"You just think you have," Alexander said gleefully. "That's what you have forgotten. You've gotten your agreement -- now you will satisfy me. As I see it you have breached your contract by leaving Flora without authorization."
"That is right," Kennon said. A small lump of lead began to grow rapidly larger in his stomach. Brainard was grinning and Copper's eyes were shining. "You've been jobbed!" his mind told him. He sighed. He knew what was coming next.
"The punitive clause for breach of contract," Alexander went on inexorably, "is very broad. Discretion is vested in the entrepreneur. I can obtain judgment against you in any court on any planet."
"I know," Kennon said glumly.
"But I am going to be civilized," Alexander said. "I am going to be merciful. I am going to extend your contract until phase-out has been completed. You are going to have control of the entire Kardon phase of the operation. It's poetic justice -- you made the mess -- now you can clean it up."
"Humanity has nothing to do with it. It's justice," Alexander said. He smiled at Copper's radiant face. The thought of going home was good to her. "Good luck on your new job, Dr. Kennon," he said. "And welcome to the brotherhood of the ulcer."
MIZORA: A PROPHECY.
A Mss. Found Among The Private Papers Of The Princess Vera Zarovitch; Being a true and faithful account of her Journey to the Interior of the Earth, with a careful description of the Country and its Inhabitants, their Customs, Manners and Government.
WRITTEN BY HERSELF.
By Mary E. Bradley
The narrative of Vera Zarovitch, published in the Cincinnati Commercial in 1880 and 1881, attracted a great deal of attention. It commanded a wide circle of readers, and there was much more said about it than is usual when works of fiction run through a newspaper in weekly installments. Quite a number of persons who are unaccustomed to bestowing consideration upon works of fiction spoke of it, and grew greatly interested in it.
I received many messages about it, and letters of inquiry, and some ladies and gentlemen desired to know the particulars about the production of the story in book form; and were inquisitive about it and the author who kept herself in concealment so closely that even her husband did not know that she was the writer who was making this stir in our limited literary world.
I was myself so much interested in it that it occurred to me to make the suggestion that the story ought to have an extensive sale in book form, and to write to a publisher; but the lady who wrote the work seemed herself a shade indifferent on the subject, and it passed out of my hands and out of my mind.
It is safe to say that it made an impression that was remarkable, and with a larger audience I do not doubt that it would make its mark as an original production wrought out with thoughtful care and literary skill, and take high rank.
Yours very truly, Murat Halstead.
Nov. 14th, 1889.
Having little knowledge of rhetorical art, and possessing but a limited imagination, it is only a strong sense of the duty I owe to Science and the progressive minds of the age, that induces me to come before the public in the character of an author. True, I have only a simple narration of facts to deal with, and am, therefore, not expected to present artistic effects, and poetical imagery, nor any of those flights of imagination that are the trial and test of genius.
Yet my task is not a light one. I may fail to satisfy my own mind that the true merits of the wonderful and mysterious people I discovered, have been justly described. I may fail to interest the public; which is the one difficulty most likely to occur, and most to be regretted--not for my own sake, but theirs. It is so hard to get human nature out of the ruts it has moved in for ages. To tear away their present faith, is like undermining their existence. Yet others who come after me will be more aggressive than I. I have this consolation: whatever reception may be given my narrative by the public, I know that it has been written solely for its good. That wonderful civilization I met with in Mizora, I may not be able to more than faintly shadow forth here, yet from it, the present age may form some idea of that grand, that ideal life that is possible for our remote posterity. Again and again has religious enthusiasm pictured a life to be eliminated from the grossness and imperfections of our material existence. The Spirit--the Mind--that mental gift, by or through which we think, reason, and suffer, is by one tragic and awful struggle to free itself from temporal blemishes and difficulties, and become spiritual and perfect. Yet, who, sweeping the limitless fields of space with a telescope, glancing at myriads of worlds that a lifetime could not count, or gazing through a microscope at a tiny world in a drop of water, has dreamed that patient Science and practice could evolve for the living human race, the ideal life of exalted knowledge: the life that I found in Mizora; that Science had made real and practicable. The duty that I owe to truth compels me to acknowledge that I have not been solicited to write this narrative by my friends; nor has it been the pastime of my leisure hours; nor written to amuse an invalid; nor, in fact, for any of those reasons which have prompted so many men and women to write a book. It is, on the contrary, the result of hours of laborious work, undertaken for the sole purpose of benefiting Science and giving encouragement to those progressive minds who have already added their mite of knowledge to the coming future of the race. "We owe a duty to posterity," says Junius in his famous letter to the king. A declaration that ought to be a motto for every schoolroom, and graven above every legislative hall in the world. It should be taught to the child as soon as reason has begun to dawn, and be its guide until age has become its master.
It is my desire not to make this story a personal matter; and for that unavoidable prominence which is given one's own identity in relating personal experiences, an indulgence is craved from whomsoever may peruse these pages.
In order to explain how and why I came to venture upon a journey no other of my sex has ever attempted, I am compelled to make a slight mention of my family and nationality.
I am a Russian: born to a family of nobility, wealth, and political power. Had the natural expectations for my birth and condition been fulfilled, I should have lived, loved, married and died a Russian aristocrat, and been unknown to the next generation--and this narrative would not have been written.
There are some people who seem to have been born for the sole purpose of becoming the playthings of Fate--who are tossed from one condition of life to another without wish or will of their own. Of this class I am an illustration. Had I started out with a resolve to discover the North Pole, I should never have succeeded. But all my hopes, affections, thoughts, and desires were centered in another direction, hence--but my narrative will explain the rest.
The tongue of woman has long been celebrated as an unruly member, and perhaps, in some of the domestic affairs of life, it has been unnecessarily active; yet no one who gives this narrative a perusal, can justly deny that it was the primal cause of the grandest discovery of the age.
I was educated in Paris, where my vacations were frequently spent with an American family who resided there, and with whom my father had formed an intimate friendship. Their house, being in a fashionable quarter of the city and patriotically hospitable, was the frequent resort of many of their countrymen. I unconsciously acquired a knowledge and admiration for their form of government, and some revolutionary opinions in regard to my own.
Had I been guided by policy, I should have kept the latter a secret, but on returning home, at the expiration of my school days, I imprudently gave expression to them in connection with some of the political movements of the Russian Government--and secured its suspicion at once, which, like the virus of some fatal disease, once in the system, would lose its vitality only with my destruction.
While at school, I had become attached to a young and lovely Polish orphan, whose father had been killed at the battle of Grochow when she was an infant in her mother's arms. My love for my friend, and sympathy for her oppressed people, finally drew me into serious trouble and caused my exile from my native land.
I married at the age of twenty the son of my father's dearest friend. Alexis and I were truly attached to each other, and when I gave to my infant the name of my father and witnessed his pride and delight, I thought to my cup of earthly happiness, not one more drop could be added.
A desire to feel the cheering air of a milder climate induced me to pay my Polish friend a visit. During my sojourn with her occurred the anniversary of the tragedy of Grochow, when, according to custom, all who had lost friends in the two dreadful battles that had been fought there, met to offer prayers for their souls. At her request, I accompanied my friend to witness the ceremonies. To me, a silent and sympathizing spectator, they were impressive and solemn in the extreme. Not less than thirty thousand people were there, weeping and praying on ground hallowed by patriot blood. After the prayers were said, the voice of the multitude rose in a mournful and pathetic chant. It was rudely broken by the appearance of the Russian soldiers.
A scene ensued which memory refuses to forget, and justice forbids me to deny. I saw my friend, with the song of sorrow still trembling on her innocent lips, fall bleeding, dying from the bayonet thrust of a Russian soldier. I clasped the lifeless body in my arms, and in my grief and excitement, poured forth upbraidings against the government of my country which it would never forgive nor condone. I was arrested, tried, and condemned to the mines of Siberia for life.
My father's ancient and princely lineage, my husband's rank, the wealth of both families, all were unavailing in procuring a commutation of my sentence to some less severe punishment. Through bribery, however, the co-operation of one of my jailors was secured, and I escaped in disguise to the frontier.
It was my husband's desire that I proceed immediately to France, where he would soon join me. But we were compelled to accept whatever means chance offered for my escape, and a whaling vessel bound for the Northern Seas was the only thing I could secure passage upon with safety. The captain promised to transfer me to the first southward bound vessel we should meet.
But none came. The slow, monotonous days found me gliding farther and farther from home and love. In the seclusion of my little cabin, my fate was more endurable than the horrors of Siberia could have been, but it was inexpressibly lonesome. On shipboard I sustained the character of a youth, exiled for a political offense, and of a delicate constitution.
It is not necessary to the interest of this narrative to enter into the details of shipwreck and disaster, which befel us in the Northern Seas. Our vessel was caught between ice floes, and we were compelled to abandon her. The small boats were converted into sleds, but in such shape as would make it easy to re-convert them into boats again, should it ever become necessary. We took our march for the nearest Esquimaux settlement, where we were kindly received and tendered the hospitality of their miserable huts. The captain, who had been ill for some time, grew rapidly worse, and in a few days expired. As soon as the approach of death became apparent, he called the crew about him, and requested them to make their way south as soon as possible, and to do all in their power for my health and comfort. He had, he said, been guaranteed a sum of money for my safe conduct to France, sufficient to place his family in independent circumstances, and he desired that his crew should do all in their power to secure it for them.
The next morning I awoke to find myself deserted, the crew having decamped with nearly everything brought from the ship.
Being blessed with strong nerves, I stared my situation bravely in the face, and resolved to make the best of it. I believed it could be only a matter of time when some European or American whaling vessel should rescue me: and I had the resolution to endure, while hope fed the flame.
I at once proceeded to inure myself to the life of the Esquimaux. I habited myself in a suit of reindeer fur, and ate, with compulsory appetite, the raw flesh and fat that form their principal food. Acclimated by birth to the coldest region of the temperate zone, and naturally of a hardy constitution, I found it not so difficult to endure the rigors of the Arctic temperature as I had supposed.
I soon discovered the necessity of being an assistance to my new friends in procuring food, as their hospitality depends largely upon the state of their larder. A compass and a small trunk of instruments belonging to the Captain had been either over-looked or rejected by the crew in their flight. I secured the esteem of the Esquimaux by using the compass to conduct a hunting party in the right direction when a sudden snow-storm had obscured the landmarks by which they guide their course. I cheerfully assumed a share of their hardships, for with these poor children of the North life is a continual struggle with cold and starvation. The long, rough journeys which we frequently took over ice and ridges of snow in quest of animal food, I found monotonously destitute of everything I had experienced in former traveling, except fatigue. The wail of the winds, and the desolate landscape of ice and snow, never varied. The coruscations of the Aurora Borealis sometimes lighted up the dreary waste around us, and the myriad eyes of the firmament shone out with a brighter lustre, as twilight shrank before the gloom of the long Arctic night.
A description of the winter I spent with the Esquimaux can be of little interest to the readers of this narrative. Language cannot convey to those who have dwelt always in comfort the feeling of isolation, the struggle with despair, that was constantly mine. We were often confined to our ice huts for days while the blinding fury of the wind driven snow without made the earth look like chaos. Sometimes I crept to the narrow entrance and looked toward the South with a feeling of homesickness too intense to describe. Away, over leagues of perilous travel, lay everything that was dear or congenial; and how many dreary months, perhaps years, must pass before I could obtain release from associations more dreadful than solitude. It required all the courage I could command to endure it.
The whale-fishing opens about the first week in August, and continues throughout September. As it drew near, the settlement prepared to move farther north, to a locality where they claimed whales could be found in abundance. I cheerfully assisted in the preparations, for to meet some whaling vessel was my only hope of rescue from surroundings that made existence a living death.
The dogs were harnessed to sleds heavily laden with the equipments of an Esquimaux hut. The woman, as well as the men, were burdened with immense packs; and our journey begun. We halted only to rest and sleep. A few hours work furnished us a new house out of the ever present ice. We feasted on raw meat--sometimes a freshly killed deer; after which our journey was resumed.
As near as I could determine, it was close to the 85 north latitude, where we halted on the shore of an open sea. Wild ducks and game were abundant, also fish of an excellent quality. Here, for the first time in many months, I felt the kindly greeting of a mild breeze as it hailed me from the bosom of the water. Vegetation was not profuse nor brilliant, but to my long famished eyes, its dingy hue was delightfully refreshing.
Across this sea I instantly felt a strong desire to sail. I believed it must contain an island of richer vegetation than the shore we occupied. But no one encouraged me or would agree to be my companion. On the contrary, they intimated that I should never return. I believed that they were trying to frighten me into remaining with them, and declared my intention to go alone. Perhaps I might meet in that milder climate some of my own race. My friend smiled, and pointing to the South, said, as he designated an imaginary boundary: "Across that no white man's foot has ever stepped."
So I was alone. My resolution, however, was not shaken. A boat was constructed, and bidding adieu to my humble companions, I launched into an unknown sea.
On and on, and on I rowed until the shore and my late companions were lost in the gloomy distance. On and on, and still on, until fatigued almost to exhaustion; and still, no land. A feeling of uncontrollable lonesomeness took possession of me. Silence reigned supreme. No sound greeted me save the swirl of the gently undulating waters against the boat, and the melancholy dip of the oars. Overhead, the familiar eyes of night were all that pierced the gloom that seemed to hedge me in. My feeling of distress increased when I discovered that my boat had struck a current and was beyond my control. Visions of a cataract and inevitable death instantly shot across my mind. Made passive by intense despair, I laid down in the bottom of the boat, to let myself drift into whatever fate was awaiting me.
I must have lain there many hours before I realized that I was traveling in a circle. The velocity of the current had increased, but not sufficiently to insure immediately destruction. Hope began to revive, and I sat up and looked about me with renewed courage. Directly before me rose a column of mist, so thin that I could see through it, and of the most delicate tint of green. As I gazed, it spread into a curtain that appeared to be suspended in mid-air, and began to sway gently back and forth, as if impelled by a slight breeze, while sparks of fire, like countless swarms of fire-flies, darted through it and blazed out into a thousand brilliant hues and flakes of color that chased one another across and danced merrily up and down with bewildering swiftness. Suddenly it drew together in a single fold, a rope of yellow mist, then instantly shook itself out again as a curtain of rainbows fringed with flame. Myriads of tassels, composed of threads of fire, began to dart hither and thither through it, while the rainbow stripes deepened in hue until they looked like gorgeous ribbons glowing with intensest radiance, yet softened by that delicate misty appearance which is a special quality of all atmospheric color, and which no pencil can paint, nor the most eloquent tongue adequately describe.
The swaying motion continued. Sometimes the curtain approached near enough, apparently, to flaunt its fiery fringe almost within my grasp. It hung one instant in all its marvelous splendor of colors, then suddenly rushed into a compact mass, and shot across the zenith, an arc of crimson fire that lit up the gloomy waters with a weird, unearthly glare. It faded quickly, and appeared to settle upon the water again in a circular wall of amber mist, round which the current was hurrying me with rapidly increasing speed. I saw, with alarm, that the circles were narrowing A whirlpool was my instant conjecture, and I laid myself down in the boat, again expecting every moment to be swept into a seething abyss of waters. The spray dashed into my face as the boat plunged forward with frightful swiftness. A semi-stupor, born of exhaustion and terror, seized me in its merciful embrace.
It must have been many hours that I lay thus. I have a dim recollection of my boat going on and on, its speed gradually decreasing, until I was amazed to perceive that it had ceased its onward motion and was gently rocking on quiet waters. I opened my eyes. A rosy light, like the first blush of a new day, permeated the atmosphere. I sat up and looked about me. A circular wall of pale amber mist rose behind me; the shores of a new and beautiful country stretched before. Toward them, I guided my boat with reviving hope and strength.
I entered a broad river, whose current was from the sea, and let myself drift along its banks in bewildered delight. The sky appeared bluer, and the air balmier than even that of Italy's favored clime. The turf that covered the banks was smooth and fine, like a carpet of rich green velvet. The fragrance of tempting fruit was wafted by the zephyrs from numerous orchards. Birds of bright plumage flitted among the branches, anon breaking forth into wild and exultant melody, as if they rejoiced to be in so favored a clime.
And truly it seemed a land of enchantment. The atmosphere had a peculiar transparency, seemingly to bring out clearly objects at a great distance, yet veiling the far horizon in a haze of gold and purple. Overhead, clouds of the most gorgeous hues, like precious gems converted into vapor, floated in a sky of the serenest azure. The languorous atmosphere, the beauty of the heavens, the inviting shores, produced in me a feeling of contentment not easily described. To add to my senses another enjoyment, my ears were greeted with sounds of sweet music, in which I detected the mingling of human voices.
I wondered if I had really drifted into an enchanted country, such as I had read about in the fairy books of my childhood.
The music grew louder, yet wondrously sweet, and a large pleasure boat, shaped like a fish, glided into view. Its scales glittered like gems as it moved gracefully and noiselessly through the water. Its occupants were all young girls of the highest type of blonde beauty. It was their soft voices, accompanied by some peculiar stringed instruments they carried, that had produced the music I had heard. They appeared to regard me with curiosity, not unmixed with distrust, for their boat swept aside to give me a wide berth.
I uncovered my head, shook down my long black hair, and falling upon my knees, lifted my hands in supplication. My plea was apparently understood, for turning their boat around, they motioned me to follow them. This I did with difficulty, for I was weak, and their boat moved with a swiftness and ease that astonished me. What surprised me most was its lack of noise.
As I watched its beautiful occupants dressed in rich garments, adorned with rare and costly gems, and noted the noiseless, gliding swiftness of their boat, an uncomfortable feeling of mystery began to invade my mind, as though I really had chanced upon enchanted territory.
As we glided along, I began to be impressed by the weird stillness. No sound greeted me from the ripening orchards, save the carol of birds; from the fields came no note of harvest labor. No animals were visible, nor sound of any. No hum of life. All nature lay asleep in voluptuous beauty, veiled in a glorious atmosphere. Everything wore a dreamy look. The breeze had a loving, lingering touch, not unlike to the Indian Summer of North America. But no Indian Summer ever knew that dark green verdure, like the first robe of spring. Wherever the eye turned it met something charming in cloud, or sky, or water, or vegetation. Everything had felt the magical touch of beauty.
On the right, the horizon was bounded by a chain of mountains, that plainly showed their bases above the glowing orchards and verdant landscapes. It impressed me as peculiar, that everything appeared to rise as it gained in distance. At last the pleasure boat halted at a flight of marble steps that touched the water. Ascending these, I gained an eminence where a scene of surpassing beauty and grandeur lay spread before me. Far, far as the eye could follow it, stretched the stately splendor of a mighty city. But all the buildings were detached and surrounded by lawns and shade trees, their white marble and gray granite walls gleaming through the green foliage.
Upon the lawn, directly before us, a number of most beautiful girls had disposed themselves at various occupations. Some were reading, some sketching, and some at various kinds of needlework. I noticed that they were all blondes. I could not determine whether their language possessed a peculiarly soft accent, or whether it was an unusual melody of voice that made their conversation as musical to the ear as the love notes of some amorous wood bird to its mate.
A large building of white marble crowned a slight eminence behind them. Its porticos were supported upon the hands of colossal statues of women, carved out of white marble with exquisite art and beauty. Shade trees of a feathery foliage, like plumes of finest moss, guarded the entrance and afforded homes for brilliant-plumaged birds that flew about the porticos and alighted on the hands and shoulders of the ladies without fear. Some of the trees had a smooth, straight trunk and flat top, bearing a striking resemblance to a Chinese umbrella. On either side of the marble-paved entrance were huge fountains that threw upward a column of water a hundred feet in height, which, dissolving into spray, fell into immense basins of clearest crystal. Below the rim of these basins, but covered with the crystal, as with a delicate film of ice, was a wreath of blood red roses, that looked as though they had just been plucked from the stems and placed there for a temporary ornament. I afterward learned that it was the work of an artist, and durable as granite.
I supposed I had arrived at a female seminary, as not a man, or the suggestion of one, was to be seen. If it were a seminary, it was for the wealth of the land, as house, grounds, adornments, and the ladies' attire were rich and elegant.
I stood apart from the groups of beautiful creatures like the genus of another race, enveloped in garments of fur that had seen much service. I presented a marked contrast. The evident culture, refinement, and gentleness of the ladies, banished any fear I might have entertained as to the treatment I should receive. But a singular silence that pervaded everything impressed me painfully. I stood upon the uplifted verge of an immense city, but from its broad streets came no sound of traffic, no rattle of wheels, no hum of life. Its marble homes of opulence shone white and grand through mossy foliage; from innumerable parks the fountains sparkled and statues gleamed like rare gems upon a costly robe; but over all a silence, as of death, reigned unbroken. The awe and the mystery of it pressed heavily upon my spirit, but I could not refuse to obey when a lady stepped out of the group, that had doubtless been discussing me, and motioned me to follow her.
She led me through the main entrance into a lofty hall that extended through the entire building, and consisted of a number of grand arches representing scenes in high relief of the finest sculpture. We entered a magnificent salon, where a large assembly of ladies regarded me with unmistakable astonishment. Every one of them was a blonde. I was presented to one, whom I instantly took to be the Lady Superior of the College, for I had now settled it in my mind that I was in a female seminary, albeit one of unheard of luxury in its appointments.
The lady had a remarkable majesty of demeanor, and a noble countenance. Her hair was white with age, but over her features, the rosy bloom of youth still lingered, as if loth to depart. She looked at me kindly and critically, but not with as much surprise as the others had evinced. I may here remark that I am a brunette. My guide, having apparently received some instruction in regard to me, led me upstairs into a private apartment. She placed before me a complete outfit of female wearing apparel, and informed me by signs that I was to put it on. She then retired. The apartment was sumptuously furnished in two colors--amber and lazulite. A bath-room adjoining had a beautiful porcelain tank with scented water, that produced a delightful feeling of exhilaration.
Having donned my new attire, I descended the stairs and met my guide, who conducted me into a spacious dining-room. The walls were adorned with paintings, principally of fruit and flowers. A large and superb picture of a sylvan dell in the side of a rock, was one exception. Its deep, cool shadows, and the pellucid water, which a wandering sunbeam accidentally revealed, were strikingly realistic. Nearly all of the pictures were upon panels of crystal that were set in the wall. The light shining through them gave them an exceedingly natural effect. One picture that I especially admired, was of a grape vine twining around the body and trunk of an old tree. It was inside of the crystal panel, and looked so natural that I imagined I could see its leaves and tendrils sway in the wind. The occupants of the dining-room were all ladies, and again I noted the fact that they were all blondes: beautiful, graceful, courteous, and with voices softer and sweeter than the strains of an eolian harp.
The table, in its arrangement and decoration, was the most beautiful one I had ever seen. The white linen cloth resembled brocaded satin. The knives and forks were gold, with handles of solid amber. The dishes were of the finest porcelain. Some of them, particularly the fruit stands, looked as though composed of hoar frost. Many of the fruit stands were of gold filigree work. They attracted my notice at once, not so much on account of the exquisite workmanship and unique design of the dishes, as the wonderful fruit they contained. One stand, that resembled a huge African lily in design, contained several varieties of plums, as large as hen's eggs, and transparent. They were yellow, blue and red. The centre of the table was occupied by a fruit stand of larger size than the others. It looked like a boat of sea foam fringed with gold moss. Over its outer edge hung clusters of grapes of a rich wine color, and clear as amethysts. The second row looked like globes of honey, the next were of a pale, rose color, and the top of the pyramid was composed of white ones, the color and transparency of dew.
The fruit looked so beautiful. I thought it would be a sacrilege to destroy the charm it had for the eye; but when I saw it removed by pink tipped fingers, whose beauty no art could represent, and saw it disappear within such tempting lips. I thought the feaster worthy of the feast. Fruit appeared to be the principal part of their diet, and was served in its natural state. I was, however, supplied with something that resembled beefsteak of a very fine quality. I afterward learned that it was chemically prepared meat. At the close of the meal, a cup was handed me that looked like the half of a soap bubble with all its iridescent beauty sparkling and glancing in the light. It contained a beverage that resembled chocolate, but whose flavor could not have been surpassed by the fabled nectar of the gods.
I have been thus explicit in detailing the circumstances of my entrance into the land of Mizora, or, in other words, the interior of the earth, lest some incredulous person might doubt the veracity of this narrative.
It does seem a little astonishing that a woman should have fallen by accident, and without intention or desire, upon a discovery that explorers and scientists had for years searched for in vain. But such was the fact, and, in generosity, I have endeavored to make my accident as serviceable to the world in general, and Science in particular, as I could, by taking observations of the country, its climate and products, and especially its people.
I met with the greatest difficulty in acquiring their language. Accustomed to the harsh dialect of the North, my voice was almost intractable in obtaining their melodious accentuation. It was, therefore, many months before I mastered the difficulty sufficiently to converse without embarrassment, or to make myself clearly understood. The construction of their language was simple and easily understood, and in a short time I was able to read it with ease, and to listen to it with enjoyment. Yet, before this was accomplished, I had mingled among them for months, listening to a musical jargon of conversation, that I could neither participate in, nor understand. All that I could therefore discover about them during this time, was by observation. This soon taught me that I was not in a seminary--in our acceptance of the term--but in a College of Experimental Science. The ladies--girls I had supposed them to be--were, in fact, women and mothers, and had reached an age that with us would be associated with decrepitude, wrinkles and imbecility. They were all practical chemists, and their work was the preparation of food from the elements. No wonder that they possessed the suppleness and bloom of eternal youth, when the earthy matter and impurities that are ever present in our food, were unknown to theirs.
I also discovered that they obtained rain artificially when needed, by discharging vast quantities of electricity in the air. I discovered that they kept no cattle, nor animals of any kind for food or labor. I observed a universal practice of outdoor exercising; the aim seeming to be to develop the greatest capacity of lung or muscle. It was astonishing the amount of air a Mizora lady could draw into her lungs. They called it their brain stimulant, and said that their faculties were more active after such exercise. In my country, a cup of strong coffee, or some other agreeable beverage, is usually taken into the stomach to invigorate or excite the mind.
One thing I remarked as unusual among a people of such cultured taste, and that was the size of the ladies' waists. Of all that I measured not one was less than thirty inches in circumference, and it was rare to meet with one that small. At first I thought a waist that tapered from the arm pits would be an added beauty, if only these ladies would be taught how to acquire it. But I lived long enough among them to look upon a tapering waist as a disgusting deformity. They considered a large waist a mark of beauty, as it gave a greater capacity of lung power; and they laid the greatest stress upon the size and health of the lungs. One little lady, not above five feet in height, I saw draw into her lungs two hundred and twenty-five cubic inches of air, and smile proudly when she accomplished it. I measured five feet and five inches in height, and with the greatest effort I could not make my lungs receive more than two hundred cubic inches of air. In my own country I had been called an unusually robust girl, and knew, by comparison, that I had a much larger and fuller chest than the average among women.
I noticed with greater surprise than anything else had excited in me, the marked absence of men. I wandered about the magnificent building without hindrance or surveillance. There was not a lock or bolt on any door in it. I frequented a vast gallery filled with paintings and statues of women, noble looking, beautiful women, but still--nothing but women. The fact that they were all blondes, singular as it might appear, did not so much impress me. Strangers came and went, but among the multitude of faces I met, I never saw a man's.
In my own country I had been accustomed to regard man as a vital necessity. He occupied all governmental offices, and was the arbitrator of domestic life. It seemed, therefore, impossible to me for a country or government to survive without his assistance and advice. Besides, it was a country over which the heart of any man must yearn, however insensible he might be to beauty or female loveliness. Wealth was everywhere and abundant. The climate as delightful as the most fastidious could desire. The products of the orchards and gardens surpassed description. Bread came from the laboratory, and not from the soil by the sweat of the brow. Toil was unknown; the toil that we know, menial, degrading and harassing. Science had been the magician that had done away all that. Science, so formidable and austere to our untutored minds, had been gracious to these fair beings and opened the door to nature's most occult secrets. The beauty of those women it is not in my power to describe. The Greeks, in their highest art, never rivalled it, for here was a beauty of mind that no art can represent. They enhanced their physical charms with attractive costumes, often of extreme elegance. They wore gems that flashed a fortune as they passed. The rarest was of a pale rose color, translucent as the clearest water, and of a brilliancy exceeding the finest diamond. Their voices, in song, could only be equaled by a celestial choir. No dryad queen ever floated through the leafy aisles of her forest with more grace than they displayed in every movement. And all this was for feminine eyes alone--and they of the most enchanting loveliness.
Among all the women that I met during my stay in Mizora--comprising a period of fifteen years--I saw not one homely face or ungraceful form. In my own land the voice of flattery had whispered in my ear praises of face and figure, but I felt ill-formed and uncouth beside the perfect symmetry and grace of these lovely beings. Their chief beauty appeared in a mobility of expression. It was the divine fire of Thought that illumined every feature, which, while gazing upon the Aphrodite of Praxitiles, we must think was all that the matchless marble lacked. Emotion passed over their features like ripples over a stream. Their eyes were limpid wells of loveliness, where every impulse of their natures were betrayed without reserve.
"It would be a paradise for man."
I made this observation to myself, and as secretly would I propound the question: "Why is he not here in lordly possession?"
In my world man was regarded, or he had made himself regarded, as a superior being. He had constituted himself the Government, the Law, Judge, Jury and Executioner. He doled out reward or punishment as his conscience or judgment dictated. He was active and belligerent always in obtaining and keeping every good thing for himself. He was indispensable. Yet here was a nation of fair, exceedingly fair women doing without him, and practising the arts and sciences far beyond the imagined pale of human knowledge and skill.
Of their progress in science I will give some accounts hereafter.
It is impossible to describe the feeling that took possession of me as months rolled by, and I saw the active employments of a prosperous people move smoothly and quietly along in the absence of masculine intelligence and wisdom. Cut off from all inquiry by my ignorance of their language, the singular absence of the male sex began to prey upon my imagination as a mystery. The more so after visiting a town at some distance, composed exclusively of schools and colleges for the youth of the country. Here I saw hundreds of children--and all of them were girls. Is it to be wondered at that the first inquiry I made, was: "Where are the men?"