I expressed my astonishment at her revelation. Their social life existed under conditions that were incredible to me. Would it be an impertinence to ask for an explanation that I might comprehend? Or was it really the one secret they possessed and guarded from discovery, a mystery that must forever surround them with a halo of doubt, the suggestion of uncanny power? I spoke as deprecatingly as I could. The Preceptress turned upon me a calm but penetrating gaze.
“Have we impressed you as a mysterious people?” she asked.
“Very, very much!” I exclaimed. “I have at times been oppressed by it.”
“You never mentioned it,” she said, kindly.
“I could not find an opportunity to,” I said.
“It is the custom in Mizora, as you have no doubt observed, never to make domestic affairs a topic of conversation outside of the family, the only ones who would be interested in them; and this refinement has kept you from the solution of our social system. I have no hesitancy in gratifying your wish to comprehend it. The best way to do it is to let history lead up to it, if you have the patience to listen.”
I assured her that I was anxious to hear all she chose to tell. She then resumed:
“The prosperity of the country rapidly increased under the rule of the female Presidents. The majority of them were in favor of a high state of morality, and they enforced it by law and practice. The arts and sciences were liberally encouraged and made rapid advancement. Colleges and schools flourished vigorously, and every branch of education was now open to women.
“During the Republic of men, the government had founded and sustained a military and naval academy, where a limited number of the youth of the country were educated at government expense. The female government re-organized the institutions, substituting the youth of their own sex. They also founded an academy of science, which was supplied with every facility for investigation and progress. None but those having a marked predilection for scientific research could obtain admission, and then it was accorded to demonstrated ability only. This drew to the college the best female talent in the country. The number of applicants was not limited.
“Science had hitherto been, save by a very few, an untrodden field to women, but the encouragement and rare facilities offered soon revealed latent talent that developed rapidly. Scarcely half a century had elapsed before the pupils of the college had effected by their discoveries some remarkable changes in living, especially in the prevention and cure of diseases.
“However prosperous they might become, they could not dwell in political security with a portion of the citizens disfranchised. The men were resolved to secure their former power. Intrigues and plots against the government were constantly in force among them. In order to avert another civil war, it was finally decided to amend the constitution, and give them an equal share in the ballot. They had no sooner obtained that than the old practices of the former Republic were resorted to to secure their supremacy in government affairs. The women looked forward to their former subjugation as only a matter of time, and bitterly regretted their inability to prevent it. But at the crisis, a prominent scientist proposed to let the race die out. Science had revealed the Secret of Life.”
She ceased speaking, as though I fully understood her.
“I am more bewildered than ever,” I exclaimed. “I cannot comprehend you.”
“Come with me,” she said.
I followed her into the Chemist’s Laboratory. She bade me look into a microscope that she designated, and tell her what I saw.
“An exquisitely minute cell in violent motion,” I answered.
“Daughter,” she said, solemnly, “you are now looking upon the germ of all Life, be it animal or vegetable, a flower or a human being, it has that one common beginning. We have advanced far enough in Science to control its development. Know that the MOTHER is the only important part of all life. In the lowest organisms no other sex is apparent.”
I sat down and looked at my companion in a frame of mind not easily described. There was an intellectual grandeur in her look and mien that was impressive. Truth sat, like a coronet, upon her brow. The revelation I had so longed for, I now almost regretted. It separated me so far from these beautiful, companionable beings.
“Science has instructed you how to supercede Nature,” I said, finally.
“By no means. It has only taught us how to make her obey us. We cannot create Life. We cannot develop it. But we can control Nature’s processes of development as we will. Can you deprecate such a power? Would not your own land be happier without idiots, without lunatics, without deformity and disease?”
“You will give me little hope of any radical change in my own lifetime when I inform you that deformity, if extraordinary, becomes a source of revenue to its possessor.”
“All reforms are of slow growth,” she said. “The moral life is the highest development of Nature. It is evolved by the same slow processes, and like the lower life, its succeeding forms are always higher ones. Its ultimate perfection will be mind, where all happiness shall dwell, where pleasure shall find fruition, and desire its ecstasy.
“It is the duty of every generation to prepare the way for a higher development of the next, as we see demonstrated by Nature in the fossilized remains of long extinct animal life, a preparatory condition for a higher form in the next evolution. If you do not enjoy the fruit of your labor in your own lifetime, the generation that follows you will be the happier for it. Be not so selfish as to think only of your own narrow span of life.”
“By what means have you reached so grand a development?” I asked.
“By the careful study of, and adherence to, Nature’s laws. It was long years — I should say centuries — before the influence of the coarser nature of men was eliminated from the present race.
“We devote the most careful attention to the Mothers of our race. No retarding mental or moral influences are ever permitted to reach her. On the contrary, the most agreeable contacts with nature, all that can cheer and ennoble in art or music surround her. She is an object of interest and tenderness to all who meet her. Guarded from unwholesome agitation, furnished with nourishing and proper diet — both mental and physical — the child of a Mizora mother is always an improvement upon herself. With us, childhood has no sorrows. We believe, and the present condition of our race proves, that a being environed from its birth with none but elevating influences, will grow up amiable and intelligent though inheriting unfavorable tendencies.
“On this principle we have ennobled our race and discovered the means of prolonging life and youthful loveliness far beyond the limits known by our ancestors.
“Temptation and necessity will often degrade a nature naturally inclined and desirous to be noble. We early recognized this fact, and that a nature once debased by crime would transmit it to posterity. For this reason we never permitted a convict to have posterity.”
“But how have you become so beautiful?” I asked. “For, in all my journeys, I have not met an uncomely face or form. On the contrary, all the Mizora women have perfect bodies and lovely features.”
“We follow the gentle guidance of our mother, Nature. Good air and judicious exercise for generations and generations before us have helped. Our ancestors knew the influence of art, sculpture, painting and music, which they were trained to appreciate.”
“But has not nature been a little generous to you?” I inquired.
“Not more so than she will be to any people who follow her laws. When you first came here you had an idea that you could improve nature by crowding your lungs and digestive organs into a smaller space than she, the maker of them, intended them to occupy.
“If you construct an engine, and then cram it into a box so narrow and tight that it cannot move, and then crowd on the motive power, what would you expect?
“Beautiful as you think my people, and as they really are, yet, by disregarding nature’s laws, or trying to thwart her intentions, in a few generations to come, perhaps even in the next, we could have coarse features and complexions, stoop shoulders and deformity.
“It has required patience, observation and care on the part of our ancestors to secure to us the priceless heritage of health and perfect bodies. Your people can acquire them by the same means.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:11