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.
G. W. Dillingham, Publisher,
Successor to G. W. Carleton & Co.
All Rights Reserved.
Copyright, 1889 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,
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 deg. 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?"
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."
She inclined her head significantly. "It will be repeated," she said sadly, "unless you educate them. Give their bright and active minds the power of knowledge. They will use it wisely, for their own and their country's welfare."
I doubted my ability to do this, to contend against rooted and inherited prejudice, but I resolved to try. I did not need to be told that the rich and powerful had a monopoly of intellect: Nature was not partial to them, for the children of the poor, I well knew, were often handsomer and more intellectual than the offspring of wealth and aristocratic birth.
I have before spoken of the positions occupied by those who performed what I had been bred to regard as menial work. At first, the mere fact of the person who presided over the kitchen being presented to me as an equal, was outraging to all my hereditary dignity and pride of birth. No one could be more pronounced in a consciousness of inherited nobility than I. I had been taught from infancy to regard myself as a superior being, merely because the accident of birth had made me so, and the arrogance with which I had treated some of my less favored schoolmates reverted to me with mortifying regret, when, having asked Wauna to point out to me the nobly born, she looked at me with her sweet expression of candor and innocence and said:
"We have no nobility of birth. As I once before told you, intellect is our only standard of excellence. It alone occupies an exalted place and receives the homage of our people."
In a subsequent conversation with her mother, the Preceptress, she said:
"In remote ages, great honor and deference was paid to all who were born of rulers, and the designation 'noble blood,' was applied to them. At one time in the history of our country they could commit any outrage upon society or morals without fear of punishment, simply because they belonged to the aristocracy. Even a heinous murder would be unnoticed if perpetrated by one of them. Nature alone did not favor them Imbecile and immoral minds fell to the lot of the aristocrat as often as to the lowly born. Nature's laws are inflexible and swerve not for any human wish. They outraged them by the admixture of kindred blood, and degeneracy was often the result. A people should always have for their chief ruler the highest and noblest intellect among them, but in those dark ages they were too often compelled to submit to the lowest, simply because it had been born to the position. But," she added, with a sweet smile, "that time lies many centuries behind us, and I sometimes think we had better forget it entirely."
My first meeting with the domestics of my friend's house impressed me with their high mental culture, refinement and elegance. Certainly no "grande dame" of my own country but would have been proud of their beauty and graceful dignity.
Prejudice, however deeply ingrained, could not resist the custom of a whole country, and especially such a one as Mizora, so I soon found myself on a familiar footing with my friend's "artist"—for the name by which they were designated as a class had very nearly the same meaning.
Cooking was an art, and one which the people of Mizora had cultivated to the highest excellence. It is not strange, when their enlightenment is understood, that they should attach as much honor to it as the people of my country do to sculpture, painting and literature. The Preceptress told me that such would be the case with my people when education became universal and the poor could start in life with the same intellectual culture as the rich. The chemistry of food and its importance in preserving a youthful vigor and preventing disease, would then be understood and appreciated by all classes, and would receive the deference it deserved.
"You will never realize," said the Preceptress earnestly, "the incalculable benefit that will accrue to your people from educating your poor. Urge that Government to try it for just twenty years, long enough for a generation to be born and mature. The bright and eager intellects of poverty will turn to Chemistry to solve the problems of cheap Light, cheap Fuel and cheap Food. When you can clothe yourselves from the fibre of the trees, and warm and light your dwellings from the water of your rivers, and eat of the stones of the earth, Poverty and Disease will be as unknown to your people as it is to mine."
"If I should preach that to them, they would call me a maniac."
"None but the ignorant will do so. From your description of the great thinkers of your country, I am inclined to believe there are minds among you advanced enough to believe in it."
I remembered how steamboats and railroads and telegraphy had been opposed and ridiculed until proven practicable, and I took courage and resolved to follow the advice of my wise counselor.
I had long felt a curiosity to behold the inner workings of a domestic's life, and one day ventured to ask my friend's permission to enter her kitchen. Surprise was manifested at such a request, when I began to apologize and explain. But my hostess smiled and said:
"My kitchen is at all times as free to my guests as my drawing room."
Every kitchen in Mizora is on the same plan and conducted the same way. To describe one, therefore, is to describe all. I undertook to explain that in my country, good breeding forbade a guest entering the host's kitchen, and frequently its appearance, and that of the cook's, would not conduce to gastric enjoyment of the edibles prepared in it.
My first visit happened to be on scrubbing day, and I was greatly amused to see a little machine, with brushes and sponges attached, going over the floor at a swift rate, scouring and sponging dry as it went. Two vessels, one containing soap suds and the other clear water, were connected by small feed pipes with the brushes. As soon as the drying sponge became saturated, it was lifted by an ingenious yet simple contrivance into a vessel and pressed dry, and was again dropped to the floor.
I inquired how it was turned to reverse its progress so as to clean the whole floor, and was told to watch when it struck the wall. I did so, and saw that the jar not only reversed the machine, but caused it to spring to the right about two feet, which was its width, and again begin work on a new line, to be again reversed in the same manner when it struck the opposite wall. Carpeted floors were swept by a similar contrivance.
No wonder the "artists" of the kitchen had such a dainty appearance. They dipped their pretty hands in perfumed water and dried them on the finest and whitest damask, while machinery did the coarse work.
Mizora, I discovered, was a land of brain workers. In every vocation of life machinery was called upon to perform the arduous physical labor. The whole domestic department was a marvel of ingenious mechanical contrivances. Dishwashing, scouring and cleaning of every description were done by machinery.