Mizora, by Mary E. Bradley Lane

Chapter 5

I had long contemplated a trip to the extreme southern boundary of Mizora. I had often inquired about it, and had always been answered that it was defined by an impassable ocean. I had asked them to describe it to me, for the Mizora people have a happy faculty of employing tersely expressive language when necessary; but I was always met with the surprising answer that no tongue in Mizora was eloquent enough to portray the wonders that bounded Mizora on the south. So I requested the Preceptress to permit Wauna to accompany me as a guide and companion; a request she readily complied with.

“Will you be afraid or uneasy about trusting her on so long a journey with no companion or protector but me?” I asked.

The Preceptress smiled at my question.

“Why should I be afraid, when in all the length and breadth of our land there is no evil to befall her, or you either. Strangers are friends in Mizora, in one sense of the word, when they meet. You will both travel as though among time endeared associates. You will receive every attention, courtesy and kindness that would be bestowed upon near and intimate acquaintances. No, in this land, mothers do not fear to send their daughters alone and unrecommended among strangers.”

When speed was required, the people of Mizora traveled altogether by air ships. But when the pleasure of landscape viewing, and the delight and exhilaration of easy progress is desired, they use either railroad cars or carriages.

Wauna and I selected an easy and commodious carriage. It was propelled by compressed air, which Wauna said could be obtained whenever we needed a new supply at any village or country seat.

Throughout the length and breadth of Mizora the roads were artificially made. Cities, towns, and villages were provided with paved streets, which the public authorities kept in a condition of perfect cleanliness. The absence of all kinds of animals rendered this comparatively easy. In alluding to this once in the presence of the Preceptress, she startled me by the request that I should suggest to my people the advantage to be derived from substituting machinery for animal labor.

“The association of animals is degrading,” she asserted. “And you, who still live by tilling the soil, will find a marked change economically in dispensing with your beasts of burden. Fully four-fifths that you raise on your farms is required to feed your domestic animals. If your agriculture was devoted entirely to human food, it would make it more plentiful for the poor.”

I did not like to tell her that I knew many wealthy people who housed and fed their domestic animals better than they did their tenants. She would have been disgusted with such a state of barbarism.

Country roads in Mizora were usually covered with a cement that was prepared from pulverized granite. They were very durable and very hard. Owing to their solidity, they were not as agreeable for driving as another kind of cement they manufactured. I have previously spoken of the peculiar style of wheel that was used on all kinds of light conveyances in Mizora, and rendered their progress over any road the very luxury of motion.

In our journey, Wauna took me to a number of factories, where the wonderful progress they had made in science continually surprised and delighted me. The spider and the silkworm had yielded their secret to these indefatigable searchers into nature’s mysteries. They could spin a thread of gossamer, or of silk from their chemicals, of any width and length, and with a rapidity that was magical. Like everything else of that nature in Mizora, these discoveries had been purchased by the Government, and then made known to all.

They also manufactured ivory that I could not tell from the real article. I have previously spoken of their success in producing various kinds of marble and stone. A beautiful table that I saw made out of artificial ivory, had a painting upon the top of it. A deep border, composed of delicate, convoluted shells, extended round the top of the table and formed the shores of a mimic ocean, with coral reefs and tiny islands, and tangled sea-weeds and shining fishes sporting about in the pellucid water. The surface was of highly polished smoothness, and I was informed that the picture was not a painting but was formed of colored particles of ivory that had been worked in before the drying or solidifying process had been applied. In the same way they formed main beautiful combinations of marbles. The magnificent marble columns that supported the portico of my friend’s house were all of artificial make. The delicate green leaves and creeping vines of ivy, rose, and eglantine, with their spray-like blossoms, were colored in the manufacturing process and chiseled out of the solid marble by the skillful hand of the artist.

It would be difficult for me to even enumerate all the beautiful arts and productions of arts that I saw in Mizora. Our journey was full of incidents of this kind.

Every city and town that we visited was like the introduction of a new picture. There was no sameness between any of them. Each had aimed at picturesqueness or stately magnificence, and neither had failed to obtain it. Looking back as I now do upon Mizora, it presents itself to me as a vast and almost limitless landscape, variegated with grand cities, lovely towns and villages, majestic hills and mountains crowned with glittering snows, or deep, delightful valleys veiled in scented vines.

Kindness, cordiality and courtesy met us on every side. It was at first quite novel for me to mingle among previously unheard-of people with such sociability, but I did as Wauna did, and I found it not only convenient but quite agreeable.

“I am the daughter of the Preceptress of the National College,” said Wauna; and that was the way she introduced herself.

I noticed with what honor and high esteem the name of the Preceptress was regarded. As soon as it was known that the daughter of the Preceptress had arrived, the citizens of whatever city we had stopped in hastened to extend to her every courtesy and favor possible for them to bestow. She was the daughter of the woman who held the highest and most enviable position in the Nation. A position that only great intellect could secure in that country.

As we neared the goal of our journey, I noticed an increasing warmth of the atmosphere, and my ears were soon greeted with a deep, reverberating roar like continuous thunder. I have seen and heard Niagara, but a thousand Niagaras could not equal that deafening sound. The heat became oppressive. The light also from a cause of which I shall soon speak.

We ascended a promontory that jutted out from the main land a quarter of a mile, perhaps more. Wauna conducted me to the edge of the cliff and told me to look down. An ocean of whirlpools was before us. The maddened dashing and thundering of the mighty waters, and the awe they inspired no words can paint. Across such an abyss of terrors it was certain no vessel could sail. We took our glasses and scanned the opposite shore, which appeared to be a vast cataract as though the ocean was pouring over a precipice of rock. Wauna informed me that where the shore was visible it was a perpendicular wall of smooth rock.

Over head an arc of fire spanned the zenith from which depended curtains of rainbows waving and fluttering, folding and floating out again with a rapid and incessant motion. I asked Wauna why they had not crossed in air-ships, and she said they had tried it often but had always failed.

“In former times,” she said, “when air-ships first came into use it was frequently attempted, but no voyager ever returned. We have long since abandoned the attempt, for now we know it to be impossible.”

I looked again at that display of uncontrollable power. As I gazed it seemed to me I would be drawn down by the resistless fascination of terror. I grasped Wauna and she gently turned my face to the smiling landscape behind us. Hills and valleys, and sparkling cities veiled in foliage, with their numberless parks and fountains and statues sleeping in the soft light, gleaming lakes and wandering rivers that glittered and danced in the glorious atmosphere like prisoned sunbeams, greeted us like the alluring smile of love, and yet, for the first time since entering this lovely land, I felt myself a prisoner. Behind me was an impassable barrier. Before me, far beyond this gleaming vision of enchantment, lay another road whose privations and dangers I dreaded to attempt.

I felt as a bird might feel who has been brought from the free expanse of its wild forest-home, and placed in a golden cage where it drinks from a jeweled cup and eats daintier food than it could obtain in its own rude haunts. It pines for that precarious life; its very dangers and privations fill its breast with desire. I began to long with unutterable impatience to see once more the wild, rough scenes of my own nativity. Memory began to recall them with softening touches. My heart yearned for my own; debased as compared with Mizora though they be, there was the congeniality of blood between us. I longed to see my own little one whose dimpled hands I had unclasped from my neck in that agonized parting. Whenever I saw a Mizora mother fondling her babe, my heart leapt with quick desire to once more hold my own in such loving embrace. The mothers of Mizora have a devotional love for their children. Their smiles and prattle and baby wishes are listened to with loving tenderness, and treated as matters of importance.

I was sitting beside a Mizora mother one evening, listening to some singing that I truly thought no earthly melody could surpass. I asked the lady if ever she had heard anything sweeter, and she answered, earnestly:

“Yes, the voices of my own children.”

On our homeward journey, Wauna took me to a lake from the center of which we could see, with our glasses, a green island rising high above the water like an emerald in a silver setting.

“That,” said Wauna, directing my attention to it, “is the last vestige of a prison left in Mizora. Would you like to visit it?”

I expressed an eager willingness to behold so curious a sight, and getting into a small pleasure boat, we started toward it. Boats are propelled in Mizora either by electricity or compressed air, and glide through the water with soundless swiftness.

As we neared the island I could perceive the mingling of natural and artificial attractions. We moored our boat at the foot of a flight of steps, hewn from the solid rock. On reaching the top, the scene spread out like a beautiful painting. Grottos, fountains, and cascades, winding walks and vine-covered bowers charmed us as we wandered about. In the center stood a medium-sized residence of white marble. We entered through a door opening on a wide piazza. Art and wealth and taste had adorned the interior with a generous hand. A library studded with books closely shut behind glass doors had a wide window that commanded an enchanting view of the lake, with its rippling waters sparkling and dimpling in the light. On one side of the mantelpiece hung a full length portrait of a lady, painted with startling naturalness.

“That,” said Wauna, solemnly, “was the last prisoner in Mizora.”

I looked with interested curiosity at a relic so curious in this land. It was a blonde woman with lighter colored eyes than is at all common in Mizora. Her long, blonde hair hung straight and unconfined over a dress of thick, white material. Her attitude and expression were dejected and sorrowful. I had visited prisons in my own land where red-handed murder sat smiling with indifference. I had read in newspapers, labored eloquence that described the stoicism of some hardened criminal as a trait of character to be admired. I had read descriptions where mistaken eloquence exerted itself to waken sympathy for a criminal who had never felt sympathy for his helpless and innocent victims, and I had felt nothing but creeping horror for it all. But gazing at this picture of undeniable repentance, tears of sympathy started to my eyes. Had she been guilty of taking a fellow-creature’s life?

“Is she still living?” I asked by way of a preface.

“Oh, no, she has been dead for more than a century,” answered Wauna.

“Was she confined here very long?”

“For life,” was the reply.

“I should not believe,” I said, “that a nature capable of so deep a repentance could be capable of so dark a crime as murder.”

“Murder!” exclaimed Wauna in horror. “There has not been a murder committed in this land for three thousand years.”

It was my turn to be astonished.

“Then tell me what dreadful crime she committed.”

“She struck her child,” said Wauna, sadly; “her little innocent, helpless child that Nature gave her to love and cherish, and make noble and useful and happy.”

“Did she inflict a permanent injury?” I asked, with increased astonishment at this new phase of refinement in the Mizora character.

“No one can tell the amount of injury a blow does to a child. It may immediately show an obvious physical one; it may later develop a mental one. It may never seem to have injured it at all, and yet it may have shocked a sensitive nature and injured it permanently. Crime is evolved from perverted natures, and natures become perverted from ill-usage. It merges into a peculiar structure of the brain that becomes hereditary.”

“What became of the prisoner’s child?”

“It was adopted by a young lady who had just graduated at the State College of the State in which the mother resided. It was only five years old, and its mother’s name was never mentioned to it or to anyone else. Long before that, the press had abolished the practice of giving any prominence to crime. That pernicious eloquence that in uncivilized ages had helped to nourish crime by a maudlin sympathy for the criminal, had ceased to exist. The young lady called the child daughter, and it called her mother.”

“Did the real mother never want to see her child?”

“That is said to be a true picture of her,” said Wauna; “and who can look at it and not see sorrow and remorse.”

“How could you be so stern?” I asked, in wondering astonishment.

“Pity has nothing to do with crime,” said Wauna, firmly. “You must look to humanity, and not to the sympathy one person excites when you are aiding enlightenment. That woman wandered about these beautiful grounds, or sat in this elegant home a lonely and unsympathized-with prisoner. She was furnished with books, magazines and papers, and every physical comfort. Sympathy for her lot was never offered her. Childhood is regarded by my people as the only period of life that is capable of knowing perfect happiness, and among us it is a crime greater than the heinousness of murder in your country, to deprive a human being of its childhood — in which cluster the only unalloyed sweets of life.

“A human being who remembers only pain, rebukes treatment in childhood, has lost the very flavor of existence, and the person who destroyed it is a criminal indeed.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/l/lane/mary_ebradley/mizora/part2.5.html

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