The government was accustomed to keep systematic track of the more prominent Xioqeni to whom it gave free tuition but the supervision was never irksome, indeed, was scarcely felt to be maintained by those under this paternal surveillance. Those who, besides being bright and studious, were approaching the last years of the collegiate sep-term were admitted to those sessions of the Council of Ninety not of an executive or secret character. There were some especial favorites who, being
bound by strict vows, were not excluded from any meetings of the. councilors. Not one of the many thousand students but esteemed even the lesser privilege most valuable, for beside the honor conferred the lessons in statecraft were of incalculable advantage.
In the latter half of my fourth year of attendance there came to me one Prince Menax, who desired to know whether I would accept the position of Secretary of Records, a position which gave opportunity to become familiar with every detail of Poseid government. He spoke:
"It is a very important trust indeed, but one which I am happy to offer thee, because that thou art capable of filling it to the satisfaction of the council. It will bring thee into close contact with the Rai and all the princes; also it will clothe thee with some degree of authority. What sayest thou?"
"Prince Menax, I am aware that, this is a very great honor. But may I ask why thou hast given so great opportunity to one who supposes himself almost a stranger to thee?"
"Because, Zailm Numinos, I have thought thee worthy; now do I give thee all chance to prove it true. Thou art no stranger to me, if I be much of one to thee; I feel a trust in thee; wilt thou not prove it well founded?"
"Then hold up thy right hand to the blazing Incal, and by that sublime symbol declare that in no case wilt thou reveal aught that taketh place in secret session; nothing of the doings in the Hall of Laws."
This vow I took and, in taking it, was bound by an oath inviolable in the eyes of all Poseidi. Thus I became one of the seven non-official, unenfranchised secretaries, who were entrusted with the writing of special reports and the care of many important state documents. Surely this was no small distinction to confer on one out of nine thousand Xioqeni and a man, as yet, unenfranchised in a nation of three hundred million people. If, in some sort, I owed it to merit, yet I was not more worthy than a hundred other of my fellow-students.
It was due fully as much to personal popularity with the powers that were, a popularity, however, which had not been mine had I not in all things shown the same solid determination which had governed my actions on the lone pitach of Rhok, the great mountain.
Prince Menax continued, saying:
"I would have thee attend at my palace this night, it being convenient, as I have somewhat to say unto thee. I would prove to thee thine error in believing thyself unknown to me, merely because thou art one of a large concourse of Xioqeni, each in pursuit of knowledge. I do know thee. From me, and not, as thou hast always imagined, from thy Xioql (chief preceptor) did the invitation issue to thee to attend the sessions of the councils-in-ordinary. The Astiki (princes of the realm) are always much interested in deserving Xioqeni; hence the reason of many little duties falling to thee for execution. But I will not say more at present, as I hinder thy studies. Remember then, the appointed eighth hour."
Menax held the highest ministerial office of all the Astiki, being premier and, in short, the Rai's chief adviser. My opinion of myself rose in degree when I felt that I was held in such high favor; but it rendered me full of gratitude and not self-conceit; it was true self-esteem, not vanity.
Although this was not my first visit to the palace of this prince, I could by no means claim familiarity with the interior of his astikithlon.
Winding my best green silk turban about my head and sticking in it a pin set with gray quartz, through which ran veins of green copper, thus denoting my social rank, I stepped to the naim and called for a city vailx as thou wouldst call for a cab. The vessel soon came, and though small in size was ample for the conveyance of two, or even four, passengers. Bidding my mother good night, I was soon speeding on my way, and the conductor leaving me to my own company I sat listening to the furious patter of the torrents of rain which rendered the night inclement in the extreme.
The palace of Menax was not far distant from the inner quay of the moat where that great canal nearest approached my suburban home, not indeed, ten miles away, and therefore the aerial trip consumed only about the same number of minutes ere the bottom of the vailx grated a little upon the broad marble floor of the vailx-court, announcing arrival at my destination.
A sentry came up to demand my business and, having learned it, a servitor was summoned to escort me into the presence of Menax.
A number of officers of the prince's suite were in the great apartment, sedulously engaged in doing nothing in particular, an occupation in which they were aided by several ladies resident at the palace. Prince Menax himself was lying at length on a divan drawn up in front of a grate full of pieces of some refractory substance heated by the universal force.
As the attendant conducted me before the prince and prior to my presence being announced, I had time sufficient to enable me to notice a group of officers and ladies, gathered about a woman of such exceeding grace and beauty that even her evident sorrow and distress, together with the distance of the corner where she sat, could not wholly conceal it. Her attire, her features and complexion denoted that she was other than a daughter of Poseid, inasmuch as she had not their dark eyes, dark hair and clear, but distinctly reddish complexion. She who sorrowed, and was in distress, was the reverse of all this, as nearly as my hasty glance could discern, at the distance between us.
Menax said, in salutation:
"Thou'rt welcome. 'Tis well. Be seated. The night is tempestuous, but I know thee well; having promised, thou art come."
He was silent for several moments, and gazed steadily into the glowing grate; then said: "Zailm, wilt thou attend and take part in the competition in Xio in the nine days given to the annual examination of Xioqeni?"
"I have so intended, my Astika."
"Thou art privileged to waive examination until the last year of the sep-term."
"Verily that is so in all Xioqeni?"
"I approve most emphatically of thy determination. i did after that way myself, when I was a student. I hope that thou wilt pass, that thou mayest be joyful at thy success, though it shall not shorten thy years of study. But after the examination, then what? Thou wilt have a month wherein to do as thou shalt fancy. Would that I had thirty-three days' respite from my duties!" Menax paused in meditation, and resumed:
"Zailm, hast thou any preferred plan for the occupation of that vacation?"
"None, my prince."
"None? 'Tis well. Would it please thee to do me a service, and go into a far country in fulfilling the kindness? The brief duty completed, thou mayest remain there such time as thou desirest, or go whither fancy may beckon."
I was not averse to doing as he desired, and as the duty took me to a land barely mentioned hitherto, the account of my long-ago vacation trip may be prefaced by a description of Suernis, now called Hindustan, and Necropan or Egypt, the most civilized nations not under Poseid supremacy.
When nations seek to make religion absolutely dominant in their affairs, the result is sure to be fraught with disaster. The theocratic policy of the Israelites was a case in point and, as the reader will ere long perceive, Suernis and Necropan were examples yet earlier in the history of the world. And the reason is, not that religion is a failure; the force of this record of my life must convey the truth that I think nothing is better than pure religion undefiled. No, the reason why a successful theocracy can not permanently thrive is that the attention of the promoters must be given to things spiritual to render the spiritual successful, and the things of God's Kingdom can never be the things of earth. Not, at least, until man is fully developed in his sixth or psychic principle, has become purified, by the fire of the Spirit, from all taint of animality.
Suernis and Necropan were possessed of a civilization which I now perceive to have been peer with our own, though so different. But because it possessed scarcely a salient point in common with that of Poseid, therefore the people of the latter country regarded it with a sort of scorn 1 when discussing it amongst themselves. But they were very respectful in their demeanor towards these people, for reasons that shall presently appear.
The differences in the two coeval civilizations lay in the fact, that while Poseidi tended to the cultivation of the mechanical arts, to sciences having to do with material things, and were content to accept without question the religion of their ancestors, the Suerni and Necropani paid but little heed to anything not mainly occult and of religious significance--practical. principles truly, occult laws having a bearing on materiality--but none the less were they careless of material objects except in so far as the proper maintenance of life was concerned. Their rule of life was summed in the principle of taking no heed of the life about them, but neglecting the present they strove after the future. The vital principle of Poseid was to extend her dominion over natural things. There were those who philosophized over the spirit of the times, Poseid theorists, and these drew a prognostic picture of Atlantean destiny. They pointed out the fact that our splendid physical triumphs, our arts, sciences and progress, absolutely depended on the utilization of occult power drawn from the Night-Side of nature. Then this fact was put side by side with the fact that the mysterious powers of the Suerni and Necropani owed their existence to this same occult realm, and the conclusion
was that in time we also would grow careless of material progress and devote our energy to occult studies. Their forebodings were extremely gloomy in consequence; yet, while the people listened respectfully, the failure of these prophets to suggest a remedy rendered them in some degree objects of secret contempt. Any one who shall find fault with an existing state of affairs and be confessedly unable to substitute a better, is sure to meet with public ridicule.
We, as Poseidi, knew that the mysterious nations across the waters were possessed of abilities which virtually dwarfed our attainments, such as our power to traverse the aerial or marine depths, our swift cars, our sub-surface sea ships. No, they did not boast such conveniences, but they had no need of them to carry on the course of their lives and, therefore, as we supposed, no desire for such apparatus. Perhaps our scorn was more affected than real. for in our more sober thought we acknowledged, with no small admiration, their supremacy.
What though we could speak with, and see, and hear., and be seen by those with whom we wished to communicate, and this at any distance and without, wires, but over the magnetic currents of the globe? Truly, we never knew the pangs of separation from our friends; we could attend to the demands of commerce, and transport our armies in war times with a dispatch which could pass around the world in a day; all this as long is our mechanical and electrical contrivances were at hand. But what availed all this splendid ability? Shut one of the most learned Xioqui in a dungeon, and all his knowledge would be as naught; he could not, deprived in such a way of implements or agencies, hope to see, to hear or to escape without external aid. His marvelous capabilities were, dependent upon the creation of his intellect. Not so with Suern or with Necropan. How to hinder one of these people, no Poseida knew. Shut in a dungeon, he would arise and go forth like Saul of Tarsus; he could see to any distance, and this without a naim; hear equally without a naim; go through the midst of foes, and be seen by none of them. What, then, availed our attainments if opposed to those of Suernis and Necropan? Of
what use our instruments of war even against such a people, a single man of whom, looking with eyes wherein glittered the terrible light of a will power exerted to hurl in retribution the unseen forces of the Night-Side, could cause our foemen to wither as green leaves before the hot breath of fire? Were missiles of value here? Of use, when the person at whom they were aimed could arrest them in their lightning path, and make them fall as thistle-down at his feet? What, even, was the value of explosives, more awful than nitroglycerin, dropped from vailx poised miles above in the blue vault of heaven? None whatever; for the enemy, with prescient gaze and perfect control of Night-Side forces we knew not of, could arrest the falling destroyer, and instead of suffering harm could annihilate that high ship and its living load. A burned child fears the fire, and in times past we bad sought to conquer these nations, and failed disastrously. Repulse was all they sought to effect, and successful over us in this, we had been left to go in peace.
As the years stretched into centuries, our ways likewise became those of defense only, never offensive any more, and owing to this change on the part of Poseid, friendly relations arose between the three nations.
Atla had learned at last so much of the secret as to wield magnetic forces for the destruction of its foes, and had dispensed with missiles, projectiles, and explosives as agents of defense. But the knowledge of the Suerni was still greater. Greater because our magnetic destroyers spread death only over restricted areas circumjacent to the operator; theirs operated at any desired point, however distant. Ours struck indiscriminately at all things in the fated district; at things inanimate, as well as animate; at men, whether foes or friends; at animals, at trees--all were doomed. Their agencies went out under control, and struck at the heart of the opposing force, not destroying life unnecessarily; nor even molesting any of the enemy except the generals and directors of their forces.
Of all these facts concerning the Suerni, I had long before learned. Prince Menax asked me that I oblige him by going
on a mission to that people. I had never seen the land of Suern and, having a desire to do so, felt well pleased that it was to be gratified. After consenting to do as requested, I asked the prince concerning the proposed duty, saying "If Zo Astika will tell his son what is required, he will satisfy a growing curiosity.
"Even so will I do," answered the prince. "It is desired to send unto the Rai of Suern a present in acknowledgment of certain gifts sent by him to Rai Gwauxln. While there can be but small doubt that these gifts were sent to induce our acceptance of seven score women, prisoners of war, who seem to be much in the way of Rai Ernon of Suern, nevertheless we cannot regard it as necessary to throw us a sop, and while the women will be allowed to remain, or go whither they will so that they go not where forbidden by Suern, we choose to regard the gift of gems and of gold as a gift, and make due return for it. So saith the council in quorum assembled. It seems that these women are members of certain strong forces of foolish invaders whose country lies far to the west of Suern. These people very unwisely made war upon the terrible Suerni. They had never experienced, nor beheld exerted, the wrath wherewith Incal arms His children of Suern, a wrath which moweth its foes as the scythe of the reaper layeth the grass. Now, Ernon hath a fertile country, and these ignorant savages longed to possess it, wherefore they sent unto the Rai of Suern a challenge of war. To this Ernon replied that he would not make fight; that those who sought him with spears and with bows, and came arrayed in armor, would find him, and therefor be sorrowful, inasmuch as Yeovah, as the Suerni are pleased to name Him whom we called Incal, would protect him and his people of Suern, and this without strife and bloodshed. Thereupon the barbarians returned derisive language, and declared that they would come upon his land and destroy his people with the sword. So they gathered a numerous army, even ten score thousand fighting men, and many camp followers, and these, led by a dauntless Astiki, swept east by South to devastate the realm of Suern. But wait; there is in this room
one who can doubtless tell more than I, and tell it better. "Mailzis!" addressing his body servant, "conduct hither yon fair stranger.'
Mailzis obeying, the foreign woman whom I had seen as I entered the apartment of the prince arose in an easy, graceful manner which commanded my admiration. Arranging her attire in a not at all hasty way--quite, in fact, the reverse of one obeying a superior--approached Menax. Arising deferentially, the prince said, "Lady art thou minded to recount to me that which thou hast told to my sovereign? I know that thy narration is vastly interesting."
During these remarks the stranger had looked not at the prince, but at me. Her eyes had been riveted on my face, not boldly, but intently, though obviously quite unaware of the fixity of her gaze. None the less there was such a magnetic power in it that I was compelled to look away, strangely abashed by the glance, but feeling that yet it followed me, although I saw it not. It occurred to me that the fact of the lady's reply being couched in the Poseid language was indicative of her possession of a good education.
"If, Astika," said she, "it be a pleasure to thee that I do this that thou askest, it is also one to me. It is also much of a pleasure to me to repeat it to the youth thou favorest. I would, however, that the maid, thy daughter, were not here," she added, sotto voce, with a glance of antagonism toward Anzimee, who sat near us, engaged in perusing a book, apparently, but, as I fancied, not in reality. This jealous undertone was not heard by Menax, though Anzimee heard it, and presently arose and left the apartment in. consequence. This action I regretted, and the cause of it I resented, as the Saldu quickly saw, and because of it bit her lip with vexation.
"It cannot be agreeable to stand; wilt thou seat thyself at my right hand, and thou, Zailm, change thy seat, also, and be at my left?" said Menax, reseating himself on the divan.
When this arrangement had been made, we were ready to listen to the recital. At this moment the valet, Mailzis, respectfully approached and, being asked his wish, said:
"It is the desire of thine officers and of the ladies of the astikithlon to be also present at the narration."
"Their wish is granted; bring also the naim, and place it near us, that the editor of the Records may take account, too."
Availing themselves of his permission, the petitioners were soon grouped about us, some on low seats, others, higher officers, more familiar with their prince, stretched themselves on side and elbow in front of Menax upon the rich velvet rugs on the marble floor.
106:1 It hath been ever thus; the seed sown in the Acre whereof the corners am marked by posts of which the first hath but one side, the second five sides, the third six sides, but the fourth again only five, hath ever been scorned by man. That seed groweth a tree seventeen-branched. So was Suern. In another day it would be watered by Poseid; later it must be in Poseid. Yet again this would be after it was pruned by its Sower. Then it must grow till the day's end, and become great in the next day. But greatest at the end of that day. I have spoken a riddle that whoso unfoldeth it proveth him of the Tree I have spoken, and filled with deathlessness. Hear, O Israel! Seek, O Manasseh, and Ephraim, seek! Land of the Starry Flag, open thine eyes, and thou, too, O Mother land!