The Great Secret/Chapter 17

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CHAPTER XVIL

THE CITY OF PEACE.

The main avenue, into which they had turned before reaching the gateway, was a broad, smooth lawn of the thickest and most carpet-like grass, studded with daisies and cowslips, and over-arched by wide-reaching branches, lined on either side by vast pillar-like trunks, a smooth stretch which filled the mind with refreshment. No ruts of carriage or chariot wheels broke into its evenness, and the feet must have been light and springy that passed over it.

The stream also at this portion of its course had been widened and deepened, and followed the line of the centre avenue, flowing evenly and smoothly towards the city, and through a delicately-sculptured viaduct in the walls, which here became a bridge, broad and spacious; the right hand range of many trunks lined the banks of that limpid river from which the grassy avenue spread.

"I see no signs of horses or carriage traffic here," remarked Philip.

"We do not require carriages nor horses; even when I was in the flesh we had got past those slow modes of locomotion, although we still keep all the animals; but they are like ourselves, free from the earth's control.

Ages before I was born my people had discovered forces of Nature which superseded steam and electricity, although we had to pass through these primitive modes first, as the moderns are now doing. See, yonder sails the moon, over against where the sun is going down; by and by you will see the stars light up the darkening space, yet the real sun, moon and stars are hidden from us by layers of rock strata and soil."

"What are these then?"

"The same as our mountains, valleys, streams, gardens and palaces, embodied emanation from memory. They are real because you can also see them who have no memories to bring to your aid as we have, yet we have, by our powers, embodied the realities for you."

The new-comers looked at the upper sky, where, above the filmy mountains and amid the ambient space, hung a full moon, lemon-tinted and large, while Hesperia continued her revelations.

"The sun and moon are none the losers for our borrowing from them. They still shine as powerfully over the lands above, while we enjoy the materialisation of our memories."

By this time they had passed through the gateway and were in the city, looking round them curiously as strangers will. A fair city it was, with noble buildings lightly designed and rich in carvings, colour and gold, all the more fascinating from the warm lights and violet shadows spread over them from the slowly-setting sun.

It occupied the entire bed of the valley and up the sides of the hills, terrace above terrace, and building over building in bewildering grace and loveliness.

Pillared porticoes and sculptured facades in different marbles, with panels between, where rare works of art in fresco painting and low relief charmed the eyes with their exquisite harmony of colour and chastity of design. The painters and the sculptors must have had patronage enough in those early days when this marvellous outcome of man's minds was first conceived and brought to completion.

The valley at this point was over three miles in width, and from the upper gateway to the bay was nearly six miles, while the nearest mountain tops rose above three thousand feet, yet all this wide space was occupied by buildings, terraces, gardens, wide stairs, broad streets, sculptured masterpieces and columns. The air also was so pure and clear, that from the position where they stood they could look over the entire city and see the sapphire-tinted waters of the bay, now sparkling in myriad golden shafts to the distant horizon, with the purple headlands and grottoes that studded the ocean.

"You still believe in ships," said Philip, pointing to where the masts and sails of fairy-like craft rocked within the harbour bar.

"Yes; these are our pleasure-boats, as we had them long ago," replied Hesperia, with a satisfied smile, as she saw the wonder depicted on the faces of her visitors.

"We can still enjoy what was once a pleasure to us."

"You eat and drink the same as of yore?"

"Yes; why not?"

"I have always considered dining to be a purely mundane affair, requiring digestive organs, which are the signs of a condition of decay."

"Food on earth is digested and given back again to the element of reconstruction. It becomes disintegrated with us and returns to its original form. The pleasures of food and drink are not in the digesting, but in the eating and drinking, with the social advantages of being with those who are with us at the time, and the higher one advances in art and the perception of the gifts of Nature, the more exquisite becomes the pleasure and the keener the taste; only criminals of the grossest type and savages gorge themselves like ravenous beasts without discrimination. We have brought the gastronomic arts like our other arts and pleasures to perfection, as you will prove shortly when we reach my home."

"I saw that you brought us no animal food, as the lower spirits brought to the murderers."

"No. When I was in the flesh we had long given up the taking of life, and made use of only what could be utilised without causing suffering or outraging Nature, for we had discovered that where pleasure is obtained from the violation of Nature, Nature revenges the wrong by giving disease. We had conquered disease as we had removed the sting from death. Besides, there is no flavour in those savage, life-torn dishes which we cannot successfully imitate from the produce of our fields and gardens by the secrets of science, as you will see for yourselves, so why should we stain and clog our spirits with blood and torture?"

It was a city plentifully supplied with water, as Philip could see from the numerous fountains; each garden had several, as well as small lakes and streams, and all the houses had gardens of ancient date. The lofty palms threw out their feathery fronds from great heights, while tendrils and flowers crept up their rugged and massive trunks, crimsoned with the setting beam. Groves of dark green cedars and myrtles drew the glances from the marble arches and carved columns or statues into deep recesses of cool shadows; vines trailed over the walls in free and lavish grace, laden with fruit; broad marble steps, with balustrades of the same material, lead from the garden up to open courtyards, all inlaid and tessellated, where seats were spread, wrought in curious patterns and shapes, from wood and metals; rich hangings of tapestry and awnings of silk hung from the open windows and doorways; long open corridors, with the roofs supported by sculptured pillars, ranged round the buildings, with the upper verandahs all filigreed and festooned with flowers. Turrets and domes reared above these again, their massive strength concealed by the carvings which covered them from base to summit.

The sculptors must have had a labour of love and free hands, with time and material unstinted, for every object that was beautiful in Nature had been reproduced in strong relief and delicate finish; flowers and tendrils in marble and in bold relief clung round the pillars and cornices, statues of perfect womanhood, youth and childhood met the eye at every turn; the grotesque, horrible or unnatural had no place in these masterpieces.

Fountains gushed from walls into beautiful basins, to escape from these down artfully-constructed cascades with a silvery splashing. White showers of spray rose into the air and fell like soft mist over the glistening limbs of marble nymphs. In the open streets also these fountains and wells were to be seen at frequent intervals.

The whole bed of the valley was a series of terraces, as were the hills on either side, with flights of broad stairs from one level stretch to the lower level, and in this fashion that principal street descended, as the stream, now a river, did, in a series of cascades and flowing reaches to the harbour and landing-place where the pleasure galleys were anchored. By this means the river remained fresh until it made its final plunge and joined the ocean.

The city had been raised originally on earth and rock mounds to produce this delicious effect, so that no portion of it could be hidden either from above or from the bay. From the sea it must have looked magnificent, with those countless ranges of steps and those vine-covered walls.

These flat terraces, with their palaces and gardens, ran from hillside to hillside, forming dividing streets, so that the river was spanned by many arched bridges. Wealth and luxury, with refinement surpassing the best days of Greece and Rome, reigned around without one indication of a hovel, or evidence of the labour there must have been to produce these mighty results.

"Who built this city?" inquired Philip, for his companions were silent in their wonderment.

"Ourselves, and this is our pride. While in the flesh we were a nation of workers and servants to each other. We were and still remain a commonwealth of freemen. Some chose to be builders or gardeners, sculptors, painters, authors and musicians, with all the other crafts and sciences that we had brought by ages to perfection. No man, woman nor child could be idle, for the example of work and action was ever before them, and they were carefully trained by masters who were above jealousy and rivalry. No family rose above the other in rank or riches, for we all had what we wanted in life."

"But you had judges and rulers to keep order, I suppose?"

"Yes, and have them still, but not as your rulers are chosen. Our laws were simple and easily understood. There was no chicanery practised. Our rulers were not chosen by favour, supremacy or competition, but by rotation, and in regular order. One hundred men with the same number of women directed our movements for seven days only, and during that interval their hands were free from other work. On the seventh day the citizens assembled in yonder temple of justice, and those next in order took the resigned posts."

She pointed to a vast circular building of white marble which occupied the centre of the city, and covered a space of some acres. It was a great coliseum, surmounted by a dome-like roof, with pillars only for walls. Philip had noticed this mighty erection before, with its wide outside spaces.

"There we assembled weekly, and have met for ages, the flesh-bound and the free. There our simple code of laws are read over and our rulers for the next seven days chosen. There, too, our scientists and inventors expounded their theories and discoveries to all who cared to listen. The dramatists, poets, artists and musicians also gave their performances, recited their works, and did their best to amuse the community, and here also we adored the Source of Life and Knowledge. We had also our private schools and workshops, for every house is so constructed for the different work to be carried on at home."

"Had you no criminals?"

"No; crime and criminals are only produced by injustice, inequality, competition, covetousness, want, idleness, and overwork. We had justice. We were equal. There was no competition amongst us. There was no opportunity for covetousness. Want was unknown. We had conquered the disease of idleness, and no one did more than he felt disposed to do."

"But some must have done better than others."

"Yes; but they were ashamed to do less, although no one reproached them for their lack of ability or strength. We regarded such a condition of mind or body as denoting illness, and treated them as invalids, which, of course, they were; for the healthy man or woman must desire action and employment. Our scientists took such in hand, and quickly cured them."

"Yet you were human then, and if some did not covet their neighbour's possessions, they must sometimes have been rivals in love?"

Hesperia regarded the questioner with pitying eyes for a moment, and then she said,—

"Ages before I was born my people had discovered the secret knowledge which you have hardly yet grasped, that the breath of God is dual in its first earthly embodiment; also the test whereby to prove without a doubt when the separated breath again unites. It is only where blindness and ignorance makes mistakes that jealousy can occur, for each pair made for each other is as totally different as one leaf from another, from all other pairs. We had learnt to know our partners when we met, and therefore there was no confusion, for we could no more be deceived in our lovers or our friends. We knew also why we should like some better than others without any blame resting on either side; and by carefully avoiding our repulsions and keeping to our attractions, we prevented discord and lived all harmoniously in separate circles, which, by combination, could move side by side without friction."

"What a great number of children there are playing in the gardens and courts," said Adela.

"Yes; we educate the children, who, like this little one, leave earth soon," answered Hesperia. "They live with us, and acquire our knowledge, until they have grown up and learn their own sphere of work. That is one of our employments in this land of peace."

They had been walking slowly along as they were speaking, pausing often, and looking around them on the fair prospect. They were by no means alone during this time, for on every terrace and street were crowds of forms, grown-up people of both sexes, surrounded by children, all beautiful, and costumed in the same light and Greek-like attire. The groups, as they passed, looked upon them kindly, but exhibited no curiosity.

"There is my home, and my husband waiting to receive us," said Hesperia, a glad light beaming in her eyes, as they drew near to the open gate of a palace garden, where stood several figures, one of whom advanced to meet them.

"Hesperia!"

"Imenus!"

They called each other by name,looked into each other's eyes and smiled fondly; then he turned to the three visitors and said,—

"Welcome, my friends."