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Mr. Grant Richards is republishing for me under this title "The Letters of Callicrates the Xanthian," which originally appeared as the Review of Reviews' Annual, under the title of "In Our Midst." I have received so many expressions of approval from readers of these letters that it is probable the new edition ... will receive a warm welcome. Hardly a week has passed since "In Our Midst" was first published that I have not received letters from all parts of the world expressing the sympathy, interest, and gratitude of readers for what they are pleased to describe as a most effective protest on behalf of justice for women.
— Quoted from The Review of Reviews, Volume 27, Jan-Jun 1903.
'There women are honoured, there the Gods rejoice; but where they are not honoured, there all rites are fruitless.' —Manu, iii 56
NEARLY twenty years ago I succeeded in persuading the then Assistant Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, who is now Lord Milner, High Commissioner of South Africa, to attempt to describe the impressions which England and the English made upon the Zulu Chiefs who visited this country in the train of Cetewayo. He wrote two articles, which, when published in the P.M.G., deceived some simple readers, who imagined that they were translations from the diary of a veritable Zulu. I wrote to Lord Milner a year ago asking his permission to republish the Zulu Diary under his name. But my letter must have fallen into the hands of the Censor, for I received no reply.
Shortly after writing to Lord Milner, Sir Harry Johnston's Uganda was published, and when reading his descriptions of the manners and customs of the Central African tribes, I thought it would be an interesting, not to say an amusing, exercise to try and picture what some Central African Johnston would write if he came to this country with note-book and camera to report upon England and the English.
But when I attempted to carry out this idea I was confronted by an insuperable difficulty. No known Central African savage is sufficiently intelligent to draw up any such report; even if by some strange chance he were to find himself in our midst. Nor could contemporary Central African politics furnish adequate motive for such an investigation.
I therefore drew from Unknown Africa an observer suited for my purpose, and imagined the survival of the Matriarchate in a State founded by the worshippers of Cybele some centuries before the Christian era, in order to create a motive for his mission to this country to report upon England and the English.
It was no part of my original intention to make the letters of this Envoy, whom I have named Callicrates, a plea for substituting the Subjection of Man for the existing Subjection of Woman. But if the result of the observations of the Chief Adviser of Queen Dione of Xanthia should lead the dominant sex to reflect a little upon the results of their mastery, no harm will have been done.
We male things are apt to think a great deal too much of ourselves, and it may do us good now and then to be reminded that women could hardly have made a worse mess than that in which we are now stumbling and bungling.
The Letters of Callicrates were first published as the Review of Reviews Annual for 1903. They met with so favourable a reception, that I am now republishing them in a more permanent form.
—W. T. Stead.
AFRICA has not yet given up all its wonders. Far away in the mysterious country near the Mountains of the Moon there may still be found, by those who visit it in their dreams, a fair region as yet unknown to the explorer. It is marked on none of our maps, nor, if I could, would I give any particulars that would enable the Locusts of Civilisation to descend upon its fair valleys. In this lovely realm, shut out by lofty mountains from the surrounding country, and still more safely guarded by a belt of all but impervious forest, there lives a race, fair-skinned and straight-haired, which has preserved in the seclusion of the Dark Continent the primitive faith of the forefathers of mankind. Tradition points to an emigration many, many centuries ago from Western Asia of a partly Hellenised tribe which refused to abandon that ancient faith in the natural sovereignty of Woman which is described by ethnologists as the Matriarchate. In these remote times, if Bachofen may be believed, the Ascendency of Woman was generally recognised.
This nation, which still inhabits a secluded region of Central Africa, guarded by the Mountains of the Moon, is probably the solitary survivor among Western peoples of those who in ancient days found the highest expression of their religious faith in the worship of the female principle, which they expressed by the adoration of Cybele and her sister goddesses.
When the early worship of Womanhood began to decline, and the Matriarchal Age fled before the dawning Ascendency of Man, as the pale Moon disappears before the rising of the Sun, the tribe of the Xanthians, then headed by Ilona, a Queen of exceptional energy and initiative, decided to seek in a new and uncorrupted world a place in which they could hand down to their children and their children's children the pure and undefiled worship of the Mother principle in Nature.* Hence, many centuries before the Christian Era, under her leadership, the tribe had fared forth on a great trek southward. Passing up the Nile Valley, carrying with them the sacred emblems of their faith, they found the region which their descendants still inhabit unoccupied by man. Ilona, their Prophet, Priestess, and Queen, I decided that was sufficiently far removed from the usurping influence of Man and his Deities. The history of two thousand years had more than I confirmed the wisdom of her choice, and the sagacity with which she had framed the statutes of her realm. There, guarded by primeval forests, and under the kindly shadow of protecting mountains, the tribe had kept the faith and maintained intact the Supremacy of Woman. There, Cybele, oldest of Goddesses, mother of Zeus, the symbol of the exhaustless fertility of Nature, preserved her ancient sway; her festivals were duly honoured, and her Corybantes still I performed their mystic rites. Generation after generation lived and died knowing no deity but a Goddess, in the midst of a society which I recognised that there was no principle more divine than that of Motherhood.
(* It was another branch of the same tribe which, settling in Lycia, were found many generations later by a traveller who described their polity in very eulogistic terms. 'The Lycians,' he wrote, 'are governed by women, which they find to be the easiest and most convenient form of government. Their Queen is assisted by a senate or Council of men, who give advice and propose laws; but the whole control of the executive government is in the hands of women. The sweetness and mildness of their sex prevents all tyranny, while the prudent counsel of the senators restrains them from that inconsistency with which the sex, justly or unjustly, has so often been reproached.')
So it had been until the close of the nineteenth century, and so it might have been until this day, but for a strange series of accidents which brought the Englishman, Francis Tressidder, into the Xanthian realm. The frontiers of this remote and secluded State were guarded, not merely by mountain and forest, by marsh and moor, but by the first fundamental law of the State, which decreed death to any stranger who crossed the frontier. This Draconian decree, promulgated at the very foundation of the State, had been enforced with relentless severity, and whenever a trespasser appeared, which did not happen once in a century, the intruder was offered up as a sacrifice to the offended Goddess upon whose domain he had trespassed.
Such would have been the fate of Francis Tressidder, when, in the pursuit of his calling as a medical missionary, he succeeded in crossing the malarial belt and entering Xanthia. Passing at night through the cordon of Amazons who guarded the frontier, he was discovered at sunrise some distance inland. He was at once arrested and carried as a captive to the capital.
His arrival occurred at a critical moment. The reigning Queen, Dione, a young woman, beautiful as Diana, was in imminent peril of death.
That circumstance saved Tressidder from instant execution. By the law of the Xanthians no human sacrifice could be offered to Cybele save in the presence of the reigning Queen. Hence, when Tressidder was taken amid great tumult to the Temple, the Priestess declared that he must be reprieved for a time. All that was then possible was to dedicate him as a living sacrifice to the Divine Mother. After a Corybantic dance the Priestess solemnly invoked the Goddess in language which Tressidder recognised with surprise as the ancient form of classic Greek; for the Xanthians, who had long since corrupted their native tongue, still preserved it in its pristine purity in the ritual of the Temple. Tressidder stood silent while the solemn ceremony of dedication was performed by the officiating priestesses. Nor did he speak until the multitude, led by the cymbal-clashing Corybantes, had left the Temple.
Then, mustering up his knowledge of Greek, in which when a student at Edinburgh University he had excelled, he addressed the Priestess. She started in amazement, then asked in wonder:
'Are you then a Xanthian and a Priest?'
'Neither,' said Tressidder, 'but a healer of the bodies of men, and a preacher of the good news of salvation.'
'If thou art a Healer, can'st heal our Queen?'
'I know not,' answered the missionary. 'Life and death are in the hands of a Higher Power. But lead me to her, and I will see what can be done.'
The Priestess turned away, and swept with a long train of attendants out of the Temple, leaving him alone. The fumes of the incense lifted somewhat, and he found himself within a building which seemed almost strangely familiar. Excepting for the practice of human sacrifice, he might have imagined himself in a Catholic Cathedral. Images of Goddesses which reminded him of female saints were conspicuous in various parts of the building, which was gaily decorated, full of flowers, and radiant with colour. Behind the altar there was a glorious marble statue. It was a beautiful female figure seated, with an infant at her breast. The figure seemed familiar to him, but not in connection with the Roman faith. While he was puzzling out the mystery of the statue, he connected it in some dim way with the use of Greek in the service in the Temple.
His meditations were interrupted, however, by the sudden return of the Priestess, attended by a company of guards.
Tressidder was conducted into the Royal presence.
Dione lay apparently at the point of death from malignant diphtheria. A very slight examination convinced Tressidder that her recovery was impossible unless the poison was sucked from her throat. Without a moment's hesitation he risked his life to snatch her from death. His treatment succeeded, nor did he suffer any harm. The Queen revived, and from that hour her recovery began.
Tressidder, in consideration of his having brought back the Queen to life, was permitted to nurse her back to health. He was told that the first day on which she could be carried to the Temple would be the day of his death, but he was sublimely indifferent to personal considerations. In the sick chamber he laboured at once for the health of his patient and the salvation of her soul. Dione, at first indifferent, at last began to conceive a sincere respect for this stranger who seemed so familiar with the ancient language of Xanthia, and who, being doomed to death, had given her back to life.
Her return from the Valley of the Shadow of Death to convalescence was slow, and in the long hours during which the missionary watched by her bedside she had ample opportunities of contemplating her benefactor. He was by no means an unpleasing figure of a man for a woman's eyes to rest upon. Francis Tressidder was in his prime. He was tall, alert, well knit, well poised, the very picture of manly vigour. His handsome and regular features were strongly marked with lines indicative of earnest thought and resolute determination. But it was his eyes which, more than anything else, fascinated every one upon whom they rested. They were piercing rather than full, with a far-away look in moments of repose which seemed to indicate the vision of a seer. In ordinary conversation his voice was one of limpid sweetness, but when roused it thrilled his hearers as the sound of a trumpet In all the services of the sick-room his touch was as tender and delicate as a woman's.
Although a skilled physician, he had only studied medicine in the hope that by caring for the bodies of men he would more surely gain access to their souls. He was a simple and devout Christian of the Evangelical school of the Church of England, but his Evangelicalism was strongly tinged by Quaker traditions which he inherited from his mother. A great idealist, his religion was that of the primitive Christians, passionate against all forms of idolatry, shrinking with horror from the thought of impurity, temperate without being ascetic, full of enthusiasm for the complete development of both body and mind of his converts. It was now many years since he had left his native land, and distance had, as often happens, lent enchantment to the view. In the long years during which he had been a missionary wandering through the wilds of Africa the memory of all that was faulty in his Fatherland had disappeared. To him England was like the Angel-land of the Roman Pontiff, the home of pure religion and undefiled, the august mother of free nations, the nurse of liberty, and the protector of the weak. To him his countrymen were God's Englishmen, Knights-errant of the Right, the chosen champions of the Kingdom of God. Secure in a perfect and beautiful faith in the reality of the ideal which he had evolved from his own pure and lofty imaginings, he preached with unfaltering fervour the two great articles of his creed—the Love of God as revealed to mankind in the Gospel of Christ, and the Divine Mission of England to extend that saving faith through all the nations of the earth.
As Dione recovered health and strength she felt herself irresistibly attracted to the stranger, who was every day walking, with firm and exultant step, nearer to the grave from which he had snatched her own young life. Her natural curiosity asserted itself, and she plied him with questions concerning the Good News which he proclaimed with such enthusiasm and the faraway country which he described as the land where alone the Christian faith found its perfect expression in the daily life of its people.
He seemed to her like a messenger from on High, and as the days passed she decided that at any cost his life must be spared. At last, when she was almost quite well, Dione sent for the Priestess of the Temple. She came expecting to receive instructions for the execution of Tressidder, and heard, with horror and surprise, the Queen declare:
'This stranger must live, and not die.'
'But,' stammered the Priestess, 'the eternal and immutable law of the nation decrees his death. Against that Law not even the orders of the Queen can prevail.'
Dione, unaccustomed to be thwarted, but well aware that the Priestess had spoken the truth, dissembled her wrath, and replied in dulcet tones: 'Tell me, pray, the terms of this Law.'
'It was decreed by the Wise Women of Old,' said the Priestess, 'that any stranger found within our borders must die the death. And all have died.'
'But,' said the Queen, her woman's wit coming to her aid, 'how do you know that he is a stranger? If he is a stranger let him die the death. But he is no stranger.'
'How so?' said the Priestess. 'He was born in a land far beyond the sea, he pierced the mighty forest which guards our holy land, and he was already dedicated a sacrifice before the altar of the Divine Mother!'
'It is true,' said Dione haughtily. 'It is true that he was born in a far land beyond the sea, of which he has often spoken to me—England, where live those whom he calls God's Englishmen. It is true that he has threaded the vast forest. But why did he face all the perils and surmount all obstacles instead of returning home to his own people after his long wanderings? Why, but that the instinct of the Divine Mother brought him here in time to save me, Queen Dione, from the shades of Death?'
'That avails not,' replied the Priestess sternly: 'the stranger must die.'
The Queen smiled as she replied: 'You speak the words of truth and wisdom. But tell me, what has from ancient times ever been the test which divides those who are without from the true-born children of Xanthia? Is it not,' she continued, 'to be found in their speech? Who but a true-born child of ours could use the tongue of our Mother Ilona? Few there are, save those who are trained to the solemn service in the Temple, who could speak the sacred words in which we address the Divine Mother!'
The Priestess was silent and confused.
'Yes,' added the Queen, following up her advantage, 'it is clear that he who snatched me from the Hand of Death is no stranger, but one of ourselves, unless, indeed,'—and she bowed her head in awe—'he be a messenger of the Divine Mother sent to deliver her daughter Dione from the shades of Death.'
So it came to pass that the life of Francis Tressidder was saved. The argument from language, which might have been futile if used by other lips, was unanswerable when in the mouth of the Queen. As he had saved the Queen's life, so Dione saved his, and gave him an assured position within her realm.
To Francis Tressidder this was a manifest interposition of Providence, exerted on his behalf for the conversion of a heathen nation to the pure faith of the Gospel. The miracle which he had wrought in saving the Queen's life, and his not less incredible rescue from the altar to which he had already been dedicated, filled the Xanthians with wonder, not unmixed with fear. It was said that a Messenger from the Divine Mother had been sent to renew the Revelation that had been given to the Founder of the Dynasty.
The first to experience the full force of the magnetic personality and winning eloquence of the Apostle was the Queen herself. She yielded willing submission to his impassioned pleading, and soon a great wave of conversion passed over the land.
Before Francis Tressidder had been ten years in the land he had grafted upon the ancient worship of the Divine Mother many of the essential truths of primitive Christianity. The people were predisposed to welcome the pure doctrine of the Nazarene. They accepted the Sermon on the Mount as the latest message of the Divine Mother. The Christ of whom he spoke so much they accepted as a Son of Cybele. His meekness, tenderness, humility, sympathy, and above all his proclamation of the Gospel of Love, reminded them of the fundamental principles of their ancient faith. When Francis Tressidder declared that God is Love, they looked on it as only a novel way of recalling them to the worship of Cybele, who, as the Divine Mother, had for centuries and millenniums appealed to their ancestors as the incarnation of self-sacrificing love. But when he preached the doctrine of the Divine Father, his words fell upon deaf ears. They had been born in the faith of the Divine Mother, and although they were willing to accept any fresh message which might stream to them from the great maternal heart of Love, the notion that love could be better expressed by a Father-God than a Mother-God was to them utterly incomprehensible.
Tressidder, who was a man of considerable education, trained in chemistry and mechanics, was able to introduce great improvements into the somewhat primitive arrangements of the kingdom which he hoped he would in time win for Christ To their simple minds the crude steam-engine which he was able to construct seemed a manifest sign of his Divine origin, and the telegraph wire which he laid down between the Queen's palace in the city and her rural retreat by the lake was accepted as clear proof that a messenger from Cybele had come down to dwell among men. He raised up a multitude of disciples, who went everywhere throughout the land preaching the new Faith. A great revival of religious enthusiasm spread through the land. Human sacrifices were abolished. True to the principles of his Quaker mother, he preached everywhere the coming of the Prince of Peace. At his bidding swords were literally beaten into plough-shares, and spears into pruning-hooks. The small frontier-guard of Xanthian Amazons was disbanded. It was many years since any attack had been made upon their borders by the Forest pygmies, and they gladly welcomed the news that the Reign of Love had come when nation would not lift up sword against nation, and neither man nor woman would learn war any more.
The Xanthians were on the whole a temperate people, but at certain seasons of the year they observed festivals in which indulgence in the blood of the grape was not so much a custom as a religious duty. To combat intemperance Tressidder brought to bear all the resources of his eloquence. Everywhere and always he preached and practised the duty of abstaining from all fermented liquor, with the result that while in out-of-the-way districts the old festivals were celebrated with their ancient accompaniments, in the greater part of the kingdom total abstinence became the rule.
Flushed with these triumphs, Tressidder embarked upon the still more perilous task of purifying the Temple. He did not venture to attack the image of the Divine Mother, which towered aloft behind the great altar, but all images of other Goddesses were swept away with the unsparing ruthlessness of a Puritan. In time the Temples, which had been full of light and warmth and colour, were reduced to the bare, cheerless, unadorned condition of a conventicle of the eighteenth century.
He had much more difficulty with the Corybantes, whose cymbals, horns, and trumpets were abhorrent to all his conceptions of a decorous and proper religious service. His will was as inflexible as iron upon subjects which seemed to him to involve questions of principle; and that all things should be done decently and in order was with him an eleventh commandment. The Corybantes, with their mystic dances, their clashing cymbals, and the abandonment with which they swept in the mazy dance round the altar of the Divine Mother, seemed to him an outrage upon the proprieties and at variance with the simple rites of the Christian faith.
In the end, however, he triumphed. But his triumph led to very strained relations between him and Dione, whose sensuous temperament and aesthetic taste revelled in all those elements of Divine worship which to the English Evangelical were most distasteful. She loved him, however, too much to allow this difference of opinion to deprive him of the first place in her regard. It was impossible to deny that in many cases the Corybantes were carried away with the delirium of religious ecstasy, abandoning themselves to practices which were sadly at variance with the austere morality of the Christian religion. And in his denunciation of these orgies Dione was compelled to admit that he was right.
So, for a time, all went well. The new laws by which primitive Christianity was grafted upon the traditional worship of the Divine Mother undoubtedly raised the moral standard of the people, while the few simple but practical appliances of modern civilisation which Tressidder had been able to introduce increased their comfort and well-being.
But Francis Tressidder, full of the impatience of the Reformer, chafed against the innate conservatism of the people. To his impatient temperament there seemed something monstrous in the persistence with which the Xanthian nation stuck in the old ruts. Some, it was true, here and there, availed themselves of the steam-engine and the other appliances which he had introduced into their midst; but the ingrained conservatism of thousands of years could not be broken down in a decade. Despite all his exhortations the majority of the peasants continued to use the old threshing-floor, in which the grain was threshed out by the feet of the ox. When grinding their corn they preferred their old mills to steam mills, and they looked askance, as at a dangerous innovation, at the introduction of the telegraph. This argued, to him, a certain degree of intellectual torpidity over which he pondered long, and not to much purpose, until one unlucky day an idea crossed his mind that this shrinking from reform, this refusal to bring methods of industrial production up to date, was due to the Ascendency of Woman of the Xanthian State.
He marvelled that he had never seen it before. To him it seemed the natural and necessary corollary of 'the Monstrous Regimen of Women' which had prevailed in the land ever since the tribe had emigrated to the shelter of the Mountains of the Moon. He saw that he had been but tinkering with the mere fringes of the problem with which he had to deal. If any permanent good were to be done he must attack the evil at its root. The dictum of the Apostle Paul must be obeyed. It is true he shrank at first from the task. Even he was not so carried away by self-exalted fantasy as to forget when he was muttering the text, 'Suffer not a woman to usurp authority over a man,' that in his own beloved England Queen Victoria had exercised authority over all men for many years; but that, he said, was an exception which but proved the rule. He was willing to accept the authority of Dione also as an exception; but what troubled him was that in this realm the whole organisation of the State was based upon the Ascendency of the Mother. In the firmament the Divine Mother Cybele reigned supreme. On earth all property was vested in women—the succession went through the female line. Although men were freely admitted to such professions and such administrative posts as women considered they were fit to perform, Woman was the head of the State and the Head of the Family.
The more he thought over it, the more convinced Tressidder became that at any cost—without even counting the cost—he must make an assault upon this causa causans of all the evils which provoked his righteous soul to wrath. A more prudent man would have seen that the moment was unpropitious for taking the action which he proposed. All the discontented interests which had been affected by his reforms, all the devotees of the ancient unmutilated rites formed a very strong body of malcontents, and it was reported that even the Chief Counsellor of the Queen, the son of the High Priestess of the Temple of Cybele, was not without some sympathy with the party of reaction. Callicrates—for that was his name—was a very intelligent man, studious and sympathetic. He loved, nay, worshipped the Queen, and for her sake had helped Tressidder to carry out his reforms. Callicrates was the only man in the kingdom whom Tressidder had taught English, for which he seemed to have a natural aptitude, first developed after Dione had acquired it.
Tressidder had been talking to Callicrates very freely as to his impatience with the slow-going ways of the people whom he was endeavouring to reform at express speed. He also ventured to hint more or less guardedly at the conclusion at which he had arrived concerning the cause of this excessive regard for vested interests, this bigoted clinging to traditional customs; but he did not pursue the subject.
'You have done enough,' said Callicrates. 'Lay not your hands upon the Holy of Holies.'
But Tressidder was not to be moved from his purpose, and some days later he ventured to renew his reference to the subject. Callicrates asked somewhat curiously, 'Then in your country, where you say the true religion prevails, and the worship of the Goddesses is abandoned, are there none of those evils of which you speak?'
Now, Tressidder had not been in England for nearly twenty years, years spent in the midst of such constant change and adventure that they counted for more than fifty years of ordinary life. With his idealistic temperament he found but little difficulty in believing that England was everything that he wished it to be, and he answered without hesitation, 'Oh, in England, where the rule of the Gospel prevails, there you have the true Land of Progress and of Freedom. When I look back upon it,' said he ecstatically, 'it seems to me as a Paradise guarded by stormy seas from a Fallen World.'
Constantly brooding over this theme, with the restless zeal of the reformer, in an unlucky moment he struck upon a rock. From time immemorial the conduct of the services at the Temple had been vested in the hands of women. It was held to be inconsistent with the worship of the Divine Mother that any but persons of her own sex should minister in her sanctuary. Until Tressidder had made his appearance, no male voice had ever been raised in any of the Temples of Cybele. The ritual, the sacrifices, the duty of exhorting the worshippers, were vested exclusively in the Priestesses of the Temple. Against this Francis Tressidder had long inwardly rebelled. But it was not until several years had passed that he ventured to raise the question of making a change. One day he told the Queen that to complete the work of reformation in which she had co-operated with him, sometimes enthusiastically but sometimes unwillingly, it was necessary to transfer the conduct of public worship from women to men. Dione's eyes flashed fire.
'How dare you!' she cried.
'It is not I,' said he doggedly. 'It is written in the sacred oracles of God. "I suffer not a woman to speak, neither shall she usurp authority over the man."'
'Usurp!' she repeated scornfully. 'Where is the usurpation? For thousands of years the right to minister in the service of the Divine Mother has been vested exclusively in persons of her own sex.'
'That may be,' said Tressidder stubbornly. 'You have had many bad customs in this land, some of which have gone, and those which remain must go with human sacrifices, with the drinking of blood, with the Corybantes, with drunkenness, and war, and all the other evils from which we have cleansed the land.'
'Teacher,' said Dione wistfully, 'do not ask this at my hands, for this I cannot grant—no, not at the bidding of any Book; not for any command which ever came from the lips of man.'
Dione spoke in a tone which brooked of no reply; but Tressidder was too set in his purpose to be diverted even by the royal wrath. At the great spring festival, when the Queen and all her courtiers attended service in the Temple of Cybele, he delivered himself of a glowing panegyric upon England, leading up to a fierce philippic against female ministry, which he declared was contrary to the word of God, and therefore being in manifest opposition to His will, could bring down no blessing upon the people.
An angry murmur swept through the congregation, and the Queen's countenance lowered as the preacher proceeded in his denunciation of women asserting a right to which neither in Nature nor in the Gospel they were entitled. In bold and unfaltering accents he declared the divine headship of Man, and asserted that it was contrary to the oracles of God that a woman should venture to teach in the great congregation. When he reached this point, the murmur of discontent broke out into angry exclamations, in the midst of which, the Queen, rising from her royal seat, and stretching out her hand with the gesture of one born to command, exclaimed:
'Silence! Henceforth I suffer not a man to speak, nor to usurp authority over a woman. What blasphemy have we not here in the very presence of the Divine Mother!'
There was a rush to the raised dais on which Tressidder was standing, where, with flaming eyes and outstretched hand, he was in vain attempting to continue his harangue. In a moment he was seized. His arms were bound to his side, he was hurried out of the building, and flung into an underground dungeon which, before his coming, had been used for the safe keeping of strangers doomed to die as sacrifices on the altar of the Temple of Cybele. A period of wild confusion ensued. All those who had suffered in prestige or in pocket by the reforms introduced by the Christian missionary celebrated his downfall with jubilant outcries. The Corybantes hastened to resume their cymbals, their drums, and their horns, and danced with riotous abandon their mysterious measures down the streets of the capital. As for Dione, she retired, smarting at the affront to her sex, and indignant at what she regarded as the blasphemous insolence of the stranger whom she had allowed to remodel the ancient institutions of her realm. Long she sat moody in her palace. For a time no one dared to intrude upon her solitude. At last her mood softened, and she sent a messenger to bring Tressidder to her presence.
'Francis Tressidder,' said the Queen, as he stood dauntless and defiant before his Sovereign—'Francis Tressidder, to you I owed my life, but at the risk of my throne I repaid you in kind—a life for a life. The balance is even. You have now, despite my warnings, affronted the sacred mystery of Womanhood in the very presence of the shrine of the Divine Mother. Your life is forfeit by our laws. But, impious blasphemer that thou art, my heart yearns towards the man who has taught me much good, and who has conferred many benefits upon our people; but I know not how to appease the wrath of the Divine Mother and avenge the dignity of my sex.'
Tressidder, still in an exalted mood, poured forth a flood of impetuous eloquence declaring that the Gospel alone glorified womanhood, and that although the worship of the Divine Mother might appear to have secured for women in that realm a position of authority, it was contrary to the Divine order, and must inevitably result in degradation and disaster.
'And yet it has continued for over two thousand years,' retorted Dione. 'But I am unwilling to give the signal for your execution.'
She sounded a bell and sent for her Chief Counsellor, at the same time ordering the missionary to be removed. When Dione was alone with her chief adviser there was silence for a season. She at last exclaimed, half to herself, 'What can be done?'
'What the Queen pleases,' said Callicrates.
'But the Queen,' said Dione bitterly, 'does not please to do anything. There is nothing pleasing about the whole business. Oh, why, why,' she cried, 'are men so foolish?' Then, pausing for a moment, she exclaimed, 'But he must not die!'
A sad smile flickered for a moment on the Chief Counsellor's face.
'That is as the Queen wills,' said he.
'But how can we save him?' she said. 'By every law, divine and human, he ought to die. His presumption knows no bounds. And yet,' she said, 'he has been as a messenger from the skies to lead our people into the paths of peace. The land has prospered since he came, and now—' She paused for a moment, and then resumed: 'Why could he not leave us women alone, instead of attempting to usurp authority over us on the strength of what some man once said in the interest of his own sex?'
'It would be difficult,' said Callicrates. 'All the injured interests are clamouring for his blood. His life is forfeit by our law.'
'I know, I know!' said the Queen. 'It is forfeit by every law but one, and that one exception is supreme. He shall not die, and we must save him. Can you not devise anything?'
Callicrates shook his head. Already through the palace windows could be heard the crashing of the Corybantic music and the hoarse cries of the multitude:
'Death to the stranger!—death!'
The Queen heard it and started. Then, suddenly turning to her Chief Counsellor, she said, 'Do you think that he spoke truth?'
'He spoke blasphemy,' was the reply.
'But,' said the Queen, 'is it true that things are so much better in England, where women are not suffered to usurp authority, and where Man is head both in the family and in the State?'
'He said so,' replied Callicrates.
'But,' continued the Queen, 'if it be true, and things are so much better in England—'
She did not finish the sentence, but paused a while; and then, with one of her most winning smiles, added: 'Won't you go to England and let me know the truth?'
This time it was Callicrates who started. Like all his compatriots, he had never crossed the frontiers of the State. The proposition that he should not merely leave the land in which his life had been spent, but journey over a thousand leagues of land and sea to visit a strange land, where the worship of the Divine Mother was unknown, dismayed him.
The Queen continued pleadingly:
'Tressidder has impeached our polity. He has challenged the laws and constitution handed down from our fore-mothers, and asserted that in his own country, under the Headship of Man, everything is better than it is here. I do not think we should shirk anything. I am unwilling to lose you; my throne will not be the same as it was when you were by my side; but it is the only way. Otherwise, he will die by daybreak.'
'And I may die the day after,' muttered Callicrates to himself. But the love he had for the Queen overbore all other considerations. Life itself was as nought to him compared with the desire to give her pleasure.
'I hear and obey,' said he. 'Even,' he added somewhat bitterly, 'if it be going to my death.'
'Oh no, no, no!' said Dione. 'You will not die, but come back! And then, if things are really better there—But I don't believe it,' she said. 'I cannot believe it. We have our faults, no doubt, but—' And again breaking off the sentence, she exclaimed: 'All is settled. Make proclamation to the people that the execution is postponed. The prisoner will remain in chains until your report is received. He has appealed to the example of his own country. By that he shall stand; or by that he shall fall.'
And so it was arranged, much to the disgust of the clamouring multitude outside the palace gates, that Francis Tressidder should not die at once. A second time he lay under the doom of death, while the people, for the salvation of whose souls he had risked his life, growled and muttered angrily outside his prison bars, clamouring for his blood.
The following day the Prime Minister departed on his mission to England. His instructions were embodied in the following letter, drawn up and signed by the Queen, and sealed with her signet:—
'To my Faithful and Well-Beloved Servant Callicrates—
'Proceed with all haste to England. Traverse the country; journey to and fro among the people of that land; and as soon as possible send reports by trusty messengers to my royal palace. See with your own eyes, hear with your own ears, and write with your own hand, the simple truth, what manner of people are these English, who, we are told, have escaped the evils which retard the progress of our land. It has been stated in the hearing of all our people that because they worship not the Divine Mother, but a Man God, and have dethroned Woman from her ancient position of pre-eminence in Church and State, they are quick to adopt all reforms, to remove all abuses, and to root out all evils from their midst. Therefore I command you to inquire from their wise women, to consult, if need be, their wise men, whether in their land it has been found that to abase Womanhood is to exalt Woman, and report to me if the Dominance of Man produces more peace, more purity, more happiness than in our own land, where Women rule.
'Report to me as to the state of religion in a land where men bow no more the knee to the Divine Mother; report also as to the condition of those who labour for their daily bread, of the old men, of the women, and of the little children. Report to me how they are governed, and how they live in their great cities. Let your letters be the living picture of England and its People. Then, verily, shall we know whether the words of our Teacher are true words, or whether he has spoken with a lying tongue for the deceiving of the People.
And so it came to pass that Callicrates, Chief Counsellor of Queen Dione, fared forth through the trackless forest, across the wide Libyan land, and after many journeyings over stormy seas, arrived in England in the month of October 1902, to prosecute his quest. How he fared and what he found will be described in his despatches, which are printed in the following pages.
From Callicrates to Dione, Queen of Xanthia
London, October 13, 1902.
I HAVE already told you in the letter which I despatched by a trusty messenger how many and varied were the adventures which befell me in making my way to the shore of the great sea. When I finished my last letter I was on the point of embarking on the vessel which was to convey me to my destination. Often as I had heard descriptions of the great boats with which the English navigate the ocean, I was unprepared for the sight which met my eyes when I embarked on the steamship, which to my surprise bore the name of the Divine Mother Cybele. I trembled with emotion as I put my foot upon her deck. Did the English, then, pay homage to the august Mother of the Gods? Or was it a name assumed in blasphemous derision? When I asked the question, the captain stared at me in surprise, and said that that was the name of his ship; but what it meant he did not know, and he had often wished that it had a less outlandish name, for everybody pronounced it in a different way; and so by experience I found, for some pronounced it one way and some another; but, however they pronounced it, no one seemed to know its Divine significance.
It was not until many days had passed that I came upon an old priest, who told me that although he had almost forgotten his classics, he believed that Cybele was the name of a Greek goddess, who was mixed up in his recollections some way or other with Venus, and that for his part he did not like giving heathen names to Christian ships. And then he told me—which surprised me not a little—that in England every ship on being launched is christened by the breaking of a bottle of wine upon her bows, when her name is given to her. For Christians to baptize a Christian ship in the name of what they regard as a heathen idol, and to do it, moreover, with the wine which Francis Tressidder has taught us to regard as an accursed thing, made me marvel. Verily each nation has its own peculiar customs, which are right in its own eyes.
The vessel did not start until the morning after I had gone on board. When the sun sank below the horizon, I was startled by the sudden apparition of what seemed a moon shedding her silver light upon the deck from the mast. On inquiring, they explained to me how it was done, but their explanation left me no wiser than I was before. I could only conclude it was some English magic by which they were able to produce a small moon to serve them when the sun had gone down and the queen of night had not yet appeared. Pondering over this mystery, my eyes grew heavy with sleep, and I sought my bed and knew no more till morning. I was roused by a loud grating, rasping sound, the like of which I had never heard before, but I was told that the anchor was being weighed. After a while the noise ceased, and I was told that the ship was about to start. I looked for the oars, but could see none. I looked for the sails, but the masts stood like bare poles against the morning sky. And to my infinite surprise, the great ship began to pulse and throb as if it were alive. Black smoke streamed from the chimneys, and in my alarm I thought that a fire had broken out in the vessel. When I asked, they said they were getting up steam, and then I remembered the strange machines which Francis Tressidder made, and which turned a wheel when the bottom of a kettle was scorched with fire. And then, while I was still watching the black smoke, the ship began to move—slowly at first, but soon it rushed through the waves with incredible swiftness. On going to the end of the vessel to take a last look at the land, I saw stretching out before me a long broad stream of white foaming water. The foam seemed to come out of the ship, for before it there was only dark water, but behind it the great streak of foam stretched white as far as the eye could reach. As I stood watching, and wondering how it was caused, they explained to me that the great ship whirled its tail below the water, and that the motion of the tail drove the vessel through the sea.
'But,' said I, 'who whirls the tail?'
'The engines,' they said. And they told me that deep down in the bottom of the ship were four thousand horses whose power it was that whirled the tail that drove the ship through the sea.
Now the ship named after the Divine Mother was a huge monster, but it did not seem to me that its hold could contain more than four hundred horses; yet I kept silence. A strong wind was blowing against the ship, but no one heeded it. As the wind increased the waves began to rise, and it seemed as if the pains of death were coming upon me. It was with difficulty I found my way to my bed, and there for a time, which seemed endless, I waited my end, and in the dark hours of prostration and misery my chief thought was that my mission would never be accomplished, and that my beloved Queen would never know of my fate.
After a time—how long a time I cannot say, for day and night appeared to me the same—the motion of the ship became less violent, and to my surprise I did not die, but lived. When at last I had sufficiently recovered to leave my bed and come on deck, I was filled with awe. North and south and east and west, as far as the eye could see, there was only a wide waste of waters. I could see on the horizon the sky came down to the sea, but nowhere was there any landmark. We seemed to be lost, swallowed up in the immensity of the ocean. But the great ship kept on her course. Of what happened during the rest of the voyage—of the great storm, in which it seemed as if the ship was thrown about by the tempestuous waves like a chip upon the water, and how more than once I gave up all hope, and thought that my last hour had come, and of my conversation with my fellow-passengers—I must not speak here. Of all these things I will report when I return.
We seemed at last to leave behind us the sun. The weather grew colder, the misty rain sometimes shut out the horizon from our view, but still, in storm and fog, the ship kept on her course. Long before the voyage was over I discovered that there were no horses in the hold, but that the English measure the power of their engines by saying that they represent the power of so many horses. Strange and marvellous it was to know of these great sleepless slaves of steel, toiling ceaselessly out of sight. If ever they slackened their labour for a moment, more fuel was heaped on the fires, and under the scourge of the flames' heat they renewed their toil. But as they were blind and could not see, I marvelled how it was that they drove the ship across so many thousand miles of trackless water, straight to her destination. When I asked how it was done, they pointed to a little wheel, by turning which a man with one hand could direct the ship to right or left with the utmost ease. But how the man at the wheel knew how and when to turn it is a mystery to me to this day.
And one more thing I must say about the ship and the people who were therein. Those on board were divided into two classes—those who worked and those who did not. The men who kept the steel horses up to their task had the worst lot; and on their toil everything depended. All black and grimy, and streaming with perspiration, they would come up from the fiery mouth of the monster whom it was their task to feed; and they were to me objects of infinite pity and gratitude. But none of the well-dressed people on board seemed to regard them in that light. No one thanked them for their labour, or regarded them with the honour due to those who do the hardest work. When I remarked upon this to a companion, he said:
'Oh, they are only the stokers!'
'But,' said I, 'are not the stokers your brothers?'
Whereat they stared at me, and went away. When I spoke about it to the old priest whom I have already mentioned, he said that I would find it so wherever I went. Those who did the hardest and most disagreeable work were generally less regarded than those who lay on a sofa all day and did nothing.
'But why?' I asked.
Whereupon he shrugged his shoulders and went away. But even among the well-dressed people, who from morning till night were idle, excepting when they were eating or playing like children at games, there were differences. Some, no better in appearance or in character than the others, held themselves aloof from the rest of their brothers whom they met at meals, but whom they would pass on the deck with a haughty glance.
'Who, then, are these men that they hold themselves apart as if they were of a superior race?' I asked.
'Oh,' said my companion, 'they are men who have much money! You could not expect them to talk to the poorer lot.'
I asked: 'What difference does money make among brothers? Are not rich and poor all members of one family?'
'You will find money makes all the difference,' said my friend.
'But not in England, surely?' I replied.
And to my amazement he answered: 'In England most of all.'
I did not believe him, for I remembered what Francis Tressidder had said, and preferred to think he was joking.
At last, at the beginning of October, we saw a dim outline on the northern horizon, and I was told that we were approaching England. How my heart thrilled at the thought that in a few hours I should be treading the land where I should find realised the great and glorious ideals of which Francis Tressidder has so often spoken with such fervour. It seemed worth all the perils of my journey to be able to tread what the Teacher called the classic soil of dear old England, the shrine of religion pure and undefiled, where, although the Matriarchate does not exist, Woman by being abased has been exalted to a pinnacle of honour and worship, and where I should find, under the guidance of the wisdom of men, swift reform of abuses and a quickening of all those great ideas which, as he told us so often, would put us to shame. Loyal as I have ever been to the Matriarchate, devoted as I have ever been to my faith, yet I felt in my heart a thrill of pride that I was about to witness the triumph of purity and peace, of liberty and progress, which would cast far into the shade the utmost achieved where women governed the realm. Forgive me, O my Queen, for having yielded to a temptation in which my sex for a moment made me traitor to the fundamental principles of your realm. But to quote Francis Tressidder's words, 'Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,' and for that momentary rebellion, due to the pride of my sex, I have had to experience a bitter and cruel disillusion.
During the whole of the voyage, while we were on the open sea, I was filled with wonder and admiration at the extraordinary regularity, force, and energy with which the great ship was driven through the waters. At the dead hour of night, when no stars nor moon appeared, in the midst of blinding fog, or when the wild storm-winds lashed the sea into fury, there was no intermission of the onward movement of the ship. The pulsing throb of the engines seemed like a human heart, which only ceases to beat when life is extinct. On my expressing my marvel that they did not abate their speed, I was told that English time was money; that they will not hesitate to spend thousands of pounds consuming hundreds of extra tons of fuel every day in order to increase the speed of their vessels by two miles an hour. Time is money; time is life. Waste of time is waste of life, so the English hurry and strain and drive across the seas their iron ships, with which they turn the water into foam, heedless of all expense if so be they may save a few hours on the journey.
It all seemed very splendid to me, for in the Happy Valley where our people enjoy the blessings of your rule there is no realisation of the value of time. Between sun-up and sun-down our people find time enough in which to live their simple, contented lives. As I listened to the incessant throb of the ship's fiery heart, I began to understand something of the impatience of our Teacher with the sedate and tranquil movements of our people. This, I thought, must be the first sign of the results of the Dominance of the Man. But although the English regard their ships themselves as female, speaking of them ever as 'she,' the whole control and guidance of the ship, from the highest to the lowest, is vested in the hands of men; excepting the gracious and sweet-faced women who waited upon their own sex, the whole service of the ship was male.
Imagine, then, my amazement when on arriving at the mouth of the Mersey river, in order to enter the great port of Liverpool, I was told of all the wearisome delays and formalities which would take place before we could put our feet upon the English shore. We were delayed going up the river, for the English do not put their seaports on the sea, but many miles inland, so that they must be approached by a winding and shifting channel, requiring the use of skilled pilots. On arriving at the port there was again delay about quarantine. There was delay with the doctors and officials, and it was some time before we were able to go ashore. Then we were introduced into what I was told was the Customs, and an evil custom it is, assuredly, that the first welcome of a stranger should be given in such unpleasant fashion.
I had pictured to myself that I was the guest of England, whose hospitality Francis Tressidder had depicted so often in such glowing terms. The laws of our country prescribe that there shall be no hospitality shown to strangers beyond the swift embrace of death; but here, in the Fatherland of Freedom, he told us her gracious arms were ever outstretched to visitors from all parts of the world to bid them welcome, and to lavish upon them a generous hospitality. Yet when we landed there was no friendly voice to welcome us. We were treated, indeed, as if we were suspected malefactors. We were confined like prisoners until we could satisfy men in uniform, whose authority was absolute, that we had come with no evil intent into the dominions of the King. Nor were they content with addressing to me in far from courtly language a series of impertinent questions all framed upon the belief that I was intent upon evading the law of the land in which I had come to sojourn. Even when I had answered these to the best of my ability, they gave no credence to my words, for they proceeded to make an inquisitorial search through my baggage. What they hoped to find I do not know; but I was told that they searched eagerly to find whether I had any wine or spirits or other strong drink. When this was told me my anger abated, and I rejoiced in my heart at the zeal which animated the English, who, in order to keep out the accursed spirit which steals away the wits of men, subject the newcomers to their shores to so severe and searching an examination.
Consequently, when I saw rude hands thrust into the recesses of my baggage, I only rejoiced to think that the interdict on strong drink was so rigorously enforced. Verily, here we had at last the temperate people of which Francis Tressidder spoke. The old priest of whom I have previously spoken, who had been a fellow-passenger on board the steamer, told me that the examination, although irksome, was nothing to that which existed in other countries. The Custom House, he said, is the barrier of civilisation, and in England it is lower and not higher than elsewhere.
'But,' said he, 'it will now be necessary for you to change your clothes'; for up till now I had been wearing my own garments.
When I demurred, he said I could do as I pleased. There was no law against it; but I would probably find it more convenient. Not understanding how it could be more convenient for me to wear other clothes than those to which I had been accustomed, I did not take his advice. He also gave me good advice as to how to bestow my luggage.
An obliging young man, called a courier, led me through the gates to a place where were standing a great number of mean-looking chariots, some of which seemed to be cut in half. The half-chariots had two wheels, and the driver sat on the top in a way wonderful to behold. My guide hired for me a whole chariot, and some strong carriers carried my boxes and placed them on the top of the chariot, while we took our seats underneath. I noted with pleasure the civility of the carriers, who concerned themselves so kindly about my boxes. As soon as they had placed them on the chariot, they made me a respectful salute, which I gratefully acknowledged. But they remained looking steadfastly in my countenance, and one of them, addressing me with some familiarity, said:
'Hi, guv'nor, you've forgotten something.'
'What?' said I, in alarm, putting my head through the window.
'Oh,' said my guide, 'it is nothing. He wants his tip.'
'Tip?' said I, looking anxiously round, if so be there were a tip of an arrow or spear in the chariot; but finding none I asked the guide what it meant.
Then I saw my guide hand a small piece of money to the men outside, whereupon they instantly went away; and I learned that it was a custom of the English to levy a small tax upon their guests—taxes not imposed by law, as with us, but levied by custom. The carriers at the docks, he said, were already paid to render services to arriving guests; but a custom had grown up by which they were entitled to receive gifts from those whose boxes they carried.
'You are not compelled to pay it,' said he, 'only you must'—a saying which seemed to me to contradict itself.
The driver of the chariot then took us through the streets, and I asked whether he was going to drive us to London.
'No,' said my guide, 'only to the station. You go to London by rail.'
And so it happened even as he had said unto me. But of the wonders of my journey through the streets in the four-wheeled chariot, and of the rush and roar of the train from Liverpool to London, I say nothing in this letter, for if I begin to describe the marvels which I have seen I shall have no time to tell you of more important things. Even after all that I had seen and heard on the steamer at sea, I was but little prepared for the journey on land. From Liverpool to London is a distance of two hundred miles, and over the whole distance there is stretched, by the cunning skill of the workers in steel, two rails of iron side by side, so deftly joined together that for the whole two hundred miles there is not one break. It is like a double chain of steel, of which one end is in London and the other in Liverpool. Upon these two steel rails, the railway chariots, which they call carriages, are mounted on wheels, and they are drawn with incredible speed by a fire-breathing monster of enormous strength and endurance, which nevertheless seems to be under the complete control of two men who ride on his back, one of whom feeds his fiery maw with huge black lumps of the food upon which he lives. The rough places have been made smooth and the high mountains pierced in order to make a level road. Strange to say, although there was some shaking and a continuous noise not too pleasant to my ears, we were able to sit quite calmly and even to read. Of that fierce rush along the iron way I remembered little but a confused impression of trees and houses, all rushing past us. No sooner did we see any building than lo! in a flash it passed us, and in another minute it was far behind. When we entered a hole in the ground, which my guide said they called a tunnel, or when we passed through one of those stopping-places which they call stations, the sound rose and swelled until it became an ear-piercing shriek and a roar very terrible to hear.
When we arrived in London I was exhausted with the excitement of the journey, and begged my guide to take me at once to a place where I could sleep. We went to a huge building, where to my surprise he showed me a bed perched upon four iron poles. I climbed into this bed, and tried to compose myself to sleep, but for a long time sleep came not. At last, after tossing as in a fever for some hours, I fell into a lethargic slumber, haunted by strange dreams, for never, even when asleep, did the sound of the roaring wheels leave my ears.
I AM at present, O my beloved Sovereign, in a state of amazement, which almost deprives me of the faculty of reason. I am assured that I am in England, in London, the capital of the great Empire of which we have so often heard from your Teacher, Francis Tressidder. The people around me speak English, and the letter of introduction which I received from the Teacher to his spiritual father has been duly delivered, and he has made me welcome in the name of the Lord. Yet, although it is impossible to deny that I am in London, in the midst of those whom Francis Tressidder called 'God's Englishmen,' the contrast between what I see and what I expected to find is so great that, despite all evidence to the contrary, I feel there must be some mistake, and I must have landed in another country. That which I expected to find is not here; that which I believed had been banished long ago meets me at every turn. Hasten, I beg you, to send for Francis Tressidder, read him this letter, and ask him whether there can be any mistake, and whether I am not the victim of some strange enchantment. Until I receive from you his answer I shall continue to believe that I am as in a dream. Not until I receive his positive assurance can I credit the evidence of my senses.
But now I will proceed to describe how it is that I have been thrown into this unwonted state of agitation and bewilderment.
When I awoke yesterday morning I was dismayed to find that although there was a gray light in the room there was no sun in the sky.
'Does the sun not rise in England?' said I to my guide as we met at the morning meal.
'Oh, he always rises,' said he, 'but sometimes we do not see him for days together.'
And then he told me that the English, not being able to depend upon the light of the sun, have, with strange inventions, uncorked the sunlight bottled up in bygone ages, and by cunning processes have made out of black coal a white light, bright and wonderful to see. Not content therewith, they have even tamed the lightning from the thunder-cloud, and have made it their torch-bearer, so that they can very well do without the sun. As for time, this is measured by little machines, which they carry in their pockets, and also by great round discs which are lifted up on high in the sight of men, around which crawl metal rods that never cease moving, and by looking at the position of these pointers the English can always tell how many hours it is from sunrise. Time is money in England, and time is measured to the minutest fractions.
After having partaken of food I asked my guide to take me into the city, so that I might see the buildings. We went out, and as the morning was cold I threw my thicker burnous round my shoulders, and I and my guide climbed into one of the half-chariots, and were driven rapidly along the roads, which they call streets, to the house of the friend to whom Tressidder had commended me. 'Perhaps you would accompany me to pay the last tribute of respect?'
I eagerly assented. After a while I found myself with my friend in the midst of a great stream of people all moving in one direction. Among the crowd were many men with bright orange sashes; but for the most part they were dressed in black. My friend was too lost in sorrowful meditation to explain the reason for what evidently was an unusual demonstration of grief. And not of grief alone, for there was in the face of many, especially of those who wore the orange scarves, an expression of wrath that seemed rather befitting those who were going forth to avenge the death of a warrior than those who were about to celebrate the last rites of a Christian brother. After a time we reached a temple which, on inquiry, I was told was the church of St. Mary.
'Then,' said I eagerly, 'even here there is the worship of the Divine Mother?'
My friend frowned.
'God forbid,' said he. 'In this place, at least, no such idolatry is known.'
I found afterwards that he was referring to the church which we were now entering, which was already filled with a sombre and silent crowd. After a long time of waiting, during which the crowd around the building grew ever more and more dense, the funeral procession entered the building. The coffin of the dead man was borne on the shoulders of six bearers, and reverently placed in the centre of the church before the altar, whereupon the service began. In the course of the service which followed, a preacher, who reminded me in many ways of Francis Tressidder, delivered an address, from which I gathered, to my horror, that we were officiating at the last scene of a Human Sacrifice. Incredible though it may appear to you who have risked your throne itself in order to suppress human sacrifices in your realm, here, in England, it seems to me the practice is still not unknown. For the man whose body lay in the black draped coffin on the bier had been slain in the prime of life because of his religious opinions. They called him a martyr, and on inquiring what they meant by that term, I learned that in England for centuries men and women had been put to death in the name of the God whom they worship. Such persons are known as martyrs by their friends, and as heretics or blasphemers by their enemies. Those around me told me that such sacrifices had been much more prevalent in England in past times. On making further inquiry I learned that English Christians have long been divided into two great parties. Sometimes one party was uppermost, sometimes the other. Both prayed to the same God; both worshipped the same Christ; both used the same sacred book, but because of their differences on some questions of detail they hated one another for the love of God, and in past times had burned one another to death in the name of their common Redeemer, and they even go so far as to raise monuments to the men whom their fathers burned alive.
Such things are now forbidden by law, but the only effect of this interdict seems to be that occasionally the slaying of a victim passes from the hands of the judicial authorities to those of the mob. It was so in the present instance. The dead man, I was told, was a believer in the simpler forms of the Christian faith, in whose name our Teacher rid our temples of all the images of the gracious Goddesses whom our forefathers worshipped. This faith, which Francis Tressidder told us was universal in England, is supposed to be by law established; but according to one of my informants—a tall man who spoke with a strange accent, and round whose body blazed an orange sash—the martyr whose corpse lay before us had been slain because he had repeated in a public place one of the Articles of the Religion of the Church of England. He told me that the black days of the Papist persecution were coming back. The Protestants were being persecuted even unto death, and ere long, he said (as did many others), the fires of Smithfield would be rekindled.
The preacher declared that the dead man, whose name was John Kensit, was a true, whole-hearted and zealous Protestant, a loyal son of the Church of England. He had fallen as a martyr in the holy cause of English Liberty and Protestant Christianity. Whereat I greatly marvelled.
When the service was over, the multitude streamed from the church, and we marched in a long procession to the burying-place. Vast multitudes of sullen and angry men gathered round the open grave. The sun still veiled his face in clouds, and now and then raindrops fell upon the thousands of mourners.
Standing by the open grave my whole being was shaken with a great dread. Was I losing my reason? Yet I saw them commit to its last resting-place the coffin of a man whose sole offence was that he witnessed for liberty, and protested against what he considered to be corruptions and blasphemous superstitions in the Christian Church by law established in this land.
My thoughts were those of the great assemblage, which found expression in a burst of sacred song, thrilling the hearts and bringing tears to the eyes of the assembled thousands who raised their voices in solemn unison and sang:—
'Oft in sorrow, oft in woe,
Onward, Christians, onward go.
Fight the fight, maintain the strife,
Strengthened with the Bread of life.'
Then the great crowd melted away, leaving the body of the martyr alone in his hillside grave. With a sadness that rendered it impossible for me to express myself in words, I returned with my friend, and with the hideous impression of having been present at a human sacrifice still upon me I have written you these lines with my own hand.
SINCE the last letter which I addressed to my beloved Queen I have spent many days in the midst of London, which they tell me is the greatest city in the whole world. Words fail me to describe a hundredth part of the wonders among which I have been living. London—a city did I call it? It is not a city. It is a whole province covered with houses as numerous as the trees of the great forest which surrounds your realm, and through which I passed on my outward journey. Through all this forest of houses broad roads wind and turn in every direction, so that, unlike our forest, any one can walk or ride or drive from one end to the other.
Through the heart of this vast mass of houses runs a river crossed by great bridges, some of stone and some of iron, beneath which the water rises and falls twice every day. It is to me a great marvel. They say it comes from the great sea, which is obedient to the Moon, whom our ancestors worshipped as a Goddess, although they knew nothing of the double miracle which is wrought by her on the oceans of the world. Many a time I have stood by the riverside and watched the great boats floating up or down without oar or sail, driven for miles inland or sucked down again to the sea by the invisible power of our Lady the Moon. And her power seems to be quite as strong at noonday as at night-time when she rules in the sky. This strange movement of the waters is called a tide, and the people who profit by it are so used to the marvel that it occasions no remark. But to me, seeing it for the first time, it seems a wonder unspeakable and a divine mystery.
But there is another tide in London which I am never tired of studying. The tide of water flows and ebbs twice every day; the human tide flows in the morning and ebbs at night. The heart of the city, like a gigantic pump, draws in from all the country around hundreds of thousands, nay millions of men and women. They remain in the city till the sun nears the western horizon, and then the tide ebbs as rapidly as it flowed. The bridges, the roads, the railways are choked at what they call the rush time in the morning and at night. At noonday and at midnight, although the streets are never silent, the great surge of human life has spent its force. In the city they work, outside they sleep. There is no law governing this ebb and flow. Each one of the streaming myriads is free to go or come, but they move in a mass as if they were under command.
And how many they are! You have not so many subjects in all your realm as those who live within twenty miles of the city centre. The land on which they live yields no food; yet they are fed. There are no streams of water; yet they quench their thirst. They tell me that from all lands and across all seas come great waggons and ships laden with food to supply their needs. For one small coin this morning I bought a piece of bread which they told me had been made from flour brought ten thousand miles across land and sea. I looked in vain for the herds of oxen and the myriad flocks of sheep which must be slaughtered daily to feed the city; but although I have gone hither and thither for days I have never heard the bleating of sheep or the lowing of oxen. They bring their meat, like their bread, from immense distances, and by cunning contrivances are able to keep it sweet and fresh. Verily the English are a marvellous people, full of ingenuity and skill. They use the moon to move their boats, they harness the lightning to drive their carriages, and by other contrivances they can make winter in the heart of summer, so that their meat and fruit may not spoil. All that our Teacher Tressidder said concerning the mastery of the English over the forces of Nature was well said.
I have seen greater wonders even than any of those of which he has spoken. He told us nothing of the art by which you can talk, even in a whisper, and be heard at a distance of many miles. When they told me this I laughed them to scorn, but it was the laugh of the unknowing. How soon was I confounded and put to open shame, for they told me to stand in front of a small hole in a little box against the wall. They put against my ear something resembling a small trumpet, in which was an even smaller hole, and presently, to my great wonder, I heard the voice of my friend speaking to me across ten miles of roaring streets, and every word was as plain as if we were in the same room. Then they said to me, 'Speak, speak,' and I said, 'Where shall I speak?' and they said, 'Speak into the hole in the box on the wall.' So I spoke, and my friend heard me, and we talked together, although we were ten miles apart, which, verily, is a great marvel. When I asked how it was done, they said that between my friend and myself there ran a slender wire, sometimes going over the roofs of houses, sometimes hidden in the ground.
The sound goes too slowly for us to talk at the distance of so many miles, so they told me they mounted the sound of my voice upon the flash of lightning, as a horseman may bestride his steed, and swift as thought the rider from the skies carries the voice to and fro. Of the truth of this I say nothing, for I saw no more than the box and the little trumpet through which my voice and that of my friend passed. Of all this Tressidder told us nothing.
But one thing the English cannot do is to take the smoke-clouds from the sky. London, like the denizens of the dark forest, lives in the shade. Through deep holes in the earth they dig up what resemble black stones. With these they make fires in all their houses, from which there arises great smoke, which fills the air and lies like a black cloud over the city. Sometimes the cloud is so dense as to hide the city from the face of the sun, and for days and nights its people see neither sun, nor moon, nor stars; and once, when I was walking by the riverside, a damp mist seemed to rise, and the smoke-cloud mingled with the mist and a great darkness fell upon the city. The air was thick and bitter to the taste, my eyes smarted, and I breathed heavily, as if the foul smoke were choking my lungs. You could not see across the road, and even the lightning lamps which shone like little moons overhead could hardly make their light visible. This strange visitation comes without warning—and goes away, no one knowing why. But while it lasts it is as if we had been transported to the gloomy city of Dis, which, as our legends say, lies deep in the bowels of the earth.
The roads of the city are smooth, but the sound of the wheels on the roadway is incessant, like the distant roar of the waves of the sea. If it were not for the multitudes whom you meet walking to and fro you would think that the whole people lived upon wheels. Everything goes on wheels underground and overground, and the only reason they have not yet learned to fly is because they have not yet learned how to make a wheel go round in the air. Chariots we have in our country, but none so strange as those in which the people of London ride. For they ride inside and outside in lumbering chariots, on the top of which are placed seats, to which ascent is made by winding steps. But the road being smooth and the country being flat, two horses can draw great loads of as many as forty persons at one time. But the horse no longer contents them. They have invented strange, swift-moving chariots which go by oil. Never before did I know of the power of oil. The power of twenty horses is hidden in the drippings from a small can, which, being fired with a lightning spark, bursts with a loud noise, and drives the car with incredible swiftness, with a noise like the roar of a hungry lion.
All these chariots, propelled by horses or driven by oil or by steam, can stand still without overturning; but they have invented a machine for the use of one traveller in which one wheel is placed behind the other in a straight line. The rider sits above and between the wheels, which he drives with his feet. But unless this two-wheeled thing is moving it falls to the ground. It can only stand erect when it is running. Women ride these machines as well as men, and it is a fearful sight to see them threading their way amid the stream of chariots great and small, where the slightest slip would throw them beneath the wheels.
When I thought of my beloved Queen in the midst of this crowded city, my heart was sad within me, for it is a City of Man—man-made, man-ruled. Francis Tressidder spoke truth when he said that in England Man is master. In the great Council by which London is governed no woman is allowed to speak. Once, many years ago, they told me, three women were admitted into the Council Chamber, and nobly they maintained the honour of their sex. They were diligent in business, sagacious in counsel, and all who sat with them rejoiced at their presence. They were useful; they were helpful; they were wise, but all this availed them not. They were women, and so they cast them out of the Council. Nor since then has any woman been allowed to enter its halls. Only in the place where they govern the schools and direct the education of a million children, half of whom are girls, are women allowed to have a seat, as indeed would seem necessary, even to those who believe most in the headship of Man. For what family is there in which the voice of the Mother should not be heard as to the teaching of her children? But even this one exception, they told me, is doomed to disappear. Not even in the Council for the schools must woman have a voice. Man everywhere towers supreme, and on his brow I seem to see written the words, 'Thou shalt have none other God but me!' So far I have to confirm all that Francis Tressidder said as to the marvels of English skill and as to the supremacy of the English Man.
But if I had marvelled much at the city, and noticed the crowded streets and overcrowded trains and chariots, the river—the natural highway of the city—seemed almost deserted. In olden time, they told me, it was covered with thousands of boats. That was long ago, before the roadways of the city were made so clean and smooth. But in recent years there were many steamers, in which hundreds of thousands of citizens went to and fro, finding no means of travelling more convenient. This year I looked in vain for a single boat. I asked, Why this strange neglect of a natural waterway? and I was told that the citizens were denied the right by the House of Lords to use the river. When I asked what was the House of Lords which had power thus to limit the natural rights and privileges of river dwellers, they told me it was a small Assembly of Men (and when I heard them say it was an assembly of men, I thanked our Divine Mother that at least it contained no women!) which had the power at their own sole will and pleasure to prevent any good being done for the people of London. The Council of London was willing and eager to place the boats upon the river for the use of the citizens, but the House of Lords loves not the Council of London, and whenever this Council wishes to do anything for the good and welfare of the citizens, the House of Lords says 'No,' and the good is not done. So it comes to pass that the people of London have no boats on their river, and those who would have travelled by them swell the crowds who choke the streets and overload the trains. The House of Lords, they say, is old, very old, while the great Council of London is strong with the vigour and energy of youth. The Council has the will, the brains, and the heart to do great things for the city over which it rules, but when it would do good, lo! evil is present with it, and the House of Lords blocks the way. And when I heard of this, I marvelled at such a demonstration of the wisdom of the men of England. Had they the quick wit and strong will of my Queen this folly would vanish before sundown.
This discovery led me to ask further questions about the river. The River, I was told, had made the City.
'Does, then, the City control the River?' I asked.
'By no means,' was the answer.
'Then,' I asked, 'by whom is it controlled?'
Some said one thing and some said another, but for the most part no two of them said the same thing. So, wishing to see more of the wonderful river with my own eyes, I made a voyage down the stream to the sea. On my way I passed great steamers full of passengers which were lying at anchor in mid-channel.
'Why,' said I to the friend who accompanied me—'why do these vessels not continue their voyage?'
'Alas!' said he, 'the channel of the river is not deep enough for them to come up to London until the tide has risen.'
'But,' said I, 'is not time money, and cannot the English who work so many marvels deepen the river?'
'We could,' said he, 'but we cannot.' For you must know sometimes in this country people speak in strange riddles.
'Solve me this mystery,' said I.
My friend sighed deeply, and replied: 'Because, instead of placing the control of the river in the hands of one strong central council, fifty different bodies of men must be consulted, and as they never agree, nothing is done.'
'But,' I replied, greatly marvelling thereat, 'are not the English practical people, and is not Common Sense one of the greatest of the English Gods?'
'Yes,' said he, 'we say so, but we act otherwise. When you say that Common Sense is one of the greatest of our Gods, you forget that there is one still greater.'
'Which is that?' I said. 'The House of Lords?'
My friend laughed, and replied: 'You say truly, for the House of Lords is one of the many incarnations of the greatest of all our Gods. Great is Common Sense, but greater still is the Vested Interest, and greater even than the Vested Interest is Conservatism.'
'I know not the names of either of these strange English Gods,' said I. 'Explain to me their attributes.'
'Vested Interest,' said he, 'is the firstborn son of Conservatism, and the worship of the Father and the Son is almost universal in this island. Vested Interest plants a terribly fixed foot, and wherever he is there he stays, and levies tax and toll on the public. On his first appearance he renders real service to those in the midst of whom he dwells, and they willingly pay him homage and bring sacrifices to his altar; but when the conditions change, and the ancient service has become a present-day nuisance, he still continues to exact his dues. His altars, however, would long ago have been pulled down but for the protection given him by his father Conservatism, the greatest of all the English Gods, to whom all the English offer sacrifice. Even those who have repudiated his divine right to govern wrong, nevertheless build him a small altar on which they offer sacrifice, it may be in dress, in religion, in business, or in politics. There is no Englishman, high or low, who does not burn some incense on his altars. His worship is ingrained in the very nature of the Englishman. The first article in the creed of his worshippers is that whatever is is right; whatever has been must be. As it was in the beginning, and is now, must ever be. The inspiring principle of the Faith is unfaith, a fear born of unbelief, showing itself in a dread of change. Hence in all his images his face is ever turned backwards.'
I listened eagerly.
'But,' said I, 'you speak of Conservatism as a God. Are you sure he is not a Goddess?'
My friend laughed in scorn.
'Did I not tell you he was strong, stronger than Common Sense, stronger than all the Gods? How, then, could he be of the weaker sex?'
At this I greatly rejoiced and said: 'My friend, your words give me marvellous cheer, for the Englishman who came to my country to preach and teach the good news of civilisation and of the Christian religion asserted that the reluctance to make improvements, the love for outworn customs, and the hatred of reform, which, alas! are rife in our country, were due to the power of Woman. "Go," he said, "to England, that happy country where Woman is reduced to due subjection. You will find a land of progress and reform, where courageous man lets the dead past bury its dead, and with a heart of hope and an eye of faith shapes his surroundings to his needs."'
My friend was instantly seized with an uncontrollable fit of laughter. He laughed so loud and laughed so long that at last I lost patience and said to him:
'What are you laughing at?'
'Oh,' said he, holding his sides, 'your Teacher did not say so, really?'
'Certainly he did,' said I, somewhat indignantly. 'And that is why I am here, to see with my eyes and hear with my ears and write with my hand whether things be as he said.'
Then my friend, seeing that to me it was a serious matter, ceased laughing, and said:
'My dear sir, forgive my merriment, but it is impossible to listen to such nonsense as this and not to laugh. You have only to look around to see the answer. Why should these ships stick in the middle of the channel? Because when all the world was moving, the Englishman stood still. Why is trade leaving this port of London? Because the Englishman refuses to move with the times. Why, year after year, do the best steamers find it better to go to Southampton or to Liverpool than to London? Because we cling to our ways, and because we think that what has been good enough for our fathers is good enough for their sons; because we refuse to carry out those improvements upon which depends the prosperity of our City.'
'Then,' said I, 'the government of the river must be vested in the hands of Women.'
'No such thing,' said he. 'There is no woman, not one, on the Thames Conservancy Board.'
And then he proceeded to unfold to me the incredible story of the way in which the Vested Interest stood in the way of reforms the need for which would be recognised by all intelligent people.
One thing he said made me smile. He said it was forbidden by the rules which governed the docks to land boxes of fruits which were sent to London except upon the backs of men, who carried them on shore as many as they could manage at a time. No mechanical appliance was allowed to supplant the slower labour of the men.
'Will nothing be done?' I asked.
'Who knows?' said my friend, shrugging his shoulders. 'Conservatism and Vested Interest are very strong.'
THE more I see of the English the more I marvel. Verily they are a strange race, who act by the rule of contraries, who do the things they say they ought not to do, and practise the opposite of what they profess. Hence to study their institutions is like wandering in a maze, in which there are sign-posts all pointing in the opposite direction to that in which you should go. Sometimes I think I have wandered into the Kingdom of Upside Down, of which our mothers used to tell us tales in our childhood. Nowhere is there any agreement between speech and action, and whenever you find them loudly declaring their unalterable devotion to any principle, it is quite certain that you will find on examination that they have practically reversed its application.
They have a King whom they crowned this year with great pomp and ceremony, and pray every day to their God that he may have grace and wisdom to rule over them. They put a crown upon his head, they put his head upon all their coins, they enact all laws in his name, and they set him on high among the people. This they do with their right hand, but with their left they have robbed him of every shred of real power, until he is but a mere mockery of a monarch, who is allowed to reign on condition that he must not rule, and the abjectness of whose impotence is made all the more glaring by the courtly flattery with which they refer to him in their prayers. But in their logic or illogic, their consistency or inconsistency, they are ruthless of human feelings. It is convenient, they say, to keep the kingship as a cloak, behind which men whom they choose, who are not kings, may have more than kingly power. They call them the Counsellors of the King; but the King is never admitted to their councils, though they compel him to accept and to proclaim the decisions which he took no part in framing as if they emanated from himself.
Not content with having a puppet King, who speaks the words which his Ministers put into his mouth, and who does nothing which his servants do not dictate to him whom they call their Royal master, they have constructed all the machinery of their government on the same paradoxical principle. Francis Tressidder has taught us that the English are a self-governing people. How often have we not heard him describe the justice and symmetry of the system by which the male householders of the land met together in their various districts, and elected the wisest men from their own number, and to these wise men so elected as representatives of the will and wisdom of the people the whole government of England was entrusted. In England, he said, you have the great example of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Now many things that Tressidder told us are so far contrary to what is actually to be found in England that when I repeated his words those who heard them were moved to mirth. But his belief that England was governed by the people, and that it was a real democracy, is shared even by some of the English who dwell in England. When I came to examine the matter I saw that the people's Parliament was as hollow a sham as the puppet King. In the electing of their Parliament there is only one principle in which the English are logical and consistent. That principle is the Dominance of Man. They divide their Parliament into two assemblies. One, the House of Lords, I have already mentioned, but the elective House, which they call the House of Commons, is supposed to be chosen by the free vote of the whole people. Therefore, with characteristic logic, the English begin by declaring that half of the whole people shall not be consulted directly or indirectly in the matter. It is passing strange to me, the stern and ruthless manner in which the English manifest in all their actions the contempt for their womenkind. A householder may be wise, gracious, experienced, versed in the administration of affairs, learned in all the lore of statesmanship, but all avails her nothing if she bear the fatal stigma of her sex. Politically she is classed with lunatics, paupers, and criminals. But her state is even worse than this. The lunatic may recover his reason; the pauper may quit the workhouse; the criminal may in time be restored to the rôle of a citizen. But no woman can escape from the disabilities of her sex. She may render the greatest service to the State. All her fellow-citizens may regard her as an oracle of wisdom, but, being a woman, she remains under a perpetual ban. My heart grew hot within me and my feelings often blazed into wrath at this studied slight to Womanhood. Are these English indeed, I asked, of woman born? But I must restrain my indignation, and proceed to give you, who belong to the sex proscribed here, but supreme in the happier land over which you reign, some account of English institutions.
The House of Commons, as I said, is elected by the people—that is to say, by the male people, for 'the people' are all 'male,' excepting when taxes are levied, and then the people are both male and female. In making laws the existence of the other half of the people is ignored in accordance with the fundamental principle of the English Constitution. This, however, is logical and consistent; but what is strange to me is that the English then proceed so to arrange matters that one-half the adult male people shall not be allowed to vote. I am assured that in this great City of London forty-nine out of every hundred adult male residents are shut out from the rights of citizenship through no fault of their own. Therefore the people's Parliament is elected nominally by half of the population, but in reality by one-half of that half. Sometimes this seems strange, even to the English, and so to atone for doing away with the votes of so many men with one hand they give other men a great many votes. From the poor man they take the one vote which he might have had, and they give to the rich man sometimes a dozen votes. But to me it seems that this, instead of making things better, makes them worse.
To your woman's wit it might not seem to be difficult, having eliminated all women from the electoral roll, to provide that the adult males, who alone are recognised as the people, should elect councillors to represent them on a just and simple principle. But, strange to say, the English seem to have no sense of proportion in their political affairs. In English politics two and two do not make four. They sometimes make seven, and sometimes three. As for the Rule of Three, it shares the fate of women in politics. Its existence is not recognised, and, therefore, no appeal can be made to its authority.
To the House of Commons there are sent between six hundred and seven hundred Councillors, who are chosen by the voting half of the male half of the adult population. The six hundred odd Councillors are divided, so that in round numbers 10,000 electors should each return one representative if the principle were adopted of one vote one value. This principle, however, finds as little favour with the English as the other principle of one man one vote. The English, although extravagant in many ways, are economical of their political watchwords, and having invented a taking phrase describing some necessary reform, they are very careful not to execute the reform for fear of spoiling their phrase. So one set shouts for 'One Man One Vote,' the other for 'One Vote One Value'; but both shrink with horror from carrying the reform which would deprive their watchword of its point. So, instead of each vote having the same value, with English inconsistency their value differs all over the land. In some places a vote is worth two, three, or four times as much as in another place. 3000 men, if they live in one place, have a representative all to themselves, although they may be neither wiser, nor richer, nor better than their neighbours. But a few miles away 20,000 men have only one member, although they are neither poorer, nor less wise, nor worse than those who have seven times their voice in the councils of the nation.
When the time comes for the choosing of Councillors, the voting half of the enfranchised half of the population divides itself again into halves, and these two halves, each with their own leaders, contend furiously with each other as to which should have the right to dictate to the King who should rule the ruler and be the master of their Sovereign Lord the King.
As both sides, which they call parties, are nearly balanced in numbers, the contest, which is decided by the counting of heads, excites great interest. At last election a transfer of five per cent of the voters would have led to the overthrow of the Government.
I have explained that it is only one half of the adult male half of the population who have any right to put their noses into the affairs of State, so the members are chosen by the counting of these noses. When the rival candidates for the seat in the great assembly appear, the man who can muster the greatest number of noses to be counted by the officials is declared to be elected, and proceeds to Parliament to make laws for the nation.
When they arrive in the House of Assembly they divide themselves according to their sides or parties, and the side of the majority then makes the Government, and gives the King his orders as to what he must do. Whether the majority in the House represents a majority in the country—a majority, that is to say, of the voting half of the adult male half of the population—may or may not be. Sometimes a small majority on the nose-count in the country will elect a large majority in the House of Commons, and sometimes it is the other way about.
The Government thus elected by the votes of one half of one half of one half of the population claims to be the choice of the representatives of the majority of the people, and when they speak you are told that you hear the voice of the nation. In reality they are never chosen by more than an eighth of the adult population. The other seven-eighths have either voted against them or are not allowed to vote at all.
It may be thought that, having by the troublesome and costly process of nose-counting succeeded in deciding which of the two great parties should form the Government, the majority would be able to make what laws it pleases. But those who think this know little of the marvellous ingenuity of the English people, which is displayed in nothing so much as in the subtle contrivances by which all government can be paralysed. Sometimes, when I have meditated long upon this strange spectacle, the thought has occurred to me that the Divine Mother, angered by the exclusion of the mothers of England from all share in the government of the land, has placed a worm in the brain of the dominant male, so that while he monopolises all power, he is paralysed in its exercise. Otherwise, how can we explain the House of Lords? This assembly or senate is composed of four hundred or five hundred persons, of whom all but fifty or sixty sit there because they were the first sons born in marriage to their fathers. They are not chosen by the people. They owe their seats to the accident of their birth by married mothers, who are themselves excluded from all share in legislation. These four hundred or five hundred persons, the first-fruits of wedlock in their respective families, have equal rights in all things with the House of Commons except two. They have no voice in the levying of taxes, and they cannot turn out the Government. But without their assent no law can be passed.
Of the four hundred men who sit in the Senate by right of birth to whom are added some fifty who have been appointed in their lifetime by the leader of their own party, the enormous majority are devotees of the great English Gods Conservatism and Vested Interest. Hence they never assent to any measure of reform excepting under menace of agitation. They assert the right of refusing to assent to any new law, no matter how urgently needed it may be, until there has been another nose-count throughout the country upon this question. If the nose-count taken on that issue goes against them, on that point, and on that point only, they will give in; but they will make up for this enforced submission by rejecting and mutilating all other new laws proposed by the majority that issued from the last nose-count. When the worshippers of the great God Conservatism are in the majority in the nation and in the House of Commons the two Houses do not come into collision because both stand still; but the moment the nose-count places the disciples of Conservatism in a minority, and the party of Progress controlling the House of Commons endeavours to push forward new laws and to make necessary reforms, there is at once a deadlock. A temporary Progressive majority in the House of Commons, confronted by a permanent Conservative majority in the House of Lords, is doomed to impotence.
Thus far, O Queen, have I gone in studying the politics of the English. As yet I have not seen the great assembly gathered together in the Senate House at Westminster. But this much I have learned. The English have succeeded in doing two things with a thoroughness which cannot be disputed. They have shut out women from Parliament, either as electors or elected, and they have succeeded in reducing Parliamentary government to a deadlock. Do these two things not explain each other? The Curse of Cybele lies heavy upon the men who despise the mothers who bore them and the wives at whose breasts their children are suckled.
MY beloved Queen, my heart is sore within me, but I am afraid that our Teacher must die. Hasten not, however, the execution of his sentence, but let him tarry until I return. There may be some intervention of the Divine Mother to save him from his doom, though I see no way of escape. From my previous letters you will have learned that while there was much of truth in what the Teacher said, England must have changed so greatly since he left it that the reality is quite different from his ideal. All the disappointment I have previously experienced is as nothing compared with the crushing blow under which I am writhing at this moment. For two whole days I have striven to put pen to paper, and each time my hand refused to do my bidding. Again and again, when I dipped my pen in the ink, it seemed as if the ink turned to blood, and the life of a friend would perish with the written word. And even now it is only by the utmost effort that I can reconcile my feelings to trace the terrible words: 'Francis Tressidder must die the death.'
For Francis Tressidder has lied, and we, believing his lie to be truth, have made changes in all good faith which I look back upon from where I stand with alarm, perhaps even dread. For when the Teacher came preaching to us of the Kingdom of Heaven, in nothing did we respond more eagerly to his appeal than when he told us of the glories of the reign of the Prince of Peace. Cybele, our Divine Mother, with all her train of gracious Goddesses, seemed to have been incarnate in the Divine Man, and in His teachings we heard again the accents of Her beloved voice. Never shall I forget the day on which he spoke to us in the Temple of the Divine Mother of the coming of Him whom he called Emmanuel, the Virgin-born, who would judge among the nations, and rebuke many people, so that they should beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks, when nation should not lift up sword against nation, neither should they learn war any more.
His good news of settled peace came to us like cool waters to those who wander in the desert. But, we asked him, can these things be? And he told us that his God had set up His Temple in England, and that God's Englishmen were carrying out His great work all round the world. 'Behold,' said he, 'in England a King does reign in righteousness, and Princes rule in judgment. England is mighty among the nations, because the Prince of Peace has selected her as His chosen instrument with which to make wars to cease throughout the world.'
So we heard him, and we believed—oh, fools and blind that we were!—and believing that he spoke truth, we disbanded the small force with which we guarded our frontier against the entrance of those who would ravish our land. But I tremble at the thought of the consequences that may even now follow our rash acceptance of the Teacher's counsels. Hasten, I beseech you, to restore the frontier guards, and even to increase their number, for from what I have seen with my eyes and heard with my ears—yes, and handled with my hands—it is proved to me how cruelly we have been deceived. There is no Prince of Peace—at least, not in England. 'They shall learn war no more,' was the blessed word which Francis Tressidder sounded in our ears as the good tidings from his God; but in England they are learning little else but war. They prepare for war every day. Year by year they multiply the numbers of their great ships, built for fighting. Year after year they add thousands to the number of men trained to kill. Instead of coming, as I hoped, into the very Temple of Emmanuel, to see the blessed results of His peaceful sway in the nation which of all others first beat its swords into ploughshares and its spears into pruning-hooks, I find myself in the very Temple of the God of War, and from end to end there sounds nothing but the forging of great guns, the building of warships, and the tramp of armed men.
The experience which I have already described prepared me to some extent for disappointment, even in the matter of peace and war. But Tressidder was so passionately opposed even to defensive measures that I felt assured that the English as a nation were devoted to peace. It is true that they say they are, which I have now sorrowfully come to think is the best reason for believing that they are not. It was not till some days after my arrival that the terrible truth began to dawn upon me. I heard people speaking of a war which had just ended. As it was no longer going on I did not ask any questions, but hearing some one remark that the war had lasted for nearly three years, I asked them to tell me what war they meant.
'Why,' said they, 'the war which England has been fighting in South Africa.'
'But England,' said I incredulously, 'is the Empire of Peace!'
'Yes,' said they, 'that is quite true. We never make War excepting for the sake of Peace.'
'We love peace,' said another, 'so well that we are prepared to fight for it.'
'Then,' said I, 'you have not yet beaten your swords into ploughshares nor your spears into pruning-hooks?' And they laughed.
'That's a very good doctrine for Sundays,' they said, 'but not for week-days.'
Whereat I was silent, and began to think of many things.
One day, when I was by the side of the river, I heard a noise of music, of bands and drums, that made my heart sink, for the sound of the drums and horns carried me back to the time when Tressidder had not yet succeeded in suppressing the Corybantes, and the gay procession danced along our roads to the music of the cymbal and the drum. But when the music drew nearer I saw that it was no procession of joyous Corybantes expressing their gladness in a spring festival. Behind them rode mounted men, carrying weapons of war. Then came, with vast rumbling of wheels, the great guns, with which I was told they could kill men at a distance of four miles; and after them came the foot-soldiers, carrying their rifles and marching together like one great man-slaying machine.
'What does this mean?' I asked.
'Oh, they are our soldiers coming home from the war,' said the man whom I addressed; and on either side of the street stood great crowds of men, and women also, to their shame be it said, and they shouted and cheered as if in great gladness of heart.
'What have these men been doing?' I asked.
'Oh, they have been fighting for Old England!' said the man whom I addressed. 'They are heroes home from the war. Hurrah for Old England!' said he.
I was too heartsick to inquire into what war it was. But the fact that war existed as a horrible reality was enough. It was all a lie, then, what Tressidder said. I slept little that night, and in the morning I applied myself to learn whether the Prince of Peace had any followers left in England. I was told that there were a few despised fanatics who believed in peace, and were fools enough to talk about arbitration, but that the Government, the Church, the newspapers had all been for the war, and that all the thoughts of the English were now to increase their fighting power. Instead of beating their swords into ploughshares they were making their ploughshares into swords and their pruning-hooks into spears. Everywhere fresh altars were being erected to the worship of the War God. England was now spending more money every year upon her man-slaying machines on land and sea than any other nation in the world. From every man, woman, and child of the English there is levied, to pay for war and preparations for war, the sum of 70s. every year, which is thrice as much as is paid for all the other services of the Government. Of every pound spent by the English through their Government 15s. goes for war—past, present, or to come—while only 5s. remains for the services of peace. It is a madness which has smitten the whole people. They spend their money for nought, and waste their resources for that which profiteth not.
Poor Tressidder! How often he has warned us that the way of transgressors is hard! Therein, at least, he spoke the words of truth. The intoxication of war produces, first delirium, and then paralysis. It is necessary to have some brains even when you go forth to kill your fellow-men; but what I hear on every side is that the Department created for the making of War displays all the signs of paralysis of the brain. Some even go so far as to deny that it has any brain, and point to various reports recently issued as to the purchase of horses and other things. Others say that while there is some brain somewhere, the only effect of the delirium of war has been to ruin the nerves which enable that brain to communicate with the extremities. Even now a Royal Commission is sitting to discuss the cause of mistakes and blunders inconceivable. They have already discovered that the Department of Intelligence is not very intelligent; that it is not even in communication with the Defence Committee of the Cabinet.
I cannot close this letter, my beloved Queen, without mentioning the one small drop of consolation which comforts me as your representative in this country. When a member of the War Commission was discoursing concerning the imbecility which characterised the preparations for war, the ignorance that prevailed even among the highest counsellors of the King, and the general muddle and mismanagement which distinguished the war, I asked him whether in the War Office or in the Army women had any say. Mark well his answer:
'Of women in petticoats not one. There are too many old women in breeches there already.'
So that for all the muddle and confusion, the ignorance and presumption which characterise those in authority no blame can attach to women. The Army is an exclusively male preserve.
THE arrival of news from Callicrates was awaited with feverish impatience by Dione, and with calm confidence by Tressidder. The captive in his dungeon was happier than the Queen upon her throne, for Dione was distracted by conflicting emotions. Never before had any Xanthian been permitted to stray beyond the confines of the Happy Vale. Those who, in defiance of the law of the land, had crossed the frontiers, and had endeavoured to penetrate the recesses of the dark forest, had never returned. Nothing but her earnest desire to save Tressidder from execution would have induced her to listen, even for a moment, to any suggestion that a Xanthian should take his life in his hand and explore the outer world.
The mission of Callicrates had roused the liveliest resentment in all parts of the realm. For Callicrates was no ordinary citizen. He was the son of the famous Priestess whose serene wisdom and majestic presence were remembered with veneration by all Xanthia. Callicrates had been for many years the most trusted counsellor of the Queen. But for the confidence reposed in his sagacity Dione would have found it impossible to carry out the reforms initiated by Tressidder. And now, with the whole nation seething with angry discontent, with the Conservative party clamouring for a return to the ancient ways, Callicrates had been despatched on a perilous mission to parts unknown, from which unbroken precedent suggested he would never return. 'Better slay a thousand Tressidders,' said the leader of the party of Reaction, a fiery old dame, the aunt of Callicrates, 'rather than risk a hair of my nephew's head!' The Corybantic dances had been restored in the Temple of Cybele, and there were not lacking signs that, one by one, all the reforms of Tressidder would be undone.
Dione, although uneasy, was undismayed. Her prestige was undimmed. The sentiment of passionate loyalty to their beautiful Sovereign, who was as courageous as she was fair and as prudent as she was bold, could be relied upon to carry her through the crisis—so long, at least, as there was any chance that Callicrates would return. Her real anxiety sprang from a very different root from fear of revolution or reaction. Her early feeling for Tressidder, which was far more a passion of gratitude than of love, had long since cooled down. Her temperament was serene—chilly, her suitors said. Otherwise, Tressidder would promptly have been consigned to the executioner when he repelled Dione's advances. But with ripening years the Woman within her had begun to assert its sway. She craved for the happiness of Marriage, for the supreme benediction of Maternity.
Of Tressidder in that connection she had long since ceased to think. He had been to her, for more than nine years, a trusted counsellor, a revered teacher, a messenger from the Goddess, rather than a mortal man. Affairs of State, however, had been too engrossing for her to give much thought to her innumerable suitors, who, from the respectful distance enforced by the laws of Xanthia, had in vain sought to arouse her affection or even to excite her interest Heart-whole she had gone in and out among her people with an easy-going indifference to the men-folk which led her sometimes to wonder whether she was capable of love.
Of all those whose attentions she had noticed, the most attractive in every way had been Callicrates. But he was so much of the Counsellor she had never been able to regard him as a lover. Affairs of State took up all their time when they were together; and Callicrates, like all Xanthian men, could not, even in his wildest flight of imagination, conceive the possibility of such an outrage upon the established convention as to usurp the woman's prerogative of proposing marriage. This was the right of every woman in Xanthia, and when that woman was a Queen the natural right of her sex was strengthened by the prerogative of the Crown. Callicrates worshipped is silence, not daring to hope that his Royal mistress would honour him with the glory of her choice. Hence, when he accepted her mission, it was not without its consolation. If he succeeded, his success might win the love of the Queen. If that were impossible, Death had for him only the allurement of an anodyne for his hopeless Love.
It was not until his final disappearance in the depths of the dark forest that Dione woke up to a consciousness of her real sentiment towards him. While he was with her in the Cabinet he had seemed merely the most trusty and devoted of her advisers. Now that he had vanished, perhaps never to return, Dione discovered that he had inspired her with a warmer emotion. When she returned to her Palace after bidding him farewell on the borders of the forest, she realised for the first time how empty was her life now Callicrates was away. 'Oh, fool, fool that I was!' she exclaimed to herself in a passion of tears. How could I let him go?'
After a few days the pain became unbearable. Her only thought was how to bring him back. To send after him was to proclaim infirmity of purpose, and to confess publicly an indecision which would have ruined her prestige. But after a fortnight, during which her misery grew ever more intolerable, she decided to risk everything and to recall her Lover. Secretly she despatched her trustiest messenger, bearing an imperative summons to Callicrates to return at once. 'I would sacrifice a thousand Tressidders,' she wrote, 'rather than that one hair of your beloved head should be injured. Return, not to be my Prime Minister only, but my Consort.'
But Callicrates had travelled too swiftly. When Dione's messenger reached the seaboard, all that could be seen of the steamer that bore him across the ocean was a long trail of black smoke in the far horizon. Many weeks passed before the disheartened messenger regained the confines of Xanthia. In the meantime the popular discontent had increased. There was talk of a revolt in the Northern hills, where they had never entirely accepted the new doctrine. Dione every hour felt the need of the strong, brave Minister whom, in what now seemed to her a moment of incredible infatuation, she had despatched to his doom. With Tressidder she held no communication. She loathed the very sound of his name. He lay in his dungeon loaded with chains, eating the bread and drinking the water of affliction, but sustained in the midst of his solitude by the certainty of Divine interposition and of ultimate triumph.
It was a blazing day in July when Dione from the windows of her council chamber, casting a wistful look in the direction whence Callicrates had departed, spied in the distance the approach of a swift runner. She had just dismissed her Cabinet, where she had stood alone in resisting a demand for the immediate reconstitution of an armed frontier guard, and the raising of a bodyguard to protect the Palace against the danger of a sudden attack by the malcontents. 'Dione needs no bodyguard,' she exclaimed. 'As for the frontier, we shall see.' For in her heart she hoped that any day might bring the glad tidings of Callicrates' return. When she saw the rapid approach of the messenger her heart leapt in her bosom, and she turned sick and faint with dread. Perhaps she had been too late. Or, perchance, Callicrates was dead.
'Oh, Cybele, Divine Mother,' she prayed in her anguish, 'sustain me in this my hour of anguish, and restore to me the man whom Thou hast destined to be the father of my child!'
And even as she was rising from her knees the Chamberlain ushered into her presence the breathless runner. 'News,' said the Chamberlain—'news from Callicrates!'
The Queen sprang forward in uncontrollable excitement.
'Speak!' she cried. 'He lives?'
The messenger, who had dropped upon his knees, handed her without a word a sealed package. On the cover she recognised the familiar handwriting of her Lover.
The room swam around her. Controlling herself with difficulty, she motioned to the Chamberlain to withdraw. Bowing to the ground, he retired, leaving the Queen alone with the man who had brought the package from Callicrates.
'Speak,' she said gently. 'From whence do you come?'
'From the frontier,' said the man. 'Out of the depths of the forest there came yesterday morning a man weary and worn with long travelling. Startled by his apparition, I was still more astounded when by his speech I heard he was a Xanthian.'
'Proceed,' said the Queen impatiently. 'What said he?'
'He said that he was the bearer of this package, delivered into his hands on the shores of the great sea.'
'Leave me,' said the Queen. 'It is enough.'
The messenger withdrew, and the Queen with feverish impatience burst open the package. In a moment she knew all; her messenger had been too late. Callicrates had sailed away across the ocean and she was alone. For one horrible moment she stood still, staring at the opening words of his letter written on the eve of his departure. Then all grew dark around her, and with a cry she fell heavily to the ground.
When Dione awoke the sun had sunk, and the moon was shedding her silvery radiance over the capital.
As her senses slowly returned Dione remembered, with a spasm of pain, the letter which had sounded the knell of her hopes. Eagerly seizing it, she lit a taper and retired to her private apartment, and, locking the door, devoured the contents of the message from the coast. It was a long and interesting epistle, describing with graphic detail the many adventures which Callicrates had met on his journey to the sea. It breathed a spirit of profound devotion, illumined by a spirit of lofty faith. As she read she felt ashamed of her weakness, and even felt an inward joy that her messenger had been too late to arrest a journey so auspiciously begun. When she had finished its perusal her spirit returned, and her cheek glowed with pride at the thought of all that Callicrates had faced for love of her. For behind the humble professions of loyal devotion to the Queen she detected, ever and anon, the soft sigh of his love for the woman; and the woman and the Queen rejoiced in the glad tidings which she would on the morrow proclaim to the people.
It was, indeed, just in time. For at sunrise, as the Queen's messengers sped swiftly forth to north and south and east and west, summoning the chieftainesses and their counsellors to the Temple of Cybele, they passed on their way the emissaries of revolt. The aunt of Callicrates was summoning the disaffected everywhere to a great demonstration for the recall of Callicrates, or, if that were impossible, for vengeance on the Queen who had sent him to his doom. Both messages were delivered, and in the afternoon, in the Temple of Cybele, the Queen found herself face to face not only with the representatives of her people, but with the ringleaders of the revolt.
All opposition, however, was hushed into silence as the letter of Callicrates was read from the steps of the altar of Cybele. The exciting adventures which Callicrates described, his marvellous escapes from imminent death, the spirit of high resolve, and the glowing enthusiasm of loyalty which inspired his letter, swept away all opposition.
When at the close Dione stood up before her people and proclaimed her steadfast resolve to make Callicrates, on his return, her Royal Consort, the enthusiasm of the assemblage knew no bounds. The aunt of Callicrates was the first to speak. Prostrating herself before the Queen, she implored forgiveness for her intended rebellion.
'Freely I forgive thee thy contemplated treason,' said the Queen; 'and in token of my forgiveness of all those who, in their devotion to the ancient customs of the realm, meditated revolt against my throne, I proclaim, in honour of my betrothal, the restoration of the Corybantic dance.'
And there and then in the crowded Temple a space was cleared, and once more the august image of the Divine Mother looked down upon the solemn and mystic measures of her devotees, who with clash of cymbal and roll of drums threaded the mazes of the sacred dance by which for more than two thousand years the Xanthians had celebrated the great crises in the life of humanity.
That night the capital was one blaze of light. The streets were vocal with song, and in every square the people abandoned themselves with ecstasy to the restored dance.
Before Dione slept that night a swift messenger was speeding his way through the dark forest, bearing to the seashore, to await Callicrates' return, not merely the summons of the Queen to share her throne, but the passionate outpouring of a woman's heart to her absent lover.
In all Xanthia there was joy and gladness, everywhere save where, in his dungeon, loaded with chains, sat Francis Tressidder, alone with his thoughts. Through the heavily-barred window he heard the jubilation of the festive multitude, the roll of the drums and the thrilling music of the horns. His heart grew heavy within him, for he knew too well the melody of the dance. But ere midnight the door of his prison was opened, the chains were smitten off his limbs, and he was led forth to the presence of the Queen.
Radiant with a light which he had never before seen on her countenance, she advanced to meet him. 'Teacher,' she said, 'when I am so happy I cannot bear to think that you should be so sad. Rejoice with me. When Callicrates returns I shall be his wife. Till then, dwell within the precincts of my palace.'
And so it was settled that Dione and Callicrates were to wed, and that until his fate was decided Tressidder was to be only a prisoner in name. The Queen willed it, for she loved to talk of Callicrates, and to none could she talk so freely as to Tressidder. For her this was pure joy; but for Tressidder it was an experience full of peril. Denied the usual outlet for his energies, thrown every day into intimate communion with a young and beautiful woman, he felt to his horror the first kindlings of a wanner sentiment than the zeal of the Apostle. With iron resolution he sought to crush these unbidden promptings of his nature. He controlled with success their articulate expression; but long before the first letter arrived from England he was hopelessly, passionately in love with Dione, who, all unconscious of the flame which she had kindled, fed it day by day by the outpourings of her love for Callicrates.
Things were in this pass when the first two communications from England arrived in Xanthia. They were brought by the messenger to whom she had entrusted her letter which summoned Callicrates to be her husband. The messenger brought back her letter, but with it he carried the first two Reports, which by that time had arrived from Callicrates. The Queen, with flushed cheek and beating heart, shut herself up in her room and devoured every word. Not until she finished the fateful message did she realise its bearing upon the life of Tressidder. She re-read every word, and then after reading it a third time she sent for the Teacher.
When Tressidder entered the room he was startled by the look of distress upon the face of the Queen.
'From Callicrates,' she said, lifting up the letter as she spoke.
'From England?' he asked.
'From England,' she replied. 'He has crossed the sea safely; but—'
'Thank God!' said Tressidder devoutly. 'Now he knows the truth, of which he was so often incredulous.'
'He knows the truth,' said Dione sadly; 'but it is not as you said.'
Tressidder smiled disdainfully. 'Not as I said? Impossible!'
'Alas! my poor Teacher,' said the Queen. 'My heart grieves for you. It is quite the reverse of what you said.'
'May I read the letter?' said Tressidder impatiently. 'He must have been deceived.'
Dione handed him both the letters of Callicrates. He read them carefully from beginning to the end, she watching him eagerly the while.
When he had finished he handed them back to her without a word.
'Well?' said she impatiently.
'I do not believe a word of it,' he said, 'not one word. He has dreamed it. No such things as he describes could happen in England. It is impossible.'
Dione frowned. 'Callicrates is no dreamer,' she said. 'He writes with his own hand what he saw with his own eyes, what he heard with his own ears.'
'It is impossible,' Tressidder replied stolidly.
'Human sacrifices in England? Nonsense!'
'Take care!' said Dione menacingly. 'Your life is forfeit if it is true.'
'My life is nothing to me,' said Tressidder. 'I would not care to live if these things were true; but they are false.'
'Teacher,' said the Queen, 'things may have changed in England since you left it.'
'They may,' said Tressidder; 'but it would need more evidence than this to convince me.'
'Leave me,' said the Queen, 'and speak no word of this at your peril.'
When Dione was alone she remained a long time lost in thought. To her the news was almost as distasteful as it was to Tressidder. On the strength of his teachings she had revolutionised her realm. Many of the reforms, notably the abolition of human sacrifices, were good in themselves. She shuddered at the consequences if the Report of Callicrates were made known. At any cost that must be averted.
Next morning proclamation was made that letters had been received from Callicrates announcing his safe arrival in England. No announcement of the contents of his despatches would be made public until his return. Meantime, as a measure of precaution, the frontier guard would be re-established, and the Amazons would once more stand ready to hurl back any invader from without.
That night the capital was illuminated, and the whole land celebrated the good news of the arrival of Callicrates in England with music and feasting, with dancing and with song.
So the difficulty was tided over for a time. But when the next letter from the coast arrived the Queen began to be seriously alarmed, and her anxiety deepened with each successive missive. She kept their contents to herself, nor did she breathe a syllable to the luckless Tressidder. But she found it difficult to talk to him as in former days. The consciousness that his fate was sealed oppressed her. He felt the change in her manner, and caught her now and again looking at him with a wistful sadness in her eyes which he had never seen before.
The suspense was becoming intolerable, when the outbreak of an epidemic in the capital created a welcome diversion. A deputation, headed by the aunt of Callicrates, waited upon the Queen, praying that the Teacher, whose skill in medicine was regarded as almost divine, might be permitted, on parole, to undertake the healing of the sick. Dione gladly assented, and for some months she saw little of Tressidder, who in vain attempted by superhuman exertions in the service of the sick and the dying to forget his hopeless passion for the beautiful Queen. His untiring labours, his marvellous skill, and the success with which he combated the pestilence, won the hearts of the people. Even the stern old aunt of Callicrates was heard to remark that it was to be hoped the Report from England would not render it necessary to consign the good physician to the grave.
In this wise things fared in Xanthia. The letters of Callicrates continued to arrive in regular succession, but no one save Dione knew a word of their contents.
THE English, my beloved Queen, have many religions but not much religion. They have many churches, which differ among themselves about many questions of belief and also as to the best method of performing the Temple ritual; but these are only things that they talk about and that they preach about. The real religion of the English is to get on in the world. Their idea of Heaven is to have a good time, and their idea of Hell is failure. This is their practical religion.
They say they believe in God, but what they really believe in is in themselves. In their churches they ask God to give them peace, because, as they explain to Him in their prayer, there is no one to fight for them but only He; but outside the church, when they talk of peace or war, they count upon themselves, upon their ships, upon their guns. If, when a war is being discussed, any one should speak as if God counted in the matter, he would be looked on as if something were the matter with his head. When once the battle begins, then they are quite sure that God is on their side, and to doubt this is regarded as a kind of treason to England. As long as their armies succeed in battle they are quite independent; but should their armies be defeated then they go to their temples and say prayers to Him. They think that if they use many prayers the Prince of Peace will assuredly go forth with their armies and make them victorious by a great slaughter of their enemies. It was to me at first a great marvel that they should think their Divine Master takes no account of the justice of their cause. But I have since learned that in England the greatest of crimes becomes a virtue the moment it is adopted as a principle of English policy. Then the wrong becomes a right, and therefore they hold that the English have a right to call upon their God, whom they regard as a kind of junior partner of the firm of John Bull and Co., to help them whenever their generals are incapable or their foes are pressing them hard.
They have a favourite song which they call the National Anthem. They have indeed two of these songs, one, 'Rule, Britannia,' which gives them their chartered right to the dominion of the seas; the other, which is even more frequently heard, is called the National Anthem. When it is sung, Englishmen take off their hats, by which they believe that their prayer will more assuredly ascend to the heavens. One phrase in this anthem expresses the English view of the right that they have to call upon their Divine ally for services in times when they are at war. It runs thus, after crying 'God Cave the King':—
O Lord our God arise,
Scatter his enemies,
And make them fall!
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On him our hopes we fix;
God Save our King!
It is only, however, in times of great national emergency that this verse is sung, nor have I yet heard it, although the first verse is now very familiar to me. For the English at any amusement or concert or entertainment, no matter how frivolous it may be, consider that nothing is more seemly or more pleasing to the God whom they worship than to sing the first verse of their anthem, which has thus become the national musical finale intimating the close of the performance. This is its chief use in time of peace. In time of war they use it as a kind of war song to encourage each other to attack those who advocate peace. As its words and music are known by all, even the poorest and most ignorant, it is adopted as the most convenient method of making a noise sufficient to silence the voices of those who venture to question the justice of their cause or even to remind the nation of the duty of mercy in their dealings with their enemies. In all matters concerning that which they call their national honour all discussion is ended.
Our Teacher Tressidder told us that the English believed in a religion whose Founder said, 'Love your enemies.' What the most of the English really believe in is the duty of hating those who from any caprice they call their natural enemies. This carries with it the obligation to believe all manner of accusations against them without inquiry or proof. This duty they religiously perform, often at no small loss and injury to themselves. They admit that this curious superstition about natural enemies has often led them into useless wars, and has deprived them of much good. But so deeply fixed is this belief that when they can no longer pretend that their interests or their honour are in danger from a neighbour whom they have for a hundred years regarded as their natural enemy, they announce that the inherent quality of natural enmity has passed over to another neighbour, whom they proceed to hate and abuse and injure in all manner of ways. When I asked, 'Why this strange caprice of hatred?' I was told that the English always must have a 'natural enemy,' who serves as a kind of popular devil, the dread of whom would make the poor people pay willingly from their poverty great sums of money to keep up the army and the navy. The one thing needful was to have a foreign devil always in stock. What name it bears does not matter.
The same curious contrast between their Sunday creed and their week-day practice is to be found in their internal legislation. The only saying of their professed Master which is embodied in their laws is that which speaks of giving to him that hath, and taking from him that has nothing even that which he has. They taxed the poor man's bread to pay the rich man's rent; they gave the man all the property of the woman whom he married, and in defence of their property they hanged the starving man who stole a morsel of bread; while the money left to educate the poor was made over to the sons of the wealthy. Of late years the 'Have Nots,' as they call them, have amended some of these things, but the 'Haves' are all-powerful, and the House of Lords is maintained with absolute power to prevent any insult being offered to the great God Property.
The people who go to church on Sunday call themselves religious. They are a very small section of the nation, not more than one in seven of the whole. The majority of this minority are women. But no woman is allowed to minister in the churches. Nowhere is the dogma of the Divine Right of Man to monopolise all positions of trust and of power more rigorously enforced. In some of their Churches it is even forbidden to the minister to be married to a woman. More than a thousand years ago a Council of the Church decreed that women should neither approach the altar nor arrange anything upon it. It was even ordered that women should only touch the consecrated emblems of salvation with covered hands. Woman was the incarnation of original sin.
The Churches which are maintained for the worship of Christ are divided about many questions, some of them so minute I am afraid I could not make any Xanthian understand them. Some, for instance, hold that their God would be sore displeased if they did not burn candles in daylight on His altar, while others hold that if they allowed a candle to be lit He would turn away the light of His countenance from them. Again, a great dispute arose about the pattern and the colour of the dress in which Christian ministers should appear in church. Some held that their God would not listen to their prayers unless they wore white, others were sure He would be angry unless they wore black. Another long dispute raged, and indeed is still raging, whether incense should be burned in their churches. Over the discussion of these tremendous issues the Churches expended immense energy, and developed so much hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness that families have been divided and riots have been caused by differences of opinion as to the use of incense and the cut of a vestment.
In former times, I am told, they used to burn each other alive as the most decisive way of convincing their opponents. Nowadays they are forbidden to use such extreme measures; but they are not without their consolations in believing that, although those who differ from them may escape the vengeance of the English courts, England's God will burn them through all eternity in the flames of Hell.
These divisions excite the irreligious to scorn and the thoughtless to laughter. But while the Churches quarrel the nation suffers. Even now a great commotion prevails in England. It is admitted that English children are not so well taught as those of their new 'natural enemy' in Germany. But no improvement can be made because the Churches cannot agree as to what religion must be taught to the children. The richest of the Churches insists that its special creed must alone be taught in one-half of the public schools, which are maintained by the rates and taxes of the whole nation. Against this the poorer Churches are in revolt, and are declaring that their members will go to prison rather than contribute to the cost of teaching a religion in which they do not believe.
Whether any of them really believe in the Christian religion is what I have not yet been able to learn. One Sunday I went to morning service in the great Temple in which they crown their Kings. I heard the voice of the officiating priest say quite clearly:—
'Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested on the Seventh day and hallowed it. Therefore the Seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. On it thou shalt do no manner of work, thou, nor thy man-servant nor thy maid-servant.'
And the people sang, 'Lord have mercy upon us and incline our hearts to keep Thy law.' Yet I know from conversations even with the priests of the Temple that they do not believe that Heaven and earth were created in six days, neither do they keep holy the Seventh day. That, they say, does not matter, for they keep the First, or rather they say they keep it; but so far from doing no manner of work on that day, their man-servants and their maid-servants are worked as hard on that day as any other, and sometimes, among the richer, even harder.
Verily the English are a strange people. I fell a-musing, but was roused from my reverie by hearing the priest say, 'Thou shalt not kill.' Now where I was sitting, beside me there was a great monument in marble in honour of a dead warrior who had killed many men, and soldiers in their uniform, fresh from killing in the late war, sat near me. But all the same they sang, 'Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep Thy law.' And I confess I hoped He would have mercy upon them, but He had evidently not inclined their hearts to keep His law.
How can these things be? If women were rulers, as they are in Xanthia, the English would say, like Tressidder, that it was due to the illogical female mind. But here Woman is subject in all things to the rule of Man. Not only do they not allow women to officiate in the Temple during life, but they deny them honour after death. The abbey at Westminster, and the greater Temple called St. Paul's, are full of monuments to those whom they deem worthy of honour. Excepting a very few of their Queens and one or two others, all these memorials to departed greatness are monuments of men—soldiers, sailors, statesmen, poets, travellers, historians, musicians—all men. Few English women are held worthy of a niche in the great Temple. English women seem either to be unworthy of honour or, being worthy, are denied the recognition of their worth.
'Were not these men of mothers born?' said I to my friend. 'Or how is it that none reared a statue of her at whose breast he was nursed?'
'Really,' said my friend, 'you are too absurd. You will presently be wanting to put up statues to the cows.'
Pardon, me, O beloved Queen, for repeating this blasphemy against the Divine Mother. I record it because it expresses the dominant thought of the ascendant sex. When I left the Abbey it did not seem to me that I was quitting the precincts of a Christian Church. It was a Temple reared to the honour and glory of Man, which should bear the inscription, emblazoned in letters of gold upon its front, 'Glory to Man in the Highest, for Man is the master of all things, including Woman.'
In the afternoon I went to St. Paul's. The Abbey at least bore in its structure traces of the ancient faith. The emblems of Cybele and of the life-giving powers of Nature are built into the fabric, and shine radiant in the windows, but even this element is absent from St Paul's. It might be the ante-chamber of the War-God. Banners borne in battles moulder in its aisles. In place of the Christian saints over whose tombs the pious reared temples in other lands, the great shrines of St. Paul's are for Wellington, the English War-God of the land, and Nelson, the War-God of the sea. Among the statues I was cheered by one female figure, but on approaching it I discovered that it was not a monument of an actual woman; it was only an emblematic figure of the name of Britannia, introduced in order to do homage and pay honour to man.
On leaving the Cathedral a friend took me eastward. We passed through long, deserted streets, until we came to a place called Aldgate. The broad road was filled with people, mostly men. Turning to the left, we entered the street called Middlesex, and found ourselves in the midst of a noisy and crowded market. Sellers of all kinds of goods lined each side or the street, the centre of which was choked with men and women laughing and talking, and buying what they would. There were many more people there than in the Abbey, and this was the way in which some of the inhabitants of this great city kept holy the Sabbath day.
THERE is one thing in England, my beloved Queen, the like of which we have not in Xanthia. Nor have we in the sacred writings which preserve the traditions of the past any account of anything so strange. The English pretend to be governed by their King; they believe they are governed by their Parliament, but wise men who seem to know tell me that the English are really governed by their Newspapers. This is a great mystery, and I fear I shall not be able to make you understand how it can be.
For a Newspaper is only a sheet of paper very thin and very broad, on which are printed all manner of words, true and false. These Newspapers appear in the morning early, and in the evening. But the evening with the Newspapers begins two hours before noon, which is to me a thing strange to understand, and so also is the fact that no one can ever obtain a first, a second, or a third edition of an evening paper. As the evening begins at ten o'clock in the morning, so it is even then the fourth edition that appears. I have sought in vain for the first, the second, or the third.
'Perchance,' said I to my friend, 'these have been seized by the police because they contain matter that they ought not.'
But my friend smiled and answered never a word.
The Newspapers contain two kinds of printed words. One is called news, and this is collected with much expense all over the world. The conductors of the paper will pay great sums of money to obtain this news. The other is called 'Ads.,' and for this part of the Newspaper the conductors will pay nothing, but must indeed be paid great sums before they will permit it to be printed in their pages. The news and the 'Ads.' are all mixed up together in a way that makes it difficult for me to know one from the other. The English think they know, and they were much offended if I mistook one for the other. But I have been told that there are Newspapers which take money for the words they print as news as well as for what they print as Ads., but the well-thinking people cry out at this and say it is roguery.
There seems to me much roguery in other things than this. In Xanthia if a woman gives herself out to be a prophetess and receives gifts for prophecies she is cast into prison even if her prophecies are fulfilled. But in England most of the Newspapers keep prophets who every day profess to foretell the names of the horses which will pass the winning-post first in the races of that day. Every day they prophesy, and every day many of their prophecies are unfulfilled. But although many foolish people lose money by trusting their prophecies, no one puts the prophets into gaol. No matter how falsely they prophesied yesterday, they prophesy as confidently to-day; no one punishes them, and the conductors of the Newspapers pay them much money every day for their prophecies, whether they be true or false.
Ten years ago in Xanthia, urged by the counsels of the Teacher, you made a law which put down all gambling and sent to prison all who should induce or encourage a practice so baneful to the public weal. If such a law were to be enacted in England, all the conductors of the Newspapers would be imprisoned. For it is they who make gambling universal. The English profess to hate gambling, and make laws against it, and they sometimes cry out in indignation at the Prince of a place called Monte Carlo, where public gaming is allowed to the rich. But almost every Newspaper every day spreads a gaming-table before every man, woman, and child in the nation, inviting them to stake their money on racehorses at prices called 'the odds,' which are religiously recorded every day.
'Wherein lies the difference,' I asked, 'between Monte Carlo, which these Newspapers condemn, and the racecourse which they support?'
'There is a great difference,' he replied. 'You cannot cheat at Monte Carlo, and only a few can play. But on the racecourse cheating is easy and everybody can bet.'
This seemed to me to make bad worse; but the ways of the English are past finding out.
When I first saw a Newspaper I was not a little puzzled. For it is not printed like the books which the Teacher showed us in words of one type. The size of the type varies constantly. And sometimes the whole broad page is full of huge black type.
'Why this difference?' I asked.
'Oh,' I was told, 'for the most important news we use the largest type. We use big headlines to call attention to the most interesting articles.'
With this information I began to study my paper. I found that the most important announcements, measured by the size of type, were the price of pills, the names of whiskies, and the address of a maker of cocoa.
'How is this?' I asked my friend.
'Oh,' he said, 'these are "Ads.," not news. The size of an "Ad.'s" type depends solely upon the money of the man who pays for it.'
'Then it is in the news only that headings are given according to the importance of the article?'
'Yes,' said my friend, 'the more important the article the bigger the heading.'
So I turned to my paper again. After a while I came upon an article without any heading at all.
'This,' I said, 'must be of no importance, for it has not even a small headline to draw the attention of the reader.'
'What nonsense are you talking!' he replied. 'Why, that is the leading article, which, in the editor's opinion, is most important of all.'
Whereat I marvelled, again wondering if I should ever be able to understand the ways of the English.
What is News? I have often asked, but I have hitherto failed to obtain any answer that satisfied me. I study the papers closely, and see only one thing clearly—that anything may be News that the conductor chooses to call such. It need not be new, it need not be true. If it appears in the paper it is News, just as all coin is current which is stamped at the Mint.
A modern wit, whose writings are much quoted just now, has laid down the dictum that 'News is sin. Everybody,' he says, 'is interested in what everybody else is doing that is wrong.' The Newspaper is the chronicler of crime, of vice, and of war. It is the daily Bible of the English—the only Bible that most of them read. In the Bible of Tressidder, our Teacher, we were told, 'Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.' But the conductors of the Newspapers find no 'copy,' as they call it, in any of these things. What they give their readers to think about is just the contrary. Things of good report are worth nothing to the reporter, and if there be any virtue, the last place in which to seek for it is in the columns of the Newspaper.
Out of the slums and the police courts the Newspaper, with a few exceptions, collects the garbage and carrion of the world, and serves it up as a dainty dish to its readers. If present-day murders are not sufficiently horrible they will resurrect old crimes, and enable the girls and boys to gloat over the gory horrors perpetrated by criminals of the past. Nothing is so popular as stories of atrocious crimes on the largest scale, spectacles of human suffering, tales of torture. The Newspaper enables every man and woman to occupy a front seat in the world's Coliseum, where the gladiatorial combat never ceases and the vast arena streams with blood.
I have not yet seen any of the conductors of the daily press, but they must be very great men. For they are not chosen by any process of examination, they are not required to possess any special and profound knowledge, they are subjected to no tests of educational efficiency or of moral character, nor are any pains necessary to prove that they understand the science of statesmanship. Therefore, it seems to me quite clear that their pre-eminent ability and semi-divine omniscience must be stamped upon their countenances. How else could they be appointed to such high posts, in which they sit in judgment upon all Kings and Emperors, and set forth solutions daily of the most complicated problems of Church and State? But they are so modest, are these great ones, that their names are unknown, nor are they permitted to dazzle the world by a rash display of the effulgence of their countenances.
To these semi-divine censors of men and things all liberties are permitted save one. If a law-suit between two Englishmen is pending in their courts, no Newspaper is permitted to make any comment upon the dispute, lest he should prejudice the impartiality of the judge. It does not matter if the judge never read the comment, or even if he never knew the Newspaper existed in which it appeared. Any comment, no matter how innocent, in any Newspaper, no matter how obscure, is contempt of court, and punishable with imprisonment and fine. But when there is a dispute, not between private citizens, but between two States, in which the gravest issues of peace and war are involved, the Newspapers are not only permitted, but encouraged, to do everything in their power to inflame passion and excite prejudice by their comments upon a case which is sub judice in the international court. For the English make ever a great difference between an individual and a State, as will appear by their law of libel.
If a Newspaper libels any citizen by imputing to him falsely any manner of evil-doing, the Courts will, at the instance of that citizen, punish the Newspaper for such libel, no matter how innocently its conductor may have erred. But if a Newspaper libel any nation, no matter how foully or how persistently, even if it be clear that the object of publishing these libels is to bring about a war, no one can prevent it, nor is any manner of punishment awarded for such conduct by their laws. So great an evil has this become, and so constantly do the Newspapers work to foment hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness with regard to other nations, that an aged and experienced Ambassador assured me in serious earnest that there would be no danger of war if only he were allowed to hang half-a-dozen conductors of Newspapers. But the permission has not been given him, and the Newspapers continue to fling firebrands among the nations, none daring to make them afraid.
The Newspapers fear not God, neither do they regard man—except the man who pays them for their 'Ads.' Him they fear and worship continually, for without his money they would starve. If, as they say, the Newspaper is the ruler of the State, then even greater than the Newspaper is the giver of the money for 'Ads.,' without which no Newspaper can be published. Hence in the long run it would appear that the supreme power in the State is not the King or Parliament, or even the Newspapers, but the man who sells liver pills, whisky, or tobacco. England, the English tell me, is governed by Public Opinion, and Public Opinion, they say, is made by the Newspapers. But the men who make the Newspapers are the advertisers, so that England is ruled by its vendors of pills. For although in England pills may not be good for the digestion, they are indispensable to the Press.
There are many men in England, especially in politics, whose conduct is governed, not by a sense of duty or an intelligent study of the facts of the problem with which they deal, but solely by the eccentric and capricious movements of their Deity, which is popularly known as the Jumping Cat. As in olden time our annals tell that no general would give battle unless he had observed the flight of birds, so these politicians will never venture to affirm that two and two make four, or that black is white, until they have observed the movements of the Jumping Cat. For they put before their Deity, arranged according to the points of the compass, the various courses open to them, and they adopt without hesitation that towards which the Cat jumps. This religion of theirs is not openly avowed, but it is extensively preached; which being known to the conductors of Newspapers, they often, with great cunning, contrive at the critical moment so to twist the tail of Pussy that she is sure to jump in the direction which they favour. For conductors of Newspapers have access to the innermost shrine of the Temple of the Cult of the Jumping Cat, and when they agree together they can make Pussy jump just as they please. After they have twisted its tail, they leave the shrine secretly and discourse with great solemnity upon the sacred Oracle of Public Opinion—the Jumping Cat aforesaid. These conductors, when they meet in private, never laugh, so necessary is it to keep up the pretence by which they profit. But sometimes one of them has been known to smile.
As an instrument for governing the realm the Newspaper is indispensable. Without the printed broadsheets no appeal could be made to the masses of the people. It is true that the masses do not read the appeal of the statesmen. They read their papers not for politics but for sport. They are more interested in the prophecies about racehorses than in the discussion of affairs of State. But they keep up the pretence, and in England pretence is everything.
It would amuse you, my Queen, if I were to describe to you the kind of news which commands the attention of the English. They are mightily curious concerning the clothes of women and the amusements of men. They devote vast space to the collection of gossip about people whose names are known to their neighbours. A fresh scandal is more important than the revelation of a new Gospel, and the result of a struggle about a leather ball excites more attention than the wisest utterances of their greatest philosophers.
THE majority of the English live in stone hives which they call cities. The smoke from the burning of black stones hides the brightness of the heavens from their eyes. The rolling of the chariot wheels wears away the green grass from the earth. By us dwellers in the World Temple of the great Cybele, roofed by the azure firmament by day and the star-strewn heavens at night, life in the stone hives of England could hardly be borne. To make life tolerable amid their smoke they have invented something which they call Art. It consists in making more or less absurd pictures on paper, which remind them of the colour and shape of men, women and things.
They have some good pictures, for which they pay much gold, but these they hide away so that very few may see them. Of these I need say nothing. For you charged me to find out how the English people live—the whole people, and not the few. The good pictures, shut up in secure places they call galleries, are seen, perhaps, by one in ten one day in a hundred. But the real Art Galleries of the people are those whose pictures the whole of the English see all day and every day.
The need for Art is everywhere recognised, and the demand is supplied with astonishing completeness. There is no blank wall in the stone hive which is not used for hanging up these pictures for the people. Where there is no wall, they will even put up high boards for the purpose of showing these pictures to all without charge. So it comes to pass that the English live in the midst of pictures. Turn where you will, you never escape the display of this universal art, for their streets are converted into picture galleries, in the midst of which, whether on business or on pleasure, whether by night or by day, they live and move and have their being.
The chief characteristic of English art is due to a natural reaction against the dull skies and the smoky air. Colour—bright, garish, glaring colour—is its distinctive note. Blue, red, yellow and black, in the strongest possible contrast, meet the eye at every turn. The grayer their sky, the more gaudy their art. The dirtier their streets, the more brilliant the colour of their pictures with which they are lined.
But this is not the only explanation.
The English leave popular art to be provided by private enterprise. The State does nothing whatever for the popular picture galleries. The lavish provision of colour to relieve the dullness of the streets is made entirely at the expense of benevolent philanthropists. The Popular Theatre is paid for entirely by the State. The Popular Art Gallery, like popular music, is paid for by the individual citizen.
When I was expressing my admiration at the public spirit of the wealthy English, who thus provided from their own purse miles upon miles of highly-coloured pictures for the benefit of the poorest citizens, I noticed a smile upon the face of my friend.
'Have you not observed,' he said, 'that all these pictures of which you speak so highly bear upon them some printed words?'
'I do indeed,' said I, 'and therein I perceive great wisdom. For when I visit the "Gallery of those who Have," I am often at a loss to know what the picture is supposed to represent. In the Picture Gallery of the streets each picture is explained, so that even a stranger like myself can understand what it means.'
'But,' said he, 'these are advertisements. The Advertiser provides them to call attention to his goods.'
Then I marvelled greatly that the Teacher Tressidder never told us anything of this same Advertiser. For I do verily begin to believe that he is the mainspring of everything that is in England. As I have already explained, it is he who controls the press, which controls public opinion, which governs the land. And now I see it is he who is the sole patron of popular Art.
And even as I was speaking a strange thing occurred which made me quake and tremble. For high overhead, above the towers of the palaces and the spires of the churches, there flew what I thought at first was a great bird of prey soaring on high before swooping down to devour. As I fled to a covered archway which might screen me from the monster, I saw it presently fly swiftly to the north. And as it flew I saw, as it were, the semblance of a man seated below the body of the bird, and I thought it had already seized its prey, and was hurrying him to its nestlings.
But my friend laughed at my alarm. 'It is only an advertisement of infant's food,' he said. 'It is a flying machine.'
Now this was to me a great mystery. For how can they feed infants in the air? What connection can there be between the child who crawls on earth and this soaring monster of the skies?
But although the mystery I cannot solve, I see that Science, as well as Art and Literature, has become the province of the Advertiser. In England he is the Lord of Earth and Heaven; nay, even the Sea is his also, for the sails of the boats bear his inscription.
My admiration of this great Unknown, who I am coming to believe is the real King of modern England, increases as I examine his works of art. They are of all kinds, suited to all understandings. Their supreme object is to startle the sluggish mind into attention, to imprint upon the torpid brain some fact of vital importance. No want of man seems to escape his vigilant eye or to be beyond his tender care. From the infant, for whose food he has constructed the marvellous flying machine, to decrepit age, whose energy he is prepared to renew, he proclaims himself the universal servant of Humanity. It is he who is waging ceaseless wars against the plagues which infest the land. The smoky air begrimes the body, but the Advertiser on a thousand walls proffers the use of his Cleansing Soap. The rush and the roar of the human hives wear the nerves and exhaust the strength of the worker. The Advertiser is ready with the soothing Cigarette, the stimulating Tea, the refreshing Cocoa, the strength-giving Extract of Meat. Do men hunger, the Advertiser offers them every variety of food. Do they thirst, no liquid known to the world but is pressed upon their attention. Are they in search of recreation, the Advertiser explains where they will find amusement. If, after all his care, mortals sicken, the ardour of the Advertiser knows no bounds. Medicines of all kinds are pressed by him upon the ailing. The only thing this generous Advertiser does not advertise are coffins.
The most of the advertisers devote themselves to beautifying the streets. There are others, whose names should rot in oblivion, who set themselves to work to make England ugly. In the midst of the most beautiful landscapes these criminals erect their foul proclamations and affront the eye by the suggestions of diseased livers. For it is by contrast the Advertiser attracts attention: where there is dull squalor he uses bright pictures. So where Nature is most beautiful these evil ones employ the light of the setting sun to display the most repulsive of all placards. In the depth of the night the Advertiser displays brilliant lights, turning darkness into day, and some day they say he will eclipse the sun in order to announce the virtue of a new lamp.
For a long time I was sore puzzled to learn the name and the origin of this mighty potentate whose wealth must be beyond the imagination of man, and whose activity embraces the whole of life. When I asked his name some told me one thing and some another. At last, however, by a happy accident, I chanced upon his real name, and this led me to discover his origin.
'What is the name of this Advertiser?' I asked in despair.
'His name,' was the answer, 'is Legion.'
And then I understood. For Tressidder has often preached in the Temple of Cybele upon that strange story of his teacher's, of how the devils afflicted the man of whom he read to us in his little book which he calls the Gospel.
The name of these devils was 'Legion.'
But Tressidder told us they entered into a herd of swine, and ran swiftly down a steep place into the sea and there were drowned. Now I see this was a mistake. They must only have dived out of sight, and have then swum across the sea to England.
For the Advertiser's name is Legion.
It is all clear to me at last, and I am very glad.
AMONG the English music is not native to the soil. They import it from abroad as they import bananas. In music, as in everything else in this strange country, the English are divided into two great sections. There are the Few Who Have who pay for their music, and there are the Many Who Have Not who have it supplied to them for nothing.
The Few when they go to enjoy music, shut themselves up in the inside of buildings, at the doors of which sit men who refuse to let any enter in who have not a token that they belong to the Few Who Have, and to whom, therefore, as it is written in the Teacher's Book, more, always more and more, is given. With the Few Who Have the appetite for music rises like the tide in their wonderful river. In the morning it is at so low an ebb it might not be thought even to exist. But in the afternoon it begins to flow and reaches its height about an hour before midnight. Then it suddenly falls, not to rise again for twelve hours. I have made many inquiries as to the reason for this strange rise and fall of musical appetite, but no one has explained it unto me.
It does not exist among the Many Who Have Not, who differ so much from the Few that many times I have imagined they must belong to a different race. They enjoy their music at all times, and they always listen to it in the open air. But they are as incapable of producing it themselves as are the Few who import their music from afar and listen to songs whose words are written in a foreign tongue. The Many also import their music, but they take it without words. It comes to them packed up in a strange box, out of which by the turning of a handle proceed unending strains of music. These boxes are carried through the streets day by day, and in every street the bearer halts for a season and turns his handle so that the dwellers in all the houses on either side may have freely poured out to them the daily ration of melody, without which joy would perish in the heart of man. Sometimes these boxes are so large they are mounted upon wheels, and the clangour of their music is so great that sleep is impossible within range of their roar. For the English believe that it is better that the sick should suffer than that the healthy should lose their daily dose of music. The boxes in which this music is stored up never seem to run dry, which is a great mystery.
The benefactors of the Poor who carry the music into every street are themselves Poor. Those Who Have Not minister to those who are equally destitute. They tell me these lovers of their kind cross land and sea, braving all dangers, in order to supply the English with the music they cannot supply for themselves. Verily, here is, indeed, the self-sacrificing love of which the Teacher speaks. These missionaries of music from the land of the Sun devote themselves to the service of a strange nation sitting in the Fog, which rewards them but poorly for their pains. Their food is scant and their raiment coarse. These handle-turning musicians are often accompanied by a small monkey, which they carry round with them; some say in order to remind the English of their ancestors. But I do not think this can be so, for they are simple men, and it is rather because they wish to bring mirth with their melody into the mean streets and poor homes that they procure and carry round with them wherever they go a poor animal with a long tail. Therefore they are beloved by the children of the Many Who Have Not. Which, indeed, is their rightful due.
There is also another kind of popular music, which, like the music provided by the missionary with his monkey and his box, is provided for the English by men born outside their island. These are the men who carry great horns of beaten brass, who wander from street to street in fine weather, playing music in and under the windows of the great inns. Music, they say, aids the digestion, and at dinner-time I have seen these men with the brazen horns stand in the streets and play music for an hour at a time to promote the consumption of food, which is served in many dishes within the inns. They say many of the performers do this out of love for their fellows, which is very good and pleasant to contemplate. But from time to time during their playing one of their number will go round softly and offer to the bystanders an opportunity of looking inside a small box, within which, when on one occasion I looked, I could see nought but a few pieces of money. But when I stretched forth my hand to take one of the coins which they seemed to be offering me for charity, the man raised his voice, and with a guttural oath blasphemed, so that I was afraid, and went away without taking the money. It seems it is to be looked at only, and that solely by the well-dressed, for it was never shown to the poor, who must be content with the music only.
The men with the brazen horns are said to be the kinsmen of the men who pass round the dishes at table. Both alike come from a far country, from which also came the Kings of the English. They speak a different language from the missionaries with the monkeys, and they are said to be of a different religion, but of that no one could speak with assurance. Perchance the daily ministration of music to the poorest of the people is such a pious work that it dispenses them from other worship. But no Englishman, no matter how pious he may be, ever grinds music from a box or travels with a monkey. Neither in former times did they ever belong to the Companions of the Brazen Horns, who are gregarious and are seldom or never seen except in company, in which they resemble the baboons, who travel in troops, whereas the men who carry music in boxes are as solitary as the gorillas of the great forest.
But within the memory of many men now living an Englishman arose, of whom I have often heard both of good and of evil, who conceived the idea that even among the English themselves were men—for women seem to be unable to play the brazen horn—who could be trained to provide free music for those who Have Not. He was a teacher of religion, and he was the first to recognise the playing of the Brazen Horns as a great Christian duty. Every Sunday his followers, whom he has clad in uniform resembling that of the soldiery, march through the streets making great clangour. They disdain the inns frequented by the other or secular missioners of whom I have spoken, but they seek out the poorest and most crowded places in the great city, and supply those who Have Not with noisy music. At first their coming made the people very angry, for they showed them no box with pieces of money inside, as the others did, and they said that they sought to save their souls—speaking in the English tongue. But being zealous, even as Tressidder, they persevered, and now their music is heard gladly by those who at one time were wont to fling mud and stones at their benefactors. But of singing by the people in the open air I have heard little or none. The English are not musically mirthful save when they are tipsy.
I was told that if I had come in summer time, when they say the sun sometimes shines in England, I should have heard other music in the parks. It may be so; but it seemed to me that when the sun is bright and the birds are singing, there is less need for the music of the Bands than in the dull days, when all other joys have fled. The English, however, think not so. With them music, save that provided by those whom I have described, becomes dumb when the flowers cease to bloom.
The museums of the English are of two kinds—those which are called museums, into which very few ever go, and those which are the real museums of the people, into which millions look eagerly every day. These popular museums are called shops. They are placed in the leading streets, so that no one can go about the city on business or on pleasure without being compelled to see their contents. The exhibits, collected from all parts of the world, are displayed behind great glass windows; and at night-time they are brilliantly lighted, so that every one may see their contents. Many an hour have I spent admiring the marvellous variety of treasures thus displayed before the eyes of the poorest citizen. To enable him to realise how much he loses by the lack of wealth, the value of each article is marked upon it, by the which he is reminded constantly of his poverty, and how easily all those treasures could be his if he had but money in his pocket. This is an ingenious device to make him eager to work and fierce to save. For the English are a practical people, and they make even their museums potent means of inspiring that discontent which they tell me is the mainspring of progress. These popular museums may enable the poor to understand the tortures of Tantalus, of whom we read in our ancient books; but if he may not taste and handle, it is at least some solace to him in his poverty that he may feast his eyes upon that which he can never possess.
The Theatre of the English, like their music, is divided between those who Have and those who Have Not. At first I thought there was no popular theatre in England. But I was mightily mistaken. The English provide for the youngest a drama at which at first I marvelled, but which I now see is exactly adapted to their ideas and civilisation.
The corner-stone of English Society—as I have often repeated—is the Dominance of Man. It is the only principle that the English logically apply under all circumstances. It is in their eyes the basis of all things. Where in our happy land the aim of all is to found everything on Right, in England everything is based on Might. And the utmost pains is taken to impress this idea upon the mind of youth. There is only one popular drama for young people, which is performed everywhere in the open air, and to which every one can come without payment. It is a play of which the English never seem to tire, for it expresses in the most striking fashion their fundamental faith. The hero is a man with a stick, a brave man, a strong man, a married man—always with a stick. He is ugly and deformed, a liar, a ruffian reckless of law, with less moral sense than a baboon; but he is strong and he has a stick, a strong stick, with which he beats violently his wife, his child, his dog, the officer of the law, yea and even the devil himself. For he is brave, this Englishman, and strong, and his stick is hard and heavy. The play has him as its only hero, and the plot is simplicity itself. The action is monotonous. The hero beats his wife, then he beats his child; he beats the officer of law, then he beats his wife again. Always he beats his wife. And the crowd is delighted. It is the drama of their ideal life unfolded on the mimic stage. This supreme illustration of the Doctrine of the Dominant Male is the only popular drama played without money and without price for the instruction and amusement of the English youth.
For the adults, Theatres are provided in the heart of the more crowded cities. At first I could not find them. For these Theatres of the People are so popular they need expend no money in advertisements. They are, without any exception, devoted to the realistic drama, and resemble no other theatre of which I have ever heard. There is no stage, but, instead, a rostrum or pulpit. Still more curious, it is strictly forbidden for more than one actor or actress to appear at the same time. It is a theatre of the severest realism. The actors are all solemnly sworn before mounting the rostrum not to vary by one hair's-breadth from the text which they have read in the Book of Life. No charge is made for admission, and to these theatres flock the poorest every day to slake their thirst for the drama. I found myself enthralled by the same fascination. Many mornings have I spent in these popular resorts, where better than elsewhere you can study the character of the English. To secure the strict observance of the rules of the realistic drama, an elderly man is seated on high above all others, who has power to punish with fine and imprisonment all those who transgress. The motive of the play is always the same. In the centre of the Theatre a person is brought by bareheaded attendants dressed in blue. He is then charged with crimes which he has or has not committed. For the interest of the play turns entirely upon the fact that it is never known when the acting begins whether the central figure is or is not justly accused. The plot is developed by a succession of actors, who, in single file, successively repeat in the rostrum their allotted part. They are assisted by a body of inquisitors who are not sworn to tell the truth, but who are paid to ask questions, in opposition to each other, one on each side. The first prompts the actor, the second tries to trip him up, to confuse him, and obscure the truth. This art is greatly favoured among the English. None of the actors in the theatres of those who Have are rewarded with so much gold as those inquisitors who, by skilful questions, can puzzle actors and cause them to forget their parts. Here we have the realistic drama in its highest perfection, and every word of the leading actors is followed with the keenest attention by the crowded audience.
Like the popular drama of the Hunchback Hero with the stick, the plays most frequently performed have as their motive the exercise of strength by the strong and the display of suffering by the weak. The husband is not, as in the children's booth, allowed to strike his wife on the head with a stick in the sight of all beholders. But the wife, all swollen and bleeding, is placed in the rostrum and describes with tears the treatment to which she has been subjected. But so deeply engrained into the very fibre of the English is their faith in the Right of Might and the Dominance of Man, that with my own eyes and ears I have seen and heard women, bruised and injured as they were, plead piteously for the men who had kicked and beaten them almost to death. And in the scale of punishments the president of these theatres is always careful to confirm the national sentiment by inflicting the lightest sentences upon those who beat or nearly kill their wives, while imposing the heaviest punishment upon those who, under stress of hunger, steal a loaf of bread. For in these Theatres the property of a Man is more sacred than the person of a Woman.
It is the final outcome, the logical result, of the great heresy of the English, whereby they deny the existence of the Goddess Mother, the Divine Cybele, and bow down and worship the Usurping Male.
GOD'S Englishmen, as our Teacher called them, are often drunk, and not only God's Englishmen, but also Englishwomen. I am loath to say so horrible a thing to you, my beloved Queen, whose zeal in the cause of temperance was inspired by the fervent appeals of this Francis Tressidder, whose life is forfeit a thousand times. But I am indignant at the lies which he has passed off upon us for truth, and even at the risk of offending the ears of my Queen I must bear testimony to the truth.
Let not, however, your indignation at the deceit which has been practised upon us lead you to believe that you were misled in using your Royal power to root the drink-makers out of Xanthia. If it had not been already accomplished, that task is the first to which I would have addressed myself upon my return. But I would do it not in imitation of the English, but in order to avoid the danger that our people might in time sink to the same depth of degradation to which the English have been sunk by their devotion to strong drink.
Soon after I had arrived in the great city I was marvelling at the number of spires and towers and domes which pierced through the smoky canopy which is spread over London. 'Truly,' said I to my companion, 'it is sublime to see with how many fingers of stone the pious English point our gaze to Heaven.' And even as I spoke I heard the music of the bells floating through the air, heard above the city's din like the chant of some great angel choir singing the praises of God. The light of day was already dimmed by the shades of night. Along the riverside shone out, like fireflies in the gloom, the silver light of the Candlesticks of the Lightning, which shine till the sun begins to climb the eastern sky. For in this great city, as there is no sunlight in the day, so there is never the deep darkness of night. In the day-time there is semi-twilight, the sunlight struggling through smoke and fog. In the night-time every stony road through the human hive twinkles with innumerable lights, some of bottled sunshine, others of tamed lightning.
'Come,' said I, 'let us heed the summons of the bells, and hasten to the Temple to offer up our evening prayers.' For we can pray to the Divine Mother as well in a Christian Church as in a Xanthian Temple. She dwelleth not in temples made with hands; but such walled-in oases of shelter from the city's roar, whether built in the name of the Mother or of the Son, are helpful to devotion. So, leaving the river, within whose stone-walled banks the dark ocean tide was flowing fast, striped with light as a zebra's hide, we made our way through the crowded streets to the nearest Temple, from whose spire still streamed down the clangorous music of the bells. But when we reached the gate of the Temple the door was shut The great building was dark and silent and empty. Thinking that perchance we had happed upon a place closed for repairs we walked eastward, breasting as best we could the human stream that was rushing to the west. But the next Temple was shut, and the next, and the next also, All were dark and chill and lone. At last we came to the mighty dome-crowned building which they name after the Apostle whose heresies on the subject of the position of women sent me over land and sea to discover the results of the monstrous regimen of Man. 'Here,' said my companion, one who, like myself, had come from beyond the seas, 'is the great mosque. Here at last we may kneel and pray without risk of being trampled underfoot or thrust into the mire of the street.' But St. Paul's was like the rest—silent and dark and dead, like the huge empty coffin holding the corpse of a dead faith. My heart sank within me. Was the summons of the bells a mockery? Was there no place in which at eventide the pious soul can devote in silent meditation the twilight hour to the praise of God?
It is one of the excellent customs of the English that they station at various points along the stone-paved roads in these cities certain wise men versed in all the mysteries of the hive for the guidance of the stranger and the instruction of the foolish. In accordance with the rule of the Apostle they are all men. They are clad in symbolic raiment. On their head is the helmet of Minerva to signify the wisdom within—a wisdom as of the oracles of God, ever available for the children of men. Their raiment is of blue—not a bright blue, like the sky of my beloved and distant land, but a sombre blue, as if the blue of the English sky had been soaked in the vat of a London fog, thereby symbolising that though they wear the livery of the sky, as befits the guardian angels of the English, they are doomed to ministry in the smoky and grimy streets of the great city. By their side they bear, half-concealed beneath the folds of their raiment, the sceptre of Power, and, like a magician, his hand need only be waved in the air to stop the rushing chariots and to arrest the stormy tide of traffic. They say that there are other representatives of power in England. There is a King who reigns but who does not rule, and nobles whom you cannot distinguish in the streets from shopmen. But the only rulers of the English vested with the reality of power, whose word is law and at whose frown disorder flees away, are the helmeted oracles—the blue-coated Angels of Service, the sceptred Lords of the Streets.
Although their power is so great that even the chariots of princes are checked by a wave of their hand, the poorest child may consult them, and their wisdom is given to all who ask for it without fee or reward. The English have set up many strange and curious servants in red in their streets, which, if fed with a penny, will give out sweetmeats, or rolled smoke stuff, or fragrant scent or golden fruit But the servant in red livery is dumb, neither can he move. He must always be fed with coin, and even then he can only give out one thing. But the Lord of the Street, in helmet and sceptre, never ceases to move hither and thither; no one feeds him with coin, but from him, as from the source of all wisdom, all knowledge can be drawn freely by all who ask a question.
So I made my way to one of these high and mighty officers of the city, and asked him where we could find a place in which to pray.
'It's too late,' said he. 'Shut up at sundown. You should have come an hour ago.'
'But is there no place open?' I asked.
'No public place—'
At that moment several huge wheeled waggons were driven past, making great clatter with iron-shod hoof of horse and roar of iron wheel on stony road. In the uproar my question was drowned.
'Oh,' he replied, 'if it's a public-house you want, there's plenty round here.'
'But,' said I, 'are they still open?'
'Till twelve o'clock,' he said, and as he turned away he pointed with his hand across the street, 'There's one right before you.'
We crossed the street, narrowly escaping sudden death beneath the wheels of a half chariot drawn by a white horse, which rode furiously down upon us, but swerved just in time to save our lives. When we reached the footway my heart was full of gratitude for deliverance from destruction, and without even glancing upwards we hastened to the Temple to which the hand of the helmeted one had pointed, and entered in.
A strange scene met our eye. The place was brighter than day with the radiance of a hundred lamps. There was no vast expanse for a great congregation, but the wails were gay with what I took to be sacred pictures. A smell of incense unknown to me filled the air. The worshippers crowded towards the altar, which, to my joy and surprise, was served by women. Here, thought I, at last there is, even in England, a Temple which is not monopolised by Man. My companion and I stood together away from the altar watching the strangely irreverent demeanour of the congregation. They laughed, they smoked, they talked among themselves, and now and then shouted to the officiating priestess, whom, on inquiry, I was told belonged to a sacred order known as Maids of the Bar. But of Divine service I saw no trace—neither to Goddess or to God. The place was warm and comfortable. There was no ceremony; worshippers came and went. Some lingered long at their devotions before the altar; others hurried in, emptied a libation to the presiding deity down their throats, and then left. There was a clinking of glasses, a rattle of pots, a constant buzz of talk. After watching the strange scene I advanced to the altar to ask where we could have privacy for our prayers. The Maid of the Bar did not seem to understand.
'It's the parlour you want,' she said. 'There's a party in there now, but there'll be room enough for you.'
And she waved us towards a door on the side of this, which we now saw to be, the outer court of the Temple. It also was lighted with many lamps, and the air was warm and moist and heavy with the fumes of the strange incense of which I have spoken. We passed inside, and took our seats near the door. The room was full of a merry party smoking and drinking, talking and laughing, shouting and singing. But of prayer I saw no sign, nor was there an altar. Presently one of the priests of the Temple approached us. He wore no insignia of the priesthood, but in his hand he carried a pewter pot, and over his arm a napkin that had once been white. He halted before us, and said, 'Your orders, gem'men?' I was confused, and spoke not. My companion explained. 'We have no orders, sir. We seek a place to pray.' He looked puzzled and went away.
Meanwhile the noise grew louder. A man stood on a chair and made a speech of which I understood nothing, but which was loudly cheered. I thought it was perhaps a sermon, but, by listening intently, I heard him say just as he was sitting down, 'Here's to the health of—!' The rest I did not catch, for all rose, glasses or pots in hand, and roared in chorus, 'The health of—,' and as they paused for breath they raised their glasses to their lips and drank. Then, putting them down, they raised three ringing cheers. 'Hip, hip, hurrah! Hip, hip, hurrah! Hip, hip, hip, hurrah!' And then there burst forth what I took to be the sacred chant of this strange sacrament:—
For he's a jolly good fellow,
For he's a jolly good fellow,
For he's a jolly good fellow,
Which nobody can deny.
So it went on and on as if it never would stop, but at last they seemed to weary, and with great clattering of pots and clinking of glasses they sat down.
Two priests of the Temple approached. 'Have you given your orders, gem'men?'
'I do not understand,' I said. 'What are orders?'
'Drinks,' said the other priest; 'what'll ye have? Half-and-half or whisky and soda?'
'We only seek a place in which to offer our evening prayers,' said my companion.
The priests looked at each other and laughed. 'A bit loony,' said one to the other. Then turning to me he said, 'Better clear out of this. Here's no place for the likes of you.'
As we rose to go, one of those who had been singing came towards us, somewhat unsteady, and with a voice which was thick and coarse, said to the Temple priests—
'Let the foreign gem'men stay. We'll stand drinks. Glad to see you,' he said, reaching me his hand. 'Won't you shake, eh? Don't understand? What's your tipple? Nothin' like whisky hot. Waiter, two whiskies hot for these gem'men.'
Before I quite knew what was happening two steaming glasses of some strange liquid were brought to us. I raised one to my lips. The smell was foul. Out of respect to the Temple I bowed my head in worship of the Goddesses and tried to drink. But the liquor scorched my mouth like flame and I refrained.
'That's the stuff,' said the man—'genuine. Halloo! what's that?'
The exclamation was prompted by a sudden roar of many voices at the other end of the room. There were cries as of men in anger, a smashing of glasses, a confused tumult, amid which many blows were dealt. A man fell bleeding to the floor. There was a rush of Temple attendants, the prostrate man was lifted up and carried out, followed by the angry, shouting crowd, who staggered out into the street. Much marvelling at this strange termination of the service, we made our way outside, where the fight began again, and raged fiercely. After a time the crowd parted and we saw a man being carried off on a stretcher by the Helmeted Lords of the Street.
'What is the meaning of all this?' I asked a man who was standing by the door placidly smoking his pipe.
'It's nothing,' he said. 'A bit boozed. More drunk than hurt, I reckon.'
And then, for the first time, the truth burst upon me. We had been present, not at a religious service, but at a drunken orgy!
I stood in the shadow of the great cathedral and watched the victim of the carouse carried away down the lighted street.
'Where are they taking him?' I asked.
'Hospital and the station. Station first, hospital afterwards.'
'Now, gentlemen, move on! move on!' came the word of command from the Man in the Helmet.
And we moved on slowly till the crowd began to disperse, and we could approach the Oracle in Blue.
'Sir,' I said.
He inclined his head towards me.
'Is this possible in England?'
'What?' he asked.
I pointed to the place from which we had come out.
'That,' I said. 'Men drink there—drink strong liquor that makes them mad. Why is it not put down?'
The Helmeted one laughed.
'These are licensed premises, licensed for the sale of drink. There's lots of them.'
We walked on and found that it was as he had said. These places are at every comer. They are light and bright and warm, and open till the last hour of night. They are all licensed by the Authorities. No one can shut them up.
'Shut them up!' said a friend whom I met. 'Why, without them the State would be bankrupt. They pay for the Army and the Navy, and if any political party were to try to shut them up they would be destroyed.'
'But if the Great Advertiser whose name is legion were to order them to be shut up?' I asked.
'Why, they are all Advertisers themselves,' he replied; 'among the greatest of advertisers.'
'But Parliament?' I said.
'Parliament is elected by the drink-makers and the drink-sellers. If any man offends the Trade he is cast out into outer darkness. The Beer Lord sits in the Upper House and in the Lower. No seat is safe if the Drink Interest is offended.'
'Then,' said I bitterly,' it is Drink who is the real King of England—King over Kings and Peers and Commons and Press.'
'Yes,' said my friend, 'and over the Church also.'
But that I do not believe, although there be many Churchmen who brew strong drink and more who drink it.
Nor can this be otherwise. For in every street there is a tavern, and in some streets there are many.
And if perchance there should be one place without a public-house, the very walls are made to cry aloud to every passer-by to drink.
Nor is it the walls only. For after our visit to the tavern we sought the banks of the river with heart too full for words, thinking that there at least were no places licensed for drink. But even as we leaned upon the stone parapet and gazed over the stream I saw a great marvel. At the other side of the river a picture came and went. The trunk of a great tree painted in vivid colours of light seemed to grow before my eyes, and then suddenly blossom out into words of flame. Then in a moment it would disappear, only to begin again to grow, and again to bear its foliage of syllabled light. And as I looked and marvelled at the cleverness of the English to devise such a magic picture, my companion growled—
'Even here the accursed thing is thrust upon your gaze. In my country,' he went on, 'there would be a minaret standing where that tower stands, and four times a day from its summit would come the thrilling cry, "To prayers!" But here in England, what have they done with their minarets?'
I looked up where he was pointing, and read against the sky, in letters of flame on the summit of a lofty tower the letters DEWAR, but what they meant I knew not.
So I asked my friend. 'Drink,' said he, 'Drink. It is a maker of strong drink, whose name is written up high over all lest men should forget to drink. And that great tree which grows and disappears, only to grow again, it also is a summons to drink. These are the minarets of the English, and the tavern is their temple.'
The English obey the summons. Where they build one church they open six taverns. Lest the odds of six to one should not be sufficient they keep their churches closed six days out of seven, and on the seventh they are not open as many hours as the public-house.
They tell me that in this country they spend £160,000,000 every year in buying strong drink—a sum so vast I cannot even conceive it, but they say it would be sufficient to meet all the expenditure of the State. For a long time I could not imagine why so practical a people as the English spent so much money on beer and wine and spirits. Even now I do not clearly understand; but if they did not do this many excellent citizens, now employed as doctors, gaolers, charity officers, and keepers of lunatic asylums would find their occupation gone. The prisons would be empty, and the workhouses only half filled. Neither would there be needed so many Officers in Blue with the Helmet of Power and the Sceptre of Authority. These are all worthy men, and their wives and families must be fed.
Therefore I suppose it is that the Christian people of this land spare no pains and no expense to inoculate young Englishmen and Englishwomen with a taste for drink. Every day, and all day, thousands of English mothers fill themselves with drink before they give their babes their breast. And I have been told, although I have not myself seen it, that if you were to stand at the bar you would see them give the baby a sip of the liquor, and that its little mouth will greedily suck the spoon or the glass that has in it the taste of gin.
So early are God's Englishmen trained to drink, that it is written in their books that 'children are drunk for the first time in their mothers' arms or cursed with the appetite before they are born.'
In England, they tell me, there are more drunken women than in any other land. Woman, denied equality in Church or in State, thrust back alike from the altar and the ballot-box, is only allowed equal rights with Man at the bar of the public-house.
So the whole land is sodden with drink.
Of many other manners and customs of the English of which I have not written I will speak when I return. Some of these are good, some indifferent, and others bad. But in my letters I have endeavoured to confine myself to the questions which were raised by the Teacher Tressidder, when he denied the right of Woman to rule, and imputed all the evils of the Xanthians to the Subjection of Man. If in these letters I have written more as a Disciple of the Divine Mother, and her incarnation in Woman, than as an impartial judge, holding the balance even between the rival systems of Subjection, I can only plead that my indignation against the monstrous false pretences of the Teacher Tressidder carried me away. For my own part I love not Subjection, whether of Man by Woman, or of Woman by Man. But when the Subjection of Woman is demanded because the results of the Rule of Man have been so brilliantly successful, I crave your forgiveness if I cannot contain my wrath.
THE English people whom I have met are in conversation not uncivil, in their homes not inhospitable, and when friendly are cordial. In stature they are below the average of Xanthians. The crowding of such great numbers in the hives of brick and stone, which they call cities, has, they have told me, stunted their growth. They are like plants which are grown in the shade. Their cheeks are without colour; they have lost the erect carriage of men, and stoop as they walk. In the smokelight of London their eyes grow dim, and they need to look ever through glasses of power, or they would be half blind. They never walk when they can ride in chariots, which their rulers much bemoan, because men who cannot bear great fatigue and walk many leagues are of no value when the Government wishes to send them forth to kill their fellow-men.
It is to me most strange that the only value which the English seem to put upon a man is because of his capacity to kill some other man. If they lament the dwindling of the race, it is because their sons are not tall enough to be admitted into the Army. Only those who are being trained to kill are thought worthy of physical training. Unless an Englishman will pledge himself to cut the throat of any man whom his Government labels 'Enemy,' no care is taken of his health, of his food, of his lodging, or of his physical strength. He may starve, he may be lodged in a kennel, he may sicken with deadly disease, he may grow up narrow-chested and round-shouldered—the English heed it not, if he is merely doing useful work with plough or shovel. But if only he will swear to kill at the word of command, and devote all his days to learn how to kill his fellow-men, his health and strength become national concern. None but those whose profession is slaughter receive physical training; for to kill others a man must be strong.
Among the Few Who Have the women of the English are often tall and well made. They are not on that account held in any greater esteem. For as the English do not admit women to the ranks of their Army, they do not care whether they are tall or short, weak or strong. They are only women after all; and women do not count, either as voters or as fighters.
There is one strange thing which distinguishes the English from all the other nations of the earth—they are not fed from their own land. More than one-half of their daily bread comes to them ship-borne from distant lands. They live from hand to mouth, without food in their storehouses for more than a few weeks. If the great sea were to become too stormy for their food-ships to cross, they would starve. If the people in foreign lands who grow the corn with which they are fed were to quarrel with them and withhold their grain, the English would starve. If some strong Power were to prevent the food-ships crossing the sea, the English would starve. The gullet that leads to the English stomach lies outside England. The English are thus always at the mercy of those who feed them in foreign lands.
I marvelled much at the love which the other nations show to the English, inasmuch as I was told they will lay heavy taxes upon their own people in order to give the English cheaper sugar than they have themselves. Whether this is done for the purpose of sweetening the temper of the English, and of winning their love, I know not; but, if it was so intended, it has failed in its design. For the English are exceedingly bitter against the generous nations which give them sugar below its cost, and they tell me they are preparing to refuse the gift, preferring that these poor should suffer for want of cheap sweets rather than that they should be beholden to the foreigner.
Many times have I admired the ingenuity of the English, which in things mechanical is indeed marvellous. But their methods sometimes seem to me to require much study before their real aim can be discovered. The English are impatient, and they spend great sums of money to travel by land and by sea. Hence I was much amazed when many times I wandered in the streets of this great city to find the roadway of the chariots blocked by great heaps of earth and stone. And it seemed to me that it was ever when the number of chariots was the greatest that the English did the most diligently dig holes in the ground, wherein they seemed to search as for hidden treasure. And when I asked why they did this strange thing, I was told 'the street was up,' which to me conveyed no meaning. But after much thinking I came to understand that this is done for a great moral purpose. It is part of the discipline of the religion of the English. They know themselves to be too impatient, too eager to reach their journey's end. Therefore the Powers that Be, whom I have not yet seen, but of whom I have heard much, decree that ever and anon the most crowded roadway shall be blocked for hours in the busiest part of the day, so that the people may learn patience and cultivate the pious practice of meditation, which otherwise might become a lost art.
The English, who excel all other nations in many things, excel most of all in the Art of Labels. To these they attach the most extraordinary importance. It has often appeared to me that they think they can atone for any defects of any institution or commodity by bestowing extra attention upon the Label. The sourer the wine the sweeter the Label. So it has come to pass that whenever I now hear anything described as possessing all the virtues I instinctively expect to find all the vices sheltering in its shade.
At first I was not prepared for this. When I first was taken to the heart of the city I looked up and beheld a fair and stately building, which they told me was the Exchange of Kings, and a Royal Exchange it was, not unworthy of monarchs. And as I examined the front of the palace I read with reverent admiration the inscription, 'The earth is the Lord's and the foulness thereof.'
'Verily,' I said, 'they are a pious race these royal merchants, thus to inscribe these pious words before all who do business in their banks and their marts. They must indeed be upright and religious, walking in the fear of the Lord, and regarding themselves but as the stewards of the Lord's bounty.'
But my companion smiled sadly.
'You had better come to the Stock Exchange,' he said; 'it is close by.'
I went—and now I understand.
When the English wish to conceal even from their own eyes some shameful crime which they are committing they paste a Label over it. On these Labels they put texts and pious sayings, and if they are doing something very damnable, they generally do it in the name of God. When going forth to kill people and steal their land they put holy Labels over their murderings and stealing. When they are doing the worst of wrongs they are the most careful to cry aloud, 'God defend the right!' And when, in the opinion of all other nations, they are trampling under foot every principle of justice and morality in order to crush a little people and annex their land, they proclaim by day and by night in their pulpits and in their papers that they are making solemn appeal to the God of Battles.
It is the same in small things as in great. I heard much about their devotion to athletic sports, and rejoiced that a great nation should spend so much money and devote so much time to the culture of physical strength. But when I went to their playing-fields I found that here also I had been deceived by the Label. What I thought was the training of the thews and sinews of the nation consisted in a thousand or ten thousand persons looking at the play of a dozen or twenty men and boys. The noble art of horsemanship, which I sought to study on the racecourse, was but a Label like the rest. For one who rides, a thousand gamble; to them the horses and their riders are but as dice in a gambling hell; every day more men and women bet and fewer learn to ride.
Society is the Label for the massing together of overfed people in crowds too dense for social intercourse. An 'At home' means that home life is suspended, and to be 'not at home' means that you are at home but do not wish to receive your friends. A workhouse is an abode of compulsory idleness, a House of Correction a place where faults are confirmed instead of being corrected; and young people before launching into the whirlpool of social dissipation solemnly promise Almighty God to renounce the pomps and vanities of this sinful world. The narrowest and most intolerant of sects is the most careful to call itself Catholic, and monopolists when embarking upon a campaign to crush all rivals and establish an absolute industrial despotism affix upon all their schemes the conspicuous Labels of Free Labour and Individual Liberty. When Ministers put forward schemes which, if accepted, would shatter the Empire into fragments, they label their design Imperialism. They force deadly poison upon unwilling peoples under the cover of a pious desire to promote the triumph of Christianity, and when they have invented an organisation that is the most potent engine for perpetuating class ascendency and of retarding social and political progress, they proclaim that they are establishing and endowing the Church of the meek and lowly Jesus.
So, O most gracious and beloved Queen, I have learned to beware of Labels; for they label avarice Economy, and fraud Enterprise. The English never go to war excepting from their great and exceeding Love of Peace, and whenever they set about some supremely dishonourable enterprise they are satisfied if they can but label it as necessary for the vindication of their National Honour.
The English have set up drinking-places all over the land for the sale of intoxicating liquor. How many there are I know not, but they seem to be much more numerous than the churches. But in order to conceal the reality of what they have done they label the keepers of those houses 'licensed victualer.' They do not sell victuals—and if they did they would need no licence. That makes no matter. The licensed victualler Label would lose its charm if it were not at variance with the truth.
But the most curious Label or all is that by which they call their Law Courts, Courts of Justice. Justice, as we understand it in Xanthia, is just, impartial, incapable of being influenced by fear or favour, independent of class prejudice, absolutely colour-blind as to differences between rich and poor, man and woman. In England I have not found any conception of justice in the Xanthian sense. In the Law Courts the Few Who Have are everywhere favoured; the Many Who Have Not may get law, they do not get justice. Even for Law they must pay, and if they have not the wherewithal to pay, their chance is but small. In England they have not even a code of law by reading which the citizens can know what the law is which they must obey. To find out what the law is costs money—always money. It is not paid to the judges, but to the sophists who, if they are well paid, will plead before the judges, but who if not paid will not open their mouths. The poor man who cannot pay is helpless. The rich rogue who can pay has everything in his favour.
There is not even a pretence of equality of treatment between rich and poor. Only the other day a rich woman, the wife of one of those who are called Justices, was found guilty of treating her own daughter with great cruelty. If she had been a poor woman she would have been sent to prison for many months. As she was a rich woman, belonging to the same class as the judge, she was let off with a fine so small that even the English cried out against it. The poor man who, to satisfy his hunger, takes a loaf of bread or who catches a wild bird to feed his children, is severely punished. He is treated as the worst of criminals. The rich thief, who by cunning devices robs thousands of his fellow-citizens of all their savings, is not even brought up for trial.
Between man and woman, especially when the man is rich, there is no justice in England. To corrupt a girl, to ruin her young life, to fling her upon the streets with her unwanted child, to perish with shame or to find bread by vice, is not even regarded as a crime by the law of England. But if the victim of the man be of his own sex, and the man be poor, for such a crime no punishment is considered too severe. Not so long ago they used to hang such offenders; now, if they are poor, they are sent to prison for many years. But if they are rich it is considered enough to allow them a change of air. They are permitted to go to another country for their health, where they live in freedom and in luxury, none daring to bring them to justice.
At first I was confounded. But after a time, when I had meditated upon the matter, I saw that it could not be otherwise. For the foundation upon which the whole fabric of English society, English law, English institutions is built up is injustice—Injustice between Man and Woman; and from this poisonous tap-root nothing but injustice can spring. Nor will there ever be a change until in the first of all human relations the principle of Justice is introduced into the Home and the worship of the Divine Mother is re-established in the Temple.
THE great city of the English in which I am staying is a very great city indeed, if you could only see it. But sometimes you cannot see it—no, not even the pictures across the way. Such a day was yesterday, when darkness worse than midnight descended upon the city. The English take much pride in their skill in turning night into day. But yesterday the Infernal Powers avenged themselves by turning day into night, and covering the city with a darkness which neither sunlight nor the tamed lightning could pierce.
I have not yet discovered where this blackness of darkness comes from; but as it is foul and heavy, I conclude that Hell's gate has been opened too wide and the smoke of the Bottomless Pit belches forth and covers the great city with its poisonous folds.
The English say that no skill can avail against this visitation, which they call Fog. It comes when it pleases, remains so long as it pleases, and departs when it pleases. Yesterday, fortunately for me, it fled silently away about noon. Had it lasted longer I should have died; for my eyes smarted with the sulphurous fog, my breath was heavy with the smoky blackness, I dared not venture across the road. I felt myself and the whole city to be the victims of some hideous enchantment, and I prepared myself to die.
The English are helpless against the fog, which puts out even the light of the sun. It is pitiful to see the devices which they use to drive it away. Along the iron road where the fire chariots ride they explode shells which burst with a loud noise; but so far as I could see the noise had no effect upon the fog. In the streets, men and boys light torches, with which they try to burn it up, but it is all of no avail.
When at last the fog fled away and the city could be seen once more, I ventured into the streets. The cold was so intense it almost froze the blood in my veins. When water was spilled upon the road it became solid, the surface of the road was white, and when I tried to cross my feet slid under me, and I fell. For in winter time London is haunted as by two demons—Fog and Frost.
Last night, when I ventured out once more in the biting wind which blew keen from the east, I was startled by finding men, ill-clad and miserable, huddling on the stony roadway shivering in the wind.
'Why,' I asked, 'do they not go home?' And I was told that they had no home anywhere. They had been, some of them, at the war. Then peace came; they could find no work, no home, no food. Then I thought I understood. 'The Government,' I said, 'is punishing these evil men who dipped their hands in their brothers blood. It is to teach them to refrain from war that they are thus tortured with hunger and cold.' But they told me Nay. For it was at the call of the Government that they had left home and work, and wife and children, to face death for England. 'Then why,' I asked, 'are they left to face death here after they have obeyed the call?' To this no one gave me any answer.
I went to my favourite resort, and walked by the side of the river. It was late, and the stars were glittering overhead. A keen frost was in the air. To my horror I saw men trying to sleep on the seats which are placed beneath the trees. Men, yes; and here and there a woman also.
'Have they also been at the war?' I asked.
'No,' was the reply. 'They sleep here all the year round.'
Then I was told that they do not do this because they like it, but because in this great city of palaces there was no place for them in which to sleep. And as my heart grieved over them I remembered the words of the Teacher: 'The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head.'
'Have they no shelters, then?' said I; and my companion answered—
'Come and see!'
We walked through many streets, past hundreds of public-houses flaring with light and warmth, past a score of churches, cold and dark and empty, to a remote district where I was told there was a shelter. But when we got there we saw a large placard, on which were printed the words, 'Shelter full.' And about the door on the frozen street men were lying trying to sleep.
And as I watched them I marvelled. But no one seemed to care. It was always so.
Then I turned my steps westward, and with a heavy heart I sought my bed. But not to sleep. For the memory of the homeless men who shivered beneath the stars made me feel too much like a criminal to be comfortable.
Rising from my sleepless couch, I tried to read the books wherein the English give opiates to their conscience.
And from them I learned that the order of society is sacred, that the poor must be always with us, and that without the keen spur of hunger and cold the labouring classes would not work.
For Charity they have a machine which they call Organisation, and Brotherly Love they pronounce Political Economy. If the homeless poor suffer, it serves them right. They have no right to be where they are not wanted. Let them carry their supply of labour to the place where it is in demand. But as to where that is nothing is said. Meantime, the man starves.
If he dies it is the elimination of the unfit. The struggle for existence results in the survival of the fittest. Pity is weakness. Compassion a folly. Charity a crime. Let the weak go to the wall. Every one for himself, and the devil take the hindmost.
There are, it seems, in this land a feeble company of people who believe that the State should try at least to see what law can do to save these poor people, to secure them the right to labour, and to make Christian brotherhood a reality and not a phrase. But they are everywhere spoken against, and for their damnation they are called Socialist—which, I have learned from the Times newspaper, is the English name of the Devil.
When I arrived in England, O beloved Queen! I expected to find from what our Teacher had told us that the Home, and the Woman as the Queen of the Home, was everywhere held in the highest honour. Words fail me to describe the dismay which fell upon me when I discovered that the English are becoming every year more of a Homeless Race. Again and again I have been compelled to ask whether they were not reverting to the condition of nomads. A few of them have so many houses they have nowhere a home, A far greater number have not even a hovel which they can call a home at all.
There are multitudes who are always on the road, sleeping where they can, and spending their lives in prowling and preying upon the public. In the last ten years their numbers have doubled. Home—save prison or semi-prison, called casual ward—they have none. For them family life does not exist. They fear not God, and they evade the constable. They work not, but nevertheless they eat. They are the unclean parasites of the nation, crawling continually over the body on which they feed. They lie, they beg, they steal, they blaspheme, and when they can they drink. Thousands of these God's Englishmen, degraded to the condition of the Devil's vermin, infest the land.
But the condition of millions who have lairs in which they sleep and breed is hardly better. What family life is possible where the only living and sleeping room is a foul kennel, reeking with filth, and with the effluvia of half-a-dozen or more men, women, and children? The stone-paved street is their living place, the room is the cave in which they sleep.
In the great cities, where the air is thick with smoke, the drains are often good and the water abundant. In the country there is often no drainage but a cesspool, and not water enough to wash the faces of the children.
After spending many hours in the burrows, where thousands of this Imperial race increase and multiply like rabbits, I have often felt that it is better in this country to be a horse than to be a man. And when I spoke of the contrast between the stable and the slum, I was told the difference lies in the right to kill. When a horse is useless they kill him. When a man is useless they have to keep him alive. The superfluous mouth eats up the resources which might have made the working man as comfortable as the toiling horse.
It is on this ground that some of these moralists justify war. It is an irregular but recognised method of killing off the redundant population. But war kills the strongest, and for one man whom it kills outright it cripples three. For a practical people this seems strangely unpractical. It seems to me it would be better judiciously to thin out by killing off systematically the useless mouths. But when I say this there are cries of horror, and men look at me askance as an advocate of murder, even those who defend war as a check upon over-population.
The English pride themselves much upon having abolished slavery. But when I ask why they allow millions of men to live in conditions which degrade them below the level of the beast, they say that it would not pay to give them healthy homes. So it used to be said in defence of slavery, that it would not pay to allow slaves wages for their labour. That health may pay as well as liberty, that disease and vice may pay as badly as slavery, does not seem to enter their minds.
The English, so far as I have been able to perceive, have but scanty regard for the Home. They speak of it highly, which to those who know them is an ominous sign that they esteem it but little. Nor can it be wondered at in a land where the headship of the house is vested not in the Woman but the Man. They seem to have sometimes thought of this, for I noticed that in all their pictures of what I suppose is their ideal, or, as they call it, the Divine Family, the Mother with her Child is in the centre. These pictures reminded me of our beloved land, where the Mother reigns over the family which she has brought into the world; but their significance seems to be ignored by the English. It is Man, the payer of the Rent, the Rates, and the Taxes, not Woman, the bearer of children, who is the central figure in the English home.
It may perhaps be due to this that the English, when they have the money which gives them liberty to do as they please, cast their young out of the home and rid themselves of the divine duty of training and moulding their offspring, long before they would be deemed fit in other nations to leave their mother's care and the shelter of the home. The poorer English, who have not money to indulge their desires, are compelled to allow their children to remain at home. But the others drive them away, often with many tears, to the care of hirelings in distant schools. There they spend the most of their youth, knowing nothing of a father's care or a mother's love. The girls are sent to herd with other girls, the boys with other boys. That they are deprived of the divine grace of sisterly and brotherly affection either does not occur to their parents, or, if they think of it, they regard it as a matter of no importance.
The women of the English who have money seem often to have lost the natural instincts of their sex. In Xanthia a mother who failed to nourish her babes from the fountain provided by Nature would be regarded as a monster. In England the new-born infant, among those who have money, is handed over to be fed from the breast of a hireling, for the gracious legend of the Divine Child at the breast of the Divine Mother has for them no inspiration.
'Why, then,' I asked a friend, 'has Nature provided your rich women with breasts?'
He replied, 'To show off their dresses, I suppose.'
But this I could not understand, for when the women of the English are in what they call full dress, they are most undressed, and the skill of the dressmaker is employed in displaying what at other times is modestly concealed.
I reflected sadly over this inversion of Nature, and in the end I saw that this also was the natural result of the dominance of man. It is to please her lord that she has dried up the sacred fountain of life and love, and converted it into a mere means of ministering to the gratification of her Master. Mothers, whose breasts are refused to the children of their womb, and who drive their offspring from the parental nest when they most need a mother's love—how can they make Home the Divine Temple of Humanity which it is with us?
Among the poor things are not so bad. But the lack of food often compels the mother to leave her home and desert her children all day, and lack of rooms in which to live makes it impossible to create a home. The man, when not at work, is in the drinking house; the children play in the street.
Sad indeed must be the heart of Cybele as the Divine Mother broods over her desecrated Temple, where the family altar is overthrown! The earthly mirror of the bliss of Heaven perishes in the destruction of the Home.
I am sick at heart, and long to return to the realm where Motherhood inspires the laws and customs of the people.
In sheer self-defence I try to discover some compensation in the evil conditions in which men live in this great city. There are some. It may seem to you that the housing of four to ten persons in one room is inhuman. But it is done. They sleep in the bed, below the bed, and on the floor. Thousands will sleep so this night. Where, do you ask, is the compensation? In two things. The overcrowding gives Warmth, and it brings Death. Think how cold one man would be to-night in a fire-less room! Where there is no coal in the grate animal heat is better than wintry frost. That morality suffers is true. But one cannot have everything in this world.
These crowded rooms are the hotbed of Disease, the antechambers of Death. Were it otherwise it is the world and not the room that would be overcrowded. In England those who have most room and most means have fewest children. The poorest breed the fastest. There would be no room for the sons of the rich if the children of the poor were not killed off quick. And they are killed off very quick. In the poorest districts two in ten of the children die before they are twelve months old.
In Xanthia every one acts on the belief that the strength of a nation consists in the strength of the citizen. With us the State is the Mother of her children. Here it is the Step-father who heeds not when his children starve.
Of the English, one in five is always underfed, and one in ten is always overfed. Year by year the Government pinches more and more the stomach of the poor in order to extend the Empire, which is the pride of the rich. To secure as much food by honest labour as he would get if he thieved and went to gaol is impossible to millions. The outworn veteran of industry cannot hope in his old age for the pension that is freely given to the warrior. The richest State in the world, which can afford 250 millions to crush 70,000 burghers, cannot spare 25 millions to pension her millions of aged toilers.
Alike in town and in country, sometimes more in the country than in the town, the English do not secure for God's Englishmen—Imperial race though they be—the conditions of a healthy human existence. The stamina of the people decays, but the frontiers lengthen. How long it will be before the crash comes no one can say. But meanwhile the Few are gorged while the Many go hungry.
Often it has seemed to me, since I came to this strange land, how easy it would be to change all this.
If every dweller in a five-roomed house were compelled by law to exchange his residence for only one week in the year with the dwellers in one room or two, not twelve months would pass before everything would change.
Our Teacher taught us that in his religion the central dogma was that Salvation could only be had by God placing Himself in the environment of man. But it never seems to strike these Christians that they will never solve the social problem until at least for one week in each year they compel the Few Who Have to put themselves in the place of the Many Who Have Not.
WHAT is the position of women in England? Francis Tressidder told us that when the Man was recognised as the head of the home and the ruler in the State, Woman, although nominally abased, was actually exalted to a position of privilege and of influence far superior to that which she enjoyed under our own institution of the Matriarchate. Compared with this all other questions into which I was appointed to inquire are comparatively unimportant. All religions, governments, and social systems must in the end be tried by the supreme test, What do they do for the Mother and the Child?
In my previous letters I have had to report many disappointments. But in those letters I had not much to say concerning the one point of all others which led to my mission. It is already quite clear to me that the exclusion of women from the direction of the affairs of State has not produced any of the good results claimed for it by Francis Tressidder. All the evils which he deplored in Xanthia are to be found in England, and in every case they are worse than they are with us. Far be it from me to say that the foolishness of the Englishmen, their delirium, their inconsistency, and their lack of common-sense would disappear if the institution of the Matriarchate were established amongst them. But of one thing there can be no doubt—it could not make things worse than Man has made them. To impair the supremacy of Woman in Xanthia would not lead to the removal of any of the abuses from which we suffer, or quicken the speed by which we carry out reforms.
I have gone to and fro among those who rule and those who are ruled, observing the highest and the lowest alike, in order that I may be able faithfully to report to my beloved Queen as to how her sex fares in a land given over to the Dominance of Man. I have also sought information from all those who had eyes to see or ears to hear what goes on around them.
Francis Tressidder told us that in England women enjoy rights and privileges superior to those of men. I have searched for these rights and privileges as a man searches with a candle for a lost jewel, and after much searching I have found two, nay, even three, privileges enjoyed by women in which men have no share.
The first is that when a man and a woman are going into or out of a room, the woman is allowed to go first, the man following after. The second is that if in a chariot, on road, or on railway there are not seats for all, a man will generally (not always) deem it his duty to give up his own seat to a woman. The third privilege is that at meals the English women are served with food before the men, but they must also quit the table first, leaving the men behind. These three are the privileges which English women enjoy over Englishmen. Perhaps there may be more, but so far, after diligent search, I have not been able to discover any others.
Among my friends there is a young man who has been very fortunate in his education and home life. No one in Xanthia is more tender or pays more respectful homage to women, and when I repeated to him my conclusion as to the privileges of Englishwomen, he was much shocked, and at first denied that I was right. He talked like Francis Tressidder. He spoke of the chivalrous regard in which women are held in England, the reverent homage paid to them on all occasions; he asserted that the lot of Women, shielded and protected by the stronger Man, was almost ideal.
I listened for a time to his talk, and then asked him whether he thought that Liberty was worth anything to the English.
'What do you mean,' said he, 'by asking such a question in the Land of Freedom? It is the first of all our rights, the best of our privileges. Without Liberty life itself is not worth having.'
'But tell me,' said I, 'whether in England men and women have equal liberties.'
'Our women are not slaves,' he replied.
'No, perhaps not,' said I. 'But are women free to decide their own lives, to choose their own careers, like men? I am not discussing whether a girl is as strong as a boy, but whether she has the same chance.'
'Oh, girls cannot take care of themselves. Boys can!' said he.
'Perhaps it may be,' I said. 'It is not so with us.'
'Oh,' said he, 'in England girls are quite as free as anybody else!'
'Indeed!' said I. 'Then supposing that your daughter were to wish to be a clergyman, to be a soldier or a sailor, or an engineer, or to enter the highest of all careers—to be a ruler and legislator—are all these professions open to her?'
'Of course not!' he said. 'Women are not fit for such things.'
And with that he broke off in an angry mood, nor did I marvel, for he saw whither the conversation was tending. For all these professions are the monopoly of the men.
They have invented for their own convenience and as a salve to their own conscience the excuse that their selfishness is justified because Woman is inherently and by nature incompetent to perform the duties which are often but very indifferently performed by Man. The liberty for each to decide for himself or for herself what work is his or her special aptitude is in England surrounded by innumerable restrictions which press solely upon the woman. Any man is free to choose without interference of law or sentiment whether he will adopt as his own any one of the professions distinctively feminine. He may if he chooses be cook, housekeeper, children's nurse, midwife, milliner or whatever he pleases. Within the whole range of Woman's activity in England Man is free to compete, but there is no such unlimited liberty accorded to Woman. Her competition is confined either by law or by social interdict to the worst-paid fields of labour. Only in the bearing of children are Englishmen excluded from competition—a fact which may explain why they hold it in such contempt, and attribute the suffering which it entails to the curse of an angry God.
When I have spoken of these matters to my English friends they have assured me that it was necessary, in the interest of women themselves, to fence them off carefully from the pleasantest work, and to deny them admission to all the best-paid fields of industry. It is all for their own good. Womanliness must at any cost be preserved, and the law of Man must be used to achieve what the Instinct of Woman cannot be relied upon to protect.
When I expressed my disbelief in the need of their protecting women against themselves, especially by such strange and unjust means, I was looked at askance by those to whom I spoke.
They even deny with vehemence that their women are ever shut out from any occupations save those which are essentially unwomanly. But always, upon inquiry, I found that 'essentially unwomanly' is the formula describing the occupations which are most highly paid. There is scarcely any description of labour, no matter how unhealthy, how arduous, filthy and degrading, which is held to be unwomanly, provided only that the wages are low. It is womanly for Englishwomen to spend their lives in spreading manure on the farmer's field. It is womanly for young girls to devote months of their lives to the cleaning of fish. It is womanly for them in the laundry to stand for four hours at a time ankle-deep in water, washing the filth of the world from off the garments of men. To do these things demands much greater physical strength than is required in a clerk. They involve much heavier strain upon the body than is demanded from the men of the professions. But the harder work goes to the weaker, and the lighter to the stronger. For the stronger man with the lighter work receives the highest wage, while the weaker woman with the harder work receives the lowest wage. Such is the justice of the English.
When I repeated this to an acquaintance he became very angry, and denied hotly its truth. He was one of a great number of those who are employed in the offices of the Administration. He goes to his comfortable, well-warmed office at ten o'clock. He sits on an easy-chair, and spends some five hours in writing, in reading, in talking. For this he is paid, he tells me, the 'miserable pittance' of six pounds a week, or one pound per day. Physical weariness he never knows. There is no strain upon his muscles. Nothing that he does is beyond the physical capacity of a woman. Yet he declared that the inferiority in physical strength of women alone compelled the men most reluctantly to exclude them from all positions and occupations, for which, he said, they are manifestly unfitted by the very constitution of their sex.
It was after a discussion of this kind, which at times became so warm as to become a wrangle, I proposed to my friend that we should cool the heat of our argument by a walk in the open air. The weather was not inviting, but he assented.
I shivered as we passed into the street. The wind seemed to pierce to my very bones. But wrapping my cloak around me, we crossed the river at Westminster and set out for the open space which they call the Common. My friend took me through a maze of mean streets, where he lost his way in the mist, and, wandering we knew not exactly where, we came to one of the places where the citizens kindle great fires with which to burn the refuse of the City.
Being curious to see the place—'only a dust destructor,' said my friend—I induced him to enter the yard.
No sooner was I within the gates than I saw a sight which filled me with horror and shame. For there, in the midst of the foulest refuse of the streets and slums of the City, stood a long line of women busily engaged in the open air picking and screening and handling the rubbish and offscouring of London. They were begrimed with the filth amid which they worked. Their clothes were coarse and dirty. Their backs were bent with their labour, which was monotonous, heavy, and foul.
My friend did not seem to be shocked in the least as I pointed out these women at work. 'They sort after the scavengers,' he said in explanation. 'They pick out anything that is worth saving, and the rest of the rubbish goes to the destructor and is burnt.'
I looked at him and marvelled. He seemed to see nothing unwomanly in their labour. Every hour they employed more sheer muscular and physical strength than he was required to exert in a week. The conditions of their toil were brutalising. They started work before breakfast, and they stood on their feet all day in all weathers in the open air. But to him their work was womanly enough. Whereas the mere suggestion that a woman could do his work filled him with rage.
'Oh,' he cried, 'that's different. You do not understand.'
It was different. For he received more wages for one day's easy work than was paid to the women for six days' hard labour. It is a great difference; that I understood very well. For the pleasanter tasks, which bring in their train a rich reward in honour and in cash, are tabooed to English women by men who pride themselves upon their chivalry.
Of late years the rigour of this masculine monopoly has been modified, and women, who in remote ages were the natural healers and physicians of the race, have been reluctantly permitted to minister to the sufferings of their own sex. In the profession of healing there are two departments—one requiring severe physical and nervous strain, the other, which makes little tax upon bodily health, but which demands a trained intellect. The former is Nursing, the latter is Healing. Even the most conservative English admit women freely to the more arduous duties of the nursing profession, in which no great career is possible and no great fortune can be made; but it was with the utmost reluctance they were induced to admit women to the more lucrative branch of the medical profession. My observation of the economic position of women in England may be summed up in a single sentence. All the easiest and best-paid work is monopolised by man; all the most disagreeable and worst paid is graciously reserved for women. So the Headship of Man works out in the field of human labour.
The supreme profession of women in every land, even in Xanthia, where they are free to pursue whatever art, industry, or profession for which they have aptitude, is the profession of Motherhood. Never until I came to England did I realise the extent to which the divinest element in the world can be degraded and trodden under foot when Man, being all-powerful, can impose not only his will but even his sentiments upon the Subject Woman. Never until I landed in this country did I conceive it possible that centuries of absolute obedience to the will of the Dominant Male could have impressed upon women an apparently indelible and all-pervading sense of shame about everything which is distinctive of their sex.
Of such things it is held to be immodest even to speak, with the result that there is ignorance for knowledge, falsehood for truth, and English girls are often sent forth to the supreme functions of their life with no equipment but a blinding sense of inarticulate shame. Maternity, which even in England is spoken of as the crowning glory of womanhood, is held in so little esteem that its approach is concealed as something shameful, whereas in Xanthia a woman with child is held in the highest honour, and is accorded precedence before all other citizens. She is then regarded with even more than the honour which in England is paid to soldiers who have fought in the service of their country. In war the man risks his life and sheds his blood in order to defend the State by dealing death to her enemies. Woman suffers as much and more, for the purpose, not of destroying life, but of producing it, and of building up the prosperity of the State by giving life to its future citizens. The conditions of life and of society with us are such as to reduce to a minimum both physical pain and mental distress in the performance of the sacred function of Motherhood. But in England nothing is done to glorify womanhood The marriage ceremony, which is in many cases reduced to the mere signing of a contract in the office of an official, is the last vestige of the great series of festivals by which in happier times the human race recognised with thanksgiving and with song the perpetually renewed manifestation of the creative powers of Nature revealed in Womanhood.
How far the English have drifted from the high faith in the divine energies of the Mother God may be seen from the way in which even mothers will deceive their children as to the origin of life. The birth of the baby, which with us is the first introduction to the ingenuous mind of the child of the miraculous creative energy of Nature, is an opportunity not merely neglected, it is degraded by being made a justification for the silliest of lies. This is all the inevitable corollary of the Dominance of Man. What can be expected as the result of the teachings of men (arrogating to themselves the exclusive right to interpret the Oracles of God), who taught that Woman was the Gate of Hell, and that the instinct by which the Divine Mother has implanted in all her daughters part of her own creative power was the token of perdition, a curse inherited at the Fall?
With us, a woman, after she has managed her household and reared her children, is recognised as having served her apprenticeship in the affairs of life, and has qualified herself for entering upon a public career in which she can devote to the service of the State faculties trained in patience, economy, foresight, and self-sacrifice. Under the Matriarchate all women have two lives: for with them the life of ambition and of service to the State in a public capacity begins after the other life has been brought to a satisfactory close. Things, they tell me, are changing somewhat in England, and the reverence due to age is no longer exclusively confined to men, although the term 'old woman' is still used as an expression of contumely.
This supreme stigma upon Woman, by which she herself has been brought to regard her glory as her shame, and to bury in concealment, at any cost of health or truth, the normal, natural evolution of her life as a woman, constitutes the supreme condemnation of the Dominance of Man.
Compared with this universal inversion of what is their crowning glory into a nameless shame, the other wrongs which they suffer are comparatively insignificant. But they are such that if they were inflicted upon men they would lead to armed revolt. From the political point of view women have no rights. 'No taxation without representation,' which our poor Teacher used to say was the fundamental principle of free government, does not exist for women. When they are accused of offences against the law, they are not allowed the privilege of trial by jury of their peers. When a woman is accused she is arrested by a male constable, brought before a male judge, and prosecuted by a male barrister. She must employ a male lawyer, who will retain a male counsel who will plead her case before twelve jurors, who may be the greatest of scoundrels, but whose competence is unchallenged provided they belong to the dominant sex. From all the positions of executive authority in the realm a woman is debarred because she is a woman. Among the Lycians, from whom the Xanthians sprang, while men were permitted to assist in counsel, women alone were allowed to exercise executive functions, on the ground that their sweetness and sympathetic nature would introduce mercy and tact into the administration of the law. Women, by the English, are debarred from the professions in which they might acquire in the school of life the qualities necessary for acting in a judicial capacity; and then, as usual in England, the results of an unjust law are quoted as a justification for its continuance. As no women can enter Parliament, nor serve it in any capacity except as indexers to the reports of its debates, so they are equally excluded from other public bodies of legislative rank. No woman can serve on a town council; from the County Council they have been rigorously excluded; only to parish and urban district councils may they be elected. They have for thirty years enjoyed the privilege of sitting on school boards, but the school board is now marked for destruction. Only on the Boards of Guardians, which stand in loco parentis to the orphans and the destitute, are women permitted to take a part in the local administration. Even there, owing to the long-induced habit of indifference to public affairs, there are comparatively few women who offer themselves as candidates, and still fewer who are elected.
Since I arrived in England I came upon the saying of a great American President to the effect that 'God made no man wise enough to govern another man without that other man's consent.' If this be true in the relation of man to man, how much more is it true when the governed is of the opposite sex to that of the governor! If only, O my Queen, I could establish you in absolute authority over these people of England, you would turn everything upside down by decreeing that all the political maxims accepted as axioms by men shall be accepted as equally true in their application to women. To make the law colour-blind to sex, as it already is to differences of stature, of complexion, and of religious belief, would be a great act of emancipation fraught with untold blessings to the world. For absolute power is, as heretofore, a curse to the tyrant as to his victim.
How I have raged against this to my English friends! With each fresh statutory or customary outrage upon your sex I have felt as if some one had smitten me a blow across the face. My cheeks would burn with fury one moment, and the next I would be abased in the very earth with shame, for, after all, were not these Englishmen who enacted such laws my fellow-creatures, nay, even of my own sex? They tell me that things were even worse in former times; that although it is now mostly forgotten, yet the persecution, even to the death, of women by men was carried on in the name of religion and morality, with the benediction of the Christian Church. For centuries after their conversion to Christianity women in Europe preserved in secret the worship of the Divine Mother, and practised the healing arts, which had been handed down from their ancestors. But the male world, jealous and intolerant, decreed that this lingering remnant of those who clung faithfully to the divinity of their sex, and who cherished in obscurity the study of the hidden mysteries of Nature, should be extirpated by fire and sword.
After witch-burning had done its work the brutal materialism of the male rioted unchecked, while women for the most part lost all memory of the great tradition. The relations of man and woman, which constitute the constantly renewed manifestation of the creative spirit of Nature, became poisoned with a sense of injustice. Might became the measure of right, and in the holiest of all relations the weaker was held to have no claim even to her own property, no right to the sanctity of her own person. She became the chattel of the man, and by the very ceremony in which he professed to endow her with all his worldly goods he became the lawful owner of every penny she possessed. Even the English have of late recognised the injustice of making marriage the pretext for robbery. They have not yet recognised that marriage should not legalise that which is far worse. The first article in the Xanthian Magna Charta, which sets forth that no woman shall be compelled to bear the burden of unwilling maternity, sets forth also an ethical ideal unknown to most of the English. The right to compel a wife to bear undesired children is absolute, or qualified only by secret flight or the public scandal of separation.
On sex questions involving unmarried women the laws of the English are even more savage. Girls carefully nurtured in ignorance of all that pertains to the life of their sex may with some impunity be made the victims of those men who roam like wild beasts of prey through the human jungle. In a moment of credulous tenderness, or of an almost devotional self-sacrifice, Man makes her, all unwilling and unknowing, the mother of his child. The fruit of his lawless passion confers upon his victim, not the crown, but the cross of maternity; for the censure of the English is concentrated solely upon the mother. She is henceforth an outcast, without status, without character, often without means of employment. If she takes shelter in the workhouse she is often brought in to be humiliated and made sport of before a committee of men who gloat over her confusion. If she shrinks from this ordeal, upon her lies the sole burden of maintaining her hapless infant. If she seeks a legal remedy she must appear before a male magistrate in the presence of a court, from which very often all her own sex are expelled illegally by male order, and she is compelled to tell the story of her shame before a gaping audience of men to whom the sacred mysteries of sex and motherhood only suggest impurity. The miserable pittance which the father of her child may be ordered to pay can seldom be collected; and if in her agony and despair the mother leaves her child in the arms of merciful Death, she is prosecuted for murder, no inquiry being permitted to be made as to the father who is responsible for the child's life, and outraged law is vindicated, not, indeed, as formerly, by death, but by a long sentence of confinement in a convict prison.
The same sex bias which in Parliament decrees injustice by law, and on the judgment seat administers injustice, goes still further. It saps the foundations of morality. The English proclaim that there is only one God, and deride us as idolaters because we worship the Divine Mother and all the various goddesses who symbolise the beneficent influences of Nature. But if they have one God, they have two moralities—one for man, the other for woman. The moral law, instead of being equally binding upon both sexes, is relaxed for the strong and made stringent for the weak. Among the English it is a crime, punished by a life of social ostracism and privation, for a woman to do once that which can be done by her own brother a thousand times without sacrificing his social status or his professional position. 'Woe to the weak' seems to be the real watchword of what, in mockery, is called the Chivalry of England.
I will conclude my report upon this subject by telling you of the strange, almost incredible, contrast between the treatment meted out to two great professions in this country, each of which is based upon a negation of one of the Ten Commandments which Tressidder caused to be written up in the Temple of the Great Mother. One of these professions is male, the other is female. Each has come into existence for the express and avowed purpose of breaking one of the commandments of God. The male breaks the one, and the female the other. Each finds a livelihood in the violation of the Divine law. Each is justified by moralists on similar grounds. The one is the British army, numbering hundreds of thousands in its ranks, paid, equipped and maintained solely for the purpose of being able to kill those who for the time being may be the enemies of England. The aim and object of their existence is to kill; and it is reconciled with the conscience of those who call themselves followers of the Prince of Peace on the ground that, in order to secure peace, it is necessary to prepare for war. Hence in all the churches the manslayer in uniform is held in high reverence. He has the praise of the legislature and the solid rewards of the Crown. And so it comes to pass that nineteen hundred years after the coming of the Prince of Peace the Soldier is honoured and glorified beyond all his fellows.
Contrast this with the other army, also numbering scores of thousands in its ranks, the army of those unfortunate women whose career starts and ends with the violation of the seventh commandment As the calling of the soldier is extolled as essential to the maintenance of peace, so, according to one of the most eminent of the English philosophers, the calling of the Courtesan is essential to the maintenance of chastity. Herself the supreme type of vice, she is supposed to be the most efficient guardian of virtue. Upon her bowed head are spent the lawless passions which would otherwise have desolated thousands of happy homes. So she remains, while civilisations rise and fall, the eternal Priestess of Humanity, blasted for the sins of the people.
The English maintain these two armies side by side; but one army is held up to glory and honour, the other to shame and everlasting contempt. Yet they tell me that each renders great services to the State, for the man kills that others may not be killed, and the woman sins so that others may be saved from temptation. But while the difference between the two is immense, from the point of law, they stand side by side in morals, save that the lot of the woman is immeasurably harder than that of the man. Her burden is greater, her sufferings worse to bear; the evil against which she stands on guard requires an army constantly mobilised, and always on a war footing. Yet who is there among all the English who would propose to deal with the two armies by the same standard?
My heart is heavy within me as I write these things, and contemplate this absolute inversion of the highest and noblest and divinest part of our nature. It seems to me, as a Xanthian, that it all springs from one source. England has forgotten the Mother God. Hence (which Cybele forbid!), if I were to spend my days in England I would have no higher ambition than to dedicate all my life to the achievement of such justice and liberty for the other sex that my daughter might never owe me a grudge because she was born a girl.
THE mission which you gave to me I have performed, and in a few days I shall once more be hastening to my beloved Sovereign and the land which has hitherto escaped the blighting curse of the Dominance of Man.
For that is the root of all evil among the English. By it Might is exalted above Right, and Force has superseded Justice as the ruler of nations. The land labours under a curse which will not be lifted until the English learn to be just to the sex of their mothers and their wives, and to accord them the liberty which men enjoy and the rights and privileges of human beings living together as self-governing citizens of a free State.
There are some amongst them—few even among the women themselves, for the sex is inured to subjection—to whom this truth is becoming manifest. I met one such the other evening when, with a sore heart, I was walking in the streets of this great city. She was radiant of countenance, and in her eyes there beamed the divine light of maternal love. Although a stranger, she addressed me in the soft, caressing tones which I had not heard since I quitted Xanthia.
'You are weary and heavy laden,' she said to me, 'and, if I mistake not, a stranger in London.'
'I am indeed a stranger,' I replied, 'a stranger from a far country. And my heart is heavy within me because everywhere I find womanhood trodden underfoot and despised.'
She smiled a strange, sad smile, and was silent for a while. Then she said, 'Take heart, 'twill not be always thus.'
But I answered sadly, 'Alas! I feel it will remain, for the Men of War seem to grow ever more powerful, the Home is despoiled that the Barracks may be filled, and when the Soldier is exalted there always will Woman be abased.'
'Nay,' she replied; 'not so. The days of this despotism are numbered. It is but the darkest hour before the dawn. Look above! Has the Divine Mother forgotten her children, the sons and the daughters of her love?'
When she spoke of the Divine Mother my heart leapt with a great joy, for here in England the only Deity they speak of is the Divine Father.
'Who are you?' I asked,—'the first in all this land who has spoken of Motherhood as Divine.'
'I am one,' she answered, 'among a great multitude who know the truth and who reverence the divinity of their own sex. And we know the time of our deliverance draweth near, and not ours only, but that of man also, for he has closed against himself the Gates of the Soul, which the Divine Mother alone can open.'
And as she spoke a peace unknown to me for many weary months came into my heart. And although all seemed still dark without, her words shone before me like a pillar of fire in the gloom, and I knew that she spoke the truth.
'On the horizon,' she said, 'there dawns the coming day. Woman in the East, Woman in the West, are unbarring the gates of the dungeon wherein man has lain for ages. Already the light dispels the darkness. The reign of Matter is passing away. The invisible world is becoming visible and the soul is resuming its rightful throne. Signs and wonders multiply. To-day is the promise being fulfilled: "And all these things shall ye do, yea, and more also."
And as I listened to the thrilling music of her words she pressed my hand lightly, and when I looked for her she was not; nor do I know how she went or how she came. Where she had stood I saw on the pavement a small roll of paper. I picked it up. I saw that it contained written words, but what they were I could not read in the dim light of the street. When I reached home with a new joy throbbing in my breast, I lit my lamp, and these verses were revealed to me:—
By this we hold: No man is wholly great,
Or wise, or just, or good,
Who will not dare his all, to reinstate
Earth's trampled womanhood.
Each village hath its martyrs; every street
Some house that is a hell;
Some woman's heart, celestial, pure, and sweet,
Breaks with each passing bell.
There are deep wrongs too infinite for words,
Man dare not have revealed;
And in our midst, insane, barbaric hordes,
Who make the law their shield.
As I read and re-read these stirring words they rang through me like the blast of a trumpet. And hope was born again in me, and with hope, a great peace such as I had not known since I crossed the frontiers and bade thee farewell, O Dione!
Next day as I went out to go to and fro among the people I found myself standing before one of their Temples. Many were passing in, and I followed them. It was unlike any of the Temples into which I had entered. It was bright with colour. Flowers in profusion were before the altar. The fragrance of incense was in the air. And, lo, high exalted over all, I saw the picture of the Divine Mother with her child upon her knee.
Overcome by emotion, I flung myself upon my knees and prayed. It was as if I were once more a child at my mother's knee. At last I felt at home. The Divine Mother seemed to beam down upon me with infinite love, and I was comforted.
When I rose from ray knees, and my eyes were clear from the mist of my tears, I looked to see whether I could discover anywhere in the Temple the image of the gracious goddess Cybele. But, excepting in the picture which had thrilled me with such emotion, I could discern no trace of her presence. The statues in the Temple were those of men. The Man Crucified, whom they worship, towered on high above the altar. The sacred rites were performed exclusively by men. Even the choir was monopolised by men, who, however, in very shame, disguised themselves in the white dresses of women. Nowhere could I find any recognition of the fact that women, even if subject to man, were nevertheless one-half of the human race. Only one office was reserved for women in the Temple from whose walls looked down in pitying love the Divine Mother and her child. A woman was allowed the privilege of dusting the seats and of receiving a small pittance from those to whom she offered a chair. From all but the most menial of offices she was debarred by the damning disqualification of her sex.
I asked one of the priests of the Temple as he was leaving the building if in England women could not sing. He seemed surprised.
'Certainly,' he replied; 'what an odd question.'
'But in this Temple I heard only the voices of men and of boys.'
'Oh,' he exclaimed, 'but you forget that this is a church dedicated to the worship of Almighty God.'
I pointed to the picture of the Divine Mother with the Child in her arms. 'May they not even sing her praises?' I asked.
But he departed without giving me any answer. Woman may sing in the theatres, in the halls of music, and even in the streets. But in the church, even in those churches where they worship the Divine Mother, she must not sing. For the Ministry of Song, like the Ministry of Teaching, is the sole privilege of the Man. For Woman are reserved the Ministry of Suffering and the Ministry of Shame. They are excluded from the Choir of the Temple, but they are installed at the Bar of the Tavern.
'Are these English born of women?' I asked myself not for the first time, and in wrathful mood I left the Temple and wandered eastward, hardly heeding where I walked.
I had gone several miles when my attention was attracted by a sound which recalled the most sacred memories of my youth. Far away down the street I saw a crowd of people walking in a somewhat irregular procession, and from the midst of the crowd came the clash of cymbals. Again and again I heard the gladsome melody of the music of Cybele, and then, clear and strong, audible above the tramp of hurrying feet, rose the music of a woman's voice—nay, of the voices of many women.
Hardly daring to believe my senses, I hurried after the procession, and soon found myself running in my haste to overtake them. The voices had ceased, but I still heard the clash of cymbals, the strident note of the brazen horns, the throbbing beat of the drum. I thrust my way through the crowd and saw, to my infinite amazement and unspeakable delight, what I took to be an attempt of the English to introduce into their dirty streets, beneath their cloudy skies, a humble imitation of our Corybantic dance. For there I saw, marching in measured and rhythmic tread, some fifty or sixty women, old and young, clashing their cymbals as they marched, and ever and anon raising their voices in a burst of jubilant song.
They were not dressed with the glorious freedom of the beautiful women who led the Corybantic dance in Xanthia before Tressidder in an evil hour suppressed the rite. Their heads were crowned, not with fragrant flowers, but with a curious hat of dark straw encircled with ribbon of red. I walked by their side, wondering when they would begin to whirl in the mazes of the sacred dance, when, to my surprise, they suddenly halted, and, forming a hollow square, knelt down in the roadway to pray. Above them waved a banner of red and blue, with some legend which I could not read. The cymbals were still; the horns made no sound; the great drum was silent. I heard only the confused murmur of the pressing crowd and the rumble and roar of wheels in the street.
Then I heard, as if it were the notes of a silver trumpet, a woman's voice raised in prayer. What she prayed I knew not nor cared. To me it was all-sufficient to know that even in England Woman was permitted to pray. Her prayer was ended almost before it had begun, and its close was saluted with a volley of approving cries. Again the cymbals clashed, and the women in the red-bound bonnets began to sing. It was not Nature music—not the music of joyous adoration of the Divine Mother, exultant as the lark's song, but rather the pleading, plaintive, passionate cry of a mother yearning for the safety of her erring child. The women sang, and the men and the rough crowd joined in the chorus. When the singing ceased, the leader of these English Corybantes stood forth, and in earnest tones besought those who heard her to cast away their sins and to come out and get salvation. If the doctrine which she taught reminded me of Tressidder, the Leadership of the Woman reminded me still more of Xanthia.
Here in England, at last, it seemed that I had come upon some people who did not dishonour a woman because of her sex. Far from it, they paid her as much respect as if she had been addressing my own people. Her words roused her hearers to enthusiasm, and again subdued them almost to tears. Her winsome face, her slight but graceful figure, the earnest mother love that glowed in her eyes, made her singularly attractive. For my part I drank in her every word as travellers in the great desert, sore parched with wandering in the waterless waste, drink the water from the wells of the oasis. She seemed to cease almost before she had begun. Once more the cymbals clashed, the drum beat, the procession re-formed, and they swept off with long and swinging step towards one of their Temples.
'Who are these people?' I asked of the Man in the Helmet, 'and what are they doing?'
'It's only the Army,' he replied, 'and that was one of their "open-airs."'
When he said Army, I shuddered. For these singing women with the cymbals were no Amazons, neither did they carry sword or gun. So I followed the crowd to the Temple, but the multitude was so great that I was unable to find a place within the building.
But as I was turning away I was accosted by a young man in uniform, who, coming up to me as to a friend, grasped my hand, bade me welcome, and said—
'Brother, are you saved?'
'About that,' I said, 'I do not know how to answer; but the heart within me is glad. It is good for me to be here.'
'Amen!' said he. 'Amen! Keep believing, brother; He will save you.'
And he wrung my hand as if I had been his brother born.
I turned away, and presently encountered a Scribe of the Press, whom I had seen often at other places.
'Who are these people?' I asked.
'These Salvationists, you mean?' he answered. 'They are a rum lot. Do a power of good, though. Can't help liking them. I don't swallow all the rot they talk; but they're a chummy lot Why, they even pray for reporters. Nobody else ever seems to think poor devils like us have got souls to be either saved or damned.'
'But,' I asked, 'where did they come from, and how did they start? I have seen nothing like them in England. Tell me,' I added, 'do they dance?'
My friend laughed.
'Dance! I should think not, indeed! Why, old Booth would send 'em packing if they did.'
Then, apparently seeing my perplexity, he ceased laughing, and began seriously to tell me about this new and strange people.
From what he said I came to know that although they do not worship our great goddess, Cybele, and although their Corybantes do not dance, they alone among the English believe and act as poor Tressidder believes all the English believe and act—with one exception.
They agree with Tressidder in everything else, but they are Xanthian to the core in all that relates to women. Theirs is the only English religion which recognises that a human being does not lose her right to make the best use of the talents which God has given her merely because she happens to be a She and not a He.
This is due to the fact that they are the only religion which had both a Father and a Mother. It came into being as the lawful child of a man and a woman of whom one I heard called General and the other Catherine. They do not speak of Cybele, our Divine Mother, nor, like some others, of the Virgin Mary. But they adore the memory of the Mother Catherine. And the whole of these Saviours of the People are inspired with a longing to make their Army, as they call it, the loving Mother of the whole human race. Like the other English religions they speak always of the Fatherhood of God. But, unlike the rest, they realise that this doctrine must be supplemented by the Motherhood of the Army. So it comes to pass that they more than all the others care for the lost and forlorn children of men, especially for the trampled daughters of the people. They are the friends of the friendless, the brothers of the lonely, the mothers of the orphans. They spread their 'Social Wing,' as they call it, over the poorest of the poor. They are stern against all indulgence in strong drink, and they maintain with strenuous conviction that the moral law is equally binding on man and on woman. Strange, indeed, it is to find that the only religion in England which is faithful to the teaching of Francis Tressidder in all other things is that which takes as its chief cornerstone the Xanthian doctrine for opposing which our Teacher has been condemned to death.
I fear there can be no escape for the misguided Tressidder. If I could but mistake the Salvationists for the English there might, perhaps, be a way of escape. But as it is I see none. And my heart is sad to know that my letters may be his death-warrant.
With this, O Dione, I must conclude my Report In England, where, as Tressidder said, the subjection of Woman is consistently carried out in Church, in State, and in Society, every evil against which he has constantly preached, flourishes amain. But in the one religious body which has trampled underfoot the Dominance of Man, and in that alone, have I found the universal insistence upon those virtues of Temperance, Purity, Plain Living, Brotherly Kindness and Mother Love for the Poor which, he taught us, were the only tests of the true religion.
I have done; I embark to-morrow, and will myself bear this last of my letters to Xanthia.
Before many moons have waxed and waned I shall prostrate myself at thy feet!
Your devoted subject,
WHEN Callicrates had written his last letter he made haste to return. He had fulfilled his mission. He had seen with his eyes, heard with his ears, and had written with his hand a faithful report of the strange land which Tressidder had described as a terrestrial paradise. That Tressidder must die, if indeed he had not already paid forfeit with his life for the extent to which he had idealised the land of his birth, was evident. As Callicrates paced the deck of the steamer which was bearing him home he pondered long over the contrast between the missionary's picture of Christian England and the stern realities of the heathen Empire which seemed to him to be rotting at the core. He had come expecting to find a land in which the Golden Rule was the law of life, where every man did to his brother what he wished his brother to do to him. He had found a land of cut-throat competition, of social caste, and one where internecine feuds raged even within the pale of the Church. He expected to find a sober nation—he found a people sodden with strong drink. He had been told that in England he would find religion pure and undefiled, and divine worship in primitive simplicity—he had found Churches like idolatrous Temples, and a proud priesthood arrogating to themselves sacerdotal privileges. He had hoped to find an ideal Commonwealth, a social Utopia—he had discovered a minority wallowing in luxury, and a majority dehumanised by the conditions of their existence. He had looked to find Woman exalted by her abasement, glorified by humiliation—he found her everywhere excluded from all that was best worth having, a pariah in Church and in State, an alien in the commonwealth, mocked with the homage of the lips, but sternly forbidden by the law to share in the Government of the Realm. Above all, he had hoped to discover a land where the benign rule of the Prince of Peace had given prosperity to the humblest home, and he had found the whole land given up to the worship of the God of War, sacrificing on his blood-stained altars the choicest of their youth, and spending in preparation for battle the resources which might have rebuilt their slums and remade man in the image of God.
There was no help for it—Tressidder must die; and with him must go many of the changes which he had introduced. Callicrates recognised with a sad heart that the old rule must be re-established; the frontier guards must be reconstituted; nor could he resist the conviction that the ancient custom of sacrificing every stranger who set foot in Xanthia must be restored. Yet Tressidder had brought them much good, and Callicrates sighed at the thought of the reaction that must follow the publication of the truth.
When, after many days, Callicrates approached the frontiers of his native land, all thought of things political was swept away by the reception of a letter from Dione. The Queen had heard of his approach, and had sent messengers to meet him. In her letter Dione had written briefly—more as a queen, he thought, than as a woman—informing him that she had decided to marry him on his return to Xanthia, and to concert with him what measures should be taken to make known to the Xanthians the contents of his letters, of the nature of which they were as yet quite uninformed.
Tressidder, she said, was at liberty, and doing good service to the State, and her heart was heavy at the thought of his miserable doom.
Callicrates forgot all about Tressidder in the proud glow of intense satisfaction caused by the unexpected realisation of his fondest hopes. He only thought of the moment when he could kneel before his Queen and hear her loving summons to clasp her to his heart.
The leagues of forest seemed almost interminable; but at last he saw the light glimmering through the branches of the trees, and with a joyous heart he sped onward. He hardly seemed to feel the solid earth beneath his feet. He crossed the frontier at midnight, and before mid-day he flung himself to the ground at the feet of the Queen.
'Rise, Callicrates,' she said, 'and embrace your wife.'
THAT afternoon, in the Temple of Cybele, in the presence of all the people, Dione was wedded to her faithful Minister, her lifelong lover. For one whole week the Xanthians abandoned themselves to the celebration of the royal wedding. But at the end of the week Callicrates had to meet the great council of the nation, when the fate of Tressidder would be decided.
The week was half spent when Tressidder was summoned to the palace. He went with an assured confidence that Callicrates would confirm the truth of the statements which he had made as to the happy results which, in England, had followed the adoption of the Pauline doctrine of the Ascendency of Man. When he entered the Presence Chamber Dione was alone. Tressidder was startled by the expression on her face.
'Teacher,' she said, 'my heart is too full for speech. Joy and gladness fill me with gratitude to the Divine Mother. But for thee—'
She sighed heavily and was silent.
'Queen Dione,' said Tressidder, 'sorrow not for me, for I shall assuredly be justified by the report of Callicrates.'
Dione looked at him with amazement, the man was so evidently sincere. He at least believed in what he had said.
'Teacher,' she began, 'you have been good to me and to my people. But I fear you have been woefully deceived. Stay!' she added hastily, seeing that Tressidder was about to speak. 'Here are the letters of Callicrates. Retire to your chamber and read them, and when you have read them come again to me.'
Tressidder bowed, took the bundle of letters from the hand of the Queen, and departed.
What he felt as he read page after page of the Prime Ministers Report no pen can describe. At first he read incredulously, but after a while he began to feel uneasy, and, long before he had finished their perusal, he realised that if these things were true, then there must have been a great apostasy in England. He would willingly have laid down his life a thousand times rather than that his beloved land should have fallen a prey to such an invasion from the forces of the Nether Pit. Again and again he tried to shake off the benumbing conviction that Callicrates had made a true report. He recalled the England of his boyhood, the idyllic peace and brotherly kindness of the village in which he had first learned of the love of God, and a passionate denial burst from his lips. 'No, no, no! if a thousand Callicrates swore that God's Englishmen were human swine with a craze for bloodshed, I would not believe them! Never! As soon could I doubt the sun in mid-heaven.'
He was still in this defiant mood when a messenger from Callicrates brought him a bundle of letters wrapped up in an old newspaper. The letters were from a few of the friends who still survived, and the newspaper, which was new to him, proclaimed that it had the largest circulation in Britain. Eagerly he perused one letter after another, devouring their contents in the hope that they would supply materials for dispelling the effect produced by the report of Callicrates. Alas! one after another told the same tale. A few, a remnant, were struggling heroically against what they described as the evils of the age—unbelief, luxury, drunkenness, the dying out of high ideals, the steady increase of idolatry, the lust for war; there was hardly a break in the monotony of their lament.
Tressidder flung himself upon his knees. 'O God! my God!' he cried in agony. 'Would to God that I had died ere I had heard of this! And England, my England! O God in Heaven, where are, then, God's Englishmen?' So he wailed dry-eyed with anguish.
After a time, which to him seemed an eternity, he took up the paper. He read it slowly, hardly perceiving at first the significance of its contents. By degrees he realised what he read. And as he pored over the closely-printed columns there gradually formed before him a picture of a land wholly given up to the seven deadly sins. Pride and avarice, gluttony and drunkenness, murder, theft and adultery held high carnival before his eyes. And even when the worse than Corybantic orgy flagged for a moment, he seemed to hear them roused to fresh vigour by the hoarse monotonous beating of the devil's tom-tom of the Editorial, which ever spurred on the nation to fresh deeds of rapine, to further sacrifices of hecatombs of human victims, and to the unstinted waste of hard-earned wealth on preparation for war.
And as he listened to this Concert of Hell, his senses reeled and he fell unconscious to the ground.
WHEN the week sacred to the marriage festival was over, the Queen and her Consort went in state to the Grand Council, where Callicrates was to give his Report. Dione had decided that his letters should not be read. Callicrates was to report briefly the result of his mission, and Tressidder was to be brought in for judgment.
The Report of Callicrates was brief, but decisive. Tressidder, he said, had been absent for many years from England. No one could deny his veracity or his sincerity. He said the thing which he believed to be true. But in the lapse of time England seemed to have become another country.
'England,' said Callicrates, 'as I have seen it, is not the England which Tressidder described to us. It is quite different. Only in one respect is it the same. The Ascendency of Man, the Subjection of Woman—these remain now as always, unchanged. But the results are everywhere the opposite to those of which Tressidder told us. The Prince of Peace has no authority over England. Her people are given over to drunkenness. Woman is denied her rights as a citizen, and the happy homes of England are too often filthy and overcrowded lairs, where rich men would not kennel their dogs.'
A profound silence followed the speech of Callicrates.
The Queen rose from her throne, and in solemn tone put the question to the Council.
'You have heard the truth. What must be done with Tressidder?'
There was a moment's pause, then a confused murmur of many voices, which at last, gaining volume and clearness, became articulate in one universal cry—
'He must die the death!'
'Bring in the Teacher!' said the Queen.
When Tressidder was brought before the throne, a murmur of surprise ran through the hall. For though they had just doomed him to death, they were not prepared for the startling change which had come over him. One week ago he was a stalwart, vigorous man in the prime of life, with a buoyant enthusiasm in his face and a brightness in his eye. Now he seemed a weak and decrepit old man. His raven hair had turned snowy white. On his face there was, as it were, the pallor of death. He stooped as he walked or rather tottered to the steps of the throne. So terrible was the change that a profound feeling of pity surged through the assembly.
'Francis Tressidder,' said the Queen, 'the Report of Callicrates has been rendered. The Council has condemned you to death.'
Tressidder did not speak. He raised his head, and in his eyes they saw as it were the burning of a soul in Hell. But no quiver of emotion showed that he had even heard his sentence. For him the bitterness of death was already past.
'Remove the condemned one!' said Dione.
And Tressidder was led away without a word. Only when he reached the door he turned and cast upon the Queen a look of such infinite despair that they shuddered at the thought that such agony should prey upon a human heart, and that it should still live on.
Hardly had the door closed when the aged Priestess of the Temple arose and asked the Council which had decreed his death to decide the method of his execution.
Upon this a short debate arose. Some pressed for a return to the ancient rite whereby Tressidder would have been offered up as a living sacrifice before the altar of the Mother Goddess. Others preferred that he should be executed as a traitor without religious ceremonial, while others again had other counsels to offer.
At last the debate was closed by the rising of Callicrates.
'Counsellors of the Queen,' said he, 'you are not of one mind in this matter. That Tressidder must die all agree. But how, no two Counsellors seem to be of the same mind. Together with our beloved Queen I have long pondered this matter. Tressidder must die, but how, or when, or where? It is the will of the Queen that no more human sacrifices shall defile the shrine of the great Cybele. The Teacher, although sorely misled and ill-informed, is no traitor. He spoke according to the wisdom that was within him, seeking solely the good of Xanthia and the Xanthians. For the good which he has done, and that which he has tried to do, let him choose the fashion of his execution—how, and when, and where.'
There was a low murmur of assent, and then the Priestess spoke.
'If it is the will of the Queen, the Queen's will be done.'
Tressidder was brought back before the judgment seat.
'It is given to thee,' said Callicrates, 'by the mercy of the Queen and the goodwill of this Council, to choose the manner, the place, and the time of thy death.'
Tressidder at first was silent. Then he drew himself up and faced the Queen.
His pale cheek flushed, and something of the eagle look of old time returned to his eye. Raising his eyes to heaven he cried, as in ecstasy—
'I thank Thee, O God, Lord of Heaven and of earth, in whose hand are the hearts of princes, that Thou hast heard the supplication of Thy unworthy servant.'
Then, turning to the Council, he exclaimed—'You bid me choose the manner, the place, and the time of my death, but I can do none of these things. Yet I will go forth to meet Death, and certainly I shall find Him, but how, or when, or where knoweth no man but God in heaven. You have heard of the apostasy of England, how that the heathen have taken possession of God's heritage, and that God's Englishmen have become the thralls of the Evil One. Let me go back to my own land to cry in the ears of my countrymen, "Repent, repent, for the Day of Judgment is at hand." As I came a missionary to your people, so now I will go back as a missionary to my own nation, to recall them to the faith as it was delivered to their fathers, and to summon them to submit to the Prince of Peace. I go as a sheep in the midst of wolves, going willingly to my death. But how, or where, or when it shall befall me, who can say?'
And the Council saw his face as if it had been the face of an angel. So they let him go, and he departed on his new mission.
After they had bidden him a sad farewell, Dione said to Callicrates, 'What will happen to the Teacher when he reaches England?'
And Callicrates replied: 'If he preaches Christ's Gospel they may kill him as they killed Kensit, or if he pleads for the Prince of Peace they will call him a pro-Boer and kick him to death in the market-place.'
Non sibi sed omnibus
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