Chapter 5 LANGUAGE, LAWS, AND LIFE

Though treated with the greatest kindness and courtesy, I soon found reason to understand that I was, at least for the present, a prisoner. My host or his son never failed to invite me each day to spend some time in the outer enclosure, but never intentionally left me alone there. On one occasion, when Kevimâ had been called away and I ventured to walk down towards the gate, my host’s youngest child, who had been playing on the roof, ran after me, and reaching me just as my foot was set on the spring that opened the gate or outer door, caught me by the hand, and looking up into my face, expressed by glance and gesture a negative so unmistakable that I thought it expedient at once to comply and return to the house. There my time was occupied, for as great a part of each day as I could give to such a task without extreme fatigue, in mastering the language of the country. This was a much simpler task than might have been supposed. I soon found that, unlike any Terrestrial tongue, the language of this people had not grown but been made—constructed deliberately on set principles, with a view to the greatest possible simplicity and the least possible taxation of the memory. There were no exceptions or irregularities, and few unnecessary distinctions; while words were so connected and related that the mastery of a few simple grammatical forms and of a certain number of roots enabled me to guess at, and by and by to feel tolerably sure of, the meaning of a new word. The verb has six tenses, formed by the addition of a consonant to the root, and six persons, plural and singular, masculine and feminine.

Singular. | Masc. | Fem. || Plural. | Masc. | Fem. ———————|—mdash;—|—mdash;—||—————|—mdash;—|—mdash;—mdash; I am | avâ | ava || We are | avau | avaa Thou art | avo | avoo || You are | avou | avu He or she is | avy | ave || They are | avoi | avee ———————|—mdash;—|—mdash;—||—————|—mdash;—|—mdash;—mdash;

The terminations are the three pronouns, feminine and masculine, singular and plural, each represented by one of twelve vowel characters, and declined like nouns. When a nominative immediately follows the verb, the pronominal suffix is generally dropped, unless required by euphony. Thus, “a man strikes” is dak klaftas, but in the past tense, dakny klaftas, the verb without the suffix being unpronounceable. The past tense is formed by the insertion of n (avnâ: “I have been”), the future by m: avmâ. The imperative, avsâ; which in the first person is used to convey determination or resolve; avsâ, spoken in a peremptory tone, meaning “I will be,” while avso, according to the intonation, means “be” or “thou shalt be;” i.e., shalt whether or no. R forms the conditional, avrâ, and ren the conditional past, avrenâ, “I should have been.” The need for a passive voice is avoided by the simple method of putting the pronoun in the accusative; thus, dâcâ signifies “I strike,” dâcal (me strike) “I am struck.” The infinitive is avi; avyta, “being;” avnyta, “having been;” avmyta, “about to be.” These are declined like nouns, of which latter there are six forms, the masculine in â, o, and y, the feminine in a, oo, and e; the plurals being formed exactly as in the pronominal suffixes of the verb. The root-word, without inflexion, alone is used where the name is employed in no connection with a verb, where in every terrestrial language the nominative would be employed. Thus, my guide had named the squirrel-monkeys ambau (sing. ambâ); but the word is declined as follows:—

Singular. Plural.

Nominative ambâs ambaus

Accusative ambâl ambaul

Dative, to or in ambân ambaun

Ablative, by or from ambâm ambaum

The five other forms are declined in the same manner, the vowel of the last syllable only differing. Adjectives are declined like nouns, but have no comparative or superlative degree; the former being expressed by prefixing the intensitive syllable ca, the latter, when used (which is but seldom) by the prefix ela, signifying the in an emphatic sense, as his Grace of Wellington is in England called The Duke par excellence. Prepositions and adverbs end in t or d.

Each form of the noun has, as a rule, its special relation to the verb of the same root: thus from dâc, “strike,” are derived dâcâ, “weapon” or “hammer;”, dâco, a “stroke” or “striking” [as given] both masculine; dâca, “anvil;” dâcoo, “blow” or “beating” [as received]; and dâke, “a thing beaten,” feminine. The sixth form, dâky, masculine, has in this case no proper signification, and not being wanted, is not used. Individual letters or syllables are largely employed in combination to give new and even contradictory meanings to a root. Thus n, like the Latin in, signifies “penetration,” “motion towards,” or simply “remaining in a place,” or, again, “permanence.” M, like the Latin ab or ex, indicates “motion from.” R expresses “uncertainty” or “incompleteness,” and is employed to convert a statement into a question, or a relative pronoun into one of inquiry. G, like the Greek a or anti, generally signifies “opposition” or “negation;” ca is, as aforesaid, intensitive, and is employed, for example, to convert âfi, “to breathe,” into câfi, “to speak.” Cr is by itself an interjection of abhorrence or disgust; in composition it indicates detestation or destruction: thus, crâky signifies “hatred;” crâvi, “the destruction of life” or “to kill.” L for the most part indicates passivity, but with different effect according to its place in the word. Thus mepi signifies “to rule;” mepil, “to be ruled;” melpi, “to control one’s self;” lempi, “to obey.” The signification of roots themselves is modified by a modification of the principal vowel or consonant, i.e., by exchanging the original for one closely related. Thus avi, “exist;” âvi, “be,” in the positive sense of being this or that; afi, “live;” âfi, “breathe.” Z is a diminutive; zin, “with,” often abbreviated to zn, “combination,” “union.” Thus znaftau means “those who were brought into life together,” or “brethren.”

I may add, before I quit this subject, that the Martial system of arithmetic differs from ours principally in the use of a duodecimal instead of a decimal basis. Figures are written on a surface divided into minute squares, and the value of a figure, whether it signify so many units, dozens, twelve dozens, and so forth, depends upon the square in which it is placed. The central square of a line represents the unit’s place, and is marked by a line drawn above it. Thus a figure answering to our I, if placed in the fourth square to the left, represents 1728. In the third place to the right, counting the unit square in both cases, it signifies 1/144, and so forth.

In less than a fortnight I had obtained a general idea of the language, and was able to read easily the graven representations of spoken sound which I have described; and by the end of a month (to use a word which had no meaning here) I could speak intelligibly if not freely. Only in a language so simple could my own anxiety to overcome as soon as possible a fatal obstacle to all investigation of this new world, and the diligent and patient assistance given by my host or his son for a great part of every day, have enabled me to make such rapid progress. I had noted even, during the short evening gatherings when the whole family was assembled, the extreme taciturnity of both sexes; and by the time I could make myself understood, I was not surprised to learn that the Martials have scarcely the idea of what we mean by conversation, not talking for the sake of talking, or speaking unless they have something to discuss, explain, or communicate. I found, again, that a new and much more difficult task, though fortunately one not so indispensable, was still in store for me. The Martials have two forms of writing: the one I have described, which is simply a mechanical rendering of spoken words into artificially simplified visible signs; the other, written by hand, with a fine pencil of some chemical material on a prepared surface, textile or metallic. The characters of the latter are, like ours wholly arbitrary; but the contractions and abbreviations are so numerous that the mastery of the mere alphabet, the forty or fifty single letters employed, is but a single step in the first stage of the hard task of learning to read. In no country on Earth, except China, is this task half so severe as in Mars. On the other hand, when it is once mastered, a far superior instrument has been gained; the Martial writing being a most terse but perfectly legible shorthand. Every Martial can write at least as quickly as he can speak, and can read the written character more rapidly than the quickest eye can peruse the best Terrestrial print. Copies, whether of the phonographic or stylographic writing, are multiplied with extreme facility and perfection. The original, once inscribed in either manner upon the above-mentioned tafroo or gold-leaf, is placed upon a sheet of a species of linen, smoother than paper, called difra. A current of electricity sent through the former reproduces the writing exactly upon the latter, which has been previously steeped in some chemical composition; the effect apparently depending on the passage of the electricity through the untouched metal, and its absolute interception by the ink, if I may so call it, of the writing, which bites deeply into the leaf. This process can be repeated almost ad libitum; and it is equally easy to take at any time a fresh copy upon tafroo, which serves again for the reproduction of any number of difra copies. The book, for the convenience of this mode of reproduction, consists of a single sheet, generally from four to eight inches in breadth and of any length required. The writing intended to be thus copied is always minute, and is read for the most part through magnifying spectacles. A roller is attached to each end of the sheet, and when not in use the latter is wound round that attached to the conclusion. When required for reading, both rollers are fixed in a stand, and slowly moved by clockwork, which spreads before the eyes of the reader a length of about four inches at once. The motion is slackened or quickened at the reader’s pleasure, and can be stopped altogether, by touching a spring. Another means of reproducing, not merely writings or drawings, but natural objects, consists in a simple adaptation of the camera obscura. [The only essential difference from our photographs being that the Martial art reproduces colour as well as outline, I omit this description.]

While I was practising myself in the Martial language my host turned our experimental conversations chiefly, if not exclusively, upon Terrestrial subjects; endeavouring to learn all that I could convey to him of the physical peculiarities of the Earth, of geology, geography, vegetation, animal life in all its forms, human existence, laws, manners, social and domestic order. Afterwards, when, at the end of some fifty days, he found that we could converse, if not with ease yet without fear of serious misapprehension, he took an early opportunity of explaining to me the causes and circumstances of my unfriendly reception among his people.

Your size and form,” he said, “startled and surprised them. I gather from what you have told me that on Earth there are many nations very imperfectly known to one another, with different dress, language, and manners. This planet is now inhabited by a single race, all speaking the same tongue, using much the same customs, and differing from one another in form and size much less widely than (I understand) do men upon your Earth. There you might have been taken for a visitor from some strange and unexplored country. Here it was clear that you were not one of our race, and yet it was inconceivable what else you could be. We have no giants; the tallest skeleton preserved in our museums is scarcely a hand’s breadth taller than myself, and does not, of course, approach to your stature. Then, as you have pointed out, your limbs are longer and your chest smaller in proportion to the rest of the body; probably because, as you seem to say, your atmosphere is denser than ours, and we require ampler lungs to inhale the quantity of air necessary at each breath for the oxidation of the blood. Then you were not dumb, and yet affected not to understand our language and to speak a different one. No such creature could have existed in this planet without having been seen, described, and canvassed. You did not, therefore, belong to us. The story you told by signs was quickly apprehended, and as quickly rejected as an audacious impossibility. It was an insult to the intelligence of your hearers, and a sufficient ground for suspecting a being of such size and physical strength of some evil or dangerous design. The mob who first attacked you were probably only perplexed and irritated; those who subsequently interfered may have been animated also by scientific curiosity. You would have been well worth anatomisation and chemical analysis. Your mail-shirt protected you from the shock of the dragon, which was meant to paralyse and place you at the mercy of your assailants; the metal distributing the current, and the silken lining resisting its passage. Still, at the moment when I interposed, you would certainly have been destroyed but for your manoeuvre of laying hold of two of your immediate escort. Our destructive weapons are far superior to any you possess or have described. That levelled at you by my neighbour would have sent to ten times your distance a small ball, which, bursting, would have asphyxiated every living thing for several yards around. But our laws regarding the use of such weapons are very stringent, and your enemy dared not imperil the lives of those you held. Those laws would not, he evidently thought, apply to yourself, who, as he would have affirmed, could not be regarded as a man and an object of legal protection.”

He explained the motives and conduct of his countrymen with such perfect coolness, such absence of surprise or indignation, that I felt slightly nettled, and answered sarcastically, “If the slaughter of strangers whose account of themselves appears improbable be so completely a matter of course among you, I am at a loss to understand your own interference, and the treatment I have received from yourself and your family, so utterly opposite in spirit as well as in form to that I met from everybody else.”

I do not,” he answered, “always act from the motives in vogue among my fellow-creatures of this planet; but why and how I differ from them it might not be well to explain. It is for the moment of more consequence to tell you why you have been kept in some sense a prisoner here. My neighbours, independently of general laws, are for certain reasons afraid to do me serious wrong. While in my company or in my dwelling they could hardly attempt your life without endangering mine or those of my family. If you were seen alone outside my premises, another attempt, whether by the asphyxiator or by a destructive animal, would probably be made, and might this time prove successful. Till, therefore, the question of your humanity and right to the protection of our law is decided by those to whom it has been submitted, I will beg you not to venture alone beyond the bounds that afford you security; and to believe that in this request, as in detaining you perforce heretofore, I am acting simply for your own welfare, and not,” he added, smiling, “with a view to secure the first opportunity of putting your relation to our race to the tests of the dissecting table and the laboratory.”

But my story explained everything that seemed inexplicable; why was it not believed? It was assumed that I could not belong to Mars; yet I was a living creature in the flesh, and must therefore have come from some other planet, as I could hardly be supposed to be an inhabitant of space.”

We don’t reason on impossibilities,” replied my friend. “We have a maxim that it is more probable that any number of witnesses should lie, that the senses of any number of persons should be deluded, than that a miracle should be true; and by a miracle we mean an interruption or violation of the known laws of nature.”

One eminent terrestrial sceptic,” I rejoined, “has said the same thing, and masters of the science of probabilities have supported his assertion. But a miracle should be a violation not merely of the known but of all the laws of nature, and until you know all those laws, how can you tell what is a miracle? The lifting of iron by a magnet—I suppose you have iron and loadstones here as we have on Earth—was, to the first man who witnessed it, just as complete a violation of the law of gravity as now appears my voyage through space, accomplished by a force bearing some relation to that which acts through the magnet.”

Our philosophers,” he answered, “are probably satisfied that they know nearly all that is to be known of natural laws and forces; and to delusion or illusion human sense is undeniably liable.”

If,” I said, “you cannot trust your senses, you may as well disbelieve in your own existence and in everything around you, for you know nothing save through those senses which are liable to illusion. But we know practically that there are limits to illusion. At any rate, your maxim leads directly and practically to the inference that, since I do not belong to Mars and cannot have come from any other world, I am not here, and in fact do not exist. Surely it was somewhat illogical to shoot an illusion and intend to dissect a spectre! Is not a fact the complete and unanswerable refutation of its impossibility?”

A good many facts to which I could testify,” he replied, “are in this world confessed impossibilities, and if my neighbours witnessed them they would pronounce them to be either impostures or illusions.”

Then,” said I, somewhat indignantly, “they must prefer inferences from facts to facts themselves, and the deductions of logic to the evidence of their senses. Yet, if that evidence be wanting in certainty, then, since no chain can be stronger than its weakest point, inferences are doubly uncertain; first, because they are drawn from facts reported by sense, and, secondly, because a flaw in the logic is always possible.”

Do not repeat that out of doors,” he answered, smiling. “It is not permitted here to doubt the infallibility of science; and any one who ventures to affirm persistently a story which science pronounces impossible (like your voyage through space), if he do not fall at once a victim to popular piety, would be consigned to the worse than living death of life-long confinement in a lunatic hospital.”

In that case I fear very much that I have little chance of being put under the protection of your laws, since, whatever may be the impression of those who have seen me, every one else must inevitably pronounce me non-existent; and a nonentity can hardly be the subject of legal wrong or have a right to legal redress.”

Nor,” he replied, “can there be any need or any right to annihilate that which does not exist. This alternative may occupy our Courts of Justice, for aught I know, longer than you or I can hope to live. What I have asked is that, till these have decided between two contradictory absurdities, you shall be provisionally and without prejudice considered as a human reality and an object of legal protection.”

And who,” I asked, “has authority ad interim to decide this point?”

It was submitted,” he answered, “in the first place, to the Astyntâ (captain, president) who governs this district; but, as I expected, he declined to pronounce upon it, and referred it to the Mepta (governor) of the province. Half-an-hour’s argument so bewildered the latter that he sent the question immediately to the Zamptâ (Regent) of this dominion, and he, after hearing by telegraph the opening of the case, at once pronounced that, as affecting the entire planet, it must be decided by the Camptâ or Suzerain. Now this gentleman is impatient of the dogmatism of the philosophers, who have tried recently to impose upon him one or two new theoretical rules which would limit the amount of what he calls free will that he practically enjoys; and as the philosophers are all against you, and as, moreover, he has a strong though secret hankering after curious phenomena—it would not do to say, after impossibilities—I do not think he will allow you to be destroyed, at least till he has seen you.”

Is it possible,” I said, “that even your monarch cherishes a belief in the incredible or logically impossible, and yet escapes the lunatic asylum with which you threaten me?”

I should not escape grave consequences were I to attribute to him a heresy so detestable,” said my host. “Even the Camptâ would not be rash enough to let it be said that he doubts the infallibility of science, or of public opinion as its exponent. But as it is the worst of offences to suggest the existence of that which is pronounced impossible or unscientific, the supreme authority can always, in virtue of the enormity of the guilt, insist on undertaking himself the executive investigation of all such cases; and generally contrives to have the impossibility, if a tangible one, brought into the presence either as evidence or as accomplice.”

Well,” I rejoined, after a few minutes’ reflection, “I don’t know that I have much right to complain of ideas which, after all, are but the logical development of those which, are finding constantly more and more favour among our most enlightened nations. I can quite believe, from what I have seen of our leading scientists, that in another century it may be dangerous in my own country for my descendants to profess that belief in a Creator and a future life which I am superstitious enough to prefer to all the revelations of all the material sciences.”

As you value your life and freedom,” he replied, “don’t speak of such a belief here, save to the members of my own family, and to those with whom I may tell you you are safe. Such ideas were held here, almost as generally as you say they now are on Earth, some twelve thousand years ago, and twenty thousand years ago their profession was compulsory. But for the last hundred centuries it has been settled that they are utterly fatal to the progress of the race, to enlightenment, to morality, and to the practical devotion of our energies to the business of life; and they are not merely disavowed and denounced, but hated with an earnestness proportioned to the scientific enthusiasm of classes and individuals.”

But,” said I, “if so long, so severely, and so universally discountenanced, how can their expression by one man here or there be considered perilous?”

Our philosophers say,” he replied, “that the attractiveness of these ideas to certain minds is such that no reasoning, no demonstration of their absurdity, will prevent their exercising a mischievous influence upon weak, and especially upon feminine natures; and perhaps the suspicion that they are still held in secret may contribute to keep alive the bitterness with which they are repudiated and repressed. But if they are so held, if there be any who believe that the order of the universe was at first established, and that its active forces are still sustained and governed, by a conscious Intelligence—if there be those who think that they have proof positive of the continued existence of human beings after death—their secret has been well kept. For very many centuries have elapsed since the last victim of such delusions, as they were solemnly pronounced by public vote in the reign of the four-hundredth predecessor of the present Camptâ, was sent as incurable to the dangerous ward of our strictest hospital for the insane.”

A tone of irony, and at the same time an air of guarded reserve, seemed to pervade all my host’s remarks on this subject, and I perceived that for some reason it was so unpleasant to him that courtesy obliged me to drop it. I put, therefore, to turn the conversation, some questions as to the political organisation of which his words had afforded me a glimpse; and in reply he undertook to give me a summary of the political history of his planet during the last few hundred generations.

If,” he said, “in giving you this sketch of the process by which our present social order has been established, I should mention a class or party who have stood at certain times distinctly apart from or in opposition to the majority, I must, in the first place, beg you to ask no questions about them, and in the next not to repeat incautiously the little I may tell you, or to show, by asking questions of others, what you have heard from me.”

I gave my promise frankly, of course, and he then gave me the following sketch of Martial history:—

We date events from the union of all races and nations in a single State, a union which was formally established 13,218 years ago. At that time the large majority of the inhabitants of this planet possessed no other property than their houses, clothes, and tools, their furniture, and a few other trifles. The land was owned by fewer than 400,000 proprietors. Those who possessed movable wealth may have numbered thrice as many. Political and social power was in the hands of the owners of property, and of those, generally connected with them by birth or marriage, who were at any rate not dependent on manual labour for their bread. But among these there were divisions and factions on various questions more or less trivial, none of them approaching in importance or interest to the fundamental and irreconcilable conflict sure one day to arise between those who had accumulated wealth and those who had not. To gain their ends in one or another of these frivolous quarrels, each party in turn admitted to political influence section after section of what you call the proletariat; till in the year 3278 universal suffrage was granted, every man and woman over the age of twelve years [6] being entitled to a single and equal vote.

About the same time the change in opinion of which I have spoken had taken general effect, and the vast majority of the men, at any rate, had ceased to believe in a future life wherein the inequalities and iniquities of this might be redressed. It followed that they were fiercely impatient of hardships and suffering, especially such as they thought might be redressed by political and social changes. The leaders of the multitude, for the most part men belonging to the propertied classes who had either wasted their wealth or never possessed any, demanded the abolition of private ownership, first of land, then of movable wealth; a demand which fiercely excited the passions of those who possessed neither, and as bitterly provoked the anger and alarm of those who did. The struggle raged for some generations and ended by an appeal to the sword; in which, since the force of the State was by law in the hands of the majority, the intelligent, thrifty, careful owners of property with their adherents were signally defeated. Universal communism was established in 3412, none being permitted to own, or even to claim, the exclusive use of any portion of the planet’s surface, or of any other property except the share of food and clothing allotted to him. One only privilege was allowed to certain sectaries who still clung to the habits of the past, to the permanence and privacy of family life. They were permitted to have houses or portions of houses to themselves, and to live there on the share of the public produce allotted to the several members of each household. It had been assumed as matter of course by the majority that when every one was forced to work there would be more than enough for all; that public spirit, and if necessary coercion, would prove as effectual stimulants to exertion and industry as interest and necessity had done under the system of private ownership.

Those who relied on the refutation of this theory forgot that with poor and suffering men who look to no future, and acknowledge no law but such as is created by their own capricious will and pleasure, envy is even a more powerful passion than greed. The Many preferred that wealth and luxury should be destroyed, rather than that they should be the exclusive possession of the Few. The first and most visible effect of Communism was the utter disappearance of all perishable luxuries, of all food, clothing, furniture, better than that enjoyed by the poorest. Whatever could not be produced in quantities sufficient to give each an appreciable share was not produced at all. Next, the quarrels arising out of the apportionment of labour were bitter, constant, and savage. Only a grinding despotism could compose them, and those who wielded such despotism for a short time excited during the period of their rule such fierce and universal hatred, that they were invariably overturned and almost invariably murdered before their very brief legal term of office had closed. It was not only that those engaged in the same kind of labour quarrelled over the task assigned to each, whether allotted in proportion to his strength, or to the difficulty of his labour, or by lot equally to all. Those to whom the less agreeable employments were assigned rebelled or murmured, and at last it was necessary to substitute rotation for division of labour, since no one would admit that he was best fitted for the lower or less agreeable. Of course we thus wasted silver tools in doing the work of iron, and reduced enormously the general production of wealth. Next, it was found that since one man’s industry or idleness could produce no appreciable effect upon the general wealth, still less upon the particular share assigned to him, every man was as idle as the envy and jealousy of his neighbours would allow. Finally, as the produce annually diminished and the number of mouths to be fed became a serious consideration, the parents of many children were regarded as public enemies. The entire independence of women, as equal citizens, with no recognised relation to individual men, was the inevitable outcome, logically and practically, of the Communistic principle; but this only made matters worse. Attempts were of course made to restrain multiplication by law, but this brought about inquisitions so utterly intolerable that human nature revolted against them. The sectaries I have mentioned—around whom, without adopting or even understanding their principles, gradually gathered all the better elements of society, every man of intellect and spirit who had not been murdered, with a still larger proportion of women—seceded separately or in considerable numbers at once; established themselves in those parts of the planet whose less fertile soil or less genial climate had caused them to be abandoned, and there organised societies on the old principles of private ownership and the permanence of household ties. By and by, as they visibly prospered, they attracted the envy and greed of the Communists. They worked under whatever disadvantage could be inflicted by climate and soil, but they had a much more than countervailing advantage in mutual attachment, in freedom from the bitter passions necessarily excited by the jealousy and incessant mutual interference inseparable from the Communistic system, and in their escape from the caprice and instability of popular government—these societies, whether from wisdom or mere reaction, submitting to the rule of one or a few chief magistrates selected by the natural leaders of each community. Moreover, they had not merely the adhesion of all the more able, ambitious, and intellectual who seceded from a republic in which neither talent nor industry could give comfort or advantage, but also the full benefit of inventive genius, stimulated by the hope of wealth in addition to whatever public spirit the habits of Communism had not extinguished. They systematically encouraged the cultivation of science, which the Communists had very early put down as a withdrawal of energy from the labour due to the community at large. They had a monopoly of machinery, of improvement, of invention both in agriculture, in manufactures, and in self-defence. They devised weapons far more destructive than those possessed by the old régime, and still more superior to such as, after centuries of anarchy and decline, the Communists were able to procure. Finally, when assailed by the latter, vast superiority of numbers was annulled by immeasurable superiority in weapons and in discipline. The secessionists were animated, too, by a bitter resentment against their assailants, as the authors of the general ruin and of much individual suffering; and when the victory was gained, they not infrequently improved it to the utter destruction of all who had taken part in the attack. Whichever side were most to blame in the feud, no quarter was given by either. It was an internecine war of numbers, ignorance, and anarchy against science and order. On both sides there still remained much of the spirit generated in times when life was less precious than the valour by which alone it could be held, and preserved through milder ages by the belief that death was not annihilation—enough to give to both parties courage to sacrifice their lives for the victory of their cause and the destruction of their enemies. But after a few crushing defeats, the Communists were compelled to sue for peace, and to cede a large part of their richest territory. Driven back into their own chaotic misery, deterred by merciless punishment from further invasion of their neighbours’ dominions, they had leisure to contrast their wretched condition with that of those who prospered under the restored system of private ownership, family interest, strong, orderly, permanent government, material and intellectual civilisation. Machinery did for the new State, into which the seceding societies were consolidated by the necessity of self-defence, much more than it had done before Communism declared war on it. The same envy which, if war had been any longer possible, would have urged the Communists again and again to plunder the wealth that contrasted so forcibly their own increasing poverty, now humbled them to admire and covet the means which had produced it. At last, after bitter intestine struggles, they voluntarily submitted to the rule of their rivals, and entreated the latter to accept them as subjects and pupils. Thus in the 39th century order and property were once more established throughout the planet.

But, as I have said, what you call religion had altogether disappeared—had ceased, at least as an avowed principle, to affect the ideas and conduct of society or of individuals. The re-establishment of peace and order concentrated men’s energies on the production of material wealth and the achievement of physical comfort and ease. Looking forward to nothing after death, they could only make the best of the short life permitted to them and do their utmost to lengthen it. In the assurance of speedy separation, affection became a source of much more anxiety and sorrow than happiness. All ties being precarious and their endurance short, their force became less and less; till the utmost enjoyment of the longest possible life for himself became the sole, or almost the sole, animating motive, the one paramount interest, of each individual. The equality which logic had established between the sexes dissolved the family tie. It was impossible for law to dictate the conditions on which two free and equal individuals should live together, merely because they differed in sex. All the State could do it did; it insisted on a provision for the children. But when parental affection was extinguished, such provision could only be secured by handing over the infant and its portion to the guardianship of the State. As children were troublesome and noisy, the practice of giving them up to public officers to be brought up in vast nurseries regulated on the strictest scientific principles became the general rule, and was soon regarded as a duty; what was at first almost openly avowed selfishness soon justifying and glorifying itself on the ground that the children were better off under the care of those whose undivided attention was given to them, and in establishments where everything was regulated with sole regard to their welfare, than they could be at home. No law compels us to send our children to these establishments. In rare cases a favourite will persuade her lord to retain her pet son and make him heir, but both the Courts and public opinion discountenance this practice. Some families, like my own, systematically retain their children and educate them at home; but it is generally thought that in doing so we do them a wrong, and our neighbours look askance upon so signal a deviation from custom; the more so, perhaps, that they half suspect us of dissenting from their views on other subjects, on which our opinions do not so directly or so obviously affect our conduct, and on which therefore we are not so easily convicted of free choice” [heresy]. Here I inquired whether the birth and parentage of the children sent to the public establishments were registered, so as to permit their being reclaimed or inheriting property.

No,” he replied. “Inheritance by mere descent is a notion no longer favoured. I believe that young mothers sometimes, before parting with their children, impress upon them some indelible mark by which it may be possible hereafter to recognise them; but such recognitions seldom occur. Maternal affection is discountenanced as a purely animal instinct, a survival from a lower grade of organisation, and does not generally outlast a ten years’ separation; while paternal love is utterly scouted as an absurdity to which even the higher animals are not subject. Boys are kept in the public establishments until the age of twelve, those from ten to twelve being separated from the younger ones and passing through the higher education in separate colleges. The girls are educated apart till they complete their tenth year, and are almost invariably married in the course of the next. At first, under the influence of the theory of sexual equality, both received their intellectual instruction in the same classes and passed through the same examinations. Separation was soon found necessary; but still girls passed through the same intellectual training as their brothers. Experience, however, showed that this would not answer. Those girls who distinguished themselves in the examinations were, with scarcely an exception, found unattractive as wives and unfit to be mothers. A very much larger number, a number increasing in every generation, suffered unmistakably from the severity of the mental discipline to which they were subjected. The advocates of female equality made a very hard fight for equal culture; but the physical consequences were perfectly clear and perfectly intolerable. When a point was reached at which one half the girls of each generation were rendered invalids for life, and the other half protected only by a dense stupidity or volatile idleness which no school punishments could overcome, the Equalists were driven from one untenable point to another, and forced at last to demand a reduction of the masculine standard of education to the level of feminine capacities. Upon this ground they took their last stand, and were hopelessly beaten. The reaction was so complete that for the last two hundred and forty generations, the standard of female education has been lowered to that which by general confession ordinary female brains can stand without injury to the physique. The practical consequences of sexual equality have re-established in a more absolute form than ever the principle that the first purpose of female life is marriage and maternity; and that, for their own sakes as for the sake of each successive generation, women should be so trained as to be attractive wives and mothers of healthy children, all other considerations being subordinated to these. A certain small number of ladies avail themselves of the legal equality they still enjoy, and live in the world much as men. But we regard them as third-rate men in petticoats, hardly as women at all. Marriage with one of them is the last resource to which a man too idle or too foolish to earn his own living will betake himself. Whatever their education, our women have always found that such independence as they could earn by hard work was less satisfactory than the dependence, coupled with assured comfort and ease, which they enjoy as the consorts, playthings, or slaves of the other sex; and they are only too glad to barter their legal equality for the certainty of protection, indolence, and permanent support.”

Then your marriages,” I said, “are permanent?”

Not by law,” he replied. “Nothing like what our remote ancestors called marriage is recognised at all. The maidens who come of age each year sell themselves by a sort of auction, those who purchase them arranging with the girls themselves the terms on which the latter will enter their family. Custom has fixed the general conditions which every girl expects, and which only the least attractive are forced to forego. They are promised a permanent maintenance from their master’s estate, and promise in return a fixed term of marriage. After two or three years they are free to rescind the contract; after ten or twelve they may leave their husbands with a stipulated pension. They receive an allowance for dress and so forth proportionate to their personal attractions or to the fancy of the suitor; and of course the richest men can offer the best terms, and generally secure the most agreeable wives, in whatever number they please or think they can without inconvenience support.”

Then,” I said, “the women can divorce themselves at pleasure, but the men cannot dismiss them! This hardly looks like equality.”

The practical result,” he answered, “is that men don’t care for a release which would part them from complaisant slaves, and that women dare not seek a divorce which can only hand them over to another master on rather worse terms. When the longer term has expired, the latter almost always prefer the servitude to which they are accustomed to an independent life of solitude and friendlessness.”

And what becomes,” I asked, “of the younger men who must enter the world without property, without parents or protectors?”

We are, after youth has passed, an indolent race. We hardly care, as a rule, to cultivate our fields or direct our factories; but prefer devoting the latter half at least of our lives to a somewhat easy-going cultivation of that division of science which takes hold of our fancy. These divisions are such as your conversation leads me to think you would probably consider absurdly minute. A single class of insects, a single family of plants, the habits of one race of fishes, suffice for the exclusive study of half a lifetime. Minds of a more active or more practical bent will spend an equal time over the construction of a new machine more absolutely automatic than any that has preceded it. Physical labour is thrown as much as possible on the young; and even they are now so helped by machinery and by trained animals, that the eight hours’ work which forms their day’s labour hardly tires their muscles. Our tastes render us very anxious to devolve upon others as soon as possible the preservation and development of the property we have acquired. A man of moderate means, long before he has reached his thirtieth [7] year, generally seeks one assistant; men of larger fortune may want two, five, or ten. These are chosen, as a rule, by preference from those who have passed the most stringent and successful collegiate examination. Martial parents are not prolific, and the mortality in our public nurseries is very large. I impute it to moral influences, since the chief cause of death is low vitality, marked nervous depression and want of animal spirits, such as the total absence of personal tenderness and sympathy must produce in children. It is popularly ascribed to the over-cultivation of the race, as plants and animals highly civilised—that is, greatly modified and bred to an artificial excellence by human agency—are certainly delicate, unprolific, and especially difficult to rear. There is little disease in the nurseries, but there is little health and a deficiency of nervous energy. One fact is significant, however interpreted, and bears directly on your last question. Since the wide extension of polygamy, female births are to male about as seven to six; but the deaths in public nurseries between the first and tenth years are twenty-nine in twelve dozen admissions in the stronger sex, and only about ten in the weaker. Read these facts as we may, they ensure employment to the young men when their education is completed—the two last years of severe study adding somewhat to the mortality among them.

A large number find employment in superintending the property of others. To give them a practical interest in its preservation and improvement, they are generally, after a shorter or longer probation, adopted by their employers as heirs to their estate; our experience of Communism having taught us that immediate and obvious self-interest is the only motive that certainly and seriously affects human action. The distance at which they are kept, and the absolute seclusion of our family life, enables us easily to secure ourselves against any over-anxiety on their part to anticipate their inheritance. The minority who do not thus find a regular place in society are employed in factories, as artisans, or on the lands belonging to the State. To ensure their zeal, the last receive a fixed proportion of the produce, or are permitted to rent land at fixed rates, and at the end of ten years receive a part thereof in full property. By these means we are free from all the dangers and difficulties of that state of society which preceded the Communistic cataclysm. We have poor men, and men who can live only by daily labour; but these have dissipated their wealth, or are looking forward at no very distant period to a sufficient competence. The entire population of our planet does not exceed two hundred millions, and is not much increased from generation to generation. The area of cultivable land is about ten millions of square miles, and half a square mile in these equatorial continents, which alone are at all generally inhabited, will, if well cultivated and cared for, furnish the largest household with every luxury that man’s heart can desire. Eight hours’ labour in the day for ten years of life will secure to the least fortunate a reasonable competence; and an ambitious man, with quick intelligence and reasonable industry, may always hope to become rich, if he thinks wealth worth the labour of invention or of exceptionally troublesome work.”

Mars ought, then,” I said, “to be a material paradise. You have attained nearly all that our most advanced political economists regard as the perfection of economical order—a population nearly stationary, and a soil much more than adequate to their support; a general distribution of property, total absence of permanent poverty, and freedom from that gnawing anxiety regarding the future of ourselves or our children which is the great evil of life upon Earth and the opprobrium of our social arrangements. You have carried out, moreover, the doctrines of our most advanced philosophers; you have absolute equality before the law, competitive examination among the young for the best start in life, with equal chances wherever equality is possible; and again, perfect freedom and full legal equality as regards the relations of the sexes. Are your countrymen satisfied with the results?”

Yes,” answered my host, “in so far, at least, that they have no wish to change them, no idea that any great social or political reforms could improve our condition. Our lesson in Communism has rendered all agitation on such matters, all tendency to democratic institutions, all appeals to popular passions, utterly odious and alarming to us. But that we are happy I will venture neither to affirm nor to deny. Physically, no doubt, we have great advantages over you, if I rightly understand your description of life on Earth. We have got rid of old age, and, to a great extent, of disease. Many of our scientists persist in the hope to get rid of death; but, since all that has been accomplished in this direction was accomplished some two thousand years back, and yet we continue to die, general opinion hardly concurs in this hope.”

How do you mean,” I inquired, “that you have got rid of old age and of disease?”

We have,” he replied, “learned pretty fully the chemistry of life. We have found remedies for that hardening of the bones and weakening of the muscles which used to be the physical characteristics of declining years. Our hair no longer whitens; our teeth, if they decay, are now removed and naturally replaced by new ones; our eyes retain to the last the clearness of their sight. A famous physician of five thousand years back said in controversy on this subject, that ‘the clock was not made to go for ever;’ by which he meant that human bodies, like the materials of machines, wore out by lapse of time. In his day this was true, since it was impossible fully to repair the waste and physical wear and tear of the human frame. This is no longer so. The clock does not wear out, but it goes more and more slowly and irregularly, and stops at last for some reason that the most skilful inspection cannot discover. The body of him who dies, as we say, ‘by efflux of time’ at the age of fifty is as perfect as it was at five-and twenty. [8] Yet few men live to be fifty-five, [9] and most have ceased to take much interest in practical life, or even in science, by forty-five.” [10]

That seems strange,” I said. “If no foreign body gets into the machinery, and the machinery itself does not wear out, it is difficult to understand why the clock should cease to go.”

Would not some of your race,” he asked, “explain the mystery by suggesting that the human frame is not a clock, but contains, and owes its life to, an essence beyond the reach of the scalpel, the microscope, and the laboratory?”

They hold that it is so. But then it is not the soul but the body that is worn out in seventy or eighty of the Earth’s revolutions.”

Ay,” he said; “but if man were such a duplex being, it might be that the wearing out of the body was necessary, and had been adapted to release the soul when it had completed its appropriate term of service in the flesh.”

I could not answer this question, and he did not pursue the theme. Presently I inquired, “If you allow no appeal to popular feeling or passion, to what was I so nearly the victim? And what is the terrorism that makes it dangerous to avow a credulity or incredulity opposed to received opinion?”

Scientific controversies,” he replied, “enlist our strongest and angriest feelings. It is held that only wickedness or lunacy can resist the evidence that has convinced a vast majority. By arithmetical calculation the chances that twelve men are wrong and twelve thousand [11] right, on a matter of inductive or deductive proof, are found to amount to what must be taken for practical certainty; and when the twelve still hold out, they are regarded as madmen or knaves, and treated accordingly by their fellows. If it be thought desirable to invoke a legal settlement of the issue, a council of all the overseers of our scientific colleges is called, and its decision is by law irrevocable and infallible, especially if ratified by the popular voice. And if a majority vote be worth anything at all, I think this modern theory at least as sound as the democratic theory of politics which prevailed here before the Communistic revolution, and which seems by your account to be gaining ground on Earth.”

And what,” I inquired, “is your political constitution? What are the powers of your rulers; and how, in the absence of public discussion and popular suffrage, are they practically limited?”

In theory they are unlimited,” he answered; “in practice they are limited by custom, by caution, and, above all, by the lack of motives for misrule. The authority of each prince over those under him, from the Sovereign to the local president or captain, is absolute. But the Executive leaves ordinary matters of civil or criminal law to the Courts of Justice. Cases are tried by trained judges; the old democratic usage of employing untrained juries having been long ago discarded, as a worse superstition than simple decision by lot. The lot is right twelve times in two dozen; the jury not oftener than half-a-dozen times. The judges don’t heat or bias their minds by discussion. They hear all that can be elicited from parties, accuser, accused, and witnesses, and all that skilled advocates can say. Then the secretary of the Court draws up a summary of the case, each judge takes it home to consider, each writes out his judgment, which is read by the secretary, none but the author knowing whose it is. If the majority be five to two, judgment is given; if less, the case is tried again before a higher tribunal of twice as many judges. If no decision can be reached, the accused is acquitted for the time, or, in a civil dispute, a compromise is imposed. The rulers cannot, without incurring such general anger as would be fatal to their power, disregard our fundamental laws. Gross tyranny to individuals is too dangerous to be carried far. It is a capital crime for any but the officers of the Sovereign and of the twelve Regents to possess the fearfully destructive weapons that brought our last wars to an end. But any man, driven to desperation, can construct and use similar weapons so easily that no ruler will drive a man to such revengeful despair. Again, the tyranny of subordinate officials would be checked by their chief, who would be angry at being troubled and endangered by misconduct in which he had no direct interest. And finally, personal malice is not a strong passion among us; and our manners render it unlikely that a ruler should come into such collision with any of his subjects as would engender such a feeling. Of those immediately about him, he can and does at once get rid as soon as he begins to dislike, and before he has cause to hate them. It is our maxim that greed of wealth or lust of power are the chief motives of tyranny. Our rulers cannot well hope to extend a power already autocratic, and we take care to leave them nothing to covet in the way of wealth. We can afford to give them all that they can desire of luxury and splendour. To enrich to the uttermost a few dozen governors costs us nothing comparable to the cost of democracy, with its inseparable party conflicts, maladministration, neglect, and confusion.”

A clever writer on Earth lately remarked that it would be easy to satiate princes with all personal enjoyments, but impossible to satiate all their hangers-on, or even all the members of their family.”

You must remember,” he replied, “that we have here, save in such exceptional cases as my own, nothing like what you call a family. The ladies of a prince’s house have everything they can wish for within their bounds and cannot go outside of these. As for dependents, no man here, at least of such as are likely to be rulers, cares for his nearest and dearest friends enough to incur personal peril, public displeasure, or private resentment on their account. The officials around a ruler’s person are few in number, so that we can afford to make their places too comfortable and too valuable to be lightly risked. Neglect, again, is pretty sure to be punished by superior authority. Activity in the promotion of public objects is the only interest left to princes, while tyranny is, for the reasons I have given, too dangerous to be carried far.”