Meda: a Tale of the Future/Part XIII
AFTER the Recorder's hurried explanation of what had taken place since my day, I could now realize the cause of many things that were a continual puzzle to me during my first lifetime. I had read many books in days long past trying to explain the causes of the disappearance of ice in various parts of the world. I had read that there were in prehistoric days what were termed by philosophers the ice ages, and the boulder age. Now none of the arguments that were put forward in these books were to my mind satisfactory. We were told that at one time Great Britain, and in fact the north of Europe, must have been covered with great fields of ice, and we were told that, in the Arctic Regions, there were evidences discovered of the existence at some pre-historic date of tropical forests and vegetation. Now, how had this ice disappeared, and how had this tropical vegetation existed in a place that is now covered with perpetual snow?
The Recorder's revelations about the effect of the comet "Baria" on the earth, to my mind explains the whole question. At some period, before the creation of man, probably this same comet had come close to this planet, and so influenced it by attraction as to cause it to shift its axis in the same way as the Recorder described as having taken place in later days. Then the ice that covered the land would gradually melt and slide down the sides of the hills and valleys, forming the serrated ice cuts that we saw traces of all over the country in my day. Possibly at one time Great Britain was the North Pole, and possibly the present North Pole was at some still earlier date in the tropics. This would surely be a natural way to account for the marks of ice in Britain, and for tropical vegetation in the Arctic Regions.
Possibly, after a lapse of tens of thousands of years, that comet will return after travelling in interminable space and attract the earth still further round, and so the shifting scene will go on for ages and ages as endless as the space the comet has retired into.
With such thoughts as these I beguiled many hours while the ladies were busy. I seemed to be the only idle person in the kingdom; and I often wished I had had some occupation, I felt so like a pet dog that was made much of, but was absolutely of no use except for the amusement of those around. For one who used to take a leading part in his country's affairs, and who was considered a man of some parts, the position I now occupied was to me a mean one. I wished I could do something, but what could I do? The merest child knew more than I knew. I chafed and grumbled to myself, but what was the use? I could not help my position, so must put up with it. I therefore determined to be as happy as I could. I can't say how long I had been residing with the Recorder; but as far as I could put days together, I made it out to be about three months. I had been able to pick up many words of the modern English language. I was thrown very much into the company of the Recorder's daughter, and I must say I by no means objected to this. I told her all about the world as I knew it, and in return she told me much about the world as it was. She instructed me in modern English; and I soon began to understand the construction of this language, that now was universal. She told me her name was Meda: I thought this a very sweet name. We used to take one another's hands and flit about in playful joy; and when our hands were thus united, the power, or spirit, or life, or love, or whatever it was, used to flow from one to the other. It appeared as if one's energy passed from one, going into the other, and there mixing with the other's life, or spirit, or love, then flowing back again, amalgamated. Dear reader, how can I illustrate this feeling? It was very pleasant; yes, I have it! It was like the sand flowing from one end of an hour-glass to the other; when all had flowed in, the glass appeared to turn of itself, and the sand began to flow back again. So it was when I held Meda by the hand; we were very happy, and she was beautiful, yes, beautiful both in mind and body. The Recorder and his wife must have seen that we were getting fond of one another; and they certainly never discouraged us. We began to live, as it were, in a land of perfect bliss. I told her my name was Kenneth: and we now addressed one another as Meda and Kenneth. The fact is, dear reader, we were in love. I forgot all about my previous self and previous life; I saw nothing that was strange around me now; I could only see one being clearly, and that was Meda, my own, my dearest, my beloved Meda, a very angel of beauty, an angel of intelligence, an angel of affection, love so sincere, love so truly love, love so pure and so intense, that my soul, my body, my very existence, was wrapt up in her. I felt, I knew, that this feeling was mutual, but I feared to ask her; I lived in such bliss and happiness that I dreaded to do anything to disturb it. I did not know the modern customs or mode of love-making, so thought it better to wait and not run any risk of endangering my prospects of years and years of pleasure by imprudent haste. Haste, that might destroy an intensity of sublime happiness that mortal rarely enjoys; haste, that might sever a chord of love that could not be re-united; haste, that might for ever and ever render two lives bound up in each other miserable.
So we continued to enjoy each other's company undisturbed, unopposed, and apparently unheeded. Meda's sympathies were my sympathies, Meda's joys were my joys. I was going to say that Meda's sorrows were my sorrows; but, now that I think of it, Meda had never known what sorrow was. Could we but have divined what was in store for us? Could we but have known in time the great calamity that was hanging, ay, thickening over us, then would we have shunned one another, as we would have shunned that king of darkness that destroys all peace and all happiness by his vile machinations, that are as insidious and as penetrating as the musk-rat's odour. But, alas! such was not to be. The inevitable must, must have its way. We lived on in love that was to be rudely cast aside; we lived in a holy, sincere trust in one another, that must be rent in twain: we lived, we joyed, we breathed, as if we were one being, one existence, one life, and one soul. Yet all this was to be broken in shreds, all was to be crushed to the veriest atoms, and these atoms the veriest concentration of misery. How long we lived in this Elysium of quiet joy: how long we continued this commune of souls; how long we remained as it were one being, in harmony of thought, in harmony of action, and in harmony of desire, I know not. Day seemed to blend into day, week seemed to blend into week, month into month, and year into year, and still we continued to love and to be loved by all around. The Recorder and his wife gave us every encouragement. I felt that we must be united; I felt that I had gained the love, the true, devoted, yes, the sincere, and loving love, of the most perfect and pure being that had ever been created. I declared my love: I was accepted. I spoke to her father and mother, and they gave their consent. The elders of the people were told, and all approved of Meda's selection. At first they objected on the plea that I was not equal to Meda in education; but my great knowledge of ancient history was allowed to place me on an equality with Meda, and this difficulty was overcome. The marriage day was fixed. The elders assembled; young maidens gathered from far and near. Great rejoicings were to take place on our marriage day! This day came about, and it was the first day of May. I felt the old Scotch superstition against marriages in May strong in my heart. I mentioned my fears and objections to the Recorder, and requested him to have the day altered to a day in June. But he said:—
"My son, these are silly, old world, notions that are only the outcome of superstition and ignorance; an ignorance that was the bane and the curse of past generations; an ignorance that wise people have rooted out thousands of years ago; an ignorance that must never again be tolerated, as all such superstitions are but an insult to intellectual refinement and knowledge."
Our marriage day came. We were to be married in a lovely country glen in the midst of nature. Trees, plants, flowers, would be all around us. Birds would sing songs of joy; butterflies would haunt the scene; all was to be beautiful; nature crowning the union of nature in the union of God's greatest masterpiece—two intellectual beings. All the time I had been in this land of intellectual pleasure and joy, I had never been able to see a marriage; but some of my friends had explained to me the nature of the ceremony, which varied with the intellectual standing of the bride and bridegroom. The Recorder being of very high standing, and his daughter's mental attainments being of the very highest rank, her marriage was to be a splendid pageant. For two days prior to our marriage, I was not allowed to see my bride; she stayed alone in her room, preparing her mind for the change that was about to take place in her life.
During these two days, I felt perfectly miserable; every doubt, every fear, that I could conjure up, seemed to come uppermost and torment me, but at last all this came to an end. On the morning of my marriage twelve young men in complete new costumes made of the finest white silk came to me, and led me away to the scene of the ceremony. What a sight there awaited me! Thousands of people lined the sides of the Men. In the centre was a group of elders. At the opposite end of the valley to that at which my party was standing, I saw a procession of young girls coming slowly along. Now they stop and form into two great groups with a space between them, and then I saw that there was a similar group of young men on either side of me. Now I noticed that all were looking towards the far end of the valley. Presently the Recorder and his wife joined the elders in the centre of the glen. At a signal from the elders the whole multitude sang softly in the most beautiful harmony, a melody that was more like the melody of saints than that of ordinary mortals. The music seemed to come from their very souls; it was at one moment like a gentle, refreshing shower, that pattered on the leaves; then, the rain would clear away, and bright rays of soft, genial, sunshine would break as it were through clouds, lighting the whole scene with joyfulness. Then, it would come on again with a sweet, rolling, rippling sound, gliding softly with quivering intonations that seemed to strike on the ear with a cushioned re-echoing of melodious sympathy, which could not fail to penetrate the hardest and most cruel heart, melting its flinty cells into sympathetic love strains laden with condescension, humility, and feeling for others.
Birds were flying about in sportive joy, and the butterflies with their gem-like wings fluttered over the entire glen. Truly it was a scene of beauty never to be forgotten, so long as memory recalls the incidents of the past. Presently the melody ceased and the music became measured in its time. I was told to advance towards the elders. I now saw my bride advancing from the other end of the glen, accompanied by about one hundred maidens, all clad in white and adorned with flowers, singing and waving green branches. My male friends joined in the song, and advancing we soon reached the group of elders, my bride and her maidens coming up at the same time. Her bearing was majestic, her face was beaming with pleasure, her eyes sparkled with animation. I was fascinated; I could see none but Meda; I could hear nothing but her voice; all else after her arrival appeared to me a piece of dumb show. I saw people all around me; I heard a confusion of voices; I was conscious that a ceremony had been gone through; and I knew that this ceremony was our marriage. I remember having made some eloquent oration. I remember the elders laying their hands on us. But all was so confused, so mixed up in my mind, that for me to describe the details of the ceremony would be simply impossible. All I knew was that my Meda was my own, my very own wife; I knew that I felt the happiest and the proudest man on earth. I knew that a little modest villa was allotted to us. I felt a king amongst men, knowing as I did, that I had secured the queen of women.
We lived in our little house for some months in the most supreme happiness, Meda devoting her time to instructing me in modern history, in modern languages, in modern art, and in music. Her love and devotion made me an apt pupil. How sweet is that instruction that is breathed to you as it were, wrapped in love. Each word, each idea, each thought, is clad with a pleasure that makes all sweet and acceptable. No matter how the subjects may differ, no matter how the ideas may vary, no matter even if they be antagonistic, if they are but set in loving kindness they will be like a bouquet of flowers, all of distinct families, all of different colours, and perfumes, yet all individually and collectively beautiful, sweet, and pure.
When Meda had instructed me in many things that were modern, and therefore to me strange, she began to look further afield for information. The time that was allowed for lovers' idleness was drawing to a close, and we must both soon begin to work for the State. I was promised by the Recorder a long journey as a delegate to various parts of our empire; part of the journey was to be performed in aerial, and part in naval vessels. Meda was to go with me. With all these treats in store, we looked forward to a long and happy life together, but alas! this was not to be. A blow was to be dealt to this happiness, and the hour was at hand. To me this subject is one of terror; would that I could avoid it, would that I could erase it from my memory, but such cannot be; it is burned into memory's register like the inscription that is burned into china; you may break the china into pieces, but those will still retain their mark to the end.
The terrible catastrophe of our separation came about in this way:—I told you, dear reader, that after a sojourn for many months with this strange people I got accustomed to their ways, and gradually forgot my past history. The things that happened to me in my previous state became as a blank in my mind, but, after my marriage, my memory of my own doings seemed to come back—doubtless brightened by the many questions that Meda put to me. I was now able to tell many tales and describe many incidents that had taken place in my previous life. I had out of modesty avoided relating anything about my own doings, nor had I said anything about my family, or about my previous marriage with my well-beloved Mary, who was now but dust. I loved all as dearly as man could love them, but with a lapse of over three thousand years, what was the use of thinking of them? Their very dust would by this time be scattered to the four quarters of the globe; the gases of which they were largely formed, must have passed through millions of other mortals and now would be lost to all. The identity of all I loved had fled, and I alone was revived as it were from death. I supposed, and made myself believe, it must be for some good end, and that end was my union with Meda. It so happened that Meda was in the habit of inviting a number of the elders, male and female, to hear my stories of the past, and I had explained much that had taken place in my day to them. On one occasion there was a very old lady in the company, and she, though perhaps innocently, was the cause of all my sorrow.
Women are, I verily believe, at the root of all mischief; had this old hag held her tongue or had she stayed away, I might never have got into the trouble I did.
She said to me: "Young man, I notice in all you relate that you have always avoided the part you yourself took in the past history of our nation. Why is this? Are you ashamed of what you have done, or is it modesty?"
I said that in the times in which I had lived a man who was continually speaking of himself and his doings was called an egotist, and was despised. We used in those days to make it a rule therefore, to keep silence as to our own doings, allowing others to speak for us.
"But," she said, "you are here alone, we can get none other to speak and tell us about your actions, so you must speak for yourself." All the rest joined with her, and as Meda added her request to that of the others, I consented. Had I but known the result that my simple narrative brought about, I would rather a hundred times have had my tongue cut out and thrown to the dogs (had there been any,) than have uttered a word.
I told them where I was born. I told them about my much beloved father and mother, and I moved them almost to tears when I described with all the fervour of my gratitude my mother's loving care for me; I told them how she gave up every pleasure to gratify mine; I told them how she had laboured and toiled after my father's death to provide that food, which in those days was necessary for my sustenance; how she instilled pure, honourable, and holy thoughts into my mind; how she had nursed me through sickness; and how she had cheered me in sorrow; how she had lived; how she had died in peace, in trust, and in confident faith in the future. Through all this history I was listened to with respect, nay, I might say, if I were to judge by their rapt attention, I was listened to with admiration.
But I went on and told them that after my mother's death I felt very lonely, and began to look out for a suitable companion to take my mother's place in my affections. I found one in my Mary, I wooed, I won her; we were married and had a family. When I pronounced the word "married," and said I had a family, I heard a terrible scream, and looking in the direction of the sound I saw my Meda stretched on the floor, looking like a corpse. I rushed towards her to lift her, but the whole company rose and flew at me, as one, and laying hold of me dragged me away from my darling when she was so ill. They glared at me saying:—
"Cruel, deceitful man, you have ruined the life of the most respected and honoured of our daughters; but your infamy will have its reward, your punishment will be terrible—so terrible, that even though we despise you, we sorrow for you."
Saying this, they took me forcibly out of my own home and spirited me away into a dungeon, as they said, to await my trial.