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Across the Zodiac by Percy Greg

Part 7 out of 9

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or extinguished. A tunnel thirty miles in length was cut from a great
lake nearly a thousand feet higher than the base of the volcano; and
through this for a quarter of a year, say some six Terrestrial months,
water was steadily poured into the subterrene cavities wherein the
eruptive forces were generated--the plutonic laboratory of the
rebellious agency. Of course previous to the adoption of this measure,
the crust in the neighbourhood had been carefully explored and tested
by various wonderfully elaborate and perfect boring instruments, and a
map or rather model of the strata for a mile below the surface, and
for a distance around the volcano which I dare not state on the faith
of my recollection alone, had been constructed on a scale, as we
should say, of twelve inches to the mile. Except for minor purposes,
for convenience of pocket carriage and the like, Martialists disdain
so poor a representation as a flat map can give of a broken surface.
On the small scale, they employ globes of spherical sections to
represent extensive portions of their world; on the large scale (from
two to twenty-four inches per mile), models of wonderfully accurate
construction. Consequently, children understand and enjoy the
geographical lesson which in European schools costs so many tears to
so little purpose. A girl of six years knows more perfectly the whole
area of the Martial globe than a German Professor that of the ancient
Peloponnesus. Eive, the dunce of our housed hold, won a Terrestrial
picture-book on which she had set her fancy by tracing on a forty-inch
globe, the first time she saw it, every detail of my journey from
Ecasfe as she had heard me relate it; and Eunane, who had never left
her Nursery, could describe beforehand any route I wished to take
between the northern and southern ice-belts. Under the guidance
afforded by the elaborate model abovementioned, all the hollows
wherein the materials of eruption were stored, and wherein the
chemical forces of Nature had been at work for ages, were thoroughly
flooded. Of course convulsion after convulsion of the most violent
nature followed. But in the course of about two hundred days, the
internal combustion was overmastered for lack of fuel; the chemical
combinations, which might have gone on for ages causing weak but
incessant outbreaks, were completed and their power exhausted.

This source of disturbance extinguished in the reign of the
twenty-fifth predecessor of my royal patron, the construction of the
great Observatory on Eanelca was commenced. A very elaborate road,
winding round and round the mountain at such an incline as to be
easily ascended by the electric carriages, was built. But this was
intended only as a subsidiary means of ascent. Eight into the bowels
of the mountain a vast tunnel fifty feet in height was driven. At its
inner extremity was excavated a chamber whose dimensions are
imperfectly recorded in my notes, but which was certainly much larger
than the central cavern from which radiate the principal galleries of
the Mammoth Cave. Around this were pierced a dozen shafts, emerging at
different heights, but all near the summit, and all so far outside the
central plateau as to leave the solid foundation on which the
Observatory was to rest, down to the very centre of the planet, wholly
undisturbed. Through each of these, ascending and descending
alternately, pass two cars, or rather movable chambers, worked by
electricity, conveying passengers, instruments, or supplies to and
from the most convenient points in the vast structure of the
Observatory itself. The highest part of Ranelca was a rocky mass of
some 1600 feet in circumference and about 200 in height. This was
carved into a perfect octagon, in the sides of which were arranged a
number of minor chambers--among them those wherein transit and other
secondary observations were to be taken, and in which minor magnifying
instruments were placed to scan their several portions of the heavens.
Within these was excavated a circular central chamber, the dome of
which was constructed of a crystal so clear that I verily believe the
most exacting of Terrestrial astronomers would have been satisfied to
make his observations through it. But an opening was made in this
dome, as for the mounting of one of our equatorial telescopes, and
machinery was provided which caused the roof to revolve with a touch,
bringing the opening to bear on any desired part of the celestial
vault. In the centre of the solid floor, levelled to the utmost
perfection, was left a circular pillar supporting the polar axis of an
instrument widely differing from our telescopes, especially in the
fact that it had no opaque tube connecting the essential lenses which
we call the eye-piece and the object-glass, names not applicable to
their Martial substitutes. On my visit to the Observatory, however, I
had not leisure to examine minutely the means by which the images of
stars and planets were produced. I reserved this examination for a
second opportunity, which, as it happened, never occurred.

On this occasion Eveena and Eunane were with me, and the astronomic
pictures which were to be presented to us, and which they could enjoy
and understand almost as fully as myself, sufficiently occupied our
time. Warned to stand at such a distance from the central machinery
that in a whole revolution no part of it could by any possibility
touch us, we were placed near an opening looking into a dark chamber,
with our backs to the objects of observation. In this chamber, not
upon a screen but suspended in the air, presently appeared an image
several thousand times larger than that of the crescent Moon as seen
through a tube small enough to correct the exaggeration of visual
instinct. It appeared, however, not flat, as does the Moon to the
naked eye, but evidently as part of a sphere. At some distance was
shown another crescent, belonging to a sphere whose diameter was a
little more than one-fourth that of the former. The light reflected
from their surfaces was of silver radiance, rather than the golden hue
of the Moon or of Venus as seen through a small telescope. The smaller
crescent I could recognise at once as belonging to our own satellite;
the larger was, of course, the world I had quitted. So exactly is the
clockwork or its substitute adapted to counteract both the rotation
and revolution of Mars, that the two images underwent no other change
of place than that caused by their own proper motion in space; a
movement which, notwithstanding the immense magnifying power employed,
was of course scarcely perceptible. But the rotation of the larger
sphere was visible as we watched it. It so happened that the part
which was at once lighted by the rays of the Sun and exposed to our
observation was but little clouded. The atmosphere, of course,
prevented its presenting the clear, sharply-defined outlines of lunar
landscapes; but sea and land, ice and snow, were so clearly defined
and easily distinguishable that my companions exclaimed with
eagerness, as they observed features unmistakably resembling on the
grand scale those with which they were themselves familiar. The Arctic
ice was scarcely visible in the North. The vast steppes of Russia, the
boundary line of the Ural mountains, the greyish-blue of the Euxine,
Western Asia, Arabia, and the Red Sea joining the long water-line of
the Southern Ocean, were defined by the slanting rays. The Antarctic
ice-continent was almost equally clear, with its stupendous glacier
masses radiating apparently from an elevated extensive land, chiefly
consisting of a deeply scooped and scored plateau of rock, around the
Pole itself. The terminator, or boundary between light and shade, was
not, as in the Moon, pretty sharply defined, and broken only by the
mountainous masses, rings, and sea-beds, if such they are, so
characteristic of the latter. On the image of the Moon there
intervened between bright light and utter darkness but the narrow belt
to which only part of the Sun was as yet visible, and which,
therefore, received comparatively few rays. The twilight to north and
south extended on the image of the Earth deep into that part on which
as yet the Sun was below the horizon, and consequently daylight faded
into darkness all but imperceptibly, save between the tropics. We
watched long and intently as league by league new portions of Europe
and Africa, the Mediterranean, and even the Baltic, came into view;
and I was able to point out to Eveena lands in which I had traveller,
seas I had crossed, and even the isles of the Aegean, and bays in
which my vessel had lain at anchor. This personal introduction to each
part of the image, now presented to her for the first time, enabled
her to realise more forcibly than a lengthened experience of
astronomical observation might have done the likeness to her own world
of that which was passing under her eyes; and at once intensified her
wonder, heightened her pleasure, and sharpened her intellectual
apprehension of the scene. When we had satiated our eyes with this
spectacle, or rather when I remembered that we could spare no more
time to this, the most interesting exhibition of the evening, a turn
of the machinery brought Venus under view. Here, however, the cloud
envelope baffled us altogether, and her close approach to the horizon
soon obliged the director to turn his apparatus in another direction.
Two or three of the Asteroids were in view. Pallas especially
presented a very interesting spectacle. Not that the difference of
distance would have rendered the definition much more perfect than
from a Terrestrial standpoint, but that the marvellous perfection of
Martial instruments, and in some measure also the rarity of the
atmosphere at such a height, rendered possible the use of far higher
magnifying powers than our astronomers can employ. I am inclined to
agree, from what I saw on this occasion, with those who imagine the
Asteroids to be--if not fragments of a broken planet which once
existed as a whole--yet in another sense fragmentary spheres, less
perfect and with surfaces of much greater proportionate irregularity
than those of the larger planets. Next was presented to our view on a
somewhat smaller scale, because the area of the chamber employed would
not otherwise have given room for the system, the enormous disc and
the four satellites of Jupiter. The difference between 400 and 360
millions of miles' distance is, of course, wholly unimportant; but the
definition and enlargement were such that the image was perfect, and
the details minute and distinct, beyond anything that Earthly
observation had led me to conceive as possible. The satellites were no
longer mere points or tiny discs, but distinct moons, with surfaces
marked like that of our own satellite, though far less mountainous and
broken, and, as it seemed to me, possessing a distinct atmosphere. I
am not sure that there is not a visible difference of brightness among
them, not due to their size but to some difference in the reflecting
power of their surfaces, since the distance of all from the Sun is
practically equal That Jupiter gives out some light of his own, a
portion of which they may possibly reflect in differing amount
according to their varying distance, is believed by Martial
astronomers; and I thought it not improbable. The brilliant and
various colouring of the bands which, cross the face of the giant
planet was wonderfully brought out; the bluish-grey around the poles,
the clear yellowish-white light of the light bands, probably belts of
white cloud, contrasted signally the hues--varying from deep
orange-brown to what was almost crimson or rose-pink on the one hand
and bright yellow on the other--of different zones of the so-called
dark belts. On the latter, markings and streaks of strange variety
suggested, if they failed-to prove, the existence of frequent spiral
storms, disturbing, probably at an immense height above the surface,
clouds which must be utterly unlike the clouds of Mars or the Earth in
material as well as in form and mass. These markings enabled us to
follow with clear ocular appreciation the rapid rotation of this
planet. In the course of half-an-hour several distinct spots on
different belts had moved in a direct line across a tenth of the face
presented to us--a distance, upon the scale of the gigantic image, so
great that the motion required no painstaking observation, but forced
itself upon the notice of the least attentive spectator. The belief of
Martial astronomers is that Jupiter is not by any means so much less
dense than the minor planets as his proportionately lesser weight
would imply. They hold that his visible surface is that of an
enormously deep atmosphere, within which lies, they suppose, a central
ball, not merely hot but more than white hot, and probably, from its
temperature, not yet possessing a solid crust. One writer argues that,
since all worlds must by analogy be supposed to be inhabited, and
since the satellites of Jupiter more resemble worlds than the planet
itself, which may be regarded as a kind of secondary sun, it is not
improbable that the former are the scenes of life as varied as that of
Mars itself; and that infinite ages hence, when these have become too
cold for habitation, their giant primary may have gone through those
processes which, according to the received theory, have fitted the
interior planets to be the home of plants, animals, and, in two cases
at least, of human beings.

It was near midnight before the manifest fatigue of the ladies
overcame my selfish desire to prolong as much as possible this most
interesting visit. Meteorological science in Mars has been carried to
high perfection; and the director warned me that but three or four
equally favourable opportunities might offer in the course of the next
half year.

CHAPTER XXIII - CHARACTERISTICS.

Time passed on, marked by no very important incident, while I made
acquaintance with manners and with men around me, neither one nor the
other worth further description. Nothing occurred to confirm the
alarms Davilo constantly repeated.

I called the ladies one day into the outer grounds to see a new
carriage, capable, according to its arrangement, of containing from
two to eight persons, and a balloon of great size and new construction
which Davilo had urgently counselled me to procure, as capable of
sudden use in some of those daily thickening perils, of which I could
see no other sign than occasional evidence that my steps were watched
and dogged. Both vehicles enlisted the interest and curiosity of
Eunane and her companions. Eveena, after examining with as much
attention as was due to the trouble I took to explain it, the
construction of the carriage, concentrated her interest and
observation upon the balloon, the sight of which evidently impressed
her. When we had returned to the peristyle, and the rest had
dispersed, I said--

"I see you apprehend some part of my reasons for purchasing the
balloon. The carriage will take us to-morrow to Altasfe (a town some
ten miles distant). 'Shopping' is an amusement so gratifying to all
women on Earth, from the veiled favourites of an Eastern seraglio to
the very unveiled dames of Western ballrooms, that I suppose the
instinct must be native to the sex wherever women and trade co-exist.
If you have a single feminine folly, you will enjoy this more than you
will own. If you are, as they complain, absolutely faultless, you will
enjoy with me the pleasure of the girls in plaguing one after another
all the traders of Altasfe:" and with these words I placed in her
hands a packet of the thin metallic plates constituting their
currency. Her extreme and unaffected surprise was amusing to witness.

"What am I to do with this?" she inquired, counting carefully the
uncounted pile, in a manner which at once dispelled my impression that
her surprise was due to childish ignorance of its value.

"Whatever you please, Madonna; whatever can please you and the
others."

"But," she remonstrated, "this is more than all our dowries for
another year to come; and--forgive me for repeating what you seem
purposely to forget--I cannot cast the shadow between my equals and
the master. Would you so mortify _me_ as to make me take from Eunane's
hand, for example, what should come from yours?"

"You are right, Madonna, now as always," I owned; wincing at the name
she used, invariably employed by the others, but one I never endured
from her. Her looks entreated pardon for the form of the implied
reproof, as I resumed the larger part of the money she held out to me,
forcing back the smaller into her reluctant hands. "But what has the
amount of your dowries to do with the matter? The contracts are meant,
I suppose, to secure the least to which a wife has a right, not to fix
her natural share in her husband's wealth. You need not fear, Eveena;
the Prince has made us rich enough to spend more than we shall care
for."

"I don't understand you," she replied with her usual gentle frankness
and simple logical consistency. "It pleases you to say 'we' and 'ours'
whenever you can so seem to make me part of yourself; and I love to
hear you, for it assures me each time that you still hold me tightly
as I cling to you. But you know those are only words of kindness.
Since you returned my father's gift, the dowry you then doubled is my
only share of what is yours, and it is more than enough."

"Do you mean that women expect and receive no more: that they do not
naturally share in a man's surplus wealth?"

While I spoke Enva had joined us, and, resting on the cushions at my
feet, looked curiously at the metallic notes in Eveena's hand.

"You do not," returned the latter, "pay more foe what you have
purchased because you have grown richer. You do not share your wealth
even with those on whose care it chiefly depends."

"Yes, I do, Eveena. But I know what you mean. Their share is settled
and is not increased. But you will not tell me that this affords any
standard for household dealings; that a wife's share in her husband's
fortune is really bounded by the terms of the marriage contract?"

"Will you let Enva answer you?" asked Eveena. "She looks more ready
than I feel to reply."

This little incident was characteristic in more ways than one.
Eveena's feelings, growing out of the realities of our relation, were
at issue with and perplexed her convictions founded on the theory and
practice of her world. Not yet doubting the justice of the latter, she
instinctively shrank from their application to ourselves. She was
glad, therefore, to let Enva state plainly and directly a doctrine
which, from her own lips, would have pained as well as startled me. On
her side, Enva, though encouraged to bear her part in conversation,
was too thoroughly imbued with the same ideas to interpose unbidden.
As she would have said, a wife deserved the sandal for speaking
without leave; nor--experience notwithstanding--would she think it
safe to interrupt in my presence a favourite so pointedly honoured as
Eveena. 'She waited, therefore, till my eyes gave the permission which
hers had asked.

"Why should you buy anything twice over, Clasfempta, whether it be a
wife or an amba? A girl sells her society for the best price her
attractions will command. These attractions seldom increase. You
cannot give her less because you care less for them; but how can she
expect more?"

"I know, Enva, that the marriage contract here is an open bargain and
sale, as among my race it is generally a veiled one. But, the bargain
made, does it really govern the after relation? Do men really spend
their wealth wholly on themselves, and take no pleasure in the
pleasure of women?"

"Generally, I believe," Enva replied, "they fancy they have paid too
much for their toy before they have possessed it long, and had rather
buy a new one than make much of those they have. Wives seldom look on
the increase of a man's wealth as a gain to themselves. Of course you
like to see us prettily dressed, while you think us worth looking at
in ourselves. But as a rule our own income provides for that; and _we_
at any rate are better off than almost any women outside the Palace.
The Prince did not care, and knew it would not matter to you, what he
gave to make his gift worthy of him and agreeable to you. Perhaps,"
she added, "he wished to make it secure by offering terms too good to
be thrown away by any foolish rebellion against a heavier hand or a
worse temper than usual. You hardly understand yet half the advantages
you possess."

The latent sarcasm of the last remark did not need the look of
pretended fear that pointed it. If Enva professed to resent my
inadequate appreciation of the splendid beauty bestowed on me by the
royal favour more than any possible ill-usage for which she supposed
herself compensated in advance, it was not for me to put her sincerity
to proof.

"Once bought, then, wives are not worth pleasing? It is not worth
while to purchase happy faces, bright smiles, and willing kisses now
and then at a cost the giver can scarcely feel?"

Enva's look now was half malicious, half kindly, and wholly comical;
but she answered gravely, with a slight imitation of my own tone--

"Can you not imagine, or make Eveena tell you, Clasfempta, why women
once purchased think it best to give smiles and kisses freely to one
who can command their tears? Or do you fancy that their smiles are
more loyal and sincere when won by kindness than...."

"By fear? Sweeter, Enva, at any rate. Well, if I do not offend your
feelings, I need not hesitate to disregard another of your customs."

She received her share willingly and gratefully enough, but her smile
and kiss were so evidently given to order, that they only testified to
the thorough literality of her statement. Leenoo, Eirale, and Elfe
followed her example with characteristic exactness. Equally
characteristic was the conduct of the others. Eunane kept aloof till
called, and then approached with an air of sullen reluctance, as if
summoned to receive a reprimand rather than a favour. Not a little
amused, I affected displeasure in my turn, till the window of her
chamber closed behind us, and her ill-humour was forgotten in
wondering alarm. Offered in private, the kiss and smile given and not
demanded, the present was accepted with frank affectionate gratitude.
Eive took her share in pettish shyness, waiting the moment when she
might mingle unobserved with her childlike caresses the childish
reproach--

"If you can buy kisses, Clasfempta, you don't want mine. And if you
fancy I sell them, you shall have no more."

I saw Davilo in the morning before we started. After some conversation
on business, he said--

"And pardon a suggestion which I make, not as in charge of your
affairs, but as responsible to our supreme authority for your safety.
No correspondence should pass from your household unscrutinised; and
if there be such correspondence, I must ask you to place in my hand,
for the purpose of our quest, not any message, but some of the slips
on which messages have been written. This may probably furnish
precisely that tangible means of relation with some one acquainted
with the conspiracy for which we have sought in vain."

My unwillingness to meddle with feminine correspondence was the less
intelligible to him that, as the master alone commands the household
telegraph, he knew that it must have passed through my hands. I
yielded at last to his repeated urgency that a life more precious than
mine was involved in any danger to myself, so far as to promise the
slips required, to furnish a possible means of _rapport_ between the
_clairvoyante_ and the enemy.

I returned to the house in grave thought. Eunane. corresponded by the
telegraph with some schoolmates; Eive, I fancied, with three or four
of those ladies with whom, accompanying me on my visits, she had made
acquaintance. But I hated the very thought of domestic suspicion, and,
adhering to my original resolve, refused to entertain a distrust that
seemed ill-founded and far-fetched. If there had been treachery, it
would be impossible to obtain any letters that might have been
preserved without resorting to a compulsion which, since both Eunane
and Eive had written in the knowledge that their letters passed
unread, would seem like a breach of faith. I asked, however, simply,
and giving no reason, for the production of any papers received and
preserved by either. Eive, with her usual air of simplicity, brought
me the two or three which, she said, were all she had kept. Eunane
replied with a petulance almost amounting to refusal, which to some
might have suggested suspicion; but which to me seemed the very last
course that a culprit would have pursued. To give needless offence
while conscious of guilt would have been the very wantonness of
reckless temper.

"Bite your tongue, and keep your letters," I said sharply.

Turning to Eive and looking at the addresses of hers, none of which
bore the name of any one who could be suspected of the remotest
connection with a political plot--

"Give me which of these you please," I said, taking from her hand that
which she selected and marking it. "Now erase the writing yourself and
give me the paper."

This incident gave Eunane leisure to recover her temper. She stood for
a few moments ashamed perhaps, but, as usual, resolute to abide by the
consequences of a fault. When she found that my last word was spoken,
her mood changed at once.

"I did not quite like to give you Velna's letters. They are foolish,
like mine; and besides----But I never supposed you would let me
refuse. What you won't make me do, I must do of my own accord."

Womanly reasoning, most unlike "woman's reasons!" She brought, with
unaffected alacrity, a collection of tafroo-slips whose addresses bore
out her account of their character. Taking the last from the bundle, I
bade her erase its contents.

"No," she said, "that is the one I least liked to show. If you will
not read it, please follow my hand as I read, and see for yourself how
far I have misused your trust."

"I never doubted your good faith, Eunane"--But she had begun to read,
pointing with her finger as she went on. At one sentence hand and
voice wavered a little without apparent reason. "I shall," wrote her
school-friend, some half year her junior, "make my appearance at the
next inspection. I wish the Campta, had left you here till now; we
might perhaps have contrived to pass into the same household."

"A very innocent wish, and very natural," I said, in answer to the
look, half inquiring, half shy, with which Eunane watched the effect
of her words. I could not now use the precaution in her case, which it
had somehow seemed natural to adopt with Eive, of marking the paper
returned for erasure. On her part, Eunane thrust into my hand the
whole bundle as they were, and I was forced myself to erase, by an
electro-chemical process which leaves no trace of writing, the words
of that selected. The absence of any mark on the second paper served
sufficiently to distinguish the two when, of course without stating
from whom I received them, I placed, them in Davilo's hands.

When we were ready to leave the peristyle for the carriage, I observed
that Eunane alone was still unveiled, while the others wore their
cloaks of down and the thick veils, without which no lady may present
herself to the public eye.

"'Thieving time is woman's crime,'" I said, quoting a domestic
proverb. "In another household you would; be left behind."

"Of course," she replied, such summary discipline seeming to her as
appropriate as to an European child. "I don't like always to deserve
the vine and receive the nuts."

"You must take which _I_ like," I retorted, laughing. Satisfied or
silenced, she hastened to dress, and enjoyed with unalloyed delight
the unusual pleasure of inspecting dresses and jewellery, and making
more purchases in a day than she had expected to be able to do in two
years. But she and her companions acted with more consideration than
ladies permitted to visit the shops of Europe show for their masculine
escort. Eive alone, on this as on other occasions, availed herself
thoroughly of those privileges of childhood which I had always
extended to her.

So quick are the proceedings and so excellent the arrangements of
Martial commerce, even where ladies are concerned, that a couple of
hours saw us on our way homeward, after having passed through the
apartments of half the merchants in Altasfe. Purposely for my own
pleasure, as well as for that of my companions, I took a circuitous
route homeward, and in so doing came within sight of a principal
feminine Nursery or girls' school. Recognising it, Eunane spoke with
some eagerness--

"Ah! I spent nine years there, and not always unhappily."

Eveena, who sat beside me, pressed my hand, with an intention easily
understood.

"And you would like to see it again?" I inquired in compliance with
her silent hint.

"Not to go back," said Eunane. "But I should like to pay it a visit,
if it were possible."

"Can we?" I asked Eveena.

"I think so," she answered. "I observe half a dozen people have gone
in since we came in sight, and I fancy it is inspection day there."

"Inspection?" I asked.

"Yes," she replied in a tone of some little annoyance and discomfort.
"The girls who have completed their tenth year, and who are thought to
have as good a chance now as they would have later, are dressed for
the first time in the white robe and veil of maidenhood, and presented
in the public chamber to attract the choice of those who are looking
for brides."

"Not a pleasant spectacle," I said, "to you or to myself; but it will
hardly annoy the others, and Eunane shall have her wish."

We descended from our carriage at the gate, and entered the grounds of
the Nursery. Studiously as the health, the diet, and the exercise of
the inmates are cared for, nothing is done to render the appearance of
the home where they pass so large and critical a portion of their
lives cheerful or attractive in appearance. Utility alone is studied;
how much beauty conduces to utility where the happiness and health of
children are concerned, Martial science has yet to learn. The grounds
contained no flowers and but few trees; the latter ruined in point of
form and natural grace to render them convenient supports for
gymnastic apparatus. A number of the younger girls, unveiled, but
dressed in a dark plain garment reaching from the throat to the knees,
with trousers giving free play to the limbs, were exercising on the
different swings and bars, flinging the light weights and balls, or
handling the substitutes for dumb-bells, the use of which forms an
important branch of their education. Others, relieved from this
essential part of their tasks, were engaged in various sports. One of
these I noticed especially. Perhaps a hundred young ladies on either
side formed a sort of battalion, contending for the ground they
occupied with light shields of closely woven wire and masks of the
same material, and with spears consisting of a reed or grass about
five feet in length, and exceedingly light. When perfectly ripened,
these spears are exceeding formidable, their points being sharp enough
to pierce the skin of any but a pachydermatous animal. Those employed
in these games, however, are gathered while yet covered by a sheath,
which, as they ripen, bursts and leaves the keen, hard point exposed.
Considerable care is taken in their selection, since, if nearly ripe,
or if they should ripen prematurely under the heat of the sun when
severed from the stem, the sheath bursting in the middle of a game,
very grave accidents might occur. The movements of the girls were so
ordered that the game appeared almost as much a dance as a conflict;
but though there was nothing of unseemly violence, the victory was
evidently contested with real earnestness, and with a skill superior
to that displayed in the movements of the actual soldiers who have
long since exchanged the tasks of warfare for the duties of policemen,
escorts, and sentries. I held Eveena's hand, the others followed us
closely, venturing neither to break from our party without leave nor
to ask permission, till, at Eveena's suggestion, it was spontaneously
given. They then quitted us, hastening, Eunane to seek out her
favourite companions of a former season, the others to mingle with the
younger girls and share in their play. We walked on slowly, stopping
from time to time to watch the exercises and sports of the younger
portion of a community numbering some fifteen hundred girls. When we
entered the hall we were rejoined by Eunane, with one of her friends
who still wore the ordinary school costume. Conversation with or
notice of a young lady so dressed was not only not expected but
disallowed, and the pair seated themselves behind us and studiously
out of hearing of any conversation conducted in a low tone.

The spectacle, as I had anticipated, was to me anything but pleasant.
It reminded me of a slave-market of the East, however, rather than of
the more revolting features of a slave auction in the United States.
The maidens, most of them very graceful and more than pretty, their
robes arranged and ornamented with an evident care to set off their
persons to the best advantage, and with a skill much greater than they
themselves could yet have acquired, were seated alone or by twos and
threes in different parts of the hall, grouped so as to produce the
most attractive general as well as individual effect. The picture,
therefore, was a pretty one; and since the intending purchasers
addressed the objects of their curiosity or admiration with courtesy
and fairly decorous reserve, it was the known character rather than
any visible incident of the scene that rendered it repugnant or
revolting in my eyes. I need not say that, except Eveena, there was no
one of either sex in the hall who shared my feeling. After all, the
purpose was but frankly avowed, and certainly carried out more safely
and decorously than in the ball-rooms and drawing-rooms of London or
Paris. Of the maidens, some seemed shy and backward, and most were
silent save when addressed. But the majority received their suitors
with a thoroughly business-like air, and listened to the terms offered
them, or endeavoured to exact a higher price or a briefer period of
assured slavery, with a self-possession more reasonable than agreeable
to witness. One maiden seated in our immediate vicinity was, I
perceived, the object of Eveena's especial interest, and, at first on
this account alone, attracted my observation. Dressed with somewhat
less ostentatious care and elegance than her companions, her veil and
the skirt of her robe were so arranged as to show less of her personal
attractions than they generally displayed. A first glance hardly did
justice to a countenance which, if not signally pretty, and certainly
marked by a beauty less striking than that of most of the others, was
modest and pleasing; a figure slight and graceful, with hands and feet
yet smaller than usual, even among a race the shape of whose limbs is,
with few exceptions, admirable. Very few had addressed her, or even
looked at her; and a certain resigned mortification was visible in her
countenance.

"You are sorry for that child?" I said to Eveena.

"Yes," she answered. "It must be distressing to feel herself the least
attractive, the least noticed among her companions, and on such an
occasion. I cannot conceive how I could bear to form part of such a
spectacle; but if I were in her place, I suppose I should be hurt and
humbled at finding that nobody cared to look at me in the presence of
others prettier and better dressed than myself."

"Well," I said, "of all the faces I see I like that the best. I
suppose I must not speak to her?"

"Why not?" said Eveena in surprise. "You are not bound to purchase
her, any more than we bought all we looked at to-day."

"It did not occur to me," I replied, "that I could be regarded as a
possible suitor, nor do I think I could find courage to present myself
to that young lady in a manner which must cause her to look upon me in
that light. Ask Eunane if she knows her."

Here Eive and the others joined us and took their places on my right.
Eveena, leaving her seat for a moment, spoke apart with Eunane.

"Will you speak to her?" she said, returning. "She is Eunane's friend
and correspondent, Velna; and I think they are really fond of each
other. It is a pity that if she is to undergo the mortification of
remaining unchosen and going back to her tasks, at least till the next
inspection, she will also be separated finally from the only person
for whom she seems to have had anything like home affection."

"Well, if I am to talk to her," I replied, "you must be good enough to
accompany me. I do not feel that I could venture on such an enterprise
by myself."

Eveena's eyes, even through her veil, expressed at once amusement and
surprise; but as she rose to accompany me this expression faded and a
look of graver interest replaced it. Many turned to observe us as we
crossed the short space that separated us from the isolated and
neglected maiden. I had seen, if I had not noticed, that in no case
were the men, as they made the tour of the room or went up to any lady
who might have attracted their special notice, accompanied by the
women of their households. A few of these, however, sat watching the
scene, their mortification, curiosity, jealousy, or whatever feeling
it might excite, being of course concealed by the veils that hid every
feature but the eyes, which now and then followed very closely the
footsteps of their lords. The object of our attention showed marked
surprise as we approached her, and yet more when, seeing that I was at
a loss for words, Eveena herself spoke a kindly and gracious sentence.
The girl's voice was soft and low, and her tone and words, as we
gradually fell into a hesitating and broken conversation, confirmed
the impression made by her appearance. When, after a few minutes, I
moved to depart, there was in Eveena's reluctant steps and expressive
upturned eyes a meaning I could not understand. As soon as we were out
of hearing, moving so as partly to hide my countenance and entirely to
conceal her own gesture from the object of her compassion, she checked
my steps by a gentle pressure on my arm and looked up earnestly into
my face.

"What is it?" I asked. "You seem to have some wish that I cannot
conjecture; and you can trust by this time my anxiety to gratify every
desire of yours, reasonable or not--if indeed you ever were
unreasonable."

"She is so sad, so lonely," Eveena answered, "and she is so fond of
Eunane."

"You don't mean that you want me to make her an offer!" I exclaimed in
extreme amazement.

"Do not be angry," pleaded Eveena. "She would be glad to accept any
offer you would be likely to make; and the money you gave me yesterday
would have paid all she would cost you for many years. Besides, it
would please Eunane, and it would make Velna so happy."

"You must know far better than I can what is likely to make her
happy," I replied. "Strange to the ideas and customs of your world, I
cannot conceive that a woman can wish to take the last place in a
household like ours rather than the first or only one with the poorest
of her people."

"She will hardly have the choice," Eveena answered. "Those whom you
can call poor mostly wait till they can have their choice before they
marry; and if taken by some one who could not afford a more expensive
choice, she would only be neglected, or dismissed ill provided for, as
soon as he could purchase one more to his taste."

"If," I rejoined at last, "you think it a kindness to her, and are
sure she will so think it; if you wish it, and will avouch her
contentment with a place in the household of one who does not desire
her, I will comply with this as with any wish of yours. But it is not
to my: mind to take a wife out of mere compassion, as I might readily
adopt a child."

Once more, with all our mutual affection and appreciation of each
other's character, Eveena and I were fat as the Poles apart in thought
if not in feeling. It was as impossible for her to emancipate herself
utterly from the ideas and habits of her own world, as for me to
reconcile myself to them. I led her back at last to her seat, and
beckoned Eunane to my side.

"Eveena," I said, "has been urging me to offer your friend yonder a
place in our household."

Though I could not see her face, the instant change in her attitude,
the eager movement of her hands, and the elastic spring that suddenly
braced her form, expressed her feeling plainly enough.

"It must be done, I suppose," I murmured rather to myself than to
them, as Eunane timidly put out her hand and gratefully clasped
Eveena's. "Well, it is to be done for you, and you must do it."

"How can I?" exclaimed Eunane in astonishment; and Eveena added, "It
is for you; you only can name your terms, and it would be a strange
slight to her to do so through us."

"I cannot help that. I will not 'act the lie' by affecting any
personal desire to win her, and I could not tell her the truth. Offer
her the same terms that contented the rest; nay, if she enters my
household, she shall not feel herself in a secondary or inferior
position."

This condition surprised even Eveena as much as my resolve to make her
the bearer of the proposal that was in truth her own. But, however
reluctant, she would as soon have refused obedience to my request as
have withheld a kindness because it cost her an unexpected trial.
Taking Eunane with her, she approached and addressed the girl.
Whatever my own doubt as to her probable reception, however absurd in
my own estimation the thing I was induced to do, there was no
corresponding consciousness, no feeling but one of surprise and
gratification, in the face on which I turned my eyes. There was a
short and earnest debate; but, as I afterwards learned, it arose
simply from the girl's astonishment at terms which, extravagant even
for the beauties of the day, were thrice as liberal as she had
ventured to dream of. Eveena and Eunane were as well aware of this as
herself; the right of beauty to a special price seemed to them as
obvious as in Western Europe seems the right of rank to exorbitant
settlements; but they felt it as impossible to argue the point as a
solicitor would find it unsafe to expound to a _gentleman_ the
different cost of honouring Mademoiselle with his hand and being
honoured with that of Milady. Velna's remonstrances were suppressed;
she rose, and, accompanied by Eveena and Eunane, approached a desk in
one corner of the room, occupied by a lady past middle life. The
latter, like all those of her sex who have adopted masculine
independence and a professional career, wore no veil over her face,
and in lieu of the feminine head-dress a band of metal around the
head, depending from which a short fall of silken texture drawn back
behind the ears covered the neck and upper edge of the dark robe. This
lady took from a heap by her side a slip containing the usual form of
marriage contract, and filled in the blanks. At a sign from Eveena, I
had by this time approached close enough to hear the language of
half-envious, half-supercilious wonder in which the schoolmistress
congratulated her pupil on her signal conquest, and the terms she had
obtained, as well as the maiden's unaffected acknowledgment of her own
surprise and conscious unworthiness. I could _feel_, despite the
concealment of her form and face, Eveena's silent expression of pained
disgust with the one, and earnest womanly sympathy with the other. The
document was executed in the usual triplicate.

The girl retired for a few minutes, and reappeared in a cloak and veil
like those of her new companions, but of comparatively cheap
materials. As we passed the threshold, Eveena gently and tacitly but
decisively assigned to her _protegee_ her own place beside me, and put
her right hand in my left. The agitation with which it manifestly
trembled, though neither strange nor unpleasing, added to the extreme
embarrassment I felt; and I had placed her next to Eunane in the
carriage and taken my seat beside Eveena, whom I never permitted to
resign her own, before a single spoken word had passed in this
extraordinary courtship, or sanctioned the brief and practical
ceremony of marriage.

I was alone in my own room that evening when a gentle scratching on
the window-crystal entreated admission. I answered without looking up,
assuming that Eveena alone would seek me there. But hers were not the
lips that were earnestly pressed on my hand, nor hers the voice that
spoke, trembling and hesitating with stronger feeling than it could
utter in words--

"I do thank you from my heart. I little thought you would wish to make
me so happy. I shrank from showing you the letter lest you should
think I dared to hope.... It is not only Velna; it is such strange joy
and comfort to be held fast by one who cares--to feel safe in hands as
kind as they are strong. You said you could love none save Eveena;
but, Clasfempta, your way of not loving is something better, gentler,
more considerate than any love I ever hoped or heard of."

I could read only profound sincerity and passionate gratitude in the
clear bright eyes, softened by half-suppressed tears, that looked up
from where she knelt beside me. But the exaggeration was painfully
suggestive, confirming the ugly view Enva had given yesterday of the
life that seemed natural and reasonable to her race, and made ordinary
human kindness appear something strange and romantic by contrast.

"Surely, Eunane, every man wishes those around him happy, if it do not
cost too much to make them so?"

"No, indeed! Oftener the master finds pleasure in punishing and
humiliating, the favourite in witnessing her companions' tears and
terror. They like to see the household grateful for an hour's
amusement, crouching to caprice, incredulously thankful for barest
justice. One book much read in our schools says that 'cruelty is a
stronger, earlier, and more tenacious human instinct than sympathy;'
and another that 'half the pleasure of power lies in giving pain, and
half the remainder in being praised for sparing it.' ... But that was
not all: Eveena was as eager to be kind as you were."

"Much more so, Eunane."

"Perhaps. What seemed natural to her was strange to you. But it was
_your_ thought to put Velna on equal terms with us; taking her out of
mere kindness, to give her the dowry of a Prince's favourite. _That_
surprised Eveena, and it puzzled me. But I think I half understand you
now, and if I do.... When Eveena told us how you saved her and defied
the Regent, and Eive asked you about it, you said so quietly, 'There
are some things a man cannot do.' Is buying a girl cheap, because she
is not a beauty, one of those things?"

"To take any advantage of her misfortune--to make her feel it in my
conduct--to give her a place in my household on other terms than her
equals--to show her less consideration or courtesy than one would give
to a girl as beautiful as yourself--yes, Eunane! To my eyes, your
friend is pleasant and pretty; but if not, would you have liked to
feel that she was of less account here than yourself, because she has
not such splendid beauty as yours?"

Eunane was too frank to conceal her gratification in this first
acknowledgment of her charms, as she had shown her mortification while
it was withheld--not, certainly, because undeserved. Her eyes
brightened and her colour deepened in manifest pleasure. But she was
equally frank in her answer to the implied compliment to her
generosity, of whose justice she was not so well assured.

"I am afraid I should half have liked it, a year ago. Now, after I
have lived so long with you and Eveena, I should be shamed by it! But,
Clasfempta, the things 'a man cannot do' are the things men do every
day;--and women every hour!"

CHAPTER XXIV - WINTER.

Hitherto I had experienced only the tropical climate of Mars, with the
exception of the short time spent in the northern temperate zone about
the height of its summer. I was anxious, of course, to see something
also of its winter, and an opportunity presented itself. No
institution was more obviously worth a visit than the great University
or principal place of highest education in this world, and I was
invited thither in the middle of the local winter. To this University
many of the most promising youths, especially those intended for any
of the Martial professions--architects, artists, rulers, lawyers,
physicians, and so forth--are often sent directly from the schools, or
after a short period of training in the higher colleges. It is situate
far within the north temperate zone on the shore of one of the longest
and narrowest of the great Martial gulfs, which extends from
north-eastward to south-west, and stretches from 43 deg. N. to 10 deg. S.
latitude. The University in question is situate nearly at the
extremity of the northern branch of this gulf, which splits into two
about 300 miles from its end, a canal of course connecting it with the
nearest sea-belt. I chose to perform this journey by land, following
the line of the great road from Amacasfe to Qualveskinta for about 800
miles, and then turning directly northward. I did not suppose that I
should find a willing companion on this journey, and was myself
wishful to be alone, since I dared not, in her present state of
health, expose Eveena to the fatigue and hardship of prolonged winter
travelling by land. To my surprise, however, all the rest, when aware
that I had declined to take her, were eager to accompany me. Chiefly
to take her out of the way, and certainly with no idea of finding
pleasure in her society, I selected Enva; next to Leenoo the most
malicious of the party, and gifted with sufficient intelligence to
render her malice more effective than Leenoo's stupidity could be.
Enva, moreover, with the vigorous youthful vitality-so often found on
Earth in women of her light Northern complexion, seemed less likely to
suffer from the severity of the weather or the fatigue of a land
journey than most of her companions. When I spoke of my intention to
Davilo, I was surprised to find that he considered even feminine
company a protection.

"Any attempt upon you," he said, "must either involve your companion,
for which there can be no legal excuse preferred, or else expose the
assailant to the risk of being identified through her evidence."

I started accordingly a few days before the winter solstice of the
North, reaching the great road a few miles from the point at which it
crosses another of the great gulfs running due north and south, at its
narrowest point in latitude 3 deg. S. At this point the inlet is no more
than twenty miles wide, and its banks about a hundred feet in height.
At this level and across this vast space was carried a bridge,
supported by arches, and resting on pillars deeply imbedded in the
submarine rock at a depth about equal to the height of the land on
either side. The Martial seas are for the most part shallow, the
landlocked gulfs being seldom 100 fathoms, and the deepest ocean
soundings giving less than 1000. The vast and solid structure looked
as light and airy as any suspension bridge across an Alpine ravine.
This gigantic viaduct, about 500 Martial years old, is still the most
magnificent achievement of engineering in this department. The main
roads, connecting important cities or forming the principal routes of
commerce in the absence of convenient river or sea carriage, are
carried over gulfs, streams, ravines, and valleys, and through hills,
as Terrestrial engineers have recently promised to carry railways over
the minor inequalities of ground. That which we were following is an
especially magnificent road, and signalised by several grand
exhibitions of engineering daring and genius. It runs from Amacasfe
for a thousand miles in one straight line direct as that of a Roman
road, and with but half-a-dozen changes of level in the whole
distance. It crossed in the space of a few miles a valley, or rather
dell, 200 feet in depth, and with semi-perpendicular sides, and a
stream wider than the Mississippi above the junction of the Ohio. Next
it traversed the precipitous side of a hill for a distance of three or
four miles, where Nature had not afforded foothold for a rabbit or a
squirrel. The stupendous bridges and the magnificent open road cut in
the side of the rock, its roof supported on the inside by the hill
itself, on the outside by pillars left at regular intervals when the
stone was cut, formed from one point a single splendid view. Pointing
it out to Enva, I was a little surprised to find her capable, under
the guidance of a few remarks from myself, of appreciating and taking
pride in the marvellous work of her race. In another place, a tunnel
pierced directly an intervening range of hills for about eight miles,
interrupted only in two points by short deep open cuttings. This
passage, unlike those on the river previously mentioned, was
constantly and brilliantly lighted. The whole road indeed was lit up
from the fall of the evening to the dispersion of the morning mist
with a brilliancy nearly equal to that of daylight. As I dared not
travel at a greater rate than twenty-five miles per hour--my
experience, though it enabled me to manage the carriage with
sufficient skill, not giving me confidence to push it to its greatest
speed--the journey must occupy several days. We had, therefore, to
rest at the stations provided by public authority for travellers
undertaking such long land journeys. These are built like ordinary
Martial houses, save that in lieu of peristyle or interior garden is
an open square planted with shrubs and merely large enough to afford
light to the inner rooms. The chambers also are very much smaller than
those of good private houses. As these stations are nearly always
placed in towns or villages, or in well-peopled country
neighbourhoods, food is supplied by the nearest confectioner to each
traveller individually, and a single person, assisted by the ambau, is
able to manage the largest of them.

The last two or three days of our journey were bitterly cold, and not
a little trying. My own undergarment of thick soft leather kept me
warmer than the warmest greatcoat or cloak could have done, though I
wore a large cloak of the kargynda's fur in addition--the prize of the
hunt that had so nearly cost me dear, a personal and very gracious
present from the Campta. My companion, who had not the former
advantage, though wrapped in as many outer garments and quilts as I
had thought necessary, felt the cold severely, and felt still more the
dense chill mist which both by night and day covered the greater part
of the country. This was not infrequently so thick as to render
travelling almost perilous; and but that an electric light, required
by law, was placed at each end of the carriage, collisions would have
been inevitable. These hardships afforded another illustration of the
subjection of the sex resulting from the rule of theoretical equality.
More than a year's experience of natural kindness and consideration
had not given Enva courage to make a single complaint; and at first
she did her best to conceal the weeping which was the only, but almost
continuous, expression of her suffering. She was almost as much
surprised as gratified by my expressions of sympathy, and the trouble
I took to obtain, at the first considerable town we reached, an
apparatus by which the heat generated by motion itself was made to
supply a certain warmth through the tubular open-work of the carriage
to the persons of its occupants. The cold was as severe as that of a
Swedish winter, though we never approached within seventeen degrees of
the Arctic circle, a distance from the Pole equivalent to that of
Northern France. The Martial thermometer, in form more like a
watch-barometer, which I carried in my belt, marked a cold equivalent
to 12 deg. below zero C. in the middle of the day; and when left in the
carriage for the night it had registered no less than 22 deg. below zero.

One of the Professors of the University received us as his guests,
assigning to us, as is usual when a lady is of the party, rooms
looking on the peristyle, but whose windows remained closed. Enva, of
course, spent her time chiefly with the ladies of the family. When
alone with me she talked freely, though needing some encouragement to
express her own ideas, or report what she had heard; but she had no
intention of concealment, perhaps no notion that I was interested in
her accounts of the prevalent feeling respecting the heretics of whom
she heard much, except of course that Eveena's father was among them.
Through her I learned that much pains had been taken to intensify and
excite into active hostility the dislike and distrust with which they
had always been regarded by the public at large, and especially by the
scientific guilds, whose members control all educational
establishments. That some attempt against them was meditated appeared
to be generally reported. Its nature and the movers in the matter were
not known, so far as I could gather, even to men so influential as the
chief Professors of the University. It was not merely that the women
had heard nothing on this point, but that their lords had dropped
expressions of surprise at the strictness with which the secret was
kept.

As their parents pay, when first the children are admitted to the
public Nurseries, the price of an average education, this special
instruction is given in the first instance at the cost of the State to
those who, on account of their taste and talent, are selected by the
teachers of the Colleges. But before they leave the University a bond
is taken for the amount of this outlay, which has to be repaid within
three years. It is fair to say that the tax is trivial in comparison
with the ordinary gains of their professions; the more so that no such
preference as, in our world, is almost universally given to a
reputation which can only be acquired by age, excludes the youth of
Mars from full and profitable employment.

The youths were delighted to receive a lecture on the forms of
Terrestrial government, and the outlines of their history; a topic I
selected because they were already acquainted with the substance of
the addresses elsewhere delivered. This afforded me an opportunity of
making the personal acquaintance of some of the more distinguished
pupils. The clearness of their intellect, the thoroughness of their
knowledge in their several studies, and the distinctness of their
acquaintance with the outlines and principles of Martial learning
generally,--an acquaintance as free from smattering and superficiality
as necessarily unembarrassed by detail,--testified emphatically to the
excellence of the training they had received, as well as to the
hereditary development of their brains. What was, however, not less
striking was the utter absence at once of what I was accustomed to
regard as moral principle, and of the generous impulses which in youth
sometimes supply the place of principle. They avowed the most absolute
selfishness, the most abject fear of death and pain, with a frankness
that would have amazed the Cynics and disgusted the felons of almost
any Earthly nation. There were partial exceptions, but these were to
be found exclusively among those in training for what we should call
public life, for administrative or judicial duties. These, though
professing no devotion to the interest of others, and little that
could be called public spirit, did nevertheless understand that in
return for the high rank, the great power, and the liberal
remuneration they would enjoy, they were bound to consider primarily
the public interest in the performance of their functions--the right
of society to just or at least to carefully legal judgment, and
diligent efficient administration. Their feeling, however, was rather
professional than personal, the pride of students in the perfection of
their art rather than the earnestness of men conscious of grave human
responsibilities.

In conversing with the chief of this Faculty, I learned some
peculiarities of the system of government with which I was not yet
acquainted. Promotion never depends on those with whom a public
servant comes into personal contact, but on those one or two steps
above the latter. The judges, for instance, of the lower rank are
selected by the principal judge of each dominion; these and their
immediate assistants, by the Chief of the highest Court. The officers
around and under the Governor of a province are named by the Regent of
the dominion; those surrounding the Regent, as the Regent himself, by
the Sovereign. Every officer, however, can be removed by his immediate
superior; but it depends on the chief with whom his appointment rests,
whether he shall be transferred to a similar post elsewhere or simply
dismissed. Thus, while no man can be compelled to work with
instruments he dislikes, no subordinate is at the mercy of personal
caprice or antipathy.

Promotion, judicial and administrative, ends below the highest point.
The judges of the Supreme Court are named by the Sovereign--with the
advice of a Council, including the Regents, the judges of that Court,
and the heads of the Philosophic and Educational Institutes--from
among the advocates and students of law, or from among the ablest
administrators who seem to possess judicial faculties. The code is
written and simple. Every dubious point that arises in the course of
litigation is referred, by appeal or directly by the judge who decides
it, to the Chief Court, and all points of interpretation thus
referred, are finally settled by an addition to the code at its
periodical revision. The Sovereign can erase or add at pleasure to
this code. But he can do so only in full Council, and must hear,
though he need not regard, the opinions of his advisers. He can,
however, suspend immediately till the next meeting of the Council the
enforcement of any article.

The Regents are never named from among subordinate officials, nor is a
Regent ever promoted to the throne. It is held that the qualities
required in an absolute Sovereign are not such as are demanded from or
likely to be developed in the subordinate ruler of a dominion however
important, and that functions like those of a Regent, at least as
important as those of the Viceroy of India, ought not to be entrusted
to men trained in subaltern administrative duties. Among the youths of
greatest promise, in their eighth year, a certain small number are
selected by the chiefs of the University, who visit for this purpose
all the Nurseries of the kingdom. With what purpose these youths are
separated from their fellows is not explained to them. They are
carefully educated for the highest public duties. Year by year those
deemed fitter for less important offices are drafted off. There remain
at last the very few who are thought competent to the functions of
Regent or Campta, and from among these the Sovereign himself selects
at pleasure his own successor and the occupant of any vacant Regency.
The latter, however, holds his post at first on probation, and can, of
course, be removed at any time by the Sovereign. If the latter should
not before his death have named his own successor, the Council by a
process of elimination is reduced to three, and these cast lots which
shall name the new Autocrat from among the youths deemed worthy of the
throne, of whom six are seldom living at the same time. No Prince is
ever appointed under the age of fourteen (twenty-seven) or over that
of sixteen (thirty). No Campta, has ever abdicated; but they seldom
live to fall into that sort of inert indolence which may be called the
dotage of their race. The nature of their functions seems to preserve
their mental activity longer than that of others; and probably they
are not permitted to live when they have become manifestly unfit or
incapable to reign.

When first invited to visit the University, I had hoped to make it
only a stage and stepping-stone to something yet more interesting--to
visit the Arctic hunters once more, and join them in the most exciting
of their pursuits; a chase by the electric light of the great Amphibia
of the frozen sea-belt immediately surrounding the permanent ice-cap
of the Northern Pole. For this, however, the royal licence was
required; and, as when I made a similar request during the fur-chase
of the Southern season, I met with a peremptory refusal. "There are
two men in this world," said the Prince, "who would entertain such a
wish. _I_ dare not avow it; and if there were a third, he would
assuredly be convicted of incurable lunacy, though on all other points
he were as cold-blooded as the President of the Academy or the
Vivisector-General." I did not tell Eveena of my request till it had
been refused; and if anything could have lessened my vexation at the
loss of this third opportunity, it would have been the expression of
her countenance at that moment. Indeed, I was then satisfied that I
could not have left her in the fever of alarm and anxiety that any
suspicion of my purpose would have caused.

I seized, however, the opportunity of a winter voyage in a small
vessel, manned by four or five ocean-hunters, less timid and
susceptible to surface disturbances than ordinary seamen. On such an
excursion, Enva, though a far less pleasant companion, was a less
anxious charge than Eveena. We made for the Northern coast, and ran
for some hundred miles, along a sea-bord not unlike that of Norway,
but on a miniature scale. Though in some former age this hemisphere,
like Europe, has been subject to glacial action much more general and
intense than at present, its ice-seas and ice-rivers must always have
been comparatively shallow and feeble. Beaching at last a break in the
long line of cliff-guarded capes and fiords, where the sea, half
covered with low islands, eats a broad and deep ingress into the
land-belt, I disembarked, and made a day's land journey to the
northward.

The ground was covered with a sheet of hard-frozen snow about eighteen
inches deep, with an upper surface of pure ice. For the ordinary
carriage, here useless, was substituted a sledge, driven from behind
by an instrument something between a paddle-wheel and a screw, worked,
of course, by the usual electric machinery. The cold was far more
intense than I had ever before known it; and the mist that fell at the
close of the very short zyda of daylight rendered it all but
intolerable. The Arctic circular thermometer fell to within a few
points from its minimum of--50 deg. Centigrade [?]. No flesh could endure
exposure to such an atmosphere; and were not the inner mask and
clothing of soft leather pervaded by a constant feeble current of
electricity....

As we made our way back to the open sea, the temptation to disobey the
royal order was all but irresistible. No fewer than three kargyndau
were within shot at one and the same time; plunging from the shore of
an icy island to emerge with their prey--a fish somewhat resembling
the salmon in form and flavour. My companions, however, were terrified
at the thought of disobedience to the law; and as we had but one
mordyta (lightning-gun) among the party, and the uncertainty of the
air-gun had been before proven to my cost, there was some force in
their supplementary argument that, if I did not kill the kargynda, it
was probable that the kargynda might board us; in which event our case
would be summarily disposed of, without troubling the Courts or
allowing time to apply, even by telegraph, for the royal pardon. I was
suggesting, more to the alarm than amusement of the crew, that we
might close the hatches, and either carry the regal beast away
captive, or, at worst, dive and drown him--for he cannot swim very
far--when their objections were enforced in an unexpected manner. We
were drifting beyond shot of the nearest brute, when the three
suddenly plunged at once, and as if by concert, and when they rose,
were all evidently making for the vessel, and within some eighty
yards. I then learnt a new advantage of the electric machinery, as
compared with the most powerful steam-engine. A pressure upon a
button, and a few seconds sufficed to exchange a speed of four for one
of twenty miles an hour; while, instead of sinking the vessel below
the surface, the master directed the engine to pump out all the liquid
ballast she contained. The waterspout thus sent forth half-drowned the
enemy which had already come within a few yards of our starboard
quarter, and effectually-scared the others. It was just as well that
Enva, who heartily hated the bitter cold, was snugly ensconced in the
warm cushions of the cabin, and had not, therefore, the opportunity of
giving to Eveena, on our return, her version of an adventure whose
alarming aspect would have impressed them both more than its ludicrous
side, For half a minute I thought that I had, in sheer folly, exposed
half a dozen lives to a peril none the less real and none the more
satisfactory that, if five had been killed, the survivor could not
have so told the story as to avoid laughing--or being laughed at.

Sweet and serene as was Eveena's smile of welcome, it could not
conceal the traces of more than mere depression on her countenance.
Heartily willing to administer an effective lesson to her tormentors,
I seized the occasion of the sunset meal to notice the weary and
harassed look she had failed wholly to banish.

"You look worse each time I return, Madonna. This time it is not
merely my absence, if it ever were so. I will know who or what has
driven and hunted you so."

Taken thus by surprise, every face but one bore witness to the truth:
Eveena's distress, Eunane's mixed relief and dismay, shared in yet
greater degree by Velna, who knew less of me, the sheer terror and
confusion of the rest, were equally significant. The Martial judge who
said that "the best evidence was lost because colour could not be
tested or blushes analysed," would have passed sentence at once. But
if Eive's air of innocent unconsciousness and childish indifference
were not sincere, it merited the proverbial praise of consummate
affectation, "more golden than the sun and whiter than snow." Eveena's
momentary glance at once drew mine upon this "pet child," but neither
disturbed her. Nor did she overact her part. "Eive," said Enva one
day, "never salts her tears or paints her blushes." As soon as she
caught my look of doubt--

"Have _I_ done wrong?" she said, in a tone half of confidence, half of
reproach. "Punish me, then, Clasfempta, as you please--with Eveena's
sandal."

The repartee delighted those who had reason to desire any diversion.
The appeal to Eveena disarmed my unwilling and momentary distrust.
Eveena, however, answered by neither word nor look, and the party
presently broke up. Eive crept close to claim some silent atonement
for unspoken suspicion, and a few minutes had elapsed before, to the
evident alarm of several conscious culprits, I sought Eveena in her
own chamber.

In spite of all deprecation, I insisted on the explanation she had
evaded in public. "I guess," I said, "as much as you can tell me about
'the four.' I have borne too long with those who have made your life
that of a hunted therne, and rendered myself anxious and restless
every day and hour that I have left you alone. Unless you will deny
that they have done so---- Well, then, I will have peace for you and
for myself. I cannot leave you to their mercy, nor can I remain at
home for the next twelve dozen days, like a chained watch-dragon. Pass
them over!" (as she strove to remonstrate); "there is something new
this time. You have been harassed and frightened as well as unhappy."

"Yes," she admitted, "but I can give nothing like a reason. I dare not
entreat you not to ask, and yet I am only like a child, that wakes
screaming by night, and cannot say of what she is afraid. Ought she
not to be whipped?"

"I can't say, bambina; but I should not advise Eive to startle _you_
in that way! But, seriously, I suppose fear is most painful when it
has no cause that can be removed. I have seen brave soldiers
panic-stricken in the dark, without well knowing why."

I watched her face as I spoke, and noted that while the pet name I had
used in the first days of our marriage, now recalled by her image,
elicited a faint smile, the mention of Eive clouded it again. She was
so unwilling to speak, that I caught at the clue afforded by her
silence.

"It _is_ Eive then? The little hypocrite! She shall find your sandal
heavier than mine."

"No, no!" she pleaded eagerly. "You have seen what Eive is in your
presence; and to me she is always the same. If she were not, could I
complain of her?"

"And why not, Eveena? Do you think I should hesitate between you?"

"No!" she answered, with unusual decision of tone. "I will tell you
exactly what you would do. You would take my word implicitly; you
would have made up your mind before you heard her; you would deal
harder measure to Eive than to any one, _because_ she is your pet; you
would think for once not of sparing the culprit, but of satisfying me;
and afterwards"----

She paused, and I saw that she would not conclude in words a sentence
I could perhaps have finished for myself.

"I see," I replied, "that Eive is the source of your trouble, but not
what the trouble is. For her sake, do not force me to extort the truth
from her."

"I doubt whether she has guessed my misgiving," Eveena answered. "It
may be that you are right--that it is because she was so long the only
one you were fond of, that I cannot like and trust her as you do.
But ... you leave the telegraph in my charge, understanding, of course,
that it will be used as when you are at home. So, after Davilo's
warning, I have written their messages for Eunane and the others, but
I could not refuse Eive's request to write her own, and, like you, I
have never read them."

"Why?" I asked. "Surely it is strange to give her, of all, a special
privilege and confidence?"

Eveena was silent. She could in no case have reproached me in words,
and even the reproach of silence was so unusual that I could not but
feel it keenly. I saw at that moment that for whatever had happened or
might happen I might thank myself; might thank the doubt I would not
avow to my own mind, but could not conceal from her, that Eveena had
condescended to something like jealousy of one whose childish
simplicity, real or affected, had strangely won my heart, as children
do win hearts hardened by experience of life's roughness and evil.

"I know nothing," Eveena said at last: "yet somehow, and wholly
without any reason I can explain, I fear. Eive, you may remember, has,
as your companion, made acquaintance with many households whose heads
you do not believe friends to you or the Zinta. She is a diligent
correspondent. She never affects to conceal anything, and yet no one
of us has lately seen the contents of a note sent or received by her."

There was nothing tangible in Eveena's suspicion. It was most
repugnant to my own feelings, and yet it implanted, whether by force
of sympathy or of instinct, a misgiving that never left me again.

"My own," I answered, "I would trust your judgment, your observation
or feminine instinct and insight into character, far sooner than my
own conclusions upon solid facts. But instincts and presentiments,
though we are not scientifically ignorant enough to disregard them,
are not evidence on which we can act or even inquire."

"No," she said. "And yet it is hard to feel, as I cannot help feeling,
that the thunder-cloud is forming, that the bolt is almost ready to
strike, and that you are risking life, and perhaps more than life, out
of a delicacy no other man would show towards a child--since child you
will have her--who, I feel sure, deserves all she might receive from
the hands of one who would have the truth at any cost."

"You feel," I answered, "for me as I should feel for you. But is death
so terrible to _us_? It means leaving you--I wish we knew that it does
not mean losing for ever, after so brief an enjoyment, all that is
perishable in love like ours--or it would not be worth fearing. I
don't think I ever did fear it till you made my life so sweet. But
life is not worth an unkindness or injustice. Better die trusting to
the last than live in the misery and shame of suspecting one I love,
or dreading treacherous malice from any hand under my own roof."

When I met Davilo the next morning, the grave and anxious expression
of his face--usually calm and serene even in deepest thought, as are
those of the experienced members of an Order confident in the
consciousness of irresistible secret power--not a little disturbed me.
As Eveena had said, the thunder-cloud was forming; and a chill went to
my heart which in facing measurable and open peril it had never felt.

"I bring you," he said; "a message that will not, I am afraid, be
welcome. He whose guest you were at Serocasfe invites you to pay him
an immediate visit; and the invitation must be accepted at once."

I drew myself up with no little indignation at the imperative tone,
but feeling at least equal awe at the stern calmness with which the
mandate was spoken.

"And what compels me to such haste, or to compliance without
consideration?"

"That power," he returned, "which none can resist, and to which you
may not demur."

Seeing that I still hesitated--in truth, the summons had turned my
vague misgiving into intense though equally vague alarm and even
terror, which as unmanly and unworthy I strove to repress, but which
asserted its domination in a manner as unwonted as unwelcome--he drew
aside a fold of his robe, and showed within the silver Star of the
Order, supported by the golden sash, that marked a rank second only to
that of the wearer of the Signet itself. I understood too well by this
time, through conversations with him and other communications of which
it has been needless to speak, the significance of this revelation. I
knew the impossibility of questioning the authority to which I had
pledged obedience. I realised with great amazement the fact that a
secondary position on my own estate, and a personal charge of my own
safety, had been accepted by a Chief of the Zinta.

"There is, of course," I replied at last, "no answer to a mandate so
enforced. But, Chief, reluctant as I am to say it, I fear--fear as I
have never done before; and yet fear I cannot say, I cannot guess
what."

"There is no cause for alarm," he said somewhat contemptuously. "In
this journey, sudden, speedy, and made under our guard as on our
summons, there is little or none of that peril which has beset you so
long."

"You forget, Chief," I rejoined, "that you speak to a soldier, whose
chosen trade was to risk life at the word of a superior; to one whose
youth thought no smile so bright as that of naked steel, and had often
'kissed the lips of the lightning' ere the down darkened his own. At
any rate, you have told me daily for more than a year that I am living
under constant peril of assassination; have I seemed to quail thereat?
If, then, I am now terrified for the first time, that which I dread,
without knowing or dreaming what it is, is assuredly a peril worse
than any I have known, the shadow of a calamity against which I have
neither weapon nor courage. It cannot be for myself that I am thus
appalled," I continued, the thought flashing into my mind as I spoke
it, "and there is but one whose life is so closely bound with mine
that danger to her should bring such terror as this. I go at your
bidding, but I will not go alone."

He paused for some time, apparently in perplexity, certainly in deep
thought, before he replied.

"As you will. One thing more. The slips of tafroo with which you
furnished me have been under the eyes of which you have heard. This"
(handing me the one that bore no mark) "has passed, so far as the
highest powers of the sense that is not of the body can perceive,
through none but innocent hands. The hand from which you received
this" (the marked slip) "is spotted with treason, and may to-morrow be
red."

I was less impressed by this declaration than probably would have been
any other member of the Order. I had seen on Earth the most marvellous
perceptions of a perfectly lucid vision succeeded, sometimes within
the space of the same day, by dreams or hallucinations the most
absolutely deceptive. I felt, therefore, more satisfaction in the
acquittal of Eunane, whom I had never doubted, than trouble at the
grave suspicion suggested against Eive--a suspicion I still refused to
entertain.

"You should enter your balloon as soon as the sunset mist will conceal
it," said Davilo. "By mid-day you may reach the deep bay on the mid
sea-belt of the North, where a swift vessel will meet you and convey
you in two or three days by a direct course through the canal and gulf
you have traversed already, to the port from which you commenced your
first submarine voyage."

"You had better," I said, "make your instruction a little more
particular, or I shall hardly know how to direct my course."

"Do not dream," he answered, "that you will be permitted to undertake
such a journey but under the safest guidance. At the time I have named
all will be ready for your departure, and you have simply to sleep or
read or meditate as you will, till you reach your destination."

Eveena was not a little startled when I informed her of the sudden
journey before me, and my determination that she should be my
companion. It was unquestionably a trying effort for her, especially
the balloon voyage, which would expose her to the cold of the mists
and of the night, and I feared to the intenser cold of the upper air.
But I dared not leave her, and she was pleased by a peremptory
decision which made her the companion of my absence, without leaving
room for discussion or question. The time for our departure was
drawing near when, followed by Eunane, she came into my chamber.

"If we are to be long away," she said, "you must say on whom my
charges are to devolve."

"As you please," I answered, sure of her choice, and well content to
see her hand over her cares to Eunane, who, if she lacked the wisdom
and forbearance of Eveena, could certainly hold the reins with a
stronger hand.

"Eive," she said, "has asked the charge of my flowerbed; but I had
promised it, and"----

"And you would rather give it," I answered, "to Eunane? Naturally; and
I should not care to allow Eive the chance of spoiling your work. I
think we may now trust whatever is yours in those once troublesome
hands," looking at Eunane, "with perfect assurance that they will do
their best."

I had never before parted even from Eunane with any feeling of regret;
but on this occasion an impulse I could not account for, but have ever
since been glad to remember, made me turn at the last moment and add
to Eveena's earnest embrace a few words of affection and confidence,
which evidently cheered and encouraged her deputy. The car that
awaited us was of the light tubular construction common here, formed
of the silvery metal _zorinta_. About eighteen feet in length and half
that breadth, it was divided into two compartments; each, with the aid
of canopy and curtains, forming at will a closed tent, and securing
almost as much privacy as an Arab family enjoys, or opening to the
sky. In that with which the sails and machinery were connected were
Davilo and two of his attendants. The other had been carefully lined
and covered with furs and wrappings, indicating an attention to my
companion which indeed is rarely shown to women by their own lords,
and which none but the daughter of Esmo would have received even among
the brethren of the Order. Ere we departed I had arranged her cushions
and wrapped her closely in the warmest coverings; and flinging over
her at last the kargynda skin received from the Campta, I bade her
sleep if possible during our aerial voyage. There was need to provide
as carefully as possible for her comfort. The balloon shot up at once
above the evening mists to a height at which the cold was intense, but
at which our voyage could be guided by the stars, invisible from
below, and at which we escaped the more dangerously chilling damp. The
wind that blew right in our teeth, caused by no atmospheric current
but by our own rapid passage, would in a few moments have frozen my
face, perhaps fatally, had not thick skins been arranged to screen us.
Even through these it blew with intense severity, and I was glad
indeed to cover myself from head to foot and lie down beside Eveena.
Her hand as she laid it on mine was painfully cold; but the shivering
I could hardly suppress made her anxious to part in my favour with
some at least of the many coverings that could hardly screen herself
from the searching blast. Not at the greatest height I reached among
the Himalayas, nor on the Steppes of Tartary, had I experienced a cold
severer than this. The Sun had just turned westward when we reached
the port at which we were to embark. Despite the cold, Eveena had
slept during the latter part of our voyage, and was still sleeping
when I placed her on the cushions in our cabin. The sudden and most
welcome change from bitter cold to comfortable warmth awakened her, as
it at last allowed me to sleep. Our journey was continued below the
surface at a rate of more than twelve hundred miles in the day, a
speed which made observation through the thick but perfectly
transparent side windows of our cabin impossible. I was indisposed for
meditation, which could have been directed to no other subject than
the mysterious purpose of our journey, and had not provided myself
with books. But in Eveena's company it was impossible that the time
should pass slowly or wearily.

In this balloon journey I had a specially advantageous opportunity of
observing the two moons--velnaa, as they are called. _Cavelna_, or
Caulna, the nearer, in diameter about 8' or a little more than
one-fourth that of our Moon, is a tolerably brilliant object, about
5000 miles from the surface. Moving, like all planets and satellites,
from west to east, it completes its stellar revolution and its phases
in less than seven and a half hours; the contrary revolution of the
skies prolongs its circuit around the planet to a period of ten hours.
Zeelna (_Zevelna_) returns to the same celestial meridian in thirty
hours; but as in this time the starry vault has completed about a
rotation and a quarter in the opposite direction, it takes nearly five
days to reappear on the same horizon. It is about 3' in diameter, and
about 12,000 miles from the surface. The result of the combined
motions is that the two moons, to the eye, seem to move in opposite
directions. When we rose above the mists, Caulna was visible as a very
fine crescent in the west; Zeelna was rising in the east, and almost
full; but hardly a more brilliant object than Venus when seen to most
advantage from Earth. Both moved so rapidly among the stars that their
celestial change of place was apparent from minute to minute. But, as
regarded our own position, the appearance was as opposite as their
direction. Zeelna, traversing in twelve hours only one-fifth of the
visible hemisphere, while crossing in the same time 144 deg. on the
zodiac--twelve degrees per hour, or our Moon's diameter in two minutes
and a half--was left behind by the stars; and fixing what I may call
the ocular attention on her, she seemed to stand still while they
slowly passed her; thus making their revolution perceptible to sense
as it never is on Earth, for lack of a similar standard. Caulna,
rising in the west and moving eastwards, crossed the visible sky in
five hours, and passed through the stars at the rate of 48 deg. per hour,
so that she seemed to sail past them like a golden cloudlet or
celestial vessel driven by a slow wind. It happened this night that
she passed over the star Fomalhaut--an occultation which I watched
with great interest through an excellent field-glass, but which lasted
only for about half a minute. About an hour before midnight the two
moons passed each other in the Eastern sky; both gibbous at the
moment, like our Moon in her last quarter. The difference in size and
motion was then most striking; Caulna seeming to rush past her
companion, and the latter looking like a stationary star in the slowly
moving sky.

CHAPTER XXV - APOSTACY.

We were received on landing by our former host and conducted to his
house. On this occasion, however, I was not detained in the hall, but
permitted at once to enter the chamber allotted to us. Eveena, who had
exacted from me all that I knew, and much that I meant to conceal,
respecting the occasion of our journey, was much agitated and not a
little alarmed. My own humble rank in the Zinta rendered so sudden and
imperative a summons the more difficult to understand, and though by
this time well versed in the learning, neither of us was familiar with
the administration of the Brotherhood. I was glad therefore on her
account, even more than on my own, when, a scratch at the door having
obtained admission for an amba, it placed before me a message from
Esmo requesting a private conference. Her father's presence set
Eveena's mind at rest; since she had learned, strangely enough from
myself, what she had never known before, the rank he held among the
brethren.

"I have summoned you," he said as soon as I joined him, "for more than
one reason. There is but one, however, that I need now explain.
Important questions, are as a rule either settled by the Chiefs alone
in Council, or submitted to a general meeting of the Order. In this
case neither course can be adopted. It would not have occurred to
myself that, under present circumstances, you could render material
service in either of the two directions in which it may be required.
But those by whom the cause has been prepared have asked that you
should be one of the Convent, and such a request is never refused.
Indeed, its refusal would imply either such injustice as would render
the whole proceeding utterly incompatible with the first principles of
our cohesion, or such distrust of the person summoned as is never felt
for a member of the Brotherhood. I would rather say no more on the
subject now. Your nerve and judgment will be sufficiently tried
to-night; and it is a valuable maxim of our science that, in the hours
immediately preceding either an important decision or a severe trial,
the spirit should be left as far as possible calm and unvexed by vague
shadows of that which is to come."

The maxim thus expressed, if rendered into the language of material
medicine, is among those which every man of experience holds and
practically acts upon. I turned the conversation, then, by inviting
Esmo into my own apartment; and I was touched indeed by the eager
delight, even stronger than I had expected, with which Eveena welcomed
her father, and inquired into the minutest details of the home life
from which she had been, as it seemed to her, so long separated. What
was, however, specially characteristic was the delicate care with
which, even in this first meeting with one of her own family, she
contrived still to give the paramount place in her attention to her
husband, and never for a moment to let him feel excluded from a
conversation with whose topics he was imperfectly acquainted, and in
which he might have been supposed uninterested. The hours thus passed
pleasantly away; and, except when Kevima, joined us at the evening
meal, adding a new and unexpected pleasure to Eveena's natural delight
in this sudden reunion, we remained undisturbed until a very low
electric signal, sounding apparently through several chambers at once,
recalled Esmo's mind to the duties before him.

"You will not," he said, "return till late, and I wish you would
induce Eveena to ensure, by composing herself to sleep before your
return, that you shall not be asked to converse until the morning."

He withdrew with Kevima, and, as instructed, I proceeded to change my
dress for one of pure white adapted to the occasion, with only a band
of crimson around the waist and throat, and to invest myself in the
badge of the Order. The turban which I wore, without attracting
attention, in the Asiatic rather than in the Martial form, was of
white mingled with red; a novelty which seemed to Eveena's eyes
painfully ominous. In Martial language, as in Zveltic symbolism,
crimson generally takes the place of black as the emblem of guilt and
peril. When Esmo re-entered our chamber for a moment to summon me, he
was invested, as in the Shrine itself, in the full attire of his
office, and I was recalled to a recollection of the reverence due to
the head of the Brotherhood by the sudden change in Eveena's manner.
To her father, though a most respectful, she was a fearlessly
affectionate child. For Clavelta she had only the reverence, deeply
intermingled with awe, with which a devout Catholic convert from the
East may approach for the first time some more than usually imposing
occupant of the Chair of St. Peter. Before the arm that bore the
Signet, and the sash of gold, we bent knee and head in the deference
prescribed by our rules--a homage which the youngest child in the
public Nurseries would not dream of offering to the Campta himself. At
a sign from his hand I followed Esmo, hoping rather than expecting
that Eveena would obey the counsel indirectly addressed to her.
Traversing the same passages as before, save that a slight turn
avoided the symbolic bridge, and formally challenged at each point as
usual by the sentries, who saluted with profoundest reverence the
Signet of the Order, we passed at last into the Hall of Initiation.

But on this occasion its aspect was completely changed. A space
immediately in front of what I may call the veil of the Shrine was
closed in by drapery of white bordered with crimson. The Chiefs
occupied, as before, their seats on the platform. Some fifty members
of the Order sat to right and left immediately below; but Esmo, on
this occasion, seated himself on the second leftward step of the
Throne, which, with the silver light and the other mystic emblems, was
unveiled in the same strange manner as before at his approach. Near
the lower end of the small chamber thus formed, crossing the passage
between the seats on either hand, was a barrier of the bright red
metal I have more than once mentioned, and behind it a seat of some
sable material. Behind this, to right and left, stood silent and erect
two sentries robed in green, and armed with the usual spear. A deep
intense absolute silence prevailed, from the moment when the last of
the party had taken his place, for the space of some ten minutes. In
the faces of the Chiefs and of some of the elder Initiates, who were
probably aware of the nature of the scene to follow, was an expression
of calm but deep pain and regret; crossed now and then by a shade of
anxiety, such as rarely appeared in that abode of assured peace and
profound security. On no countenance was visible the slightest shadow
of restlessness or curiosity. In the changed aspect of the place, the
changed tone of its associations and of the feelings habitual to its
frequenters, there was something which impressed and overawed the
petulance of youth, and even the indifference of an experience like my
own. At last, stretching forth the ivory-like staff of mingled white
and red, which on this occasion each of the Chiefs had substituted for
their usual crystal wand, Esmo spoke, not raising his voice a single
semitone above its usual pitch, but with even unwonted gravity--

"Come forward, Asco Zvelta!" he said.

The sight I now witnessed, no description could represent to one who
had not seen the same. Parting the drapery at the lower end, there
came forward a figure in which the most absolutely inexperienced eye
could not fail to recognise a culprit called to trial. "Came forward,"
I have said, because I can use no other words. But such was not the
term which would have occurred to any one who witnessed the movement.
"Was dragged forward," I should say, did I attempt to convey the
impression produced;--save that no compulsion, no physical force was
used, nor were there any to use it. And yet the miserable man
approached slowly, reluctantly, shrinking back as one who strives with
superior corporeal power exerted to force him onward, as if physically
dragged on step by step by invisible bonds held by hands unseen. So
with white face and shaking form he reached the barrier, and knelt as
Esmo rose from his place, honouring instinctively, though his eyes
seemed incapable of discerning them, the symbols of supreme authority.
Then, at a silent gesture, he rose and fell back into the chair placed
for him, apparently unable to stand and scarcely able to sustain
himself on his seat.

"Brother," said the junior of the Chiefs, or he who occupied the place
farthest to the right;--and now I noticed that eleven were present,
the last seat on the right of him who spoke being vacant--"you have
unveiled to strangers the secrets of the Shrine."

He paused for an answer; and, in a tone strangely unnatural and
expressionless, came from the scarcely parted lips of the culprit the
reply--"

"It is true."

"You have," said the next of the Chiefs, "accepted reward to place the
lives of your brethren at the mercy of their enemies."

"It is true."

"You have," said he who occupied the lowest seat upon the left,
"forsworn in heart and deed, if not in word, the vows by which you
willingly bound yourself, and the law whose boons you had accepted."

Again the same confession, forced evidently by some overwhelming power
from one who would, if he could, have denied or remained silent.

"And to whom," said Esmo, interposing for the first time, "have you
thus betrayed us?"

"I know not," was the reply.

"Explain," said the Chief immediately to the left of the Throne, who,
if there were a difference in the expression of the calm sad faces,
seemed to entertain more of compassion and less of disgust and
repulsion towards the offender than any other.

"Those with whom I spoke," replied the culprit, in the same strange
tone, "were not known to me, but gave token of authority next to that
of the Campta. They told me that the existence of the Order had long
been known, that many of its members were clearly indicated by their
household practices, that their destruction was determined; that I was
known as a member of the Order, and might choose between perishing
first of their victims and receiving reward such as I should name
myself for the information I could give."

"What have you told?" asked another of the Chiefs.

"I have not named one of the symbols. I have not betrayed the Shrine
or the passwords. I have told that the Zinta _is_. I have told the
meaning of the Serpent, the Circle, and the Star, though I have not
named them."

"And," said he on the left of the Throne, "naming the hope that is
more than all hope, recalling the power that is above all power, could
you dare to renounce the one and draw on your own head the justice of
the other? What reward could induce a child of the Light to turn back
into darkness? What authority could protect the traitor from the fate
he imprecated and accepted when he first knelt before the Throne?"
"The hope was distant and the light was dim," the offender answered.
"I was threatened and I was tempted. I knew that death, speedy and
painless, was the penalty of treason to the Order, that a death of
prolonged torture might be the vengeance of the power that menaced me.
I hoped little in the far and dim future of the Serpent's promise, and
I hoped and feared much in the life on this side of death."

"Do you know," asked the last inquirer again, "no name, and nothing
that can enable us to trace those with whom you spoke or those who
employed them?"

"Only this," was the answer, "that one of them has an especial hatred
to one Initiate present," pointing to myself; "and seeks his life, not
only as a child of the Star, not only as husband of the daughter of
Clavelta, but for a reason that is not known to me."

"And," asked another Chief, "do you know what instrument that enemy
seeks to use?"

"One who has over her intended victim such influence as few of her sex
ever have over their lords; one of whom his love will learn no
distrust, against whom his heart has no guard and his manhood no
wisdom."

A shiver of horror passed over the forms of the Chiefs and of many who
sat near them, incomprehensible to me till a sudden light was afforded
by the indignant interruption of Kevima, who sat not far from myself.

"It cannot be," he cried, "or you can name her whom you accuse."

"Be silent!" Esmo said, in the cold, grave tone of a president
rebuking disorder, mingled with the deeper displeasure of a priest
repressing irreverence in the midst of the most solemn religious rite.
"None may speak here till the Chiefs have ceased to speak."

None of the latter, however, seemed disposed to ask another question.
The guilt of the accused was confessed. All that he could tell to
guide their further inquiries had been told. To doubt that what was
forced from him was to the best of his knowledge true, was to them,
who understood the mysterious power that had compelled the spirit and
the lips to an unwilling confession, impossible. And if it had seemed
that further information might have been extracted relative to my own
personal danger, a stronger tie, a deeper obligation, bound them to
the supposed object of the last obscure imputation, and none was
willing to elicit further charges or clearer evidence. Probably also
they anticipated that, when the word was extended to the Initiates, I
should take up my own cause.

"Would any brother speak?" asked Esmo, when the silence of the Chiefs
had lasted for a few moments.

But his rebuke had silenced Kevima, and no one else cared to
interpose. The eyes of the assembly turned upon me so generally and so
pointedly, that at last I felt myself forced, though against my own
judgment, to rise.

"I have no question to ask the accused," I said.

"Then," replied Esmo calmly, "you have nothing now to say. Give to the
brother accused before us the cup of rest."

A small goblet was handed by one of the sentries to the miserable
creature, now half-insensible, who awaited our judgment. In a very few
moments he had sunk into a slumber in which his face was comparatively
calm, and his limbs had ceased to tremble. His fate was to be debated
in the presence indeed of his body, but in the absence of
consciousness and knowledge.

"Has any elder brother," inquired Esmo, "counsel to afford?"

No word was spoken.

"Has any brother counsel to afford?"

Again all were silent, till the glance which the Chief cast in order
along the ranks of the assembly fell upon myself.

"One word," I said. "I claim permission to speak, because the matter
touches closely and cruelly my own honour."

There was that inaudible, invisible, motionless "movement," as some
French reporters call it, of surprise throughout the assembly which
communicates itself instinctively to a speaker.

"My own honour," I continued, "in the honour dearer and nearer to me
even than my own. What the accused has spoken may or may not be true."

"It is true," interposed a Chief, probably pitying my ignorance.

"May be true," I continued, "though I will not believe it, to
whomsoever his words may apply. That no such treason as they have
suggested ever for one moment entered, or could enter, the heart of
her who knelt with me, in presence of many now here, before that
Throne, I will vouch by all the symbols we revere in common, and with
the life which it seems is alone threatened by the feminine domestic
treason alleged, from whomsoever that treason may proceed. I will
accuse none, as I suspect none; but I will say that the charge might
be true to the letter, and yet not touch, as I know it does not justly
touch, the daughter of our Chief."

A deep relief was visible in the faces which had so lately been
clouded by a suspicion terrible to all. Esmo's alone remained
impassive throughout my vindication, as throughout the apparent
accusation and silent condemnation of his daughter.

"Has any brother," he said, "counsel to speak respecting the question
actually before us?"

One and all were silent, till Esmo again put the formal question:--

"Has he who was our brother betrayed the brotherhood?"

From every member of the assembly came a clear unmistakable assent.

"Is he outcast?"

Silence rather than any distinct sign answered in the affirmative.

"Is it needful that his lips be sealed for ever?"

One or two of the Chiefs expressed in a single sentence an affirmative
conviction, which was evidently shared by all present except myself.
Appealing by a look to Esmo, and encouraged by his eye, I spoke--

"The outcast has confessed treason worthy of death. That I cannot
deny. But he has sinned from fear rather than from greed or malice;
and to fear, courage should be indulgent. The coward is but what Allah
has made him, and to punish cowardice is to punish the child for the
heritage his parents have inflicted. Moreover, no example of
punishment will make cowards brave. It seems to me, then, that there
is neither justice nor wisdom in taking vengeance upon the crime of
weakness."

In but two faces, those of Esmo and of his next colleague on the left,
could I see the slightest sign of approval. One of the other chiefs
answered briefly and decisively my plea for mercy.

"If," he said, "treason proceed from fear, the more cause that a
greater fear should prevent the treason of cowardice for the future.
The same motives that have led the offender to betray so much would
assuredly lead him to betray more were he released; and to attempt
lifelong confinement is to make the lives of all dependent on a chance
in order to spare one unworthy life. The excuse which our brother has
pleaded may, we hope, avail with a tribunal which can regard the
conscience apart from the consequences. It ought not to avail with
us."

But the law of the Zinta, as I now learned, will not allow sentence of
death to be passed save by an absolutely unanimous vote. It is held
that if one judge educated in the ideas of the Order, appreciating to
the full the priceless importance of its teaching and the guilt of
treason against it, is unpersuaded that there exists sufficient cause
for the supreme penalty, the doubt is such as should preclude the
infliction of that penalty. It is, however, permitted and expected
that the dissentients, if few in number, much more a single
dissentient, shall listen attentively and give the most respectful and
impartial consideration to the arguments of brethren, and especially
of seniors. If a single mind remains unmoved, its dissent is decisive.
But it would be the gravest dereliction of duty to persist from
wilfulness, obstinacy, or pride, in adhesion to a view perhaps hastily
expressed in opposition to authority and argument. The debate to which
my speech gave rise lasted for two hours. Each speaker spoke but a few
terse expressive sentences; and after each speech came a pause
allowing full time for the consideration of its reasoning. Two points
were very soon made clear to all. The offender had justly forfeited
his life; and if his death were necessary or greatly conducive to the
safety of the rest, the mercy which for his sake imperilled worthier
men and sacred truths would have been no less than a crime. The
thought, however, that weighed most with me against my natural feeling
was an experience to which none present could appeal. I had sat on
many courts-martial where cowardice was the only charge imputed; and
in every case in which that charge was proved, sentence of death had
been passed and carried out on a ground I could not refuse to consider
sufficient:--namely, that the infection of terror can best be
repressed by an example inspiring deeper terror than that to which the
prisoner has yielded. Compelled by these precedents, though with
intense reluctance, I submitted at last to the universal judgment.
Esmo having collected the will, I cannot say the voices, of the
assembly, paused for a minute in silence.

"The Present has pronounced," he said at last. "Are the voices of the
Past assentient?"

He looked around as if to see whether, under real or supposed
inspiration, any of those before him would give in another name a
judgment opposite to that in which all had concurred. Instinctively I
glanced towards the Throne, but it remained vacant as ever. Then,
fixing his eyes for a few moments upon the culprit, who started and
woke to full consciousness under his gaze--and receiving from the
Chief nearest to him on the left a chain of small golden circles
similar to that of the canopy, represented also on the Signet, while
he on the right held a small roll, on the golden surface of which a
long list of names was inscribed--our Superior pronounced, amid
deepest stillness, in a low clear tone, the form of excommunication;
breaking at the appropriate moment one link from the chain, and, at a
later point, drawing a broad crimson bar through one cipher on the
roll:--

"Conscience-convict, tried in truth,
Judged in justice, doomed in ruth;
Ours no more--once ours in vain--
Falls the Veil and snaps the Chain,
Drops the link and lies alone:--
Traitor to the Emerald Throne,
Alien from the troth we plight,
Kature native to the night;
Trained in Light the Light to scorn,
Soul apostate and forsworn,
False to symbol, sense, and sign,
To the Serpent's pledge divine,
To the Wings that reach afar,
To the Circle and the Star;
Recreant to the mystic rule,
Outlaw from the sacred school--
Backward is the Threshold crossed;
Lost the Light, the Life is lost.
Go; the golden page we blot:
Go; forgetting and forgot!
Go--by final sentence shriven,
Be thy crime absolved in Heaven!"

Once more the Throne and the Emblems behind and above it had been
veiled in impenetrable darkness. Instinctively, as it seemed, every
one present had risen to his feet, and stood with bent head and
downcast eyes as the Condemned, rising mechanically, turned without a
word and passed away.

CHAPTER XXVI - TWILIGHT.

I was, perhaps, the only member of the assembly to whom the doomed man
was not personally known, and to all of us the tie which had been
severed was one at least as close as that of natural brotherhood on
Earth.

How long the pause lasted--how, or why, or when we resumed our seats,
even I knew not. The Shrine was unveiled, and Esmo's next colleague
spoke again--

"A seat among the elders has been three days vacant by the departure
of one well known and dear to all. His colleagues have considered how
best it may be filled. The member they have selected is of the
youngest in experience here; but from the first moment of his
initiation it was evident to us that more than half the learning of
the Starlight had been his before. Nothing could so deeply confirm our
joy and confidence in that lore, as to find that in another world the
truths we hold dearest are held with equal faith, that many of our
deepest secrets have there been sought and discovered by societies not
unlike our own. For that reason, and because of that House, whereof
now but two members are left us, he is by wedlock and adoption the
third, the elder brethren have unanimously resolved to recommend to
Clavelta, and to the Children of the Star, that this seat," and he
pointed to the vacant place, "shall be filled by him who has but now
expressed, with a warmth seldom shown in this place, his love and
trust for the daughter of our Chief, the descendant of our Founder."

Certainly not on my own account, but from the earnest attachment and
devotion they felt for Esmo, both personally as a long-tried and
deservedly revered Chief, and as almost the last representative of a
lineage so profoundly loved and honoured, the approval of all present
was expressed with a sudden and eager warmth which deeply affected me;
the more that it expressed an hereditary regard and esteem, not for
myself but for Eveena, rarely or never, even among the Zveltau, paid
to a woman. Esmo bent his head in assent, and then, addressing me by
name, called me to the foot of the platform.

He held in his hand the golden sash and rose-coloured wand which
marked the rank about to be bestowed on me. I felt very deeply my own
incompetence and ignorance; and even had I valued more the proffered
honour, I should have been bound to decline it. But at the third word
I spoke, I was silenced with a stern though perfectly calm severity.
Flinging back the fold of his robe that covered his left arm, with a
gesture that placed the Signet full before my eyes, he said--

"You have sworn obedience."

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