Chapter 11 A COUNTRY DRIVE

Like all Martialists, I had been accustomed since my landing to wake with the first light of dawn; but the draught, though its earlier effects were anything but narcotic or stupifying, deepened and prolonged my sleep. It was not till the rays of sunlight came clear and full through the crystal roof of the peristyle, and the window of our bridal chamber, that my eyes unclosed. The first object on which they opened startled me into full waking recollection. Exactly where the sunbeams fell, just within reach of my hand, Eveena stood; the loveliest creature I ever beheld, a miniature type of faultless feminine grace and beauty. By the standard of Terrestrial humanity she was tiny rather than small: so light, so perfect in proportion, form, and features, so absolutely beautiful, so exquisitely delicate, as to suggest the ideal Fairy Queen realised in flesh and blood, rather than any properly human loveliness. In the transparent delicacy of a complexion resembling that of an infant child of the fairest and most tenderly nurtured among the finest races of Europe, in the ideally perfect outline of face and features—the noble but even forehead—the smooth, straight, clearly pencilled eyebrows—the large almond-shaped eyes and drooping lids, with their long, dark, soft fringe—the little mouth and small, white, even regular teeth—the rosy lips, slightly compressed, save when parted in speech, smile, or eager attention—she exhibited in their most perfect but by no means fullest development the characteristics of Martial physiognomy; or rather the characteristic beauty of a family in which the finest traits of that physiognomy are unmixed with any of its meaner or harsher peculiarities. The hands, long, slight, and soft, the unsandalled feet, not less perfectly shaped, could only have belonged to the child of ancestors who for more than a hundred generations have never known hard manual toil, rough exposure, or deforming, cramping costume; even as every detail of her beauty bore witness to an immemorial inheritance of health unbroken by physical infirmity, undisturbed by violent passions, and developed by an admirable system of physical and mental discipline and culture. The absence of veil and sleeves left visible the soft rounded arms and shoulders, in whose complexion a tinge of pale rose seemed to shine through a skin itself of translucent white; the small head, and the perfection of the slender neck, with the smooth unbroken curve from the ear to the arm. Her long hair, fastened only by a silver band woven in and out behind the small rounded ears, fell almost to her knee; and, as it caught the bright rays of the morning sun, I discerned for the first time the full beauty of that tinge of gold which varied the colour of the rich, soft, brown tresses. As her sex are seldom exposed to the cold of the night or the mists, their underclothing is slight and close fitting. Eveena’s thin robe, of the simplest possible form—two wide straight pieces of a material lustrous as satin but rivalling the finest cambric in texture (lined with the same fabric reversed), sewn together from the hem of the skirt to the arm, and fastened again by the shoulder clasps—fell perfectly loose save where compressed by the zone or by the movements of the wearer; and where so compressed, defined the outlines of the form as distinctly as the lightest wet drapery of the studio. Her dress, in short, achieved in its pure simplicity all at which the artistic skill of matrons, milliners, and maidens aims in a Parisian ball costume, without a shadow of that suggestive immodesty from which ball costumes are seldom wholly free. Exactly reversing Terrestrial practice, a Martial wife reserves for strictest domestic privacy that undressed full-dress, that frank revelation of her beauty, which the matrons of London, Paris, or New York think exclusively appropriate to the most public occasions. Till now, while still enjoying the liberty allowed to maidens in this respect, Eveena, by the arrangement of her veil, had always given to her costume a reserve wholly unexceptionable, even according to the rules enforced by the customs of Western Europe on young girls not yet presented in the marriage market of society. A new expression, or one, at least, which I had never before seen there, gave to her face a strange and novel beauty; the beauty, I wish to think, of shy, but true happiness; felt, it may be, for the first time, and softened, I fear, by a doubt of its possible endurance which rendered it as touching as attractive. Never was the sleep even of the poet of the Midsummer Night’s Dream visited by a lovelier vision—especially lovely as the soft rose blush suffused her cheeks under my gaze of admiration and delight. Springing up, I caught her with both hands and drew her on my knee. Some minutes passed before either of us cared to speak. Probably as she rested her head on my arm and looked into my eyes, each read the other’s character more truly and clearly than words the most frank and open could ever enable us to do. I had taught her last night a few substitutes in the softest tongue I knew for those words of natural tenderness in which her language is signally deficient: taught her to understand them, certainly not to use them, for it was long before I could even induce her to address me by name.

My father bade me yesterday,” she said at last, “ask you in future to wear the dress of our people. Not that you will be the less an object of attention and wonder, but that in retaining a distinction which depends entirely on your own choice, you will seem intentionally to prefer your own habits to ours.”

I comply of course,” I observed. “Naturally the dress of every country is best suited to its own conditions. Yet I should have thought that a preference for my own world, even were it wholly irrational, might seem at least natural and pardonable.”

People don’t,” she answered simply, “like any sign of individual fancy or opinion. They don’t like any one to show that he thinks them wrong even on a matter of taste.”

I fear, then, carissima, that I must be content with unpopularity. I may wear the costume of your people; but their thought, their conduct, their inner and outer life, as your father reports them, and as thus far I have seen them, are to me so unnatural, that the more I resemble them externally the more my unlikeness in all else is likely to attract notice. I am sorry for this, because women are by nature prone to judge even their nearest and dearest by the standard of fashion, and to exact from men almost as close a conformity to that standard as they themselves display. I fear you will have to forgive many heresies in my conduct as well as in my thoughts.”

You cannot suppose,” she answered earnestly—she seemed incapable of apprehending irony or jest,—”that I should wish you more like others than you are. Whatever may happen hereafter, I shall always feel myself the happiest of women in having belonged to one who cares for something beside himself, and holds even life cheaper than love.” “I hope so, carissima. But in that matter there was scarcely more of love than of choice. What I did for you I must have done no less for Zevle [her sister]. If I had feared death as much as the Regent does, I could not have returned alive and alone. My venture into infinite space involved possibilities of horror more appalling than the mere terrors of death. You asked of me as my one bridal gift leave to share its perils. How unworthy of you should I be, if I did not hold the possession of Eveena, even for the two years of her promise, well worth dying for!”

The moral gulf between the two worlds is wider than the material. Utterly unselfish and trustful, Eveena was almost pained to be reminded that the service she so extravagantly overprized was rendered to her sex rather than herself; while yet more deeply gratified, though still half incredulous, by the commonplace that preferred love to life. I had yet to learn, however, that Eveena’s nature was as utterly strange in her own world as the ideas in which she was educated would seem in mine.

I left her for a few minutes to dress for the first time in the costume which Esmo’s care had provided. The single under-vestment of softest hide, closely fitting from neck to knees, is of all garments the best adapted to preserve natural warmth under the rapid and extreme changes of the external atmosphere. The outer garb consisted of blouse and trousers, woven of a fabric in which a fine warp of metallic lustre was crossed by a strong silken weft, giving the effect of a diapered scarlet and silver; both fastened by the belt, a broad green strap of some species of leather, clasped with gold. Masculine dress is seldom brilliant, as is that of the women, but convenient and comfortable beyond any other, and generally handsome and elegant. The one part of the costume which I could never approve is the sandal, which leaves the feet exposed to dust and cold. Rejoining my bride, I said—

I have had no opportunity of seeing much of this country, and I fancy from what I have seen of feminine seclusion that an excursion would be as much a holiday treat to you as to myself. If your father will lend us his carriage, would you like to accompany me to one or two places Kevimâ has described not far from this, and which I am anxious to visit?”

She bent her head, but did not answer; and fancying that the proposal was not agreeable to her, I added—

If you prefer to spend our little remaining time here with your mother and sister, I will ask your brother to accompany me, though I am selfishly unwilling to part with you to-day.”

She looked up for a moment with an air of pain and perplexity, and as she turned away I saw the tears gather in her eyes.

What is the matter?” I asked, surprised and puzzled as one on Earth who tries to please a woman by offering her her own way, and finds that, so offered, it is the last thing she cares to have. It did not occur to me that, even in trifles, a Martial wife never dreams that her taste or wish can signify, or be consulted where her lord has a preference of his own. To invite instead of commanding her companionship was unusual; to withdraw the expression of my own wish, and bid her decide for herself, was in Eveena’s eyes to mark formally and deliberately that I did not care for her society.

What have I done,” she faltered, “to be so punished? I have not, save the day before yesterday, left the house this year; and you offer me the greatest of pleasures only to snatch it away the next moment.”

Nay, Eveena!” I answered. “If I had not told you, you must know that I cannot but wish for your company; but by your silence I fancied you disliked my proposal, yet did not like to decline it.”

The expression of surprise and perplexity in her face, though half pathetic, seemed so comical that I with difficulty suppressed a laugh, because for her it was evidently no laughing matter. After giving her time, as I thought, to recover herself, I said—

Well, I suppose we may now join them at the morning meal?”

Something was still wrong, the clue to which I gathered by observing her shy glance at her head-dress and veil.

Must you wear those?” I asked—a question which gave her some such imperfect clue to my thoughts as I had found to hers.

How foolish of me,” she said, smiling, “to forget how little you can know of our customs! Of course I must wear my veil and sleeves; but to-day you must put on the veil, as you removed it last night.”

The awkwardness with which I performed this duty had its effect in amusing and cheering her; and the look of happiness and trust had come back to her countenance before the veil concealed it.

I made my request to Esmo, who answered, with some amusement—

Every house like ours has from six to a dozen larger or lighter carriages. Of course they cost nothing save the original purchase. They last for half a lifetime, and are not costly at the outset. But I have news for you which, I venture to think, will be as little agreeable to you as to ourselves. Your journey must begin tomorrow, and this, therefore, is the only opportunity you will have for such an excursion as you propose.”

Then,” I said, “will Eveena still wish to share it?”

Even her mother’s face seemed to ask what in the world that could matter; but a movement of the daughter’s veiled head reminded me that I was blundering; and pressing her little hand as she lay beside me, I took her compliance for granted.

The morning mist had given place to hot bright sunshine when we started. At first our road lay between enclosures like that which surrounded Esmo’s dwelling.

Presently the lines were broken here and there by such fields as I had seen in descending from Asnyca; some filled with crops of human food, some with artificial pastures, in which Unicorns or other creatures were feeding. I saw also more than one field wherein the carvee were weeding or gathering fruit, piling their burdens in either case as soon as their beaks were full into bags or baskets. Pointing out to Eveena the striking difference of colour between the cultivated fields and gardens and the woods or natural meadows on the mountain sides, I learned from her that this distinction is everywhere perceptible in Mars. Natural objects, plants or animals, rocks and soil, are for the most part of dimmer, fainter, or darker tints than on Earth; probably owing to the much less intense light of the Sun; partly, perhaps, to that absorption of the blue rays by the atmosphere, which diminishes, I suppose, even that light which actually reaches the planet. But uncultivated ground, except on the mountains above the ordinary range of crops or pastures, scarcely exists in the belt of Equatorial continents; the turf itself, like the herbage or fruit shrubs in the fields, is artificial, consisting of plants developed through long ages into forms utterly unlike the native original by the skill and ingenuity of man. Even the great fruit trees have undergone material change, not only in the size, flavour, and appearance of the fruits themselves, which have been the immediate object of care, but, probably through some natural correlation between, the different organs, in the form and colour of the foliage, the arrangement of the branches, and the growth of the trunk, all of which are much more regular, and, so to speak, more perfect, than is the case either here or on Earth with those left to the control of Nature and locality, or the effects of the natural competition, which is in its way perhaps as keen among plants and animals as among men. Martialists have the same delight in bright colours as Orientals, with far greater taste in selection and combination; and the favourite hues not only of their flowers, tame birds, fishes, and quadrupeds, but of plants in whose cultivation utility has been the primary object, contrast signally, as I have said, with the dull tints of the undomesticated flora and fauna, of which comparatively scanty remnants were visible here and there in this rich country.

Presently we came within sight of the river, over which was a single bridge, formed by what might be called a tube of metal built into strong walls on either bank. In fact, however, the sides were of open work, and only the roof and floor were solid. The river at this, its narrowest point, was perhaps a furlong in breadth, and it was not without instinctive uneasiness that I trusted to the security of a single piece of metal spanning, without even the strength afforded by the form of the arch, so great a space.

The first object we were to visit lay at some distance down the stream. As we approached the point, we passed a place where the river widened considerably. The main channel in the centre was kept clear and deep to afford an uninterrupted course for navigation; but on either side were rocks that broke the river into pools and shallows, such as here, no less than on Earth, form the favourite haunts or spawning places of the fish. In some of the lesser pools birds larger than the stork, bearing under the throat an expansible bag like that of the pelican, were seeking for prey. They were watched and directed by a master on the shore, and carried to a square tank, fixed on a wheeled frame not unlike that of the ordinary carriage, which accompanied him, each fish they took. I observed that the latter were carefully seized, with the least possible violence or injury, placed by a jerk head-downmost in the throat-bag, which, though when empty it was scarcely perceptible, would contain prey of very considerable size and weight, and as carefully disgorged into the tank. In one of the most extensive pools, too deep for these birds, a couple of men had spread a sort of net, not unlike those used on Earth, but formed of twisted metal threads with very narrow meshes, enclosing the whole pool, a space of perhaps some 400 square yards. In the centre of this an electric lamp was let down into the water, some feet below the surface. The fish crowded towards it, and a sudden shock of electricity transmitted through the meshes of the net, as well as from the wires of the lamp circuit, stunned for a few minutes all life within the enclosure. The fish then floated on the surface, the net was drawn together, and they were collected and sorted; some which, as I afterwards learned, were required for breeding, being carefully and separately preserved in a smaller tank, those fit for food cast into the larger one, those too small for the one purpose and not needed for the other being thrown back into the water. I noted, however, that many fish apparently valuable were among those thus rejected. I spoke to one of the fishermen, who, regarding me with great surprise and curiosity, at last answered briefly that a stringent law forbids the catching of spawning fish except for breeding purposes. Those, therefore, for which the season was close-time were invariably spared.

In sea-fishing a much larger net, sometimes enclosing more than 10,000 square yards, is employed. This fishing is conducted chiefly at night, the electric lamp being then much more effective in attracting the prey, and lowered only a few inches below the surface. Many large destructive creatures, unfit for food, generally of a nature intermediate between fish and reptiles, haunt the seas. It is held unwise to exterminate them, since they do their part in keeping down an immense variety of smaller creatures, noxious for one reason or another, and also in clearing the water from carrion and masses of seaweed which might otherwise taint the air of the sea-coasts, especially near the mouths of large tropical rivers. But these sea-monsters devour enormous quantities of fish, and the hunters appointed to deal with them are instructed to limit their numbers to the minimum required. Their average increase is to be destroyed each year. If at any time it appear that, for whatever cause, the total number left alive is falling off, the chief of this service suspends it partially or wholly at his discretion.

We now came to the entrance of a vast enclosure bordering on the river, the greatest fish-breeding establishment on this continent, or indeed in this world. One of its managers courteously showed me over it. It is not necessary minutely to describe its arrangements, from the spawning ponds and the hatching tanks—the latter contained in a huge building, whose temperature is preserved with the utmost care at the rate found best suited to the ova—to the multitude of streams, ponds, and lakes in which the different kinds of fish are kept during the several stages of their existence. The task of the breeders is much facilitated by the fact that the seas of Mars are not, like ours, salt; and though sea and river fish are almost as distinct as on Earth, each kind having its own habitat, whose conditions are carefully reproduced in the breeding or feeding reservoirs, the same kind of water suits all alike. It is necessary, however, to keep the fishes of tropical seas and streams in water of a very different temperature from that suited to others brought from arctic or sub-arctic climates; and this, like every other point affecting the natural peculiarities and habits of the fish, is attended to with minute and accurate care. The skill and science brought to bear on the task of breeding accomplish this and much more difficult operations with marvellous ease and certainty.

On one of the buildings I observed one of the most remarkable, largest, and most complete timepieces I had yet seen; and I had on this occasion an opportunity of examining it closely. The dial was oblong, enclosed in a case of clear transparent crystal, somewhat resembling in form the open portion of a mercurial barometer. At the top were three circles of different colours, divided by twelve equidistant lines radiating from the centres and subdivided again and again by the same number. Exactly at the uppermost point of each was a golden indicator. One of these circles marked the temperature, graduated from the lowest to the highest degree ever known in that latitude. Another indicated the direction of the wind, while the depth of colour in the circle itself, graduated in a manner carefully explained to me, but my notes of which are lost, showed the exact force of the atmospheric current. The third served the purpose of a barometer. A coloured band immediately below indicated by the variations of tint the character of the coming weather. This band stretched right across the face; below it were figures indicating the day of the year. The central portion of the face was occupied by a larger circle, half-green and half-black; the former portion representing the colour of the daylight sky, the latter emblematic of night. On this circle the Sun and the planets were represented by figures whose movement showed exactly the actual place of each in the celestial sphere. The two Moons were also figured, their phases and position at each moment being accurately presented to the eye. Around this circle was a narrow band divided into strips of different length of various colours, each representing one of the peculiar divisions of the Martial day; that point which came under the golden indicator showing the zyda and the exact moment of the zyda, while the movement of the inner circle fixed with equal accuracy the period of day or night. Below were other circles from which the observer could learn the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, the intensity of the sunlight, and the electric tension at the moment. Each of the six smaller circles registered on a moving ribbon the indications of every successive moment, these ribbons when unrolled forming a perfect record of temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind, and so forth, in the form of a curve—a register kept for more than 8000 Martial years.

Four times during the revolution of the great circle each large clock emits for a couple of minutes a species of chime, the nature of which my ignorance of music renders me unable to describe:—viz., when the line dividing the green and black semicircles is horizontal at noon and midnight, and an hour before, at average sunrise and sunset, it becomes perpendicular. The individual character of the several chimes, tunes, or peals, whatever they should be called, is so distinct that even I appreciated it. Further, as the first point of the coloured strip distinguishing each several zyda reaches the golden indicator, a single slightly prolonged sound—I fancy what is known on Earth as a single chord—is emitted. Of these again each is peculiar, so that no one with an ear for music can doubt what is the period of the day announced. The sound is never, even in the immediate vicinity of the clock, unpleasantly loud; while it penetrates to an amazing distance. It would be perfectly easy, if needful, to regulate all clocks by mechanical control through the electric network extended all over the face of the planet; but the perfect accuracy of each individual timepiece renders any such check needless. In those latitudes where day and night during the greater part of the year are not even approximately equal, the black and green semicircles are so enlarged or diminished by mechanical means, that the hour of the day or night is represented as accurately as on the Equator itself.

The examination of this establishment occupied us for two or three hours, and when we remounted our carriage it seemed to me only reasonable that Eveena should be weary both in mind and body. I proposed, therefore, to return at once, but against this she earnestly protested.

Well,” I said, “we will finish our excursion, then. Only remember that whenever you do feel tired you must tell me at once. I do not know what exertion you can bear, and of course it would be most inconsiderate to measure your endurance by my own.”

She promised, and we drove on for another hour in the direction of a range of hills to the north-eastward. The lower and nearer portion of this range might he 400 feet above the general level of the plain; beyond, the highest peaks rose to perhaps 1500 feet, the average summit being about half that height. Where our road brought us to the foot of the first slope, large groves of the calmyra, whose fruit contains a sort of floury pulp like roasted potato, were planted on ground belonging to the State, and tenanted by young men belonging to that minority which, as Esmo had told me not being fortunate enough to find private employment, is thus provided for. Encountering one of these, he pointed out to us the narrow road which, winding up the slope, afforded means of bringing down in waggons during the two harvest seasons, each of which lasts for about fifty days, the fruit of these groves, which furnishes a principal article of food. The trees do not reach to a higher level than about 400 feet; and above this we had to ascend on foot by a path winding through meadows, which I at first supposed to be natural. Eveena, however, quickly undeceived me, pointing out the prevalence of certain plants peculiar to the cultivated pastures we had seen in the plain. These were so predominant as to leave no reasonable doubt that they had been originally sown by the hand of man, though the irregularity of their arrangement, and the encroachment of one species upon the ground of another, enabled my companion to prove to me with equal clearness that since its first planting the pasture had been entirely neglected. It was, she thought, worth planting once for all with the most nutritious herbage, but not worth the labour of subsequent close cultivation. Any lady belonging to a civilised people, and accustomed to a country life, upon Earth might easily have perceived all that Eveena discovered; but considering how seldom the latter had left her home, how few opportunities she had to see anything of practical agriculture, the quickness of her perception and the correctness of her inferences not a little surprised me. The path we pursued led directly to the object of our visit. The waters of the higher hills were collected in a vast tank excavated in an extensive plateau at the mid-level. At the summit of the first ascent we met and were escorted by one of the officials entrusted with the charge of these works, which supply water of extraordinary purity to a population of perhaps a quarter of a million, inhabiting a district of some 10,000 square miles in extent. The tank was about sixty feet in depth, and perhaps a mile in length, with half that breadth. Its sides and bottom-were lined with the usual concrete. Our guide informed me that in many cases tanks were covered with the crystal employed for doors and windows; but in the-pure air of these hills such a precaution was thought unnecessary, as it would have been exceedingly costly. The water itself was of wonderful purity, so clear that the smallest object at the bottom was visible where the Sun, still high in the heavens, shone directly upon the surface. But this purity would by no means satisfy the standard of Martial sanitary science. In the first place, it is passed into a second division of the tank, where it is subjected to some violent electric action till every kind of organic germ it may contain is supposed to be completely destroyed. It is then passed through several covered channels and mechanically or chemically cleansed from every kind of inorganic impurity, and finally oxygenated or aerated with air which has undergone a yet more elaborate purification. At every stage in this process, a phial of water is taken out and examined in a dark chamber by means of a beam of light emanating from a powerful electric lamp and concentrated by a huge crystal lens. If this beam detect any perceptible dust or matter capable of scattering the light, the water is pronounced impure and passed through further processes. Only when the contents of the bottle remain absolutely dark, in the midst of an atmosphere whose floating dust renders the beam visible on either side, so that the phial, while perfectly transparent to the light, nevertheless interrupts the beam with a block of absolute darkness, is it considered fit for human consumption. It is then distributed through pipes of concrete, into which no air can possibly enter, to cisterns equally, air-tight in every house. The water in these is periodically examined by officers from the waterworks, who ascertain that it has contracted no impurity either in the course of its passage through hundreds of miles of piping or in the cisterns themselves. The Martialists consider that to this careful purification of their water they owe in great measure their exemption from the epidemic diseases which were formerly not infrequent. They maintain that all such diseases are caused by organic self-multiplying germs, and laugh to scorn the doctrine of spontaneous generation, either of disease, or of even such low organic life as can propagate it. I suggested that the atmosphere itself must, if their theory were true, convey the microscopic seeds of disease even more freely and universally than the water.

Doubtless,” replied our guide, “it would scatter them more widely; but it does not enable them to penetrate and germinate in the body half so easily as when conveyed by water. You must be aware that the lining of the upper air-passages arrests most of the impurities contained in the inhaled air before it comes into contact with the blood in the lungs themselves. Moreover, the extirpation of one disease after another, the careful isolation of all infectious cases, and the destruction of every article that could preserve or convey the poisonous germs, has in the course of ages enabled us utterly to destroy them.”

This did not seem to me consistent with the confession that disorders of one kind or another still not infrequently decimate their highly-bred domestic animals, however the human race itself may have been secured against contagion. I did not, however, feel competent to argue the question with one who had evidently studied physiology much more deeply than myself; and had mastered the records of an experience infinitely longer, guided by knowledge far more accurate, than is possessed by the most accomplished of Terrestrial physiologists.

The examination of these works of course occupied us for a long time, and obliged us to traverse several miles of ground. More than once I had suggested to Eveena that we should leave our work unfinished, and on every opportunity had insisted that she should rest. I had been too keenly interested in the latter part of the explanation given me, to detect the fatigue she anxiously sought to conceal; but when we left the works, I was more annoyed than surprised to find that the walk down-hill to our carriage was too much for her. The vexation I felt with myself gave, after the manner of men, some sharpness to the tone of my remonstrance with her.

I bade you, and you promised, to tell me as soon as you felt tired; and you have let me almost tire you to death! Your obedience, however strict in theory, reminds me in practice of that promised by women on Earth in their marriage-vow—and never paid or remembered afterwards.”

She did not answer; and finding that her strength was utterly exhausted, I carried her down the remainder of the hill and placed her in the carriage. During our return neither of us spoke. Ascribing her silence to habit or fatigue, perhaps to displeasure, and busied in recalling what I had seen and heard, I did not care to “make conversation,” as I certainly should have done had I guessed what impression my taciturnity made on my companion’s mind. I was heartily glad for her sake when we regained the gate of her father’s garden. Committing the carriage to the charge of an ambâ, I half led, half carried Eveena along the avenue, overhung with the grand conical bells—gold, crimson, scarlet, green, white, or striped or variegated with some or all these colours—of the glorious leveloo, the Martial convolvulus. Its light clinging stems and foliage hid the astyra’s arched branches overhead, and formed a screen on either side. From its bells flew at our approach a whole flock of the tiny and beautiful caree, which take the chief part in rendering to the flora of Mars such services as the flowers of Earth receive from bees and butterflies. They feed on the nectar, farina, syrup, and other secretions, sweet or bitter, in which the artificial flowers of Mars are peculiarly abundant, and make their nests in the calyx or among the petals. These lovely little birds—about the size of a hornet, but perfect birds in miniature, with wings as large as those of the largest Levantine papilio, and feathery down equally fine and soft—are perhaps the most shy and timid of all creatures familiar with the presence of Martial humanity. The varied colours of their plumage, combined and intermingled in marvellously minute patterns, are all of those subdued or dead tints agreeable to the taste of Japanese artists, and perhaps to no other. They signally contrast the vivid and splendid colouring of objects created or developed by human genius and patience, from the exquisite decorations and jewel-like masses of domestic and public architecture to the magnificent flowers and fruit produced, by the labour of countless generations, from originals so dissimilar that only the records of past ages can trace or the searching comparisons of science recognise them. I am told that the present race of flower-birds themselves are a sort of indirect creation of art. They certainly vary in size, shape, and colour according to the flower each exclusively frequents; and those which haunt the cultivated bells of the leveloo present an amazing contrast to the far tinier and far less beautiful caree which have not yet abandoned the wildflowers for those of the garden. Above two hundred varieties distinguished by ornithologists frequent only the domesticated flowers.

The flight of this swarm of various beauty recalled the conversation of last night; and breaking off unobserved a long fine tendril of the leveloo, I said lightly—

Flower-birds are not so well-trained as esvee, bambina.”

Never forgetting a word of mine, and never failing to catch with quick intelligence the sense of the most epigrammatic or delicate metaphor, Eveena started and looked up, as if stung by a serious reproach. Fancying that overpowering fatigue had so shaken her nerves, I would not allow her to speak. But I did not understand how much she had been distressed, till in her own chamber, cloak and veil thrown aside, she stood beside my seat, her sleeveless arms folded behind her, drooping like a lily beaten down by a thunderstorm. Then she murmured sadly—

I did not think of offending. But you are quite right; disobedience should never pass.”

Certainly not,” I replied, with a smile she did not see. Taking both the little hands in my left, I laid the tendril on her soft white shoulders, but so gently that in her real distress she did not feel the touch. “You see I can keep my word; but never let me tire you again. My flower-bird cannot take wing if she anger me in earnest.”

Are you not angered now?” she asked, glancing up in utter surprise.

My eyes, or the sight of the leveloo, answered her; and a sweet bright smile broke through her look of frightened, penitent submission, as she snatched the tendril and snapped it in my hand.

Cruel!” she said, with a pretty assumption of ill-usage, “to visit a first fault with the whip.”

You are hard to please, bambina! I knew no better. Seriously, until I can measure your strength more truly, never again let me feel that in inviting your company I have turned my pleasure into your pain.”

No, indeed,” she urged, once more in earnest. “Girls so seldom pass the gate, and men never walk where a carriage will go, or I should not have been so stupid. But if I had blistered my feet, and the leveloo had been a nut-vine, the fruit was worth the scratches.”

What do you know, my child, either of blisters or stripes?”

You will teach me——No, you know I don’t mean that! But you will take me with you sometimes till I learn better! If you are going to leave me at home in future ”——

My child, can you not trust me to take you for my own pleasure?”

The silvery tone of her low sweet laugh was truly perfectly musical.

Forgive me,” she said, nestling in the cushions at my knee, and seeking with upturned eyes, like a child better assured of pardon than of full reconciliation, to read my face, “it is very naughty to laugh, and very ungrateful, when you speak to please me; but is it real kindness to say what I should be very silly to believe?”

You will believe whatever I tell you, child. If you wish to anger a man, even with you, tell him that he is lying.”

I do nothing but misbehave,” she said, in earnest despondency. “I——” But I sealed her lips effectually for the moment.

Why did you not speak as we came home?”

You were tired, and I was thinking over all I had seen. Besides, who talks air?” [makes conversation].

You always talk when you are pleased. The lip-sting (scolding) and silence frightened me so, you nearly heard me crying.”

Crying for fear? You did well to break the leveloo!… And so you think I must be tired of my bride, before the colours have gone round on the dial?”

Not tired of her. You will like a little longer to find her in the cushions when you are vexed or idle; but you don’t want her where her ignorance wearies and her weakness hampers you.”

Are you an esve, to be caged at home, and played with for lack of better employment? We shall never understand each other, child.”

What more can I be? But don’t say we shall never understand each other,” she pleaded earnestly. “It took time and trouble to make my pet understand and obey each word and sign. Zevle gave hers more slaps and fewer sweets, and it learned sooner. But, like me, you want your esve to be happy, not only to fly straight and play prettily. She will try hard to learn if you will teach her, and not be so afraid of hurting her, as if she expected sweets from both hands. It is easy for you to see through her empty head: do cot give her up till she has had time to look a little way into your eyes.”

Eveena,” I answered, almost as much pained as touched by the unaffected humility which had so accepted and carried out my ironical comparison, “one simple magnet-key would unlock the breast whose secrets seem so puzzling; but it has hardly a name in your tongue, and cannot yet be in your hands.”

Ah, yes!” she said softly, “you gave it me; do you think I have lost it in two nights? But the esve cannot be loved as she loves her master. I could half understand the prodigal heart that would buy a girl’s life with yours, and all that is bound up in yours. No other man would have done it—in our world,” she added, answering my gesture of dissent; “but they say that the terrible kargynda will stand by his dying mate till he is shot down. You bought my heart, my love, all I am, when you bought my life, and never asked the cost.” She continued almost in a whisper, her rose-suffused cheeks and moist eyes hidden from my sight as the lips murmured their loving words into my ear,—”Though the nestling never looked from under the wing, do you think she knows not what to expect when she is bought from the nest? She dares not struggle in the hand that snatches her; much more did she deserve to be rated and rapped for fluttering in that which saved her life. Bought twice over, caged by right as by might—was her thought midnight to your eyes, when she wondered at the look that watched her so quietly, the hand that would not try to touch lest it should scare her, the patience that soothed and coaxed her to perch on the outstretched finger, like a flower-bird tamed at last? Do you think that name, given her by lips which softened even their words of fondness for her ear, did not go to her heart straight as the esve flies home, or that it could ever be forgotten? There is a chant young girls are fond of, which tells more than I can say.”

Her tones fell so low that I should have lost them, had her lips not actually touched my ear while she chanted the strange words in the sweetest notes of her sweet voice:—

Never yet hath single sun Seen a flower-bird tamed and won; Sun and stars shall quit the sky Ere a bird so tamed shall fly.

Never human lips have kissed Flower-bird tamed ‘twixt mist and mist; Bird so tamed from tamer’s heart Night of death shall hardly part.”