HotFreeBooks.com
Mizora: A Prophecy - A MSS. Found Among the Private Papers of the Princess Vera Zarovitch
by Mary E. Bradley
Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Man, in my country, was a necessity of government, law, and protection. His importance, (as I viewed it from inherited ideas) was incalculable. It could not be possible that he had no existence in a country so eminently adapted to his desires and ability.

The expression, "domestic misery," that the Preceptress made use of one day in conversation with me, haunted my imagination with a persistent suspicion of mystery. It had a familiar sound to me. It intimated knowledge of a world I knew so well; where ill-nature, malice, spite, envy, deceit, falsehood and dishonesty, made life a continual anxiety.

Locks, bolts and bars shut out the thief who coveted your jewels; but no bolts nor bars, however ingeniously constructed or strongly made, could keep out the thief who coveted your character. One little word from a pretended friend might consummate the sorrow of your whole life, and be witnessed by the perpetrator without a pang—nay, even with exultation.

There were other miseries I thought of that were common in my country. There were those we love. Some who are woven into our lives and affections by the kinship of blood; who grow up weak and vacillating, and are won away, sometimes through vice, to estrangement. Our hearts ache not the less painfully that they have ceased to be worthy of a throb; or that they have been weak enough to become estranged, to benefit some selfish alien.

There were other sorrows in that world that I had come from, that brought anguish alike to the innocent and the guilty. It was the sorrow of premature death. Diseases of all kinds made lives wretched; or tore them asunder with death. How many hearts have ached with cankering pain to see those who are vitally dear, wasting away slowly, but surely, with unrelievable suffering; and to know that life but prolongs their misery, and death relieves it only with inconsolable grief for the living.

Who has looked into a pair of youthful eyes, so lovely that imagination could not invent for them another charm, and saw the misty film of death gather over them, while your heart ached with regret as bitter as it was unavailing. The soft snows of winter have fallen—a veil of purity—over the new made graves of innocence and youth, and its wild winds have been the saddest requiem. The dews of summer have wept with your tears, and its zephyrs have sighed over the mouldering loveliness of youth.

I had known no skill in my world that could snatch from death its unlawful prey of youth. But here, in this land so eminently blessed, no one regarded death as a dreaded invader of their household.

"We cannot die until we get old," said Wauna, naively.

And looking upon their bounding animal spirits, their strong supple frames, and the rich, red blood of perfect health, mantling their cheeks with its unsurpassable bloom, one would think that disease must have strong grasp indeed that could destroy them.

But these were not all the sorrows that my own country knew. Crimes, with which we had no personal connection, shocked us with their horrible details. They crept, like noxious vapors, into the moral atmosphere of the pure and good; tainting the weak, and annoying the strong.

There were other sorrows in my country that were more deplorable still. It was the fate of those who sought to relieve the sufferings of the many by an enforced government reform. Misguided, imprudent and fanatical they might be, but their aim at least was noble. The wrongs and sufferings of the helpless and oppressed had goaded them to action for their relief.

But, alas! The pale and haggard faces of thousands of those patriot souls faded and wasted in torturing slowness in dungeons of rayless gloom. Or their emaciated and rheumatic frames toiled in speechless agony amid the horrors of Siberia's mines.

In this land they would have been recognized as aspiring natures, spreading their wings for a nobler flight, seeking a higher and grander life. The smile of beauty would have urged them on. Hands innumerable would have given them a cordial and encouraging grasp. But in the land they had sought to benefit and failed, they suffered in silence and darkness, and died forgotten or cursed.

My heart and my brain ached with memory, and the thought again occurred: "Could the Preceptress ever have known such a race of people?"

I looked at her fair, calm brow, where not a wrinkle marred the serene expression of intellect, although I had been told that more than a hundred years had touched with increasing wisdom its broad surface. The smile that dwelt in her eyes, like the mystic sprite in the fountain, had not a suspicion of sadness in them. A nature so lofty as hers, where every feeling had a generous and noble existence and aim, could not have known without anguish the race of people I knew so well. Their sorrows would have tinged her life with a continual sadness.

The words of Wauna had awakened a new thought. I knew that their mental life was far above mine, and that in all the relations of life, both business and social, they exhibited a refinement never attained by my people. I had supposed these qualities to be an endowment of nature, and not a development sought and labored for by themselves. But my conversation with Wauna had given me a different impression, and the thought of a future for my own country took possession of me.

"Could it ever emerge from its horrors, and rise through gradual but earnest endeavor to such perfection? Could a higher civilization crowd its sufferings out of existence and, in time, memory?"

I had never thought of my country having a claim upon me other than what I owed to my relatives and society. But in Mizora, where the very atmosphere seemed to feed one's brain with grander and nobler ideas of life and humanity, my nature had drank the inspiration of good deeds and impulses, and had given the desire to work for something beside myself and my own kindred. I resolved that if I should ever again behold my native country, I would seek the good of all its people along with that of my nearest and dearest of kin. But how to do it was a matter I could not arrange. I felt reluctant to ask either Wauna or her mother. The guileless frankness of Wauna's nature was an impassable barrier to the confidence of crimes and wretchedness. One glance of horror from her dark, sweet eyes, would have chilled me into painful silence and sorrowful regret.

The mystery that had ever surrounded these lovely and noble blonde women had driven me into an unnatural reserve in regard to my own people and country. I had always perceived the utter absence of my allusion to the masculine gender, and conceiving that it must be occasioned by some more than ordinary circumstances, I refrained from intruding my curiosity.

That the singular absence of men was connected with nothing criminal or ignoble on their part I felt certain; but that it was associated with something weird and mysterious I had now become convinced. My efforts to discover their whereabouts had been earnest and untiring. I had visited a number of their large cities, and had enjoyed the hospitality of many private homes. I had examined every nook and corner of private and public buildings, (for in Mizora nothing ever has locks) and in no place had I ever discovered a trace or suggestion of man.

Women and girls were everywhere. Their fair faces and golden heads greeted me in every town and city. Sometimes a pair of unusually dark blue eyes, like the color of a velvet-leaved pansy, looked out from an exquisitely tinted face framed in flossy golden hair, startling me with its unnatural loveliness, and then I would wonder anew:

"Why is such a paradise for man so entirely devoid of him?"

I even endeavored to discover from the conversation of young girls some allusion to the male sex. But listen as attentively and discreetly as I could, not one allusion did I hear made to the mysteriously absent beings. I was astonished that young girls, with cheeks like the downy bloom of a ripe peach, should chatter and laugh merrily over every conversational topic but that of the lords of society. The older and the wiser among women might acquire a depreciating idea of their worth, but innocent and inexperienced girlhood was apt to surround that name with a halo of romance and fancied nobility that the reality did not always possess. What, then, was my amazement to find them indifferent and wholly neglectful of that (to me) very important class of beings.

Conjecture at last exhausted itself, and curiosity became indifferent. Mizora, as a nation, or an individual representative, was incapable of dishonor. Whatever their secret I should make no farther effort to discover it. Their hospitality had been generous and unreserved. Their influence upon my character—morally—had been an incalculable benefit. I had enjoyed being among them. The rhythm of happiness that swept like a strain of sweet music through all their daily life, touched a chord in my own nature that responded.

And when I contrasted the prosperity of Mizora—a prosperity that reached every citizen in its vast territory—with the varied phases of life that are found in my own land, it urged me to inquire if there could be hope for such happiness within its borders.

To the Preceptress, whose sympathies I knew were broad as the lap of nature, I at last went with my desire and perplexities. A sketch of my country's condition was the inevitable prelude. I gave it without once alluding to the presence of Man. She listened quietly and attentively. Her own land lay like a charming picture before her. I spoke of its peaceful happiness, its perfected refinement, its universal wealth, and paramount to all its other blessings, its complete ignorance of social ills. With them, love did not confine itself to families, but encircled the Nation in one embrace. How dismal, in contrast, was the land that had given me birth.

"But one eminent distinction exists among us as a people," I added in conclusion. "We are not all of one race."

I paused and looked at the Preceptress. She appeared lost in reverie. Her expression was one of solicitude and approached nearer to actual pain than anything I had ever noticed upon it before. She looked up and caught my eye regarding her. Then she quietly asked:

"Are there men in your country?"



PART SECOND.



CHAPTER I.

I answered in the affirmative, and further added that I had a husband and a son.

The effect of a confession so simple, and so natural, wounded and amazed me.

The Preceptress started back with a look of loathing and abhorrence; but it was almost instantly succeeded by one of compassion.

"You have much to learn," she said gently, "and I desire not to judge you harshly. You are the product of a people far back in the darkness of civilization. We are a people who have passed beyond the boundary of what was once called Natural Law. But, more correctly, we have become mistresses of Nature's peculiar processes. We influence or control them at will. But before giving you any further explanation I will show you the gallery containing the portraits of our very ancient ancestors."

She then conducted me into a remote part of the National College, and sliding back a panel containing a magnificent painting, she disclosed a long gallery, the existence of which I had never suspected, although I knew their custom of using ornamented sliding panels instead of doors. Into this I followed her with wonder and increasing surprise. Paintings on canvas, old and dim with age; paintings on porcelain, and a peculiar transparent material, of which I have previously spoken, hung so thick upon the wall you could not have placed a hand between them. They were all portraits of men. Some were represented in the ancient or mediaeval costumes of my own ancestry, and some in garbs resembling our modern styles.

Some had noble countenances, and some bore on their painted visages the unmistakable stamp of passion and vice. It is not complimentary to myself to confess it, but I began to feel an odd kind of companionship in this assembly of good and evil looking men, such as I had not felt since entering this land of pre-eminently noble and lovely women.

As I gazed upon them, arrayed in the armor of some stern warrior, or the velvet doublet of some gay cavalier, the dark eyes of a debonair knight looked down upon me with familiar fellowship. There was pride of birth, and the passion of conquest in every line of his haughty, sensuous face. I seemed to breathe the same moral atmosphere that had surrounded me in the outer world.

They had lived among noble and ignoble deeds I felt sure. They had been swayed by conflicting desires. They had known temptation and resistance, and reluctant compliance. They had experienced the treachery and ingratitude of humanity, and had dealt in it themselves. They had known joy as I had known it, and their sorrow had been as my sorrows. They had loved as I had loved, and sinned as I had sinned, and suffered as I had suffered.

I wept for the first time since my entrance into Mizora, the bitter tears of actual experience, and endeavored to convey to the Preceptress some idea of the painful emotion that possessed me.

"I have noticed," she said, "in your own person and the descriptions you have given of your native country, a close resemblance to the people and history of our nation in ages far remote. These portraits are very old. The majority of them were painted many thousands of years ago. It is only by our perfect knowledge of color that we are enabled to preserve them. Some have been copied by expert artists upon a material manufactured by us for that purpose. It is a transparent adamant that possesses no refractive power, consequently the picture has all the advantage of a painting on canvas, with the addition of perpetuity. They can never fade nor decay."

"I am astonished at the existence of this gallery," I exclaimed. "I have observed a preference for sliding panels instead of doors, and that they were often decorated with paintings of rare excellence, but I had never suspected the existence of this gallery behind one of them."

"Any student," said the Preceptress, "who desires to become conversant with our earliest history, can use this gallery. It is not a secret, for nothing in Mizora is concealed; but we do not parade its existence, nor urge upon students an investigation of its history. They are so far removed from the moral imbecility that dwarfed the nature of these people, that no lesson can be learned from their lives; and their time can be so much more profitably spent in scientific research and study."

"You have not, then, reached the limits of scientific knowledge?" I wonderingly inquired, for, to me, they had already overstepped its imaginary pale.

"When we do we shall be able to create intellect at will. We govern to a certain extent the development of physical life; but the formation of the brain—its intellectual force, or capacity I should say—is beyond our immediate skill. Genius is yet the product of long cultivation."

I had observed that dark hair and eyes were as indiscriminately mingled in these portraits as I had been accustomed to find them in the living people of my own and other countries. I drew the Preceptress' attention to it.

"We believe that the highest excellence of moral and mental character is alone attainable by a fair race. The elements of evil belong to the dark race."

"And were the people of this country once of mixed complexions?"

"As you see in the portraits? Yes," was the reply.

"And what became of the dark complexions?"

"We eliminated them."

I was too astonished to speak and stood gazing upon the handsome face of a young man in a plumed hat and lace-frilled doublet. The dark eyes had a haughty look, like a man proud of his lineage and his sex.

"Let us leave this place," said the Preceptress presently. "It always has a depressing effect upon me."

"In what way?" I asked.

"By the degradation of the human race that they force me to recall."

I followed her out to a seat on one of the small porticoes.

In candidly expressing herself about the dark complexions, my companion had no intention or thought of wounding my feelings. So rigidly do they adhere to the truth in Mizora that it is of all other things pre-eminent, and is never supposed to give offense. The Preceptress but gave expression to the belief inculcated by centuries of the teachings and practices of her ancestors. I was not offended. It was her conviction. Besides, I had the consolation of secretly disagreeing with her. I am still of the opinion that their admirable system of government, social and political, and their encouragement and provision for universal culture of so high an order, had more to do with the formation of superlative character than the elimination of the dark complexion.

The Preceptress remained silent a long time, apparently absorbed in the beauty of the landscape that stretched before us. The falling waters of a fountain was all the sound we heard. The hour was auspicious. I was so eager to develop a revelation of the mystery about these people that I became nervous over my companion's protracted silence. I felt a delicacy in pressing inquiries concerning information that I thought ought to be voluntarily given. Inquisitiveness was regarded as a gross rudeness by them, and I could frame no question that I did not fear would sound impertinent. But at last patience gave way and, at the risk of increasing her commiseration for my barbarous mental condition, I asked:

"Are you conversant with the history of the times occupied by the originals of the portraits we have just seen?"

"I am," she replied.

"And would you object to giving me a condensed recital of it?"

"Not if it can do you any good?"

"What has become of their descendants—of those portraits?"

"They became extinct thousands of years ago."

She became silent again, lost in reverie. The agitation of my mind was not longer endurable. I was too near the acme of curiosity to longer delay. I threw reserve aside and not without fear and trembling faltered out:

"Where are the men of this country? Where do they stay?"

"There are none," was the startling reply. "The race became extinct three thousand years ago."



CHAPTER II.

I trembled at the suggestion of my own thoughts. Was this an enchanted country? Where the lovely blonde women fairies—or some weird beings of different specie, human only in form? Or was I dreaming?

"I do not believe I understand you," I said. "I never heard of a country where there were no men. In my land they are so very, very important."

"Possibly," was the placid answer.

"And you are really a nation of women?"

"Yes," she said. "And have been for the last three thousand years."

"Will you tell me how this wonderful change came about?"

"Certainly. But in order to do it, I must go back to our very remote ancestry. The civilization that I shall begin with must have resembled the present condition of your own country as you describe it. Prisons and punishments were prevalent throughout the land."

I inquired how long prisons and places of punishment had been abolished in Mizora.

"For more than two thousand years," she replied. "I have no personal knowledge of crime. When I speak of it, it is wholly from an historical standpoint. A theft has not been committed in this country for many many centuries. And those minor crimes, such as envy, jealousy, malice and falsehood, disappeared a long time ago. You will not find a citizen in Mizora who possesses the slightest trace of any of them.

"Did they exist in earlier times?"

"Yes. Our oldest histories are but records of a succession of dramas in which the actors were continually striving for power and exercising all of those ancient qualities of mind to obtain it. Plots, intrigues, murders and wars, were the active employments of the very ancient rulers of our land. As soon as death laid its inactivity upon one actor, another took his place. It might have continued so; and we might still be repeating the old tragedy but for one singular event. In the history of your own people you have no doubt observed that the very thing plotted, intrigued and labored for, has in accomplishment proved the ruin of its projectors. You will remark this in the history I am about to relate.

"Main ages ago this country was peopled by two races—male and female. The male race were rulers in public and domestic life. Their supremacy had come down from pre-historic time, when strength of muscle was the only master. Woman was a beast of burden. She was regarded as inferior to man, mentally as well as physically. This idea prevailed through centuries of the earlier civilization, even after enlightenment had brought to her a chivalrous regard from men. But this regard was bestowed only upon the women of their own household, by the rich and powerful. Those women who had not been fortunate enough to have been born in such a sphere of life toiled early and late, in sorrow and privation, for a mere pittance that was barely sufficient to keep the flame of life from going out. Their labor was more arduous than men's, and their wages lighter.

"The government consisted of an aristocracy, a fortunate few, who were continually at strife with one another to gain supremacy of power, or an acquisition of territory. Wars, famine and pestilence were of frequent occurrence. Of the subjects, male and female, some had everything to render life a pleasure, while others had nothing. Poverty, oppression and wretchedness was the lot of the many. Power, wealth and luxury the dower of the few.

"Children came into the world undesired even by those who were able to rear them, and often after an attempt had been made to prevent their coming alive. Consequently numbers of them were deformed, not only physically, but mentally. Under these conditions life was a misery to the larger part of the human race, and to end it by self-destruction was taught by their religion to be a crime punishable with eternal torment by quenchless fire.

"But a revolution was at hand. Stinted toil rose up, armed and wrathful, against opulent oppression. The struggle was long and tragical, and was waged with such rancor and desperate persistence by the insurrectionists, that their women and children began to supply the places vacated by fallen fathers, husbands and brothers. It ended in victory for them. They demanded a form of government that should be the property of all. It was granted, limiting its privileges to adult male citizens.

"The first representative government lasted a century. In that time civilization had taken an advance far excelling the progress made in three centuries previous. So surely does the mind crave freedom for its perfect development. The consciousness of liberty is an ennobling element in human nature. No nation can become universally moral until it is absolutely FREE.

"But this first Republic had been diseased from its birth. Slavery had existed in certain districts of the nation. It was really the remains of a former and more degraded state of society which the new government, in the exultation of its own triumphant inauguration, neglected or lacked the wisdom to remedy. A portion of the country refused to admit slavery within its territory, but pledged itself not to interfere with that which had. Enmities, however, arose between the two sections, which, after years of repression and useless conciliation, culminated in another civil war. Slavery had resolved to absorb more territory, and the free territory had resolved that it should not. The war that followed in consequence severed forever the fetters of the slave and was the primary cause of the extinction of the male race.

"The inevitable effect of slavery is enervating and demoralizing. It is a canker that eats into the vitals of any nation that harbors it, no matter what form it assumes. The free territory had all the vigor, wealth and capacity for long endurance that self-dependence gives. It was in every respect prepared for a long and severe struggle. Its forces were collected in the name of the united government.

"Considering the marked inequality of the combatants the war would necessarily have been of short duration. But political corruption had crept into the trust places of the government, and unscrupulous politicians and office-seekers saw too many opportunities to harvest wealth from a continuation of the war. It was to their interest to prolong it, and they did. They placed in the most responsible positions of the army, military men whose incapacity was well known to them, and sustained them there while the country wept its maimed and dying sons.

"The slave territory brought to the front its most capable talent. It would have conquered had not the resources against which it contended been almost unlimited. Utterly worn out, every available means of supply being exhausted, it collapsed from internal weakness.

"The general government, in order to satisfy the clamors of the distressed and impatient people whose sons were being sacrificed, and whose taxes were increasing, to prolong the war had kept removing and reinstating military commanders, but always of reliable incapacity.

"A man of mediocre intellect and boundless self-conceit happened to be the commander-in-chief of the government army when the insurrection collapsed. The politicians, whose nefarious scheming had prolonged the war, saw their opportunity for furthering their own interests by securing his popularity. They assumed him to be the greatest military genius that the world had ever produced; as evidenced by his success where so many others had failed. It was known that he had never risked a battle until he was assured that his own soldiers were better equipped and outnumbered the enemy. But the politicians asserted that such a precaution alone should mark him as an extraordinary military genius. The deluded people accepted him as a hero.

"The politicians exhausted their ingenuity in inventing honors for him. A new office of special military eminence, with a large salary attached, was created for him. He was burdened with distinctions and emoluments, always worked by the politicians, for their benefit. The nation, following the lead of the political leaders, joined in their adulation. It failed to perceive the dangerous path that leads to anarchy and despotism—the worship of one man. It had unfortunately selected one who was cautious and undemonstrative, and who had become convinced that he really was the greatest prodigy that the world had ever produced.

"He was made President, and then the egotism and narrow selfishness of the man began to exhibit itself. He assumed all the prerogatives of royalty that his position would permit. He elevated his obscure and numerous relatives to responsible offices. Large salaries were paid them and intelligent clerks hired by the Government to perform their official duties.

"Corruption spread into every department, but the nation was blind to its danger. The few who did perceive the weakness and presumption of the hero were silenced by popular opinion.

"A second term of office was given him, and then the real character of the man began to display itself before the people. The whole nature of the man was selfish and stubborn. The strongest mental trait possessed by him was cunning.

"His long lease of power and the adulation of his political beneficiaries, acting upon a superlative self-conceit, imbued him with the belief that he had really rendered his country a service so inestimable that it would be impossible for it to entirely liquidate it. He exalted to unsuitable public offices his most intimate friends. They grew suddenly exclusive and aristocratic, forming marriages with eminent families.

"He traveled about the country with his entire family, at the expense of the Government, to gradually prepare the people for the ostentation of royalty. The cities and towns that he visited furnished fetes, illuminations, parades and every variety of entertainment that could be thought of or invented for his amusement or glorification. Lest the parade might not be sufficiently gorgeous or demonstrative he secretly sent agents to prepare the programme and size of his reception, always at the expense of the city he intended to honor with his presence.

"He manifested a strong desire to subvert the will of the people to his will. When informed that a measure he had proposed was unconstitutional, he requested that the constitution be changed. His intimate friends he placed in the most important and trustworthy positions under the Government, and protected them with the power of his own office.

"Many things that were distasteful and unlawful in a free government were flagrantly flaunted in the face of the people, and were followed by other slow, but sure, approaches to the usurpation of the liberties of the Nation. He urged the Government to double his salary as President, and it complied.

"There had long existed a class of politicians who secretly desired to convert the Republic into an Empire, that they might secure greater power and opulence. They had seen in the deluded enthusiasm of the people for one man, the opportunity for which they had long waited and schemed. He was unscrupulous and ambitious, and power had become a necessity to feed the cravings of his vanity.

"The Constitution of the country forbade the office of President to be occupied by one man for more than two terms. The Empire party proposed to amend it, permitting the people to elect a President for any number of terms, or for life if they choose. They tried to persuade the people that the country owed the greatest General of all time so distinctive an honor. They even claimed that it was necessary to the preservation of the Government; that his popularity could command an army to sustain him if he called for it.

"But the people had begun to penetrate the designs of the hero, and bitterly denounced his resolution to seek a third term of power. The terrible corruptions that had been openly protected by him, had advertised him as criminally unfit for so responsible an office. But, alas! the people had delayed too long. They had taken a young elephant into the palace. They had petted and fed him and admired his bulky growth, and now they could not remove him without destroying the building.

"The politicians who had managed the Government so long, proved that they had more power than the people They succeeded, by practices that were common with politicians in those days, in getting him nominated for a third term. The people, now thoroughly alarmed, began to see their past folly and delusion. They made energetic efforts to defeat his election. But they were unavailing. The politicians had arranged the ballot, and when the counts were published, the hero was declared President for life. When too late the deluded people discovered that they had helped dig the grave for the corpse of their civil liberty, and those who were loyal and had been misled saw it buried with unavailing regret. The undeserved popularity bestowed upon a narrow and selfish nature had been its ruin. In his inaugural address he declared that nothing but the will of the people governed him. He had not desired the office; public life was distasteful to him, yet he was willing to sacrifice himself for the good of his country.

"Had the people been less enlightened, they might have yielded without a murmur; but they had enjoyed too long the privileges of a free Government to see it usurped without a struggle. Tumult and disorder prevailed over the country. Soldiers were called out to protect the new Government, but numbers of them refused to obey. The consequence was they fought among themselves. A dissolution of the Government was the result. The General they had lauded so greatly failed to bring order out of chaos; and the schemers who had foisted him into power, now turned upon him with the fury of treacherous natures when foiled of their prey. Innumerable factions sprung up all over the land, each with a leader ambitious and hopeful of subduing the whole to his rule. They fought until the extermination of the race became imminent, when a new and unsuspected power arose and mastered.

"The female portion of the nation had never had a share in the Government. Their privileges were only what the chivalry or kindness of the men permitted. In law, their rights were greatly inferior. The evils of anarchy fell with direct effect upon them. At first, they organized for mutual protection from the lawlessness that prevailed. The organizations grew, united and developed into military power. They used their power wisely, discreetly, and effectively. With consummate skill and energy they gathered the reins of Government in their own hands.

"Their first aim had been only to force the country into peace. The anarchy that reigned had demoralized society, and they had suffered most. They had long pleaded for an equality of citizenship with men, but had pleaded in vain. They now remembered it, and resolved to keep the Government that their wisdom and power had restored. They had been hampered in educational progress. Colleges and all avenues to higher intellectual development had been rigorously closed against them. The professional pursuits of life were denied them. But a few, with sublime courage and energy, had forced their way into them amid the revilings of some of their own sex and opposition of the men. It was these brave spirits who had earned their liberal cultivation with so much difficulty, that had organized and directed the new power. They generously offered to form a Government that should be the property of all intelligent adult citizens, not criminal.

"But these wise women were a small minority. The majority were ruled by the remembrance of past injustice. They were now the power, and declared their intention to hold the Government for a century.

"They formed a Republic, in which they remedied many of the defects that had marred the Republic of men. They constituted the Nation an integer which could never be disintegrated by States' Rights ideas or the assumption of State sovereignty.

"They proposed a code of laws for the home government of the States, which every State in the Union ratified as their State Constitution, thus making a uniformity and strength that the Republic of men had never known or suspected attainable.

"They made it a law of every State that criminals could be arrested in any State they might flee to, without legal authority, other than that obtained in the vicinity of the crime. They made a law that criminals, tried and convicted of crime, could not be pardoned without the sanction of seventy-five out of one hundred educated and disinterested people, who should weigh the testimony and render their decision under oath. It is scarcely necessary to add that few criminals ever were pardoned. It removed from the office of Governor the responsibility of pardoning, or rejecting pardons as a purely personal privilege. It abolished the power of rich criminals to bribe their escape from justice; a practice that had secretly existed in the former Republic.

"In forming their Government, the women, who were its founders, profited largely by the mistakes or wisdom displayed in the Government of men. Neither the General Government, nor the State Government, could be independent of the other. A law of the Union could not become such until ratified by every State Legislature. A State law could not become constitutional until ratified by Congress.

"In forming the State Constitutions, laws were selected from the different State Constitutions that had proven wise for State Government during the former Republic. In the Republic of men, each State had made and ratified its own laws, independent of the General Government. The consequence was, no two States possessed similar laws.

"To secure strength and avoid confusion was the aim of the founders of the new Government. The Constitution of the National Government provided for the exclusion of the male sex from all affairs and privileges for a period of one hundred years.

"At the end of that time not a representative of the sex was in existence."



CHAPTER III.

I expressed my astonishment at her revelation. Their social life existed under conditions that were incredible to me. Would it be an impertinence to ask for an explanation that I might comprehend? Or was it really the one secret they possessed and guarded from discovery, a mystery that must forever surround them with a halo of doubt, the suggestion of uncanny power? I spoke as deprecatingly as I could. The Preceptress turned upon me a calm but penetrating gaze.

"Have we impressed you as a mysterious people?" she asked.

"Very, very much!" I exclaimed. "I have at times been oppressed by it."

"You never mentioned it," she said, kindly.

"I could not find an opportunity to," I said.

"It is the custom in Mizora, as you have no doubt observed, never to make domestic affairs a topic of conversation outside of the family, the only ones who would be interested in them; and this refinement has kept you from the solution of our social system. I have no hesitancy in gratifying your wish to comprehend it. The best way to do it is to let history lead up to it, if you have the patience to listen."

I assured her that I was anxious to hear all she chose to tell. She then resumed:

"The prosperity of the country rapidly increased under the rule of the female Presidents. The majority of them were in favor of a high state of morality, and they enforced it by law and practice. The arts and sciences were liberally encouraged and made rapid advancement. Colleges and schools flourished vigorously, and every branch of education was now open to women.

"During the Republic of men, the government had founded and sustained a military and naval academy, where a limited number of the youth of the country were educated at government expense. The female government re-organized the institutions, substituting the youth of their own sex. They also founded an academy of science, which was supplied with every facility for investigation and progress. None but those having a marked predilection for scientific research could obtain admission, and then it was accorded to demonstrated ability only. This drew to the college the best female talent in the country. The number of applicants was not limited.

"Science had hitherto been, save by a very few, an untrodden field to women, but the encouragement and rare facilities offered soon revealed latent talent that developed rapidly. Scarcely half a century had elapsed before the pupils of the college had effected by their discoveries some remarkable changes in living, especially in the prevention and cure of diseases.

"However prosperous they might become, they could not dwell in political security with a portion of the citizens disfranchised. The men were resolved to secure their former power. Intrigues and plots against the government were constantly in force among them. In order to avert another civil war, it was finally decided to amend the constitution, and give them an equal share in the ballot. They had no sooner obtained that than the old practices of the former Republic were resorted to to secure their supremacy in government affairs. The women looked forward to their former subjugation as only a matter of time, and bitterly regretted their inability to prevent it. But at the crisis, a prominent scientist proposed to let the race die out. Science had revealed the Secret of Life."

She ceased speaking, as though I fully understood her.

"I am more bewildered than ever," I exclaimed. "I cannot comprehend you."

"Come with me," she said.

I followed her into the Chemist's Laboratory. She bade me look into a microscope that she designated, and tell her what I saw.

"An exquisitely minute cell in violent motion," I answered.

"Daughter," she said, solemnly, "you are now looking upon the germ of all Life, be it animal or vegetable, a flower or a human being, it has that one common beginning. We have advanced far enough in Science to control its development. Know that the MOTHER is the only important part of all life. In the lowest organisms no other sex is apparent."

I sat down and looked at my companion in a frame of mind not easily described. There was an intellectual grandeur in her look and mien that was impressive. Truth sat, like a coronet, upon her brow. The revelation I had so longed for, I now almost regretted. It separated me so far from these beautiful, companionable beings.

"Science has instructed you how to supercede Nature," I said, finally.

"By no means. It has only taught us how to make her obey us. We cannot create Life. We cannot develop it. But we can control Nature's processes of development as we will. Can you deprecate such a power? Would not your own land be happier without idiots, without lunatics, without deformity and disease?"

"You will give me little hope of any radical change in my own lifetime when I inform you that deformity, if extraordinary, becomes a source of revenue to its possessor."

"All reforms are of slow growth," she said. "The moral life is the highest development of Nature. It is evolved by the same slow processes, and like the lower life, its succeeding forms are always higher ones. Its ultimate perfection will be mind, where all happiness shall dwell, where pleasure shall find fruition, and desire its ecstasy.

"It is the duty of every generation to prepare the way for a higher development of the next, as we see demonstrated by Nature in the fossilized remains of long extinct animal life, a preparatory condition for a higher form in the next evolution. If you do not enjoy the fruit of your labor in your own lifetime, the generation that follows you will be the happier for it. Be not so selfish as to think only of your own narrow span of life."

"By what means have you reached so grand a development?" I asked.

"By the careful study of, and adherence to, Nature's laws. It was long years—I should say centuries—before the influence of the coarser nature of men was eliminated from the present race.

"We devote the most careful attention to the Mothers of our race. No retarding mental or moral influences are ever permitted to reach her. On the contrary, the most agreeable contacts with nature, all that can cheer and ennoble in art or music surround her. She is an object of interest and tenderness to all who meet her. Guarded from unwholesome agitation, furnished with nourishing and proper diet—both mental and physical—the child of a Mizora mother is always an improvement upon herself. With us, childhood has no sorrows. We believe, and the present condition of our race proves, that a being environed from its birth with none but elevating influences, will grow up amiable and intelligent though inheriting unfavorable tendencies.

"On this principle we have ennobled our race and discovered the means of prolonging life and youthful loveliness far beyond the limits known by our ancestors.

"Temptation and necessity will often degrade a nature naturally inclined and desirous to be noble. We early recognized this fact, and that a nature once debased by crime would transmit it to posterity. For this reason we never permitted a convict to have posterity."

"But how have you become so beautiful?" I asked. "For, in all my journeys, I have not met an uncomely face or form. On the contrary, all the Mizora women have perfect bodies and lovely features."

"We follow the gentle guidance of our mother, Nature. Good air and judicious exercise for generations and generations before us have helped. Our ancestors knew the influence of art, sculpture, painting and music, which they were trained to appreciate."

"But has not nature been a little generous to you?" I inquired.

"Not more so than she will be to any people who follow her laws. When you first came here you had an idea that you could improve nature by crowding your lungs and digestive organs into a smaller space than she, the maker of them, intended them to occupy.

"If you construct an engine, and then cram it into a box so narrow and tight that it cannot move, and then crowd on the motive power, what would you expect?

"Beautiful as you think my people, and as they really are, yet, by disregarding nature's laws, or trying to thwart her intentions, in a few generations to come, perhaps even in the next, we could have coarse features and complexions, stoop shoulders and deformity.

"It has required patience, observation and care on the part of our ancestors to secure to us the priceless heritage of health and perfect bodies. Your people can acquire them by the same means."



CHAPTER IV.

As to Physical causes, I am inclined to doubt altogether of their operation in this particular; nor do I think that men owe anything of their temper or genius to the air, food, or climate.—Bacon.

I listened with the keenest interest to this curious and instructive history; and when the Preceptress had ceased speaking. I expressed my gratitude for her kindness. There were many things about which I desired information, but particularly their method of eradicating disease and crime. These two evils were the prominent afflictions of all the civilized nations I knew. I believed that I could comprehend enough of their method of extirpation to benefit my own country. Would she kindly give it?

"I shall take Disease first," she said, "as it is a near relative of Crime. You look surprised. You have known life-long and incurable invalids who were not criminals. But go to the squalid portion of any of your large cities, where Poverty and Disease go hand in hand, where the child receives its life and its first nourishment from a haggard and discontented mother. Starvation is her daily dread. The little tendernesses that make home the haven of the heart, are never known to her. Ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-cherished, all that might be refined and elevated in her nature, if properly cultivated, is choked into starveling shapes by her enemy—Want.

"If you have any knowledge of nature, ask yourself if such a condition of birth and infancy is likely to produce a noble, healthy human being? Do your agriculturists expect a stunted, neglected tree to produce rare and luscious fruit?"

I was surprised at the Preceptress' graphic description of wretchedness, so familiar to all the civilized nations that I knew, and asked:

"Did such a state of society ever exist in this country?"

"Ages ago it was as marked a social condition of this land as it is of your own to-day. The first great move toward eradicating disease was in providing clean and wholesome food for the masses. It required the utmost rigor of the law to destroy the pernicious practice of adulteration. The next endeavor was to crowd poverty out of the land. In order to do this the Labor question came first under discussion, and resulted in the establishment in every state of a Board of Arbitration that fixed the price of labor on a per cent, of the profits of the business. Public and private charities were forbidden by law as having an immoral influence upon society. Charitable institutions had long been numerous and fashionable, and many persons engaged in them as much for their own benefit as that of the poor. It was not always the honest and benevolent ones who became treasurers, nor were the funds always distributed among the needy and destitute, or those whom they were collected for. The law put a stop to the possibility of such frauds, and of professional impostors seeking alms. Those who needed assistance were supplied with work—respectable, independent work—furnished by the city or town in which they resided. A love of industry, its dignity and independence, was carefully instilled into every young mind. There is no country but what ought to provide for everyone of its citizens a comfortable, if not luxurious, home by humane legislation on the labor question.

"The penitentiaries were reconstructed by the female government. One half the time formerly allotted to labor was employed in compulsory education. Industrial schools were established in every State, where all the mechanical employments were taught free. Objects of charity were sent there and compelled to become self supporting. These industrial schools finally became State Colleges, where are taught, free, all the known branches of knowledge, intellectual and mechanical.

"Pauperism disappeared before the wide reaching influence of these industrial schools, but universal affluence had not come. It could not exist until education had become universal.

"With this object in view, the Government forbade the employment of any citizen under the age of twenty-one, and compelled their attendance at school up to that time. At the same time a law was passed that authorized the furnishing of all school-room necessaries out of the public funds. If a higher education were desired the State Colleges furnished it free of all expenses contingent.

"All of these measures had a marked influence in improving the condition of society, but not all that was required. The necessity for strict sanitary laws became obvious. Cities and towns and even farms were visited, and everything that could breed malaria, or produce impure air, was compelled to be removed. Personal and household cleanliness at last became an object of public interest, and inspectors were appointed who visited families and reported the condition of their homes. All kinds of out-door sports and athletic exercises were encouraged and became fashionable.

"All of these things combined, made a great improvement in the health and vigor of our race, but still hereditary diseases lingered.

"There were many so enfeebled by hereditary disease they had not enough energy to seek recuperation, and died, leaving offspring as wretched, who in turn followed their parents' example.

"Statistics were compiled, and physician's reports circulated, until a law was passed prohibiting the perpetuity of diseased offspring. But, although disease became less prevalent, it did not entirely disappear. The law could only reach the most deplorable afflictions, and was eventually repealed.

"As the science of therapeutics advanced, all diseases—whether hereditary or acquired—were found to be associated with abnormal conditions of the blood. A microscopic examination of a drop of blood enabled the scientist to determine the character and intensity of any disease, and at last to effect its elimination from the system.

"The blood is the primal element of the body. It feeds the flesh, the nerves, the muscles, the brain. Disease cannot exist when it is in a natural condition. Countless experiments have determined the exact properties of healthy blood and how to produce it. By the use of this knowledge we have eliminated hereditary diseases, and developed into a healthy and moral people. For people universally healthy is sure of being moral. Necessity begets crime. It is the wants of the ignorant and debased that suggests theft. It is a diseased fancy, or a mind ignorant of the laws that govern the development of human nature, that could attribute to offspring hated before birth: infancy and childhood neglected; starved, ill-used in every way, a disposition and character, amiable and humane and likely to become worthy members of society. The reverse is almost inevitable. Human nature relapses into the lower and baser instincts of its earlier existence, when neglected, ill-used and ignorant. All of those lovely traits of character which excite the enthusiast, such as gratitude, honor, charity are the results of education only. They are not the natural instincts of the human mind, but the cultivated ones.

"The most rigid laws were passed in regard to the practice of medicine. No physician could become a practitioner until examined and authorized to do so by the State Medical College. In order to prevent favoritism, or the furnishing of diplomas to incompetent applicants, enormous penalties were incurred by any who would sign such. The profession long ago became extinct. Every mother is a family physician. That is, she obeys the laws of nature in regard to herself and her children, and they never need a doctor.

"Having become healthy and independent of charity, crime began to decrease naturally. The conditions that had bred and fostered petty crimes having ceased to exist, the natures that had inherited them rose above their influence in a few generations, and left honorable posterity.

"But crime in its grossest form is an ineradicable hereditary taint. Generation after generation may rise and disappear in a family once tainted with it, without displaying it, and then in a most unexpected manner it will spring up in some descendant, violent and unconquerable.

"We tried to eliminate it as we had disease, but failed. It was an inherited molecular structure of the brain. Science could not reconstruct it. The only remedy was annihilation. Criminals had no posterity."

"I am surprised," I interrupted, "that possessing the power to control the development of the body, you should not do so with the mind."

"If we could we would produce genius that could discover the source of all life. We can control Cause and Effect, but we cannot create Cause. We do not even know its origin. What the perfume is to the flower, the intellect is to the body; a secret that Nature keeps to herself. For a thousand years our greatest minds have sought to discover its source, and we are as far from it to-day as we were a thousand years ago."

"How then have you obtained your mental superiority?" I inquired.

"By securing to our offspring perfect, physical and mental health. Science has taught us how to evolve intellect by following demonstrated laws. I put a seed into the ground and it comes up a little green slip, that eventually becomes a tree. When I planted the seed in congenial soil, and watered and tended the slip, I assisted Nature. But I did not create the seed nor supply the force that made it develop into a tree, nor can I define that force."

"What has produced the exquisite refinement of your people?"

"Like everything else, it is the result of gradual development aiming at higher improvement. By following strictly the laws that govern the evolution of life, we control the formation of the body and brain. Strong mental traits become intensified by cultivation from generation to generation and finally culminate in one glorious outburst of power, called Genius. But there is one peculiarity about mind. It resembles that wonderful century plant which, after decades of developing, flowers and dies. Genius is the long unfolding bloom of mind, and leaves no posterity. We carefully prepare for the future development of Genius. We know that our children will be neither deformed nor imbecile, but we watch the unfolding of their intellects with the interest of a new revelation. We guide them with the greatest care.

"I could take a child of your people with inherited weakness of body and mind. I should rear it on proper food and exercise—both mental and physical—and it would have, when matured, a marked superiority to its parents. It is not what Nature has done for us, it is what we have done for her, that makes us a race of superior people."

"The qualities of mind that are the general feature of your people," I remarked, "are so very high, higher than our estimate of Genius. How was it arrived at?"

"By the processes I have just explained. Genius is always a leader. A genius with us has a subtlety of thought and perception beyond your power of appreciation. All organized social bodies move intellectually in a mass, with their leader just ahead of them."

"I have visited, as a guest, a number of your families, and found their homes adorned with paintings and sculpture that would excite wondering admiration in my own land as rare works of art, but here they are only the expression of family taste and culture. Is that a quality of intellect that has been evolved, or is it a natural endowment of your race?"

"It is not an endowment, but has been arrived at by the same process of careful cultivation. Do you see in those ancient portraits a variety of striking colors? There is not a suggestion of harmony in any of them. On the contrary, they all display violent contrasts of color. The originals of them trod this land thousands of years ago. Many of the colors, we know, were unknown to them. Color is a faculty of the mind that is wholly the result of culture. In the early ages of society, it was known only in the coarsest and most brilliant hues. A conception and appreciation of delicate harmonies in color is evidence of a superior and refined mentality. If you will notice it, the illiterate of your own land have no taste for or idea of the harmony of color. It is the same with sound. The higher we rise in culture, the more difficult we are to please in music. Our taste becomes critical."

I had been revolving some things in my mind while the Preceptress was speaking, and I now ventured to express them. I said:

"You tell me that generations will come and go before a marked change can occur in a people. What good then would it do me or mine to study and labor and investigate in or to teach my people how to improve? They can not comprehend progress. They have not learned by contact, as I have in Mizora, how to appreciate it. I should only waste life and happiness in trying to persuade them to get out of the ruts they have traveled so long; they think there are no other roads. I should be reviled, and perhaps persecuted. My doctrines would be called visionary and impracticable. I think I had better use my knowledge for my own kindred, and let the rest of the world find out the best way it can."

The Preceptress looked at me with mild severity. I never before had seen so near an approach to rebuke in her grand eyes.

"What a barbarous, barbarous idea!" she exclaimed. "Your country will never rise above its ignorance and degradation, until out of its mental agony shall be evolved a nature kindled with an ambition that burns for Humanity instead of self. It will be the nucleus round which will gather the timid but anxious, and then will be lighted that fire which no waters can quench. It burns for the liberty of thought. Let human nature once feel the warmth of its beacon fires, and it will march onward, defying all obstacles, braving all perils till it be won. Human nature is ever reaching for the unattained. It is that little spark within us that has an undying life. When we can no longer use it, it flies elsewhere."



CHAPTER V.

I had long contemplated a trip to the extreme southern boundary of Mizora. I had often inquired about it, and had always been answered that it was defined by an impassable ocean. I had asked them to describe it to me, for the Mizora people have a happy faculty of employing tersely expressive language when necessary; but I was always met with the surprising answer that no tongue in Mizora was eloquent enough to portray the wonders that bounded Mizora on the south. So I requested the Preceptress to permit Wauna to accompany me as a guide and companion; a request she readily complied with.

"Will you be afraid or uneasy about trusting her on so long a journey with no companion or protector but me?" I asked.

The Preceptress smiled at my question.

"Why should I be afraid, when in all the length and breadth of our land there is no evil to befall her, or you either. Strangers are friends in Mizora, in one sense of the word, when they meet. You will both travel as though among time endeared associates. You will receive every attention, courtesy and kindness that would be bestowed upon near and intimate acquaintances. No, in this land, mothers do not fear to send their daughters alone and unrecommended among strangers."

When speed was required, the people of Mizora traveled altogether by air ships. But when the pleasure of landscape viewing, and the delight and exhilaration of easy progress is desired, they use either railroad cars or carriages.

Wauna and I selected an easy and commodious carriage. It was propelled by compressed air, which Wauna said could be obtained whenever we needed a new supply at any village or country seat.

Throughout the length and breadth of Mizora the roads were artificially made. Cities, towns, and villages were provided with paved streets, which the public authorities kept in a condition of perfect cleanliness. The absence of all kinds of animals rendered this comparatively easy. In alluding to this once in the presence of the Preceptress, she startled me by the request that I should suggest to my people the advantage to be derived from substituting machinery for animal labor.

"The association of animals is degrading," she asserted. "And you, who still live by tilling the soil, will find a marked change economically in dispensing with your beasts of burden. Fully four-fifths that you raise on your farms is required to feed your domestic animals. If your agriculture was devoted entirely to human food, it would make it more plentiful for the poor."

I did not like to tell her that I knew many wealthy people who housed and fed their domestic animals better than they did their tenants. She would have been disgusted with such a state of barbarism.

Country roads in Mizora were usually covered with a cement that was prepared from pulverized granite. They were very durable and very hard. Owing to their solidity, they were not as agreeable for driving as another kind of cement they manufactured. I have previously spoken of the peculiar style of wheel that was used on all kinds of light conveyances in Mizora, and rendered their progress over any road the very luxury of motion.

In our journey, Wauna took me to a number of factories, where the wonderful progress they had made in science continually surprised and delighted me. The spider and the silkworm had yielded their secret to these indefatigable searchers into nature's mysteries. They could spin a thread of gossamer, or of silk from their chemicals, of any width and length, and with a rapidity that was magical. Like everything else of that nature in Mizora, these discoveries had been purchased by the Government, and then made known to all.

They also manufactured ivory that I could not tell from the real article. I have previously spoken of their success in producing various kinds of marble and stone. A beautiful table that I saw made out of artificial ivory, had a painting upon the top of it. A deep border, composed of delicate, convoluted shells, extended round the top of the table and formed the shores of a mimic ocean, with coral reefs and tiny islands, and tangled sea-weeds and shining fishes sporting about in the pellucid water. The surface was of highly polished smoothness, and I was informed that the picture was not a painting but was formed of colored particles of ivory that had been worked in before the drying or solidifying process had been applied. In the same way they formed main beautiful combinations of marbles. The magnificent marble columns that supported the portico of my friend's house were all of artificial make. The delicate green leaves and creeping vines of ivy, rose, and eglantine, with their spray-like blossoms, were colored in the manufacturing process and chiseled out of the solid marble by the skillful hand of the artist.

It would be difficult for me to even enumerate all the beautiful arts and productions of arts that I saw in Mizora. Our journey was full of incidents of this kind.

Every city and town that we visited was like the introduction of a new picture. There was no sameness between any of them. Each had aimed at picturesqueness or stately magnificence, and neither had failed to obtain it. Looking back as I now do upon Mizora, it presents itself to me as a vast and almost limitless landscape, variegated with grand cities, lovely towns and villages, majestic hills and mountains crowned with glittering snows, or deep, delightful valleys veiled in scented vines.

Kindness, cordiality and courtesy met us on every side. It was at first quite novel for me to mingle among previously unheard-of people with such sociability, but I did as Wauna did, and I found it not only convenient but quite agreeable.

"I am the daughter of the Preceptress of the National College," said Wauna; and that was the way she introduced herself.

I noticed with what honor and high esteem the name of the Preceptress was regarded. As soon as it was known that the daughter of the Preceptress had arrived, the citizens of whatever city we had stopped in hastened to extend to her every courtesy and favor possible for them to bestow. She was the daughter of the woman who held the highest and most enviable position in the Nation. A position that only great intellect could secure in that country.

As we neared the goal of our journey, I noticed an increasing warmth of the atmosphere, and my ears were soon greeted with a deep, reverberating roar like continuous thunder. I have seen and heard Niagara, but a thousand Niagaras could not equal that deafening sound. The heat became oppressive. The light also from a cause of which I shall soon speak.

We ascended a promontory that jutted out from the main land a quarter of a mile, perhaps more. Wauna conducted me to the edge of the cliff and told me to look down. An ocean of whirlpools was before us. The maddened dashing and thundering of the mighty waters, and the awe they inspired no words can paint. Across such an abyss of terrors it was certain no vessel could sail. We took our glasses and scanned the opposite shore, which appeared to be a vast cataract as though the ocean was pouring over a precipice of rock. Wauna informed me that where the shore was visible it was a perpendicular wall of smooth rock.

Over head an arc of fire spanned the zenith from which depended curtains of rainbows waving and fluttering, folding and floating out again with a rapid and incessant motion. I asked Wauna why they had not crossed in air-ships, and she said they had tried it often but had always failed.

"In former times," she said, "when air-ships first came into use it was frequently attempted, but no voyager ever returned. We have long since abandoned the attempt, for now we know it to be impossible."

I looked again at that display of uncontrollable power. As I gazed it seemed to me I would be drawn down by the resistless fascination of terror. I grasped Wauna and she gently turned my face to the smiling landscape behind us. Hills and valleys, and sparkling cities veiled in foliage, with their numberless parks and fountains and statues sleeping in the soft light, gleaming lakes and wandering rivers that glittered and danced in the glorious atmosphere like prisoned sunbeams, greeted us like the alluring smile of love, and yet, for the first time since entering this lovely land, I felt myself a prisoner. Behind me was an impassable barrier. Before me, far beyond this gleaming vision of enchantment, lay another road whose privations and dangers I dreaded to attempt.

I felt as a bird might feel who has been brought from the free expanse of its wild forest-home, and placed in a golden cage where it drinks from a jeweled cup and eats daintier food than it could obtain in its own rude haunts. It pines for that precarious life; its very dangers and privations fill its breast with desire. I began to long with unutterable impatience to see once more the wild, rough scenes of my own nativity. Memory began to recall them with softening touches. My heart yearned for my own; debased as compared with Mizora though they be, there was the congeniality of blood between us. I longed to see my own little one whose dimpled hands I had unclasped from my neck in that agonized parting. Whenever I saw a Mizora mother fondling her babe, my heart leapt with quick desire to once more hold my own in such loving embrace. The mothers of Mizora have a devotional love for their children. Their smiles and prattle and baby wishes are listened to with loving tenderness, and treated as matters of importance.

I was sitting beside a Mizora mother one evening, listening to some singing that I truly thought no earthly melody could surpass. I asked the lady if ever she had heard anything sweeter, and she answered, earnestly:

"Yes, the voices of my own children."

On our homeward journey, Wauna took me to a lake from the center of which we could see, with our glasses, a green island rising high above the water like an emerald in a silver setting.

"That," said Wauna, directing my attention to it, "is the last vestige of a prison left in Mizora. Would you like to visit it?"

I expressed an eager willingness to behold so curious a sight, and getting into a small pleasure boat, we started toward it. Boats are propelled in Mizora either by electricity or compressed air, and glide through the water with soundless swiftness.

As we neared the island I could perceive the mingling of natural and artificial attractions. We moored our boat at the foot of a flight of steps, hewn from the solid rock. On reaching the top, the scene spread out like a beautiful painting. Grottos, fountains, and cascades, winding walks and vine-covered bowers charmed us as we wandered about. In the center stood a medium-sized residence of white marble. We entered through a door opening on a wide piazza. Art and wealth and taste had adorned the interior with a generous hand. A library studded with books closely shut behind glass doors had a wide window that commanded an enchanting view of the lake, with its rippling waters sparkling and dimpling in the light. On one side of the mantelpiece hung a full length portrait of a lady, painted with startling naturalness.

"That," said Wauna, solemnly, "was the last prisoner in Mizora."

I looked with interested curiosity at a relic so curious in this land. It was a blonde woman with lighter colored eyes than is at all common in Mizora. Her long, blonde hair hung straight and unconfined over a dress of thick, white material. Her attitude and expression were dejected and sorrowful. I had visited prisons in my own land where red-handed murder sat smiling with indifference. I had read in newspapers, labored eloquence that described the stoicism of some hardened criminal as a trait of character to be admired. I had read descriptions where mistaken eloquence exerted itself to waken sympathy for a criminal who had never felt sympathy for his helpless and innocent victims, and I had felt nothing but creeping horror for it all. But gazing at this picture of undeniable repentance, tears of sympathy started to my eyes. Had she been guilty of taking a fellow-creature's life?

"Is she still living?" I asked by way of a preface.

"Oh, no, she has been dead for more than a century," answered Wauna.

"Was she confined here very long?"

"For life," was the reply.

"I should not believe," I said, "that a nature capable of so deep a repentance could be capable of so dark a crime as murder."

"Murder!" exclaimed Wauna in horror. "There has not been a murder committed in this land for three thousand years."

It was my turn to be astonished.

"Then tell me what dreadful crime she committed."

"She struck her child," said Wauna, sadly; "her little innocent, helpless child that Nature gave her to love and cherish, and make noble and useful and happy."

"Did she inflict a permanent injury?" I asked, with increased astonishment at this new phase of refinement in the Mizora character.

"No one can tell the amount of injury a blow does to a child. It may immediately show an obvious physical one; it may later develop a mental one. It may never seem to have injured it at all, and yet it may have shocked a sensitive nature and injured it permanently. Crime is evolved from perverted natures, and natures become perverted from ill-usage. It merges into a peculiar structure of the brain that becomes hereditary."

"What became of the prisoner's child?"

"It was adopted by a young lady who had just graduated at the State College of the State in which the mother resided. It was only five years old, and its mother's name was never mentioned to it or to anyone else. Long before that, the press had abolished the practice of giving any prominence to crime. That pernicious eloquence that in uncivilized ages had helped to nourish crime by a maudlin sympathy for the criminal, had ceased to exist. The young lady called the child daughter, and it called her mother."

"Did the real mother never want to see her child?"

"That is said to be a true picture of her," said Wauna; "and who can look at it and not see sorrow and remorse."

"How could you be so stern?" I asked, in wondering astonishment.

"Pity has nothing to do with crime," said Wauna, firmly. "You must look to humanity, and not to the sympathy one person excites when you are aiding enlightenment. That woman wandered about these beautiful grounds, or sat in this elegant home a lonely and unsympathized-with prisoner. She was furnished with books, magazines and papers, and every physical comfort. Sympathy for her lot was never offered her. Childhood is regarded by my people as the only period of life that is capable of knowing perfect happiness, and among us it is a crime greater than the heinousness of murder in your country, to deprive a human being of its childhood—in which cluster the only unalloyed sweets of life.

"A human being who remembers only pain, rebukes treatment in childhood, has lost the very flavor of existence, and the person who destroyed it is a criminal indeed."



CHAPTER VI.

There was one peculiarity about Mizora that I noticed soon after my arrival, but for various reasons have refrained from speaking of before now. It was the absence of houses devoted to religious worship.

In architecture Mizora displayed the highest perfection. Their colleges, art galleries, public libraries, opera houses, and all their public buildings were grand and beautiful. Never in any country, had I beheld such splendor in design and execution. Their superior skill in this respect, led me to believe that their temples of worship must be on a scale of magnificence beyond all my conceiving. I was eager to behold them. I looked often upon my first journeyings about their cities to discover them, but whenever I noticed an unusually imposing building, and asked what it was, it was always something else. I was frequently on the point of asking them to conduct me to some church that resembled my own in worship, (for I was brought up in strict compliance with the creeds, dogmas, and regulations of the Russo Greek Church) but I refrained, hoping that in time, I should be introduced to their religious ceremonies.

When time passed on, and no invitation was extended me, and I saw no house nor preparation for religious worship, nor even heard mention of any, I asked Wauna for an explanation. She appeared not to comprehend me, and I asked the question:

"Where do you perform your religious rites and ceremonies?"

She looked at me with surprise.

"You ask me such strange questions that sometimes I am tempted to believe you a relic of ancient mythology that has drifted down the centuries and landed on our civilized shores, or else have been gifted with a marvelous prolongation of life, and have emerged upon us from some cavern where you have lived, or slept for ages in unchanged possession of your ancient superstition."

"Have you, then," I asked in astonishment, "no religious temples devoted to worship?"

"Oh, yes, we have temples where we worship daily. Do you see that building?" nodding toward the majestic granite walls of the National College. "That is one of our most renowned temples, where the highest and the noblest in the land meet and mingle familiarly with the humblest in daily worship."

"I understand all that you wish to imply by that," I replied. "But have you no building devoted to divine worship; no temple that belongs specially to your Deity; to the Being that created you, and to whom you owe eternal gratitude and homage?"

"We have;" she answered grandly, with a majestic wave of her hand, and in that mellow, musical voice that was sweeter than the chanting of birds, she exclaimed:

"This vast cathedral, boundless as our wonder; Whose shining lamps yon brilliant mists[A] supply; Its choir the winds, and waves; its organ thunder; Its dome the sky."

[Footnote A: Aurora Borealis]

"Do you worship Nature?" I asked.

"If we did, we should worship ourselves, for we are a part of Nature."

"But do you not recognize an invisible and incomprehensible Being that created you, and who will give your spirit an abode of eternal bliss, or consign it to eternal torments according as you have glorified and served him?"

"I am an atom of Nature;" said Wauna, gravely. "If you want me to answer your superstitious notions of religion, I will, in one sentence, explain, that the only religious idea in Mizora is: Nature is God, and God is Nature. She is the Great Mother who gathers the centuries in her arms, and rocks their children into eternal sleep upon her bosom."

"But how," I asked in bewildered astonishment, "how can you think of living without creeds, and confessionals? How can you prosper without prayer? How can you be upright, and honest, and true to yourselves and your friends without praying for divine grace and strength to sustain you? How can you be noble, and keep from envying your neighbors, without a prayer for divine grace to assist you to resist such temptation?"

"Oh, daughter of the dark ages," said Wauna, sadly, "turn to the benevolent and ever-willing Science. She is the goddess who has led us out of ignorance and superstition; out of degradation and disease, and every other wretchedness that superstitious, degraded humanity has known. She has lifted us above the low and the little, the narrow and mean in human thought and action, and has placed us in a broad, free, independent, noble, useful and grandly happy life."

"You have been favored by divine grace," I reiterated, "although you refuse to acknowledge it."

She smiled compassionately as she answered:

"She is the divinity who never turned a deaf ear to earnest and persistent effort in a sensible direction. But prayers to her must be work, resolute and conscientious work. She teaches that success in this world can only come to those who work for it. In your superstitious belief you pray for benefits you have never earned, possibly do not deserve, but expect to get simply because you pray for them. Science never betrays such partiality. The favors she bestows are conferred only upon the industrious."

"And you deny absolutely the efficacy of prayer?" I asked.

"If I could obtain anything by prayer alone, I would pray that my inventive faculty should be enlarged so that I might conceive and construct an air-ship that could cleave its way through that chaos of winds that is formed when two storms meet from opposite directions. It would rend to atoms one of our present make. But prayer will never produce an improved air-ship. We must dig into science for it. Our ancestors did not pray for us to become a race of symmetrically-shaped and universally healthy people, and expect that to effect a result. They went to work on scientific principles to root out disease and crime and want and wretchedness, and every degrading and retarding influence."

"Prayer never saved one of my ancestors from premature death," she continued, with a resolution that seemed determined to tear from my mind every fabric of faith in the consolations of divine interposition that had been a special part of my education, and had become rooted into my nature. "Disease, when it fastened upon the vitals of the young and beautiful and dearly-loved was stronger and more powerful than all the agonized prayers that could be poured from breaking hearts. But science, when solicited by careful study and experiment and investigation, offered the remedy. And now, we defy disease and have no fear of death until our natural time comes, and then it will be the welcome rest that the worn-out body meets with gratitude."

"But when you die," I exclaimed, "do you not believe you have an after life?"

"When I die," replied Wauna, "my body will return to the elements from whence it came. Thought will return to the force which gave it. The power of the brain is the one mystery that surrounds life. We know that the brain is a mechanical structure and acted upon by force; but how to analyze that force is still beyond our reach. You see that huge engine? We made it. It is a fine piece of mechanism. We know what it was made to do. We turn on the motive power, and it moves at the rate of a mile a minute if we desire it. Why should it move? Why might it not stand still? You say because of a law of nature that under the circumstances compels it to move. Our brain is like that engine—a wonderful piece of mechanism, and when the blood drives it, it displays the effects of force which we call Thought. We can see the engine move and we know what law of nature it obeys in moving. But the brain is a more mysterious structure, for the force which compels it to action we cannot analyze. The superstitious ancients called this mystery the soul."

"And do you discard that belief?" I asked, trembling and excited to hear such sacrilegious talk from youth so beautiful and pure.

"What our future is to be after dissolution no one knows," replied Wauna, with the greatest calmness and unconcern. "A thousand theories and systems of religion have risen and fallen in the history of the human family, and become the superstitions of the past. The elements that compose this body may construct the delicate beauty of a flower, or the green robe that covers the bosom of Mother Earth, but we cannot know."

"But that beautiful belief in a soul," I cried, in real anguish, "How can you discard it? How sever the hope that after death, we are again united to part no more? Those who have left us in the spring time of life, the bloom on their young cheeks suddenly paled by the cold touch of death, stand waiting to welcome us to an endless reunion."

"Alas, for your anguish, my friend," said Wauna, with pityng tenderness. "Centuries ago my people passed through that season of mental pain. That beautiful visionary idea of a soul must fade, as youth and beauty fade, never to return; for Nature nowhere teaches the existence of such a thing. It was a belief born of that agony of longing for happiness without alloy, which the children of earth in the long-ago ages hoped for, but never knew. Their lot was so barren of beauty and happiness, and the desire for it is, now and always has been, a strong trait of human character. The conditions of society in those earlier ages rendered it impossible to enjoy this life perfectly, and hope and longing pictured an imaginary one for an imaginary part of the body called the Soul. Progress and civilization have brought to us the ideal heaven of the ancients, and we receive from Nature no evidence of any other."

"But I do believe there is another," I declared. "And we ought to be prepared for it."

Wauna smiled. "What better preparation could you desire, then, than good works in this?" she asked.

"You should pray, and do penance for your sins," was my reply.

"Then," said Wauna, "we are doing the wisest penance every day. We are studying, investigating, experimenting in order that those who come after us may be happier than we. Every day Science is yielding us some new knowledge that will make living in the future still easier than now."

"I cannot conceive," I said, "how you are to be improved upon."

"When we manufacture fruit and vegetables from the elements, can you not perceive how much is to be gained? Old age and death will come later, and the labor of cultivation will be done away. Such an advantage will not be enjoyed during my lifetime. But we will labor to effect it for future generations."

"Your whole aim in life, then, is to work for the future of your race, instead of the eternal welfare of your own soul?" I questioned, in surprise.

"If Nature," said Wauna, "has provided us a future life, if that mysterious something that we call Thought is to be clothed in an etherealized body, and live in a world where decay is unknown, I have no fear of my reception there. Live this life usefully and nobly, and no matter if a prayer has never crossed your lips your happiness will be assured. A just and kind action will help you farther on the road to heaven than all the prayers that you can utter, and all the pains and sufferings that you can inflict upon the flesh, for it will be that much added to the happiness of this world. The grandest epitaph that could be written is engraved upon a tombstone in yonder cemetery. The subject was one of the pioneers of progress in a long-ago century, when progress fought its way with difficulty through ignorance and superstition. She suffered through life for the boldness of her opinions, and two centuries after, when they had become popular, a monument was erected to her memory, and has been preserved through thousands of years as a motto for humanity. The epitaph is simply this: 'The world is better for her having lived in it.'"



CHAPTER VII.

Not long after my conversation with Wauna, mentioned in the previous chapter, an event happened in Mizora of so singular and unexpected a character for that country that it requires a particular description. I refer to the death of a young girl, the daughter of the Professor of Natural History in the National College, whose impressive inaugural ceremonies I had witnessed with so much gratification. The girl was of a venturesome disposition, and, with a number of others, had gone out rowing. The boats they used in Mizora for that purpose were mere cockle shells. A sudden squall arose from which all could have escaped, but the reckless daring of this young girl cost her her life. Her boat was capsized, and despite the exertions made by her companions, she was drowned.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse