Mizora, by Mary E. Bradley Lane

Chapter 12

The artificial light in Mizora puzzled me longest to understand. When I first noticed it, it appeared to me to have no apparent source. At the touch of a delicate hand, it blazed forth like a star in the center of the ceiling. It diffused a soft and pleasing brilliancy that lent a charm to everything it revealed. It was a dreamy daylight, and was produced by electricity.

In large halls, like a theatre or opera house, the light fell in a soft and penetrating radiance from the center of the dome. Its source was not visible to either audience or actresses, and, in consequence, occasioned no discomfort to the eyes. The light that illuminated the stage was similarly arranged. The footlights were not visible. They were in the rear of the stage. The light came upward like the rays of the setting sun, revealing the setting of the stage with vivid distinctness. I can best describe the effect of this singular arrangement by calling attention to the appearance of the sun when declining behind a small elevation. How sharply every object is outlined before it? How soft and delicate is the light in which everything is bathed? Every cloud that floats has all of its fleecy loveliness limned with a radiant clearness.

I was very desirous to know how this singular effect was produced, and at my request was taken to the stage. An opening in the back part of it was covered with pink colored glass. Powerful electric lights from below the stage were reflected through this glass upon it. The glass was highly refractive and so perfectly translucent, I at first thought there was none there, and when I stood upon its edge, and looked down into a fiery gulf below, I instinctively thought of the “Lost People,” who are said to wander amid torturing yet unconsumable flames. But, happily, the ones I gazed upon were harmless ones.

The street lights of Mizora were at a considerable elevation from the ground. They were in, or over, the center of the street, and of such diffuse brilliancy as to render the city almost as light as day. They were in the form of immense globes of soft, white fire, and during the six months that answered to the Mizora night, were kept constantly burning. It was during this period that the Aurora Borealis shone with such marvelous brilliancy.

Generally, its display was heralded by an arc of delicate green-tinted light, that spanned the heavens. The green tint deepened into emerald, assuming a delicate rose hue as it faded upward into rays that diverged from the top until the whole resembled a gigantic crown. Every ray became a panorama of gorgeous colors, resembling tiny sparks, moving hither and thither with inconceivable swiftness. Sometimes a veil of mist of delicate green hue depended from the base of the crown, and swayed gently back and forth. As soon as the swaying motion commenced, the most gorgeous colors were revealed. Myriads of sparks, no larger than snow-flakes, swarmed across the delicate green curtain in every conceivable color and shade, but always of that vapory, vivid softness that is indescribable. The dancing colors resembled gems encased in a film of mist.

One display that I witnessed I shall attempt to describe. The arc of delicate green appeared first, and shot upward diverging rays of all the warm, rich hues of red. They formed a vast crown, outlined with a delicate halo of fire. A veil of misty green fluttered down from its base, and, instantly, tiny crowns, composed of every brilliant color, with a tracery of fire defining every separate one, began to chase one another back and forth with bewildering rapidity. As the veil swayed to and fro, it seemed to shake the crowns into skeins of fire, each thread strung with countless minute globes of every conceivable color and hue. Those fiery threads, aerial as thistle down, wove themselves in and out in a tangled mass of gorgeous beauty. Suddenly the beads of color fell in a shower of gems, topaz and emerald, ruby and sapphire, amethyst and pearly crystals of dew. I looked upward, where the rays of variegated colors were sweeping the zenith, and high above the first crown was a second more vivid still. Myriads of rainbows, the colors broad and intense, fluttered from its base, the whole outlined by a halo of fire. It rolled together in a huge scroll, and, in an instant, fell apart a shower of flakes, minute as snow, but of all the gorgeous, dazzling hues of earth and sky combined. They disappeared in the mystery of space to instantly form into a fluttering, waving banner of delicate green mist and — vanish; only to repeat itself.

The display of the Aurora Borealis was always an exhibition of astonishing rapidity of motion of intense colors. The most glorious sunset — where the vapory billows of the sky have caught the bloom of the dying Autumn — cannot rival it. All the precious gems of earth appear to have dissolved into mist, to join in a wild and aerial dance. The people of Mizora attributed it entirely to electricity.

Although the sun never rose or set in Mizora, yet for six months in a year, that country had the heart of a voluptuous summer. It beat with a strong, warm pulse of life through all nature. The orchards budded and bloomed, and mellowed into perfect fruition their luscious globes. The fields laughed in the warm, rich light, and smiled on the harvest. I could feel my own blood bound as with a new lease of life at the first breath of spring.

The winters of Mizora had clouds and rain and sleet and snow, and sometimes, especially near the circular sea, the fury of an Arctic snow storm; but so well prepared were they that it became an amusement. Looking into the chaos of snow flakes, driven hither and thither by fierce winds, the pedestrians in the street presented no painful contrast to the luxury of your own room, with its balmy breath and cheerful flowers. You saw none but what were thoroughly clad, and you knew that they were hurrying to homes that were bright and attractive, if not as elegant as yours; where loving welcomes were sure to greet them and happiness would sit with them at the feast; for the heart that is pure has always a kingly guest for its company.

A wonderful discovery that the people of Mizora had made was the power to annihilate space as an impediment to conversation. They claimed that the atmosphere had regular currents of electricity that were accurately known to them. They talked to them by means of simply constructed instruments, and the voice would be as audible and as easily recognized at three thousand miles distant as at only three feet. Stations were built similar to our telegraph offices, but on high elevations. I understood that they could not be used upon the surface. Every private and public house, however, had communication with the general office, and could converse with friends at a distance whenever desirable. Public speakers made constant use of it, but in connection with another extraordinary apparatus which I regret my inability to perfectly describe.

I saw it first from the dress circle of a theater. It occupied the whole rear of the stage, and from where I sat, looked like a solid wall of polished metal. But it had a wonderful function, for immediately in front of it, moving, speaking and gesturing, was the figure of a popular public lecturer, so life-like in appearance that I could scarcely be convinced that it was only a reflection. Yet such it was, and the original was addressing an audience in person more than a thousand miles distant.

It was no common thing for a lecturer to address a dozen or more audiences at the same time, scattered over an area of thousands of miles, and every one listening to and observing what appeared to be the real speaker. In fact, public speakers in Mizora never traveled on pure professional business. It was not necessary. They prepared a room in their own dwelling with the needful apparatus, and at the time specified delivered a lecture in twenty different cities.

I was so interested in this very remarkable invention that I made vigorous mental exertions to comprehend it sufficiently to explain its mechanism and philosophical principles intelligently; but I can only say that it was one of the wonders those people produced with electricity. The mechanism was simple, but the science of its construction and workings I could not comprehend. The grasp of my mind was not broad enough. The instrument that transmitted the voice was entirely separate.

I must not neglect to mention that all kinds of public entertainments, such as operas, concerts and dramas, could be and were repeated to audiences at a distance from where the real transaction was taking place. I attended a number of operas that were only the reflex of others that were being presented to audiences far distant.

These repetitions were always marvels of accuracy of vividness.

Small reflecting apparatus were to be found in every dwelling and business house. It is hardly necessary to state that letter-writing was an unknown accomplishment in Mizora. The person who desired to converse with another, no matter how far distant, placed herself in communication with her two instruments and signaled. Her friend appeared upon the polished metal surface like the figure in a mirror, and spoke to her audibly, and looked at her with all the naturalness of reality.

I have frequently witnessed such interviews between Wauna and her mother, when we were visiting distant cities. It was certainly a more satisfactory way of communicating than by letter. The small apparatus used by private families and business houses were not like those used in public halls and theaters. In the former, the reflection was exactly similar to the image of a mirror; in the latter, the figure was projected upon the stage. It required more complicated machinery to produce, and was not practicable for small families or business houses. I now learned that on my arrival in Mizora I had been taken to one of the largest apparatus and put in communication with it. I was informed by Wauna that I had been exhibited to every college and school in the country by reflex representation. She said that she and her mother had seen me distinctly and heard my voice. The latter had been so uncongenial in accent and tone that she had hesitated about becoming my instructor on that account. It was my evident appreciation of my deficiencies as compared to them that had enlisted her sympathy.

Now, in my own country, my voice had attracted attention by its smoothness and modulation, and I was greatly surprised to hear Wauna speak of its unmusical tone as really annoying. But then in Mizora there are no voices but what are sweet enough to charm the birds.

In the journeys that Wauna and I took during the college vacation, we were constantly meeting strangers, but they never appeared the least surprised at my dark hair and eyes, which were such a contrast to all the other hair and eyes to be met with in Mizora, that I greatly wondered at it until I learned of the power of the reflector. I requested permission to examine one of the large ones used in a theater, and it was granted me. Wauna accompanied me and signaled to a friend of hers. As if by magic a form appeared and moved across the stage. It bowed to me, smiled and motioned with its hand, to all appearances a material body. I asked Wauna to approach it, which she did, and passed her hand through it. There was nothing that resisted her touch, yet I plainly saw the figure, and recognized it as the perfect representation of a friend of Wauna’s, an actress residing in a distant city. When I ascended the stage, the figure vanished, and I understood that it could be visible only at a certain distance from the reflector.

In traveling great distances, or even short ones where great speed was desired, the Mizoraens used air ships; but only for the transportation of passengers and the very lightest of freight. Heavy articles could not be as conveniently carried by them as by railroads. Their railroads were constructed and conducted on a system so perfect that accidents were never known. Every engineer had an electric signal attached to the engine, that could signal a train three miles distant.

The motive power for nearly all engines was compressed air. Electricity, which was recognized by Mizora scientists as a force of great intensity, was rarely used as a propelling power on railroads. Its use was attended by possible danger, but compressed air was not. Electricity produced the heat that supplied the air ships and railroads with that very necessary comfort. In case there should be an accident, as a collision, or thrown from the track, heat could not be a source of danger when furnished by electricity. But I never heard of a railroad accident during the whole fifteen years that I spent in Mizora.

Air-ships, however, were not exempt from danger, although the precautions against it were ingenious and carefully observed. The Mizora people could tell the approach of a storm, and the exact time it would arrive. They had signal stations established for the purpose, all over the country.

But, though they were skilled mechanics, and far in advance of my own world, and the limits of my comprehension in their scientific discoveries and appliances, they had not yet discovered the means of subduing the elements, or driving unharmed through their fury. When nature became convulsed with passion, they guarded themselves against it, but did not endeavor to thwart it.

Their air-ships were covered, and furnished with luxurious seats. The whole upper part of the car was composed of very thin glass. They traveled with, to me, astonishing rapidity. Towns and cities flew away beneath us like birds upon the wing. I grew frightened and apprehensive, but Wauna chatted away with her friends with the most charming unconcern.

I was looking down, when I perceived, by the increasing size of objects below, that we were descending. The conductor entered almost immediately, and announced that we were going down to escape an approaching storm. A signal had been received and the ship was at once lowered.

I felt intensely relieved to step again on solid earth, and hoped I might escape another trial of the upper regions. But after waiting until the storm was over we again entered the ship. I was ashamed to refuse when everyone else showed no fear.

In waiting for the storm to pass we were delayed so long that our journey could have been performed almost as speedily by rail. I wondered why they had not invented some means by which they could drive through a tempest in perfect safety. As usual, I addressed my inquiries to Wauna. She answered:

“So frail a thing as an air-ship must necessarily be, when compared with the strength of a storm, is like a leaf in the wind. We have not yet discovered, and we have but little expectation of discovering, any means by which we can defy the storms that rage in the upper deeps.

“The electricity that we use for heat is also a source of danger during a storm. Our policy is to evade a peril we cannot control or destroy. Hence, when we receive a signal that a storm is approaching we get out of its way. Our railroad carriages, having no danger to fear from them, ride right through the storm.”

The people of Mizora, I perceived, possessed a remarkable acuteness of vision. They could see the odor emanating from flowers and fruit. They described it to me as resembling attenuated mist. They also named other colors in the solar spectrum than those known to me. When I first heard them speak of them, I thought it a freak of the imagination; but I afterward noticed artists, and persons who had a special taste for colors, always detected them with greater readiness. The presence of these new colors were apparent to all with whom I spoke upon the subject. When I mentioned my own inability to discern them, Wauna said that it was owning to my inferior mental development.

“A child,” she said, “if you will observe, is first attracted by red, the most glaring color known. The untutored mind will invariably select the gaudiest colors for personal adornment. It is the gentle, refined taste of civilization that chooses the softened hues and colors.”

“But you, as a nation, are remarkable for rich warm colors in your houses and often in your dress,” I said.

“But they are never glaring,” she replied. “If you will notice, the most intense colors are always so arranged as to present a halo, instead of sharply defined brilliancy. If a gorgeous color is worn as a dress, it will be covered with filmy lace. You have spoken of the splendor of the Aurora Borealis. It is nature’s most gorgeous robe, and intense as the primal colors are, they are never glaring. They glow in a film of vapor. We have made them our study. Art, with us, has never attempted to supercede nature.”

The sense of smell was also exceedingly sensitive with the Mizora people. They detected odors so refined that I was not aware of them. I have often seen a chemist take a bottle of perfumery and name its ingredients from the sense of smell only. No one appeared surprised at the bluntness of my senses. When I spoke of this Wauna tried to explain it.

“We are a more delicately organized race of beings than you are. Our intellects, and even sense that we possess, is of a higher and finer development. We have some senses that you do not possess, and are unable to comprehend their exquisite delicacy. One of them I shall endeavor to explain to you by describing it as impression. We possess it in a highly refined state, both mentally and physically. Our sensitiveness to changes of temperature, I have noticed, is more marked than yours. It is acute with all of my people. For this reason, although we are free from disease, our bodies could not sustain, as readily as yours could, a sudden and severe shock to their normal temperature, such as a marked change in the atmosphere would occasion. We are, therefore, extremely careful to be always appropriately clothed. That is a physical impression. It is possessed by you also, but more obtusely.

“Our sensitiveness to mental pleasure and pain you would pronounce morbid on account of its intensity. The happiness we enjoy in the society of those who are congenial, or near and dear to us through family ties, is inconceivable to you. The touch of my mother’s hand carries a thrill of rapture with it.

“We feel, intuitively, the happiness or disappointment of those we are with. Our own hopes impress us with their fulfillment or frustration, before we know what will actually occur. This feeling is entirely mental, but it is evidence of a highly refined mentality. We could not be happy unless surrounded, as we are, by cultivated and elegant pleasures. They are real necessities to us.

“Our appreciation of music, I notice, has a more exquisite delicacy than yours. You desire music, but it is the simpler operas that delight you most. Those fine and delicate harmonies that we so intensely enjoy, you appear incapable of appreciating.”

I have previously spoken of their elegance in dress, and their fondness for luxury and magnificence. On occasions of great ceremony their dresses were furnished with very long trains. The only prominent difference that I saw in their state dresses, and the rare and costly ones I had seen in my own and other countries, was in the waist. As the women of Mizora admired a large waist, their dresses were generally loose and flowing. Ingenuity, however, had fashioned them into graceful and becoming outlines. On occasions of great state and publicity, comfortably fitting girdles confined the dress at the waist.

I attended the Inaugural of a Professor of Natural History in the National College. The one who had succeeded to this honor was widely celebrated for her erudition. It was known that the ceremony would be a grand affair, and thousands attended it.

I there witnessed another of these marvelous achievements in science that were constantly surprising me in Mizora. The inauguration took place in a large hall, the largest I had ever seen. It would accommodate two hundred thousand people, and was filled to repletion. I was seated far back in the audience, and being a little short-sighted anyway, I expected to be disappointed both in seeing and hearing the ceremonies. What was my astonishment then, when they began, to discover that I could see distinctly every object upon the stage, and hear with perfect accuracy every word that was uttered.

Upon expressing myself to Wauna as being greatly pleased that my eyesight and hearing had improved so wonderfully and unexpectedly, she laughed merrily, and asked me if I had noticed a curious looking band of polished steel that curved outward from the proscenium, and encircled its entire front? I had noticed it, but supposed it to be connected with some different arrangement they might have made concerning the footlights. Wauna informed me that I owed my improved hearing to that.

“But my eyesight,” I asked, “how do you account for its unusual penetrativeness?”

“Have you ever noticed some seasons of the year display a noticeably marked transparency of the atmosphere that revealed objects at great distances with unusual clearness? Well, we possess a knowledge of air that enables us to qualify it with that peculiar magnifying condition. On occasions like this we make use of it. This hall was built after the discovery, and was specially prepared for its use. It is seldom employed in smaller halls.”

Just then a little flutter of interest upon the stage attracted my attention, and I saw the candidate for the professorship entering, accompanied by the Faculty of the National College.

She wore a sea-green velvet robe with a voluminous train. The bottom of the dress was adorned with a wreath or band of water lilies, embroidered in seed pearls. A white lace overdress of filmiest texture fell over the velvet, almost touching the wreath of lilies, and looked as though it was made of sea foam. A girdle of large pink pearls confined the robe at the waist. Natural flowers were on her bosom and in her hair.

The stage was superbly decorated with flowers and shells. A large chair, constructed of beautiful shells and cushioned with green velvet, rested upon a dais of coral. It was the chair of honor. Behind it was a curtain of sea-moss. I afterward learned that the moss was attached to a film of glass too delicate to detect without handling.

In the midst of these charming surroundings stood the applicant for honor. Her deep blue eyes glowed with the joy of triumph. On the delicate cheek and lip burned the carmine hue of perfect health. The golden hair even seemed to have caught a brighter lustre in its coiled masses. The uplifted hand and arm no marble goddess could have matched, for this had the color and charm of life. As she stood revealed by the strong light that fell around her, every feature ennobled with the glory of intellect, she appeared to me a creature of unearthly loveliness, as something divine.

I spoke to Wauna of the rare beauty and elegance of her dress.

“She looks like a fabled Naiad just risen from the deep,” was my criticism on her.

“Her dress,” answered Wauna, “is intended to be emblematical of Nature. The sea-green robe, the water lilies of pearls, the foamy lace are all from Nature’s Cradle of Life.”

“How poetical!” I exclaimed.

But then Mizora is full of that charming skill that blends into perfect harmony the beautiful and useful in life.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 22:36