I was born the subject of one of the
greatest monarchs of the Earth; I left his country at an early age,
and my youth was passed in the service of less powerful rulers, to one
at least of whom I long owed the same military allegiance that binds
your guards and officers to yourself. But that obligation also is at
an end. Nevertheless, I cannot but recognise that I owe a certain
fealty to the race to which I belong, a duty to right and justice.
Even if I thought, which I do not think, that the Earth would be
better governed and its inhabitants happier under your rule, I should
have no right to give them up to a conquest I know they would fiercely
and righteously resist. If--pardon me for saying it--you, Prince,
would commit no common crime in assailing and slaughtering those who
neither have wronged nor can wrong you, one of themselves would be
tenfold more guilty in sharing your enterprise."

"You shall ensure," he replied, "the good government of your own world
as you will. You shall rule it with all the authority possessed by the
Regents under me, and by the laws which you think best suited to races
very different from our own. You shall be there as great and absolute
as I am here, paying only an obedience to me and my successors which,
at so immense a distance, can be little more than formal."

"Is it to acquire a merely formal power that a Prince like yourself
would risk the lives of your own people, and sacrifice those of
millions of another race?"

"To tell you the truth," he replied, "I count on commanding the
expedition myself; and perhaps I care more for the adventure than for
its fruits. You will not expect me to be more chary of the lives of
others than of my own?"

"I understand, and as a soldier could share, perhaps, a feeling
natural to a great, a capable, and an ambitious Prince. But alike as
soldier and subject it is my duty to resist, not to aid, such an
ambition. My life is at your disposal, but even to save my life I
could not betray the lives of hundreds of millions and the future of a
whole world."

"I fail to understand you fully," he said, abandoning with a sigh a
hope that had evidently been the object of long and eager day-dreams.
"But in no case would I try to force from you what you will not give
or sell; and if you speak sincerely--and I suppose you must do so,
since I can see no motive but those you assign that could induce you
to refuse my offer--I must believe in the existence of what I have
heard of now and then but deemed incredible--men who are governed by
care for other things than their own interests, who believe in right
and wrong, and would rather suffer injustice than commit it."

"You may be sure, Prince," I replied, perhaps imprudently, "that there
are such men in your own world, though they are perhaps among those
who are least known and least likely to be seen at your Court."

"If you know them," he said, "you will render me no little service in
bringing them to my knowledge."

"It is possible," I ventured to observe, "that their distinguishing
excellences are connected with other distinctions which might render
it a disservice to them to indicate their peculiar character, I will
not say to yourself, but to those around you."

"I hardly understand you," he rejoined. "Take, however, my assurance
that nothing you say here shall, without your own consent, be used
elsewhere. It is no light gratification, no trifling advantage to me,
to find one man who has neither fear nor interest that can induce him
to lie to me; to whom I can speak, not as sovereign to subject, but as
man to man, and of whose private conversation my courtiers and
officials are not yet suspicious or jealous. You shall never repent
any confidence you give to me."

My interest in and respect for the strange character so manifestly
suited for, so intensely weary of, the grandest position that man
could fill, increased with each successive interview. I never envied
that greatness which seems to most men so enviable. The servitude of a
constitutional King, so often a puppet in the hands of the worst and
meanest of men--those who prostitute their powers as rulers of a State
to their interests as chiefs of a faction--must seem pitiable to any
rational manhood. But even the autocracy of the Sultan or the Czar
seems ill to compensate the utter isolation of the throne; the lonely
grandeur of one who can hardly have a friend, since he can never have
an equal, among those around him. I do not wonder that a tinge of
melancholo-mania is so often perceptible in the chiefs of that great
House whose Oriental absolutism is only "tempered by assassination."
But an Earthly sovereign may now and then meet his fellow-sovereigns,
whether as friends or foes, on terms of frank hatred or loyal
openness. His domestic relations, though never secure and simple as
those of other men, may relieve him at times from the oppressive sense
of his sublime solitude; and to his wife, at any rate, he may for a
few minutes or hours be the husband and not the king. But the absolute
Ruler of this lesser world had neither equal friends nor open foes,
neither wife nor child. How natural then his weariness of his own
life; how inevitable his impatient scorn of those to whom that life
was devoted! A despot not even accountable to God--a Prince who, till
he conversed with me, never knew that the universe contained his equal
or his like--it spoke much, both for the natural strength and
soundness of his intellect and for the excellence of his education,
that he was so sane a man, so earnest, active, and just a ruler. His
reign was signalised by a better police, a more even administration of
justice, a greater efficiency, judgment, and energy in the execution
of great works of public utility, than his realm had known for a
thousand years; and his duty was done as diligently and
conscientiously as if he had known that conscience was the voice of a
supreme Sovereign, and duty the law of an unerring and unescapable
Lawgiver. Alone among a race of utterly egotistical cowards, he had
the courage of a soldier, and the principles, or at least the
instincts, worthy of a Child of the Star. With him alone could I have
felt a moment's security from savage attempts to extort by terror or
by torture the secret I refused to sell; and I believe that his
generous abstinence from such an attempt was as exasperating as it was
incomprehensible to his advisers, and chiefly contributed to involve
him in the vengeance which baffled greed and humbled personal pride
had leagued to wreak upon myself, as on those with whose welfare and
safety my own were inextricably intertwined. It was a fortunate, if
not a providential, combination of circumstances that compelled the
enemies of the Star, primarily on my account, to interweave with their
scheme of murderous persecution and private revenge an equally
ruthless and atrocious treason against the throne and person of their
Monarch.

My audience had detained me longer than I had expected, and the
evening mist had fairly closed in before I returned. Entering, not as
usual through the grounds and the peristyle, but by the vestibule and
my own chamber, and hidden by my half-open window, I overheard an
exceedingly characteristic discussion on the incident of the morning.

"Serve her right!" Leenoo was saying. "That she should for once get
the worst of it, and be disbelieved to sharpen the sting!"

"How do you know?" asked Enva. "I don't feel so sure we have heard the
last of it."

"Eveena did not seem to have liked her half-hour," answered Leenoo
spitefully. "Besides, if he did not disbelieve her story, he would
have let her prove it."

"Is that your reliance?" broke in Eunane. "Then you are swinging on a
rotten branch. I would not believe my ears if, for all that all of us
could invent against her, I heard him so much as ask Eveena, 'Are you
speaking the truth?'"

"It is very uneven measure," muttered Enva.

"Uneven!" cried Eunane. "Now, I think _I_ have the best right to be
jealous of her place; and it does sting me that, when he takes me for
his companion out of doors, or makes most of me at home, it is so
plain that he is taking trouble, as if he grudged a soft word or a
kiss to another as something stolen from her. But he deals evenly,
after all. If he were less tender of her we should have to draw our
zones tighter. But he won't give us the chance to say, 'Teach the
_amba_ with stick and the _esve_ with sugar.'"

"I do say it. She is never snubbed or silenced; and if she has had
worse than what he calls 'advice' to-day, I believe it is the first
time. She has never 'had cause to wear the veil before the household'
[to hide blushes or tears], or found that his 'lips can give sharper
sting than their kiss can heal,' like the rest of us."

"What for? If he wished to find her in fault he would have to watch
her dreams. Do you expect him to be harder to her than to us? He don't
'look for stains with a microscope.' None of us can say that he
'drinks tears for taste.' None of us ever 'smarted because the sun
scorched _him_.' Would you have him 'tie her hands for being white'?"
[punish her for perfection].

"She is never at fault because he never believes us against her,"
returned Leenoo.

"How often would he have been right? I saw nothing of to-day's
quarrel, but I know beforehand where the truth lay. I tell you this:
he hates the sandal more than the sin, but, strange as it seems, he
hates a falsehood worse still; and a falsehood against Eveena--If you
want to feel 'how the spear-grass cuts when the sheath bursts,' let
him find you out in an experiment like this! You congratulate
yourself, Leenoo, that you have got her into trouble. _Elnerve_ that
you are!--if you have, you had better have poisoned his cup before his
eyes. For every tear he sees her shed he will reckon with us at twelve
years' usury."

"_You_ have made her shed some," retorted Enva.

"Yes," said Eunane, "and if he knew it, I should like half a year's
penance in the black sash" [as the black sheep or scapegoat of her
Nursery] "better than my next half-hour alone with him. When I was
silly enough to tie the veil over her mouth" [take the lead in sending
her to Coventry] "the day after we came here, I expected to pay for
it, and thought the fruit worth the scratches. But when he came in
that evening, nodded and spoke kindly to us, but with his eyes seeking
for her; when he saw her at last sitting yonder with her head down, I
saw how his face darkened at the very idea that she was vexed, and I
thought the flash was in the cloud. When she sprang up as he called
her, and forced a smile before he looked into her face, I wished I had
been as ugly as Minn oo, that I might have belonged to the miseries,
worst-tempered man living, rather than have so provoked the giant."

"But what did he do?"

"Well that he don't hear you!" returned Eunane. "But I can
answer;--nothing. I shivered like a _leveloo_ in the wind when he came
into my room, but I heard nothing about Eveena. I told Eive so next
day--you remember Eive would have no part with us? 'And you were
called the cleverest girl in your Nursery!' she said; 'you have just
tied your own hands and given your sandal into Eveena's. Whenever she
tells him, you will drink the cup she chooses to mix for you, and very
salt you will find it.'"

"Crach!" (tush or stuff), said Eirale contemptuously. "We have 'filled
her robe with pins' for half a year since then, and she has never been
able to make him count them."

"Able!" returned Eunane sharply, "do you know no better? Well, I chose
to fancy she was holding this over me to keep me in her power. One day
she spoke--choosing her words so carefully--to warn me how I was sure
to anger Clasfempta" (the master of the household) "by pushing my
pranks so often to the verge of safety and no farther. I answered her
with a taunt, and, of course, that evening I was more perverse than
ever, till even he could stand it no longer. When he quoted--

"'More lightly treat whom haste or heat to headlong trespass urge;
The heaviest sandals fit the feet that ever tread the verge'--

"I was well frightened. I saw that the bough had broken short of the
end, and that for once Clasfempta could mean to hurt. But Eveena kept
him awhile, and when he came to me, she had persuaded him that I was
only mischievous, not malicious, teasing rather than trespassing. But
his last words showed that he was not so sure of that. 'I have treated
you this time as a child whose petulance is half play; but if you
would not have your teasing returned with interest, keep it clipped;
and--keep it for _me_.' I have often tormented her since then, but I
could not for shame help you to spite her."

"Crach!" said Enva. "Eveena might think it wise to make friends with
you; but would she bear to be slighted and persecuted a whole summer
if she could help herself? You know that--

"Man's control in woman's hand
Sorest tries the household band.
Closer favourite's kisses cling,
Favourite's fingers sharper sting.'"

"Very likely," replied Eunane. "I cannot understand any more than you
can why Eveena screens instead of punishing us; why she endures what a
word to him would put down under her sandal; but she does. Does she
cast no shadow because it never darkens his presence to us? And after
all, her mind is not a deeper darkness to me than his. He enjoys life
as no man here does; but what he enjoys most is a good chance of
losing it; while those who find it so tedious guard it like
watch-dragons. When the number of accidents made it difficult to fill
up the Southern hunt at any price, the Campta's refusal to let him go
so vexed him that Eveena was half afraid to show her sense of relief.
You would think he liked pain--the scars of the _kargynda_ are not his
only or his deepest ones--if he did not catch at every excuse to spare
it. And, again, why does he speak to Eveena as to the Campta, and to
us as to children--'child' is his softest word for us? Then, he is
patient where you expect no mercy, and severe where others would
laugh. When Enva let the electric stove overheat the water, so that he
was scalded horribly in his bath, we all counted that he would at
least have paid her back the pain twice over. But as soon as Eveena
and Eive had arranged the bandages, he sent for her. We could scarcely
bring you to him, Enva; but he put out the only hand he could move to
stroke your hair as he does Eive's, and spoke for once with real
tenderness, as if you were the person to be pitied! Any one else would
have laughed heartily at the figure her _esve_ made with half her tail
pulled out. But not all Eveena's pleading could obtain pardon for me."

"That was caprice, not even dealing," said Leenoo. "You were not half
so bad as Enva."

"He made me own that I was," replied Eunane. "It never occurred to him
to suppose or say that she did it on purpose. But I was cruel on
purpose to the bird, if I were not spiteful to its mistress. 'Don't
you feel,' he said, 'that intentional cruelty is what no ruler,
whether of a household or of a kingdom, has a right to pass over? If
not, you can hardly be fit for a charge that gives animals into your
power.' I never liked him half so well; and I am sure I deserved a
severer lesson. Since then, I cannot help liking them both; though it
_is_ mortifying to feel that one is nothing before her."

"It is intolerable," said Enva bitterly; "I detest her."

"Is it her fault?" asked Eunane with some warmth. "They are so like
each other and so unlike us, that I could fancy she came from his own
world. I went to her next day in her own room."

"Ay," interjected Leenoo with childish spite, "'kiss the foot and
'scape the sandal.'"

"Think so," returned Eunane quietly, "if you like. I thought I owed
her some amends. Well, she had her bird in her lap, and I think she
was crying over it. But as soon as she saw me she put it out of sight.
I began to tell her how sorry I was about it, but she would not let me
go on. She kissed me as no one ever kissed me since my school friend
Ernie died three years ago; and she cried more over the trouble I had
brought on myself than over her pet. And since then," Eunane went on
with a softened voice, "she has showed me how pretty its ways are, how
clever it is, how fond of her, and she tries to make it friends with
me.... Sometimes I don't wonder she is so much to him and he to her.
She was brought up in the home where she was born. Her father is one
of those strange people; and I fancy there is something between her
and Clasfempta more than...."

I could not let this go on; and stepping back from the window as if I
had but just returned, I called Eunane by name. She came at once, a
little surprised at the summons, but suspecting nothing. But the first
sight of my face startled her; and when, on the impulse of the moment,
I took her hands and looked straight into her eyes, her quick
intelligence perceived at once that I had heard at least part of the
conversation.

"Ah," she said, flushing and hanging her head, "I am caught now,
but"--in a tone half of relief--"I deserve it, and I won't pretend to
think that you are angry only because Eveena is your favourite. You
would not allow any of us to be spited if you could help it, and it is
much worse to have spited her."

I led her by the hand across the peristyle into her own chamber, and
when the window closed behind us, drew her to my side.

"So you would rather belong to the worst master of your own race than
to me?"

"Not now," she answered. "That was my first thought when I saw how you
felt for Eveena, and knew how angry you would be when you found how
we--I mean how I--had used her, and I remembered how terribly strong
you were. I know you better now. It is for women to strike with five
fingers" (in unmeasured passion); "only, don't tell Eveena. Besides,"
she murmured, colouring, with drooping eyelids, "I had rather be
beaten by you than caressed by another."

"Eunane, child, you might well say you don't understand me. I could
not have listened to your talk if I had meant to use it against you;
and with _you_ I have no cause to be displeased. Nay" (as she looked
up in surprise), "I know you have not used Eveena kindly, but I heard
from yourself that you had repented. That she, who could never be
coaxed or compelled to say what made her unhappy, or even to own that
I had guessed it truly, has fully forgiven you, you don't need to be
told."

"Indeed, I don't understand," the girl sobbed. "Eveena is always so
strangely soft and gentle--she would rather suffer without reason than
let us suffer who deserve it. But just because she is so kind, you
must feel the more bitterly for her. Besides," she went on, "I was so
jealous--as if you could compare me with her--even after I had felt
her kindness. No! you cannot forgive _for her_, and you ought not."

"Child," I answered, sadly enough, for my conscience was as ill at
ease as hers, with deeper cause, "I don't tell you that your jealousy
was not foolish and your petulance culpable; but I do say that neither
Eveena nor I have the heart--perhaps I have not even the right--to
blame you. It is true that I love Eveena as I can love no other in
this world or my own. How well she deserves that love none but I can
know. So loving her, I would not willingly have brought any other
woman into a relation which could make her dependent upon or desirous
of such love as I cannot give. You know how this relation to you and
the others was forced upon me. When I accepted it, I thought I could
give you as much affection as you would find elsewhere. How far and
why I wronged Eveena is between her and myself. I did not think that I
could be wronging you."

Very little of this was intelligible to Eunane. She felt a tenderness
she had never before received; but she could not understand my doubt,
and she replied only to my last words.

"Wrong us! How could you? Did we ask whether you had another wife, or
who would be your favourite? Did you promise to like us, or even to be
kind to us? You might have neglected us altogether, made one girl your
sole companion, kept all indulgences, all favours, for her; and how
would you have wronged us? If you had turned on us when she vexed you,
humbled us to gratify her caprice, ill-used us to vent your temper,
other men would have done the same. Who else would have treated us as
you have done? Who would have been careful to give each of us her
share in every pleasure, her turn in every holiday, her employment at
home, her place in your company abroad? Who would have inquired into
the truth of our complaints and the merits of our quarrels; would have
made so many excuses for our faults, given us so many patient
warnings?... Wronged us! There may be some of us who don't like you;
there is not one who could bear to be sent away, not one who would
exchange this house for the palace of the campta though you pronounce
him kingly in nature as in power."

She spoke as she believed, if she spoke in error. "If so, my child,
why have you all been so bitter against Eveena? Why have you yourself
been jealous of one who, as you admit, has been a favourite only in a
love you did not expect?"

"But we saw it, and we envied her so much love, so much respect," she
replied frankly. "And for myself,"--she coloured, faltered, and was
silent. "For yourself, my child?"

"I was a vain fool," she broke out impetuously. "They told me that I
was beautiful, and clever, and companionable. I fancied I should be
your favourite, and hold the first place; and when I saw her, I would
not see her grace and gentleness, or observe her soft sweet voice, and
the charms that put my figure and complexion to shame, and the quiet
sense and truth that were worth twelvefold my quickness, my memory,
and my handiness. I was disappointed and mortified that she should be
preferred. Oh, how you must hate me, Clasfempta; for I hate myself
while I tell you what I have been!"

According to European doctrine, my fealty to Eveena must then have
been in peril. And yet, warmly as I felt for Eunane, the element in
her passionate confession that touched me most was her recognition of
Eveena's superiority; and as I soothed and comforted the half-childish
penitent, I thought how much it would please Eveena that I had at last
come to an understanding with the companion she avowedly liked the
best.

"But, Eunane," I said at last, "do you remember what you were saying
when I called you--called you on purpose to stop you? You said that
there was something between Eveena and myself more than---more than
what? What did you mean? Speak frankly, child; I know that this time
you were not going to scald me on purpose."

"I don't know quite what I meant," she replied simply. "But the first
time you took me out, I heard the superintendent say some strange
things; and then he checked himself when he found your companion was
not Eveena. Then Eive--I mean--you use expressions sometimes in
talking to Eveena that we never heard before. I think there is some
secret between you."

"And if there be, Eunane, were _you_ going to betray it--to set Enva
and Leenoo on to find it out?"

"I did not think," she said. "I never do think before I get into
trouble. I don't say, forgive me this time; but I _will_ hold my
tongue for the future."

By this time our evening meal was ready. As I led Eunane to her place,
Eveena looked up with some little surprise. It was rarely that,
especially on returning from absence, I had sought any other company
than hers. But there was no tinge of jealousy or doubt in her look. On
the contrary, as, with her entire comprehension of every expression of
my face, and her quickness to read the looks of others, she saw in
both countenances that we were on better terms than ever before, her
own brightened at the thought. As I placed myself beside her, she
stole her hand unobserved into mine, and pressed it as she whispered--

"You have found her out at last. She is half a child as yet; but she
has a heart--and perhaps the only one among them."

"The four," as I called them, looked up as we approached with eager
malice:--bitterly disappointed, when they saw that Eunane had won
something more than pardon. Whatever penance they had dreaded, their
own escape ill compensated the loss of their expected pleasure in the
pain and humiliation of a finer nature. Eunane's look, timidly
appealing to her to ratify our full reconciliation, answered by
Eveena's smile of tender, sisterly sympathy, enhanced and completed
their discomfiture.

CHAPTER XXII - PECULIAR INSTITUTIONS.

A chief luxury and expense in which, when aware what my income was, I
indulged myself freely was the purchase of Martial literature. Only
ephemeral works are as a rule printed in the phonographic character,
which alone I could read with ease. The Martialists have no
newspapers. It does not seem to them worth while to record daily the
accidents, the business incidents, the prices, the amusements, and the
follies of the day; and politics they have none. In no case would a
people so coldly wise, so thoroughly impressed by experience with a
sense of the extreme folly of political agitation, legislative change,
and democratic violence, have cursed themselves with anything like the
press of Europe or America. But as it is, all they have to record is
gathered each twelfth day at the telegraph offices, and from these
communicated on a single sheet about four inches square to all who
care to receive it. But each profession or occupation that boasts, as
do most, an organisation and a centre of discussion and council,
issues at intervals books containing collected facts, essays, reports
of experiments, and lectures. Every man who cares to communicate his
passing ideas to the public does so by means of the phonograph. When
he has a graver work, which is, in his view at least, of permanent
importance to publish, it is written in the stylographic character,
and sold at the telegraphic centres. The extreme complication and
compression employed in this character had, as I have already said,
rendered it very difficult to me; and though I had learnt to decipher
it as a child spells out the words which a few years later it will
read unconsciously by the eye, the only manner in which I could
quickly gather the sense of such books was by desiring one or other of
the ladies to read them aloud. Strangely enough, next to Eveena, Eive
was by far the best reader. Eunane understood infinitely better what
she was perusing; but the art of reading aloud is useless, and
therefore never taught, in schools whose every pupil learns to read
with the usual facility a character which the practised eye can
interpret incomparably faster than the voice could possibly utter it.
This reading might have afforded many opportunities of private
converse with Eveena, but that Eive, whose knowledge was by no means
proportionate to her intelligence, entreated permission to listen to
the books I selected; and Eveena, though not partial to her childish
companion and admirer, persuaded me not to refuse.

The story of my voyage and reports of my first audience at Court were,
of course, widely circulated and extensively canvassed. Though
regarded with no favour, especially by the professed philosophers and
scientists, my adventures and myself were naturally an object of great
curiosity; and I was not surprised when a civil if cold request was
preferred, on behalf of what I may call the Martial Academy, that I
would deliver in their hall a series of lectures, or rather a
connected oral account of the world from which I professed to have
come, and of the manner in which my voyage had been accomplished.
After consulting Eveena and Davilo, I accepted the invitation, and
intended to take the former with me. She objected, however, that while
she had heard much in her father's house and during our travels of
what I had to tell, her companions, scarcely less interested, were
comparatively ignorant. Indiscreetly, because somewhat provoked by
these repeated sacrifices, as much of my inclination as her own, I
mentioned my purpose at our evening meal, and bade her name those who
should accompany me. I was a little surprised when, carefully evading
the dictation to which she was invited, she suggested that Eunane and
Eive would probably most enjoy the opportunity. That she should be
willing to get rid of the most wilful and petulant of the party seemed
natural. The other selection confirmed the impression I had formed,
but dared not express to one whom I had never blamed without finding
myself in the wrong, that Eveena regarded Eive with a feeling more
nearly approaching to jealousy than her nature seemed capable of
entertaining. I obeyed, however, without comment; and both the
companions selected for me were delighted at the prospect.

The Academy is situated about half-way between Amacasfe and the
Residence; the facilities of Martial travelling, and above all of
telegraphic and telephonic communication, dispensing with all reason
for placing great institutions in or near important cities. We
traveller by balloon, as I was anxious to improve myself in the
management of these machines. After frightening my companions so far
as to provoke some, outcry from Eive, and from Eunane some saucy
remarks on my clumsiness, on which no one else would have ventured, I
descended safely, if not very creditably, in front of the building
which serves as a local centre of Martial philosophy. The residences
of some sixty of the most eminent professors of various
sciences--elected by their colleagues as seats fall vacant, with the
approval of the highest Court of Judicature and of the campta--cluster
around a huge building in the form of a hexagon made up of a multitude
of smaller hexagons, in the centre whereof is the great hall of the
same shape. In the smaller chambers which surround it are telephones
through which addresses delivered in a hundred different quarters are
mechanically repeated; so that the residents or temporary visitors can
here gather at once all the knowledge that is communicated by any man
of note to any audience throughout the planet. On this account numbers
of young men just emancipated from the colleges come here to complete
their education; and above each of the auditory chambers is another
divided into six small rooms, wherein these visitors are accommodated.
A small house belonging to one of the members who happened to be
absent was appropriated to me during my stay, and in its hall the
philosophers gathered in the morning to converse with or to question
me in detail respecting the world whose existence they would not
formally admit, but whose life, physical, social, and political, and
whose scientific and human history, they regarded with as much
curiosity as if its reality were ascertained. Courtesy forbids evening
visits unless on distinct and pressing invitation, it being supposed
that the head of a household may care to spend that part of his time,
and that alone, with his own family.

The Academists are provided by the State with incomes, of an amount
very much larger than the modest allowances which the richest nations
of the Earth almost grudge to the men whose names in future history
will probably be remembered longer than those of eminent statesmen and
warriors. Some of them have made considerable fortunes by turning to
account in practical invention this or that scientific discovery. But
as a rule, in Mars as on Earth, the gifts and the career of the
discoverer, and the inventor are distinct. It is, however, from the
purely theoretical labours of the men of science that the inventions
useful in manufactures, in communication, in every department of life
and business, are generally derived; and the prejudice or judgment of
this strange people has laid it down that those who devote their lives
to work in itself unremunerative, but indirectly most valuable to the
public, should be at least as well off as the subordinate servants of
the State. In society they are perhaps more honoured than any but the
highest public authorities; and my audience was the most
distinguished, according to the ideas of that world, that it could
furnish.

At noon each day I entered the hall, which was crowded with benches
rising on five sides from the centre to the walls, the sixth being
occupied by a platform where the lecturer and the members of the
Academy sat. After each lecture, which occupied some two hours,
questions more or less perplexing were put by the latter. Only,
however, on the first occasion, when I reserved, as before the Zinta
and the Court, all information that could enable my hearers to divine
the nature of the apergic force, was incredulity so plainly insinuated
as to amount to absolute insult.

"If," I said, "you choose to disbelieve what I tell you, you are
welcome to do so. But you are not at liberty to express your disbelief
to me. To do so is to charge me with lying; and to that charge,
whatever may be the customs of this world, there is in mine but one
answer," and I laid my hand on the hilt of the sword I wore in
deference to Davilo's warnings, but which he and others considered a
Terrestrial ornament rather than a weapon.

The President of the Academy quietly replied--"Of all the strange
things we have heard, this seems the strangest. I waive the
probability of your statements, or the reasonableness of the doubts
suggested. But I fail to understand how, here or in any other world,
if the imputation of falsehood be considered so gross an offence--and
here it is too common to be so regarded--it can be repelled by proving
yourself more skilled in the use of weapons, or stronger or more
daring than the person who has challenged your assertion."

The moral courage and self-possession of the President were as marked
as his logic was irrefragable; but my outbreak, however illogical,
served its purpose. No one was disposed to give mortal offence to one
who showed himself so ready to resent it, though probably the
apprehension related less to my swordsmanship than the favour I was
supposed to enjoy with the Suzerain.

Seriously impressed by the growing earnestness of Davilo's warnings,
and feeling that I could no longer conceal the pressure of some
anxiety on my mind, gradually, cautiously, and tenderly I broke to
Eveena what I had learned, with but two reserves. I would not render
her life miserable by the suggestion of possible treason in our own
household. That she might not infer this for herself, I led her to
believe that the existence and discovery of the conspiracy was of a
date long subsequent to my acceptance of the Sovereign's unwelcome
gift. She was deeply affected, and, as I had feared, exceedingly
disturbed. But, very characteristically, the keenest impression made
upon her mind concerned less the urgency of the peril than its origin,
the fact that it was incurred through and for her. On this she
insisted much more than seemed just or reasonable. It was for her
sake, no doubt, that I had made the Regent of Elcavoo my bitter,
irreconcilable foe. It was my marriage with her, the daughter of the
most eminent among the chiefs of the Zinta, that had marked me out as
one of the first and principal victims, and set on my head a value as
high as on that of any of the Order save the Arch-Enlightener himself,
whose personal character and social distinction would have indicated
him as especially dangerous, even had his secret rank been altogether
unsuspected. It was impossible to soothe Eveena's first outbreak of
feeling, or reason with her illogical self-reproach. Compelled at last
to admit that the peril had been unconsciously incurred when she
neither knew nor could have known it, she pleaded eagerly and
earnestly for permission to repair by the sacrifice of herself the
injury she had brought upon me. It was useless to tell her that the
acceptance of such a sacrifice would be a thousand-fold worse than
death. Even the depth and devotion of her own love could not persuade
her to realise the passionate earnestness of mine. It was still more
in vain to remind her that such a concession must entail the dishonour
that man fears above all perils; would brand me with that indelible
stain of abject personal cowardice which for ever degrades and ruins
not only the fame but the nature of manhood, as the stain of wilful
unchastity debases and ruins woman.

"Rescind our contract," she insisted, pleading, with the overpowering
vehemence of a love absolutely unselfish, against love's deepest
instincts and that egotism which is almost inseparable from it; giving
passionate utterance to an affection such as men rarely feel for
women, women perhaps never for men. "Divorce me; force the enemy to
believe that you have broken with my father and with his Order; and,
favoured as you are by the Sovereign, you will be safe. Give what
reason you will; say that I have deserved it, that I have forced you
to it. I know that contracts _are_ revoked with the full approval of
the Courts and of the public, though I hardly know why. I will agree;
and if we are agreed, you can give or withhold reasons as you please.
Nay, there can be no wrong to me in doing what I entreat you to do. I
shall not suffer long--no, no, I _will_ live, I will be happy"--her
face white to the lips, her streaming tears were not needed to belie
the words! "By your love for me, do not let me feel that you are to
die--do not keep me in dread to hear that you have died--for me and
through me."

If it had been in her power to leave me, if one-half of the promised
period had not been yet to run, she might have enforced her purpose in
despite of all that I could urge;--of reason, of entreaty, of the
pleadings of a love in this at least as earnest as her own. Nay, she
would probably have left me, in the hope of exhibiting to the world
the appearance of an open quarrel, but for a peculiarity of Martial
law. That law enforces, on the plea of either party, "specific
performance" of the marriage contract. I could reclaim her, and call
the force of the State to recover her. When even this warning at first
failed to enforce her submission, I swore by all I held sacred in my
own world and all she revered in hers--by the symbols never lightly
invoked, and never, in the course of ages that cover thrice the span
of Terrestrial history and tradition, invoked to sanction a lie;
symbols more sacred in her eyes than, in those of mediaeval
Christendom, the gathered relics that appalled the heroic soul of
Harold Godwinsson--that she should only defeat her own purpose; that I
would reclaim my wife before the Order and before the law, thus
asserting more clearly than ever the strength of the tie that bound me
to her and to her house. The oath which it was impossible to break,
perhaps yet more the cold and measured tone with which I spoke, in
striving to control the white heat of a passion as much stronger as it
was more selfish than hers--a tone which sounded to myself unnatural
and alien--at last compelled her to yield; and silenced her in the
only moment in which the depths of that nature, so sweet and soft and
gentle, were stirred by the violence of a moral tempest....
A marvellously perfect example of Martial art and science is furnished
by the Observatory of the Astronomic Academy, on a mountain about
twenty miles from the Residence. The hill selected stands about 4000
feet above the sea-level, and almost half that height above any
neighbouring ground. It commands, therefore, a most perfect view of
the horizon all around, even below the technical or theoretic horizon
of its latitude. A volcano, like all Martial volcanoes very feeble,
and never bursting into eruptions seriously dangerous to the dwellers
in the neighbouring plains, existed at some miles' distance, and
caused earthquakes, or perhaps I should more properly say disturbances
of the surface, which threatened occasionally to perturb the
observations. But the Martialists grudge no cost to render their
scientific instruments, from the Observatory itself to the smallest
lens or wheel it contains, as perfect as possible. Having decided that
Eanelca was very superior to any other available site, they were not
to be baffled or diverted by such a trifle as the opposition of
Nature. Still less would they allow that the observers should be put
out by a perceptible disturbance, or their observations falsified by
one too slight to be realised by their senses. If Nature were
impertinent enough to interfere with the arrangements of science,
science must put down the mutiny of Nature. As seas had been bridged
and continents cut through, so a volcano might and must be suppressed

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