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   Chapter 8 THE CRATER LAND.

A Trip to Venus: A Novel By John Munro Characters: 34534

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


A man of dignified and venerable mien stepped from the crowd, and followed by a train of youths and maidens, each bearing a vase or a tray of fruit and flowers, came towards the car. While yet some ten or twelve paces distant he stopped, and saluted Gazen and myself by lifting his hands gracefully in the air, and bowing his head. After we had acknowledged his greeting with due respect, he addressed us, speaking fluently, and in a reverent, not to say a humble tone; but his words, being entirely strange to our ears, we could only shake our heads with a baffled smile, and reply in English that we did not understand. On this a look of doubt and wonder passed over his face, and pointing, first to the car, then to the sky, he seemed to enquire whether we had not dropped from the clouds. We nodded our assent, and the astronomer, indicating the Earth, which was now shining in the east as a beautiful green star, endeavoured to let him know by signs that we had come from there.

The countenance of our host seemed to brighten again, and, saluting us with a profound obeisance, he said a few words to the attendants, who advanced to the car, and sinking upon their knees proffered us their charming tribute.

"Good!" exclaimed Gazen, testifying his delight and manifesting his gratitude by an elaborate pantomime.

I am afraid his performance must have appeared slightly ludicrous to the Venusians, for one or two of the younger girls had some difficulty in keeping their gravity. On a hint from the Elder the young people retired to their places, leaving their offerings upon the ground.

"They don't intend to starve us at all events," muttered Gazen to me, in an undertone. "The very fragrance of these fruits entices a man to eat them; but will they agree with our stomachs? Notwithstanding my scientific curiosity, and my natural appetite, I am quite willing to let you and Carmichael try them first."

Having found the value of gestures in our intercourse, the Elder leaned his head on one hand, and pointed with the other to a large house at the upper end of the square. His meaning was plain; but as we had already made up our minds to stay in the car, at all events until we had looked about us, Gazen signified as much by energetic but indescribable actions, and further contrived to intimate that we were all thoroughly tired and worn out with our voyage.

The Senior politely took the hint, and repeating his courteous salute, withdrew from our presence, accompanied by his followers.

"I told you so!" cried Miss Carmichael, when Gazen and I re-entered the car. "They are treating us like superior beings."

"It shows their good sense," replied Gazen, and even as he spoke a strain of heavenly music rose from the assembled multitude, and gradually died away as they departed to their homes.

We could not sufficiently admire the beauty and fragrance of the flowers and fruit, or the exquisite workmanship of the vases they had brought. What struck us most was the lovely iridescence which they all displayed in different lights. The vases in particular seemed to be carved out of living opals, yet each was large enough to contain several pints of liquor. Miss Carmichael decorated the dinner-table with a selection from the trays, but although we found the fruits and beverages delicious to the taste, we prudently partook very sparingly of them.

After dinner we all went outside to enjoy the cool evening breeze, but without actually leaving the car. It was hardly dusk, only a kind of twilight or gloaming, and it did not seem to grow any darker. Yet innumerable fire-flies, bright as glow-lamps, and of every hue, were flashing like diamonds against the whispering foliage of the trees.

With the exception of an occasional group or a solitary who stopped awhile to look at the car and then passed on, the square was deserted; but the dwellings around it were lighted up, and being of a very open construction, we could see into them, and hear the voices of the inmates feasting and making merry. Needless to say that everything we observed was interesting to us, for it was all strange; but we were so much exhausted with excitement that we were fain to go to bed.

Next day the professor and I, obeying a common impulse of travellers, got up early and went forth to survey our new quarters. It was a splendid morning, the whole atmosphere steeped in sunshine, and musical with the songs of birds. The big sun was peeping over the distant wall of the crater, but we did not feel his rays uncomfortably hot. A sky of the loveliest azure was streaked with thin white clouds, drawn across it like muslin curtains, and a cooling breeze played gently upon the skin. The dewy air, so spring-like, fresh and sweet, was a positive pleasure to breathe, and we both felt the intoxication, the rapture of life, as we had never felt it since our boyhood. The grass underfoot was green as emerald, and soft as velvet; fountains were flashing in the sunshine, statues gleaming amongst the flowering trees, and birds of brilliant plumage glancing everywhere.

The square opened on the lake, and afforded us a magnificent view of the island. It was conical in shape, and the peak, no doubt, of an old volcanic vent. I should say it was at least a thousand feet in height; the sides were a veritable "hanging garden," wild and luxuriant; and the summit was crowned by a glittering mass of domes, minarets, and spires. Numbers of people, old and young, were bathing along the beach, and swimming, diving, and splashing each other in the water with innocent glee. Large birds, resembling swans, double the size of ours, and of pale blue, rose, yellow, and green, as well as white plumage, were floating in and out, and some of the children were riding on their backs. Fantastic boats, with carved and painted prows, might be seen crossing the lake in all directions, some under sail, and others with rowers, keeping stroke to the rhythm of their songs. The shores of the lake, sloping quietly to the waterside, were covered more or less thickly with the houses and gardens of the city, and far in the distance, perhaps fifty, perhaps a hundred miles away, the view was bounded by the dim and ruddy precipice of the crater wall.

Regaling our eyes on the beautiful prospect, and our lungs on the pure atmosphere, we wandered along the beach, ever and anon pausing to admire the strange forms and beautiful colouring of the shells and seaweeds, or to pick up a rare pebble, then shie it away again, little thinking that it might have been a ruby, sapphire, or topaz, worth a king's ransom on the earth. At length the way was barred by the mouth of a broad river, and after a refreshing plunge in the lake, we returned home to breakfast.

During our absence Carmichael had been visited by our venerable host of the evening, whose name was Dinus, and a young man called Otāré, who turned out to be his son. They had brought a fresh supply of dainties, and what was still more important, some pictorial dictionaries and drawings which would enable us to learn their language. As the structure of it was simple, and the vocabulary not very copious, and as we also enjoyed the tuition of the young man, who was devoted to our service, and conducted us in most of our walks abroad, at the end of a fortnight we could maintain a conversation with tolerable fluency.

In the meanwhile, and afterwards, we learned a good deal about the country, and the manners and customs of its inhabitants. Womla, or Woom-la, which means the "bowl" or hollow-land, is evidently the crater of an extinct volcano of enormous dimensions, such as are believed to exist upon the moon. It belongs to an archipelago of similar islands, which are widely scattered over a vast ocean in this part of Venus, but is, we were told, far distant from the nearest of them. The climate may be described as a perpetual spring and summer, with a sky nearly always serene, and of a beautiful azure blue, veiled with soft and fleecy clouds.

Thanks to the lofty walls of the crater, which penetrate the clouds and condense their moisture, the land is watered with many streams. These flow into the central lake, which discharges into the surrounding ocean by a rift or chasm in the mountain side. Moreover, there are frequent showers, and heavy dews by night, to refresh the surface of the ground. Thunderstorms occur on the tops of the mountain and in the open sea; but very seldom within the enchanted girdle of the crater. The air is remarkably pure, sweet, and exhilarating, owing doubtless to the high percentage of oxygen it contains, and the absence of foreign matter, such as microbes, dust, and obnoxious fumes. In fact, we all felt a distinct improvement in our health and spirits, a kind of mental intoxication which was really more than a rejuvenescence. Nor was the heat very trying, even in the middle of the day, because although the sun was twice as large as on the earth, he did not rise far above the horizon, and cooling breezes blew from the chilled summit of the cliffs. The vegetation seems to go on budding, flowering, and fruiting perpetually, as in the Elysian Fields of Homer, where

"Joys ever young, unmixed with pain or fear,

Fill the wide circle of the eternal year:

Stern winter smiles on that auspicious clime

The fields are florid with unfading prime;

From the bleak Pole no winds inclement blow,

Mould the round hail, or flake the fleecy snow;

But from the breezy deep the blessèd inhale,

The fragrant murmurs of the western gale."

The mysterious behaviour of the sun was a great puzzle to our astronomer. I have said that he rose very little above the horizon, or in other words the lip of the crater, as might be expected from our high southern latitude; but we soon found that he always rose and sank at the same place. In the morning he peeped above the cliffs, and in the evening he dipped again behind them, leaving a twilight or gloaming (I can scarcely call it dusk), which continued throughout the night. From his fixity in azimuth, Gazen concluded that Schiaparelli, the famous Italian observer, was right in supposing that Venus takes as long to turn about her own axis as she does to go round the sun, and that as a consequence she always presents the same side to her luminary. All that we heard from the natives tended to confirm this view. They told us that far away to the east and west of Womla there was a desert land, covered with snow and ice, on which the sun never shone. We also gathered that the sun rises to a greater and lesser height above the cliffs alternately, thus producing a succession of warmer and cooler seasons; a fact which agrees with Schiaparelli's observation that the axis of the planet sways to and from the sun. Gazen was intensely delighted at this discovery, partly for its own sake, but mainly, I think, because it would afford him an opportunity of crushing the celebrated Pettifer Possil, his professional antagonist, who, it seems, is bitterly opposed to the doctrines of Schiaparelli. But why did the sun rise and set every fifteen hours or thereabout, and so make what I have called a "day" and "night"? Why did he not continue in the same spot, except for the slow change caused by the nutation or nodding of Venus? Gazen was much perplexed over this anomaly, and sought an explanation of it in the refraction of the atmosphere above the cliffs producing an apparent but not a real motion of the orb.

The territory of Womla may be divided into three zones, namely, a central plain under cultivation, a belt of undulating hills, kept as a park or pleasaunce, and a magnificent, nay, a sublime wilderness, next to the crater wall.

The natural wealth of the country is very great. Some of its productions resemble and others are different from those of the earth. We saw gold, silver, copper, tin, and iron, as well as metals which were quite new to us. Some of these had a purple, blue, or green colour, and emitted a most agreeable fragrance. There are granites and porphyries, marbles and petrifactions of the most exquisite grain or tints. Precious stones like the diamond, ruby, sapphire, topaz, emerald, garnet, opal, turquoise, and others familiar or unfamiliar to us, fairly abound, and can be picked up on the shores of the lake. I presume that many of them have been formed on a large scale in chasms of the rock by the volcanic fumes of the crater.

What struck us most of all, however, was the prevalence of phosphorescent minerals which absorbed the sunlight by day, and glimmered feebly in the dusk. Professor Gazen seems to think that the presence of snow and clouds, together with these phosphorescent bodies, may help to account for the mysterious luminosity on the dark side of Venus.

The vegetation is wonderfully rich, varied, and luxuriant. As a rule, the foliage is thick and glossy; but while it is green to blackness in some of the trees, it is parti-coloured or iridescent in others. Many of the flowers, too, are iridescent, or change their hues from hour to hour. The beauty and profusion of the flowers is beyond conception, and some of the loveliest grow on what I should take for palms, ferns, canes, and grasses. A distant forest or woodland rivals the splendid plumage of some tropical bird. We heard of "singing flowers," including a water-lily which bursts open with a musical note, and of many plants which are sensitive to heat as well as touch, and if Gazen be correct, to electricity and magnetism. We saw one in a house which was said to require a change of scene from time to time else it would languish and die.

The borders of the lakes and ponds teemed with corals, delicate seaweeds, and lovely shells. Innumerable fishes of gay and brilliant hues darted and burned in the water like broken rainbows.

Reptiles are not very common, at least, in the cultivated zone; but we saw a few snakes, tortoises, and lizards, all brightly and harmoniously marked. One of the snakes was phosphorescent, and one of the lizards could sit up like a dog, or fly in the air like a swallow. The variety and beauty of the birds, as well as the charm of their song, exceed all description. Most of them have iridescent feathers, several are wingless, and one at least has teeth. The insects are a match for the birds in point of beauty, if not also in size and musical qualities. Many of them are luminescent, and omit steady or flashing lights of every tint all through the night.

There are few large quadrupeds in the country, and so far as we could learn none of these are predaceous. We saw an animal resembling a deer on one hand, and a tapir on the other, as well as a kind of toed horse or hipparion, and a number of domestic pets all strange to us.

The people, according to their tradition, came originally from a temperate land far across the ocean to the south-east, which is now a dark and frozen desert. They are a remarkably fine race, probably of mixed descent, for they found Womla inhabited, and their complexions vary from a dazzling blonde to an olive-green brunette. They are nearly all very handsome, both in face and figure, and I should say that many of them more than realise our ideals of beauty. As a rule, the countenances of the men are open, frank, and noble; those of the women are sweet, smiling, and serene. Free of care and trouble, or unaffected by it, mere existence is a pleasure to them, and not a few appear to live in a kind of rapture, such as I have seen in the eyes of a young artist on the earth while regarding a beautiful woman or a glorious landscape. Their attitudes and movements are full of dignity and grace. In fact, during my walks abroad, I frequently found myself admiring their natural groups, and fancying myself in ancient Greece, as depicted by our modern painters. Their style of beauty is not unlike that of the old Hellenes, but I doubt whether the delicacy and bloom of their skins has ever been matched on our planet except, perhaps, in a few favoured persons.

From some experiments made by Gazen, it would appear that while their senses of sight and touch are keener, their senses of hearing and also of heat are rather blunter than ours.

Partly owing to the genial climate, their love of beauty, and their easy existence, their dress is of a simple and graceful order. Many of their light robes and shining veils are woven from silky fibres which grow on the trees, and tinged with beautiful dyes. Bright, witty, and ingenious, as well as guileless, chaste, and happy, I can only compare them to grown-up children-but the children of a god-like race. Thanks to the purity of their blood, and the gentleness of their dispositions, together with their favourable circumstances, they live almost exempt from disease, or pain, or crime, and finally die in peace at the good old age of a hundred or a hundred and fifty years.

Their voices are so pleasing, and their language is so melodious that I enjoyed hearing their talk before I understood a word of it. Moreover, their delightful manners evince a rare delicacy of sentiment and appreciation of the beautiful in life. We foreigners must have been objects of the liveliest curiosity to them, yet

they never showed it in their conduct; they never stared at us, or stopped to enquire about us, but courteously saluted us wherever we went, and left us to make ourselves at home. We never saw an ugly or unbecoming gesture, and we never heard a rude, unmannerly word all the time we stayed in Womla.

Some of their public buildings are magnificent; but most of their private houses are pretty one-storied cottages, each more or less isolated in a big garden, and beyond earshot of the rest. They are elegant, not to say fanciful constructions of stone and timber, generally of an oval shape, or at least with rounded outlines; but sometimes rambling, and varying much in detail. Everyone seems to follow his particular bent and taste in the fashion of his home. Many of them have balconies or verandahs, and also terraces on the roof, where the inmates can sit and enjoy the surrounding view. They are doorless, and the outer walls are usually open so that one may see inside; but in stormy weather they are closed by panels of wood, and a translucent mineral resembling glass. They are divided into rooms by mats and curtains, or partitions and screens of wood, which are sometimes decorated with paintings of inimitable beauty. The ceilings are usually of carved wood, and the floors inlaid with marbles, corals, and the richer stones. There are no stuffy carpets on the floors, or hangings on the walls to collect the dust. The light easy furniture is for the most part made of precious or fragrant woods of divers colours-red, black, yellow, blue, white, and green. At night the rooms are softly and agreeably lighted by phosphorescent tablets, or lamps of glow-worms and fire-flies in crystal vases.

The dishes and utensils not only serve but adorn the home. Most of the implements and fittings are made of coloured metals or alloys. Many of the cups and vessels are beautifully cut from shells and diamonds, rubies, or other precious stones. Statuary, manuscripts, and musical instruments, bespeak their taste and genius for the fine arts.

Their love of Nature is also shown in their gardens and pleasure grounds, which are stocked with the rarest flowers, fruits, and pet animals; such as bright fishes, luminous frogs and moths, singing birds, and so forth, none of which are captives in the strict sense of the word.

Members of one family live under the same roof, or at all events within the same ground. The father is head of the household, and the highest in authority. The mother is next, and the children follow in the order of their age. They hold that the proper place for the woman is between the man and the child, and that her nature, which partakes of both, fits her for it. On the rare occasions when authority needs to be exercised it is promptly obeyed. All the members of the family mix freely together in mutual confidence and love, with reverence, but not fear. They are very clean and dainty in their habits. To every house, either in an open court or in the garden, there is a bathing pond of running water, with a fountain playing in the middle, where they can bathe at any time without going to the lake.

They deem it not only gross to eat flesh or fish, but also barbarous, nay cruel, to enjoy and sustain their own lives through the suffering and death of other creatures. This feeling, or prejudice as some would call it, extends even to eggs. They live chiefly on fruits, nuts, edible flowers, grain, herbs, gums, and roots, which are in great profusion. I did not see any alcoholic, or at least intoxicating beverages amongst them. Their drink is water, either pure or else from mineral springs, and the delectable juices of certain fruits and plants. They eat together, chatting merrily the while, and afterwards recline on couches listening to some tale, or song, or piece of music, but taking care not to fall asleep, as they believe it is injurious.

They rejoice when a child is born, and cherish it as the most holy gift. For the first eight or ten years of its life it is left as much as possible to the teaching of Nature, care being taken to guard it from serious harm. It is allowed to run wild about the gardens and fields, developing its bodily powers in play, and gaining a practical experience of the most elementary facts. After that it goes to school, at first for a short time, then, as it becomes used to the confinement and study, for a longer and longer period each day. Their end in education is to produce noble men and women; that is to say, physical, moral, and intellectual beauty by assisting the natural growth. They hold it a sin to falsify or distort the mind, as well as the soul or body of a child. They seem to be as careful to cultivate the genius and temperament as the heart and conscience. Their object is to train and form the pupil according to the intention of Nature without forcing him beyond his strength, or into an artificial mould. Studious to preserve the harmony and unity of mind, soul, and body, they never foster one to the detriment of the others, but seek to develop the whole person.

It is not so much words as things, not so much facts, dates, and figures, as principles, ideas, and sentiments, which they endeavour to teach. The scholar is made familiar with what he is told by observation and experience whenever it is possible, for that is how Nature teaches. Precept, they say, is good, and example is better; but an ideal of perfection is best of all.

At first more attention is paid to the cultivation of the body than the mind. Not only are the boys and girls trained in open-air gymnasia, or contend in games, but they also work in the gardens, and during the holidays are sent into the wilderness under the guidance of their elders, especially their elder brothers, to rough it there in primitive freedom.

The first lessons of the pupil are very short and simple, but as his mind ripens they become longer and more difficult. The education of the soul precedes that of the mind. They wish to make their children good before they make them clever; and good by the feelings of the heart rather than the instruction of the head. Every care is taken to refine and strengthen the sentiments and instincts, the conscience, good sense and taste, as well as the affections, filial piety, friendship, and the love of Nature. Spiritual and moral ideals are inculcated by means of innocent and simple tales or narratives. Children are taught to obey the authority placed over them, or in their own breast, and to sacrifice all to their duty. The conduct of the teacher must be irreproachable, because he is a model to them; but while they look upon him as their friend and guide, he leaves them free to choose their own companions and amuse themselves in their own way.

In the cultivation of the mind they give the first and foremost place to the imagination. The reason, they say, is mechanical, and cannot rise above the known; that is to say, the real; whereas the imagination is creative and attains to the unknown, the ideal. Its highest work is the creation of beauty. Because it is unruly, and precarious in its action, however, the imagination requires the most careful guidance, and the assistance of the reason. Students are taught to idealise and invent, as well as to analyse and reason, but without disturbing the equilibrium of the faculties by acquiring a pronounced habit of one or the other. It is better, they say, to be reasonable than a reasoner; to be imaginative than a dreamer; and to have discernment or insight than mere knowledge.

The most important study of all is the art of living, or in other words the art of leading a simple, noble, and beautiful life. It finishes their education, and consists in the reduction of their highest precepts and ideals to practice. The reasons for every lesson are given so far as they are known, and they are always founded in the nature of things. A pupil is taught to act in a particular way, not in the hope of a reward or in the fear of punishment, but because it would be contrary to the laws of matter and spirit to act otherwise; in short, because it is right. They hold that life is its own end as well as its own reward. According as it is good or bad, so it achieves or fails of its purpose, and is happy or miserable. We are happy by our emotions or feelings, and through these by our actions. Happiness comes from goodness, but is not perfect without health, beauty, and fitness: hence the pupils are taught self-regulation, practical hygiene, and a graceful manner. Indeed, their passion for beauty is such that they regard nothing as perfect until it is beautiful.

As beauty of mind, soul, and body, is their aim, a beautiful person is held in the highest honour. Prizes are offered for beauty, and statues are erected to the winners. Many are called after some particular trait; for example, "Timāré of the lovely toes," and a pretty eyelash is a title to public fame. Beauty they say is twice blessed, since it pleases the possessor as well as others.

The sense of existence, apart from what they do or gain, is their chief happiness. Their "ealo," or the height of felicity, is a passive rather than an active state. It is (if I am not mistaken) a kind of serene rapture or tranquil ecstasy of the soul, which is born doubtless from a perfect harmony between the person and his environment. In it, they say, the illusion of the world is complete, and life is another name for music and love.

As far as I could learn, this condition, though independent of sexual love, is enhanced by it. On the one hand it is spoiled by too much thought, and on the other by too much passion. They cherish it as they cherish all the natural illusions (which are sacred in their eyes), but being a state of repose it is transient, and only to be enjoyed from time to time.

Since an unfit employment is a mistake, and a source of unhappiness, everyone is free to choose the work that suits his nature. Parents and teachers only help him to discover himself. One is called to his work by a love for it, and the pleasure he takes in doing it easily and well. If his bent is vague or tardy, he is allowed to change, and feel his way to it by trial. Since the work or vocation is not a means of living, there is no compulsion in it. Their aim is to do right in carrying out the true intentions of Nature.

For the same reason everyone is free to choose the partner of his life. They are monogamists, and believe that nothing can justify marriage but love on both sides. The rite is very simple, and consists in the elected pair sipping from the same dish of sacred water. It is called "drinking of the cup."

Most of them die gradually of old age, and they do not seem to share our fear and horror of death, but to regard it with a sad and pleasing melancholy. The body is reduced to ashes on a pyre of fragrant wood, and the songs they sing around it only breathe a tender regret for their loss, mingled with a joyful hope of meeting again. They neither preserve the dust as a memento, nor wear any kind of mourning; but they cherish the memory of the absent in their hearts.

They believe that labour like virtue is a necessity, and its own reward; but it is moderate labour of the right sort, which is a blessing and not a curse. They all seem happy at their work, which is often cheered by music, songs, or tales. Everyone enjoys his task, and tries to attain the perfection of skill and grace. Those who excel are honoured, and sometimes commemorated with statues.

They seem artists in all, and above all. They hold that every beautiful thing has a use, and they never make a useful thing without beauty. Apart from portraits, their pictures and statuary are mostly historical, or else ideal representations. Many of these are typical of life; for example, a boy at play, a pair of lovers, a mother weaning her child, and the parting of friends. The ideal of art is to them not merely a show to please the eye for a while, but a model to be realised in their own lives; and I daresay it has helped to make them such a fine people. They are clever architects and gardeners. Indeed, the whole country may be described as a vast ornamental garden. In the middle zone, which borders on the wilderness, their wonderful art of beautifying natural scenery is at its best. They have a good many simple machines and implements, but I should not call them a scientific people. Gazen, who enquired into the matter, was told by Otāré, himself an artist, by the way, that science in their opinion had a tendency to destroy the illusion of Nature and impair the finer sentiments and spontaneity of the soul; hence they left the systematic study of it to the few who possess a decided bias for it. As a rule they are content to admire.

They have many books of various kinds, either printed or finely written and illustrated by hand. I should say their favourite reading was history and travels, or else poetry and fiction; anything having a human interest, more especially of a pathetic order. Everyone is taught to read aloud, and if he possess the voice and talent, to recite. Poets are highly esteemed, and not only read their poems to the people, but also teach elocution. They have dramatic performances on certain days, and seem to prefer tragedies or affecting plays, perhaps because these awaken feelings which their happy lot in general permits to sleep. They are very fond of music, and can all sing or play on some musical instrument. Their favourite melodies are mostly in a minor key, and they dislike noisy music; indeed, noise of any sort. Gesture and the dance are fine arts, and they can imitate almost any action without words. A favourite amusement is to gather in the dusk of the evening, crowned with flowers, or wearing fanciful dresses, and sing or dance together by the light of the fire-flies.

The inhabitants of the whole island live as one happy family. Recognising their kinship by intermarriage, and their isolation in the world, they never forget that the good or ill of a part is the good or ill of the whole, and their object is to secure the happiness of one and all. It is considered right to help another in trouble before thinking of oneself.

When Gazen explained the doctrine of "the struggle for existence ending in the survival of the fittest" to Otāré, he replied that it was an excellent principle for snakes; but he considered it beneath the dignity and wisdom of men to struggle for a life which could be maintained by the labour of love, and ought to be devoted to rational or spiritual enjoyment.

Thanks to the helpful spirit which animates them, and the bounty of Nature, nobody is ever in want. As a rule, the garden around each home provides for the family, and any surplus goes to the public stores, or rather free tables, where anyone takes what he may require.

As I have already hinted, personal merit of every kind is honoured amongst them.

Dinus, the gentleman who received us on the night of our arrival, is the chief man or head of the community, and was appointed to the post for his wisdom, character, and age. He is assisted in the government by a council of a hundred men, and there are district officers in various parts of the country.

They have no laws, or at all events their old laws have become a dead letter. Custom and public opinion take their place. Crime is practically unknown amongst them, and when a misdemeanour is committed the culprit is in general sufficiently punished by his own shame and remorse. However, they have certain humane penalties, such as fines or restitution of stolen goods; but they never resort to violence or take life, and only in extreme cases of depravity and madness do they infringe on the liberty of an individual.

Quarrels and sickness of mind or body are almost unknown amongst them. The care and cure of the person is a portion of the art of life as it is taught in the schools.

An account of this remarkable people would not be complete without some reference to their religion; but owing to their reticence on sacred subjects, and the shortness of our visit, I was unable to learn much about it. They believe, however, in a Supreme Being, whom they only name by epithets such as "The Giver" or "The Divine Artist." They also believe in the immortality of the soul. One of their proverbs, "Life is good, and good is life," implies that goodness means life, and badness death. They hold that every thought, word, and deed, is by the nature of things its own reward or punishment, here or hereafter. Their ideals of childlike innocence, and the reign of love, seem to be essentially Christian. Their solicitude and kindness extends to all that lives and suffers, and they regard the world around them as a divine work which they are to reverence and perfect.

Our visit fell during a great religious festival and holiday, which they keep once a year, and by the courtesy of Dinus, or his son, we witnessed many of their sacred concerts, dances, games, and other celebrations. Of these, however, I shall only describe the principal ceremony, which is called "Plucking the Flower," and appears to symbolise the passage of the soul into a higher life.

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