On my return to college, after the close of vacation, I devoted myself exclusively to history. It began with their first President; and from the evidence of history itself, I knew that the Nation was enjoying a high state of culture when its history began.
No record of a more primitive race was to be found in all the Library, assiduously as I searched for it. I read with absorbing interest their progress toward perfect enlightenment, their laborious searchings into science that had resulted in such marvelous achievements. But earnestly as I sought for it, and anxiously as I longed for it, I found and heard no mention of a race of men. From the most intimate intercourse with the people of Mizora, I could discover no attempt at concealment in anything, yet the inquiry would crowd itself upon me. “Where are the men?” And as constantly would I be forced to the conclusion that Mizora was either a land of mystery beyond the scope of the wildest and weirdest fancy, or else they were utterly oblivious of such a race. And the last conclusion was most improbable of all.
Man, in my country, was a necessity of government, law, and protection. His importance, (as I viewed it from inherited ideas) was incalculable. It could not be possible that he had no existence in a country so eminently adapted to his desires and ability.
The expression, “domestic misery,” that the Preceptress made use of one day in conversation with me, haunted my imagination with a persistent suspicion of mystery. It had a familiar sound to me. It intimated knowledge of a world I knew so well; where ill-nature, malice, spite, envy, deceit, falsehood and dishonesty, made life a continual anxiety.
Locks, bolts and bars shut out the thief who coveted your jewels; but no bolts nor bars, however ingeniously constructed or strongly made, could keep out the thief who coveted your character. One little word from a pretended friend might consummate the sorrow of your whole life, and be witnessed by the perpetrator without a pang — nay, even with exultation.
There were other miseries I thought of that were common in my country. There were those we love. Some who are woven into our lives and affections by the kinship of blood; who grow up weak and vacillating, and are won away, sometimes through vice, to estrangement. Our hearts ache not the less painfully that they have ceased to be worthy of a throb; or that they have been weak enough to become estranged, to benefit some selfish alien.
There were other sorrows in that world that I had come from, that brought anguish alike to the innocent and the guilty. It was the sorrow of premature death. Diseases of all kinds made lives wretched; or tore them asunder with death. How many hearts have ached with cankering pain to see those who are vitally dear, wasting away slowly, but surely, with unrelievable suffering; and to know that life but prolongs their misery, and death relieves it only with inconsolable grief for the living.
Who has looked into a pair of youthful eyes, so lovely that imagination could not invent for them another charm, and saw the misty film of death gather over them, while your heart ached with regret as bitter as it was unavailing. The soft snows of winter have fallen — a veil of purity — over the new made graves of innocence and youth, and its wild winds have been the saddest requiem. The dews of summer have wept with your tears, and its zephyrs have sighed over the mouldering loveliness of youth.
I had known no skill in my world that could snatch from death its unlawful prey of youth. But here, in this land so eminently blessed, no one regarded death as a dreaded invader of their household.
“We cannot die until we get old,” said Wauna, naively.
And looking upon their bounding animal spirits, their strong supple frames, and the rich, red blood of perfect health, mantling their cheeks with its unsurpassable bloom, one would think that disease must have strong grasp indeed that could destroy them.
But these were not all the sorrows that my own country knew. Crimes, with which we had no personal connection, shocked us with their horrible details. They crept, like noxious vapors, into the moral atmosphere of the pure and good; tainting the weak, and annoying the strong.
There were other sorrows in my country that were more deplorable still. It was the fate of those who sought to relieve the sufferings of the many by an enforced government reform. Misguided, imprudent and fanatical they might be, but their aim at least was noble. The wrongs and sufferings of the helpless and oppressed had goaded them to action for their relief.
But, alas! The pale and haggard faces of thousands of those patriot souls faded and wasted in torturing slowness in dungeons of rayless gloom. Or their emaciated and rheumatic frames toiled in speechless agony amid the horrors of Siberia’s mines.
In this land they would have been recognized as aspiring natures, spreading their wings for a nobler flight, seeking a higher and grander life. The smile of beauty would have urged them on. Hands innumerable would have given them a cordial and encouraging grasp. But in the land they had sought to benefit and failed, they suffered in silence and darkness, and died forgotten or cursed.
My heart and my brain ached with memory, and the thought again occurred: “Could the Preceptress ever have known such a race of people?”
I looked at her fair, calm brow, where not a wrinkle marred the serene expression of intellect, although I had been told that more than a hundred years had touched with increasing wisdom its broad surface. The smile that dwelt in her eyes, like the mystic sprite in the fountain, had not a suspicion of sadness in them. A nature so lofty as hers, where every feeling had a generous and noble existence and aim, could not have known without anguish the race of people I knew so well. Their sorrows would have tinged her life with a continual sadness.
The words of Wauna had awakened a new thought. I knew that their mental life was far above mine, and that in all the relations of life, both business and social, they exhibited a refinement never attained by my people. I had supposed these qualities to be an endowment of nature, and not a development sought and labored for by themselves. But my conversation with Wauna had given me a different impression, and the thought of a future for my own country took possession of me.
“Could it ever emerge from its horrors, and rise through gradual but earnest endeavor to such perfection? Could a higher civilization crowd its sufferings out of existence and, in time, memory?”
I had never thought of my country having a claim upon me other than what I owed to my relatives and society. But in Mizora, where the very atmosphere seemed to feed one’s brain with grander and nobler ideas of life and humanity, my nature had drank the inspiration of good deeds and impulses, and had given the desire to work for something beside myself and my own kindred. I resolved that if I should ever again behold my native country, I would seek the good of all its people along with that of my nearest and dearest of kin. But how to do it was a matter I could not arrange. I felt reluctant to ask either Wauna or her mother. The guileless frankness of Wauna’s nature was an impassable barrier to the confidence of crimes and wretchedness. One glance of horror from her dark, sweet eyes, would have chilled me into painful silence and sorrowful regret.
The mystery that had ever surrounded these lovely and noble blonde women had driven me into an unnatural reserve in regard to my own people and country. I had always perceived the utter absence of my allusion to the masculine gender, and conceiving that it must be occasioned by some more than ordinary circumstances, I refrained from intruding my curiosity.
That the singular absence of men was connected with nothing criminal or ignoble on their part I felt certain; but that it was associated with something weird and mysterious I had now become convinced. My efforts to discover their whereabouts had been earnest and untiring. I had visited a number of their large cities, and had enjoyed the hospitality of many private homes. I had examined every nook and corner of private and public buildings, (for in Mizora nothing ever has locks) and in no place had I ever discovered a trace or suggestion of man.
Women and girls were everywhere. Their fair faces and golden heads greeted me in every town and city. Sometimes a pair of unusually dark blue eyes, like the color of a velvet-leaved pansy, looked out from an exquisitely tinted face framed in flossy golden hair, startling me with its unnatural loveliness, and then I would wonder anew:
“Why is such a paradise for man so entirely devoid of him?”
I even endeavored to discover from the conversation of young girls some allusion to the male sex. But listen as attentively and discreetly as I could, not one allusion did I hear made to the mysteriously absent beings. I was astonished that young girls, with cheeks like the downy bloom of a ripe peach, should chatter and laugh merrily over every conversational topic but that of the lords of society. The older and the wiser among women might acquire a depreciating idea of their worth, but innocent and inexperienced girlhood was apt to surround that name with a halo of romance and fancied nobility that the reality did not always possess. What, then, was my amazement to find them indifferent and wholly neglectful of that (to me) very important class of beings.
Conjecture at last exhausted itself, and curiosity became indifferent. Mizora, as a nation, or an individual representative, was incapable of dishonor. Whatever their secret I should make no farther effort to discover it. Their hospitality had been generous and unreserved. Their influence upon my character — morally — had been an incalculable benefit. I had enjoyed being among them. The rhythm of happiness that swept like a strain of sweet music through all their daily life, touched a chord in my own nature that responded.
And when I contrasted the prosperity of Mizora — a prosperity that reached every citizen in its vast territory — with the varied phases of life that are found in my own land, it urged me to inquire if there could be hope for such happiness within its borders.
To the Preceptress, whose sympathies I knew were broad as the lap of nature, I at last went with my desire and perplexities. A sketch of my country’s condition was the inevitable prelude. I gave it without once alluding to the presence of Man. She listened quietly and attentively. Her own land lay like a charming picture before her. I spoke of its peaceful happiness, its perfected refinement, its universal wealth, and paramount to all its other blessings, its complete ignorance of social ills. With them, love did not confine itself to families, but encircled the Nation in one embrace. How dismal, in contrast, was the land that had given me birth.
“But one eminent distinction exists among us as a people,” I added in conclusion. “We are not all of one race.”
I paused and looked at the Preceptress. She appeared lost in reverie. Her expression was one of solicitude and approached nearer to actual pain than anything I had ever noticed upon it before. She looked up and caught my eye regarding her. Then she quietly asked:
“Are there men in your country?”
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