To facilitate my progress in the language of Mizora I was sent to their National College. It was the greatest favor they could have conferred upon me, as it opened to me a wide field of knowledge. Their educational system was a peculiar one, and, as it was the chief interest of the country. I shall describe it before proceeding farther with this narrative.
All institutions for instruction were public, as were, also, the books and other accessories. The State was the beneficent mother who furnished everything, and required of her children only their time and application. Each pupil was compelled to attain a certain degree of excellence that I thought unreasonably high, after which she selected the science or vocation she felt most competent to master, and to that she then devoted herself.
The salaries of teachers were larger than those of any other public position. The Principal of the National College had an income that exceeded any royal one I had ever heard of; but, as education was the paramount interest of Mizora, I was not surprised at it. Their desire was to secure the finest talent for educational purposes, and as the highest honors and emoluments belonged to such a position, it could not be otherwise. To be a teacher in Mizora was to be a person of consequence. They were its aristocracy.
Every State had a free college provided for out of the State funds. In these colleges every department of Science, Art, or Mechanics was furnished with all the facilities for thorough instruction. All the expenses of a pupil, including board, clothing, and the necessary traveling fares, were defrayed by the State. I may here remark that all railroads are owned and controlled by the General Government. The rates of transportation were fixed by law, and were uniform throughout the country.
The National College which I entered belonged to the General Government. Here was taught the highest attainments in the arts and sciences, and all industries practised in Mizora. It contained the very cream of learning. There the scientist, the philosopher and inventor found the means and appliances for study and investigation. There the artist and sculptor had their finest work, and often their studios. The principals and subordinate teachers and assistants were elected by popular vote. The State Colleges were free to those of another State who might desire to enter them, for Mizora was like one vast family. It was regarded as the duty of every citizen to lend all the aid and encouragement in her power to further the enlightenment of others, wisely knowing the benefits of such would accrue to her own and the general good. The National College was open to all applicants, irrespective of age, the only requirements being a previous training to enter upon so high a plane of mental culture. Every allurement was held out to the people to come and drink at the public fountain where the cup was inviting and the waters sweet. "For," said one of the leading instructors to me, "education is the foundation of our moral elevation, our government, our happiness. Let us relax our efforts, or curtail the means and inducements to become educated, and we relax into ignorance, and end in demoralization. We know the value of free education. It is frequently the case that the greatest minds are of slow development, and manifest in the primary schools no marked ability. They often leave the schools unnoticed; and when time has awakened them to their mental needs, all they have to do is to apply to the college, pass an examination, and be admitted. If not prepared to enter the college, they could again attend the common schools. We realize in its broadest sense the ennobling influence of universal education. The higher the culture of a people, the more secure is their government and happiness. A prosperous people is always an educated one; and the freer the education, the wealthier they become."
The Preceptress of the National College was the leading scientist of the country. Her position was more exalted than any that wealth could have given her. In fact, while wealth had acknowledged advantages, it held a subordinate place in the estimation of the people. I never heard the expression "very wealthy," used as a recommendation of a person. It was always: "She is a fine scholar, or mechanic, or artist, or musician. She excels in landscape gardening, or domestic work. She is a first-class chemist." But never "She is rich."
The idea of a Government assuming the responsibility of education, like a parent securing the interest of its children, was all so new to me; and yet, I confessed to myself, the system might prove beneficial to other countries than Mizora. In that world, from whence I had so mysteriously emigrated, education was the privilege only of the rich. And in no country, however enlightened, was there a system of education that would reach all. Charitable institutions were restricted, and benefited only a few. My heart beat with enthusiasm when I thought of the mission before me. And then I reflected that the philosophers of my world were but as children in progress compared to these. Still traveling in grooves that had been worn and fixed for posterity by bygone ages of ignorance and narrow-mindedness, it would require courage and resolution, and more eloquence than I possessed, to persuade them out of these trodden paths. To be considered the privileged class was an active characteristic of human nature. Wealth, and the powerful grip upon the people which the organizations of society and governments gave, made it hereditary. Yet in this country, nothing was hereditary but the prosperity and happiness of the whole people.
It was not a surprise to me that astronomy was an unknown science in Mizora, as neither sun, moon, nor stars were visible there. "The moon's pale beams" never afford material for a blank line in poetry; neither do scientific discussions rage on the formation of Saturn's rings, or the spots on the sun. They knew they occupied a hollow sphere, bounded North and South by impassible oceans. Light was a property of the atmosphere. A circle of burning mist shot forth long streamers of light from the North, and a similar phenomena occurred in the South.
The recitation of my geography lesson would have astonished a pupil from the outer world. They taught that a powerful current of electricity existed in the upper regions of the atmosphere. It was the origin of their atmospheric heat and light, and their change of seasons. The latter appeared to me to coincide with those of the Arctic zone, in one particular. The light of the sun during the Arctic summer is reflected by the atmosphere, and produces that mellow, golden, rapturous light that hangs like a veil of enchantment over the land of Mizora for six months in the year. It was followed by six months of the shifting iridescence of the Aurora Borealis.
As the display of the Aurora Borealis originated, and was most brilliant at what appeared to me to be the terminus of the pole, I believed it was caused by the meeting at that point of the two great electric currents of the earth, the one on its surface, and the one known to the inhabitants of Mizora. The heat produced by the meeting of two such powerful currents of electricity is, undoubtedly, the cause of the open Polar Sea. As the point of meeting is below the vision of the inhabitants of the Arctic regions, they see only the reflection of the Aurora. Its gorgeous, brilliant, indescribable splendor is known only to the inhabitants of Mizora.
At the National College, where it is taught as a regular science, I witnessed the chemical production of bread and a preparation resembling meat. Agriculture in this wonderful land, was a lost art. No one that I questioned had any knowledge of it. It had vanished in the dim past of their barbarism. With the exception of vegetables and fruit, which were raised in luscious perfection, their food came from the elements. A famine among such enlightened people was impossible, and scarcity was unknown. Food for the body and food for the mind were without price. It was owing to this that poverty was unknown to them, as well as disease. The absolute purity of all that they ate preserved an activity of vital power long exceeding our span of life. The length of their year, measured by the two seasons, was the same as ours, but the women who had marked a hundred of them in their lifetime, looked younger and fresher, and were more supple of limb than myself, yet I had barely passed my twenty-second year.
I wrote out a careful description of the processes by which they converted food out of the valueless elements--valueless because of their abundance--and put it carefully away for use in my own country. There drouth, or excessive rainfalls, produced scarcity, and sometimes famine. The struggle of the poor was for food, to the exclusion of all other interests. Many of them knew not what proper and health-giving nourishment was. But here in Mizora, the daintiest morsels came from the chemists laboratory, cheap as the earth under her feet.
I now began to enjoy the advantages of conversation, which added greatly to my happiness and acquirements. I formed an intimate companionship with the daughter of the Preceptress of the National College, and to her was addressed the questions I asked about things that impressed me. She was one of the most beautiful beings that it had been my lot to behold. Her eyes were dark, almost the purplish blue of a pansy, and her hair had a darker tinge than is common in Mizora, as if it had stolen the golden edge of a ripe chestnut. Her beauty was a constant charm to me.
The National College contained a large and well filled gallery. Its pictures and statuary were varied, not confined to historical portraits and busts as was the one at the College of Experimental Science. Yet it possessed a number of portraits of women exclusively of the blonde type. Many of them were ideal in loveliness. This gallery also contained the masterpieces of their most celebrated sculptors. They were all studies of the female form. I am a connoisseur in art, and nothing that I had ever seen before could compare with these matchless marbles, bewitching in every delicate contour, alluring in softness, but grand and majestic in pose and expression.
But I haunted this gallery for other reasons than its artistic attractions. I was searching for the portrait of a man, or something suggesting his presence. I searched in vain. Many of the paintings were on a peculiar transparent substance that gave to the subject a startlingly vivid effect. I afterward learned that they were imperishable, the material being a translucent adamant of their own manufacture. After a picture was painted upon it, another piece of adamant was cemented over it.
Each day, as my acquaintance with the peculiar institutions and character of the inhabitants of Mizora increased, my perplexity and a certain air of mystery about them increased with it. It was impossible for me not to feel for them a high degree of respect, admiration, and affection. They were ever gentle, tender, and kind to solicitude. To accuse them of mystery were a paradox; and yet they were a mystery. In conversation, manners and habits, they were frank to singularity. It was just as common an occurrence for a poem to be read and commented on by its author, as to hear it done by another. I have heard a poetess call attention to the beauties of her own production, and receive praise or adverse criticism with the same charming urbanity.
Ambition of the most intense earnestness was a natural characteristic, but was guided by a stern and inflexible justice. Envy and malice were unknown to them. It was, doubtless, owing to their elevated moral character that courts and legal proceedings had become unnecessary. If a discussion arose between parties involving a question of law, they repaired to the Public Library, where the statute books were kept, and looked up the matter themselves, and settled it as the law directed. Should they fail to interpret the law alike, a third party was selected as referee, but accepted no pay.
Indolence was as much a disgrace to them as is the lack of virtue to the women of my country, hence every citizen, no matter how wealthy, had some regular trade, business or profession. I found those occupations we are accustomed to see accepted by the people of inferior birth and breeding, were there filled by women of the highest social rank, refined in manner and frequently of notable intellectual acquirements. It grew, or was the result of the custom of selecting whatever vocation they felt themselves competent to most worthily fill, and as no social favor or ignominy rested on any kind of labor, the whole community of Mizora was one immense family of sisters who knew no distinction of birth or position among themselves.
There were no paupers and no charities, either public or private, to be found in the country. The absence of poverty such as I knew existed in all civilized nations upon the face of the earth, was largely owing to the cheapness of food. But there was one other consideration that bore vitally upon it. The dignity and necessity of labor was early and diligently impressed upon the mind. The Preceptress said to me: "Mizora is a land of industry. Nature has taught us the duty of work. Had some of us been born with minds fully matured, or did knowledge come to some as old age comes to all, we might think that a portion was intended to live without effort. But we are all born equal, and labor is assigned to all; and the one who seeks labor is wiser than the one who lets labor seek her."
Citizens, I learned, were not restrained from accumulating vast wealth had they the desire and ability to do so, but custom imposed upon them the most honorable processes. If a citizen should be found guilty of questionable business transactions, she suffered banishment to a lonely island and the confiscation of her entire estate, both hereditary and acquired. The property confiscated went to the public schools in the town or city where she resided; but never was permitted to augment salaries. I discovered this in the statute books, but not in the memory of any one living had it been found necessary to inflict such a punishment.
"Our laws," said Wauna, "are simply established legal advice. No law can be so constructed as to fit every case so exactly that a criminal mind could not warp it into a dishonest use. But in a country like ours, where civilization has reached that state of enlightenment that needs no laws, we are simply guided by custom."
The love of splendor and ornament was a pronounced characteristic of these strange people. But where gorgeous colors were used, they were always of rich quality. The humblest homes were exquisitely ornamented, and often displayed a luxury that, with us, would have been considered an evidence of wealth.
They took the greatest delight in their beauty, and were exceedingly careful of it. A lovely face and delicate complexion, they averred, added to one's refinement. The art of applying an artificial bloom and fairness to the skin, which I had often seen practiced in my own country, appeared to be unknown to them. But everything savoring of deception was universally condemned. They made no concealment of the practice they resorted to for preserving their complexions, and so universal and effectual were they, that women who, I was informed, had passed the age allotted to the grandmothers in my country, had the smooth brow and pink bloom of cheek that belongs to a more youthful period of life. There was, however, a distinction between youth and old age. The hair was permitted to whiten, but the delicate complexion of old age, with its exquisite coloring, excited in my mind as much admiration as astonishment.
I cannot explain why I hesitated to press my first inquiry as to where the men were. I had put the question to Wauna one day, but she professed never to have heard of such beings. It silenced me--for a time.
"Perhaps it is some extinct animal," she added, naively. "We have so many new things to study and investigate, that we pay but little attention to ancient history."
I bided my time and put the query in another form.
"Where is your other parent?"
She regarded me with innocent surprise. "You talk strangely. I have but one parent. How could I have any more?"
"You ought to have two."
She laughed merrily. "You have a queer way of jesting. I have but one mother, one adorable mother. How could I have two?" and she laughed again.
I saw that there was some mystery I could not unravel at present, and fearing to involve myself in some trouble, refrained from further questioning on the subject. I nevertheless kept a close observance of all that passed, and seized every opportunity to investigate a mystery that began to harass me with its strangeness.
Soon after my conversation with Wauna, I attended an entertainment at which a great number of guests were present. It was a literary festival and, after the intellectual delicacies were disposed of, a banquet followed of more than royal munificence. Toasts were drank, succeeded by music and dancing and all the gayeties of a festive occasion, yet none but the fairest of fair women graced the scene. Is it strange, therefore, that I should have regarded with increasing astonishment and uneasiness a country in all respects alluring to the desires of man--yet found him not there in lordly possession?
Beauty and intellect, wealth and industry, splendor and careful economy, natures lofty and generous, gentle and loving--why has not Man claimed this for himself?
The Preceptress of the National College appointed her daughter Wanna as a guide and instructor to me. I formed a deep and strong attachment for her, which, it pains me to remember, was the cause of her unhappy fate. In stature she was above the medium height, with a form of the fairest earthly loveliness and exquisite grace. Her eyes were so deep a blue, that at first I mistook them for brown. Her hair was the color of a ripe chestnut frosted with gold, and in length and abundance would cover her like a garment. She was vivacious and fond of athletic sports. Her strength amazed me. Those beautiful hands, with their tapering fingers, had a grip like a vise. They had discovered, in this wonderful land, that a body possessing perfectly developed muscles must, by the laws of nature, be symmetrical and graceful. They rode a great deal on small, two-wheeled vehicles, which they propelled themselves. They gave me one on which I accompanied Wauna to all of the places of interest in the Capital city and vicinity.
I must mention that Wauna's voice was exceedingly musical, even in that land of sweet voices, but she did not excel as a singer.
The infant schools interested me more than all the magnificence and grandeur of the college buildings. The quaint courtesy, gentle manners and affectionate demeanor of the little ones toward one another, was a surprise to me. I had visited infant schools of my own and other countries, where I had witnessed the display of human nature, unrestrained by mature discretion and policy. Fights, quarrels, kicks, screams, the unlawful seizure of toys and trinkets, and other misdemeanors, were generally the principal exhibits. But here it was all different. I thought, as I looked at them, that should a philanthropist from the outside world have chanced unknowingly upon the playground of a Mizora infant school, he would have believed himself in a company of little angels.
At first, a kindness so universal impressed me as studied; a species of refined courtesy in which the children were drilled. But time and observation proved to me that it was the natural impulse of the heart, an inherited trait of moral culture. In my world, kindness and affection were family possessions, extended occasionally to acquaintances. Beyond this was courtesy only for the great busy bustling mass of humanity called--"the world."
It must not be understood that there was no variety of character in Mizora. Just as marked a difference was to be found there as elsewhere; but it was elevated and ennobled. Its evil tendencies had been eliminated. There were many causes that had made this possible. The first, and probably the most influential, was the extreme cheapness of living. Food and fuel were items of so small consequence, that poverty had become unknown. Added to this, and to me by far the most vital reason, was their system of free education. In contemplating the state of enlightenment to which Mizora had attained, I became an enthusiast upon the subject of education, and resolved, should I ever again reach the upper world, to devote all my energies and ability to convincing the governments of its importance. I believe it is the duty of every government to make its schools and colleges, and everything appertaining to education--FREE. To be always starved for knowledge is a more pitiful craving than to hunger for bread. One dwarfs the body; the other the mind.
The utmost care was bestowed upon the training and education of the children. There was nothing that I met with in that beautiful and happy country I longed more to bring with me to the inhabitants of my world, than their manner of rearing children. The most scrupulous attention was paid to their diet and exercise, both mental and physical. The result was plump limbs, healthy, happy faces and joyous spirits. In all the fifteen years that I spent in Mizora, I never saw a tear of sorrow fall from children's eyes. Admirable sanitary regulations exist in all the cities and villages of the land, which insures them pure air. I may state here that every private-house looks as carefully to the condition of its atmosphere, as we do to the material neatness of ours.
The only intense feeling that I could discover among these people was the love between parent and child. I visited the theater where the tragedy of the play was the destruction of a daughter by shipwreck in view of the distracted mother. The scenery was managed with wonderful realism. The thunder of the surf as it beat upon the shore, the frightful carnival of wind and waves that no human power could still, and the agony of the mother watching the vessel break to pieces upon the rock and her child sink into the boiling water to rise no more, was thrilling beyond my power to describe. I lost control of my feelings. The audience wept and applauded; and when the curtain fell, I could scarcely believe it had only been a play. The love of Mizora women for their children is strong and deep. They consider the care of them a sacred duty, fraught with the noblest results of life. A daughter of scholarly attainments and noble character is a credit to her mother. That selfish mother who looks upon her children as so many afflictions is unknown to Mizora. If a mother should ever feel her children as burdens upon her, she would never give it expression, as any dereliction of duty would be severely rebuked by the whole community, if not punished by banishment. Corporal punishment was unknown.
I received an invitation from a lady prominent in literature and science to make her a visit. I accepted with gratification, as it would afford me the opportunity I coveted to become acquainted with the domestic life of Mizora, and perhaps penetrate its greatest mystery, for I must confess that the singular dearth of anything and everything resembling Man, never ceased to prey upon my curiosity.
The lady was the editor and proprietor of the largest and most widely known scientific and literary magazine in the country. She was the mother of eight children, and possessed one of the largest fortunes and most magnificent residences in the country.
The house stood on an elevation, and was a magnificent structure of grey granite, with polished cornices. The porch floors were of clouded marble. The pillars supporting its roof were round shafts of the same material, with vines of ivy, grape and rose winding about them, carved and colored into perfect representations of the natural shrubs.
The drawing-room, which was vast and imposing in size and appearance, had a floor of pure white marble. The mantels and window-sills were of white onyx, with delicate vinings of pink and green. The floor was strewn with richly colored mats and rugs. Luxurious sofas and chairs comprised the only furniture. Each corner contained a piece of fine statuary. From the centre of the ceiling depended a large gold basin of beautiful design and workmanship, in which played a miniature fountain of perfumed water that filled the air with a delicate fragrance. The walls were divided into panels of polished and unpolished granite. On the unpolished panels hung paintings of scenery. The dull, gray color of the walls brought out in sharp and tasteful relief the few costly and elegant adornments of the room: a placid landscape with mountains dimly outlining the distance. A water scene with a boat idly drifting, occupied by a solitary figure watching the play of variegated lights upon the tranquil waters. Then came a wild and rugged mountain scene with precipices and a foaming torrent. Then a concert of birds amusingly treated.
The onyx marble mantel-piece contained but a single ornament--an orchestra. A coral vase contained a large and perfect tiger lily, made of gold. Each stamen supported a tiny figure carved out of ivory, holding a musical instrument. When they played, each figure appeared instinct with life, like the mythical fairies of my childhood; and the music was so sweet, yet faint, that I readily imagined the charmed ring and tiny dancers keeping time to its rhythm.
The drawing-room presented a vista of arches draped in curtains of a rare texture, though I afterward learned they were spun glass. The one that draped the entrance to the conservatory looked like sea foam with the faint blush of day shining through it. The conservatory was in the shape of a half sphere, and entirely of glass. From its dome, more than a hundred feet above our heads, hung a globe of white fire that gave forth a soft clear light. Terminating, as it did, the long vista of arches with their transparent hangings of cobweb texture, it presented a picture of magnificence and beauty indescribably.
The other apartments displayed the same taste and luxury. The sitting-room contained an instrument resembling a grand piano.
The grounds surrounding this elegant home were adorned with natural and artificial beauties, Grottoes, fountains, lakes, cascades, terraces of flowers, statuary, arbors and foliage in endless variety, that rendered it a miniature paradise. In these grounds, darting in and out among the avenues, playing hide-and-seek behind the statuary, or otherwise amusing themselves, I met eight lovely children, ranging from infancy to young maidenhood. The glowing cheeks and eyes, and supple limbs spoke of perfect health and happiness. When they saw their mother coming, they ran to meet her, the oldest carrying the two-year old baby. The stately woman greeted each with a loving kiss. She showed in loving glance and action how dear they all were to her. For the time being she unbent, and became a child herself in the interest she took in their prattle and mirth. A true mother and happy children.
I discovered that each department of this handsome home was under the care of a professional artist. I remarked to my hostess that I had supposed her home was the expression of her own taste.
"So it is," she replied; "but it requires an equally well educated taste to carry out my designs. The arrangement and ornamentation of my grounds were suggested by me, and planned and executed by my landscape artist."
After supper we repaired to the general sitting-room. The eldest daughter had been deeply absorbed in a book before we came in. She closed and left it upon a table. I watched for an opportunity to carelessly pick it up and examine it. It was a novel I felt sure, for she appeared to resign it reluctantly out of courtesy to her guest. I might, from it, gather some clue to the mystery of the male sex. I took up the book and opened it. It was The Conservation of Force and The Phenomena of Nature. I laid it down with a sigh of discomfiture.
The next evening, my hostess gave a small entertainment, and what was my amazement, not to say offense, to perceive the cook, the chamber-maid, and in fact all the servants in the establishment, enter and join in the conversation and amusement. The cook was asked to sing, for, with the exception of myself--and I tried to conceal it--no one appeared to take umbrage at her presence. She sat down to the piano and sang a pretty ballad in a charming manner. Her voice was cultivated and musical, as are all the voices in Mizora, but it was lacking in the qualities that make a great singer, yet it had a plaintive sweetness that was very attractive.
I was dumbfounded at her presumption. In my country such a thing is unknown as a servant entertaining guests in such a capacity, and especially among people of my rank and position in the world.
I repelled some advances she made me with a hauteur and coldness that it mortified me afterward to remember. Instead of being my inferior, I was her's, and she knew it; but neither by look, tone nor action did she betray her consciousness of it. I had to acknowledge that her hands were more delicately modeled than mine, and her bearing had a dignity and elegance that might have been envied by the most aristocratic dame of my own land. Knowing that the Mizora people were peculiar in their social ideas, I essayed to repress my indignation at the time, but later I unburdened myself to Wauna who, with her usual sweetness and gentleness, explained to me that her occupation was a mere matter of choice with her.
"She is one of the most distinguished chemists of this nation. She solved the problem of making bread out of limestone of a much finer quality than had been in use before."
"Don't tell me that you gave me a stone when I asked for bread!" I exclaimed.
"We have not done that," replied Wauna; "but we have given you what you took for bread, but which is manufactured out of limestone and the refuse of the marble quarries."
I looked at her in such inane astonishment that she hastened to add: "I will take you to one of the large factories some day. They are always in the mountains where the stone is abundant. You can there see loaves by the thousands packed in great glass tanks for shipment to the different markets. And they do not cost the manufacturer above one centime per hundred."
"And what royalty does the discoverer get for this wonder of chemistry?"
"None. Whenever anything of that kind is discovered in our country, it is purchased outright by the government, and then made public for the benefit of all. The competition among manufacturers consists in the care and exactness with which they combine the necessary elements. There is quite a difference in the taste and quality of our bread as it comes from different factories."
"Why doesn't such a talented person quit working in another woman's kitchen and keep herself like a lady?" I inquired, all the prejudice of indolent wealth against labor coming up in my thoughts.
"She has a taste for that kind of work," replied Wauna, "instead of for making dresses, or carving gems, or painting. She often says she could not make a straight line if she tried, yet she can put together with such nicety and chemical skill the elements that form an omelette or a custard, that she has become famous. She teaches all who desire to learn, but none seem to equal her. She was born with a genius for cooking and nothing else. Haven't you seen her with a long glass tube testing the vessels of vegetables and fruit that were cooking?"
"Yes," I answered. "It was from that that I supposed her occupation menial."
"Visitors from other cities," continued Wauna, "nearly always inquire for her first."
Perceiving the mistake that I had made, I ventured an apology for my behavior toward her, and Wauna replied, with a frankness that nearly crushed me: "We all noticed it, but do not fear a retaliation," she added sweetly. "We know that you are from a civilization that we look back upon as one of barbarism."
I acknowledged that if any superciliousness existed in Mizora while I was there, I must have had it.
The guests departed without refreshments having been served. I explained the custom of entertainment in my country, which elicited expressions of astonishment. It would be insulting to offer refreshments of any kind to a guest between the regular hours for dining, as it would imply a desire on your part to impair their health. Such was the explanation of what in my country would be deemed a gross neglect of duty. Their custom was probably the result of two causes: an enlightened knowledge of the laws of health, and the extreme cheapness of all luxuries of the table which the skill of the chemist had made available to every class of people in the land.
The word "servant" did not exist in the language of Mizora; neither had they an equivalent for it in the sense in which we understand and use the word. I could not tell a servant--for I must use the word to be understood--from a professor in the National College. They were all highly-educated, refined, lady-like and lovely. Their occupations were always matters of choice, for, as there was nothing in them to detract from their social position, they selected the one they knew they had the ability to fill. Hence those positions we are accustomed to regard as menial, were there filled by ladies of the highest culture and refinement; consequently the domestic duties of a Mizora household moved to their accomplishment with the ease and regularity of fine machinery.
It was long before I could comprehend the dignity they attached to the humblest vocations. They had one proverb that embraced it all: "Labor is the necessity of life." I studied this peculiar phase of Mizora life, and at last comprehended that in this very law of social equality lay the foundation of their superiority. Their admirable system of adapting the mind to the vocation in which it was most capable of excelling, and endowing that with dignity and respect, and, at the same time, compelling the highest mental culture possible, had produced a nation in the enjoyment of universal refinement, and a higher order of intelligence than any yet known to the outside world.
The standard of an ordinary education was to me astonishingly high. The reason for it was easily understood when informed that the only aristocracy of the country was that of intellect. Scholars, artists, scientists, literateurs, all those excelling in intellectual gifts or attainments, were alone regarded as superiors by the masses.
In all the houses that I had visited I had never seen a portrait hung in a room thrown open to visitors. On inquiry, I was informed that it was a lack of taste to make a portrait conspicuous.
"You meet faces at all times," said my informant, "but you cannot at all times have a variety of scenery before you. How monotonous it would be with a drawing-room full of women, and the walls filled with their painted representatives. We never do it."
"Then where do you keep your family portraits?"
"Ours is in a gallery upstairs."
I requested to be shown this, and was conducted to a very long apartment on the third floor, devoted exclusively to relics and portraits of family ancestry. There were over three thousand portraits of blond women, which my hostess' daughter informed me represented her grandmothers for ages back. Not one word did she say about her grandfathers.
I may mention here that no word existed in their dictionaries that was equivalent to the word "man." I had made myself acquainted with this fact as soon as I had acquired sufficient knowledge of their language. My astonishment at it cannot be described. It was a mystery that became more and more perplexing. Never in the closest intimacy that I could secure could I obtain the slightest clue, the least suggestion relating to the presence of man. My friend's infant, scarcely two years old, prattled of everything but a father.
I cannot explain a certain impressive dignity about the women of Mizora that, in spite of their amiability and winning gentleness, forbade a close questioning into private affairs. My hostess never spoke of her business. It would have been a breach of etiquette to have questioned her about it. I could not bring myself to intrude the question of the marked absence of men, when not the slightest allusion was ever made to them by any citizen.
So time passed on, confirming my high opinion of them, and yet I knew and felt and believed that some strange and incomprehensible mystery surrounded them, and when I had abandoned all hope of a solution to it, it solved itself in the most unexpected and yet natural manner, and I was more astonished at the solution than I was at the mystery.
Their domestic life was so harmonious and perfect that it was a perpetual pleasure to contemplate.
Human nature finds its sweetest pleasure, its happiest content, within its own home circle; and in Mizora I found no exception to the rule. The arrangement and adornment of every house in Mizora were evidently for the comfort and happiness of its inmates. To purchase anything for merely outside show, or to excite the envy or jealousy of a neighbor, was never thought of by an inhabitant of Mizora.
The houses that were built to rent excited my admiration quite as much as did the private residences. They all seemed to have been designed with two special objects in view--beauty and comfort. Houses built to rent in large cities were always in the form of a hollow square, inclosing a commodious and handsomely decorated park. The back was adorned with an upper and lower piazza opening upon the park. The suites of rooms were so arranged as to exclusively separate their occupants from all others. The park was undivided. The center was occupied by a fountain large enough to shoot its spray as high as the uppermost piazza. The park was furnished with rustic seats and shade trees, frequently of immense size, branched above its smooth walks and promenades, where baby wagons, velocipedes and hobby horses on wheels could have uninterrupted sport.
Suburban residences, designed for rent, were on a similar but more amplified plan. The houses were detached, but the grounds were in common. Many private residences were also constructed on the same plan. Five or six acres would be purchased by a dozen families who were not rich enough to own large places separately. A separate residence would be built for each family, but the ground would be laid off and ornamented like a private park. Each of the dozen families would thus have a beautiful view and the privilege of the whole ground. In this way, cascades, fountains, rustic arbors, rockeries, aquariums, tiny lakes, and every variety of landscape ornamenting, could be supplied at a comparatively small cost to each family.
Should any one wish to sell, they disposed of their house and one-twelfth of the undivided ground, and a certain per cent. of the value of its ornaments. The established custom was never to remove or alter property thus purchased without the consent of the other shareholders. Where a people had been educated to regard justice and conscience as their law, such an arrangement could be beneficial to an entire city.
Financial ability does not belong to every one, and this plan of uniting small capitals gave opportunity to the less wealthy classes to enjoy all the luxuries that belong to the rich. In fact some of the handsomest parks I saw in Mizora were owned and kept up in this manner. Sometimes as many as twenty families united in the purchase of an estate, and constructed artificial lakes large enough to sail upon. Artificial cascades and fountains of wonderful size and beauty were common ornaments in all the private and public parks of the city. I noticed in all the cities that I visited the beauty and charm of the public parks, which were found in all sections.
The walks were smoothly paved and shaded by trees of enormous size. They were always frequented by children, who could romp and play in these sylvan retreats of beauty in perfect security.
The high state of culture arrived at by the Mizora people rendered a luxurious style of living a necessity to all. Many things that I had been brought up to regard as the exclusive privileges of the rich, were here the common pleasure of every one. There was no distinction of classes; no genteel-poverty people, who denied themselves necessities that they might appear to have luxuries. There was not a home in Mizora that I entered--and I had access to many--that did not give the impression of wealth in all its appointments.
I asked the Preceptress to explain to me how I might carry back to the people of my country this social happiness, this equality of physical comfort and luxury; and she answered me with emphasis: "Educate them. Convince the rich that by educating the poor, they are providing for their own safety. They will have fewer prisons to build, fewer courts to sustain. Educated Labor will work out its own salvation against Capital. Let the children of toil start in life with exactly the same educational advantages that are enjoyed by the rich. Give them the same physical and moral training, and let the rich pay for it by taxes."
I shook my head "They will never submit to it," was my reluctant admission.
"Appeal to their selfishness," urged the Preceptress "Get them to open their college doors and ask all to come and be taught without money and without price. The power of capital is great, but stinted and ignorant toil will rise against its oppression, and innocence and guilt will alike suffer from its fury. Have you never known such an occurrence?"
"Not in my day or country," I answered "But the city in which I was educated has such a history. Its gutters flowed with human blood, the blood of its nobles."