WE ATTEND A MARTIAN BANQUET.
On our arrival at the banqueting-hall we were most cordially received by Soranho, as Chief of the Council, who introduced us to a number of persons, several of whom were high officers of state; but, as only two or three of them knew anything of our language, Merna had to act as interpreter. All of them, however, appeared genuinely pleased to meet us.
The hall was a large and very fine one, most chastely decorated in a style which reminded one of the Etruscan. It was beautifully lighted by artificial means, but there were no visible lamps, the light being diffused over the hall as equally as daylight is diffused.
Many ladies were present, and clearly on entirely equal terms with the sterner sex. They sat down with us at the banquet, and did not remain mere spectators from a distance, as is sometimes the case at our public functions. The dresses of both sexes were very neat, and although there was a more ample and varied display of colour and ornament than is usual in a similar gathering upon our world, especially in the dresses of the males, it was always harmonious and in excellent taste. The costumes reminded me of those in vogue in the south-eastern parts of Europe; the ladies, however, wore rather close-fitting long hose, and no skirts; but their tunics were somewhat longer than those worn by the men, and of thinner material. Many of the dresses looked as though they were woven from semi-transparent shining silver or gold. This style of dress was most becoming to the wearers, setting off their elegant proportions, and at the same time permitting the utmost freedom and grace of movement. Jewellery was clearly only used as a medium for adding to the brilliancy of the general effect, and I saw no one with any lavish or vulgar display of jewels.
Our meal was very similar in character to that of which we had partaken on the previous day, though on a more extended and elaborate scale. This time, however, we partook of the delicious wines which were provided, and found that whilst being most refreshing and exhilarating, they were, as Merna told us, so prepared as to be non-intoxicating. They were indeed so fine in quality and flavour that, I think, even M'Allister was reconciled to the absence of his own favourite drink.
I occupied a seat of honour next to Soranho, and my two friends were close by. On looking round the hall, and scanning the features of the different individuals present, I was much impressed by the fact that the same regularity, beauty, and symmetry was apparent in all; not one face could be termed "plain," or gave any impression of self-indulgence or sensuality; whilst the soft glowing light in their eyes produced a most indescribable and charming effect upon the whole of their features.
This light is altogether different from the fierce glare seen in the eyes of many of our animals, especially the feline race, which seems to enlarge the eyes to enormous orbs of brilliant light. In the Martians it is simply a colourless, soft, and liquid glow which has a different effect on eyes of different colours; but it is charming in all.
Merna had introduced us to a lady named Eleeta, who sat next to him at the table; and it did not require a Martian intuition to enable me quickly to perceive that the relations in which they regarded each other were something beyond those of ordinary friendship. Their glowing eyes and beaming countenances, and their general animation and exhilaration as they conversed together, told their own tale, for mutual love has much the same indications and attributes everywhere--even upon Mars! But the love-light shining in Martian eyes is something far more entrancing than that seen in the duller orbs of the inhabitants of our world.
The people of Mars generally have dark hair, dark eyes, and fresh-coloured complexions; the males having no hair upon their faces, beyond a slight moustache. Beards never grow upon their chins, so they have no need to shave, and are spared the work which wastes so much of the time of terrestrials. If we could only count up the time spent in shaving, during fifty years or so, we should find that we have devoted several whole months to that tiresome operation.
Only a few individuals present had light hair and light-coloured eyes, and Eleeta was one of these. She was a most charming and beautiful girl--vivacious, and evidently very intellectual; and I thought that she and Merna would make a most well-matched pair.
The banquet proved an extremely pleasant and sociable function; and, when it was over, the company adjourned to another hall opening out of the banqueting-hall, where they split up into separate groups, and conversation soon became very animated.
On inquiring of Merna, I was informed that music is never performed on such occasions as these, during conversational periods, as it is considered a desecration of a high and noble art.
Merna introduced John and M'Allister to one of the chief engineers of the canal department, who knew a little English, and soon they were discussing with eager interest a collection of pictures and drawings of the machinery. Seeing that our friends were thus congenially occupied, Merna then took me across to where Eleeta and a girl friend of hers, named Siloni, were sitting.
He told me he had instructed Eleeta in English and she had passed on her knowledge of the language to Siloni; so we were all able to converse together with the occasional aid of Merna's interpretation.
Merna had also acquainted his friends with our usual terms of addressing one another, and it came almost as a surprise to me to be addressed by the Martians as "Mr. Poynders" and "Sir"; for I had become so accustomed to being called "Professor" by my two colleagues that my own name sounded almost strange to me.
We had been chatting together only a short time when John and M'Allister, with their Martian friend, the engineer, came over to us; and soon after that we were joined by Soranho and Merna's tutors, named respectively Corontus and Tellurio, who were followed by a numerous company of Martians of both sexes.
Soranho, addressing me, then said, "Mr. Poynders, I should very much like to know something about terrestrial affairs generally, especially in regard to the methods of government amongst your nations, and the social conditions of the people; and shall therefore be glad if you will be good enough to give me any particulars that may be of interest in connection with these subjects."
He then took a seat, with the tutors on either side of him; and he added that the Martians had not been able to acquire any definite information upon the matters to which he referred, but they knew our people were not so far advanced as the Martians, and he did not therefore expect too much of the terrestrials.
I told him I would endeavour to enlighten him upon these subjects so far as lay in my power; and, as I rose to speak, the general body of the Martians seated themselves a few feet away from us in a large semicircle facing the chief.
I noticed that, against the wall behind the Chief, was a group of beautifully embroidered banners representing the planets, and that those depicting Mars and the Earth were placed in the central positions. These two banners exhibited very graphic representations of the markings on the respective planets.
THE CHIEF OF THE MARTIAN COUNCIL DISCUSSES THE SOCIAL CONDITIONS OF OUR WORLD AND MARS.
It was a most strange, and, in fact, embarrassing situation for me--an insignificant and very retiring man in my own country--to be thus called upon to address a large company of the most important inhabitants of another world, and to try to make them understand the social and political systems carried on by the nations on the earth. However, the position had to be faced; so as clearly and concisely as I could I explained to them our various systems of government--our political systems and our social conditions; mentioning in connection with the latter the extremes of wealth and the extremes of poverty which often existed side by side.
I touched upon the rivalries between the various nations, the enormous amounts of money expended in armaments for aggressive and defensive purposes, our hereditary nobility, our land systems, trading, and also the great and difficult problems of poverty, drink, and unemployment with which we had to cope.
Whilst I was speaking, Merna, in a quiet tone of voice, translated to the Martians sitting around us the purport of what I said; and I noticed that often he only had to say a few words and the Martians' sense of intuition enabled them to understand what was in his mind respecting my address and to follow my statements.
Now and then the Chief, or one of the tutors, would put searching and pertinent questions to me on various points, and these often brought out answers which appeared to excite their surprise and interest.
When I had finished, Soranho then took up the theme, going fully and thoroughly into the several matters I had dealt with; and he concluded by saying, "We must, of course, make every allowance for the present state of development of the terrestrials, but all the same I can scarcely understand how it is they are unable to see that, speaking broadly, their political and social systems are utterly wrong from beginning to end, and must necessarily be disastrous to the welfare of all. Of course, I speak from a Martian point of view.
"Here upon Mars the welfare of the whole community all over our planet is the first and most important consideration. The whole adult population, both male and female, have an equal voice in the discussion of all matters with which the governing Council are concerned. My office, as Chief of the Council, is held for a term of two Martian years; and I am not a ruler imposing my own will upon the people, but their trusted servant, appointed to supervise the carrying into effect of the people's wishes, as expressed by their votes and by their own appointed spokesmen.
"The whole of the land upon Mars belongs to the State, and is utilised strictly in the interests of the whole community; no one can hold it as a private possession, or use it for merely selfish purposes. A necessary corollary to the private ownership of land is the overcrowding of buildings upon small areas; and such general poverty and insanitary conditions as those in which so many of your population have to live in what you have termed your 'slums' are the inevitable outcome of such a system. Private ownership of large areas of land really involves also the practical ownership of the people upon it!
"I can assure you, Mr. Poynders, that no such overcrowding, poverty, or insanitary conditions will be found upon our planet, go where you will. Our people are well and comfortably housed, and you will find ample air-space and light around every dwelling.
"On Mars no office, rank, or privilege is hereditary. It is true we have amongst us persons of different ranks or grades, but such honours as these can only be gained as the reward of meritorious and useful services, and can only be held by the person who has earned them.
"We have no need of an army or navy, for we are all one united nation; so all the enormous expenditure which is wasted in your world in international rivalry and warfare is entirely avoided here, and schemes for the general welfare of the people benefit instead. Ages ago we abandoned war as a folly and a crime; and our world-wide system of canals, which is a prime essential to our very existence, could never have been accomplished or maintained if one section of our population had been at war, or was likely to be at war, with another.
"Apart from all other considerations then, our vast canal system is a guarantee of unity and of permanent universal peace upon our planet; but, as I have said, we saw the folly of war, and abandoned it ages ago.
"Then, as regards the terrible curse of drink which you have mentioned; if such ever existed on Mars, it must have been in the most dim and distant past, for we have no records of such a dreadful state of affairs as you have described as being even now one of your most difficult problems to deal with. The absence of any excesses of this kind may, perhaps, help to account for the fact that our population is strong and healthy, and few die of anything but old age.
"There is no such thing here as poverty or lack of employment. There is work for all who are able to do it; and those who, by reason of age or infirmity, are unable to work, are all honourably provided for, so that they can live in the same comfort as though they did work. This is not charity or privilege, but the absolute right of all.
"Neither is there any over-working of any individual in our population, for the ordinary working day here is only six hours--about equal to six hours and ten minutes in your world. No one need work longer than this except for his own pleasure; all the remainder of the time can be devoted to rest or recreation. No one need work at all when his powers are failing, as he will be amply provided for."
"But," I asked, "how do you manage with regard to those who will not work? They are our most difficult people to deal with, and constitute a great burden upon the community."
Soranho seemed astounded at this question, and exclaimed, "Is it really possible that such beings can exist? Here no one able to work would dream of living an idle and useless life; their natural self-respect forbids it!
"I must, as I said, make allowances for your slower rate of development; but I cannot help thinking that for ages past our people must always have been upon a higher plane than terrestrials.
"You have been deploring the decrease in the birth-rate in your country, apparently because it places you, as regards population, in an inferior position to other countries, the inhabitants of which may at some time become your enemies. Yet, at the same time, you have told us that a very large number of your people are living in poverty and misery, that the population is too numerous for work to be found for all, and that many, being unable to find a living in their own country, have gone out, or been sent out, to distant lands.
"What a tragedy this all is! If you had universal peace and reasonable hours of work, as we have, there would be no need for this striving to effect an unnecessary and useless increase in the population; and, by doing so, you are, in fact, only adding to your own poverty and other difficulties. A healthy and hardy population, which can be properly provided for and maintained, is what your country requires. On Mars you will find very few families with more than three children!
"Then, as regards trade. Your international rivalries and systems of what you term 'protection' seem specially designed to hinder trading, and to make it as difficult as possible, instead of encouraging the free interchange of commodities to the benefit of every one.
"You tell me," he continued, "that it is really the interest and desire of your nations to trade with each other, and that immense sums are spent in building ships and docks, and otherwise in facilitating trade. Yet I learn that tariff barriers are erected between some of the nations, and that tariffs are continually increased, for the purpose of restricting trade! As a consequence, goods are either kept out of the countries affected, or artificially increased in price; the poor being half starved, or compelled to live upon inferior food!
"In addition, it appears that the collection of the tariffs involves the upkeep of an army of customs officials, the performance of whose duties is the cause of delay, harassment, and irritation to all who come within the sphere of their powers.
"How much more useful it would be if that expenditure were devoted to the extension of trade and the uplifting of the people!
"Really, Mr. Poynders, when I think of all these things, I can only say you must not expect the Martians to admit your claim that terrestrials are 'highly' civilised; for surely no 'highly' civilised people could act so illogically and so unwisely, or be so wantonly cruel as to tax the food of the poor!
"Such a policy must inevitably result in misery to the many, and reduce the stamina of the present and future generations.
"Your people have attained a high degree of civilisation in some things, but not in others; and as they become more advanced, they will look back on their past policy with feelings of amazement, and will, I am sure, regard it in exactly the same light as the Martians do now. I can only express the hope that their enlightenment will soon come."
It is useful sometimes to be enabled to see ourselves as others see us, and I was now learning how the Martians regarded us.
In defence of my own world and country, however, I pointed out that many of our thinkers and workers saw these matters in much the same light as he did, and were endeavouring to educate their fellows in the same views. Many were opposed to wars, and to the social conditions now prevailing; but it would be vain to look for any great change in the near future. An alteration in human nature must first be effected, and that must necessarily be a matter of very slow growth.
I went on to inform him that one of our great poets had written a splendid "vision of the world and all the wonder that would be," in which he described our world as progressing: "Till the war drum throbbed no longer, and the battle flags were furl'd In the Parliament of Man; the federation of the world."
"Mars," I remarked, "had already reached this ideal state of affairs; but it could not possibly be brought about in our world until a far distant future: for it must be the result of slow development and gradual education of the people to see its necessity and practicability.
"Any attempt to make a sudden change would only result in tumult and worse disasters than we were exposed to at present. Any changes in regard to our land system must also be carried out by degrees, and after the most careful consideration, with the view of preventing any injustice being done to the present holders.
"Our poet," I further said, "evidently had in mind the probability that, before this consummation of universal peace could be reached, wars of a more terrible nature than we have ever known would take place, for he pictures: 'A rain of ghastly dew From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue.'
"It is not unlikely that the possibility, or the actual occurrence, of such horrors as these may eventually bring about the cessation of war between the more civilised nations; and, as the uncivilised are gradually brought under control, there may be federations--not necessarily amalgamations--of two or more nations. In the slow process of time these may unite in larger and more comprehensive federations, until at last the whole world will be embraced within them. This, of course, is looking ages ahead of our present times.
"Few thinking people amongst us can regard war as anything but a direful necessity arising out of our present conditions; only the thoughtless and those who batten upon such disasters can rejoice in the idea of what I have heard termed 'a jolly good war!'
"Whatever our ideals may be, we must, as sensible people, act in accordance with the demands of existing circumstances. It has been well said that while we have a large criminal population we must protect our persons and property by means of bolts and bars, and the maintenance of a police force; and in a like manner, whilst we are exposed to risk of war breaking out--perhaps through no fault of our own--we must maintain sufficient forces and armaments to cope with any forces which might be likely to be arrayed against us. This, however, does not afford us any excuse for not trying to do all we can to remove the causes which tend to manufacture criminals, or to bring about wars.
"If only as much energy and effort were used with the object of averting wars by smoothing away difficulties and removing causes of friction between the nations as there is effort and persistency on the other side to aggravate, and even invent, conditions likely to cause mutual irritation, distrust, and dislike, much good would accrue. Nations depend largely for their prosperity upon their trade with other nations, and peace is the greatest interest to all; yet the actions of some noisy and hysterical sections amongst them are a constant source of danger, and are calculated to bring about wars which must inevitably prove most disastrous to all concerned.
"Our religion," I told him, "inculcated peace and goodwill to all men; all of us professed to believe in that. It is a good sign that there is a strong tendency amongst the religious teachers of various bodies to unite in the endeavour to promote peace amongst the nations, and many of them have done much to call attention to the urgent need of social reforms, and have sacrificed their lives in arduous work for the benefit of their fellows.
"On the other hand, some of them are very militant, whilst others seem to regard it as their special mission to keep social matters as they are. If this is the case amongst the teachers, it is no wonder that the people themselves are so slow in progressing!"
The Chief here expressed the hope that I was unduly pessimistic in regard to our rate of progress, and remarked that "He thought a great advance would be made much earlier than I seemed to anticipate. Events," he added, "were evidently likely to move very rapidly indeed in several parts of our world; and he was certain that a great upward movement would soon follow."
I replied that "I sincerely hoped that such was the case, and that the great experience of the Martians with regard to the progress of ideas certainly enabled him to express a truer and more prophetic opinion than I could possibly venture upon. At the same time I knew how difficult it was to bring about changes of ideas and systems amongst large masses of the people; but notwithstanding all these things, I was of the same opinion as a great poetical countryman of my friend M'Allister's, who long ago wrote: 'It's coming yet, for a' that, That man to man, the whole world o'er, Shall brothers be, and a' that.'"
Eleeta showed her interest in her own sex by asking what part our women took in the endeavour to improve our social and political conditions; and seemed very surprised when I said they had no voice in the election of members of our Imperial Parliament, although many of them took an active part in any work for the amelioration of our social conditions.
I then gave a short account of the women's suffrage movement, and was speaking of certain unwise actions of the militant party, when she suddenly interrupted me by throwing up her hands and exclaiming-- "Oh, Mr. Poynders, do not say any more upon that point! I wish to think well of your women and to make all allowances for them, but no Martian women could possibly behave in the manner you have described; their innate self-respect is too great to allow such conduct.
"We should all feel degraded in the eyes of our husbands, brothers, and sisters, if any such things occurred here; but they are quite impossible!
"Your women are entitled to a full share of the responsibilities connected with the election of members of your state councils, just the same as we have; but surely there are other and proper means of obtaining their rights and privileges without resorting to such childish and unwomanly tactics as chaining themselves up, pestering high officers of state, and forcing their way into your council chambers."
I assured her that the majority of our women, both rich and poor, took exactly the same view as she did on this matter, and were utterly opposed to the methods adopted by the few, even where they themselves were in favour of the franchise. Many, however, were so distressed by the conduct of militant women that they opposed the franchise altogether. The pity of it all was that the militant suffragettes seemed to glory in shocking their sisters' susceptibilities.
Eleeta then said that "For the sake of her sex she was glad to learn that such behaviour did not meet with general approval; still, she hoped that before long our women would be enabled to take up their proper position in connection with the election of our state councils."
After a little more desultory conversation, the Chief thanked me for what he was pleased to term "the interesting statement with which I had favoured them."
The meeting then broke up, but I observed that John, who had been sitting with Siloni all the time, seemed to find himself in very congenial company, which he was not at all anxious to quit.
On our way home Merna took me fully into his confidence and told me of his hopes respecting Eleeta, at the same time giving me many particulars concerning the beautiful young lady upon whom he had bestowed his affections.
THE SECRET OF THE "CARETS"--THE SUN AS SEEN FROM MARS.
The next day, accompanied by Merna and Tellurio, we started off at an early hour on an air-ship trip to the northern edge of the Sinus Titanum.
This is really the bed of an ancient sea, from which all water has long since disappeared. Nearly all the blue-green patches which are seen on the planet by our observers are also old sea-beds, and they are now the most fertile areas upon its surface.
The object of our visit was to inspect the machinery and apparatus by which the water is lifted and forced along the canals; and remembering what Merna had told him, M'Allister was looking forward to seeing them with eager anticipation.
Professor Lowell has arrived at the conclusion that, owing to the shape of the planet and other conditions, gravitation upon Mars is in a state of stable equilibrium, and that consequently water would not flow by gravitation, as it does upon our earth, but merely spread out as it would on a level floor. If turned into a canal it would not flow along without artificial propulsion, except so far as it might be carried by its own "head."
We found, on inquiry, that this conclusion is very nearly correct, but there is just a small amount of gravitation which is sufficient to produce an extremely slow movement of the water in the canals.
[Illustration: From a Globe made by M. Wicks Plate XII MARS. MAP V.
The dark wedge-shaped area near the centre is "Syrtis Major." It was on the desert area to the left of this that Professor Lowell discovered several new canals on 30th September, 1909.]
I have already mentioned the discovery of the "carets" which exist in certain places on the planet. They are seen as small V-shaped markings which are dark in tint; and perhaps might better be described as resembling our Government's "broad-arrow," the central line representing the end of a single canal which enters the caret centrally.
Professor Lowell is of opinion that these carets must fulfil some important purpose, as they only appear where some of the canals connect with the dark areas of the old sea-beds. He is quite right in this conclusion, for they are very important indeed in connection with the working of the canal system.
They are, in fact, all situated on or adjoining the slopes of the sea-beds, and the dark sides of the V are really two high embankments covered with dense vegetation, and thus are sufficiently conspicuous to be seen through our telescopes. The whole encloses an area on each side of the canals within which large and important engineering works are situated.
The canals which run along the bottom of the sea-beds are, of course, at a much lower level than the adjoining red area, and the canals on the latter area are therefore at a higher level. Those canals which cross the sea-beds cannot be carried by means of viaducts or embankments so as to place them upon the same level as the canals on the red areas, because that would defeat the purpose of irrigation, which is their chief use. It is therefore necessary to lift the water from the low-level canals and discharge it into those upon the higher ground.
This is accomplished by means of apparatus somewhat resembling an American "grain-elevator," on a large scale; and it consists of a long series of very large buckets, V-shaped in cross-section, attached to endless chain-bands, which, as they are carried round by the machinery, scoop up the water from the low-level canals and carry it up to the requisite height, from whence it is automatically discharged into the high-level canals. Of course it will be understood that the ends of the latter canals are entirely closed by embankments so that no water can pass that way.
The buckets are an enormous size, and the electric machinery by which they are kept in motion is of the most ingenious description.
Besides this there is an immense amount of equally ingenious electrical machinery for forcing the water along the canals.
Merna and Tellurio showed us all over the area, and carefully explained the construction and working of the various machines. I do not think M'Allister ever spent a more enjoyable time in his life, for he went about amongst the different machines examining them with the keenest interest and manifestations of delight; and his note-book was in constant requisition for making sketches and notes of what he saw.
We noticed that he was frequently smiling and chuckling to himself as if he were intensely pleased; and presently he came over to us, rubbing his hands together in high glee, and said to John, "Heh, mon, I reckon I see my way to making a fortune when we return home, out of the ideas and wrinkles I'm getting here from the work of the Martian engineers!"
John laughed, and congratulated him heartily on his brilliant outlook for the future, remarking that he did not appear to regret coming to Mars.
"Indeed, I don't," M'Allister replied; "I'm thinking it will prove the very best thing I've done in my life."
"Well, sir," said Merna, "I told you those machines would suit you as an engineer; are you satisfied now you have seen them?"
"More than satisfied," answered M'Allister; "they are the most extraordinary and most ingenious machines I ever saw, and I wouldn't have missed them for anything!"
At the sides of each high-level canal we saw a series of locks and weirs so constructed that vessels can pass on, in successive stages, from the high-level to the low-level canals, and vice versa.