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Unveiling a Parallel, by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant [1893], at

p. 86



"Having established his equality with class after class, of those with whom he would live well, he still finds certain others, before whom he cannot possess himself, because they have somewhat fairer, somewhat grander, somewhat purer, which extorts homage of him."

IT is scarcely egotistical for me to say that I was much sought after, not only by the citizens of Thursia, but by many distinguished people from other cities and countries. Among them were many men and women of great scientific learning, who made me feel that I ought to have provided myself with a better equipment of knowledge relative to my own world, before taking my ambitious journey to Mars! They were exceedingly polite, but I fear they were much disappointed in many of my hazy responses to their eager questionings. I learned by this experience the great value of exact information. In a country like ours, where so much, and so many sorts, of knowledge are in the air, a person is apt, unless he is a student of some particular thing, to get little more than impressions.

There was I,—an average (let me hope!) American citizen,—at the mercy of inquisitive experts in a hundred different arts p. 87

and trades, concerning which, in the main, my ideas might be conservatively described as "general." You may imagine how unsatisfactory this was to people anxious to know about our progress in physics and chemistry, botany, and the great family of "ologies,"—or rather about our processes in developing the principles of these great sciences.

With the astronomers and the electricians I got along all right; and I was also able to make myself interesting,—or so I fancied—in describing our social life, our educational and political institutions, and our various forms of religion. Our modes of dress were a matter of great curiosity to most of these people, and I was often asked to exhibit my terrestrial garments.

It was when the crowd of outside visitors was at its thickest that the Caskians arrived, and as their stay was brief, covering only two days, you may suppose that we did not advance far on the road to mutual acquaintance. But to tell the truth, there was not a moment's strangeness between us after we had once clasped hands and looked into each other's eyes. It might have been partly due to my own preparedness to meet them with confidence and trust; but more, I think, to their singular freedom from the conventional barriers with which we hedge round our selfness. Their souls spoke to mine, and mine answered back, and the compact of friendship was sealed in a glance.

I cannot hope to give you a very clear idea of their perfect naturalness, their perfect dignity, their kindliness, or their delightful gayety,—before which stiffness, formality, ceremony, were borne down, dissolved as sunshine dissolves frost. No menstruum is so wonderful as the quality of merriment, take it on any plane of life; when it reaches the highest, and is subtilized by cultured and refined intellects, it creates an atmosphere in which the most frigid autocrat of society, and of learning, too, must thaw. The p. 88 haughtiest dame cannot keep her countenance in the face of this playful spirit toying with her frills. The veriest old dry-as-dust, hibernating in mouldy archaeological chambers, cannot resist the blithesome thought which dares to illumine his antique treasures with a touch of mirth.

I was struck by Clytia's beauty, which in some ways seemed finer than Elodia's. The two women were about the same height and figure. But Clytia's coloring was pure white and black, except for the healthy carmine of her lips, and occasional fluctuations of the rose tint in her cheeks.

I was present when they first met, in the drawing-room. Elodia rose to her full stature, armed cap-a-pie with her stateliest manner, but with a gracious sense of hospitality upon her. I marked with pleasure that Clytia did not rush upon her with any exuberance of gladness,—as some women would have done in a first meeting with their friend's sister,—for that would have disgusted Elodia and driven her to still higher ground. How curious are our mental attitudes toward our associates, and how quickly adjusted! Here had I been in Elodia's house, enjoying her companionship—if not her friendship—for months; and yet, you see, I secretly did not wish any advantage to be on her side. It could not have been disloyalty, for the impulse was swift and involuntary. I would like to suppose that it sprang from my instantaneous recognition of the higher nature; but it did not. It was due, no doubt, to a fear for the more timid one—as I fancied it to be. I had a momentary sensation as of wanting to "back" Clytia,—knowing how formidable my proud hostess could be, and, I feared, would be,—but the beautiful Caskian did not need my support. She was not timid. I never saw anything finer than her manner; the most consummate woman of the world could not have met the situation with more dignity and grace, p. 89 and with not half so much simplicity. Her limpid dark eyes met Elodia's blue-rayed ones, and the result was mutual respect, with a slight giving on Elodia's part.

I felt that I had, for the first time in my life, seen a perfect woman; a woman of such fine proportions, of such nice balance, that her noble virtues and high intelligence did not make her forget even the smallest amenities. She kept in hand every faculty of her triple being, so that she was able to use each in its turn and to give to everything about her its due appreciation. She had, as Balzac says, the gift of admiration and of comprehension. That which her glance rested upon, that which her ear listened to, responded with all that was in them. I thought it a wonderful power that could so bring out the innate beauties and values of even inanimate things. Elodia's eyes rested upon her, from time to time, with a keen and questioning interest. I think that, among other things, she was surprised—as I was—at the elegance, the "style" even, of Clytia's dress.

Although there is very little fashion on that planet, as we know the word, there is a great deal of style. I had speedily mastered all its subtle gradations, and could "place" a woman with considerable certainty, by, let me say, her manner of wearing her clothes, if not the clothes themselves. I have never studied woman's apparel in detail, it always seems as mysterious to me as woman herself does; but I have a good eye for effects in that line, as most men have, and I knew that Clytia's costume was above criticism. She wore, just where they seemed to be needed,—as the keystone is needed in an arch,—a few fine gems. I could not conceive of her putting them on to arouse the envy of any other woman, or to enhance her personal charms in the eyes of a man. She dressed well, as another would sing well. Sight is the sense we value most, but how often is it offended! You can estimate the p. 90 quality of a woman by the shade of green she chooses for her gown. And there is poetry in the fit of a gown, as there is in the color of it. Clytia knew these things, these higher principles of dress, as the nightingale knows its song,—through the effortless working of perfected faculties. But not she alone. My description of her will answer for the others; the Caskians are a people, you see, who neglect nothing. We upon the Earth are in the habit of saying, with regretful cadence, Life is short. It is because our life is all out of proportion. We are trying to cheat time; we stuff too much plunder into our bags, and discriminate against the best.

Clytia and Calypso and their friend Ariadne, a young girl, stayed with us throughout their visit; the others of their party were entertained elsewhere. On each of the two evenings they were with us, Elodia invited a considerable company of people,—not so many as to crowd the rooms, nor so few as to make them seem empty. Those gatherings were remarkable events, I imagine, in a good many lives.

They were in mine. At the close of each evening I retired to my room in a state of high mental intoxication; my unaccustomed brain had taken too large a draught of intellectual champagne. And when I awoke in the morning, it was with a sense of fatigue of mind, the same as one feels fatigue of body the day after extraordinary feats of physical exertion.

But not so the guests! who came down into the breakfast room as radiant as ever and in full possession of themselves. With them fatigue seemed impossible. We do not know—because we are so poorly trained—the wonderful elasticity of a human being, in all his parts. We often see it exemplified in single faculties,—the voice of a singer, the legs of a runner, the brain of a lawyer, the spirit of a religionist. But, as I have said before, we are all out p. 91 of proportion, and any slight strain upon an unused faculty gives us the cramp. The fact is, the most of us are cripples in some sense. We lack a moral leg, a spiritual arm; there are parts of us that are neglected, withered, paralyzed.

One thing in the Caskians which especially pleased me, and which I am sure made a strong—and favorable—impression upon Elodia, too, was that their conduct and conversation never lacked the vital human interest without which all philosophy is cold, and all religion is asceticism.

It appeared that these people had taken the long journey not only to meet me, but that they might extend to me in person a cordial invitation to visit their country. Severnius warmly urged me to accept, assuring me, with unmistakable sincerity, that it would give him pleasure to put his purse at my disposal for the expenses of the journey,—I having brought up this point as a rather serious obstacle. As it would only add one more item to the great sum of my indebtedness to my friend, I took him at his word, and gave my promise to the Caskians to make the journey to Lunismar sometime in the near future. And with that they left us, and left behind them matter for conversation for many a day.

Next: Chapter 8. A Talk With Elodia