The Glenn Negley Collection
of Utopian Literature
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2010 with funding from
Duke University Libraries
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL
A. GARLAND MEAES,
'idylls, legends, and lyrics,' the story of A TRUST.
' TALES OF OUR TOWS,' ETC.
SIMPKIN. MARSHALL, HAMILTON, KENT & CO. Ltd.
4 STATIONERS'- HALL COURT.
All rights reserved.
SPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL.
' Whoever knows the origin, the entrance, the locality,
and the five-fold power of life enjoys immortality.'
From The Pbasna, in Bibliotheca Indica.
MEECIA, THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL.
The year of grace, 2002, had arrived and the
world had seen many changes. The kingdoms
of the earth had gone through great ex-
periences. Nations had risen and fallen ; the
boundaries of Empires had been modified ;
for a serious redistribution of territory had
Petty sovereignties had now become
merged into greater ones, having fallen a
prey to the strong ; for the dominant Power-
had divided the spoil by agreement.
Nevertheless, on the whole, peace and con-
tentment reigned ; for advanced knowledge,
not only taught the inutility, gross inhumanity,
and waste of war, but science had made such
wonderful progress in the arts of warfare
n V b
throughout the whole world, that a battle
actually meant the complete annihilation of
both sides ; thus a victory for either became
Along with this enforced peace-keeping
the wave of civilisation had spread every-
where carrying its mind-culture, its arts, and
handicrafts to the uttermost parts of the earth ;
until the world had become a huge beehive
of active industry, although not necessarily a
severe muscle- wearing one.
Through all the generations dating from
the close of the nineteenth century the social
question relative to the status of woman had
been ever uppermost, having been kept to
the front by the intense longiug of the sex for
a wider walk of life, a more extended field of
They demanded a great reformation, a
complete recast of social economics.
The leading features of their programme
being a higher education, which should be
recognised by the Universities, Law, and
Medical Corporations, in order that more
honourable, lucrative, and responsible em-
ployments might be opened to them.
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL
They demanded also, political, social, and
marital equality between the sexes ; for they
averred that women were being cramped and
crippled by old-time conventionalities, the out-
come of the customs and prejudices of mediaeval
ignorance and tyranny, which had invariably
relegated their sex to a lower platform of
As citizens it placed them in the position
of minors and lunatics, they averred, and as
wives it gave them but little more authority
than what their children possessed from a legal
point of view, however talented and cultivated
they might be.
Loud and bitter were the railings of the
dominant sex against the movement. Men
scoffed and derided ' the new woman,' as they
mockingly termed her.
She became the subject of epigram, pun.
and pleasantry generally ; the butt of every
shallow humorist, and dubbed 'the new dam
on the old bluestocking,' whatever that mighi
mean. She was told that her aspirations were
bold and offensive in the extreme ; that they
' unsexed ' her.
Nor was she spared by her own sex. If
a lady novelist had the courage to make a
stand for social purity the critics would pounce
upon her, condemning her work as ' improper.'
Mostly those following this calling were
males ; but there were to be found feminine
monstrosities among writers, who to curry
favour with the multitude, stooped to the un-
worthiness of writing down those devoted
champions of liberty for their own sex.
It was a long battle and a hard, this
struggle for equality. Man's dominance and
woman's subjugation had not been a healthy
influence throughout the ages, for either sex.
Society taught, and the laws of the realm
favoured the theory, that the code of morality
for the man was widely different to that which
should guide the woman.
But the new woman saw whence this in-
congruity sprang, and showed that it had its
birth and continued existence in the coarser
instincts of the male, whose desires it tended
to foster and encourage.
' Truly,' she exclaimed, ' the arrogance
and selfishness of man is not difficult to dis-
cover, although veiled by the hypocritical
excuse of keeping intact the sweet delicacy
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 5
and spirituality of woman. Men demand that
we should continue to repose a child-like
confidence in their goodness ; well, we shall
be only too ready to grant it as soon as we
are assured that they have made themselves
worthy of our trust.'
Education and experience had now opened
her eyes : impelled by necessity she shook off
the bonds that had bound her so long and
utilised the talents that had for ages lain
dormant, turning them into worthier and more
How their first steps in the ways of liberty
were derided ! Nevertheless, there came for-
ward high-souled men who held out a helping
hand to these struggling children, who were
laboriously and anxiously stretching and
straining to reach the longed-for goal.
The crowning joy came at last. Slowly,
and by almost imperceptible degrees, she won
one concession, and then another, until by the
time the second millenary was reached her
great ambition was attained.
Like all wise reforms it benefited equally
its adversaries as supporters ; and man, who
at the outset bitterly opposed the movement,
reaped the advantage derived therefrom, to
his own comfort and content.
Woman's position was now assured, and
she took her place alongside man on equal
terms. If a post of honour, or high emolu-
ment were vacant, sex was not taken into
consideration in the choice of a candidate, for
the person best suited for the position was
selected according to his or her proved ability,
or past experience.
It frequently happened that a young fellow
earning but 100/. a year would woo success-
fully a young lady filling a position of im-
portance that yielded her 500/. per annum.
For it might chance that she had enjoyed the
advantage over him of a superior training, or
inherited abler ability for that particular em-
ployment ; and these combined with perhaps,
superior family influence exerted on her
behalf had given her the better start.
In such a case as this, with their united
incomes, the young couple were in a position
to set up housekeeping in a fairly respectable
style ; the bridegroom's good luck might be
envied by his companions, but no one thought
the worse of either.
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 7
Moreover it worked beneficially for the
male in other ways. If accident, or sickness
deprived a man of the capability of following
his employment, he and his family, were not
reduced to want, for the wife became the
bread-winner, leaving him in charge of the
This arrangement was considered no hard-
ship by the wife ; for she was relieved of
domestic cares, and control of domestic ser-
vants, which, as a rule, the husband dis-
charged with great success. It was frequently
found that a master obtained readier obedience
and more faithful service than a mistress.
Whether this was owing to his requirements
being less exacting than those of a mistress,
or to that indefiDable influence which one sex
holds over the other, cannot be determined ;
doubtless it was a combination of the two
that gave the man greater empire over the
It is not to be supposed that a domestic
servant occupied the humble position she
held in previous times ; for a well-appointed
household requiring at least four servants, in
the nineteenth century would at this period
need but one. The vast amount of mechanical
contrivances worked by electricity minimised
labour to such an extent that it raised the
position of a domestic servant to that of a
Avorking electrician of the nineteenth century ;
which period saw the birth of the practical
use of electric energy. In fact, a thoroughly
good domestic servant who knew her work,
that is to say, a woman who understood, and
successfully conducted the various machines,
keeping them in working order, could readily
command her two pounds a week, and run a
home, husband, and children on her own
The social economy of this time was
entirely different to that of any previous
period. Marriage in no way incapacitated a
woman-servant from keeping her situation.
Indeed, it had a contrary effect ; most people
preferring a steady-going married woman
with responsibilities, to a flirty inexperienced
maiden who might use her position in the
household to wile away a heedless son, or a
somewhat lonesome husband. As a rule,
however, such an occurrence happened rarely ;
the marriage state was mostly a very happy
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL g
one, and faithfully kept on both sides, for a
high standard of morality ruled supreme.
Other factors supported this beneficent
condition ; for all being equal as bread-
winners, and the number of the sexes equally
balanced, a man deemed himself fortunate
when he secured a good wife and did his
utmost to please her.
On her side affection alone prompted her
to marry ; the unworthy motive of making
marriage the means of obtaining a home of
her own, no longer existed, as every parent
trained his daughter equally as his son to
hold a position of independence, by giving her
a trade, or profession to follow.
Both humble and high-born possessed
more or less practical knowledge of physi-
ology ; especially those branches dealing
directly with health, and the functions of
reproduction, which enabled women to fill
more intelligently the positions of wife and
It w r as appointed by Government that all
persons should be taught the more important
branches of this science in the public schools,
as soon as they reached the age of twelve
io MERC I A
years together with the principles of social
economy. It was considered a gross im-
morality on the part of parents to bring into
existence a large family of children, whom
they could not possibly rear with comfort to
themselves, or with any degree of justice to
But over and above the personal incon-
venience of poor people being overburdened
with children, the disadvantage of giving
birth to large families was recognised by all
from an economic point of view : for the
world was becoming so thickly populated
that it appeared obvious a difficulty would
arise in providing foodstuffs for so many
millions of human beings, notwithstanding
the very material assistance the science of
chemistry afforded in feeding the multitude.
All persons, therefore recognised the ne-
cessity of supporting legislative authority on
this point, for being an intellectual people
they saw it worked to their advantage from
every point of view.
Inordinate reproduction interfered with a
wife's ability to supplement her husband's in-
come by following her own profession, and
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL u
thereby making a very narrow income into an
In bygone clays if the mistress of a public
school entered the marriage state she entered
the schoolroom no more ; custom decreed that
with marriage all bread winning ceased on her
side, and her husband's small income must
Of course the raison d'etre of this custom
was not far to seek, for her child-bearing
duties, to which no limit was placed, would
considerably interfere with those of her situa-
But at this advanced period public opinion
decreed that such a course was the outcome
of brute ignorance ; for physiological and
psychological science taught that the position
of parent was the most responsible in all
creation, and to bring any number of children
into the world until Nature refused to do
more, was a condition of life in its wildest
state ; for man in every other form of life
controls the exuberance of Nature, for wise
As soon as a wife decided on becoming a
mother, — and most women looked forward to
1 2 MERCIA
that position with keen interest, for the love
of children is ever paramount in the female
breast, — she would brace herself to the ful-
filment of the duties of this great respon-
She realised that on herself alone rested,
not only the building up of the physical
frame of her unborn child, but also the for-
mation of the pre-natal mind, with all its
mental and moral capacities.
She knew that every thought, impulse,
and action of hers would leave their im-
press upon the brain of her child ; for a
stimulus would be given to the development
of the faculties in those directions, accord-
ing to the degree in which she exercised her
In order, therefore to ensure herself the
possession of a child perfect in physique, and
intellect ; and endowed with such faculties of
mind as formed her beau ideal of a beautiful
character, she underwent a course of self-
denial and watchfulness throughout the whole
period of pregnancy.
During this important period, the greatest
in her life, she took heed that no emotion,
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 13
thought, or action was indulged in on her
part that she would object to seeing repro-
duced in her child, however modified these
might be by the new individuality.
To ensure this she followed a system of
wholesome and healthy employment, which
served the two-fold purpose of keeping her
mind pure, and her muscle-power in practice.
By experience it was found that the most
beautiful characters had been given to the
world by parents noted for their industry,
morality and unselfishness.
Then there were the intellectual powers of
the child's mind to consider, for it was not
left to chance the arrangement of his talents,
or capabilities for a profession.
Expectant parents took time by the fore-
lock, for instead of waiting for the period
when their son's schooling would be completed
for the choice of a profession, they carefully
considered the question long before he put in
an appearance, and made their plans regard-
ing his future with twentieth-century fore-
If it so happened that the ambition of a
couple was to see their son a professor of
14 MERC I A
music then the mother-that-was-to-be took
her rule accordingly.
During this interesting time she would
devote herself almost exclusively to the pur-
suit of music ; daily practising on the instru-
ments she wished him to excel in ; studying
the theory of music, attending high-class
musical entertainments ; encouraging lovers
of music at her house, and in fact, neglectim:
nothing that lay in her power to foster and
encourage the growth of that group of facul-
ties, whose possession makes the perfect
Indeed, the friends of a lady enceinte
would suspect her condition, not from seeing
her lying about on the couch, or other indo-
lent indulgences, but from her increased
activities in a regular and definite direction.
'It's easy to see,' a neighbour would re-
mark in fireside parlance, ' that Mistress
Woodward is expecting a son ; evidently they
are going to make him a civil engineer.
Mark, how she is slaving over mathematics
and reading up every work on engineering
she can lay her hands on. Why, her boudoir
is filled with mechanical drawings : you would
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 15
think she was about building all the sus-
pension bridges, and electrometers in the
Empire. It is a son, you may be sure ; she
would hardly put a daughter to such a pro-
fession, seeing that when one conies she will
be an heiress. Yes, the grandmother left all
her propert} T to the granddaughter, when sh >,
arrives. I suppose they will have one ; it
goes without saying that they will, under the
Or this might be the gossip.
' It's coming off at last ! They're going to
give themselves a baby — poor things ! 'Twas
a silly love match, thou remembers, and their
united incomes were as nothing compared with
their ideas, brought up as they were in every
luxury. However, the wife got a good
appointment last October owing to the in-
fluence of her friends ; result — she is going to
have a baby — a girl, I am told. It is plain
enough to see what trade the child is to
follow, for the expectant mother is now run-
ning a laboratory and slaves in it nightly,
besides attending the Government lectures on
chemistry held weekly in the large hall of the
Science Schools. Well, it is a useful pro-
1 6 MERCIA
fession, and will do equally well for a boy ;
it's just possible they may have made a mis-
take and the baby will prove to be a boy
after all. I never thought either of them
over intelligent — they are sure to blunder —
but what matters it ? They can have a girl
next time. Of course they will treat them-
selves to two children — they can now afford it.'
Still another sample of twentieth century
Mr. Brown. ' Hast thou seen Smithers
lately ? It is a long time since I set eyes on
liim ; what is he doing ? '
Mr. Wliite. ' Oh, all his spare time is
taken up showing Mistress Smithers how to
manufacture flying machines. He takes her
into his workshop daily, explaining the uses
of this, that and the other. She has a lathe
of her own, run by electricity, and she makes
the parts and fits them together. Of course
as soon as the baby is born she will drop it,
for Smithers is well off now ; capital business
that flying machine one, especially with that
new patent of his — it almost goes like the
wind, and a lot steadier.'
Mr. Brown. ' Bless my life ! why she
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 17
went through all that fag four years ago, I
remember very well I could never get a minute
with him. As soon as ever his workmen
were gone, in went the wife for her lessons,
and mighty quick she was too, in taking it
all in. Are they going to have two sons ? '
Mr. White. ' Not if they know it ! They
made a mistake last time ; it appears 'twas an
order for a daughter that went, while they
thought it was for a son, so Mistress Smithers
has to go through all her exercises de novo ;
it is to be hoped they have made no blunder
this time, for it is no joke after all, for the
Mr. Brown. ' The boy should be a genius
when he comes, seeing that both parents are
adepts in the business. Occasionally we have
freaks of nature, — now, haven't we? Remem-
berest thou those Percys, they were going to
have a poet, forsooth ! but, ha, ha, ha, he
turned out a simpleton ! ! He now takes the
pence for the man who lends out his flying
machine to boys. So much for manufacturing
Mr. White. ' It was a maxim of the
ancients that poets must be born not made,
1 8 MERCIA
and it still holds good in these days of light :
for a great poet only comes once in an epoch.
He is an intellectual giant, as it were, and the
conditions under which he is formed are not
yet fathomed. It is comparatively easy for
a woman to take up any ordinary employment
with a view of giving a certain bias to the
child's faculties, but how in the name of
goodness can a person all at once simulate
the poet, and expect her child to come into
the world a ready-made bard — why it is pre-
posterous ! '
Mr. Brown. ' We cannot limit the possi-
bilities of the future : only a hundred years
ago the possibility of arranging the sex of
a child was laughed at as a simple absurdity.
Now we arrange not only the number of our
children but their sex also ; and very properly
too, for we can do greater justice to our
progeny when we know what we are about,
than if they came by blind chance, merely.'
Mr. White. ' We are twenty -first century
people, now — let us remember that fact, two
thousand and two ! Yea, verily, the world is
growing very old and that blessed millennium
hasn't come yet ! '
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 19
Mr. Brown. ' This is the millennium. We
shall get no better. Is not the prophecy ful-
filled of the ancient poets — " The wolf and
the lamb shall he down together ? " Where is
war ? It has ceased to exist. Civilisation and
science have worked out the miracle, and
given to war its quietus.'
It is necessary to explain that by this
time such a perfect knowledge of physiology
was attained that the sex of the desired off-
spring could be regulated by parents. As
soon as the discovery was made, and fully
and completely tested, it was not locked up
as a professional secret, but was given to the
people by order of the Government in a hand-
book of health that was issued yearly at a
nominal cost, which contained up-to-date
information on hygiene, or general manage-
ment of Health, and Home. By this means
at least two-thirds of the children born were
males, which kept the balance fairly even of
the sexes. For notwithstanding the fact that
Nature had at all times given the predomi-
nance of number to the masculine sex, yet
owing to the numerous accidents that befell
men while in the pursuit of their calling ; and
also to the severer strain on their constitution
as the breadwinners, the mortality was con-
sequently greater. From these causes mainly
the nations found themselves mostly, with a
redundance of adult females.
But a complete metamorphosis had now
set in, for the people had eagerly taken
advantage of the information afforded them,
availing themselves of it to such an extent
that the succeeding generation of males found
themselves with a very inadequate supply of
This awkward dilemma was, however,
remedied in course of time, and eventually
a fairly even number of the sexes was
But there was still another factor that
assisted in maintaining the balance — the
opening of trades and professions to women,
which custom had kept so long closed against
them, causing parents to hesitate in sending
their daughters to learn trades and profes-
sions. ' Better have no daughters at all,'
thought many susceptible ones, 'if they must
toil for their living like men.' But time
works wonders : the day came when a
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 21
daughter brought as much honour and credit
to her family as ever a son could possibly
What men in the first instance regarded
as an invasion of their rights, proved in the
end an inestimable blessing. A wife ceased
to be a kind of encumbrance upon a struggling
man, and became a helpmate in a very sub-
stantial sense ; for marriage no longer in-
capacitating a woman from continuing her
employment, the income of a couple was
doubled : by this means the two were enabled
to live in greater comfort and with less strain
and worry to the husband. Thus the
longevity of the male was increased by the
more equal distribution of labour between
the sexes, for the wear and tear to the
nervous system in the battle of life being
reduced, had its share in prolonging mascu-
line life and sustaining an equality of number
of the sexes.
As every person loved his profession, or
trade, ' being born to it,' in a most literal
sense, his enthusiasm and interest in it never
slackened, consequently, no woman deemed
it a hardship to follow the calling her parents
22 MERC I A
had designed for her, even when marriage
made it no longer a necessity. When the
duties of her situation were discharged each
day, supposing she filled one, for few women
ever thought of throwing up a good post on
account of getting married — she would return
to her home, whose appointments denoted
the presence of the greatest refinement and
comfort, and finish the day, for the hours
of labour were short, in the society of her
husband and children, varied by the enjoy-
ment of social pleasures, or intellectual
For over a hundred years woman had been
gradually developing in strength and stature,
and had by this time attained as great a
height as man formerly possessed. ' Woman's
weakness ' was an unknown term, except from
ancient literature, for owing to the various
athletic exercises which for generations had
been the universal custom for girls and
women to engage in, and also to the increased
physical strength attained by abstemiousness
from much child-bearing, they had almost
overtaken the males in vigour, and endurance.
Courage being the accompaniment of bodily
strength the myth of a woman running away
from a mouse was regarded as a silly inven-
tion of their ancestors for the purpose of
pleasantry, or a playful manner of showing
up the difference of the organisation of the
sexes. But there were cynics to be found
who averred that the comic papers of the
nineteenth century in their skits on society
24 MERC I A
gave as true a reflection of its condition, from
one point of view, as the most veracious and
trustworthy historian could have afforded.
It appeared, indeed, utterly absurd to the
twentieth -century mind, when they turned
over the leaves of some ancient copy of Punch
to see the joke portraying the bald-headed
pater looking aghast when the monthly nurse
presents him with the twelfth consignment,
which are twins !
' Why the man ought to be dandling his
grandchildren at his time of life, he is actually
bald, and babies coming still ! ' the reader
of those ancient cynicisms would exclaim.
They could not understand the imprudence
of parents bringing children into the world
for almost the whole of their natural lives.
Leaving themselves without leisure or ease to
enjoy the fruits of their industry in middle
age, while yet youthful enough to appreciate
the pleasures of life.
The nursery story — most artistically illus-
trated, of course, — descriptive of the condi-
tion of their ancestors formed a curious
revelation to twentieth-century children.
' This is the man who toiled all day to fill
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 25
the mouths of seven hungry children that
didn't get enough.
* This is the woman all worn with care, who
was wife to the man that toiled all day, to fill
the mouths of seven hungry children that
didn't get enough.
* This is the strap the woman used, all
worn with care, who was wife to the man that
toiled all day to fill the mouths of seven
hungry children that didn't get enough.
' This is the pup that eat up the strap the
woman used, all worn with care, who was
wife to the man that toiled all day to fill the
mouths of seven hungry children that didn't
' This is the cat that clawed the pup, that
eat up the strap, the woman used, all worn
with care, who was wife to the man that
toiled all day to fill the mouths of seven
hungry children that didn't get enough.
' This is the tank that drowned the cat, that
clawed the pup, that eat up the strap the
woman used, all worn with care, who was
wife to the man that toiled all day to fill the
mouths of seven hungry children that didn't
This melancholy record of the fortunes of
the nineteenth century representative peasant,
was doubtless a variation of the legend of the
old woman that lived in a shoe. Nevertheless
it amused the little tots of twenty-first century
time. For the extraordinary picture of seven
little children inhabiting one poor little cot-
tage appeared utterly absurd to their ad-
vanced minds, which could scarcely compre-
hend the folly of a poor man possessing more
mouths to fill than was possible. ' What did
he want with all those P ' they innocently
But their nurse could only reply — ' She
didn't quite know : it was a way they had in
The laws of health were so strictly taught
in all schools that no individual could possibly
grow up ignorant on those points ; and every
man, mostly, knew how to take charge of his
Nevertheless professors of medicine still
flourished on the face of the earth ; but the
masculine sex had for generations past lost
the monopoly of the profession.
As a rule, however, the lady doctor was
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 27
in no greater demand than her male rival,
men still holding their own to some extent ;
for the world will ever see those women who
prefer men to dance attendance on them.
The profession was, indeed, pretty equally
divided between the sexes ; most mothers
preferring females to prescribe for their chil-
dren in times of dangerous sickness, believing
that they were more successful in their treat-
ment of the troubles of childhood. Besides,
it followed as a natural consequence that as
the lady accoucheur brought the child into
the world, which was the invariable custom,
it was only fair that she should have the
medical care of the little one afterwards.
The serious infant mortality which pre-
vailed among the lower orders up to the close
of the nineteenth century, was now so reduced,
that parents, as a rule, succeeded in rearing
their families intact.
Greater enlightenment in the methods of
their upbringing, together with superior sani-
tary arrangements of the domicile, no doubt
tended largely towards effecting this change.
Small families being the rule, instead of
the exception, it must be admitted that with
a lesser number to provide for, greater care
and comfort could be bestowed upon their
offspring ; so that the reduction of the birth-
rate had the effect of reducing the death-rate ;
this fact combined with increased longevity
of the adult, quite doubled the average of
The difference in dress between men and
women was not great ; the sexes were mostly
distinguishable by the method of dressing
Men had ceased cutting their hair closely,
for it was found that this practice materially
injured its growth, and finally ended in making
all the males bald before they were twenty
years of age.
Specialists averred that the cause of the
trouble arose from two sources. By con-
stantly cropping the hair an unnatural
stimulus was imparted to its growth, which
quickly impoverished the hair follicles, and
so brought about their early decay. Also,
the scalp being unduly deprived of its natural
covering of long hair was left an easy prey to
every germ, or fungus that chose to make its
home there. For these reasons men decided
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 29
to wear their hair long, and usually kept it
from six to twelve inches in length, in curls
about their neck, which had the effect of
giving them a very romantic appearance.
Women allowed their hair its full natural
length, arranging it in coils and plaits, pretty
much in the manner of the ancients.
At this time there were persons with fads
who affected high art in gastronomical matters ;
preferring to patronise the food-chemist rather
than the butcher and baker. Chemical food-
stuffs for the supply of the waste of the various
tissues of the body were arranged in pills and
tabloids, the quantity allowed for a meal being
printed on the label.
This practice however, failed to meet with
anything approaching popular favour, for
mankind still loved too well the pleasures of
the table to give up a good dinner for a pill.
For who would prefer a nitrogenous tabloid
to the delicacies of the banquet, which form
the necessary concomitants of the soul-in-
spiring nectars usually quaffed by the appre-
ciative Teuton on every available occasion ?
Indeed, to him the loss of the sensations
of that comfort and satisfaction which follow
a good meal was tantamount to bidding adieu
to the most substantial pleasure of life.
Besides, their internal arrangements had
something to say in the matter ; and their
utter collapse for want of some substance to
keep them in position proved a warning to
the daring experimenter.
Notwithstanding all the arguments of ad-
vanced scientists, the food-chemists failed in
disestablishing the old-fashioned system of
eating and drinking.
Moreover there were physiologists who
declared that it was an impossibility as man
is constituted, to sustain life by means of
elemental substances being introduced into
the system unless a complete reconstruction of
the organisation could be effected.
For the various organs that acted together,
forming a laboratory for the change of food-
stuffs into vital force, having no occupation
must necessarily languish, and get out of gear
through sheer inanition.
Thus the revolution in animal economy
was perforce left over for the people of a
more advanced period to deal with.
The nineteenth century saw the development
of natural science to such a gigantic extent
that the people could only exclaim — ' It is
like reading a fairy tale of double-distilled
enchantment ; Aladdin's lamp is as nothing
compared with it ! '
Great as was the civilisation of the
aucients their genius had never attained to
such heights as were reached by the scientists
of that epoch.
Electricity was impounded into the service
of man, and put to every possible purpose.
Experiment and research continued to be
the order of the day ; and the great glow of
enthusiasm that fired the votaries of science
never abated until all that was possible to
be learnt concerning the adaptations of
electric energy were known far and wide.
Before the dawn of the twentieth centurv
every country on the face of the earth was
bound together by a network of electrical
Scientific knowledge had therefore made
such vast progress all over the world, and
the uses to which electric force could be
applied had become so widely known that
nations found they must settle their differences
by some method other than warfare.
By the use of electric lightning, as it was
named, to distinguish it from cloud lightning,
whole armies could be annihilated by a couple
of electricians. And as skilful workmen of
this class were in full force in every country,
and at the word of command were ready to
apply this deadly instrument of destruction
with instantaneous effect, the powers of war-
fare were pretty equally balanced.
In course of time, on this account, stand-
ing armies were abolished, for obviously,
they were absolutely useless for the defence
of a nation, and in their stead a supreme
( lourt of Justice was set up, entitled The
This was composed of delegates, or repre-
sentatives from every nation, each being
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL
entitled to send two persons who were usually
chosen from the ministry.
It is needless to explain that such a position
of responsibility was given only to men of
excellent wisdom and proved ability, who had
already won the confidence of their country.
As a rule, the decisions of this unique Court
were abided by, but if a judgment gave
general dissatisfaction, then a return to an
extremely primitive method of warfare was
permitted, under certain modified conditions.
A company of picked men, famous in
athletic exercises were selected by the countries
in dispute and pitted against each other,
armed with electrically-charged lances, very
short, and silvered over to give them a more
The object of each combatant was not to
take life, or give serious injury to his adversary,
but simply to temporarily paralyse his right
arm, the combat being conducted according
to certain stringent regulations and conditions.
At one time females offered themselves for
the trial, and gave good proof of their prowess
and ability ; but this ambition did not obtain
for long, and their desire of emulation in
merely muscular exercises grew into disfavour;
for woman considered it incumbent upon her
to keep in advance of man in intellectual and
Social history had taught her that man
must possess an ideal for his guidance, and
where was that to be found if not in woman ?
It was her influence, and her example which
had advanced him to his present high morality,
his present plane of purity.
Sometimes several generations would pass
away before an occasion arose for the Great
Test Tournament to take place, so that when
an engagement of this kind came off, it formed,
in truth, a world's fete. Kings and commoners
flocked from all parts to witness this unusual
spectacle : for the old love of combativeness
was still dominant in the human mind, although
mainly kept under excellent restraint.
The opportunity therefore, of seeing such
an important contest, the result of which
bore such serious issues, was eagerly sought
by all classes, in every country. Indeed, it
was patronised to such an extent that it was
found necessary to restrict the number of
sightseers to one million. For it was found
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 35
most inconvenient to entertain and provide
accommodation for more, there being no
room for such a heavy addition to their
numbers in the already well-filled city. All
cities were pretty nearly alike, in this respect,
the world being very thickly populated.
The Great Test Tournament formed, in
truth, a grand and imposing spectacle. What
an exciting scene would then present itself!
Flying machines impelled by electric
energy darkened the air. Sumptuous car-
riages set in motion by the same force, and
filled with gaily costumed men and women
eager to witness the scene, whirled aloner
the roads formed of cement as smooth as
glass, and hard as adamant.
Horsemen elegantly attired, cantered
briskly along the side road, which was devoted
specially to their use, for that designed for
general purposes was too smooth for the
Horses, indeed, were trotted out more for
display than absolute use, by the wealthy, for
the means of locomotion was accessible to all.
The poorest person, almost, could conve-
niently run his own electric car ; for the expense
of construction was light, and by a simple pro-
cess of the conservation of energy the supply
of electric force was sustained at a small cost.
By this time the concentration and con-
servation of solar energy was in general
practice; usually large manufactories favoured
its use, for the storage of the sun's rays had
become practicable and was superseding elec-
tricity to some extent. The ocean was no
impediment to personal locomotion, for seas
were skimmed over by means of electrical
flying machines ; while ships impelled by the
same force were used chiefly for the transport
Nevertheless, there was still a large per-
centage of persons who preferred riding the
wave on an electric, or solar energy impelled
vessel, to floating through the air in a flying
machine, for nerves were not yet out of
Notwithstanding all the dreams of nine-
teenth-century political reformers England
had still retained its old institutions, for the
Empire continued to be ruled by a monar-
chical form of government diluted somewhat
with the constitutional. So far from beinsf a
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 37
great Eepublic by this time the tendency
went the other way, for new conditions
sprang up which gave the Sovereign a degree
of absolutism which the fondest hopes of
the Eoyalist could never have conjured up.
By reason of marriages and intermarriages
between the Eoyal Houses of Great Britain
and Germany the two families became so
intermixed that in consequence of the sudden
death of the heir-apparent to the German
crown, followed immediately by the death of
the Emperor, the Sovereign of England woke
up one morning to find himself the direct
successor to the throne of the Fatherland.
It happened in this way. A great war
broke out between Germany and France in
the year 1930, and in the midst of a fierce
contest, where the great field pieces were
charged with missiles which emitted volleys
of electric lightning into the German ranks,
a French electrician sent an electric bolt at
the Emperor and his son, killing the younger
royal warrior instantly, and severely injuring
the elder. The following day the Emperor
succumbed to his injuries, to the intense grief
of all his subjects.
This coup failed to give the French nation
the victory, but it gave the German crown to
the Sovereign of England, who was the only
successor. This was the last battle Europe
ever saw ; public opinion decreed that such
cruel slaughter should be discontinued for all
time. As a matter of course there was much
opposition at the outset to the Sovereign of
another country swaying the sceptre of their
beloved fatherland, albeit he was in reality
more German than English.
Long speeches were made in the Eeichstag,
and ancient laws raked up to show its utter
unconstitutional character. But when it was
pointed out by their favourite minister, an old
man full of wisdom and experience, what a
splendid gain it would prove to their country
in having such a powerful nation as the Eng-
lish merged into theirs ; for united the two
could defy the world independently of any
alliance with other great Powers. To this unan-
swerable argument the opposition succumbed,
and gracefully gave way to the inevitable.
The two countries set apart a whole week
for national rejoicings at this glorious union
of two great nations in a manner unparalleled
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 59
in all history. It was poetically entitled the
marriage of the beautiful Sea-Girt Isle with the
strong and Ever-Enduring Fatherland. This
euphemism took away the bitterness of the
pill that most of the Germans were mouthing,
for they were not altogether satisfied at seeing
their country come under the dominance of
another Power, albeit the ties of consanguinity
and policy bound both together. But the
strongest factor in producing satisfaction was
the intense pleasure they felt in arousing the
ire and deep indignation of the French nation,
who saw at a glance her utter incapacity to
cope with a rival whose dominions would now
all but encircle her, and whose power and pos-
sessions extended to every part of the globe.
Thus it came to pass that Albert Felicitas,
King of Great Britain and Ireland, and
Emperor of India and Africa, was crowned
Emperor of Germany, which now held the
small sovereignties of Denmark and Sweden.
Henceforward this great portion of Euro-
pean territory was named The Teutonic
Empire, which comprising the Germanic and
British Empires united the scattered Teutons
into one solid bodv.
MERCIA, THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL.
Long before this period the women of England
had become celebrated for their mental at-
tainments, splendid physique, and exceeding
beauty ; but chiefest of all was the lovely and
Owing to her superior attainments in
natural science, but especially that branch
dealing with astronomy she was appointed the
position of Astronomer Royal to the Emperor,
Albert Felicitas, Supreme Ruler of the Teu-
Mercia was acknowledged by all to be as
beautiful as she was talented ; and the fame
of her learning and genius was known
throughout the Empire.
She was now thirty years of age, being
still in the first bloom of womanhood ; for
woman was not fully developed until she
attained the age of twenty-five, as the term of
human life was augmented.
Man commonly reached his anticipated
century of years ; and it was no extraordinary
occurrence to see a hoary-haired veteran of
one hundred and twenty-five years surrounded
by five or six generations of descendants
who had assembled to do him honour on his
In former times Mercia would have been
considered too tall for the ideal of womanly
beauty, for she was five feet, ten inches, in
height. Indeed, many women attained six
feet in these days, but as they were perfectly
proportioned, and graceful in movement, their
great height gave no idea of awkwardness.
Mercia's form was perfectly moulded, her
limbs reminding the beholder of some chaste
sculpture of the ancient Greeks, for her
flowing robes partially disclosed their contour.
Beneath the close-fitting sleeves of her tunic
might be seen the fully developed muscles of
her arms, which were exquisitely shaped ; the
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 43
firm wrist was small and round, the fore arm
tapering upwards until the well-developed
muscle of the upper arm was reached. This
was not unduly prominent, but was softened
and rounded beneath the clear skin, which,
creamy white on the inner side, disclosed a
faint pink shade on the outer, denoting the
presence of perfect health. Her hands were
moderately small, but perfect in shape ; the
fingers were long and tapered, with deep,
filbert-shaped nails ; indicating the intellectual
cast of mind. The palm was tinged with a
shell pink, while the back was of transparent,
pearly whiteness, and fine as softest satin.
She was not brilliantly fair in completion,
but her skin was beautifully clear ; and the
soft roses that tinted her oval cheeks paled,
or deepened with her varying emotions.
Her beautiful starlike eyes were of an
indefinable shade, being neither deep blue, nor
brown decidedly. In the sunlight they beamed
with a tint borrowed from the deep azure of
the heavens just before sunset, in the shade
they appeared a lovely, unfathomable brown.
Her nut-brown hair was long, fine, and
silky, showing the menial temperament by
its delicate texture. The head was fairly
large, but well-shaped. The forehead, the
seat of intellect, was high, broad, and full.
Her e} T ebrows were well-arched, and curved
in fair proportion ; but the space between the
eyes was great, indicating very considerable
development of the perceptive faculties.
It needed no brain-specialist to discover
at the first glance that Mercia was born to
her profession, for her powers of observation
and reflection were mapped upon her brow.
Her long brown hair was arranged in
glossy coils at the back of the head, in ancient
classic style, showing its perfect contour ;
while the curls near the forehead fluttering
like flossy silk, and shimmering in the sun
with a golden tint, softened the height of her
broad and lofty brow.
Her breadth of chest indicated also that
the physical part of her training had reached
the fullest perfection. The open collar of
her tunic partially disclosed her neck, Juno-
shaped, and fine as cream-white satin.
In working hours she dressed in tunic,
and trousers, made of dark, fine cloth, while
her evening, or reception toilette vs r as com-
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 45
posed of flowing robes of bright, soft silk,
which hung in graceful folds from her shapely
bust, and down her well-formed limbs.
In her was seen personified modesty itself
— not that of mere ignorance and shyness —
but the modesty born of nobility of mind,
wisdom, and purity.
Mercia was devoted to her profession ;
and so great was her enthusiasm that for fully
six months in each year she made her obser-
vations of the heavens all night long, snatch-
ing only an hour or two in the daytime for
She had discovered with the aid of the
powerful instrument that Geometrus, her
chief assistant astronomer had invented, the
existence of a number of new planets which
revolved around one of the principal suns,
hitherto unknown. The largest of these planets
she named Mercia, after herself; to its sun
she gave the title of Geometrus, in honour of
the man she secretly loved, but dared not own
it, not even to herself.
It was a law, or rather, a regulation which
was strictly enforced that no Astronomer to
the Emperor might marry. When a candi-
date for the post, which was deemed as
honourable as that of prime minister, was
successful, he was aware of the conditions his
acceptance entailed. He was required to take
a solemn oath to give up all thought of love,
or matrimony, and devote the whole of his
time, thought, and talent to the fulfilment of
his duties, and the furtherance of the science
of Astronomy, generally.
Astronomy, and Meteorology were con-
sidered by the nation such important branches
of natural science, requiring in their pursuit
so much self-denial that it was deemed an
absolute necessity that whoever filled this
important post should not be trammelled by
the entanglements of love, nor ties of wedlock.
For it was considered the uxoriousness of an
affectionate husband, or wife, would while
away the hours which otherwise would have
been devoted to his, or her duties, these en-
tailing long and severe rounds of night watch-
It is true Mercia possessed the power to
give up her post and marry ; but to break
the solemn oath she had given her Sovereign
and country, to her pure and honourable
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 47
mind appeared monstrous. Besides, such
a course would have been attended with
serious consequences, for to a certainty
almost, Geometrus would be requested to
resign his position, and thus both would lose,
not only lucrative and honourable appoint-
ments, but employment which each enthusias-
tically loved for its own sake.
Geometrus was a tall, well-formed man of
about thirty-five years ; he stood in his soft-
leather shoes, which were formed exactly to
the shape of the foot, at least six feet, two
His complexion was somewhat similar to
that of Mercia, for his hair and whiskers were
of a bright brown ; his eyes were dark and
deep set : his nose was large and straight, but
that was the prevailing characteristic of this
time ; for the nose being indicative of charac-
ter, developed greatly, keeping pace with the
growth of brain-power of which it is the
sign, and outward index.
The mouth was firm, the lips being com-
pressed, while the chin was prominent and
In his face the brain specialist could easily
4 8 MERC1A
read his character, and judge correctly his
special turn of mind.
Although he possessed, to some extent,
the same powers of observation, reflection,
and calculation as Mercia, still, his most
prominent faculty was mechanics. In con-
sequence of the excellent training he had
received at the public schools of Astronomy,
the bent of his genius was turned in this
For this reason he made an admirable
assistant to the Chief Astronomer, in so much,
that he was always constructing wonderful
instruments set with peculiarly formed lenses
of his own invention, by means of which
Mercia prosecuted with greater success her
In truth, the two were made for each
other ; not only as co-workers, but also in
disposition ; for where there was a tendency
towards an excess of fiery energy on the one
side, it was met with the calm serenity of
strict discipline on the other.
Mercia was of calm and even tempera-
ment, being wonderfully patient and enduring :
the sweetness of her disposition was seldom
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 49
ruffled, even under the most trying circum-
stances. Although mild in manner, and in
speech, nevertheless she was by no means
apathetic or easy going, for her life was one
constant round of industry.
This rare combination of calmness and
energy had been transmitted to her by her
mother, a lady of great learning and talent,
who filled the appointment of Chief Inspector
of Public Schools under Government.
This lady realising fully the immense re-
sponsibility she was about to undertake when
becoming a mother, took all the precautions,
both physical and mental, to ensure having
for her offspring as perfect a human being as
was possible to obtain.
The effect of this regime on the part of
the mother, benefited herself equally as her
offspring ; for when the hour of accouchement
arrived the pains of child-birth were so light,
and every muscle and organ of her body in
such perfect condition, that in the space of a
week she was fully restored and able to re-
sume her social, household, or profession al
duties, as if nothing had happened.
There was no suckling of infants in these
■ lavs, except by the very lowest orders ;
women having by degrees lost that property
for some considerable time. As far back as
the close of tin* nineteenth century this power
had commenced to fail them.
Either through weakness engendered by
much child-bearing, or the demands of society
upon the time of the women belonging to the
upper and middle classes, the habit of arti-
licial suckling was resorted to, and eventually
adopted by all classes about that period, with
the result that in course of time Xature alto-
gether refused to give any supply; for she
ever accommodates herself to the conditions
under which she is placed.
Thus it came to pass that the mother was
equally free as the father in the matter of
nursing, if she elected so to be ; all the same,
the child was still most carefully and skilfully
The post of nurse was only filled by fully-
trained, certificated women, who thoroughly
understood the management of children, and
who were competent to take them through
any sickness without a doctor's assistance.
By this time the English language had
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 51
gained considerably by the introduction of
words from all nations, who on their side
returned the compliment by making it a
speciality in their public schools, for English
was the commercial language of the whole
But it became more than a commercial
language to the Germans, for they dropping
their own tongue with its uncouth gutturals,
adopted the English, which was essentially
their own, cultivated and enlarged, and made
Moreover another change was effected.
The ancient and primitive style was re-
verted to in the matter of the personal pro-
noun ; for the substitution of the plural
' you ' for its singular ' thou ' was considered
ungrammatical, and therefore its use was
deemed improper to continue.
This departure was imitated by the French
who had been the original authors of the
anomaly in the early centuries. However,
among the lower orders, and in the fireside
parlance the plural number was frequently
At this period the Emperor Albert Feli-
52 MERC .
citaa reigned most peacefully over the Teutonic
Empire. He possessed a palace in each capi-
tal, dividing his time among his various king-
doms with strict impartiality : not that it
mattered much where he resided, as the
means of locomotion had arrived at such per-
fection that a few hours' journey sufficed to
bring him to any part of his European Empire.
He wintered in Berlin in order to take
advantage of the fine frosts, and enjoy the
exercise of sleighing. He summered in ro-
mantic Norway and Sweden ; utilising the
early spring months in travelling through his
Eastern and African Empires alternately, and
spent the beautiful autumn in England.
In his European dominions each country
retained its House of Parliament, which
possessed powers to make laws dealing with
domestic politics only ; these being after-
wards sanctioned by the Emperor and his
Cabinet. This was formed of four ministers.
of each nationality, who were elected by
their country every seven years.
But a cloud was hanging over the fair
horizon "1' this happy Empire ; a deep dispute
had been growing for upwards of a century
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 53
between India and her rulers, formerly the
British, but now the Teutonic Empire.
Western civilisation, or rather Western
ideas, and education had brought the natives
of the Eastern Empire to such a degree of
culture and enlightenment that the subju-
gated ones realised that they had become the
equal of their masters long before the dawn
of the twenty-first century.
In point of fact, the close of the nineteentli
century saw India supplied, not only with
elementary schools, but ' High Schools,' and
colleges of the first order, where the subjects
taught met every want. They consisted of
civil engineering, mathematics, experimental
physics, mining, metallurgy, chemistry, archi-
tecture, forestry, farming, veterinary surgery,
&c. In the College of Science, Poona, at
this period all the foregoing subjects were
taken. There was a farm of 150 acres in
connection with this college which had been
transferred by Government to the Agricultural
Department ; there were also a veterinary
hospital where lectures were delivered ;
mechanical, physical and chemical labora-
tories, workshops, and foundries. A more
complete arrangement for the training of
young India could not have been devised.
Here students of various nationalities, but
chielly Hindoos, studied and worked with the
Thus for a considerable period the natives
had been availing themselves of the means of
education afforded them so benevolently by
the English Government, whose motto was
' Educate your subjects and they will better
obey you ; ' whereas it should have been —
' Educate your servants and you make them
your equals ; ' for knowledge gives power, or
to define it more accurately in this case,
knowledge gave insight, and discovered to
its votaries the glories and delights of an
Notwithstanding the hindrances caused
by religious superstitions they made excel-
lent progress ; gradually emerging from the
shackles of their ancient beliefs which acted
as chains to keep them in the slavery of
ignorance, they eventually became almost the
equal of their rulers in manufactures, art,
science, and literature.
Under these conditions they had become
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 55
a powerful people, and consequently were
greatly dissatisfied with their position of
There had long been a growing feeling of
dislike to the government of their country
being consigned to the charge of a mere
representative of the Teutonic Empire.
They considered that the time had arrived
that such a vast and important Empire as
theirs should be ruled by one supreme
monarch, whose Court would suitably repre-
sent their country's wealth, power, and in-
Once in the enjoyment of a Monarchical
Government, tempered by the restrictions of
a Constitutional, they felt they would be no
longer handicapped as they had hitherto
found themselves, for native gentlemen who
had benefited their country to a marked
degree, as well as men of acknowledged
ability and genius, had, with rare exceptions,
no titled honours conferred upon them as
tokens of recognition of their worth. This
omission they assigned to the jealousy of
their rulers, coupled with their overweening
opinion of Western superiority.
Thus to this very sensitive people it be-
aiiie a crying calamity that they had no
Court of their own wherein they could create
dukes, lords, and baronets ad lib. and set up a
nobility and monarchy on their own account;
on the same lines of government favoured by
their Teutonic rulers.
Although India was universal in its desire
for ' Home Government,' nevertheless, there
were two great political parties in the country ;
one was conservative and desired a Monar-
chical, the other preferred a democratic or
Republican form of government.
Of course the Press was the expression of
these opinions, which the English and Ger-
mans eagerly perused, so that whenever a
petition arrived at the Teutonic Court praying
for freedom these opposing opinions were
brought forward as an excuse for refusing
' Why ask for powers of self-government '
they retorted, ' when you are unable to agree
upon what form it shall take ? You are
happier and better as you are for you know
not how to govern yourselves; you are our
children ; we have educated you, and brought
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 57
you up, as it were ; why desire to leave the
parental control when it is only exercised for
your good ? '
But the oppressed ones did not see it :
they felt that they were only step-children,
who were kept out of the benefits accorded
the offspring of their rulers ; for all posts
of honour and handsome remuneration had
long been taken up by the overflowings of
aristocratic Germanic and English families.
Even when in positions where natives were
permitted the privilege of filling alongside
the Englishman, as far back as the nineteenth
century and upwards, natives were not re-
munerated with anything approaching the
same rate of income as their more favoured
colleagues ; although performing identical
duties in the hospitals.
A reliable historian of the nineteenth cen-
tury in treating this subject says : — ' One seri-
ous obstacle in the way of increasing the
supply of medical men, (natives) seems to me
the unfair and invidious difference made in
the remuneration of native as compared with
English professional men employed in our
service, and the same it may be added, applies
53 MERC I A
to legal, and other departments of the State.
Take Delhi, for example, where the civil
surgeon, a military man, is paid 1,150 rupees
per month, whilst his two native assistants
receive only 150 each. In Lahore the Eng-
lish civil surgeon gets 1,050 rupees, the
native assistants 150 each. Indeed, through-
out India the proportion is everywhere as
seven or eight for the English, to one for the
Is it to be wondered at that the dissatis-
faction felt at the ' plums ' being everywhere
reserved for the British should begin to find
utterance in the native Press, and in the
So far as the medical department is con-
cerned it cannot possibly be urged, as it is in
the legal administration, that the moral quali-
ties which are requisite demand a greatly
increased scale of remuneration for the
Englishman. If the services of an English
civil surgeon be worth 1,380/. per annum,
surely those of his chief assistants, if they be
of any value whatever, must be rated low at
180/., no matter to what nationality they
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 59
This does not apply, however, to the
medical colleges and schools. For example,
at the Campbell Medical School and Hospital,
Calcutta, the superintendent, and English
surgeon-major receive 550 rupees per month;
and there are eight professors and demon-
strators, all natives, most of whom get from
300 to 350 rupees, and a number of native
assistants who receive 100 to 150 rupees.
' Can anything prove more conclusively
that it is not the incapacity of the natives,
but favouritism of the dominant race which
awards disproportionately high salaries to the
English officials ? '
' Similar inequalities existed in most of
the departments of the State, which were of
vital importance to the political relations of
the governors and the governed.'
Such were the outspoken sentiments of an
Englishman whose high attainments and wide
experience of Indian administration made his
utterances worthy of the deepest considera-
Side by side with Western culture grew the
desire to imitate the Western system of home
government. The initiatory movement in this
direction took the form of an infant 'National
Congress ' which had its birth in the year of
grace 1885, at Bombay, ' where seventy-two
native gentlemen from all parts of India met
together.' There were representatives from
Karachi, Surat, Poona, Calcutta, Agra,
Benares, Lucknow, Lahore, Allahabad, Ah-
medabad, Bombay, Madras, Tanjore, and
several other important places in India.
Thus was constituted the nucleus of a greater
and more important organisation, which ulti-
mately developed with the growth of Western
culture, for every educated Hindoo was as
well acquainted with the social and political
history of Great Britain and Ireland as any
Englishman could possibly be. At this first
Congress ' they spent three days in the dis-
cussion of questions affecting the interests of
the native community, and in passing resolu-
tions thereon.' The first resolution, which
was supported by gentlemen of unquestioned
standing, asked for a fulfilment of the ' pro-
mised inquiry' into the 'working of Indian
administration, and suggested the appoint-
ment of a Eoyal Commission, the people of
India being adequately represented thereon,
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 61
and evidence taken both in India and Eng-
' An expansion of the supreme and local
legislative councils by the admission of a
considerable number of elected members,'
was another reform which was considered
' Indirectly,' said the first report, ' this
Conference will form the germ of a native
parliament, and if properly conducted will
constitute in a few years an unanswerable
reply to the assertion that India is still
wholly unfit for any form of representative
The answer to these aspirations and
desires on the part of the educated natives
given by the governing classes in India prac-
tically were — 'That the only government
possible for India both in the interest of the
British as well as of the natives, and as a
protection against Russia, is a despotism.'
'That any concessions to native opinion
will interfere with that despotism.'
' That the authority and domination of the
officials must not be interfered with.'
'That if such concessions are made tliev
will only serve as an opening for further
demands, the object being ultimately to over-
throw the Government, and that the leading
natives have that end in view.'
The prophets were correct : one hundred
years later saw India with a fully fledged
Parliament, enacting laws for her own govern-
ment and finishing by demanding full control
of Imperial politics, till finally the control of
the conqueror, however mild, was sought to
be banished completely.
There were those who were foolish enough
to hint at extinguishing the Viceroy and all
his court by means of electric lightning, but
that course woidd have been idiotic in the
extreme, for their rulers in turn could have
annihilated the whole nation by the same
process, so that to endeavour to settle the
question by main force was simply impossible.
Their grievance had by this time attained
such magnitude that an immense requisition
signed by millions of the inhabitants, or
rather the natives, of India, was sent to the
Worlds Tribunal for consideration.
What a tumult this action put the whole
world into ! Thousands of books and pam-
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 63
phlets were issued on the subject in every
country. Throughout the globe newspapers
and monthly journals eagerly discussed the
question in their columns, and took sides
according to their trade or political relation-
ships with the countries in dispute, for self
ever predominates in the decisions of nations
as in those of individuals.
Notwithstanding all this literary energy
the ' Supreme Law of Nations ' took its course.
Delegates from every Government were sum-
moned to appear on May 1 in the year 2002 to
consider the secession of the Indian, from the
control of the Teutonic Empire, and all the
world wondered how it would end.
In due course a sub-committee was formed
from the delegates with powers to choose the
place in which the World's Tribunal should
be held. It was finally decided that Paris
should be thus exalted, for this charming city
still held its own in the representation of the
science and art of the world.
The Chamber of Deputies for this un-
paralleled occasion was newly-decorated with
the greatest lavishness. Exquisitely up-
holstered chairs, resembling thrones in their
sumptuousness were provided for the occasion.
The walls of the chief chamber in which the
Court was to be held were beautifully de-
corated and made to appear like fine ivory,
set in square slabs edged with gold : on each
of the squares paintings of exquisite work-
manship relieved the coldness of the pure
cream-coloured ivory ground, while silken
draperies skilfully embroidered with gold, in
richest designs hung in graceful folds from
windows and doorways. On the wall imme-
diately behind the President's chair were
suspended valuable paintings, the frames of
which were composed of solid gold, whose
corners were set with gems of great value.
Although much was done to please the
eye in this temple of luxury, nevertheless,
there was naught provided to tempt the
The imagination of the ministers might
revel in richest surroundings, but only the
plainest fare was provided in the anterooms
ibr their entertainment.
With these regulations, we may be sure,
that the matter under consideration was not
drawn out undulv, for who would remain in
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 65
a place where the pleasures of the table were
so scantily considered ? No time being lost
in gastronomical or bibulous gratifications the
delegates were enabled to bestow assiduous
attention upon their duties, and listened care-
fully to the charges brought by the Easterners
against their governors.
They denounced emphatically the system
of vice-government which was rife with
abuses, and explained that from the very
commencement they regarded this foreign
intrusion as a degradation to their nation.
They pointed out that they were an ancient
people, possessing all the prestige of ages of
civilisation, who could not forget the glories
of bygone centuries ; for thousands of years
they had been governed by their own rulers,
in true Eastern magnificence ; at a period so
remote that their present rulers were then
mere barbarians, unknown to the civilised
world. With such a past as theirs ; their
country possessing such classic associations,
standing proofs of which they had everywhere :
in the perfect architecture ; in their ancient
literature, all of which reminded them oi
their former prestige and splendour. The
time had arrived that they could no longer
ignore the duty that lay before them, namely.
to demand the restoration of their natural
rights which had been filched away from
them by fraud and deceit without their con-
sent or desire. ' Yes ! ' continued the speaker,
' every inch of our territory has been sur-
veyed and measured by the foreign intruder,
and the products of our labour taxed heavily
to uphold in luxury the children of the in-
It was the chief minister, Sir John Pun-
jaub a leading Hindoo, who made this daring
speech. He 1 was a man advanced in years
and full of learning, with ever so many letters
after his name, indicating his membership of
various scientific societies in England, Ger-
many and India.
His countrymen adored him, for he had
expended his vast wealth for their betterment,
by the establishment of various philanthropic
and educational institutions: but they loved
him chiefest of all for his active enthusiasm
in the promotion of their country's political
welfare, and his kindly and ready sympathy
in private life.
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 67
It was said of him that never in his life
had he turned away from a tale of woe ;
' Better,' he would say, ' give ten times to the
unworthy, than once turn a deaf ear to the
The struggling youth who found the world
too much for him in his first start in life
would take heart of hope and whisper to
himself — ' I will go to Sir John, he will tell
me what to do, and how I am to gain my
goal : he sends no one away, he gives comfort
and information ; and if need be, funds to the
honest worker who seeks his aid.'
Thus like the god of day, this dear old
man imparted life and joy, and blessings
wherever his influence reached, and the
people in return reverenced and loved him
In the Eastern St. Stephen's he held the
position of Prime Minister, and as a matter of
course, upon him devolved the duty of stating
the case of the Indian Empire before the
He spoke in English of the purest diction,
and pronunciation as perfect as that of a
polished Englishman ; his great experience as
a politician, his gift of eloquence and his
profound wisdom, all combined to make him
a unique interpreter of the feeling of India at
this vitally important crisis.
The delegates listened in wrapt attention
to every argument brought forward, giving
assiduous attention to their duties throughout,
and making notes of every point of any
importance, on either side, all being done
without the smallest loss of time. The result
of such industry was that in fourteen days
the whole of the evidence was gone through,
after which the members of the Tribunal made
their speeches, expressing their opinions upon
the various points of the case in a clear and
This refraining from flowery oratory
proved a capital saver of time, and brought
the matter to a close much earlier than if
all had disported themselves in high-flown
rhetoric, or windy word-making.
By this time the expression of language
had attained such perfection ; or rather, the
gift of eloquence had become so general that
almost everybody was able to express him-
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 69
self in well-chosen language with little or no
The result of this tongue-culture was a
disfavour towards unnecessarily drawn out
speeches. Indeed, the rule adopted mostly
by legislative and other assemblies was timed
speeches, generally from thirty to sixty
minutes' duration ; but very rarely was this
latter period taken except in cases of extra-
It would astonish a nineteenth-century
parliamentarian if he could have heard a
thirty minutes' speech at this time. Every
sentence uttered expressed a thought ; not a
superfluous word was used throughout; yet
every idea was enunciated fully and perfectly,
for it was concentrated thought projected in
For several previous generations this
power of precis had been put in general
practice. Both parents and teachers making
it a point to impress upon children the vul-
garity of verbosity ; both in writing and
speaking an artistic method was inculcated
that expressed every shade of thought in the
least possible number of words.
7 o MERC I A
Each day's proceedings at the World's
Tribunal was known in every country upon
the same day. In a couple of hours from the
close of the chamber, the speeches appeared
word for word, in the leading newspapers of
every country, including the most distant
parts of Africa.
Although eagerly perused by all, the con-
tents were exceptionally interesting to India.
Millions of dark eyes daily scanned the
pages that brought them hope and fear
At length the day arrived upon which the
decision was to be formally announced — it
was the twenty-eighth from the commence-
ment. Alas, the bright hopes of this gentle
people were cruelly blasted, for the verdict
of the Great Tribunal, was against them.
At first overwhelmed with disappointment
they were perfectly paralysed. A deep, dead
silence reigned amidst that vast concourse of
people while it was being read out to them ;
for both high and low had assembled in
immense crowds in some open space of each
great city of India. This was followed by a
sudden and furious anger that burst from the
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 71
heart of the multitude and found vent in the
loud cries of — ' A trial by combat ! A trial
by combat ! '
The same day the Indian Press declared
that the decision was unjust to a degree, nay,
iniquitous ; and the people of India should
refuse to accept it. Immediately America
took up the strain and declared she had never
approved of it, but having been in the minority
when put to the vote their opinion had gone
Then Eussia had another word to say in
the matter, and encouraged America, until
eventually it was conceded that India should
be accorded the benefit of the final test,
and the great question decided by personal
To this arrangement the Teutonic Empire
made no objection, for the natural confidence
and conceit of the English caused them to
regard with disdain an engagement where
physical strength gave the victory.
Thus the most primitive method of settling
a dispute was resorted to, when the verdict of
experienced politicians failed. Muscle-power
was to prevail over mental even with the
72 MERC I A
highly cultured people of this advanced
period. The fact was, that however well-
intentioned a conclave of politicians at the
outset might be, there are so many influences
at work, and so many international interests
to consider, that to mete out justice with a
Solomon-like impartiality proved more 'than
human nature was capable of.
Now, as stated previously, the method of
combat was entirely different from any prac-
tised in previous times, for the antagonist's
life was not sought in any case, but disable-
ment only. Victory was secured by rendering
useless the right arm of the foe by giving it
a blow with a short lance, or instrument elec-
The peculiarity of this weapon was that it
did not give an electric shock sufficient to
kill a man, its effect being merely to paralyse
the part it touched, and as the rule was to
strike only at the right arm, no greater injury
than the paralysis of that limb could take
Occasionally it happened that the arm
was permanently paralysed ; but mostly, only
temporarily disabled, for clever electro phy-
sicians could commonly restore the limb by
cunning administration of counter shocks
which occasionally required several weeks,
and even months, to effect a thorough cure.
Quack doctors had an evil time of it in
these days ; if any one took upon himself to
publicly prescribe, or vend medicines without
having obtained a proper diploma, he was
arraigned and condemned to hard labour for a
term of years. The employment he was put
to usually consisted of the construction of
public works, or something strictly useful, and
sufficiently profitable to cover the expenses of
This too, was the reign of the specialist. In
every trade, or profession such perfect know-
ledge was requisite that it was customary to
take up but one branch and adhere to it solely.
For instance, a person with a nervous
complaint would not dream of consulting a
surgeon ; the bone-setter never interfered with
the fever patient ; nor the aurist with the
oculist ; the child-doctor and accoucheuse
kept strictly to her own department, except
in rural districts, where there would not have
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 75
been sufficient employment for each branch of
medicine to be represented.
The solicitor never appeared in a police
case ; for another branch of the profession
called ' petty pleaders,' conducted these, the
study of which possessed its own separate
course, and examinations. The food-chemist's
diploma was not identical with that of the
ordinary pharmaceutical chemist ; indeed, all
the various branches of chemistry of which
there was a great number, were separately
chosen and studied with one definite end in
view, everyone keeping to one thing, and doing
The country in which the contest should
take place was decided by lot. The question
was — India or England. And the lot fell on
England. But it was indeed a difficult matter
to discover a place sufficiently great in this
thickly populated country which would be
suitable for this immense tournament. Even-
tually, a space of sufficient area was fixed
upon, which consisted of a number of fields of
sweet-smelling flowers that were being culti-
vated for the manufacture of perfumes ; for
the wealthy still affected the natural perfume
of distilled flowers, to the manufactured odours
of the perfume -chemist.
These meadows formed a space of about
two hundred acres, and being only a hundred
miles from the metropolis proved most con-
venient for the purpose.
For several weeks previous to the day a
large number of carpenters and upholsterers
were busily engaged making the necessary
Tiers of seats to accommodate some thou-
sands of persons were reared all round the
field of combat, covered with crimson and gold
cloth ; while overhead were awnings of glit-
tering silk composed of the finest drawn
threads of glass, which shone brilliantly in the
summer's sun. Indeed, robes of silk formed
of this material were common enough, for
the cocoon of the silkworm was insuffi-
cient to meet the demand for this favourite
But the throne, or seat of the Sovereign
outshone all in magnificence. It was formed
of beautifully carved coromandel wood, the
natural markings of which presented the
appearance of myriads of heads in countless
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 77
variety of form. Therein could be seen the
human face in every style of shape and ex-
pression ; together with the heads of animals
of every description.
This beautifully marked wood was relieved
by inlayings of ivory, edged with gold.
The awning overhead which protected the
monarch and his suite from the heat of the noon-
day sun, or summer's shower, was also made of
glass silk, the colours of which were artfully
blended to represent the brilliant hues of the
The dais arranged for the accommodation
uf the umpires was also handsomely decorated ;
and when the field was filled with the richly-
dressed knights of the silver lance, mounted
on graceful steeds of surpassing elegance
of form, it looked, indeed, like fairyland
And now, behold, the day and hour have
arrived for the great tournament, which has
to decide the fate of the two contending Em-
pires. Five hundred mounted, and an equal
number of unmounted warriors on either side
take their allotted positions, each armed with
what appears to be a glittering silver lance,
78 MERC I A
but is in reality an electrically-charged weapon
whose only mission is to paralyse one parti-
cular limb of the adversary.
Dressed in crimson tunic, and steel-grey
breeches, which displayed the well-formed
proportions of the lower limbs, the lines of
English combatants presented a most imposing-
appearance. Five hundred horsemen bril-
liantly attired, with silver helmets glittering
in the sunshine, and mounted on well-trained
steeds, awaited the signal to commence, while
the same number of athletes on foot stood with
eager looks in perfect readiness also.
The Indian athletes formed also a glitter-
ing galaxy of imposing splendour. Attired
throughout in white and gold, their dark com-
plexions set off by cream and gold helmets
which shone bravely in the sunshine, they
looked, indeed worthy antagonists for the bold
and hardy Northerner. With lances drawn
the combatants at the given signal now rush
towards each other. Every man singles out
his adversary, when a masterly piece of parry-
ing takes place. With great skill and display
of well- trained muscle-power the Eastern par-
ries the Northern's stroke, which is unlike all
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 79
hitherto known, it being allowable only on
the right arm. If in the heat of battle an
athlete should inadvertently hit his adversary
in a vital part, and thereby cause his death,
the unlucky contestant must himself pay a
heavy money penalty to the family of the
slaughtered man : this rule acted most bene-
ficially, and formed on the whole a very safe
life-insurance for each combatant.
The richly decorated galleries surrounding
the scene of action are now filled with the
elite of the whole world. Emperors, kings,
czars, princes, and potentates of high position
accompanied by their ladies beautifully attired
make a tout ensemble that once beheld could
never be forgotten.
Such a variety too, of costume as was
never before seen grouped together, dazzled
the beholder ; for the Eastern style differed
from the West as greatly at this time as in
any previous period, but in a contrary way.
During the lapse of many generations the
Eastern had been gradually adopting the
Parisian or Western mode of aress ; and the
Western the^ flowing Eastern robes, until by
this time the two modes were reversed ; or,
at least as much as our northerly climate
Thus it came to pass that a fair-haired
English maiden would be attired in a flowing
yellow silk robe, confined at the waist by a
golden girdle, and at her side her mother
stood draped in rich velvet that hung in
graceful, flowing ripples from her shoulders ;
while the native of Turkey rejoiced in a tight-
fitting bodice, with skirt beflounced and be-
frilled in nineteenth-century Western style.
By this time the emancipation of Turkish
women from their conventional imprisonment
had taken place to their intense satisfaction.
It was a long and hard battle this struggle for
independence, and natural freedom, and was
only gained eventually through the inter-
vention of the chief women of the Teutonic
These were composed of lady members of
Parliament together with the wives of the
peers and nobles who in one great body went
to the various potentates who had sliced up
the country amongst them, to beseech them to
advocate personal liberty to the female sex,
in whatever degree or position in society they
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 8,1
moved, and further exhorted them to use
their influence with the people generally, to
bring about this necessary reformation.
So the French, Russian, and Teutonic Em-
pires graciously complied with the request of
the fair delegates, and what is more, kept
their royal promise to the best of their ability.
This was accomplished in part by the
issuing of edicts to the people, who were first
set the good example by the nobles whose
interest it was to co-operate with their con-
querors, or rulers : thus by degrees the women
of the Teutonic race accomplished the eman-
cipation of their sex in the lazy and luxurious
Never before was seen such a dazzling
pageant as that viewed from the flying-
machines which hung suspended in the air
immediately above the scene of action. Seated
in these aerial carriages their occupants could
not fail to enjoy themselves, for they possessed
the advantage of freedom to eat, drink and be
merry, while they watched the fortunes of war
as they developed in the field below without
being hampered by conventionalities, or incon-
At one moment they would see the Eng-
lishman parry the stroke of the Indian who
was making a furious attack on his adversary.
The Indian was indeed, struggling for dear
liberty, and under this inspiration his natu-
rally calm and placid countenance, whose
expression betokened his gentle disposition,
was fired with an enthusiasm that only a
mighty occasion could call forth.
Ages of submission had given him a dis-
position to yield, for heredity is all-power-
ful, nevertheless, he fought against his nature,
as it were, in order to obtain the benefits of
that glorious liberty, of which the Briton
himself boasted so constantly.
With this high resolve before his eyes, he
set aside his natural instincts, and becoming
another man, excelled himself, and fought the
Thrust and parry ; thrust and parry, went
on for hours, until at last the sun was sinking
in the horizon, and still the contest hung in
even balance. Scores of men fell from the
ranks on either side with one arm hanging
helplessly at their side, while physicians with
galvanic batteries stood in their tents outside
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 83
the enclosure ready to render them needful
Time was up at six o'clock, and not too
soon, for fighting had commenced at ten
o'clock in the morning, and all were ready to
drop with fatigue. Then the signal was given
to cease, when the whole, or uninjured men
were counted on each side ; and to the intense
disgust of the English who were ever proud
of their prowess, and the great and exceeding
joy of the unhappy Eastern the latter had
won by just three men. Thus the patient and
persevering Eastern worsted for once the bold
and hardy Northerner. Then a ringing cheer
burst forth from the thousand Indian athletes,
and their friends ; which was caught up by
the people suspended above, filling the whole
air with its shout of glad triumph. After
all, Eight had overcome Might in this great
struggle, which finally settled the dispute of
Among the two thousand contestants only
twelve casualties occurred ; in other words,
twelve men lost their lives in the encounter.
Of these seven were Hindus ; but they died
in a glorious cause and their names were
handed down to posterity by the erection of
a splendid malachite column on which was
inscribed their names and a graceful tribute
of their countrymen's gratitude in verse.
This was composed by their beloved minister,
whose splendid appeal at the Great Tribunal
had failed to move the hearts of their judges ;
but the little verse, noble in its simplicity and
tender pathos, brought the unconscious tear
to the eyes, not only of the admiring Native,
but also to the Briton himself, who no longer
grudged the Eastern his well-deserved victory.
' Of queenly mien, of loveliest form, and eyes
Like gems set in translucent skies.
And all the beauty of the Court was dimmed
By fair Igerna : to Uther's eyes she seemed
To stand a peerless pearl ; a diamond divine ;
Beyond all price, and fitted most to shine
In kingly coronet of the great on earth,
A prizeful jewel of unbounded worth.
.... All women she outvies
In every gentle grace. Her voice now thrilled
With soft delight his ravished ears, and filled
His listening soul with music's harmony,
Sweet as the rippling water's melody.'
Idylls, Legends and Lyrics.
The Royal Observatory was a stately building
of great height erected close to the old build-
ing in Greenwich Park, which latter was kept
as a show place, and used also as a lecture
hall for students of Astronomy. The lower
apartments of the new building were occupied
byMercia and her household, while the upper
rooms were devoted to the purposes of her
profession. A suite of rooms on the left wing
were set apart as workshops for Geometrus,
whose spare time was always taken up with
planning or perfecting some wonderful astro-
nomical instrument more powerful than the
world had hitherto seen.
In a spacious apartment on the third floor
which contained two powerful telescopes, con-
structed on principles of entirely modern
invention, being capable of revealing the
distant suns to an extent never before dreamt
of, was Mercia surrounded by curious astro-
scopes, stellar-spectroscopes, and wonderfully
constructed cameras, which delineated in an
instant the starry heights, the glory of which
has been the ambition of astronomers in all
ages to fathom.
She was seated at her desk making some
mathematical calculations of the celestial
depths, and was so completely engrossed in
her labours that the entrance of her fellow-
worker, Geometrus, went unheeded. At
length, coming to a close, she raised her head,
when instantly a flush of pleasure brought
the rose more vividly into her cheeks.
' Ah, Geometrus, is it thou ? ' she ex-
claimed, ' I have finished the measurement of
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 87
thy namesake, the fixed star, and am happy
at last. His system of planets are now all
perfect before me : I must write a treatise on
this new addition to science so that posterity
may know what we have attained.'
' Why use the word " we," my mistress,'
replied the young man, ' it is thou alone who
hast done the work ? '
1 It is true that I have made the observa-
tions and calculations, Geometrus, but it was
thy cunning which formed the instrument.
Take thy due, my friend, and be not over
modest ; some base imitator may some day
defraud thee of thine invention, unless thou
wilt consent to acknowledge it openly.'
' I would that I might acknowledge openly
the one deep thought of my heart,' he an-
swered with a sigh as he turned to leave the
' Stay a little while, Geometrus, I would
have some converse with thee. I am buried
so deeply in my work that I know not how
the world is wagging. What about the great
dispute that is coming before the World's
Tribunal ? Is it a righteous cause this of the
Eastern, thinkest thou ? '
* Nay, mistress, that is not for me to settle :
judge for thyself. India desires to regain her
ancient freedom. The Government reins of
the foreigner however lightly held, gall her.
She does not deny having received great
benefits from the invader, as great as the
Romans conferred upon the early Britons :
nevertheless, she would prefer a measure of
mismanagement under a native ruler, than the
most perfect arrangements from the stranger.'
' But it is folly in these enlightened times
to imagine that India, once our rule were
withdrawn, would revert to the old order of
things. Ignorance and superstition, Eastern
despotism and tyranny can never again find
a home in that beautiful country,' remarked
' Oh, we are all well aware of that : but
it suits our purpose to make these assertions :
we must invent a raison d'etre when we take
upon ourselves the government of a country
that in no way belongs to us. It is pro re
natd — for a special business — that we aver
they can't get along without us. We have
edged in little by little until we have brought
the whole Empire under our dominion. To
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 89
give up India now, would be as tantalising to
us, as it would be to the victorious soldier if
asked to give up his loot ; for in the good old
times pillage was the perquisite of the warrior.
America evidently sympathises with India in
her desire for a monarchy. That country
pretty well understands where the shoe
pinches for she has gone through experiences.'
' I have read in books,' observed Mercia
smiling, ' how American women made wealthy
by their parents' success in trade, came hither
to mate with titled men ; for there was no
nobility in their own country. I suppose
possessing all the world could give save high
rank they sought in the parent country for
that which their own lacked.'
' They lacked not long,' returned Geome-
trus laughingly, ' for over fifty years they
have been in the enjoyment of a monarchy
and all its concomitant honours. The image
and superscription of King Jonathan, the
First, that adorns the almighty dollar im-
presses one painfully with their pinchbeck
' We shall get used to it in time,' observed
Mercia gently. ' A young republic cannot
make an old monarchy. After all, there was
a spice of modesty in Jonathan when he
elected a king, for he might have made him
an emperor while doing it.'
' It wasn't modesty at ail — it was selfish
prudence ; they wanted to follow the lines of
a constitutional monarchy and considered it
was the safest thing to call their Figure Head
' If India obtains her desire I wonder
whom she will chose for Emperor. Doubtless
the people will want that dear old Prime
Minister of theirs ; they could not have a
* But he is old,' replied Geometrus quickly,
' and he is childless, what is to become of the
succession when he dies ? There will arise
tumults and internal quarrels as to his suc-
cessor : better choose a younger man, and one
likely to found a lasting royal line. Eemem-
ber the fate of Germany. Had there been a
goodly half-dozen of sons to fall back upon
an English prince would never have had the
chance of their crown.'
' All's well that ends well, Geometrus.
Now is England invincible to the whole world :
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 91
in her position as a united Empire her power
is paramount everywhere.'
No sooner had Mercia made this observa-
tion than she heard the sound of some un-
usual noise going on outside, and stepping to
the window she saw several gentlemen as-
sembled near the Observatory, among whom
she discerned no other personage than the
Emperor Felicitas himself.
' Here's a pretty surprise for thee, Mistress
Mercia,' exclaimed Geometrus excitedly; ' none
other than the Emperor ! It is not I he seeks,
but thou, Mistress Mercia, I will then away.'
' Stay, Geometrus ! ' exclaimed Mercia
quickly, ' I would prefer thy company when
I receive the Emperor. I will now retire and
change my dress for a more suitable habit in
which to receive so honourable a visitor.'
But before she could leave the room a
messenger was at the door desiring an audi-
ence for his royal master.
Mercia silently bowed her assent ; and a
moment later the monarch entered her studio.
As he did so she rose from her seat at the
large table, which was covered with charts
and maps of the celestial regions, all of her
9 2 MERCIA
own making, but the Emperor quickly stepping
forward observed gallantly, ' Stay, lady, keep
thy seat, for it is meet that m on arch s should
serve thee, who art so full of knowledge and
' Thou art my master,' she answered in a
* Thy Sovereign, yet thy servant,' he re-
plied with a deep bow.
* What is thy wish, Sire, wherefore am I
honoured by this visit ? '
1 1 would know, fair Mercia, the cause of
this change of temperature, not only in my
dominions, but from all accounts I hear it
is general throughout the world. For three
successive years an extreme cold has prevailed
each season. I fain would learn the reason.'
* Some serious internal changes are taking
place within the body of our sun. Great
caverns, about one-fourth of the sun's dia-
meter have discovered themselves in his centre.
We are not the only planet-dwellers suffering
from cold at this time, for a difference will
be experienced throughout the whole of the
solar system. But it is only a temporary
inconvenience ; from close observation I find
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 93
that our sun is absorbing numerous meteoric
bodies, of which there are billions wandering
in interstellar space, that have been projected
from the innumerable suns still called stars by
the people, and for the sake of convenience
the title is retained by physicists. I con-
clude therefore that there is no cause for
alarm. Our sun has indeed sent out of him-
self great projectiles into space, but he is ever
capturing wandering bodies that happen to
come within his influence. In this way the
hydrogen of the fixed stars is pressed into our
sun's service and a constant heat sustained,
which may last for thousands of years to
' Of all the stars thou studiest nightly to
such excellent purpose, thou art the brightest,
Mercia. Thou art truly the wisest of women ;
and as fair as thou art far-seeing. Thy words
give comfort to the world, and thy beauty
brings thy Sovereign much delight.'
While Felicitas was uttering these plea-
sant gallantries, he was gradually edging his
chair nearer and nearer to that of Mercia.
Mercia's countenance at once assumed a
more serious expression ; hastily glancing
towards that part of the room where Geome-
trus was seated she found he had slipped out
unobserved, doubtless with the intention of
leaving them quietly to their discussion on
the sun's condition.
' Truly, it is most kind of thee, Sire, to
show such appreciation ; but I seek no
flatteries, or compliments — nay — I will have
none of them,' she answered with downcast
' Why, what harm is there in speaking a
truth, Mercia ? I do affirm that thy beauty
only exceeds thy knowledge, or thy know-
ledge thy beauty, I know not which.'
' Be it so, then, Sire. It is nothing to my
credit if I be beautiful ; I had no part in the
making ; and as to my knowledge, it is a
necessity to possess it, for it is my livelihood
— my very bread.'
' Ah, Mercia, why spoil those eyes more
beautiful than the brightest star in gazing
into unknown regions day and night ; year
in, year out? Thou knowest no enjoyment —
thou hast no pleasure of life, as other women ;
thine existence is lonely — colourless. Drink
of the draught of love as nature wills it, and
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 95
let the study of the stars stand over for a
The voice of Felicitas as he uttered these
words was low, but full of passion ; but
Mercia, owing to the confusion that covered
her, did not notice the change of tone. The
king's words had indeed evoked emotions in
her breast that for years she had kept in strict
abeyance : now, these throbbed and pulsated
through her frame with such force that she
became dumb, tongue-tied ; at this inoppor-
tune moment a knock was heard at the door,
and the Emperor himself touched the electric
button, when the door opened of itself and
gave admittance to another visitor.
It was only Geometrus who had returned
for a part of an instrument he was making,
which he had inadvertently left behind ; his
entrance, however, put a prompt stoppage to
the Emperor's love making ; and Mercia, hardly
knowing what she was doing rose from her
seat and turned to leave the apartment ; ob-
serving her intention the Emperor concluded
that it was time to withdraw.
' Farewell, mistress,' he said lightly, as he
made her a bow, ' I will come again, ere loiiL r
and learn of thee the sun's condition which is
so necessary to be acquainted with.'
It was the fashion at this time to call a
woman ' Mistress,' whether married or single.
The abbreviation 'Mrs.' was discarded, as was
also ' Madam ' borrowed from the French, and
the old English style resumed in their stead ;
while ' Miss ' was applied only to children.
The married woman was distinguished from
the unmarried by the possession of two sur-
names, — her father's and husband's, while the
single woman was known by her father's name
Mercia, in order to escape from observa-
tion quickly made her way into her most
private apartment, and shutting herself safely
within she sank upon the silken couch, and
gave way to the tumult of feelings that over-
What did the Emperor mean by coun-
selling her to relax in her duties and give
way to the passion of love ? she asked herself.
Was he putting her probity to the test,
merely to ascertain of what stuff she was
made ? or was it only a random shot on his
part, made for mere amusement, but which had
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 97
unwittingly touched her deepest feelings ?
Did he suspect her affection for Geometrus ? —
but that was impossible ; not a living soul
knew that she loved this man, not even Geo-
metrus himself. Had Geometrus betrayed him-
self in any way ? Was it possible that in some
unguarded moment he had spoken of his pas-
sion for her to some friend who had afterwards
betrayed him to the Emperor ? No, that was
impossible. Geometrus would not dare to
speak of that which he was prohibited from
even hinting at to herself. Had some person,
envious of her position, invented some tale,
and carried it to Felicitas with a view of
bringing about her downfall? If so, who
could it be? Was it Heinrich, the German,
who longed for her post, and had he done
this dishonourable thing to obtain it ?
Then the thought crossed her mind of the
possibility that the Emperor might have been
saying something for himself, of which the
bare idea brought the crimson to her cheeks :
but this solution of the question she endea-
voured promptly to dismiss, for Felicitas was
already married, and to offer her, Mercia, an
illicit love would be an unparalleled presump-
tion, even from an Emperor.
L What can have put this abominable
thought into my head?' she again asked her-
self. Then she rose from her seat and paced
up and down her chamber with perturbed
motions and flushed face.
She felt that the whole thing was mystify-
ing to a degree. At length, after much cogita-
tion she concluded to take no further notice
of the matter, for it would be undignified to
seek explanations either of Geometrus or the
' Let me take up a position of inactivity,'
she murmured to herself, ' I will await de-
velopments as they unfold, and shape my
Did the Emperor dream of success in his
endeavour to corrupt the faultless Mercia?
It was, indeed, a bold step for him to take
with one so high-minded, so self-controlled as
she. But her very unattainability made her
all the more desirable in his eyes : the more
he dwelt on the futility of his wish the more
violently his passion raged within him.
1 1 must have Mercia ! ' he exclaimed to
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 99
himself as nightly he lay awake dwelling on
her beauty, her goodness, and her extra-
' She must be mine, I cannot live without
her ! I will go to her again — I will risk all,
and tell her of my love. If need be, I will
break down that barrier that divides us ; I
will not be baulked of Mercia. If she refuse
to become mine secretly, I will wed her openly,
and get rid of that flat-faced Eussian woman
whom my ministers talked me into marrying.'
Now Felicitas spoke wildly when he gave
way to these thoughts, for it was impossible
to put away the Empress, he having no ade-
quate cause given him to justify such an
attempt. Russia would indignantly resent
such treatment of their Princess, and none of
the foreign Powers would stand by him in his
From nineteenth-century immorality co-
vered by the thick cloak of religion, a change
had gradually taken place for the better in
matters matrimonial. In fact, a high standard
of morality in all things had taken the place
of religious superstitions ; consequently, the
teachings of common sense were adopted in
ioo MERC I A
the remodelling of divorce laws, which for
ages had contained serious blemishes. This,
in part, was owing to the absurd restrictions
of the clergy of those times, the upper mem-
bers of which body holding the position of
chief legislators together with the peers of the
These insisted on the indissolubility of the
marriage tie, as far as ever it was possible to
make it, quoting ancient Mosaical laws in
support of their views, as if those old-time ,
regulations which were probably suitable
enough in their day for the primitive people
for whom they were framed, should continue
as a guide for all ages.
But long before Felicitas' time a great re-
volution had taken place in laws matrimonial,
which benefited society very materially. These
were now framed on more equitable principles,
for the truest benevolence pervaded their spirit,
the punishment of the guilty one being not the
only object sought, as in nineteenth-century
law, which forbade the divorce, if it was dis-
covered the two were agreed for it, but rather
the happiness of both. Marriage was now re-
garded as a serious civil contract which could
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL joi
not easily be violated, but relief from its yoke
was allowed under certain conditions, without
either party having been conjugally unfaithful.
If a couple living a notoriously unhappy life,
and finding they were totally unadapted for
each other, finally agreed to separate, it was
possible to get the marriage contract annulled,
and the two set at liberty again.
The children of the marriage, if any, would
be equally divided between them, or some
amicable arrangement arrived at.
This severance did not relieve the husband
of the responsibility of her maintenance, except
in cases where the wife possessed sufficient
means of her own to live upon, or in the event
of her marrying again, when of course, all
responsibility on his part ceased.
It may be imagined that the Divorce
Courts were kept pretty lively by these inno-
vations ; it certainly had this effect for some
little time ; but gradually as education and
the higher morality advanced the number of
annulled marriages decreased.
As soon as the social plane for woman was
raised she became more exacting in her re-
quirements, prefeiTing to remain single rather
io2 MERC I A
than mate with the morally weak, or otherwise
To a man marriage was not the easy matter
it had been to the nineteenth-century bachelor,
when numbers of unemployed, or, — owing to
their absurd training — hopelessly incompetent
young women were to be had for the asking.
But this was all changed now ; a desirable wife
had become as difficult to obtain as a desirable
husband in previous generations ; and when
a man's suit proved successful, and he had
gained the object of his choice, he usually
behaved in such a way towards her as gave
her considerable satisfaction.
On her side too, rested a responsibility
which she realised to the utmost ; and wil-
lingly yielded to the man she had elected the
devotion of a high minded, unselfish affection.
Love, in its purest form was woman's ideal,
for the heart as well as the intellect was culti-
' Your wondrous, rare description, noble Earl,
Of beauteous Margaret hath astonished me.
Her virtues graced with external gifts,
Do breed love's settled passions in my heart ;
And like as rigour of tempestuous gusts
Provokes the mightiest hulk against the tide,
So am I driven, by breath of her renown
Either to suffer shipwreck, or arrive
Where I may have fruition of her love.'
King Henry VI., sc. v.
We left Mercia somewhat settled in her mind
regarding the course she ought to take with
If Felicitas should chance not to make
mention of the subject of love, which was a
forbidden one to her, owing to her position,
she made up her mind to forbear making in-
quiries concerning his motive for introducing
She waited and watched each day for his
coming with a vague hope in her heart that
he would look favourably upon Geometrus'
love, in the event of his having knowledge of
it. In any case, it could only be a suspicion,
seeing it was as yet undeclared on his part.
Although she said nothing to Geometrus,
nevertheless, he felt there was something in
the air. Often he would look at her wistfully
and try to probe her thoughts ; for he saw
most distinctly the preoccupation of her mind
as she strove to make her usual mathematical
calculations. Still he forbore questioning her,
for the one subject he was desirous of discuss-
ing with her, was entirely forbidden. Only
his eyes told of the love that filled his heart,
Eeason reminded him that it was indeed
a hopeless affection, for he felt assured that
Mercia's mind was so bound up in her vocation
that she could never be induced to abandon it
in order to wed one who had so little to offer
her in return. Moreover, he too, would be
sent adrift as soon as the matter oozed out,
for the same prohibition from marriage was
placed upon him.
Numerous, indeed, were the plans he
formed daily in his mind of what he would do
for a competent livelihood in the event of his
acceptance by Mercia. He knew it was use-
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 105
]ess to make her an offer unless he could see
his way clear to maintain her, when to accept
him she must abandon a highly lucrative and
' But would she indeed make such a sacri-
fice for him ? ' he asked himself, ' Would it
not be selfish on his part to prefer such a
request? True — true; he would not — dare
not make it. It was selfish, utterly selfish to
dream of it for one moment. No, he would
lock up his feelings ; he would carefully keep
his heart-secret ; he would not ruin her life
by asking her to share his comparatively
humble position, supposing she was willing to
listen to him.'
Thus did Geometrus torment himself with
many doubts and fears. At one moment
making bright plans for the future, wherein
he saw himself distinguished before the world
for his wonderful instruments, the like of
which he knew had never been produced
before, and probably would be at no time
beaten. These had been planned and invented
in the first instance for Mercia alone, yet for
Mercia's sake they should be given to the
world, so that he might become more worthy
£o6 MERC I A
of her ; a more honourable mate for the peer-
Ah, Love, Love, how much thou hast to
answer for ! How many human hearts hast
thou set wildly beating for fame that would
otherwise have remained in quiet seclusion ?
How many mighty minds hast thou set daily
and nightly throbbing with pain by reason of
thine unreasonable attraction ? Thou seekest
thine affinity where it is forbidden thee to
enter, ever regardless of the restrictions and
barriers invented by mankind for their pro-
Thou only dost behold the object of thy
search ; invisible to thine eyes the barricades
. of worldly conventions.
Quite alone, and unattended by any
member of his suite, Felicitas set off to pa} 7
Mercia his promised visit ; who on her side
gladly gave him a pleasant welcome. In her
heart she fondly hoped that the interpretation
of his words would prove favourable to herself
and Geometrus ; and in some way yet to be
discovered, the monarch might benefit them.
For could he not influence his ministers to
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 107
do away with this absurd marriage objection ?
Yes, Felicitas had power to help them, if he
could be induced to put it into operation.
This was the one thing needful ; the monarch's
goodwill, and all would then be plain sailing.
Their marriage need not hinder their work ;
they two could labour together, she thought,
and side by side discharge conscientiously
their allotted duties, to their country's satis-
faction and their own perfect content.
It so happened that Geometrus on that
day had business in the city, which detained
him several hours, and as the Emperor was
being driven in a carriage drawn by horses —
for this was the custom of royalty, that it
should be distinguished from the commonalty,
who used electric force for cheapness as for
swiftness — he saw Geometrus enter a machine
warehouse, or shop, where electrical household
machines were vended.
' Ah,' thought the Emperor, ' thou art
there, my friend : pray make no hurry on my
account ; thou wast truly de trap on the last
occasion I called on mine astronomer ; I could
well have spared thy presence.'
Thus the Emperor felicitated himself upon
io8 MERC I A
his good fortune, in being secured against a
like interruption on this occasion. When
arrived at his destination, which was not very
soon, owing to the slowness of the journe) T —
for the speed of the horse was not comparable
with that of electric energy — the Emperor
entered the Observatory with a firm resolution
to make good use of the opportunity with
which fortune had favoured him. Now, Mercia,
with the same motive in her mind, received
him very cordially, for she desired to make a
favourable impression, with a view of obtain-
ing his royal clemency in the matter of matri-
mony, albeit, it appeared on further reflection,
but a bare possibility that she would at any
time change her present condition.
'Ah, Mistress Mercia,' he exclaimed play-
fully, ' what cheerful looks thou dost carry
to-day, methinks thy face betokens much con-
tent — hast thou taken my words to heart, fair
lady, 'twas truly excellent advice ? '
' Sire, thou saidst something concerning
the sun — thou didst talk of coming to learn
more of his condition, I believe,' answered
'True,' he replied with a laugh, 'I fain
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 109
would know more of the sun's late vagaries :
but it would please me infinitely better to
learn something of thyself, dost thou never
feel lonely ? '
' Often enough, Sire ; the hours speed away
at times very quickly when I am hard at work,
but when it is time to rest then the feeling of
solitude overwhelms me : I get appalled at the
silence that surrounds me, and a melancholy
seizes me so severely that I rise unable to cope
with my duties.'
' Art thou then tired of this occupation ?
It is indeed, too much for thee. Eest a
while, sweet Mercia, and let the stars take
care of themselves for a season.'
' Oh, that would spoil all my calculations ;
the work of years would be as naught were I
to stay my hand now. No, I will wait until
my treatise on the stars is complete ; then I will
take some little change for my health's sake.'
' Health, and Love, sweet Mercia, go hand
in hand together. Let thine heart melt to its
influence, and all will go well with thee. Thy
melancholies will disappear ; thy solitude
lightened ; for thou wilt have a new theory to
analyse — a new and a better one.'
' Yes, thou canst love, dear Mercia, I know
it ; for thine eyes were made for the conquest
of man's heart, rather than star-gazing. Cease
to disregard the designs of Nature when she
formed thee, and yield thyself to the pleasure
Mercia essayed to answer him, but her
tongue refused her utterance, so great was her
confusion. She blushed violently, and at last
stammered out —
' Sire, I know not what answer to give in
this matter — I am yet unprepared, — perplexed
with this reasoning of thine.'
' Hast thou not felt the want of companion-
ship, dear Mercia? Here penned in this soli-
tude only fit for a greybeard thou dost pine,
yet knoweth not what it is ails thee. It is
srood to be loved, fair one, to realise how much
thy womanhood means : hast thou never felt
its joys — its pains ? '
' But my bond, Sire, I cannot break my
bond, signed by my own hand, to forswear
love and marriage : no one but thyself can re-
lieve me of this obligation,' exclaimed Mercia
' I heartily relieve thee, then, my good
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL in
Mercia. I care not for the bond one iota, if
that be all that's in thy way. Keep thy post
as thou likest thy work so well, and enjoy the
delights of love at the same time,' replied the
delighted monarch, who found it most difficult
to conceal his fancied triumph.
Mercia uttered a low cry of joy, and in her
gratitude threw herself at his feet, then taking
his willing hand in hers, she pressed it to her
lips in silence, for her heart was too full for
When the matter had arrived thus far. the
Emperor forgetting the caution and self-
restraint he had been hitherto exercising, was
no longer able to contain himself; stooping
down towards the kneeling girl he caught her
in his arms, and in a perfect frenzy of rapture
commenced to shower hot kisses on her brow,
her cheeks, her lips.
Mercia was so completely taken aback by
this unexpected raid, that her brain fairly
reeled for a moment ; then recover ins her
senses she quickly wrenched herself out of his
arms, and gazing on him with blanched face,
she cried in a voice gasping with pain and
' What means the Emperor by this unheard
of liberty ? What have I done that I should
be treated as a courtesan by my Sovereign ? '
' A courtesan ! ' he repeated. ' Why Mercia,
I would give thee a crown if I could ! Thy
queenly brow was truly made for one ; and by
the stars, thou shalt have it yet ! Yes, Mercia
thou shalt share my throne and rule me, my
sweet, together with mine Empire/
' Share thy throne and rule thine Empire !
Surely, Sire, thou hast gone mad ! '
' Yes, truly, I am mad — mad with love for
thee, and thou knovvest it, Mercia, else wouldst
thou have kissed my hand in acknowledgment,
' In acknowledgment of thv love ! ' she an-
swered in strong indignant tones, ' it was not
so — thy love never entered my thought.'
' Whose then ? ' questioned Felicitas
' Geometrus,' she acknowledged bravely.
But the next moment she felt she had given
away both herself and him.
' Geometrus ! ' he scoffingly repeated. 'And
dost thou place that poltroon before me ? Am
I to be flouted for him ? '
ThE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 113
1 His love is honourable, and thine is not ;
therein lies the difference, my Sire,' she an-
swered soothingly, with a view of bringing
him to reason.
'But my love shall be made honourable,
Mercia. I will get a divorce, and thou shalt
fill the Empress's place — aye, and fill it far
away better than she has ever done ! I hate
her — curse her ! ' And he ground his teeth
in rage at the thought of his wretched in-
ability to accomplish what he was so loudly
' But I cannot rob another woman of her
husband : I would not defraud the meanest in
thy realm, much less thine Empire's highest
' It is not robbery, Mercia, she doth not
own my heart, and never did ! I was cozened
into that marriage by my cousin Osbert —
curse him — curse him for a meddling fool ! '
' He, doubtless, did it for the best. The
whole of thy Cabinet approved, so did the
nation. It is a new thing for me to learn that
our Emperor lives unhappily with his spouse
— I cannot understand it.'
' I never felt the chains gall till now.
1 14 MERC I A
Mercia. A quiet indifference kept me con-
tent until thy beauty set my heart abeating
with a new joy. I knew not love till mine
eyes dwelt upon thy loveliness, and mine ears
listened to the words that flowed from thy lip*
like a sweet, rippling fountain, whose waters
gave forth a pure, clear, lifegiving stream. Yes,
I have drunk therein, and am filled with new
emotions — new joys — new hopes — new life ! '
He clasped his hands in an ecstasy of happi-
ness, as at that supreme moment he gave rein
to the powerful impulses that swayed him.
' Now is my beauty an evil thing, and a
curse to me ! ' cried Mercia, at the moment
bowing her head in deep dejection, and hiding
her face in her hands.
' Would I had never been born, or that
nature had shaped me uncomely, for then this
misfortune could not have overtaken me ! Two
men desire me, and I may not have either. I
must live in a world filled, like a garden with
flowers — flowers and blossoms of love ; yet I
may not touch them ; their fragrance is not for
me ; not one may I wear on my breast ! Yet,
they nod and beckon me to pluck them : they
offer me the incense of their being, and would
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 115
fain spend their full fragrance upon me ; for
their desire is to nestle on rny bosom, and give
me the joy of their beauty and love.'
She spoke as one entranced, who ignoring
all listeners felt naught of the presence of
another. For the moment her anguish was
her only companion, which the presence of
Felicitas could not restrain. It was the burst-
ing wail of a heart kept long in subjection and
unnatural restriction, which now claimed its
rights. Thus did the longing for love bring
sorrow to Mercia, such sorrow as she had never
As Felicitas gazed upon the beautiful
woman standing before him in an attitude of
grief and despair, her head bowed down, her
arms outstretched, showing the contour of her
perfect form, he felt as one in a dream —a
ravishing dream that inspired every sense with
adeliciousnesshehad never before experienced.
On his enraptured ears her words fell like
the music of a poem, for the full, rich, melo-
dious timbre of her voice lent to them a pecu-
liar charm : their pathos melted him ; their
sweetness enchained him.
Seized anew with the intoxication of his
ii 6 MERC I A
passion he sank on his knees before her ; his
whole frame quivered with emotion, while the
varying tones of his voice testified how greatly
the torrent of his passion swept through his
' Mercia, Mercia, give me thy love ! ' he
cried impetuously ; ' take me, my beloved,
spurn me no longer, for without thee I am as
one dead ! As a world without sun, having
no life, nor warmth, I shall go on my way
darkened for ever. Take me into the sun-
shine of thy love ; give me new life, dearest.
Eesuscitate and refresh me with the joy of thy
beauty ; and let us drink of the wine of love's
pleasures for ever. Then shall we two learn
how good it is to love ; how sweet it is to
be together ; how delightful the blending of
two souls made satisfied with their own com-
As one in a dream Mercia listened to his
passionate outpourings ; she drank in his
words as gratefully as the parched earth a
summer's shower ; but her mind was with
Geometrus. In imagination she was with him,
listening to the pent-up eloquence that his soft
dark eyes daily expressed.
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 117
' It is Geoinetrus who speaks ! ' she mur-
mured absently ; ' Geometrus has opened his
heart to me at last ! '
' Geometrus ! ' shouted the Emperor, almost
out of his head with rage and jealousy ; ' it is
not Geometrus — it is I, Felicitas — Felicitas
thine Emperor who abjectly offers thee his
love, and his crown, and sues thee, Mercia —
his subject — his servant ! '
Then Mercia, awakening from her love-
dream began to realise her true position.
For an instant she paused, and passed her hand
across her brow, as if to recover her senses ;
then she said in a deliberate and dignified
' Felicitas, the Emperor hath no crown
to offer his subject, Mercia, for it sits already
on the brow of his royal spouse ; neither
has he love to offer his servant, Mercia,
for it is sworn to his Empress for ever. It is
an insult to me, Mercia, thine offer of illicit
love, and I refuse to longer remain in thy
Upon hearing these words the heat of his
temper suddenly cooled ; he saw he had not
only ruined his cause with the lady, but he
uS MERC I A
was bringing upon himself public dishonour ;
for the reason of the resignation of their gifted
and enthusiastic astronomer would be de-
manded by both ministers and nation alike.
As she turned to leave the apartment, for she
disdained having further converse with him.
he forcibly caught her by the dress, with a
view of detaining her.
4 Stay, Mercia, stay, and listen to me ! Listen
to one word more, I beseech thee. Thou
shalt, for indeed I will not let thee go ! ' He
shouted fiercely, for she was wrenching her-
self out of his grasp.
4 Touch me not ! ' she exclaimed exci-
tedly, 4 or I will kill thee as thou standest ! '
and from her girdle she took a small ebony
stick, electrically charged, which she wore as
a kind of life-preserver, in accordance with
the custom of ladies, who worked, or walked
out a good deal alone.
She had reached the door, and opened it,
when who should rush upon the scene but
Geometrus accompanied by the Emperor's
cousin, Prince Osbert, who had been seeking
him for some time past.
; Mercia insulted, and by the Emperor !
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 119
What is the meaning of this ? ' inquired
Geometrus, at the same time facing Felicitas
with eyes of fire.
'lam not insulting her,' coolly rejoined
the Emperor, ' she has disobeyed my com-
mands respecting some important astronomi-
cal information I required, and is endeavour-
ing to shield her own shortcomings by getting
into a rage : 'tis woman's way, but I'll have
none of it.'
Then Mercia drawing herself up to her
full height, exclaimed in indignant voice —
' Liar, and traitor, I despise thee ! Bid thine
Empress come hither, I have somewhat to
tell her. As for me, I shall never receive thee
here again, thou woman-betrayer ! Get some
other to fill my place, for I shall quit it forth-
Then she turned away with haughty mien
and left the apartment.
1 What's all the row ? ' inquired the Em-
peror's cousin, who affected vulgarity of speech
when with his intimates.
' Explain this, Sire,' demanded Geometrus,
who was bursting with surprise equally as
120 MERC I A
' Bah, it is naught — it is much ado about
nothing,' replied the Emperor shrugging his
' I do not believe it,' promptly answered
Geometrus ; ' my mistress is too gentle, too
self-restrained, and too honourable to make
an unjust accusation against anyone ; least of
all, her royal master. This matter shall be
looked into, Sire. Though thou art an Em-
peror thy conduct shall be examined, and the
light of the noonday sun thrown upon it ; for
it is meet that those filling high places be
' If Mistress Mercia sees fit to give up her
post, thou Geometrus canst worthily fill it,'
observed Felicitas in an insinuating manner,
hoping to mollify him by offering to place him
in a more exalted position.
' By all that's good, I take not my mis-
tress's place because thou hast made it in-
tolerable for her ! No, Sire, that shall not be.
But certainly thou shalt answer for this clay's
work, I warn thee.'
' Thou hast no proof at all, fellow, that I
have done aught amiss, save her lying tale :
it is all a woman's hysterical nonsense, and I
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 12 r
am sick of the pother made of it,' observed
the Emperor, affecting great scorn.
' Let's be off! ' cried Prince Osbert
lightly ; ' we have had enough of this now.
Let the woman wiseacres in Parliament settle
this little matter among themselves : it will
afford them much satisfaction, I'll warrant.'
' Parliament ! ' echoed the Emperor, while
his face turned very white. ' Surely not :
this trifle is unworthy serious consideration.
It would ill become our wise Senate if it
occupied itself with the consideration of a
woman's silly nonsense. I will, myself, settle
this matter with Mistress Mercia. I promise
that, gentlemen, so do not trouble yourselves
further about it.'
' It shall not end in this way ; ' returned
Geometrus firmly ; ' I shall see that this matter
is not hushed up.'
' So shall I ! ' came from a voice from be-
hind a screen in the room ; when therefrom
emerged an old man named Sadbag, a lead-
ing Piadical politician, who was dead against
Royalty, and affected reform, advocating
strongly a Republican form of Government.
' The Emperor's conduct is a disgrace to
our civilisation," he continued, ' I have seen
the beginning and end of the whole affair ;
for I was seated reading in that corner
yonder, awaiting an audience of Mistress
Mercia, when the Emperor was ushered in
unnoticed by me; I continued reading until I
dropped asleep and was aroused by the Em-
peror's passionate tones when making his
love-appeals to the obdurate Mistress Mercia.
She scorned him, and he got furious. I saw
it all ! I will never forget the scene if I live
to the age of Methuselah ! '
' My stars, but Kate will make it hot for
thee ! She will have good cause for her
jealousy this time, old man ! I wouldn't be in
thy shoes for a kingdom ; fancy, the virtuous
Felicitas caught corrupting his astronomer !
Oh, my, this is funny ! ' cried the light-
minded prince, who laughed heartily, at the
thought of the scrape his cousin had got into.
' Funny isn't the word for it — it is atro-
cious — abominable ! It hath been ever the
custom of idle monarchs to fill up their time
with seducing good women. The hunting is
more keen when the lady is virtuous, and
thereby the game made all the more de-
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 123
lightful. Let's do away with such good-for-
naughts — they are a disgrace to our country ! '
cried the old man excitedly addressing Geo-
' So then, wouldst thou trump up a story
to lose me my crown in order to establish
thine own political absurdities ? Thou, and
the woman Mercia are in league against me !
You twain have hatched this conspiracy to
work my disgrace. But I will scatter it to
the winds — I will prove its utter falsity. I
will show how futile are your plans to bring
about a revolution : Mercia and thou shall die
for your crimes ; for it is nothing short of
' High bunkum, thy Majesty talkest ! '
retorted Sadbag sarcastically ; ' thy blunder-
ing only equals thy blustering. Thy cousin,
the prince, and Geometrus are witnesses of the
truth of my statement, for they saw for them-
selves the fag end of the affair ; they caught
thee forcibly detaining the lady, and heard her
threaten to kill thee.'
' That of itself makes high treason ! To
threaten the life of the Sovereign is enough —
the law still holds good in my realms to
1 24 MERCIA
punish such crime with death. This one
charge alone against Mercia is sufficient ! She
must die the death of a felon, and pay for her
temerity,' returned Felicitas, who thus inter-
preted the law with much assumption of
dignity, to suit his own convenience.
' The nation will not see Mercia die for
such a dastard as thou ! ' exclaimed Georne-
trus, suddenly awakening from the stupor of
surprise that had overtaken him, as the
matter developed itself. ' I saw thee last
week philandering around her, but at that
time I understood not its meaning ; neither
did she ; otherwise she would have taken
more precaution in receiving thee. Even then,
she requested me to remain in the room when
she gave thee an audience. She surely had
some instinct that thou wert not to be trusted
— ah — now I see it all ! '
' A trusty witness truly ! She and thou
have spent the time philandering yourselves,
and this is why thou measureth me a peck out
of thine own bushel. Thou shalt be indicted,
Geometrus, for breaking the oath of thine
engagement. Thou hast been spending the
nation's time love-making, and hatching high
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 125
treason, — all three of you shall repent your
' Blacking the character of another will not
clear thine own. These wholesale indictment?
of thine will not serve thee. Thy case is a
poor one, and thou hadst better own thy fault,
rather than invent outrageous charges against
thine accusers ; ' urged the old man with
"reater calmness than he had hitherto dis-
' Mercia made the admission herself,' re-
plied Felicitas. ' She said she loved Geome-
trus and fain would marry him if she might.'
At this Geometrus started, and went very
red in the face ; being totally unprepared for
this avowal of the Emperor ; which gave him
a sudden pleasure he was unable to conceal.
' There is proof abundant, if more be
wanting, of the nature of the Emperor's
business with Mercia,' observed Sadbag reflec-
tively, then turning to the Emperor, he de-
manded — ' What happened that this matter of
Geometrus's love was discussed between you ? '
' She desired me to use my influence with
my Cabinet to get the custom changed which
hath been so long observed, so that she might
1 26 MERCIA
retain her post and take a husband at the
' And thou, in thy great benevolence and
generosity didst promise, and finish by trying
to make her pay for the boon by accommo-
dating thy desire ? ' suggested Sadbag, follow-
ing up the clue the Emperor's admissions had
' I will answer no more of thy questions,
fellow,' responded Felicitas, who looking very
uncomfortable made for the door.
'I think this business is getting too hot
for thy Majesty ; thy capers are costing too
dearly. What folly to count on a strong-
minded woman like thine astronomer ! Why
didst thou not make advances to some idle
lady of thy court where such favours are
dispensed more readily ? '
' I will have thee indicted for a revolu-
tionist and a maker of mischief in my realms,
and pay thee well for all these insults,' re-
torted the Emperor as he left the Observatory.
1 Bounce and boast help no one for long ;
not even an Emperor!' called out Sadbag
The discussion then terminated, but not the
dispute. Each went his own way with the
determination to work out the discomfiture
of his adversary, to the best of his ability.
Sadbag made his way at once to his club, the
headquarters of the Eadical Association, and
related the disgraceful occurrence to its lead-
ing members ; who realising the gravity of
the situation convened a special meeting ; so
that measures might be promptly taken to
get first in the field in the exposure of the
Emperor, and thereby nullify his evil inten-
So perfect was the system of communication
throughout the globe that the same evening,
not only had the Radical newspapers the
whole story set in type, but this society titbit
appeared next morning on the breakfast tables
of the people throughout the whole of the
Empire. As a matter of fact, two hours later
the news was in every part of the world. It
gave a splendid impetus to the trade, for each
printing office turned out at least three times
its usual quantity of newspapers for the first
week, and double the number for every suc-
ceeding one the case lasted.
The subject for long enough furnished
matter for light little articles in the monthlies,
and heavy discourses in the quarterlies. It
supplied the novelist with material for his
plots, and the delighted dramatist for his
plays. An Emperor on his knees to a subject
was not an every day situation, while the
scene where she threatens his life was quite
too tragical to be neglected. It gave the
libretto to the composer, great and small, of
comic opera, and in serious opera it was
thrilling. Mercia in a state of ecstatic bliss
warbling sweetest love songs to the enchanted
Emperor, formed a delicious scene that was
irresistibly charming to all beholders. When
the proper time arrived the fearless Sadbag
sent a full description of the affair to every
journal throughout the world. He even
wrote it out, and telephoned the minutest
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 129
details to India, and every country in com-
munication telephonically, with the Teutonic
Therein the love scene was graphically
described, in Sadbag's humorous vein, but
with due regard to Mercia's sensitive feelings
For the first time her personal character
was given to the world, but such a halo of
purity and modesty was drawn round it that
it evoked everywhere the most enthusiastic
admiration for her character.
The description of the Emperor's duplicity
and contemptible meanness was given with
ruthless vividness, when at the moment lie
was surprised, he endeavoured to turn the
tables on the high-minded lady, who having
proved invulnerable to all his blandishments
he accused of having committed the capital
offence of high treason.
From the commoner, to the crowned head
of every country, almost, the story of the
Emperor of the Teutonic Empire and his
astronomer was discussed. In the cottage, the
castle, the street corner, the court and the
club, it became at once the leading subject of
'Ah, well ! ' observed one of the viceroys
of Turkey — for that country had been long
before divided between Russia, France and
England — ' this comes of giving women too
much freedom : had it been a man that was
filling the post of astronomer this could never
' But it might to his wife ! ' answered one,
1 With a different result,' added another ;
' Is then a married woman more compliant
than a single ? ' queried a third.
• It all depends upon the sort of woman,'
observed a fourth.
' The danger is lessened when the lady
already runs a nursery,' remarked his neigh-
' Science meets that difficulty,' interpolated
another of the party.
' A husband's jealousy is the greatest of
all dangers,' retorted his neighbour.
' Cease these pleasantries, gentlemen, and
discuss the matter seriously,' exclaimed an
elderly minister with dignity, ' England is
to be indeed congratulated on having women
of such stamp as the peerless and incorrup-
tible Mercia. Search the world through and
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 131
we shall be unable to find any to compare
with them in physique, or mental attainments.
They are indeed, Nature's queens, and in
every way fit to grace a coronet.'
' Talking of coronets reminds one of
crowns : there's a pretty hubbub going on
just now; India expects to win her freedom
and is casting about for an Emperor,' re-
marked another ;
' Why not give it to Mercia, she's as good
as a man ? ' suggested his neighbour.
' Better, I should say,' rejoined another of
the group, 'judging from results.'
' The natives would never stand it : every
nabob wants it for himself.'
' All cannot have it, that is very clear,"
remarked one of the party.
' Better settle the matter by giving it to
none of them, and choose a good stock from
the country that ruled them, and made them
what they are ; and thus establish a Royal
Line which will do them credit for all time,"
suggested the elderly minister, who was a
Frenchman and a believer in women, and
especially a believer in the beautiful Mercia.
We must leave these gentlemen in the far
East, and come back to Greenwich.
While the Emperor was returning to
London he cast about in his mind for some
way out of his difficulty.
He felt it was little use seeking the assist-
ance of his royal consort, Catherine, daughter
of Nicholas of Russia.
She would have little sympathy with him
in his trouble, unless he could persuade her of
his innocence of the charges that were being
made against him.
Taking into consideration, too, that on
that very morning he had quarrelled with her,
and brutally told her that he heartily wished
himself rid of her, it was at present, scarcely
wisdom to seek her advice.
While his mind was thus filled with gloomy
thoughts, the silence was broken by Prince
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 133
Osbert who was accompanying him to the
' Here's a pretty pickle, to be sure ! ' ex-
claimed the prince, ' a nice position for a
royal Emperor to be found interfering with
his lady astronomer, and she threatening his
life to make him release her. What thou
canst do to re-establish thy reputation is about
as clear as mud to me, for by my conscience,
I cannot see a way at all ! '
' What a prating fool thou art, Osbert ! I
can plainly see unless thy tongue is kept from
wagging thou wilt ruin me by thy talk. Say
nothing at all about the lady having been
detained by me. I don't mean to own to that
part of it. Let us declare that she deliberately
turned upon me when I expostulated with
her upon her idleness ; that will give the
matter a better appearance.'
'Aye, truly, a better one for thee! But
thinkest thou, cousin, that the House will
believe thee ? I guess, they will sooner take
Mercia's word: remember its lady members,
how bravely they defend their sex at all
times. I wouldn't give a sixpence for thy
reputation after they have handled thy case.'
i 3 4 MERC I A
' What care I for the good opinion of a
handful of women ? What are they in my
vast dominions ? Nothing, truly, nothing !
Nevertheless, a monarch's virtue, should be,
like Caesar's wife, above suspicion : so Osbert,
good cousin, thou must help me in this matter.
and swear to all I tell thee.'
' Commit perjury ! No thanks, not if I
know it. I cannot tell a lie — I'm another
Juvenile Washington. Besides, Felicitas, it
goes against the grain to do a dirty trick to
any lady, least of all, our peerless Mercia.
' She is a lady of untarnished reputation,
with whom I would strongly recommend thee
to make thy peace. Indeed, the ways of
Emperors with their lady-subjects are quite too
much for me — I cannot comprehend them.'
' Heartless, thou ever wert, Osbert, pray
try to realise rny situation, and give up thy
attitudes and play-acting proclivities. Now,
remember, I had no hold on her person, when
you two dropped upon us — I was merely
expostulating with her.'
' I'll have nothing to do with the matter at
all, I shall say I was seized with sudden blind-
ness at that moment and saw nothing.'
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 155
' Idiot, wilt thou keep to that ? ' inquired
' Yes, I will stick to that, wild horses shall
not drag; other from me.'
' No one will believe thee.'
' No one would believe the other thingr,
so it comes to the same for thee,' returned
' What other thing ? ' inquired Felicitas.
' Thy statement that she was idle, and
thou wert reproving her for it. Her work
proves her industry : she has any amount to
show in defence of thy charge. Look at her
maps ; her writings ; her daily announce-
ments ; her daily registrations of her obser-
vations. The charge of idleness, I fear me,
will not help thy cause.'
' It was not idleness in general, but some
information in particular that she failed to
supply me with.'
' Think it over, cousin, of what this par-
ticular information consisted. I bet my
garters it was somewhat thou canst not
' Cease thy chatter, and stick to thy resolve
of having turned blind that very moment ;
1 36 MERCIA
'tis the best thou canst do for me, I see very
' So I see, too, and as we two see alike
we cannot come to any difference. Adieu,
cousin, I hope Kate will not chide thee for
having eyes for other women ! That is my
best wish for thee, this fine day.'
' I don't think that fellow could think
seriously for five minutes if he had to be
hanged for it,' the Emperor muttered to him-
self, using the old expression ' hanged ' for it
was still retained, although that form of exe-
cution had been given up long before.
As the Emperor was being driven back to
the city, Prince Osbert who cared little for
his company at this moment, alighted from
the carriage, leaving him to the management
of his own affairs. Felicitas, then promptly
decided upon driving to the official residence
of his prime minister, Mr. Stonesack, for he
was anxious to confer with him concerning
the dilemma in which he was placed. More-
over, he desired to intimate to his minister
that steps must be taken at once for the
arrest of Sadbag and Geometrus. Neither
could Mercia be left out of the indictment,
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 137
for according to his story, she was the prin-
cipal aggressor. He was not so lost to all
good feeling that he experienced no pangs
of self-reproach for the part he was taking
against the innocent girl ; but he could see
only two ways out of the difficulty ; either
the impeachment of Mercia and her friends,
or a full confession of his own conduct.
This latter would have been intolerable.
The deliberate exposure of himself to the
public, and a big public it was, by this time,
for it embraced the whole world, after having
so long played the part of Simon Pure to
popular opinion, was out of the question.
He would certainly shield himself, he thought,
and if the worst came to Mercia he could
exercise his royal clemency on her behalf,
and set her at liberty again.
By this course he would get rid of the
detestable Sadbag for good, and Geometrus at
the same time. Who knows, thought Felicitas
with a faint smile, but Mercia may still prove
kind to me, if that fellow were only put out
Then followed in his mind bright visions
of a lovely dwelling, situated in some distant
part of his dominions, with Mercia for its
mistress, and himself its secret owner, and
constant visitor. How delightful ! It should
be fitted up like fairyland itself, with every
luxury, and every appliance for her comfort.
Little children might play about his knees, of
which there was poor prospect of ever seeing
in his royal palace ; for so far, the Empress
had proved barren. Then he awoke from his
dream to the provoking reality of his true
This pleasing reverie created, to some ex-
tent, a reaction in his mind. As his temper
cooled so did his courage to make this
heinous charge against innocent persons : but
he supported himself with the reflection that
at most the unfortunate men could receive no
greater punishment than a term of imprison-
By the time his carriage reached the
prime minister's residence he had decided
what to say, for he had succeeded in invent-
ing an excellent excuse for his visit to the
He realised that it was necessary to have
his statement ready as to the precise nature
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 139
of the work lie bad requested his astronomer
to prepare for him, which through her neglect
had caused the extraordinary scene of which
the prince had been an accidental witness.
After much cogitation he evolved the
feasible explanation that he had requested
her to make calculations of each perturbation
of the sun's centre ; and also to discover to
what extent the additions of meteoric matter
to his body would affect solar heat. He de-
sired this information in the interests of all
his subjects, but especially in those of agri-
culturists, and fruitculturists, whose crops had
been ruined by the continuous cold seasons.
Under ordinary circumstances the Em-
peror would have obtained the attendance of
any of his ministers without leaving his apart-
ment ; in one instant the summons would
have reached him, had the minister been
there to receive it.
Here was the difficulty, however, for delay
increased the danger, and allowed the enemy
an advantage ; accordingly the Emperor chose
the less dignified but safer course of calling
in person on his minister.
While Felicitas was relating his extraor-
Mo MERC I A
dinary account of the conduct of their astro-
nomer and the subsequent treatment he had
received from her friends, Stonesack's coun-
tenance was a study to behold. At first he
appeared profoundly astonished ; this gave
way to so many varying emotions that it was
impossible to say what was going on in his
mind, or guess what opinion he had formed
of the affair. However, he listened very
gravely to the story, in which the Emperor's
powers of imagination had been considerably
called upon. And when the minister was
pressed for an answer as to the best method
of dealing with the delinquents, he hesitated
considerably, coughed ; looked very red ; blew
his nose, and finished by saying he didn't
' At all events,' urged the Emperor, ' this
revolutionary Sadbag, ought to be indicted
for wickedly conspiring to undermine my
reputation, and thereby bring me into my
1 What about thy two astronomers, does
thy Majesty desire to include them in the
indictment ? '
' Certainly,' replied the Emperor, ' did not
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 141
Mistress Mercia threaten my life with her
ebony life-preserver, and hath not Geometrus
taken her part ? '
' Hath thy Majesty fully considered the
merits of the case, that it be a sound one ;
otherwise it had better not be gone into pub-
licly at all. Would it not be far wiser to
administer correction to these foolish persons
by requiring them to make an apology for
their ill-behaviour ? '
' That they will never do, I am assured !
Their looks and language betrayed their evil
designs towards me. Get a warrant sent
quickly, and put them in prison without de-
lay — even now they may be working me
' It will come to a trial in that case. What
will the nation say? Will the people take
thy word in preference to that of Mercia ? '
'I care not what the people think! I
know my own mind : I promised those sedi-
tious ones what to expect, and they shall not
be disappointed,' returned the Emperor hotly.
' As thy Majesty wills it : the warrant
shall be made out and served to-morrow. Tt
cannot be done more quickly. In the mean-
time thy Majesty will have opportunity to
sleep upon thy purpose, and if thy mind be
changed by morning send a message to that
effect, I will keep in readiness for it.'
* ( 'mint not upon that ! There is no other
way of dealing with those wretched conspira-
tors,' replied Felicitas moodily.
While Felicitas was making his plans with
the Prime Minister another member of the
( Jabinet was listening with astonishment to
Geometrus' story ; for Geometrus having tra-
velled to the city in his own electric car made
up for lost time by beating the Emperor's
horses in rapidity. Consequently, he arrived
at the official residence of the Chancellor of
the Exchequer, or Minister of Finance, about
the same moment as Felicitas at the Prime
But Geometrus was not as well prepared
with his statement as the Emperor. More-
over, he was unaccustomed at seeking audi-
ence of great people, and when he was ushered
into the reception-hall of Lord Divesdale he
felt exceedingly shy, scarcely knowing how to
state his errand.
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 143
1 My lord,' said he, and then stopped
short, and blushed violently.
' Pray be seated,' said the minister in a
kindly tone, for he was well acquainted with
Geometrus, and had an excellent opinion of
1 I have somewhat to tell thy lordship,' he
' What is it ? ' inquired Divesdale as he
sank back in his armchair, in easy attitude.
' It concerns Mistress Mercia, the Astro-
nomer Royal,' he managed to utter.
' Ah, whatever concerns Mistress Mercia
interests me ; for she holds my good opinion,'
observed the minister smiling, and giving
Geometrus a nod of encouragement to pro-
'I am heartily glad to learn that,' rejoined
Geometrus, recovering himself, ' for she stands
in need of good assistance at this moment.'
'What is the matter — has she met with
;iny serious accident?' inquired the minister
' She has met with that which is infinitely
harder to bear to one of her pure mind, than
any physical injury.'
' Thou speakest in riddles — pray explain
thyself? ' returned his lordship a little sharply.
for he was getting impatient.
' My mistress has been grossly insulted
by one who has taken advantage of his high
position,' Geometrus proceeded to say, but
evidently with much reluctance.
' By whom — Prince Osbert ? ' queried his
' No, my lord, the Emperor himself,' an-
swered Geometrus in a low voice, but lirm ;
the tones of which betrayed also the pain it
cost him to make the disclosure.
' The Emperor ! ' repeated Lord Divesdale
in profound amazement.
' The same,' Geometrus replied laconically.
' How — in what manner ? Pray tell me
in a reasonable way what thou knowest of it?'
exclaimed Divesdale impatiently.
' The Emperor has been coming much of
late to the Observatory. Last week he made
a journey thither ostensibly to talk astronomy
with Mistress Mercia. Yet I saw he looked
annoyed at my entrance, and as if I had been
an interruption to him. However, this day
he came again, and as I was in the city
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 145
at the time, he obtained good opportunity to
say all he desired, presumably, for it finished
with Mercia tearing herself out of his grasp
and threatening to take his life if he detained
; Prince Osbert, who had followed the Em-
peror to the Observatory for some purpose,
entered the building at the same moment as
myself, and we two suddenly came upon the
scene just as Mercia had opened the door of
the apartment to leave him. I looked into
her face and saw it expressed the utmost
scorn and indignation. " What is the mean-
ing of this ? " I asked, turning to the Em-
peror. " Oh, nothing,'' he replied ; " she has
forgotten a duty, and I am upbraiding her."'
" Liar ! " exclaimed Mercia, " ask thine Empress
to come hither, I have somewhat to tell her.
and as for thee — find some other to fill my
post, for I am thine astronomer no longer."
' Notwithstanding Mercia's indignant refu-
tation the Emperor persisted with his charge
against her of idleness, and disobedience to
his command ; when I told him plainly that
the matter should be made subject of a
public inquiry ; for Mercia was too honour-
146 MERC I A
able and pure-minded to invent a foul charge
against anyone, least of all her royal master.
'At this critical moment who should
emerge from a corner of the apartment but
Sadbae, the leading Radical member of Par-
liament ? "I too, will take care that this be
seen into ! " he exclaimed. At this, the Em-
peror fumed furiously, and declared that it
was all a plot against him, and lie would have
the three of us arrested for conspiring to
defame his character ; and finished by calling
it high treason.'
' How utterly absurd of him ! But how
did Sadbag come to be there so conveniently!-'
it is as good as a comedy, by Jove ! '
' He explained that he was first in Mercia's
reception-room awaiting an audience of her,
and by chance taking up a book he became
so interested in it that he finished by falling
asleep over it, so that the entrance of the
Emperor, and a moment later of Mercia, he
was quite unconscious of ; a screen stood
between him and them, consequently his pre-
sence was unperceived : and he only became
aware of theirs when the Emperor in impas-
sioned tones pleaded his love suit with Mercia,
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 147
who disdained it. By that time Sadbag
deemed it prudent to keep quiet, for he was
getting more than he bargained, when he
ensconced himself in the huge easy chair near
' What a shocking old man to spy at a
love scene ! I wonder how he contained him-
self so long ! ' exclaimed Divesdale, who was
bursting with merriment, for he ever saw the
comic side of a thing, however grave it might
be. ' The Emperor must apologise to fair
Mercia, and to thee, too, Geometrus. Throw
aside thy dignity, et cetera, and help to square
this piece of business ; it's no earthly use
making a hue and cry over it. No lady
cares to see herself a town talk ! But this
Sadbag — what are we to do with him ? He
truly is a sad bag of cranks ! A piece of
positive electricity, seeking its own level,
not considering consequences ; or a Hash of
forked lightning ready to put one on toast ;
or a match in a powder-box ready to pop
— the man is in fact, too dangerous for any-
4 He's the right man for the times! I'm
not going to put the stopper on him. The
148 MERC I A
Emperor must be made an example of,' re-
turned Geometrus fiercely.
' I hope not, by Jove ! the peace of the
community would be permanently spoilt, if
we all followed his example,' observed his
' I mean that the Emperor should be
made a warning to all light-minded persons,
in general, and monarchs in particular.'
' Quite so : the Emperor by our endea-
vours shall be made more particular, especially
in his treatment of the ladies.'
' And Sadbag is the right man to do it ! '
shouted Geometrus, who was getting quite
warm with the discussion.
' He's a right man in the wrong hole ! I
mean he's got the Emperor in a queer hole,
and he won't let him out of it ! The position
doth wholly delight him. He'll take a holy
joy in " taking it out of him," or " putting
him up a tree," or making him eat humble
pie, or what thou likest ! Oh, he's a sad dog
or sadbag, I know not which, and no mis-
take ! But we must circumvent him.'
' I have no desire to circumvent him ; I
would infinitely prefer to help him. I do not
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 149
regard this affair in the same light as thou,
and could have hushed it up without the aid
of a Cabinet minister, for the Emperor desired
the same on the spot, offering me promotion,
but I refused it on such terms,' interposed
Geometrus with much spirit.
4 1 would that all men were as thou art,
my friend, for then there would be neither
place-maker nor place-seeker. What a per-
fect Government we should have ; everyone
seeking his neighbour's good to the detriment
of his own ! The world indeed, would be too
perfect for anything ! '
' No fear of that as long as there are those
who strive to cover up ill-doing. I will seek
Mr. Sadbag and get counsel of him, for it is
very plain I can obtain no good advice from
thee,' said Geometrus, who was altogether
disgusted at the minister's light raillery, and
rose from his seat to go away.
' Stay, I hear familiar footsteps ! One
seeks admission whom I would see before thou
leavest me,' exclaimed the minister, who
despite all his playful talk, knew how to act
• The Emperor ! Sire, thy visit is well-
1 50 MERC I A
timed ; one moment, in private, I beg,' and
Divesdale conducted Felicitas into an inner
' I require thy help and advice in a most
painful matter,' quoth the Emperor, turning
very red in the face, but his speech was in-
terrupted by the minister in a very offhand
' Sire, not another word, I have heard the
whole story — 'tis a frightful hobble, I must
say. Truly a most diverting drama ! Beats
broad burlesque to bits ! If society should
get hold of this precious piece of scandal thy
prestige will be ruined ! An Emperor is a
god, or at least, a demigod, who should appear
perfect before his people, whether he be or
no. But, now, he must step down from his
pedestal, and apologise, just to straighten
tilings comfortably. Nay, it cannot be hard
to kneel to a deity, for Mercia is no less ! All
beautiful women are goddesses, let down from
the skies for our adoration : 'tis very plain
they were created for man's worship: away,
then, and fall down upon thy knees and
implore her mercy.'
' But she will not hear me,' cried the
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 151
Emperor taken aback by this unexpected
harangue ; ' she is proud, haughty, and obdu-
rate — ah, thou knowest not Mercia ! '
' The woman never breathed who could
turn a deaf ear to the man who entreated her
properly. Only kneel metaphorically, but
talk to her prettily, and gaze into her eyes
with tenderest pathos, and she will melt with
pure pity for thy condition.'
' I've done it all ! ' blurted the Emperor
unwittingly. ' I mean it's no use, she is quite
too hard-hearted to help me.'
' I was sure of it, Sire, thou hast done too
much already,' exclaimed Divesdale, with the
audacity that is engendered of close intimacy.
I will myself entreat her to overlook thy
naughty conduct, and thy charges against
the two men must be withdrawn. By taking
conciliatory measures the thing may blow
over ; but otherwise it may prove very un-
pleasant for thy Majesty.'
Thus with his raillery, for the Emperor
and he were familiar friends, Divesdale had
discovered the truth ; and now knew for
certain what the other minister only guessed
J 52 MERC I A
• Conciliatory measures ! ' repeated the
Emperor, who had by this time recovered
himself, and who knew that he had already
gone too far to be able to retract with any
show of respectability, ' impossible ! She
threatened my life, and my prime minister
has commanded that a warrant be issued for
' Surely thy Majesty cannot be in earnest ? '
' I never was more so,' the Emperor
answered with an assumption of haughti-
' What about Sadbag and Geometrus ? '
' They too will get served with the same
sauce,' replied Felicitas, with true autocratic
' Has the prime minister really advised
this measure ? ' inquired Divesdale gravely.
1 1 have commanded it,' returned the
k On what grounds ? '
' Conspiracy ; the three had conspired to
scandalise me, and take away my character.'
' And they'll do it too ! ' cried Divesdale,
with his characteristic impulsiveness.
' They shall have the opportunity of
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 153
publicly doing what they were bent on
' He has turned dotty, I'm sure of it,'
thought Divesdale, ' in a monarch a little mad-
ness is a great danger. Well,' said he aloud,
' thy Majesty hath chosen thine own course and
must abide by it, for I will wash my hands of
1 Oh, wash away ! ' said Felicitas testily.
' Thine action against the two men is
illegal : no warrant for their imprisonment
can be issued : their fault is merely libel, and
all Sovereigns are used to that ! ' interposed
the minister drily.
' Thou makest a mistake there, friend,'
answered the Emperor with a wise look,
' remember my royal mother, Victoria the
Second, who led such a virtuous life and was
so proud thereof, that when the " Times "
newspaper published a paragraph announcing
that she was about to marry her late hus-
band's father she was so scandalised thereby
that she caused an Act to be passed decreeing
that anyone who uttered a serious scandal
against the reigning Sovereign should be
indicted for high treason, for she held that
154 MERC I A
the good name of the Sovereign should be
considered as sacred as their person ; under
this Act, therefore, are these two scandal-
mongers to be arrested.'
' Ah, yes, I had forgotten it ! .But that
trifle would not be scandal now. Only twelve
months ago thy hand signed an Act permitting
thy subjects to marry whom they will, save
those in the first degree of consanguinity. A
man may marry his grandmother now, if he
choose ! '
' Of course,' admitted the Emperor, ' only
he does not choose, as a rule.'
' It is inadvisable from every point of view :
nowadays one's grandmother attains such
longevity that to marry her for her fortune,
is like turning monk for a livelihood : a man's
freedom arrives when 'tis not worth the
having, for she goes on living until he be-
' True ! But this is not my business ! '
broke in the Emperor impatiently, ' let us
discuss what more nearly concerns me. Can
I count on thy good service in this matter, or
no ? '
' Call a Cabinet Council,' suggested Dives-
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 155
dale, 'in the multitude of councillors we shall
get wisdom,' he added, quoting from very
The Emperor made a gesture of impatience
at this sally, for he felt the minister was
drawing him, and took his departure forth-
The thought instantly crossed the minis-
ter's mind that the affair would make a very
interesting plot for his next novel ; for he was
a favourite novelist whose works were wel-
comed by the people for their merit, and not
because they were written by a popular
minister of the State.
' If we could only put the actual occur-
rences of life as they appear before our eyes
into our works what rattling good stories we
could write ! ' laughed Divesdale, as he threw
himself into his easy chair for a smoke and a
Ideals of art and literature are as subject
to change and remodelling as are theories of
natural science, which are bound to give way
as the light of knowledge reveals little by
little the true conditions of the mysteries of
life and its environments. Accordingly lite-
156 MERC I A
rature-making had its fashions ; a reaction
had taken place, and from the field of novel
writing which had been in the past almost
entirely filled by lady writers, these were now
self-eliminated ; women having successfully
taken up the positions of historians, mathe-
maticians, political economists, and expounders
of natural and mental philosophies. So suc-
cessful was the female in the writing of books
designed for instruction that no male had a
chance in this walk of literature, unless he
assumed a feminine pen-name, and by this
harmless subterfuge gain a reputation in spite
of his sex.
Science as applied to manufactures had
reached such perfection that the stones for
building purposes were now manufactured,
the stone quarries, as a matter of course,
having almost given out. By a cunning ad-
mixture of chemically prepared material whose
chief substance was composed of silicious sand
brought from the pathless deserts by electric
motive power, at a comparatively small ex-
pense, this granular quartz, or flint under cer-
tain conditions was reconverted into beautiful
slabs of stone, of hard and enduring quality.
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 157
It was no uncommon sight to see whole
streets, or terraces of handsome houses built
apparently of blocks of glittering granite
which sparkled bravely in the sunlight : nor
were these imitations confined to one sort, for
various marbles were so closely imitated, and
withal so hard and enduring that the villas
of the middle classes bore the appearance of
veritable marble halls. Inside the walls were
not papered, but finished with a dressing of
apparently beautiful marble, while a wainscot-
ing of richly embroidered silk velvet im-
parted an air of comfort to the rooms ; a by
no means unwelcome addition, for the climate
of England, like the poor, is always with us.
When Mercia retired to her private apart-
ment she hardly knew whither she was going.
At iirst she entered her usual sitting-room,
then suddenly she made a turn and rushed
into her bedchamber where making sure there
could be no interruption she gave vent to the
sorrow and indignation that tilled her breast,
in a passionate flood of tears. For even
the twentieth-century woman was not illachry-
mable, being in this respect pretty much the
same as the most remote of her feminine
In a few moments, however, she recovered
herself, and began to consider her situation,
or rather her loss of situation, for she had
inconsiderately thrown it up in the heat of
her anger with the Emperor. Not for an
instant did the thought cross her mind of
withdrawing her resignation, or of making any
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 159
attempt at reconciliation with the monarch,
whose utterly heartless and cowardly conduct
filled her with intense contempt, and disgust.
As soon as the tumult of her feelings had
subsided she returned to her sitting-room and
wrote out her letter of resignation, wherein
she explained in modest yet dignified terms
her reasons for taking this step ; expressing
at the same time the terrible sacrifice it was
costing her in thus throwing up a position
which was so specially adapted to her sym-
pathies and pursuits, and of which there was
no hope of obtaining an adequate substitute
When the letter was completed she re-
membered Geometrus and wishful to satisfy
him by making him fully acquainted with her
movements she put it through the copying
press with a view of showing him its contents ;
then ringing for a messenger it was de-
spatched through the post without delay, that
it might be received in due order by the head
of the governmental department.
Having gone thus far she began to feA
more settled in her mind, satisfied insomuch
that she felt she had done the right thine in
160 MERC I A
resigning a position which exposed her to the
importunities of a patron who had proved
as unprincipled in purpose as he was sensual
in inclinations. Then she began to torment
herself with the reflection that she had not
proved such an icewoman as she had pre-
viously imagined herself to be. ' Yes,' she
owned to herself, ' there was a moment when
the power of his passion moved me, and I
could have yielded to the seduction of the
senses, pictured by him as the essence of love,
until I remembered there was a barrier that
micht not be moved ; no, not for the allure-
ments of a century of deliciousness would I
defraud another of one iota of the affection
which was sworn for all time to be hers.
' I have refused, perhaps, the crown of an
Empress to take the lowly condition of a poor
scholar out of place ; but I have remained
true to myself, and to my sex, and before all
things have kept my heart and hands clean :
I have earned the approval of my conscience,
and my night-pillow is not made restless with
the self-torture of knowing I had indicted an
endless misery on another, and that other
made like unto myself; with all the capacities
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 161
of su fieri ng, having to drink daily of life's
'But what a deadly traitor I have nar-
rowly escaped — what a contemptible monster
lie has proved himself, to thus turn on me
like an adder !'
His threat of having her indicted for high
treason gave her, however, no uneasiness, for
it only inspired her with the utmost scorn.
She dismissed it from her mind as having
been on his part merely the outcome of
ungovernable anger at being exposed before
his enemy, as Sadbag undauntedly owned
himself to be. How a man could express the
most profound attachment for her at one
moment, and seek her destruction at the next,
seemed to her pure mind so monstrous and
wholly unnatural that its possibility in her
case was altogether out of the question.
That Felicitas would actually go the
lengths of formally making such an infamous
accusation she could not bring herself to
believe. Thus she sat deeply pondering over
the situation for at least two hours, unheeding
the passage of time in which startling doings
were taking place in the outside world, when
1 62 MERCIA
she was interrupted by a double announce-
ment, dinner, and the advent of Sadbag.
1 In a brown study, I see!' exclaimed the
old man as he entered the apartment, ' can
I be of any use to thee?'
' Thrice welcome,' she answered quickly ;
' this solitude is unbearable : I was longing
for some sympathising friend in whose ears I
could pour forth my trouble.'
' Thou art in a queer quandary, certainly,'
quoth Sadbag in gentle tones, which were not
wanting in sly humour, ' nevertheless, there
will be somebody in a bigger by to-morrow
' To whom dost thou refer?'
' To Felicitas of course : the Emperor shall
learn ere another twenty-four hours the opinion
of the nation anent profligacy.'
' What hast thou done in this matter,
Master Sadbag,' said Mercia anxiously, ' pray
tell me, for only an hour ago I sent in my
resignation ? '
' Sent thy resignation ! ' repeated Sadbag,
' why Mistress Mercia, there's no occasion for
that ! It is the Figure Head Felicitas who
should resign ; for having no worthy occu-
pation to fill his time he must needs get into
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 163
mischief; in much the same manner as those
empty-headed puppies who dawdle about the
squares feasting their eyes on every comely
woman who is on her way home from her
office, or business. Down with the monarchy.
I say, if this be all it is good for ! Indeed, we
have had enough of it. Look at the centuries
of oppression that Russia has gone through !
The country knew no real freedom until she
shook off the thraldom of despotism and all
its concomitant tyrannies.'
' Yes,' replied Mercia earnestly, ' Eussia
lias attained the joys of a Constitutional
Monarchy through rivers of human blood ;
devastating floods of fire, and seas of darkest
misery : is it indeed worth the cost of such
terrible sacrifices ? '
' Xo great victory has ever been achieved
save at infinite sacrifice. True, it was a
mighty one, but the result is worthy of it.
The struggle was long and severe ; but greater
severities have been put an end to — the cruel-
ties of oppression wrought upon millions of
helpless beings, which were accentuated bv
the conditions of civilisation and enlighten-
ment that surrounded them.'
1 64 MERC I A
' Civilisation and enlightenment are of no
avail unless the heart be true, and the con-
science good. If the moral nature be at
fault what avails the enlightenment of ages ? '
observed Mercia thoughtfully.
' The occurrences of to-day is a case in
point,' continued Sadbag ; ' in all history have
we a parallel instance of meanness, cruelty,
and downright dishonesty as this experience
with the Emperor ? But I have come to give
thee good tidings — I think I have settled him.
To-morrow the whole world will ring of his
doings. His hypocrisy, his deceit, and his
cowardice will make him the object of detes-
tation to all. The four quarters of the earth
have got the stor}^ word for word, and we
shall see what comes of it.'
' Sadbag, what hast thou done ? ' demanded
Mercia with eyes of fire and cheek of flame.
' Fear nothing, sweet lady, thy fair fame
hath been kept guarded and unsullied by me.
Xot a word is given of which thou needest be
ashamed. In this recital thou art truly pic-
tured ; gentle, modest, and unsuspecting up
to the point where knowledge is forced upon
thee, and the deceiver shows his hand. Then,
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 165
the art of the seducer utterly fails in its pur-
pose, for thine irreproachable virtue shielded
thee as a coat of armour ; thy sense of honour
to thy fellow-woman was as a wall of defence
to thy shoulders, for thou didst refuse the
most tempting blandishments rather than
blight the happiness of a wife ; albeit thou
wert offered the crown of an Empress as the
reward of thy dishonour. But what of tin-
letter of resignation ; I wish I had seen it
beforehand ; for the Emperor makes a bitter
enemy, and will revile thee soundly to his
ministers ? '
' I think I have made myself pretty clear,'
replied Mercia, who had considerably calmed
down by this time ; ' here is a copy of my
letter ; read it.'
' Good ! ' exclaimed Sadbag as soon as he
had finished perusing the document ; ' this is
fine ! Canst thou trust it with me for one
night and I will return it to-morrow morning
without fail ? '
' Seeing thou hast done so much already.*
returned Mercia in a weary tone of voice,
' there can be no harm in giving it thee to
make what use thou mayest choose. But,
listen, here comes Geometrus — I will invite
him to dine with us, and we three will discuss
the matter together.'
At the next moment Geometrus had entered
the apartment, and startled the two with the
look of painful concern on his countenance.
' Why so glum, my friend ? ' cried Sadbag
cheerily ; ' this is but a passing cloud which
will be carried away presently by the fair
breezes of public opinion. No one can hurt
thee, or Mercia : I cannot say so much for
myself, for indeed I have meddled considerably
in this business, and nobody knows how it
will turn out for me. But ye twain are inno-
cent victims, and have naught to fear in this
advanced period of the world's history. Truth
and justice should prevail in the dawn of the
twenty-first century, if ever it is to prevail at
all on this earth. Ah, I wonder if anything
approaching perfection can ever be reached
here ! '
' Our present day litterateurs,' observed
Mercia, ' felicitate themselves that we are in
the enjoyment of such an advanced civilisation
as the world has never seen in the past, or
possible to attain in the future. But thou,
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 167
Sad bag, seest much to improve in the political
arena, and I see much to be discovered in
the world of Nature. We have still to learn
how to rule the elements. As yet, the winds
and the storms, and the waters, are our
masters. The time will arrive when these
shall be our servants to come and go at our
will. The rains it is true now water the earth
at our desire, but soon the winds shall be
dispersed by our art, and the heaving waves
of the ocean shall be made subservient to our
will ; not by the wand of the sorcerer, but by
the hand of that more wonderful magician —
Science. When man lias made Nature to obey
his behests then that extraordinary time shall
have arrived that the prophets dreamed of in
the far-off ages, which they symbolised by the
metaphor of the lion and the lamb lying side
by side. This, indeed, is the true millennium
for which all may ardently pray ; for it is
the earth-glory awaiting the planet-dwellers
of our sun's system, yea, of every star system
throughout the whole of the vast uni-
Mercia paused, and looked at her friends,
as if inquiring if she might proceed.
1 63 MERC I A
' Go on,' said Sadbag, ' we delight to listen
' Ah, it is all very wonderful ! The field
of science possesses still untrodden paths :
mystery upon mystery are yet to be made
clear ; the hidden secrets of psychology are
still in darkness; we know not of what stuff
we are made. What is soul — what is mind?
We cannot definitely define them : we know
only the manner in which these express them-
selves to our physical nature : the spiritual is
wrapped in impenetrable mystery. How is it
that one man utters the truths of a prophet,
and another can hardly be made to under-
stand what is going on before his eyes ? Of
course it is a difference in brain-power, the
physiologist tells us, but how is it that a more
or less quantity of grey brain-substance can
give inspiration, knowledge, genius, power,
imagination, and even prescience ? Who can
answer that? When this question is solved
then is the chief millennium reached.'
' Let me have a word now,' said Sadbag,
whose eyes glistened with the enthusiasm that
inspired him for the moment ; ' when the
insignia of Eoyalty is done away with ; when
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 169
kings are a luxury of the past, and Emperors
are persons of bygone history; when liberty
and equality are recognised everywhere ; when
exorbitant taxes are no longer levied on the
poor ; when society recognises the duty of
honesty and purity towards each other, and
the golden rule is abided by, then is the
millennium ! Each of us has his goal, his ideal ;
this is my ideal, and this is the religion I
would have preached by the expounders of
faiths, and of doctrines. Scientific discoveries
are being made step by step, first this experi-
ment, and then that. One man finds a glint
of light, and theorises on it, and he passes
away, and another takes it up and examines
it further, and presently discovers a wider
field of vision, and he has dreams of its utili-
sation, but they end there ; and a third,
having had an excellent foundation to start
with, finishes by discovering how to apply the
knowledge to useful purposes, and gains the
reward ; for the first sowed, and the last
reaped ; and he will give his name to the
invention, and will be hailed as the great
genius, the true discoverer.'
' Yes,' observed Mercia in reply to her
guest, as seated at table she dispensed her
hospitalities with thoughtful care, ' they are
all links in one great chain, one following the
other in due order, displaying a complete
system, which is governed by fixed laws, that
may not be transgressed without penalty.
But, say, Geometrus,' uttered Mercia anxiously,
' how has it fared with thee — why art thou so
melancholy ? '
' I cannot help it,' he answered, sighing
deeply the while ; ' a great misfortune is over-
shadowing the three of us.'
Mercia regarded him earnestly. ' What is
it ? ' she asked.
' The Emperor's threat, I'll be bound ! '
growled out Sadbag.
' The same,' answered Geometrus gloomily ;
4 1 have just come from Divesdale, the Minister
of Finance, who was having converse with the
Emperor upon the subject, and he tells me
Felicitas is bent upon punishing us, yea, the
whole three — even Mercia is not to be spared.'
* Yea, rather he is working the punishment
that's to fall on his own pate ! ' laughed Sad-
bag contemptuously. ' When the proper time
comes I possess indisputable proof to show in
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 171
open court of the truth of my statement, which
will place that of Mercia beyond doubt also ;
and thou, Geometrus, being only an accessory
in the affair, and not a chief actor, when we
are cleared thou wilt be also. Be assured this
bogus prosecution will be promptly stopped
unless we insist on its full development.'
' And where wilt thou obtain all this con-
vincing evidence ? There's naught but our
bare word to support our statements : the
highest potentate of the realm and the police-
man can never swear falsely ? ' remarked
Mercia, cynically, who was awakening to the
gravity of the situation.
' We shall be arrested to-morrow, at latest,'
interpolated the young man, ' the warrants are
being made out at this moment.'
' Capital ! ' shouted the elder man, slapping
his knee exultingly, ' I wouldn't miss the scene
at the trial for a kingdom ! '
■ Oh, Sadbag, thou art horrid ! ' cried
Mercia deprecatingly, ' I shall never survive
the disgrace of it ! '
' Say, rather, thou wilt be too shy to sur-
vive the honour of it ! Mercia, mark me,
the day of thy trial will be the dawn of thy
172 MERC I A
glory. Truth will triumph this time, not-
withstanding the world's wickedness. The
words of our ancient Solomon shall be veri-
fied — " A virtuous woman is as a crown to
her husband," et cetera ; ' and Sadbag looked
slily at Geometrus, for an irrepressible humour
was ever bubbling up within him.
' But I haven't a husband,' murmured
Mercia, blushingly, ' so how can I thus adorn
' The man and the opportunity are await-
ing thee : the one at thy elbow, the other
looming near,' explained Sadbag archly.
It was Geometrus's turn to blush now,
which he did most becomingly, — ' If Sadbag
means me,' he faltered out, ' I would fain be
the man, I confess ; but where is the oppor-
tunity ? It seems to me that it was never
so distant as at present, and it was at all
times too far to give hope.'
'Modesty doth well become youth, but it
is ill-placed in cases of the heart. He that is
daring gains the goal, but the fainthearted
gives up the race. It is true ye twain are in
a predicament, having lost your appointments,
but you are no worse off than if this mis-
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 173
fortune had never befallen you, for marriage
would have brought a like result. I propose,'
Sadbag proceeded to say, ' that thou Geo-
metrus shalt ask Divesdale for the appointment
of Head of the Eoyal College of Natural
Science, where thou wilt have pcwer to ap-
point all its various professors., and lecturers.
As astronomy is one of the principal subjects
taught, give Mercia the post of Chief Astro-
nomical Lecturer, which carries no bar to
marriage. Now isn't that plan most excel-
lent ! I flatter myself it is a capital thought!'
' It's splendid, yet it possesses a fault ! "
exclaimed Geometrus, whose spirits began to
rise at the bright prospect held before him ;
' could not Mercia ask Divesdale for the ap-
pointment of Principal, and give me the sub-
ordinate position of Professor ? '
'Whichever way you two choose to put
it,' replied Sadbag merrily ; ' after all, when I
come to consider it I believe Mercia would
stand the better chance with the minister :
the nation at large, too, would be more satis-
fied, as she hath renown and much goodwill
of the people.'
'I feel as if I were already installed, and
am longing to award places of honour to all
my friends,' broke in Mercia sweetly. ' What
post, dear Sadbag, can I give thee ? Political
Expounder, or Professor of Ecouomics ? Name
the article and it shall be forthcoming ; for I
fain would testify my gratitude for the honest
jroodwill thou dost show me.'
' I want naught for myself,' replied the old
man with a comic shake of the head, ' but I
have a grand-daughter ready to leave school
whom I would wish to enter the said College
as a student. It would much oblige me if
thou wouldst examine her and judge for which
science she is best fitted. She must select
one subject and bottom it thoroughly ; I think
chemistry to be the most preferable.'
' Chemistry ! ' repeated Mercia smiling,
' why my dear sir, that's a very big order,
for it possesses several important branches,
each one a study of itself. One should be
selected, and then there's a possibility of
imparting something useful to thy grand-
daughter. Nowadays no one has a chance
of success if he attempt too much — this is
the day of the Specialist ! '
' It isn't every day one has a chance of a
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 175
good talk with a lady of such renown as thee,
so I will benefit myself by taking the oppor-
tunity,' remarked Sadbag in a tone of great
content ; ' I have a grandson also, what shall
I do with him ? '
'How old is he?' inquired Geometrus,
who thought it was time to put in an oar.
' Sixteen, and as comely a youth as ever
was seen. But he has no liking for abstruse
studies, and it is little use sending him to
college with his sister. Can you suggest
something that is likely to prove agreeable
to his cast of mind ? '
'Article him to a marble manufacturer,'
replied Geometrus eagerly ; ' it is the grandest
trade going. We want marbles and granites
for every building, nowadays; we cannot
obtain enough of them. There is plenty of
scope for further invention, for instance, por-
phyry has not yet been successfully imitated
but in appearance only, for it is too brittle
for any purpose necessitating strength and
durability. A new " Stone Age " is dawning,
for not a brick will be used save in the cottage
of the poorest. Our large towns and cities
will present greater beauty than classic Italy
176 MERC I A
saw in its best days ; fur they will be filled
with splendid halls and residences built ap-
parently of various rare and costly marbles,
designed in high artistic form and stately
structure. What a wonderful age we are
coming to, when the distant sands of Sahara
are brought to our shores and reconverted to
their original solidity ! It is like a fairy tale
of ancient days this transformation of the
crumbled rock of ages to the original com-
pactness of solid blocks of glittering stone.
Who is the sorcerer of the modern time ?
' Diamond making is as nothing compared
with this useful manufacture, for it converts
the ugliness of cheap brick buildings into the
beauties of palaces. Even the sea sand on
our own shores are cleansed and united with
chemically prepared material, and made to
form a hard and impenetrable silicious stone,
more enduring than what it was in its pristine
Sadbag looked serious as Geometrus di-
lated on the usefulness of Geologic-chemistry ;
then he remarked — 'I imagined that chemis-
try had attained its limits, and further im-
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 177
provements in manufactures impossible, al-
most, but I see with your eyes, Geometrus.
and quite understand that the world is still in
its infancy, although it believes it is acquainted
with everything already.'
' So they thought a hundred years ago ! '
observed Geometrus laughingly ; ' the people
of that time actually imagined they had
scaled the extreme heights of knowledge ami
there was nothing left to learn. But hark ! '
he exclaimed in an excited undertone, ' there's
a ring at the great door — who comes at this
hour ? Is it the warrants, I wonder ! It is.
There are the police,' continued he as he rose
and looked through the window, ' and the
police-van ready to accommodate us! Oh,
Mercia is it possible that thou must suffer
this degradation ? '
' She shall not ! ' exclaimed Sad bag
vehemently,. ' as long as there's a breath left
in this body of mine. My first thought was
to fly,' he continued hurriedly, ' on account of
this copy of her letter which I was about
sending to the Press for publication ; but 1
will hide it in this vase instead, and get my
i ;8 MERCIA
solicitor to fetch it away afterwards ; for I will
now stand my ground for Mercia's sake. She
shall be conveyed to prison in her own car-
riage, or not at all, there's no law to hinder
that, I warrant. We three shall all go to-
gether, but I would have preferred my liberty
a little longer for I have much to do before
getting my incarceration.'
k Hide behind the screen again ! ' whispered
Mercia, ' no one knows thou art here ; it
is easy enough to do ; and thou canst report
upon the manner in which I am treated, it"
need be — dost understand ? '
' Perfectly, I will do it, and come out if I
see necessary,' agreed the old man with a
roguish beam in his eyes, while he slipped be-
hind in a twinkle. He had no sooner dis-
appeared than the constables entered the
apartment, which they did in a somewhat
hesitating manner. Evidently, they did not at
all relish their work, for the inmates of the
Observatory, as well as the place itself inspired
them with respect.
* Why this intrusion on a lady in her
private apartment?' demanded Geometrus
haughtily ; for he considered they ought to
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 179
have remained in the entrance hall, until their
errand was explained.
'What is your wish ?' inquired Mercia in
' Mistress, I have brought with me a docu-
ment, an ugly document, truly, to show a
lady, and to such a one as thou it is indeed
vexatious to have the handling of it. Never-
theless, it has been entrusted to me, and obedi-
ence is the first great principle of all order.
Therefore, very unwillingly, I confess, I call
upon thee in the Emperor's name to surrender
thyself — here is my authority,' and he held
out the warrant for her perusal, still keeping
las hold of it. When she had finished, she
stood for a moment thinking, whereupon he
stepped forward to lead her away, when
Mercia falling back a little, drew herself up
haughtily, and exclaimed — 'Touch me not,
fellow, I will leave this house of mine own
accord when 1 am fully prepared for mv
journey, for I must attire myself suitably be-
fore going into the night air, also my carriage
must be made ready for me.'
' We have brought the ordinary police-
van by special order of the Emperor, we dare
not let any other be used,' interpolated
another officer, for there were three of them.
' The police-van for me ! ' repeated Mercia
indignantly, ' and by the Emperor's orders
too ! What has the Emperor to do with the
administration of the law ? I refuse to obey
such an order.'
'And rightly so,' interjected Geometrus
hotly, then turning with furious face upon the
constables, he added — ' This lady goes with
you in her own carriage, or not at all.'
' What is that to thee ? ' returned the
sergeant of police sharply, ' a pretty person
to lay down conditions to us, and dictate how
we are to perform our duty, seeing thou art
in the same boat thyself. Here is the warrant
for thy apprehension ; and get thee ready
'If you touch her, any of you, against her
will, I will strike him dead with my electric
dagger!' shouted Geometrus, who was beside
himself with anger.
* There are more daggers than thine,
young man,' exclaimed one of the men
roughly, as he rushed towards Geometrus
with his handcuffs opened ready to clasp them
THE ASTROAOMER ROYAL 18]
iii an instant; but Geometrus was too quick
for him, and tripping the constable with his
foot, the latter staggered to the ground awk-
wardly, while the handcuffs were dashed out
of his grasp with a deft blow from Geometrus.
Then the other two constables springing t >
the aid of their fellow took hold of Geometrus.
one at either side, and a desperate struggle
was about to commence, but at this juncture
out rushed Sadbag from his hiding place ex-
claiming — ' Why all this bubbery, ye idiots,
what matters it what sort of vehicle you use
for their conveyance so that you get your
prisoners safe in quod ? That is enough for
you! Let the lady go as she will, and no
more nonsense about it, otherwise I will make
it pretty hot, both for you and your masters,
• Now this is mighty convenient !' said the
sergeant dryly, for he held the warrant for
Sadbag as well ; ' we want thee also, my good
fellow, and thou hast saved us much trouble
by popping out to lecture us ; thou couldst
not repress thy speechifying instincts, even to
save thy liberty ! I arrest thee, Joseph Sad-
:. in the name of the Emperor Felicitas 1
1 82 MERCIA
Here is my authority,' and he pulled out of
his side pocket the document for Sadbag'a
1 Oh, I know all about it,' answered the
old man testily, 'I am willing enough to
become thy prisoner only let it be done
quietly and decently, for the Emperor will
have sufficient to answer for without adding
further insult to this lady. He has already
done that which will disgust every decent
minded person in his realms.'
' Let him take charge of his own business ;
'tis his affair, and I will perform mine,' replied
the sergeant doggedly.
'You might come to a compromise.'
pleaded Sadbag in insinuating tones, 'I have
saved you heaps of labour, trouble and
exertion in lying in wait, and watching for
me all over London by unexpectedly dropping
myself into your hands. Show your gra-
titude, my friends, by letting Mistress Mercia
take her seat in her own carriage, and one of
your constables may accompany her, while
this gentleman and myself will go in the
police-van, with the remaining two of you,
and we will pass our word of honour not to
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 183
overpower you, and seek to escape. Xow are
you satisfied ? '
1 Very well,' agreed the sergeant gruffly,
' we will take the offer — only make haste !'
' It is quite dark outside, Geometrus,'
observed the old man, 'no one will be any the
wiser as to who are the occupants of the van :
I don't much matter it myself — nevertheless,
I will sue the Government for damage to my
reputation, for this act will accentuate the
' I care not for myself one whit,' returned
the younger man in a pained tone ; ' but I am
heartily glad thou hast succeeded in saving
Mercia such an unnecessary disgrace.'
'I hope we shan't be kept a month of
Sundays in our cells, for I am simply dying
to make my denouement in court,' whispered
Sadbag to his friend, as he nimbly tripped
down the broad staircase that led to the
entrance hall, with the policemen following at
' For the life of me I can't imagine what
thou art driving at — what the deuce is thy
denouement?' inquired Geometrus impatiently.
' Qui vivra verra ! ' laughed Sadbag lightly ;
1 84 MERCIA
4 " He that lives longest sees most ;" I mean to
create a diversion in court.'
'A diversion!' repeated the young ma
'Well, maybe that's not exactly the word
for it ; I am not a flowery phraser : I mean
to create an impression that may prove a
diversion, or a lesson, an example, a warning,
a farce, a terror, a maxim, a moral, a proverb,
a motto ; a subject for comic cuts, for high
art paintings ; for pulpit sermons, stump
orators, parsons, preachers, and petticoats to
moralise on; 'twill be a lesson to perjurers,
profligates, and hypocrites, generally; and at
the finish each will say to his neighbour —
AVI 1 at a capital dodge, I wonder no one ever
thought of doing that before ! ' and the old
fellow rubbed his hands in high glee, at the
thought of his plan, the success of which he
felt would amply repay him for all the in-
conveniences of his most inopportune con-
By this time Mercia's carriage was in
readiness, for it only required a few minutes'
attention to put it in working order, and soon
the quartette, each under the influence of his
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 1S5
own emotions, watched the light barouche
roll quickly along the smooth macadamised
roadway, for only heavy trams and waggons
used the rails with which the principal streets
and roads were provided, lighter vehicles not
requiring such aids to locomotion.
' Farewell, my Mercia,' the young man
had whispered in her ear, just before turning
on the force ; for the driver had taken the
steering gear ; ' be strong and of good hope,
Sadbag is our saviour, we have nought to
fear with his clear head and true heart to
' Surely the gods will help their own
sister ! ' exclaimed Sadbag gallantly, as he
raised his hat in making a last adieu. ' Wait
till the lucky bag is presented thee for a dip,
and thou wilt see what a prize comes to thy
hand ! '
i 36 MERC I A
( As atom unto atom firmly lies,
Obeying blindly that great law which makes
Subservient even lifeless matter; wakes
An energy, a force, whose hidden ties
Bind animate or inanimate in wise
True, order. . . . Thus are we twain commingled. . .'
Idylls, Legends and Lyrics.
Peeiiaps the most wonderful of all the dis-
coveries of this period was that of psycho-
magnetic sympathy, or psychic-energy, which
was found to pervade the nerve-centres of all
human beings, in a greater or lesser degree.
In all ages the unseen bond that linked man-
kind together, with more or less hidden force,
had baffled the researches of psychologists,
and physiologists to such a degree, that at
length the pursuit was abandoned, and left
for Charlatans to play with.
Each epoch of the world's history saw the
development of some absurdity ; but these
were in reality the fructification of the seed-
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 187
ling ; or infant gropings after that higher
knowledge which evidence the spiritual aspi-
rations of the human soul.
In the very early stages of man's history
we find him in full belief of fairies, gnomes,
and hobgoblins, which eventually ripened into
a literature and folklore dealing with their
doings, of quite ample dimensions. And after
all, who would like to make away with those
delightful stories that inspired his imagination
in childhood's days, filling his mind with awe
and wonder, while yet it was all receptive,
and when credulity was paramount ?
Then followed the belief in the wizards,
witch, and magician, who were held to have
gotten their supernatural powers from the
arch-magician, Satan, himself: and every ill
that nature sent humanity was ascribed to the
infernal agency of witchcraft.
In these days handsome incomes were
occasionally realised by courtly magicians who
unfolded the future to the high-born ladies
that invoked their aid. Did not Anne Boleyn
see her future husband in the magician's
mirror, when quite a girl, and as yet she
knew nothing 1 of him? The scene of a masked
1 88 MERCIA
ball iii which King Henry the Eighth was the
central figure, and all the people paying him
courtly homage, was found reflected in the
magic mirror, and the monarch pointed out
as her future husband. Still time went roll-
ing onwards bringing its developments of
man's highest aspirations — the desire to fathom
that mystery of which he caught but a glim-
Then followed Mesmer's discovery to which
was attributed certain psychological develop-
ments ; these the Charlatan utilised to his
own advantage by claiming the power of
second sight for some fair sleeper whom he
always took care to be provided with.
Side by side with mesmerism grew ano-
ther new idea which went infinitely further
than the mesmerised thought-reader. It was
named Spiritualism, the votaries of which
professed to call up at will the departed
spirits of friends, enemies, and even of persons
unknown to them in life.
This new faith, for it developed into a
religion seeing that once a person got
thoroughly soaked with it he wanted no
church to teach him the way to Heaven, he
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 189
believing he had found a more direct passage
than what all the parsons in Christendom
could show him.
Revelations from Spirit-land were sought
not only by the lower, and partially educated
classes, but also by the educated members of
societ} T ; practical business men being found
in considerable numbers attending spirit-
rapping circles. Even the editor of the
Times newspaper in 1880 was claimed by the
Spiritualists to be one of them.
Eventually, Spiritualism becoming un-
popular by reason of its adoption by the
ignorant, together with the numerous ex-
posures of fraud on the part of its leading
exponents, a new belief was found necessary
for the intellectual and cultured ones of the
This was borrowed from the East, the
beliefs of Ancient India being pressed into
service and made to appear under a new
form and given the title of Theosophy.
The whole series of superstitions under
whatever name they might appear — witch-
craft, fortune-telling, mesmerism, spirit rap-
ping, Mahatma power, or the new-fangled
i 9 o MERCIA
faith of Tlieosophy, were in reality the deep
workings of the human mind, striving to
fathom the secrets of nature.
The physiology and psychology of the
twenty-first century explained it. It was
indeed, simple enough, for everything is easy
when you know it.
It was found that a subtle fluid somewhat
of the nature of electricity, which was alto-
gether imperceptible to sight, but whose
presence was indicated by a very delicate
gauge called a psychometer pervaded the
nerve centres of all human beings. It im-
parted to them such a highly sensitive condi-
tion that wherever the fluid was in great
abundance it gave to its possessor a corre-
sponding amount of attraction, or influence
The influence of this essence was not
limited to a short distance, for propinquity
was not altogether necessary for its action ;
for a highly endowed person could throw out
an invisible stream of psycho-magnetic sym-
pathy that Avould find its way for hundreds
of miles till it reached the corresponding
fluid of the person desired, causing such a
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 191
disturbance in his nerve-centres that imme-
diately he would commence thinking of his
friend, mistress, or acquaintance, as the case
From this cause came into beingr that
well known saying — ' Talk of the Devil and
he's sure to show himself.'
The poet in every age, although knowing
nothing of physiology, being endowed with a
superabundance of this wonderful essence,
divined its existence, calling it the unseen
chains that bound humanity together.
In fact, this was the source from which
the true poet, novelist, orator, and thought-
reader derived his power. All these were
endowed bountifully with this subtle energy,
putting it to the use for which their indi-
vidual talents led them.
The actress who nightly enchained her
auditory by 7 her clever impersonation of some
ideal character, did not owe her triumph
solely to the influence of her splendid rhe-
toric, or histrionic art, but mainly to this
force which she unconsciously scattered
broadcast around her, the waves of which
being caught up by the innumerable nerve-
1 92 MERCIA
centres, which responded with ready recep-
The same force, but of a higher order,
and more spiritual essence fired the imagina-
tion of the poet, giving him burning words.
and tender sympathies that found their way
into every heart.
It inspired him also with prophetic in-
sight : giving him the power of seeing into
the very heart of things, whether of the past,
present, or future. The ancients saw this
and averred that poets are born not made ;
for it was owing to the highly sensitive
quality of this psychic energy that he pos-
sessed his gift of poesy.
It comes into the life of a few to meet
with some exquisitely charming woman who
excites love and admiration wherever she
turns. All who come in contact with her
unite in declaring her to be the sweetest
woman that ever lived. No one can de-
finitely tell you why she exercises so much
charm over him ; she is admittedly not more
beautiful, nor more talented than others ;
nevertheless, she casts some indefinable, yet
irresistible spell over all around her. Some-
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 193
thing unfathomable, unknowable dwells in
her countenance, giving it an expression
that haunts you. She sees into your very
heart, as it were ; she knows exactly what
to say, and what to do to please and gratify
She utters your thought for you, express-
ing it so beautifully and perfectly that you
are delighted with yourself, for she throws
such a glamour over you that you imagine
you have given the happy expression to the
idea. What is this power she wields with
such fascinating force? It is the subtle fluid
that is unconsciously emanating from her.
This secret, unseen energy profoundly stirs
every nerve within you, sending thrills of
pleasure through your frame, and imparting
warmth and life, and love to all who come
within its influence.
Little children love her, and nestle in her
skirts; not only the animals of her own house-
hold, but the strange dog and cat look at her
with longing eyes, wishful for the pat, and
kind word that will certainly be granted.
Each living thing feels the subtle influence
and acknowledges it unhesitatingly. Sicklier
i 9 4 MERCIA
and suffering can hardly diminish it, for only-
death itself can annihilate it.
The orator holds his audience spell bound
apparently, by his splendid eloquence ; the
whole audience which may consist of several
thousands are moved by one great emotion.
Every pulse beats as one ; only one feeling
pervades that vast assembly — perfect union of
thought with the speaker. He is exercising a
spell over the multitude powerful as that of
The following day the speech appears in
cold print, and strange to say, there is nothing
very remarkable about it. What was it that
produced such deep emotions in the breast
of that great concourse of people ?
It was the wonderful influence of the
speaker's personality ; it was the abundant
psychic-energy that spread itself in thought-
waves all through the multitude, making their
hearts glow and swell with happiness.
Such are the men who win great battles,
for their soldiers are ready to rush into any
danger under the influence of their leader's
powerful soul-energy. Mark how these great
warriors attract women. He who fights well,
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 195
loves well, all chroniclers know that fact, and
the unseen mind-force with which Nature has
so lavishly endowed him, gives him the suc-
cessful conquest of women's hearts, equally as
At this time thought-reading was a per-
fected science, and only those endowed with an
extraordinary gift of psychic energy could
pose with any measure of success as a pro-
So great was the perfection reached in
this branch of science that a professor of
thought-reading was expected to describe not
only the thought of the inquirer, but also
reveal the thoughts and motives of the person
who formed the subject of the inquiry. No-
thing less than this could satisfy the soul of
the twenty-first century individual.
Once the Professor was placed en rapport
with the person to be analysed and reported
upon, he was expected to give every par-
ticular of his life, habits, attainments, thoughts
and actions. In point of fact, he had to keep
a mental diary of the watched man's doings.
Woe betide the silly swain who tried to run
two sweethearts ; if one of them grew jealous
196 MERC I A
she had but to tell her case to the thought-
reader, and with a good fee set his brain
agoing, when soon she would be in possession
of every particular of her lover's perfidy.
As soon as the presence of this essence in
all persons was clearly demonstrated and esta-
blished, it became the ambition of the food-
chemist to discover some phosphate that
Avould increase the supply that nature had
given already. Numerous were the nostrums
proposed for which were claimed the power
of imparting an augmented supply to man.
The newspapers teemed with advertise-
ments of these tabloids, some of which were
frequently headed with the legend ' Ye are
not men but Gods ! ' And indeed, if the vir-
tues of these chemical preparations attained
only half what was claimed for them, men
would have been nearly gods by this time.
For the inherent desire of man to obtain
power, by whatever name it might be known,
prompts him to accept any theories that pro-
mise this desirable gift.
For a time large fortunes were accumu-
lated by the manufacture of psychic-energy
tabloids ; enterprising chemists rivalling each
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 197
other in the production of the most excellent.
Notwithstanding all these deserving efforts
on the part of mankind to raise himself, lie
remained pretty much the same as nature
formed him, save by the slower processes of
Of all the persons who laid claim to the gift
of thought-reading there was none so highly
sensitive as the great Anglo- Indian, Dayanand
Swami. It was said of him that he almost
lived upon a wonderful elixir of his own
manufacture, the preparation of which had
been handed down to him from his Mahatma
forefather some generations back.
In the solitude of the Indian jungle a
hundred years previously his fore-elder had
discovered this wonderful plant, which not
only physically sustained him to a great ex-
tent, but furnished him with an extraordinary
supply of the mystic fluid.
This ancient Mahatma was literally satu-
rated with wisdom, without going through
the painful processes that men of that class
are usually compelled in the attainment of
their ascetic ambition. By the agency of this
psychic gift he could unfold, without having
read its history, the glories of India in its
ancient days ; describing the magnificence of
its rulers ; their pomp ; their immense retinues,
which were on such a scale that the passage
through his dominion by their Sovereign
caused a famine in the parts traversed. Only
two classes existed in those good old times,
the very rich and the very poor.
He could conjure up pictures of the work-
men dropping down dead from hunger and
exhaustion who were engaged upon the erec-
tion of the loveliest mausoleum that the
world has ever seen ; more like an exquisite
marble palace of fairy land than a resting
place for the dead. Art had indeed attained
its hightest perfection in those far off days,
the monuments of which the Eastern still
gazes upon with pride and affection.
Or he could project his thought till it
reached the mind of ministers in England,
when he could produce a mental negative, so
to speak, of the thought of the ministers re-
specting the policy they intended carrying
out which would affect India ; for it was
only on the occasion of some great national
question stirring the mind of the people
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 199
that he cared to put out his thought in this
Moreover, he possessed the power of
seeing into futurity, for he foretold that in
one hundred years India would have her own
supreme Sovereign, one who would be of their
own unbiassed choice, who lived among them,
and studied the happiness of her people. One
who was loved and reverenced throughout
the vorld. Whose rule would bring honour,
dignity and renown to their beautiful and
beloved India ; and this unrivalled potentate
would be a woman, young, beautiful and
New, this prophecy of the old Mahatma
could not refer to Victoria, the first English
Empress of India, for she was gathered to
her forefathers at that time, and King Albert,
the First, reigned in her stead.
The descendant of this wonderful Mahatma
resided in London, his father having been
appointed by Government to the post of Col
lector, a position of some importance in the
Civil Service. But the son elected to follow
a profession that was more in accordance
with the traditions of his ancestors, and at
the same time would supply a want in his
own generation, that was called into existence
by the exigencies of the times.
The worn-out theories of Theosophy which
deemed nirvana the highest attainable condi-
tion of the human soul, had no attraction for
him ; but he regarded it with some amount
of reverence, inspired by the traditions cf an
ancient religion, which cannot fail to cast a
halo round it, even when discarded by the
more advanced modern.
Dayanand Swami surrounded himself with
the gorgeous luxuries of an Eastern prince,
although dwelling in the English metropolis,
and displayed his Eastern descent, by follow-
ing Eastern customs as far as English con-
ventionalities would permit. Nevertheless, he
kept in touch with the times, accommodating
himself to the requirements of the people
among whom he had made his home.
The carriages of titled ladies might have
been seen daily at his door ; for love troubles,
and court troubles disturbed the peace of
great dames even in the twenty-first century.
Native servants waited obsequiously on
these noble visitors who formed chiefly his
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 201
clientele, and whose rich fees sustained the
splendours of his household.
Upon the arrival of a visitor the great
door would be folded back, revealing a court-
yard arranged in a style of true Eastern mag-
nificence. The floor was formed of mosaics
of elegant design cut from costly marbles.
Shrubs, flowers, and trees of exotic birth
filled convenient parterres, while a fountain
played its crystal waters in feathery spray,
giving the scene a refreshing sense of coolness.
Birds of beautiful plumage disported themselves
amongst the trees, adding colour, as well as
life to the picture. The tiny humming-bird,
like a moving flower- bud hung on the
branches of beautiful shrubs, or basked in the
sunshine of this artificial Eastern clime ; for
the whole was covered with a high dome of
glass of considerable area, which was sup-
ported by graceful pillars of manufactured
marbles erected in regular succession. The
tropical temperature obtained by the conser-
vation of solar heat, being evenly sustained
the year through, independently of the
changes of weather.
The apartments within were arranged in
similarly luxurious style. The walls were
hung with crimson satin, embroidered richly
in gold, but the colours were varied according
to the character of the apartments.
While the wall draperies of one room were
composed of crimson satin, those of another
were pale blue, another yellow, and so on, all
of which were embroidered in richest hues,
intermingled with gold. The couches and
curiously carved stools were upholstered in
rich materials that were in character with the
decorations of the walls, and window dra-
peries ; while Persian carpets of the softest
velvet pile sank like turf beneath the tread.
Costly ornaments of Eastern manufacture
adorned the side tables, or were arranged on
beautifully carved ivory brackets ; while
native Japanese paintings, encased in richest
frames gave the tout ensemble a decidedly
oriental appearance. The picturesque delinea-
tions of the Jap, whose ideas of art were
totally different from those of the Western
world, made their paintings real curiosities to
the English mind. These represented lovers
in nearly all stages of the gr ancle passion seated
in Japanese teahouses, or holding loving con-
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 203
verse beneath the shade of luxurious trees,
whose branches seemed to reach the deep
blue skies. In another apartment portraits
of great Eastern potentates, celebrated Hindus,
and venerable Mahatmas gave the English
visitor an idea of the former prestige of the
In the lady's withdrawing-room containing
the Japanese pictures, strains of sweetest music
were set agoing at will, given apparently by a
stringed band of automatic performers, made
to imitate an orchestra of little men ; who
looked excruciatingly comic, as they moved
their arms up and down, and waved about
their funny little heads. The whole arrange-
ment was set in motion by the same energy
that gave heat to the apartments, conserva-
tory, and cooking apparatus.
In his ' room of contemplation,' or studio,
was daily seated at stated hours the highly
gifted Swami, surrounded by his ' silent ser-
vants ' — Ins books of Eastern lore. Tier upon
tier of carved framework contained works
from the most remote antiquity, dating back-
wards nearly four thousand years ; and so on,
through all the centuries, till quite up-to-date
literature of the various epochs was repre-
sented. Rare manuscripts of the ancient Rig
Veda, with plays, love stories, and fables,
together with works on medicine, philosophy,
mathematics, astronomy, and magic arts, all
of very ancient date, filled the shelves of the
library. While gorgeously-bound volumes of
poetry, part of which were in the original
Sanskrit, and part translated into English,
were strewed on the elegantly designed coffee-
tables, or stands, with which the drawing-
room was furnished.
Here is a graphic description of the drought
in an Indian summer, taken from a poem by
K&lidh&sa, of great antiquity, entitled —
The Ritu-Sanhara, or, The Seasons. ]
' Now the burning summer sun
Hath unchallenged empire won ;
And the scorching winds blow free
Blighting every herb and tree.
Should the longing exile try,
Watching with a lover's eye
"Well-remembered scenes to trace —
Vainly would he scan the place,
For the dust with shrouding veil
Wraps it in a mantle pale.
1 Translated by Griffiths.
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 205
Lo, the lion, — forest king —
Through the wood is wandering ;
By the maddening thirst opprest
Ceaseless heaves his panting chest.
Though the elephant pass hy
Scarcely turns his languid eye
Bleeding mouth and failing limb,
"What is now his prey to him ?
Where the sparkling lake before
Filled its bed from shore to shore,
Boots and twisting fibres wind,
Dying fish in nets to bind ;
There the cranes in anguish seek
Water with the thirsty beak.
Elephants all mad with thirst
From the woods in fury burst :
From their mountain-caverns see
Butt' aloes rush furiously.
With hanging tongue and foam-fleck'd hide,
Tossing high their nostrils wide,
Eager still their sides to cool
In the thick and shrunken pool.'
Here is an equally graphic description of
rain, from the same poem : —
' Who is this that driveth near,
Heralded by sounds of fear ?
Bed his flag the lightning's glare
Flashing through the murky air.
Pealing thunder for his drums —
Boyally the monarch cornea.
See ! he rides amid the crowd,
On his elephant of cloud
Marshalling his kingly train :
Welcome, oh, thou lord of rain.
Gathered clouds, as black as night
Hide the face of heaven from sight :
Sailing on their airy road
Sinking with their watery load.
See, the peacocks hail the rain,
Spreading wide their jewelled train,
They will revel, dance and play
In their wildest joy to-day.'
Coming down to a period as late as the
twelfth century of our era were works repre-
sentative of the Hindu poet of that time.
Here is a translation of a poem, a pastoral
drama, by Jayadeva, of which it is said ; the
exquisite melody of the verse can only be
appreciated by those who can enjoy the
Krishna, the herdsman, loves Eadha, the
shepherdess, but has wandered from her to
amuse himself with other maidens. Nanda,
Krishna's foster father, gives her warning,
saying : —
' Go, gentle Radha, seek thy wand'ring love ;
Dusk are the woodlands, — black the sky above.
Bring thy dear wanderer home, and bid him rest
His weary head upon thy faithful breast.'
Then Eadha makes anxious search for
him, pressing through forest and tangled
bushes, until a friend tells her in sheer pity
that Krishna will not be found in lonely forest
shades, and thus sings to her : —
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 207
' In this love-tide of spring, when the amorous hreeze
Has kissed itself sweet on the beautiful trees,
And the humming of numberless bees, as they throng
To the blossoming shrubs swells the kokila's song : —
' In this lovetide of spring when the spirit is glad,
And the parted, yes, only the parted, are sad ;
Thy lover, thy Krishna is dancing in glee
With troops of young maidens forgetful of thee.
Dispensing rich odours the sweet madhavi
With its lover-like wreathings encircles the tree ;
And oh, e'en a hermit must yield to the power —
The ravishing scent of the malika flower.
' Saffron robes his body grace ;
Flowery wreaths his limbs entwine ;
There's a smile upon his face,
And his ears with jewels shine.
In that youthful company,
Amorous felon ! revels he ;
False to all — most false to thee.'
In the end Krishna, although faithless for
a time, discovers the vanity of all other loves,
and returns with sorrow and longing to his
own darling Eadha.
In Swami's library were books containing
collections of Hindu stories that had been
handed down for hundreds of years, and re-
peated orally by each generation until at
length various collections were made by
native litterateurs, which sometimes were
o-iven very fanciful titles. Indeed, Hindu
literature supplied the whole world with its
stories, even the Persians stole from it con-
The following is an ancient Sanskrit love
story by an author of repute, of the name of
Subandhu. The chief beauties of this tale
lie in its alliterations, double meaning of
phrases, and puns, which bristle everywhere,
all of which are of necessity lost in the trans-
lation. The plot is peculiar.
A king who lived somewhere on the
Ganges, was a follower of Siva, and ruled his
kingdom so admirably that impiety was un-
known, proof by ordeal never needed, and
violence never practised.
This king had a son, who was the delight
of all who sought his protection, his sagacity
always securing him from deception. His
religious feeling was shown by marked devo-
tion to cows, and to Brahmans ; and being
comely as the god of love, (who by the way
is furnished with his bow and arrows, show-
ing that the idea may have been borrowed by
the ancient Greeks,) he was admired by all
maidens, far and near. The extraordinary
fact, was however, that the maiden with
whom alone he fell in love, was one thai
appeared to him in a dream.
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 209
He longed to dream again, but the fervour
of his emotion prevented sleep.
He shut himself up in solitude, and re-
fused nourishment. Then a faithful friend
persuaded him that travelling might bring
relief. They pursued their way to the
Vindhya Hills ; the sun was about to set as
they entered a wilderness.
The friend collected roots and fruits, and
the young prince fell asleep on a couch,
made up of branches from the trees ; but
not for long. For he was awakened by the
conversation of two birds who nestled in the
jambu tree above him.
The female bird was reproaching the male
for coming home so late, fearing that he
must have been dangling after some other
■sarikd. The male bird replies solemnly that
he has been attending to a transaction most
He then relates that in the city of
Kusumapura, (probably Patna) there is a
lovely princess, named, Vasavadatta. Beimr
of full age, the king, her father, invited ' the
highborn heirs of many principalities,' that
she might choose a husband.
210 MERC I A
The suitors came, and the damsel took her
place upon a dais to survey them ; but no one
pleased her, and she and they withdrew in dis-
At night, the young prince who had
fallen in love with her in a dream, appeared
to her in a vision ; and she felt at once that
he was her destined husband.
The vision made known his name, which
was Kandarpaketu ; but she suffers torments
of love and grief from not knowing how to
meet with him.
Under these circumstances her confidante
volunteers to go in search for him, and says
the bird, she arrived here when I did, and is
at this moment beneath our tree.
The lovesick prince no sooner heard this
welcome intelligence than he introduced
himself to the confidante, talked with her
for twenty-four hours, (much too long, one
would think) and then went with her to
Here he found the lovely Vasavadatta in
a garden-house of ivory. On seeing each
other they faint for joy, and afterward*
rehearse their past sufferings.
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 211
The confidante speaks for the princess,
and says that 'if the heavens were a tablet,
the sea an inkstand, the longevous Brahma
an amanuensis, and the king of serpents the
narrator, only a trifling part of those agonies
could be told.'
They next resolve on what we should call
a ' runaway match ; ' and this they effect
by mounting a magic steed which carries
them to the Vindhya forests in the twinkling
of an eye. They sleep soundly in a bower
of flowery creepers, but when the sun is at
meridian height the prince awakes, and finds
Vasavadatta missing. He bitterly laments
and wonders what can have caused so
dreadful an affliction. Poor Vasavadatta
having been the first to awaken, and seeing
her bridegroom looking pale and emaciated,
for the sickness of love had greatly reduced
him, hastened away to gather fruits and food
to restore him. In the midst of this loving
occupation she was surprised by huntsmen
and so frightened that eventually she lost
her way, and found herself unable to return
to her sorrowing bridegroom. After many
dangers and difficulties were gone through
the prince at length discovers her ; she is
conducted back to his father's palace, and
they live in the greatest love and happiness
Carved upon the oak panels that lined
the walls of Dayanand Swami's ' room of
contemplation ' were Sanskrit texts taken
from The Eig Veda, the ancient Hindu
The portions selected had reference chiefly
to the sun ; the light of day being considered
typical of the light of learning. The follow-
ing are the English rendering of these short
o Cr O
quotations from four thousand years old
' His coursers bear on high the divine, all knowing
Sun that he mat be seen bt all worlds '
; At the approach of the all illuminating Sun the
constellations depart with the night, like thieves.'
'his illuminating rats behold men in succession
like blazing fires.'
' Thou outstrippest all in speed ; thou art visible
to all ; thou art the source of light ; thou shinest
throughout the entire firmament.'
' The divine Savitri displays his banner on HIGH,
diffusing light through all worlds.'
• Contemplating all things, the Sun has filled
heaven and earth and the firmament with his rats.'
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 213
'The tremulous eats of the Sun throw off the
darkness, which is spread like a skin over the
' Oh, divine Sun, thou proceedest with most power-
ful HORSES, SPREADING THY WEB OF RAYS AND CUTTING
DOWN THE BLACK ABODE OF NIGHT ! '
These texts being carved in the original
tongue — Sanskrit — Swaini's English visitors
were very little the wiser for having gazed
upon them. Indeed, many persons imagined
them to convey some deep mystic meaning
that the great man would have been most
unwilling to reveal. After all, if they could
have looked over his shoulder and have seen
how he spent his moments of relaxation, they
would have discovered him perusing sundry
very harmless works in his native language,
for even collections of fables and fairy tales,
which was a favourite form of literature in
the East, served occasionally to relieve the
weariness of his tired brain.
Here is a story of a Jaina ascetic, taken
from a work named ' The Panchatantra,' a
collection of fables and tales that long ago
found their way into Persia. Niishirvan, the
King of Persia sent a physician to India in
search of medical knowledge and books ; the
2i4 MERC I A
physician not only brought back medical
books, but collections of fables also, which,
being translated into Pehlevi went forth to
the world as the fables of Pilpay.
The book opens by stating that a certain
king was concerned at finding that his sons
were growing up without knowledge. He
called a council at which the necessity of
acquiring knowledge was discussed, and also
the length of time required for the acquisition
of such kinds of knowledge that was con-
The conclusion at which the councillors
arrived was that the king must be advised
to entrust his sons to a Brahman named
Vishnusarman, who undertook to teach them
niti in six months. This being arranged,
Vishnusarman took the young princes to his
house, and composed for their benefit a series
of fables — the ' Panchatantra,' so called from
• pancha,' five, and ' tantra,' section — namely,
five narratives. They are stories within
stories, woven most intricately one within the
other ; here is a short one, treating of the
A certain king who reigned in Ayodhya,
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 215
the capital of Kosala, sent his minister to
subdue a rebellion among some of the Rajahs
in the hills. Whilst the minister was absent
a religious mendicant came to Kosala, who
by his skill in divination, his knowledge of
hours, omens, aspects, and ascensions ; his
dexterity in solving numbers, answering
questions, and detecting things covertly con-
cealed, and his proficiency in all similar
branches of knowledge, acquired such fame
and influence that it might be said he had
purchased the country, and it was his
The fame of this man at last reached the
king, who sent for him, and found his con-
versation so agreeable that he wanted him
constantly beside him. One day, however,
the mendicant did not appear, and when he
next came, he accounted for his absence by
stating that he had been upon a visit to
Paradise, and that the deities sent their com-
pliments to the king. The king was simple
enough to believe him and was filled with
astonishment and delight.
His admiration of this marvellous faculty
so engrossed his thought, that the duties of
216 MERC I A
his state and the pleasures of his palace, were
But after awhile his minister returned,
having subdued the king's enemies in the
hills, and is amazed and disgusted to find his
king in close conference with a naked mendi-
cant, instead of occupying himself as formerly
with his appointed duties.
He quickly ascertains the pretensions of
the ascetic, and asked the king if what he
had heard of the mendicant's celestial visit
The king assured him that it was, and the
ascetic offered to satisfy the general's apparent
scepticism, by departing for Swarga in his
With this intent the king and his courtiers
accompanied the Sramanaka to his cell, which
he entered, and closed the door.
After some delay, the general asked the
king when they would see him again. The
king answered, 'Have patience, on these
occasions the sage quits his earthly body
and assumes an ethereal form in which alone
he can enter Indra's heaven.'
' If this be the case,' said the general, ' let
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 217
us burn his cell, and thus prevent his re-
assuming his earthly body ; your majesty will
then have constantly an angelic person in
To reconcile the king to this mode of
proceeding the general tells him a story
which has reference to the serpent, or Naga
tribes of ancient India.
' A Brahman named Devasarman had no
child, which denial made his wife miserable.
At length, however, owing to some mystic
words, a son is promised, but what was the
surprise of the mother, and the horror of the
attendants, when the child so eagerly desired
proved to be a snake.
' The assistants wished to destroy the
monster, but maternal affection prevailed, and
the snake was reared with all possible care
' At the proper age the mother entreated
her husband to provide a suitable wife for
their son. He said he would if he could gain
admission to Patala, where Vasuki, the Ser-
pent King, reigns over the Nagas, and might
grant such a request.
' But his wife was so distressed that to
divert her thoughts he consented to travel.
After some months they arrived at a city in
which a Brahman offered his own beautiful
daughter as a wife for the serpent.
' The girl consented to the marriage and
performed her duties admirably. After a
time her serpent-husband changed one night
into a man, intending in the morning to re-
assume his serpent form : but the girl's father
discovering that the snake body was aban-
doned, seized the deserted skin and threw it
into the fire.
1 The consequence of which was, that his
son-in law ever remained in the figure of a
man, to the pride of his parents, and the
happiness of his wife.'
After hearing this narrative the king no
longer hesitated. The mendicant's cell was
set on fire ; the mendicant perished in the
flames, and the king was as his general
desired, released from the thraldom of a
cunning ascetic. 1
When Swami was a boy, his youthful
imagination was fired by these ancient Hindu
stories, but the one which tended most
1 From ' Ancient and Mediaeval India.' — Manning.
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 219
directly in forming his ambition, giving him
the desire to become a mind-reader, was the
following, taken from the ' Yetala-Pancha-
vinasati ; ' or, ' Twenty-five Tales told by a
Vetal.' A Vetal may be the spirit of a
deceased person, or that of a living person
who enters the body of another, leaving its
own, and taking possession of that of a
A certain Brahman, named Shan til, gave
np the world and lived in the woods as a
hermit, or ascetic. He had already become
a magician by Yogi-practice. But ordinary
magic did not meet his full ambition. He
coveted universal superhuman power ; and
for this he required the co-operation of an
able pupil, carefully instructed, who should
be qualified to assist in the sacrifice of a
specially indicated human being.
Whilst Shantil pursued his ascetic prac-
tice, and sat cross-legged, Yogi-fashion, in his
forest dwelling, a severe famine occurred in
the district of Delhi, or near Hastinapura.
The distressed inhabitants dispersed in search
of food, and a Brahman, whose wife had died
of hunger, wandered with his two sons, who
22o MERC I A
had not yet attained manhood, into what is
called a foreign country.
Afar off they perceived a ' forest sur-
rounded by various trees, loaded with ripe
fruits ; the symmetry, the neatness, and the
admirable order of the trees, and the abun-
dance and diversity of a thousand sorts of
fruits,' proved most captivating to the hungry
Presently they found themselves in front
of an edifice, stately as a palace, although
built with common materials. Within sat the
dreadful magician Shantil.
To the weary wanderers he merely ap-
peared as a holy ascetic ; seated on the
customary sacred darbha grass, and holding
in his hand the usual string of holy beads,
which consists of one hundred and eight of
the beautifully carved nuts, or seed vessels
of the Eleocarpus, here called in Sanskrit
Rudraksha. The travellers approached pros-
trating themselves, and showing all imagin-
Shantil returned their salutation, and in-
quired the object of their journey. Having
heard their story he turned to the father and
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 221
said: 'Oh, Brahman, be not afraid: I will
take care of your sons until the famine is
over : but on one condition, that you give
me one of your boys, whichever you
The father, feeling lie had no alternative,
consented to the arrangement, and after
feasting on dainties for three days, he em-
braced his sons with many tears, and departed.
Shantil was a magician skilled in all arts and
sciences : nothing, indeed, was unknown to
He lost no time in setting the boys tasks
to exercise their faculties, and prepare them
also for the acquisition of magic.
He soon ascertained that the younger boy
had the higher capacity, and of him he
determined to possess himself: he never,
therefore, allowed him to go out of his sight.
He taught him grammar, divinity, law,
astronomy, philosophy, physiognomy, al-
chemy, geography, the power of transferring
the soul to a dead body ; the giving it anima-
tion, and several other arts, amongst which
was included astrology, or the art of fore-
telling future events. In short, the law which
222 MERC I A
prescribes that a preceptor shall teach all
that he knows to his pupil, if he be wise, and
desirous of knowledge, was fully obeyed.
In this case, the diligent and accomplished
preceptor, was striving to secure an accomplice
in a pupil. But, cunning as he was, he out-
witted himself; for wishing that the father
should prefer the elder lad, he fed him plenti-
fully, and clothed him handsomely, whilst he
kept his younger and more promising pupil
half starved, and poorly clad.
As might be expected, the younger pupil
became in consequence anxious to escape, and
being already master of the science which
prognosticates future events, he perceived that
the famine had ceased, and that his father
was coming to claim one of his sons and carry
He knew also, that his father would be
most attracted by his elder brother, who
looked fat, and was covered with jewels.
Making use, therefore, of his power of trans-
porting himself to distant places, he went to
his father, and revealed to him the wicked
character and intentions of the Yogin, and
obtained a solemn promise that his father
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 223
would choose him, and not his decorated
brother, as the son to be taken home.
The father duly arrived at the hermitage,
and though he experienced much difficulty
he at length induced the Yogin to part with
his gifted pupil, and with him he went away.
But the father and son had not proceeded
far before the son felt certain that his tyrant
was in pursuit, and for protection he felt it
necessary to change himself into a horse. At
the same time, he charged his father to
sell him at a neighbouring fair ; but for no
consideration to part with him to anyone in
whose presence he should neigh, or paw the
As the young man apprehended, so it
happened. Shantil, the Yogin, tracked them,
and discovering the disguise presented himself
at the fair, and offered so large a sum that the
father, dazzled by the sight of an enormous
heap of gold, sold hi? son to his dreaded
In vain the poor horse had neighed, over
and over, and pawed the ground to show his
displeasure at the sale, but this only confirmed
Shantil in his desire to have him, so that the
money-loving father was prevailed upon to
Shantil then rides his captive back to his
hermitage keeping him under severe restraint :
but after a few days the imprisoned horse is
able to make himself known to his brother,
who loosens his bonds, when he bounds
Again Shantil pursues, and again the
fugitive escapes. On this occasion assuming
the form of a pigeon, he flies in at the open
window of the king's palace and is protected
and concealed for a time by a lovely princess.
But Shantil was his master in the arts
of magic, and every disguise was discovered.
Upon his father he could not depend, for his
father had sold him for gold. One refuge
alone remained ; Shantil had no power over
Vetals — the spirits which animate dead bodies,
and despairing of other refuge, the young
Brahman Yogin rushed into a corpse which
was hanging on a tree in a public cemetery.
This obliged Shantil to seek for a man
with sufficient nerve and resolution to go
alone to the cemetery at night, cut down the
body which contained the Vetal into which
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 225
his pupil had entered, and bring corpse and
Vetfil to an appointed shrine, at which he
would await them.
The man of dauntless courage and resolu-
tion was found in King Vikrama. Now, we
do not know which Vikrama is meant, he of
Ougein,A.D. 65,orHarsha Vikrama, ofA.D. 500,
but it does not signify, but the city is called
Dhara, to the south of the river Godavery.
In Hindu poetry and fiction Vikrama
continually figures as the representative of
victorious courage. In this work he is de-
scribed as handsome as the god of love, a
devotee in religious worship, deferential to
priests, hermits, and persons who disgusted
with wordliness and contumely of relatives,
had given themselves up to think of God.
He was skilled in sacred sciences ; warlike,
though merciful ; a cherisher of the poor,
and a comforter of his subjects ; whom he
loved as if they were his children.
The palace of King Vikrama was large
and magnificent. It contained the most
splendid and costly articles : it was constantly
sprinkled with aloes water, and every article
of furniture was adorned by precious stones.
One day whilst Vikrama sat as usual on
his throne, Shantil, the Yogin, presented him-
self, and so holy did he appear that the king
received him with the utmost reverence, and
coming down from his throne entreated his
guest to take his seat. He then stood with
clasped hands and paid him adoration.
Shantil presented an artificial fruit which
he had brought, gave the benediction and
went away. For several successive days the
same thing was repeated, until on one occasion
the king happened to drop the fruit which
had been presented to him, a pet monkey
broke it open, and a splendid ruby was seen
Thereupon the king desired to have all
the other fruits which the holy man had pre-
sented, brought into his presence, and each
fruit, when opened was found to contain
rubies. The jewels were of the utmost rarity.
Indeed, the smallest were of such value, that
the largest could only be considered as beyond
' Hermit,' said the king, ' witli what inten-
tion didst thou present me with such treasures ;
hast thou anything to ask of me ? '
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 227
Shantil did not at once acknowledge what
it was he wanted, but gradually revealed that
he was engaged in rites for obtaining super-
human faculties, and that for their completion
he required the personal assistance of the
He had travelled over the greater part of
the world, he said, vainly seeking such a
person as would suit his ' enterprise. ' At
length,' he continued, 'I came to your court.
and have found in your Majesty the physio-
gnomy of a person fitted to act as assistant in
the intended sacrifice.'
The king did not give him time to say
more, but eagerly promised to do whatever
Shantil then explained that a certain Vetal
must be captured and given into his pos-
1 On the 14th of Aswin,' said he, ' at mid-
night, your Majesty must go alone to the
cemetery on the banks of the Godavery, beyond
the town : you must be clothed in black and
bear in your hand a naked sword.'
When the appointed day arrived a certain
tree was pointed out from which he was to
cut down the required corpse, and having
thrown it across his shoulders carry it in per-
fect silence to Shantil.
Vikrama went and found this burial-ground
filled with smoke from burning corpses, and
resounding with piercing cries of devils, which
were coming from all regions.
At length King Vikrama found the tree,
and climbing into it, he cut the cord by which
the corpse was suspended and threw it on the
ground ; but just as he put out his hands to
capture the Vetal it jumped up, and suspended
itself as before, high up in the tree. 1
This happened more than once, until the
king discovered that he must bind the corpse
across his back before he came down.
And now the king encountered another
difficulty ; for the wily Vetal within the
corpse which he carried began telling stories,
to beguile the fatigue of the journey he said,
but in truth, because he wanted to escape ;
and Vikrama could only hold him on condition
of his being absolutely silent.
The Vetal's plan was therefore, to put the
1 Certain trees are considered the true home of the Vetal :
he is then said ' to live in his own bouse.'
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 229
king off his guard, and just when his interest
was excited to ask some pointed question.
Five-and-twenty times did this succeed. As
soon as the king spoke the Vetal flew back to
his tree, and the whole process had to be re-
peated. The five-and-twenty stories called
' Vetalapanchavinsati,' are a record of the tales
related on these occasions, which Crustnath
Cassinathjee, a modern Hindu, translated
recently into English.
What ultimately became of the persecuted
Vetal we will leave to the reader who delights
to revel in Eastern fairy lore, as did Swami
from his boyhood upwards.
Magic and mystery possessed a charm for
him that he could not overcome, the result
being that he too desired superhuman power.
which should astonish even the advanced
scientists of the twenty-first century.
' I know the wealth of every urn
In which unnumbered rubies burn,
Beneath the pillars of Chilrninar ;
I know where the isles of perfume are,
Many a fathom down in the sea,
To the south of sun-bright Araby ;
I know too, where the Genii hid
The jewelled cup of their King Jamshid,
AVith life's elixir sparkling high.'
Swami being in the possession of all the accu-
mulated knowledge of successive generations
of Yogins, and having grown up as it were at
the feet of Gamaliel, in the person of his
father — to whom had been imparted the
secrets of the ascetics of previous genera-
tions — was filled with wonderful wisdom.
Moreover, his powers were considerably
perfected and strengthened by reason of his
advanced culture, aided by his natural gift of
psychic-energy ; which latter was considerably
augmented by the soul-sustaining elixir upon
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 231
which, it was said, he was chiefly nourished.
Eich and poor flocked to him in their emer-
gencies ; and it must be recounted of him
that although he knew very well that the
latter could in no wise adequately reward
him, nevertheless, he gave the needy as much
of his valuable time as he could well afford ;
for his rich customers kept him so fully occu-
pied that he had hardly an hour in the day
to call his own.
It goes without saying that most of the
difficulties upon which he was consulted
proceeded from that arch mischief-maker —
Jealousy, whose wiles with the human heart
have cost mankind no end of trouble, in all
ages. It was no uncommon occurrence for a
fair Duchess to come and seek his aid by
informing her how and where her noble hus-
band was spending his evenings. But the
Duke guessing full well that she would be
making tender inquiries respecting him, would
beforehand endeavour to bribe the hiffh-
minded Eastern to keep his tongue from
Or an over- anxious wife would worry her-
self concerning the safety of her husband who
had taken his monthly journey across the
Atlantic in his flying machine, of which she
was most nervous.
Or a young man striving to obtain a
Government appointment, sought to learn if
his lady friend, of whom he was in mortal
fear, would bowl him out in the coming
Or an intending disputant in a law case
would consult the all-knowing-one as to the
issue of his suit, if he engaged in it. Those
foolhardy enough to disregard his warnings,
invariably proved unfortunate ; so that in the
end, the great mind -reader got as many of
these clients as the most popular barrister ;
but bearing different results. No matter of
what the difficulty consisted this Anglo-
Eastern sage solved it satisfactorily.
There was a time when the female portion
of his clientele harried him unfairly, by dis-
regarding his professional hours, and coming
to consult him late in the evening. This grew
so distressing to the gentle Eastern that in
the end he made a stand for liberty, by closing
his doors against them at a certain hour. It
was not their desire to harass their favourite
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 233
fortune-teller, but they objected to being seen
making him their visits ; for the raillery of
their acquaintances gave these anxious fair
ones excruciating agonies.
So Swami commanded his servants to ad-
mit no one after nine o'clock ; for listening to
the recital of his client's case was but a
moiety of the labour to be expended over it.
Swami was a man of moderate height,
that is to say, moderate for the twenty-first
century, when everybody nearly, attained a
Great stature. His shoulders did not measure
the breadth of the Teuton's, nevertheless, he
knew no chest-weakness, for his daily athletic
exercises from the age of six gave him a con-
stitution that bore the changes of the English
He had the beautifully soft, and peculiarly
shaped eyes of his race, that looked dark,
dreamy and unfathomable.
His black silken hair hung in natural ring-
lets around his neck, which was smooth and
of a deep cream colour : his complexion was
the same, but was relieved by the dark silky
moustache which partially concealed his well-
His nose was straight, coming in a line
almost from the forehead, while his chin was
prominent and broad, indicating resolution of
The forehead was high and full ; while the
whole expression of his countenance gave the
impression of his being a thinker, rather than
a man of action. Although he was averse to
much speech nevertheless, his natural fluency
of language gave him such choice of words
that he always expressed himself with great
grace and dignity.
Notwithstanding all his wisdom and deep
learning there was such an indescribable air
of simplicity and naturalness about him, that
people were inspired more with feelings of
trust and affection for him, rather than those
of awe and wonder.
If you endeavoured to guess his profession
by his appearance you might have said he
was a poet, philosopher, or scholar, but never
a builder, architect, or civil engineer ; for in
truth, he was a dreamer only, and took no
interest in practical pursuits. Nevertheless
the nature of his occupation prevented him
from spending his time in mere contemplation,
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 235
where he could live in a world of his own
creation ; for his mind being daily taken up
with the affairs of others, forced him into the
outside world, although only in spirit. Seated
in his ' room of contemplation,' — as his Eastern
servants named it, — where he was surrounded
with his books and instruments of magic, and
attired in a robe of rich yellow silk that
floated down his figure in ample folds, with
turban of the same hue, half concealing his
dark silky hair, he looked indeed, a perfect
picture of Eastern beauty.
He was a bachelor, so that the disturbing
influence to the exercise of genius of which
our eighteenth-century artist 1 complained, did
not interfere with his occupations. The halo
that surrounds the unappropriated man had
spread its lustre over him, making the pulse
of many a maiden quicken beneath the soft
glance of those beautiful Eastern eyes of his.
Even the noblest dame would hardly have
hesitated to mate with a man who was so
universally admired and reverenced. Indeed,
rumour averred, that offers of marriage were
1 Sir Joshua Reynolds maintained that a 'wife and children
spoilt an artist's genius.
236 MERC I A
by no means a rare occurrence with him, for
woman's privileges extended to this departure
from ancient usage by this time.
But Swami resisted the tender advances of
his fair customers, for his life was so entirely
devoted to the profession he loved that mari-
tal cares had no charm for him.
Moreover, he had never met with the
woman who could hold empire over him ;
whose soul- energy, could mingle with his, and
fill his whole being with rapturous emotion,
giving his life new charms, new hopes, and
new aspirations. Until that being came into
his life he was determined to live secluded
and solitary, for, making no intimates of his
customers, the pleasures of friendship were
unknown to him.
One soft spring afternoon a few days, pre-
vious to that appointed for the Great Test
Tournament, there came rolling up to his resi-
dence the royal carriage, drawn by prancing
horses, and who should alight therefrom but
the Emperor Felicitas himself. The dark
servants trembled at the approach of such a
mighty potentate, for Eastern ideas of the
power of princes are not easily overcome,
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 237
but Swami himself received the monarch with
that easy and gentle courtesy, he extended to
' What doth the Emperor of so many
dominions require of me ? ' he asked, with a
touch of his native Eastern politeness.
' Indeed,' cried the Emperor impetuously,
' I wish my crown anywhere but on my head !
What good is power if it leave one craving
for that which he most desires ? '
' I want that, Swami, which I am denied,
and which my heart is bursting for — the love
of a woman — there ! If thou hast magic
power, as I am told thou possessest greatly,
tell me how I can attain this ? '
' Is she so perverse ? ' asked Swami quietly.
' Perverse isn't the word for it — she is ice,
adamant — immovable as a rock ! Yes,' re-
turned the Emperor despondently, ' she is as
cold as she is beautiful ; and I have put her
in prison ! And, oh, I am utterly miserable.
Believe me, Swami, I cannot sleep, eat, or
work, for I am intensely, hopelessly miserable.'
' I am truly sorry to see thy Majesty in
such a plight,' remarked Swami kindly. But
why didst thou place the lady thou lovest in a
prison? It seems a high-handed way of
dealing with a subject ; truly a mighty strange
method of inducing her love ? '
' I was put in a quandary,' replied Felicitas
candidly, for he knew there was no good
gained by attempting to deceive the thought-
reader ; ' I was suddenly surprised by visitors
as I was attempting to detain her, when a
craven spirit entered me, and I denounced
her as a would-be murderer.'
' Did she endeavour to harm thee ? ' in-
quired Swami eagerly.
' Yes, truly she raised her ebony life-pre-
server to strike me if I touched her.'
' But she did it in self-defence, evidently,'
retorted Swami, while a bright light illumined
his usually dreamy eyes.
' Besides, those ebony trifles that ladies
sometimes carry do not kill, they do but
temporarily paralyse the part they touch.'
' Oh, it matters little now, what they do —
I wish she had killed me outright — anything
but this dreadful torture of doubt to go
through. This frightful fear nearly drives me
mad — I wish it were all over.'
' What ? ' inquired Swami, wishful to
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 239
obtain a clear command from the king in so
many words, for his thoughts were in a state
of the wildest confusion.
' The trial — the trial — I dread it. I
heartily wish I had never sent that warrant.
The Crown Prosecutor has got the case in
hand, and, Swami, I am heartily ashamed of
it. Help me, I pray thee, and tell me how it
will all end, and I will well reward thee.'
The Emperor looked like one distraught ;
his blue eyes gleamed with feverish excite-
ment : his lips twitched uneasily, and he
clasped his hands together with the agony of
his mind, over which fear more than repent-
Swami soon perceived wherein the Em-
peror's chief trouble lay. ' I see by the brain-
waves emanating from thee that the woman
thou lovest is in confinement in the first-class
misdemeanants' quarters, in the Metropolitan
Prison. Now that will do; I know enough.
Let thy Majesty come at this hour to-morrow,
and I will show thee what thou desirest to
Then the Emperor remembering that the
real object of his visit was not yet accom-
240 MERC I A
plished, blurted out — ' I desire to learn the
issue of the trial, that is my chief care at
' Of that I am aware, Sire,' replied Swami
courteously. 'Thou desirest to learn the issue
of the trial on thine own account. I perfectly
understand it. In the meantime I would
advise that the lady be allowed her libert} T ,
subject to her own recognisances. It will be
more advisable from every point of view, lest
thy subjects deem thee harsh and unjust
towards her. Whichever way the trial goes
it is wise to show a merciful bearing, so that
thou mayest retain thy subjects' good opinion.
It cannot hurt the case for the lady will not
flee, be well assured of that. She will prefer
to face her case in open court, for by all
accounts that have reached me of her
character, Mercia isn't made of stuff to shirk
' Ha, Sorcerer, thou knowest her name !
Who told it thee ? ' exclaimed Felicitas in
' Thyself,' replied the Soul-Eeader, ' I read
it on thy brain. Moreover, fear, more than
love, predominates within thy bosom. Thy
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 241
Majesty doth dread the testimony of the
witnesses arrayed against thee.'
'I do not deny it,' returned Felicitas
meekly, for he was completely subdued by the
two-fold influence of anxiety concerning the
impending case, and awe of the Soul-reader's
power to divine his thought.
' I do not indeed, deny it,' he continued,
' for I certainly dread that awful Sadbag, who
with villainous guile hid behind the screen,
and heard me plead my cause with the
beauteous Mercia. But I must own it gives
me more uneasiness the testimony of Mercia
herself, for none will doubt her word.'
' Then, let me advise thy Majesty to with
draw the charge and set the lady at liberty
forthwith. A king's cause should be just,
and beyond suspicion : himself the personifi-
cation of integrity, truth, and righteousness.
He should rather suffer a slight, than in
revenge work a great injury. The way of a
king should be perfect.'
Felicitas looking ill at ease endeavoured to
take this rebuke lightly. ' The law still holds
good that " a king can do no wrong." But.
Swami,' he continued earnestly, and in a
pleading tone, ' thine advice is good if my
way be not : tell me first what the issue of
the trial will be, and I will then accommodate
myself to circumstances.'
' Be it so,' answered Swami courteously.
' Come at this hour to-morrow and I will be
When the Emperor arrived on the follow-
ing day at the Soul-reader's dwelling, he was
met at the door by Swami himself, who
conducted him into his library. From thence
he led him into an inner room, which having
no window was in a state of complete
' It has cost me many hours of labour to
obtain this result,' explained Swami to his
visitor, ' but it is, I believe, perfect. Presently,
I will illumine the sensitive plate on which
the scene is projected from my brain, and
show to thy Majesty three pictures of the
scenes which will certainly be enacted at the
court, during the coming trial. For I find
that the case will come off independently
of thy action. I can only now advise what
course thy Majesty can best take concern-
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 243
Then Swami, having all the results in
readiness of his wonderful instrument — the
psycho-register — touched a spring, and forth-
with an immense illuminated picture, filling
one side of the room and representing a scene
in the Great Hall, of the Court, almost daz-
zling in its brilliancy of colouring, instantane-
ously appeared. So complete was the surprise
of Felicitas that he started back, for the
strange vividness, no less than the suddenness
of the scene made him somewhat nervous :
but Swami, accustomed to finding his visitors
startled, kindly re-assured him.
' Sire,' said he gently, ' be not alarmed,
there is nothing to hurt thy Majesty.'
It proved, in truth, a most wonderful and
striking picture of the Great Justice Hall in
the Metropolitan Court. Tiers of seats con-
taining the elite of Great Britain, and Ireland,
Berlin, Paris, and most of the European Con-
tinent, were filled to overflowing ; for nobles
and great dames, and even several crowned
heads, had assembled from all parts to see
the cause celebre.
In the dock was seated Mercia, looking
calm, beautiful, and self-possessed. She was
: 4 4 MERCIA
arrayed in a flowing crimson velvet gown that
cast a warm glow over her face which had
paled considerably either through anxiety, or
Innumerable opera glasses were being
levelled at her by both sexes; while busy
barristers in their black gowns and white
wigs scanned their note-books. The place set
apart for newspaper reporters was filled with
representatives of the press setting in order
their respective phonographs, which were to
register the whole proceedings of the case.
Where the distance was not great as soon as
the court closed each day, the phonograph
containing the evidence of the witnesses,
speeches of the barristers, and in fact every-
thing that was said at the trial, was packed off
forthwith to the editor of each newspaper, by
the quickest conveyance possible, who cut
down the report as lie thought fit, to suit the
dimensions of his space in the newspaper, and
the fastidiousness of his readers ; for the
frailties of human nature as delineated in a
court of justice do not form at all times an
edifying spectacle for the young, or the
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 245
On his feet stood the Crown Prosecutor,
evidently stating his case, while Geometrus
and Sadbag were seated at one side ; but no
Emperor Felicitas could be discovered any-
where : he indeed, was conspicuous by his
absence, seeing he was the only witness in his
Felicitas gazed in amazement at the im-
mense group photographed there ; ejaculat-
ing from time to time, as he recognised each
member of the nobility with whom he was
acquainted, pictured before him.
' By Jove ! ' he exclaimed, ' there is Nicholas
of Russia, and his fat Empress ! How interested
she looks — see she has got her ear-trumpet
in use, endeavouring to miss nothing. And
Louis of France, forsooth ; the new Louis
Twentieth, not at all a bad looking fellow !
And Osbert my cousin, who averred he'd be
dumb, but evidently intends to be neither
blind, nor deaf.
'And there's the Duke of Northumber-
land, with his skinny spouse seated beside
him ; whose skin is just like a piece of crinkled
yellow leather. And Lord Lennox and his
pretty bride ! Well, I must say, they're all
most excellent likenesses — they look indeed,
like living pictures. What a treat they are
getting ! An Emperor in a witness-box isn't
an every-day occurrence, to be sure ! And,
oh, there's Mercia, how pale, how beautiful,
how sad she appears ! Ah, Swami, I have
no heart to go on with this prosecution. I
love her — I would die for her — canst thou
not exercise thy magic and make her love
'I possess no power over the human
heart,' returned Swami coldly. ' My work is
to make known futurity to a slight extent ;
which will serve as a guidance to the inquirer
in matters of difficulty. Besides,' added the
Thought-reader lightly, ' thy Majesty is no
longer in the matrimonial market. Why
trouble then the lady when thou hast nothing
to offer her but disgrace ? ' he inquired after
1 1 would make her mine Empress,' cried
Felicitas passionately. ' I would obtain a
divorce and free myself from my intolerable
fetters ! '
' Impossible ! ' urged Swami, as it seemed
defiantly. ' Thy Majesty hath no just cause
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 247
for putting away thine Empress : she is a
model of marital purity, by all accounts.'
* My plea would be on the ground of in-
compatibility of temper : we do not agree in
any way, and I shall never know happiness
while I live with her. Besides, what is to
become of the Succession, with a barren
woman for Empress?' demanded Felicitas
with a look of triumph in his face, for he
imagined this would prove an unanswerable
argument with the country.
' The Succession,' returned Swami smiling,
' can take no harm whatever, with the
numerous cousins thy Majesty is favoured
with. Moreover, it behoves me to remind
thy Majesty that the Empress and thyself
lived in perfect harmony up to the time that
th} T mind wandered to the fair astronomer.
Curb thy desires : keep thy way pure, and
engage thyself in the affairs of the nation,
taking good heed of thine high position,
and Mercia will soon pass out of thy life.
Thus all will in time go well with thee.'
' How fine thou preachest, good Swami !
Surely thou hast mistaken thy vocation —
for the gown of a priest would better befit
thee. Dost thou advise all thy customers
in this strain ? ' exclaimed the monarch
' I counsel each one who seeks my aid to
the best of my ability. All who come hither
do so of their own free will. I invite no one
— I press no one. Let him who is dissatisfied
with my forewarnings go his own way : I.
will not quarrel with him for following his
own council. For I find all men in the end
carry out their own designs, even if the wis-
dom of a Solomon, double-distilled, were to
warn them of their folly.'
' Swami, forgive me ! ' returned Felicitas
humbly, ' I meant no offence ; but I was net-
tled by being made to listen to good advice,
to which I am treated daily. The Empress
bestows uninvited this article so generously
tli at in truth I want no more from anybody.
Now, I pray, let us talk of Mercia ; would she
marry me if 1 were free ? '
' She is destined for another, far beneath
thy Majesty in social position ; but who can
give her a heart wholly devoted to her : one
who has never desired the love of woman till
his eyes gazed upon her beauty — the beauty
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 249
of her soul,' replied Swami, with a counte-
nance irradiated with his own emotions.
' To look at thee, Swami, and to hear thy
speech,' cried the Emperor excitedly, ' one
could only conclude that thou wert in love
with her thyself! Her beauty of person is
good enough for me : I know naught of soul-
beauty ! Few men do, I opine, save sor-
cerers ; and they need no femininities to com-
fort them, being above such frailties, I
presume. However, I am aware that Mercia
is in love already. That fellow Geometrus
desires her, and she loves him : at all events
she told me as much. I suppose thy pro-
phecy refers to him ; for he is one also who
troubles little about the affairs of women ; for
he slaves all day making astronomical in-
struments for Mercia to do her star-gazing
with. He is her devoted servant, and she ap-
preciates him accordingly,' observed Felicitas
' But will she marry him ? ' remarked
' Exercise thy soul- reading powers and
discover for thyself,' answered the Emperor
lightly. ' Turn on the next scene, if it be
ready, for I would learn all with as great a
speed as possible,' he added.
Upon hearing this request Swami pressed
another button, and immediately the room
was enveloped in darkness, and the picture
vanished altogether from sight. The next
picture which appeared upon the crystal
plate, portrayed the court with the same
visitors in similar order as before, but with
this difference. The serious expression which
the countenances of all present wore in the
first instance was now changed to that of
intense excitement in some, while the greater
part of the audience seemed bursting with
Sadbag, who was the centre of all eyes,
was in the witness-box manipulating a phono-
graph of the newest design, the boxed-up
talk of which was being apparently reeled
out for the benefit of the court ; the nature
of its revelations proving irresistibly comic to
the assembly's point of view, while the old
man's air of triumph most graphically seemed
to- say, 'What do you think of that my
friends?' as he smirked with an 'I-told-you-
so,' sort of expression on his face.
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 251
Mercia on her part was blushing violently,
Geometrus was scowling darkly, while all the
barristers were endeavouring to conceal their
merriment by fluttering their pocket-handker-
chiefs under the pretence of blowing their
noses. Prince Osbert was actually holding
his sides ; while his face, puckered with merri-
ment, seemed to say — ' Now isn't this ex-
cruciatingly funny ? '
Mercia's counsel wore an air of happy
triumph, which appeared to indicate complete
satisfaction with his own good management
of the case. Felicitas was absent, as before,
but his Empress was among the audience,
looking as flushed and angered as an injured
wife might well be.
' What the deuce is everybody laughing
at ? ' queried the Emperor, while a deep
frown crossed his face, — ' I cannot understand
Swami remained silent ; he knew full
well what the phonograph was saying, but
did not deem it wise to give the irascible
monarch too much information.
' Canst not thy Majesty comprehend the
situation ? ' he demanded suavely.
252 MERC I A
1 No, I do not,' answered Felicitas hotly.
' tell me the meaning of it all.'
' Time alone will show the full develop-
ment. There is sufficient pictured to give
thy Majesty ample warning.'
' It is easy enough to see that I shall be
made a pretty laughing-stock for the whole
world. That villain Sadbag has worked some
vile trick upon me — that is very evident.
Strange that thou art unable to explain what
the beast is up to ! ' muttered Felicitas to
himself, for he was bursting with rage at the
very thought of the whole proceeding.
' We have had enough of this,' observed
Swami quietly, as he prudently pressed the
extinguishing button, producing perfect dark-
ness. 'We will now show the closing scene
and dismiss the matter for to-night.'
' I am weary of it all,' remarked the
monarch disgusted with the portrayals of the
magic crystal, ' I would I had never seen this
sorcery, I shall not get a wink of sleep this
' Nor to-morrow night either,' said Swami
coolly, as he switched on the light revealing
the third and last of the wonderful pictures.
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 253
' What meanest thou by that ? ' inquired
' The real trial commences to-morrow,'
replied the Soul-reader calmly, ' a messenger
is at this moment awaiting thy Majesty's
return to remind thee of the date.'
• To-morrow ! ' repeated the Emperor,
' impossible ! This cannot be the date ! '
' It is truly,' said Swami compassionately,
1 thine hour of trial is at hand. But see, here
is Mercia's hour of triumph, mark how every-
body is showing her honour, and offering their
However striking these photo-crystal pic-
tures had appeared, this last, without doubt,
displayed the most stirring scene. It repre-
sented the intense joy of a great multitude,
who were offering their congratulations, and
testifying their admiration of one who had
gone through a severe ordeal, out of which
she had come victorious.
The whole populace were paying her their
sincerest homage in honest English fashion.
Some were waving their hats and cheering
vociferously. While a number had removed
from their shafts the four bay horses that
drew her chariot. This latter was standing
near the gates of the law courts, and the men
in warm enthusiasm, had commenced pulling
the carriage themselves.
Others were casting wreaths of bay leaves
into her lap ; so numerous were they that a
great pile was being formed in the centre of
her carriage. These were intermixed with
bouquets of the loveliest flowers, one of which
was composed of the most cunningly-wrought
blossoms, the leaves of which were studded
with costly emeralds, and their buds bedewed
with diamonds of immense value. This
beautiful and generous gift was being offered
by a gentleman whose face being turned aside,
made the Emperor unable to discover the
Mercia looked perfectly radiant with
pleasure, as she bowed her numerous acknow-
ledgments to the enthusiastic crowd that sur-
' By Jove ! ' exclaimed the Emperor ex-
citedly, as he critically scanned the mysterious
figure, 'I could swear those were thy dark
curls clustering round thine ears ! '
' Curls are common enough, Sire, and dark
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 255
hair is no rarity in thy realms,' replied Swami
evasively, who seemed a little put out at the
Felicitas gazed with feelings of wonder
and envy, intermingled with regret, upon the
picture which glowed with resplendent colour-
ing ; every figure in which presented such an
apparent natural roundness that it was diffi-
cult to imagine they were not endowed with
life and motion. The lineaments of those
with whom he was acquainted were so exactly
dehneated, and the natural pose and bearing
of each individual so vividly represented that
he was impelled to put out his hand to touch
one of them.
' Hold ! ' exclaimed Swami quickly, ' touch
it not, or thou art a dead man ! The shock
would kill thee instantly, for these psycho-
developments are wrought and illumined by
strong frictional electricity of the deadliest
kind ; the current of which is so powerful
that it infinitely exceeds that of forked
' Ha ! ' ejaculated Felicitas paling, ' it is
certainly foolhardy to meddle with such
trickery ; but, in truth, I had forgotten myself
236 MERC I A
completely. It is without doubt the most
beautiful creation I have ever seen ! How
wonderfully art thou endowed, Swami, I
would I were only half as gifted as thou art.'
Then, the Emperor fixing his gaze upon the
beauteous face of Mercia, who formed the
central figure in the scene, and whose coun-
tenance expressed the sweetest grace and
modesty ; commenced to thus apostrophise
her — ' This then is the end and issue of my
' Which suit, thy lovesuit, or thy lawsuit ? '
interrupted Swami lightly ; for the Emperor's
love-raptures for some reason annoyed him.
' Which suit? ' repeated Felicitas dreamily.
'Both suits, I suppose,' added Swami
' Ah truly,' sighed the Emperor, ' the twain
have proved an utter failure. I thought to
bring her low — to humiliate her — to place
her in such a position as would force her to
accept my royal clemency and bounty ; but
alas, I have only brought about a public
triumph for her, and public dishonour to
myself! Oh, Swami let not this be the
finishing scene ; thou art all-powerful, make
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 257
another wherein Mercia is my bride, the
crowned Empress of the Teutonic Empire.'
' Be it so, Sire, a fourth picture shall
appear wherein the completion of her triumph
shall be projected. Retire a few moments,
and I will conjure it presently.'
In less than ten minutes, Felicitas was
summoned into the dark room, and on the
wonderful crystal there appeared the most
beautiful vision of womanly loveliness that
art had ever created. Mercia looking radiant
with happiness, whose beauty was heightened
and enhanced by the most costly draperies
and diamonds that wealth could produce,
was seated on a throne, surrounded by the
imposing pageantry of a coronation ceremony.
A crown composed of magnificent diamonds
and various precious stones of immense value
graced her well-shaped head, while brilliant
gems sparkled in the rich embroidery of her
Eastern potentates, and native princes of
the various Eastern possessions were paying
her homage. Their Oriental costumes, rich
with jewels and resplendent with vivid colour-
ing lent a charm to the most magnificent scene
258 MERC I A
of Oriental splendour that it was possible to
' What an entrancing sight ! What per-
fect loveliness ! ' murmured the Emperor, a3
he gazed with rapture on the beautiful picture
* Mercia, dearest Mercia, how beautiful
thou art ! Did I not divine thou wert made
to grace a throne ? Oh, thou sweet Mercia,
listen to me. What bliss to dwell with thee
always ; to listen to the divine melody of that
sweet voice ; to clasp in mine that beautiful
hand ; to drink of the nectar of those ruby
lips ; to know that thou wert all mine own !
' Oh, that I might share my crown, my
realms, my all with thee ! Thou Queen of
my heart, thou Light of my life !
c Art thou indeed to grace my throne ? Is
this thy Bridal Day foreshown ? Swami,' con-
tinued he, turning to the Soul-reader, ' is all
that Eastern pageantry to lend its lustre to my
second nuptials ? '
' Surely not,' answered Swami proudly,
' does not thy Majesty perceive that it is alto-
gether an Oriental picture ? '
' But I am the Emperor of India,' said
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 259
Felicitas with much dignity, 'how then can
Mercia be Empress unless / place the consort
crown on her head ? '
'The days are numbered that see thee
supreme Euler of my country : a week hence
and India will have accomplished her free-
'Has fate decreed that the Hindu shall
exceed the English in physical strength ? If
this be thy divination then I believe nothing
' All the worse for thee, Sire. Believe that
which yields thee most comfort, and forget
my harmless prophecies. To-morrow attend
the Law Courts, and see all things reversed,
as thy heart desireth. Perhaps, like dreams,
which are said to prove the contrary of what
they picture, the reality will come out the
opposite of all thou hast seen this day
portrayed. It may be that Mercia, instead
of being crowned an Empress, shall to-
morrow be consigned to execution, or life
imprisonment ? '
' I would sooner see her die than wedded
to another,' murmured the Emperor moodily.
' Thy Majesty is merciful as wise ! ' re-
sponded Swami cynically, as he pressed the
extinguisher for the last time, and set the
room in darkness ; obliterating for the moment
the entrancing portrait of the woman he was
learning to love through the medium of soul-
sympathy ; for he was as yet personally un-
acquainted with Mercia.
' I would I had never seen either thyself
or thy psychical pictures,' said Felicitas bit-
terly. ' What good is it looking into futurity ?
It does but make one miserable beforehand.
I cannot control the current of events ; all
will take place exactly the same as if I had
known nothing. To look into the future is
but to anticipate life's troubles.
* What earthly use to learn the issue of
the trial to day, to-morrow would have been
soon enough to know my ill-fortune.'
' Balak-like thou wouldst have me curse,
when I can only bless,' returned Swami. ' It
is true that thy Majesty must reap as thou
hast sown. We all live under this unalterable
law. As the husbandman sows seed expecting
its like to be reproduced, so we must be satis-
fied to gather the fruit of our own actions.
If we plant the crab, can we look for the
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 261
apricot ? If we work dishonourable actions,
can we reap honour thereby ?
' The priest promises Heaven as the reward
of a good life, but the only Heaven assigned
to man is that of his own creation — the delight
that pervades his soul in the knowledge that
he has not lived in vain ; that he has been
the source of comfort and happiness to others ;
that he has kept the golden rule. Six little
words, in fact, define it, — that he loves and is
beloved — for human love, in all its various
sections, is Heaven — no other Paradise exists.'
* 'Tis the want of this, that's brought my
trouble,' murmured Felicitas. ' If I had
Mercia's love thenwouldst thou see how pious
I could be.'
'Is a child contented wholly when one
desire is satisfied ? No, he cries hourly for
new toys and new delights. Thy Majesty
would weary in course of time with the
beauteous Mercia, as thou hast wearied of thy
spouse. Physical charms delight the eye for
a season ; but if there be no union of psycho-
magnetic sympathy there is no possibility of an
enduring affection. Sire, be content ; as thou
hast made thy bed, so must thou lie upon it.'
' That reminds me of my suit to-morrow,'
interrupted Felicitas impatiently. ' What
wouldst thou advise in this dilemma ? '
' The case is surrounded with difficulties,'
answered Swami reflectively. ' If thou with-
draw the prosecution, the defenders would
persist in its being gone through. Sad bag,
and Mercia's counsel would not miss giving
the evidence they have in store, under any
consideration. Her counsel has decidedly
made up his mind that nothing shall induce
him to let the case collapse. He will plead,
if thou withdraw, that his client's character is
at stake, and must be cleared by suitable in-
vestigation of the charge. Besides, the charge
is thine no longer : it is in the hands of the
' I will be no witness for him,' cried Feli-
citas, a new idea having crossed his mind.
' This night urgent affairs of state shall sum-
mon me to Berlin. Good-bye, Swami, for the
present. We shall see whether thy soul-
reading crystal plate has discovered to us the
false or the true.'
'Will thy Majesty be absent from the
Great Test Trial next Tuesday ? ' inquired
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 263
Swami, with a view of reminding him of the
date of that event.'
' By all above us, no,' emphatically ejacu-
lated Felicitas, whose ideas and recollections
were in a decided jumble. The Emperor, if
he be alive, must without doubt, be present at
' I do not see how it could legally take
place without me ; for the king, whose
realms are in dispute, is ever deemed the
chiefest witness of the contest.
' I have ample time ; for by to-morrow
night Mercia's cause will have been heard and
fully disposed of; there are still a few days
left for the scandal to blow over, before the
1st of May, when I will appear in my proper
place, and fulfil the duties that belong to my
' How convenient to be a king, and know
naught of the penalties of wrong-doing. A
meaner mortal would be punished for perjury
in such a case ! But here 'twill be glossed
over, and the Emperor's clemency enlarged
upon by his counsel,' thought Swami, as he
conducted the monarch to the great doors,
outside which his carriage stood in readiness.
' Whence all this strange attraction ? 'Tis Nature's law,
Which irresistibly impels and leads
With forces so unutterably strong,
And yet so hid — so wrapped in joy — concealed —
That whence it conies we nothing know, nor why —
We only know it is that Power called Love.'
Idylls, Legends and Lyrics.
As soon as Swami got rid of his visitor, he
quickly made his way to the dark chamber,
where he had been thirsting to rush for some
time past, and turning on the force brought
to view the psycho-development of the
coronation scene, wherein the portrait of the
beautiful astronomer was the centre-piece.
He had in reality prepared this mental feast
for himself, but was induced at the request of
Felicitas to reveal its charms to that monarch.
As she sat upon her golden throne sur-
rounded by the Maharajahs, and Heads of the
various Principalities of the Eastern Empire,
decked in their glittering robes, their crowns,
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 265
and other courtly splendours, heightened
with all the attendant pomp of Eastern cere-
monial, Swami saw only the person of the
matchless Mercia ; for the rest possessed little
interest for him at this moment.
As his gaze dwelt upon her sweet face, he
looked into her eyes with rapturous emotion,
and clasping his hands together, knelt before
this lovely delineation of his secret adoration,
uttering in tenderest accents a passionate
' 0, divine Mercia, I love thee ! Thou hast
brought into my life a new element — a new
force, as mysterious, as it is powerful. A
new joy has come into my heart hitherto
unknown. A new hope is imparted to my
lonely life, irradiating its darkness, and giving
the sweetest comfort known to the human soul.
I read the magic mirror of thine eyes, and
see thy soul all perfect, all pure, and unsullied.
' I mentally see thy thought, and mapped
out before me read the loveliness of thy mind ;
for by the motions of thy brain I am acquainted
with the rich treasures of thy cultured mind.
' Thou wert made to inspire the deepest
emotions in the human heart ; for the mighty
gift of soul-sympathy that pervades thy whole
being, exercises such power over every mind
that all bow to thy magic influence, deeming
it a happiness to be near thee, however
short the moment.
' The lowliest feel thy charm, and draw
comfort therefrom, while I, dearest Mercia,
am inspired with ineffable delight ; for who
could know thee and not be fired with the
noblest aims — the highest aspirations ?
1 Come then, sweet girl, come hither, and
let mine eyes gaze upon the casket that
contains such a rich jewel — the form that
contains such a perfect soul ! '
Then Swami, raising himself from his
kneeling posture, and standing erect, closed
his eyes, and projecting from his nerve-centres
a powerful stream of psychic-energy, which,
rushing in waves through the air, almost
instantly found its way to the fair prisoner.
Immediately, without knowing the cause,
she commenced thinking of the great Soul-
reader, experiencing a strong desire to go and
Now, in consequence of Swami's advice
the day previous, the Emperor had, at the
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 267
proper quarters intimated his desire to bestow
the royal pardon on the fair culprit ; which
command being as quickly carried out as
officialism would admit, Mercia was made
acquainted with her position with little delay.
When the governor of the prison read the
document to Mercia which contained the
so-called 'pardon,' an indignant flush rose
instantly to her cheeks.
1 Ah ! ' she disdainfully cried, ' the Emperor
generously sends me a pardon before it is
solicited, for a crime I have never committed !
His clemency oppresses me — it is really more
than I can accept.'
' It is certainly most unparalleled in prison
records,' remarked the governor, who looked
mystified. ' I don't know of a similar instance
in all my experience. The pardon should be
accorded after the sentence is passed, should
the prisoner be found guilty. I understand
that his Gracious Majesty being himself the
prosecutor, departs from the ordinary routine
observed in such matters. He desires to set
thee at liberty without further delay.'
'I cannot accept his Majesty's clemency
without consulting my counsel,' replied Mercia
after a pause : ' the case is in readiness, he
informs me, and witnesses are fully prepared
to establish my innocence. I will therefore
remain here until I have had a consultation
with him. Be good enough to send for
him at once, and we two will consider the
While the governor of the prison was
despatching his messenger to the barrister,
Swami's brain-wave had in the meantime
reached Mercia ; causing her to upset her
plans somewhat ; for she found herself being
impelled by a strong desire to regain her
freedom without delay.
Intimating her change of design to the
governor, she took her departure from the
prison ; and hiring a cab from the nearest
public stand, — for electricity did not do
away with the Jehu, it only altered the
motive-power of his chariot — she instinc-
tively gave orders to drive to the great
Soul-reader, and ere long found herself at
' Why have I come hither ? ' she asked
herself, as she was being led through the
beautiful conservatory, which was brilliantly
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 269
illumined by electricity, for the sun had gone
down by this time.
4 What has brought me here ? ' she mur-
mured again to herself.
' What brings everybody hither ? ' whis-
pered Eeason in her ear.
' Yes, yes,' she replied mentally to her
prompter, ' of course I have come to consult
the great man in my difficulty. I seek his
advice and forewarning concerning the course
I ought to pursue to-morrow. This is a great
emergency. No barrister can determine how
the trial will end ; for Justice hath so many
ways of turning that the most righteous
cause runs great risks in a law court. My
case is not an ordinary one ; my counsel has
had no experience in opposing the suit of an
Emperor, for his own Sovereign is his oppo-
nent ! The whole thing bristles with diffi-
A few seconds sufficed for these reflec-
tions, for the motions of the brain are in-
tensely rapid : she had only proceeded a few
steps when Swami, who had come out to
meet her, greeted her with the most profound
His whole deportment displayed the deepest
reverence of her, while his countenance was
irradiated with the light of a great joy.
1 Welcome, sweet Lady ! ' he murmured
softly, ' wilt thou graciously come hither ? '
Saying which he conducted her into his
library, displaying the utmost deference
towards her, the while ; then leading her to
the softest couch he begged her to be seated.
* Thou art Dayanand Swami, the great
Soul-reader, and I am Mercia Montgomery,
the late Astronomer Royal,' she faltered out,
hardly knowing what to say, she felt so
singularly disturbed in her mind.
' I have heard great accounts of thine
attainments,' replied Swami, endeavouring to
check his excitement, 'I have long desired
the opportunity of meeting with England's
Mercia looked at him earnestly for a
moment ; then blushed, and an instant later
recovering herself, she smiled archly —
'Ah ! ' she exclaimed, 'it seems to me that
all men are given to flattery, I imagined that
the illustrious Swami would have been an
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 271
' Because all men say the same that proves
it is no flattery,' said Swami deprecatingly ;
' nevertheless it is not meet that one should
give expression to his opinion while yet he is
a stranger. Pardon me, Mistress Mercia, for
the liberty taken. But let me entreat of thee
to raise thy veil; otherwise I shall be at a
disadvantage when reading thy destiny, which
I presume, is the object of thy visit,' he added
' Certainly,' answered Mercia innocently ;
while another bright smile lit up her face
with a singular radiance, as she threw back
the dark veil with which she had been care-
ful to conceal herself while coming from
the prison. ' I do not use these things
always,' she added, ' it was the disgrace of
being seen come out of a prison that induced
me to wear it at all.'
' The disgrace is his who sent thither the
innocent. The noon of another day shall
place the dishonour where it is due. Lady,
I am acquainted with thy design in coming
here, it is to learn the issue of thy trial.
Kest assured, all is well ; the arrangements
are perfect that thy friends have made.'
' Even so my counsel tells me : he says
the evidence of Sadbag who was in the room
during the time that the Emperor accuses me
of attempting his life is most convincing.
Nevertheless, as the old man himself is
accused of conspiring with me against his
Majesty, the Emperor, I have my fears anent
the trial's issue ; for such evidence will not be
credited the same as if he were an indepen-
dent witness. But now the matter has taken
another aspect. This day a pardon has come,
unsolicited by me, from the Emperor, and I am
fully released without a trial, without condem-
nation, I am 'pardoned I Unfold to me this
mystery, I pray, and give me thy good counsel.'
All this time the Soul-reader was gazing
upon the beautiful face turned towards him
in anxious appeal : knowing full well of the
certainty of her position, his mind was not
disturbed with the perplexities of the situa-
tion. Nevertheless, he deemed it impolitic to
explain everything fully : such information
could not turn the current of affairs, he
argued to himself; it would only have the
effect of increasing her reluctance to appear
in court at all.
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 273
' Let thine anxieties be dispersed at once,'
he urged gently, ' there is no cause at all
for alarm : only trust thy good friend Sad-
bag ; he will make it pretty warm for the
' How so ? ' inquired Mercia, with great
' By his evidence, of course,' replied
Swami, who hesitated to recount the full
extent of Sadbag's revelations, which could
only increase her embarrassment.
' Is this all then, that the great Soul-reader
can show me ? ' exclaimed Mercia in a dis-
appointed tone of voice ; ' I hoped to have
seen the wonderful mind-reflecting mirror
that all the world speaks of. Is there nothing
at all in my future that is worthy of trans-
mission to the plate ? If nothing better, then
show me my future husband ; ' she demanded,
while a roguish smile dimpled her face.
' Show thee thy future husband ! ' re-
peated Swami nervously, ' I cannot, because
I dare not,' he added in evident excitement.
' But I desire it,' persisted Mercia, ' I fain
would learn if there be such an individual in
store for me.'
'I will tell thee whom thou shalt not
marry, if that will suit,' returned Swami
earnestly ; with a view of evading the inquiry.
'That is indeed a negative method of
satisfying a lady's curiosity,' laughed Mercia
gaily. ' Well, then whom shall I not marry F
* Neither Felicitas, nor Geometrus,' replied
Mercia coloured violently upon hearing
Geometrus' name thus mentioned, then trying
to regard it lightly, she observed — ' Who is it,
show me his reflection ? '
' Not to-night. Come again, dear lady,
and the portrait shall be in readiness for
'Ah, Swami,' returned Mercia sweetly;
' I perceive that thou art only playing with me.
Thou knowest full well, that neither love nor
marriage is for me. If I win my case, I return
to my post. My work is my bridegroom ;
I am bound to no other ; for therein is centred
my every thought — my whole life-work.'
' The observation of the heavenly bodies
shall be thy life-work no longer ; thou art
called to do work even more glorious than
the study of the great universe ; for thou art
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 275
destined to rule millions of human beings,
whose happiness depends upon thy wisdom,
whose well-being is assured by thy just ad-
ministration. Princes shall pay thee homage :
the great ones of the earth shall be proud of
thy friendship. All nations shall vie with
each other in showing thee honour ; and thine
own people shall love and adore thee.'
The Soul-reader uttered his prophecy as
one in a dream. With his hands clasped
together, and quivering with the violence of
his emotion, he seemed insensible to his
surroundings. His great dark eyes were
filled with a wonderful light, whose luminous
rays seemed to possess the power of reaching
into futurity. Unconsciously to himself, the
waves of soul-sympathy filled the air, and
entering Mercia's system set her heart beating
wildly with an ecstatic pleasure, that was an
entirely new experience.
Trembling with delight she awaited the
moment when the fever of his excitement
should have subsided ; and searched his
countenance for the first sign, that she might
question him further.
' Oh, Swami,' she exclaimed, at length ;
for she could wait no longer — ' whose kingdom
shall I govern, and where are my dominions ?
Is it well that one so ignorant of State
affairs as I should be advanced to such
immense responsibility — such power — such
glory? Thou hast indeed painted a picture
glowing with bright colour. Should not thy
psychic power point to some experienced
potentate, more worthy than I ? Is not this
a word-blunder — some curious coincidence of
name that hath upset thy calculations? It
is not I, Mercia, the astronomer, who is
destined for this brilliant future; this most
glorious career ? '
' It is thou, Mercia, and no other,' re-
sponded Swami impressively — ' there is no
king, or high potentate better fitted for this
proud position. If thou art filled with doubts,
see the proof, and banish thy scepticism forth-
with. Come hither, and look upon thy
portrait, brain-painted upon the sensitive
plate beneath the crystal.'
Taking her hand he led her, all quivering
witli emotion, into the dark chamber, when
turning on the energy he dispJa} T ed the glitter-
ing picture, ablaze with brilliant colouring ;
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 277
every figure presenting that aspect of round-
ness, which seemed to endow it almost with
' Oh ! It is myself — my very self ! ' she
exclaimed excitedly, her face lit up with the
intensity of her varying sensations. ' How
beautiful ! Is it possible that I shall ever
look like that ? What splendid jewelled
robes ! What a magnificent crown, all ablaze
with costly diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, and
rubies ! How rich the Indian gold appears of
which the throne is composed, set in contrast
with the white marble of the floor !
' What a glorious assemblage of Eastern
princes, paying homage to their Empress, and
arrayed in all their courtly splendour ! This
is, truly, a scene from some ancient Eastern
fairy tale, told thousands of years ago by the
imaginative Asiatic, and thou, Swami, hast
made my portrait its centrepiece. Is it not
so ? ' she inquired ; for her inherent modesty
made her doubt again.
Then, Swami, his dark, speaking eyes
filling with tears, and his heart swelling with
deep disappointment at seeing her doubt his
integrity, for a moment turned upon her a
sad, reproachful gaze ; when immediately, a
sudden passion seized him, forcing him pre-
maturely, and against his judgment, to give it
' Mercia, dost thou doubt me ? Would I
deceive the one being for whom my heart
yearns ? I love thee — I love thee, thou gifted
one ! Thou art, indeed, soul of my soul, life
of my life ! Thou art the true living elixir ;
the true soul-energy which can for all time
support my spirit. Thou dost inspire a new
energy into my being — a new goal for my
aspirations ! Thy life-essence can alone mingle
with mine, for only thy soul can hold com-
munion with mine.
' Physically, I have never before seen thee.
These material, and natural mirrors of the
human brain have never until now reflected
thine image on their surface ; nevertheless, I
have crazed on thee through the medium of
my soul-sight, and have drank in the delight
of thy beauty.
' I have looked into thy very soul, and read
its inmost workings — thy beautiful unsullied
soul, clear as the limpid waters.
' Thy thought is no longer thine own ; it is
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 279
mine, by the gift of divine love ! Yea, thou
art mine, and I am thine ! ' Swami gave utter-
ance to his passionate ecstasy as one in a dream,
where the faculties being highly exalted create
sensations of the most delightful character.
His face, beautiful in feature, and spiritual
in expression at all times, was now irradiated
with the glowing fire of love.
This new emotion filled him with a subtle
rapture, imparting to him a new fervour that
lent a charm to every look and motion.
His dreamy eyes had turned intensely
brilliant, their excitement spreading to every
muscle of the face, imparted over all his
countenance a delicious softness, that instantly
set every nerve in Mercia's frame a-throbbing.
To her, as to him, it was indeed, a supreme
moment, making her dumb by reason of its
intensuy, as of its suddeness and power. Her
countenance was overspread with the warm
glow of the unseen, mystic force, while her
bosom heaved with tumultuous emotions.
Speechless she sat, with downcast eyes, lost
in a silent joy, while delicious sensations that
were entirely new to her, thrilled her whole
' Is this then Love ! ' she exclaimed at
length ; while a tone of ineffable tenderness
pervaded her utterance, making her voice
low, soft, and melodious.
' Am I then too, a victim to this conqueror
of the world — a prisoner bound in sweet
captivity, with not the faintest wish to cast
away my fetters? Is this that strange and
subtle power that guides and shapes the
destinies of the whole world ; whose dominion
the strongest bow to, whose sceptre sways
over prince and peasant ? '
' Even so, sweet Mercia, this is love. This
is that which the Gods gave to sweeten the
labours of mankind : for who could bear the
burden of life from birth to death without this
gracious comfort to sustain him?' answered
Swami, as moving nearer to her side he took
her hand in his, and covered it with passionate
' I had thought,' she murmured in a low
voice ' that love was not for me ; that my life
should be devoted to my work. That the
honour attained by the close fulfilment of my
duties would be ample reward.
' My ambition was to endeavour to be the
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 281
best astronomer the world has ever seen.
But now this dream has passed away, I am
even as other women, who love and are
beloved, and seek no more.'
' My beloved, this is the sum of life's
happiness. Without love life is a mere
wilderness. He who goes through life unloved
and unloving has wasted his existence.
' The ascetic hopes for great reward when
he reaches the Heaven of his desires ; but
man may make or mar his own Paradise by
his own hand. His own course of life shapes
'To me, Swami,' whispered Mercia ear-
nestly, ' it is happiness supreme to know that
thou art near. The world may shower its
favours, or award its indifference : it is all the
same to me. I am satisfied with the know-
ledge of thy love.'
' And I am mad with joy ! ' cried Swami
passionately, as he covered her face with
ardent kisses ; the first he had ever bestowed
on woman ; the first she had ever received
' Once I thought,' she resumed, ' that the
tender regard in which I held Geometrus was
2S2 MERC 7 A
known by this name. But now mine eyes
are opened. I see that Friendship, not Love,
inspired my affection. This new emotion
hath another birth ; a different force behind
it : for notwithstanding what has happened
this night I feel the same sincere regard for
him. His love for me never gave birth to
the feeling that thine hath done : for I
deliberately disregarded it, deeming my work
of greater importance. But for thee, Swami,
there is nothing I would not do — even to die ;
for life without thy love would be a living
' Geometrus ! ' exclaimed Swami, starting
at the name : 4 In my own great joy I had
forgotten his disappointment. His loss is my
great gain. I would I could comfort him by
making him acquainted with the honourable
future that is in store for him. For he will
distinguish himself above all in his profession,
and the whole world shall honour him.'
' Dear, dear Geometrus, thou dost indeed
deserve it ! ' cried she enthusiastically, for
her heart pained at the thought of what his
sorrow would be in losing her. ' But tell me,
Swami, of my coming glory. Where is this
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 2S3
Empire that I am destined to govern, and
how can such a wonderful event be brought
about ? '
' It is the Empire of India, my sweet one :
it is the home of my fathers — my own
beautiful country ! ' he exclaimed rapturously.
' Thou wilt be chosen by the vote of the
nation as their first Empress To thee is
given the honour of establishing the Royal
Line for India! Thou and I, Mercia ; our
children, and children's children shall hold
the reins of Government through all genera-
'Then will be re-established the sove
reignty of my forefathers, who reigned in
India five hundred years ago. When thy
coronation takes place will be fulfilled the
prophecy of my father's father who predicted
that in one hundred years a woman, young,
beautiful, and talented, should reign over his
country, dwelling with her people in happi-
ness and peace.'
' How can these things be ? ' mused
Mercia, as she clasped her hands together
oppressed with this vision of greatness.
'The Great Test Tournament is the first
284 MERC I A
step towards its attainment. In a few days
it is here ; victory will be ours, and India
will be free to choose her own Ruler. Leave
the rest to God, for thou hast no part in its
arrangement. The honour will be awarded,
unsought by thee.'
' I have still all to learn concerning the
Administration of this great country,' said she
reflectively. ' It is true I am acquainted with
its history from a scholar's point of view, but
practically I know nothing.
' To rule a people successfully, we should
be in perfect sympathy with them ; under-
standing their mode of thought, customs, and
prejudices ; actually knowing their inner life.
' It is impossible to rule a people justly,
and legislate to meet their wants fully and
completely, except we be in touch with them
' I will teach thee, Mercia, all this,' said
Swami eagerly. ' I will be ever at thy side to
tell thee all that thou wouldst know. See,'
said he, pointing to his noble tiers of books,
for now they were in his library, ' we two
will read and study them together, and from
those silent teachers of every age gain the
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 28;
piled-up wisdom of numerous generations, in
a short space.'
' What a treasury of ancient lore ! ' ex-
claimed Mercia, as rising from her seat, she
went from tier to tier examining their con-
tents. 'I shall have a continual feast — a
daily enjoyment of wonderful Oriental litera-
ture, as soon as I have mastered the necessary
knowledge of up-to-date administration, which
of course, shall have my first attention.'
'And by marking the mistakes of the
present Administration, correct thine own,'
added Swami, as he gazed lovingly upon her
Thus conversing far into the night, on
this most absorbing topic ; to the one, newly-
born, and deeply interesting, by reason of its
approaching associations; to the other, for
its memories of the past; its unsatisfactory
present, — from a patriot's point of view,
and its promise of a glorious future, the
hours sped away unconsciously ; till at length,
Mercia felt a languor stealing over her ;
which Swami perceiving suddenly exclaimed
' Dearest, thou art wearied. It is not meet
to go forth at this hour. Be my truest to-
286 MERC J A
night, and to-morrow we two will attend the
trial, for now thou art my especial care.'
Then summoning his attendants he bade
them bring in certain refreshments of jellies,
and light wines ; after partaking of which,
the servants conducted her to a richly fur-
nished sleeping-chamber. Amidst the pearly-
tinted silken sheets, and richly embroidered
coverlet, all delicately perfumed, Mercia sank
into a sound and refreshing slumber, giving
no thought to the trial on the morrow, or the
difficulties her case would present now that
she had practically accepted the king's
pardon, without her counsel's consent.
The next morning when Mercia awoke and
found herself in this luxurious bed-chamber,
surrounded by every comfort that modern in-
vention could bestow ; for every article of
utility represented some rare work of art;
and every imaginable want was supplied by
the most ingenious arrangements ; it seemed
to her that she had gone through a series of
delightful scenes in a dream of wonderful
The recollection of the previous evening,
in which so much was seen, and so much
experienced, made it difficult to believe that
it possessed any greater solidity than the
pictures in some stereoscopic arrangement.
But the great fact that a new and supreme
joy reigned in her bosom — that she loved,
and was beloved — proved convincing evidence
of its reality. For the first time in her life
she felt the supreme happiness — the unutter-
able joy of this unique exaltation that comes
once, or perhaps twice, in a lifetime to every
When she had descended the magnificently
carved staircase that led into the reception
rooms, she was met by Swami himself, who
conducted her into the breakfast-room where
an inviting meal was awaiting her. The
most nourishing dishes, where the palate and
the digestion were equally considered being
placed on the table by native servants, as
soon as she had put in an appearance, to
which she paid fair justice.
She was in excellent spirits ; notwithstand-
ing the thought of the ordeal that lay before
her ; for nothing could damp, or depress them
while under the influence of the present bliss,
and future dignities promised her.
Swami, too, looked supremely happy. A
quiet, suppressed joy beamed in his deep,
dreamy eyes, which shed its light over his
expressive countenance. His voice too, had
a special softness in its tone, that was pecu-
liarly charming to Mercia's sensitive ear.
It was, in truth, the most delightful meal
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 289
for these two beings that had been their lot
to partake of ; the lives of both having been
hitherto solitary, laborious, and even ascetic
to some extent.
'Now, isn't this delightful!' laughed
Mercia, gaily. ' How nice everything tastes
when one has good company ! King Solomon
knew what he was talking about when he
uttered oracularly — " Better a dinner of herbs
where love is, than the stalled ox," et cetera ;
but in our case we score heavily, having the
enjoyment of both commodities.'
6 The proverb holds good all the same ; '
replied Swami ; ' with thee, my Life, the
dinner of herbs would be a banquet, for thy
face is a continual feast for me ; thy presence
would sweeten the coarsest fare.'
1 When I enter my kingdom, Swami — but
there — I cannot realise my future glory — I
feel that this is greatness thrust upon me ! I
cannot conceive why the people of India
should think of me — me — a poor astronomer !
I have no regal blood in my veins — no
glorious ancestry to boast of.
' It is true my mother accomplished some
good for the women of India, devoting a
great part of her life in the promotion of their
welfare ; but that can scarcely bring any
weight to the balance in my favour, in such a
case as this : the whole matter to my mind is
inexplicable,' said she reflectively.
Swami smiled, as he watched the puzzled
look upon her face, for of course it was all
clear enough to him why the people of India
had picked her out as the representative of
their country's eminence and glory ; after a
pause, he thought it no harm to tell her some-
what of the situation.
' There are but two topics talked of just
now, not only throughout this Empire but
the whole world. They form subject for con-
versation everywhere. The Court ; the spirit
cafe, the theatre, the club, the dinner-table ;
the street corner, the race-course, wherever
men congregate, or women either, the chief
food for talk is The Great Test Tournament,
and the impeachment for high treason, of
Mercia, the Astronomer Eoyal, and her two
friends — Geometrus,the Assistant Astronomer,
and Sadbag the Politician.
1 It is well-known how the case stands, for
Sadbag gave it to the whole world immediately
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 291
before his imprisonment. Everyone believes
in thine innocence, and the Emperor's guilt.
They say he ought to be indicted for perjury —
but from his position that is impossible. There
are even now hundreds of letters in thy
counsel's keeping expressive of the sympathy
of every country. France offers thee a similar
position in her Empire as that thou hast
resigned here, Russia does the same, even
before they know the issue of the trial ; but
when thine innocence is proved beyond dis-
pute, every country will vie with each other
in showing thee honour ; the only method
open to them of displaying their contempt
of Felicitas' unworthy conduct. A two-fold
motive will inspire India to top them all in
glorifying thee. One is sincere admiration for
thy character and attainments, the other is the
punishment of their country's tyrant, by the
promotion of one he sought to ruin ; for it was
Felicitas' influence which made the Worlds
Tribunal Trial of no account for India.
' For this reason they do not bless him —
they curse him by electing thee — his enemy
— an enemy of his own making — for of all
men thou shouldst despise him utterly.'
2Q2 MERC I A
' I clo heartily despise him — he's the
meanest cur I know,' remarked Mercia
excitedly ; ' he is capable of saying anything
to save his own skin : he had scarcely
finished protesting how much he loved me,
when to suit the situation he turned round
and made a false charge against me, and
my two friends who were witnesses of my
' That matches my experience of him to a
tee,' returned Swami, who was growing quite
communicative with Mercia. ' He came yester-
day to have his fortune told ; he wished to
learn the issue of the trial, hoping all would
go well with him. I showed him the principal
phases of the trial, projected on the psychic-
plate beneath the stereoscopic crystal, the
sight of which made him boil with anger — he
was vexed beyond description, and for my
pains in bringing out these splendid psycho-
developments I only got his growlings to the
effect that he wished he had never troubled
himself at all to seek my aid. " Thou wouldst
have me curse, when I can only bless," said I,
and gave him good counsel, at which he fumed
impatiently. But of all vacillating hounds, I
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 293
think he takes the cake. One moment love,
or rather desire, then fear, envy, revenge,
swayed him by turns : he changed about like
a weathercock moved by every wind.
' However, fear was uppermost in his mind,
all through, and reached its climax when he
beheld the pictures, so finally he decided to
take his flight to Berlin where he intends
remaining until the trial be well over, and all
its attendant gossip grown stale, as he hopes.
' But the 1st of May will bring him back ;
he cannot miss the Great Test Tournament
which quickly follows to-day's event. Both
will end disastrously for him, and none will
say " he's sorry." '
'I'm sorry I can't feel sorry either,' re-
marked Mercia laughingly. ' But Swami, I
must away now, and explain to my counsel
this new aspect of affairs. He must be
prepared for the changes that have taken
place last night — the Emperor's withdrawal
of the suit ; his flight, and my discharge from
prison. It is necessary that he be made
acquainted with these altered conditions, and
shape his course accordingly.'
'My carriage is in readiness for thee,
Mercia, at any moment thou art ready to
depart. Shall I accompany thee, or no ? '
' I would prefer seeing him alone, dear
Swami, I am not prepared to make my
lawyer my confessor, as would be almost
necessary if I were in thy company at such a
time. But I count upon thy presence near
me at the trial, for few are my friends. I
have led the life of a recluse almost, so great
has been my devotion to my work, and this is
how that ingrate has rewarded me. Farewell,
dearest, for one hour only — in that time I
will see thee at the court.' And Mercia
stepping into the well-appointed carriage
belonging to Swami was driven away to the
The Great Justice Hall, as it was named, was
of such dimensions that it afforded accommo-
dation for several thousands of persons, who
on this occasion of unprecedented interest
availed themselves of it without delay. A
long line of carriages containing the elite of
society awaited the opening of the great
door with that admirable spirit of patience
which the aristocracy display on great occa-
sions. A few of these vehicles were drawn
by horses, but most were impelled by electric
A queue of persons who kept no ' carriage
steerer,' doing their own driving usually, had
come on foot, and had taken their places in
the order of their arrival, for the indecent
rioting and pushing for priority of places at
the doors of public buildings was put down
by this time, a lady member of Parliament
having brought a bill to make this unruly
behaviour punishable as street- brawling.
By the time the Court was opened every
available seat was filled, not only by the
elite of the Empire, but by members of the
Continental aristocracy also ; including two
Crowned Heads among their number. On
all great occasions, when a crush was ex-
pected, the public were admitted by ticket,
which could be obtained by application to the
Usher, who issued no greater number than
the accommodation afforded.
The Emperor Nicholas, the Fourth, of
Eussia, accompanied by his Empress ; the
newly-crowned Emperor, Louis XX., of France,
occupied seats set apart for the creme de la
creme of the aristocracy.
It was, in point of fact, attended by a
crowd of great personages, whose importance
could not admit of their presence at any
ordinary affair, however swift the means of
locomotion lessened the inconvenience of
It was not every day that an Emperor
appeared in the witness box, and on such
an unparalleled occasion it was necessary to
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 297
make an effort and not miss such a rare
Then Mercia, herself, had occupied such
a high position in everybody's estima-
tion that the charge against her of High
Treason, by her threatened assault on the
sacred person of his Majesty, gave a piquancy
to the affair which no vulgar assassin could
have afforded. Besides, those ' in the know,'
expected to hear evidence so deliciously spicy
that to miss it would have been barbarity.
Foreign journals having given strong hints of
the situation in their gossiping columns, in-
spired by Sadbag's telegrams to the secretaries
of clubs in various cities, including several
continental clubs among their number.
Of course the newspapers circulating in
the Teutonic Empire were much too circum-
spect to hint at the true aspect of the affair.
To have anticipated evidence ; or to have
expressed an opinion on a case still pending
would have led to serious difficulties, proving
most embarrassing to the proprietors. Con-
sequently, a distracting shade of mystery
surrounded the coming trial, making it par-
ticularly attractive to everybody.
Whilst awaiting the proceedings, the
anxious auditory amused themselves by giving
expression to their private opinions, which
no law of libel at any period of social history
has been found powerful enough to repress.
' What glorious fun ! ' cried the young
sprig of nobility, ' Felicitas falling out with
his lady Astronomer. I wouldn't miss it for
worlds ! '
' What a disgraceful episode in the annals
of Royalty ! ' remarked the elderly prude,
who was evidently as anxious as the fastest
of swell-ocracy to listen to the forthcoming
4 1 wouldn't be Mercia for millions ! It is
altogether frightful to have such dealings with
a man ! ' exclaimed the serious young lady ;
who showed her abhorrence of such indecency
by bringing her opera glasses to scan the
scene more critically.
' The Emperor has done quite right, to
make a stand against the machinations of
rabid Republicans ; ' remarked a staunch
Royalist. 'We won't know where we are
if this kind of thing goes unpunished. It is
evident on the face of it that it is a conspiracy
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 299
to lower the Imperial prestige, so as to pave
the way for a Eepublic, when the government
of the Empire would become a hotbed of
office seekers, rivalling America of a hundred
years ago, whose motto was, — "National
good go hang, we'll feather our nest while we
' This comes of the preposterous advance-
ment of women : had the Astronomer Eoyal
been a man such a scene could not have
occurred,' observed an acidulated Science-
failure of the male sex, whose ill-success at
competitive exams, had rendered vicious.
* If it be a political intrigue, as the
Royalist journals aver, how can sex affect
her loyalty ? The same might have happened
with a variation, had the Astronomer Eoyal
been of the male sex,' returned his neighbour.
4 It is a love-intrigue, ending with the
usual quarrel,' whispered an elderly Solomon,
wise in the knowledge of the world's weakness.
'I thought Mercia incapable of love-
intrigues, or any other, being a perfect model
of all the virtues,' answered his neighbour.
' All women are " perfect " till they're
tried,' uttered the same cynic dryly.
' Which means that Mercia is no better
than she should be,' laughed another.
'Perhaps she was too good,' remarked a
' Which way ? ' inquired his friend, poking
him with his elbow.
' That the evidence must show,' replied
another of the coterie.
* Was there ever a case where the honest,
downright truth was given on either side ?
I never knew one,' emphatically declared
another of the group. 'It has been the
same through all time,' he added after a
pause, ' for an eminent judge of the nine-
teenth century averred that throughout the
whole course of his long experience on the
woolsack he had never come across a case
where the evidence was not, in more or less
' The world's stage keeps pretty much the
same all through the piece ; humanity is very
human yet ; ' sighed a white-haired old gen-
tleman, with a very sweet expression on his
i It will be sinfully disappointing if the
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 30 r
case is hushed up,' whispered one man to his
neighbour, in another part of the Hall. i The
Emperor is non est : he has bunked ! '
'What! Has he fled ? Impossible! He
dare not do so. He threw the gauntlet, and
must abide the issue. He cannot run away,'
returned his friend who was bewildered with
1 All the same, he is off, gone to Berlin on
important State affairs, leaving word that the
trial could be abandoned altogether, or take
its chance without him.'
' I hope it won't be permitted to fall
through,' cried the other man excitedly ; ' it
would be monstrous after all this fuss, and
' I cannot find an adjective in our lan-
guage strong enough to express my dis-
appointment if it collapse. I want to see
Mercia righted ; she is honour and probity
itself, and the opportunity of clearing her
character should not be denied her, notwith-
standing the absence of her accuser.'
' See,' said his friend, ' the Empress is
taking her seat near Nicholas of Russia, that
3 02 MERCIA
looks healthy — she is doubtless expecting a
denouement of which she wishes to be the
' But there is no Felicitas to escort her,
that proves the account of his flight to be
' I wish her joy of the situation,' remarked
an all-knowing one ; ' she'll wish a thousand
times over she had kept away.'
Just before the great clock pointed at
half-past ten, disengaged barristers, who came
to see and hear for the sake of gaining ex-
perience, took their appointed seats, for this
custom was formally recognised.
Counsel engaged in the case, arrayed in
gown and wig, appeared also, whose capabili-
ties were freely discussed by the onlookers.
But, when Mercia, escorted by the re-
nowned Swami entered the Hall, so universal
was the feeling in her favour, that a great
burst of applause greeted her appearance.
It was as spontaneous as it was unusual,
for that great mass appeared to be moved by
one emotion, which could only find utterance
by an intense roar of hand-clapping ; signify-
ing as plainly as if delivered in so many
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 303
words — ' Mercia, we believe in thee : before
we hear thy defence we feel in our hearts
that thine is a just cause, and thou art good
and true to the core ! '
Mercia raised her eyes, and looking round
at the assembled people, smiled sweetly, and
bowed her head in acknowledgment of the
sympathy accorded her ; while attendant
ushers vainly called for silence, deeming it
their duty to put down all demonstrations of
She was attired in a rich crimson velvet
gown that fell in graceful folds from her
shapely shoulders ; the hue of which lent a
deeper rose-tint to her cheeks, whose colour
had somewhat paled during her incarceration.
But what appeared most inexplicable to
the multitude was the expression of serene
sweetness that overspread her countenance.
It was indeed an indefinable expression, in-
dicating a variety of emotions. Joy, content,
intense happiness, and possession, all united
in imparting to her face a look of subdued
and silent triumph ; but he who could gaze
beneath the surface might have read that
Love, all conquering Love had made his home
in her bosom, and through her brilliant eyes,
illumined with a divine radiance those windows
of her soul.
All bent their gaze upon her. The noble
stature ; the perfectly moulded form ; the
well-shaped head ; the exquisite beauty of
every feature, lighted by that divine expres-
sion which shone from out her star-like eyes,
brought a murmur of admiration, and sup-
pressed enthusiasm from every side.
All through the Hall it spread itself; and
Swami perceived that in those millions of
brain-waves floating round him, admiration
for the woman who held his soul was the one
After the first burst of enthusiasm had
subsided Swami himself came in for notice.
' Dayanand Swami ! The great thought-
reader ! ' exclaimed different persons sotto
voce, as each one recognised him.
' Whoever saw the Eastern Hermit in a
public place before ? What means this strange
innovation ? '
' Now this is getting mysterious,' observed
Prince Osbert gaily to his neighbour, Louis, of
France, ' our great Magician escorting our fair
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 305
Astronomer — what in the name of goodness is
going to happen ? '
' Beauty holds Magic, all the world over,
and star-gazing and thought-reading complete
the full magician,' answered the French
'I bet she's been to get her fortune told,
and Swami, like the rest of us, has succumbed.
But no fellow has the shadow of a chance
with her ; she's gone on Geometrus, that
melancholy being sitting yonder. He's the
cause of all the row,' whispered Osbert
oracularly, ' but for him our cousin Felicitas
might not have fared so badly. However,
'tis better so ; 'tis time his wings were clipped.'
' All the world avers,' returned Louis
earnestly, ' that this beauteous being is a
slave to Duty. Day and night, year in, year
out, she's ever at her post, and gives no
thought to love, the essence of existence.'
While these observations were going on,
the three Judges, attired as in days of old,
took their seats with suitable solemnity, when
the Court opened with the same formularies
as had been in use for hundreds of years :
for the Courts of Law more than any other
3 o6 MERCIA
institution cling to the ancient order of things
Even the old-fashioned blunder of saying
' you ' for ' thee ' was still adhered to in the
Law Courts, verbal innovations being equally
After a short delay the auditory was
startled by hearing the charge delivered, of
which the following is the substance.
' Mercia Montgomery, you are charged
with feloniously attempting the life of His
Imperial Majesty, Albert Felicitas, Supreme
Ruler and Governor of Great Britain and Ire-
land, Emperor of the Teutonic, Indian, and
African Empires, which murderous attempt is
accounted High Treason by the law of these
Realms. Do you plead Guilty or not Guilty ? '
Before the accused could possibly have
time to give her answer, the Public Prosecutor
' I am empowered to convey to the prisoner
the favour of his Imperial Majesty's clemency.
Taking into consideration the prisoner's long
and valuable service rendered to her country,
also the great loyalty she has ever evinced
towards her Sovereign during that period of
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 307
faithful service, the Emperor has decided to
overlook the sudden outburst of passion made
by his otherwise faithful subject, and illustrious
Astronomer, and has therefore conveyed to
her his Eoyal Pardon, in proper form, forth-
' The prisoner has been already made
acquainted with this fact and was in the
enjoyment of her freedom last evening,' he
added, regarding Mercia with a glance full of
Then Mercia, motioning her counsel to
keep his seat a moment longer, and rising to
her full height, replied in low but emphatic
tones — ' Being altogether innocent of the
crime of which I am charged, I am unable
to accept the clemency offered by his Most
' It will be soon enough to pray for pardon
when I am proved guilty. If the Court will
permit, I beg that the trial proceed, and my
character for ever cleared from all unworthy
' I, Mercia, the Astronomer, must leave this
Court with my name pure, unsullied, and
3 o8 MERCIA
honourable ; or hide my head in shame for
' Long live Mercia ! Long live Mercia ! '
resounded in mighty force throughout that
great Hall. The whole multitude was with
her in one intense wave of sympathy ; for she
had given utterance to their own feeling.
They desired to bottom the whole business,
and place their beloved Astronomer on the
proud pedestal she had formerly occupied.
Besides, the Englishman's love of justice
was another factor in the case, and no matter
what the issue, they desired to see fair play
Swami looked radiant with happiness as
he pressed towards her side eager to render
her whatever trifling service possible at such
Geometrus wore a serious and downcast
aspect, as if he believed that nothing would
eo right. Sadbagr sitting near him, with a
mysterious parcel by his side, seemed the
picture of suppressed satisfaction.
When everybody had quieted down
Mercia's counsel got upon his legs, and re-
quested that the Public Prosecutor should
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 309
state his case, to which demand the Judges
agreed. Thereupon, the Emperor's counsel
made his charge according to the manner in
which he had been instructed, but having no
witnesses to produce, save Prince Osbert, who
averred he saw nothing, from which testimony-
no amount of questioning could make him
depart, the Defence was commenced without
Eising to his feet Mercia's counsel pro-
ceeded with his speech.
' To-day I am placed in a position as painful
to me as a subject, as it is unique in the annals
of a Law Court. Painful, insomuch as it is
necessary for the ends of justice that I shall
have to accuse my Sovereign of conduct so
base that the meanest subject of his Piealms
would blush to be found guilty of the like.
' I am in a position to show that the
Emperor's visits to his Astronomer were not
made either in the interests of science, or
those of his subjects : no such justifiable, or
worthy motives prompted his course of action.
On the contrary, these interviews were made
with the intention of corrupting her pure
mind, and of guiling her away from her duty.
1 By his artful insinuations he endeavoured
to gradually lead her on to disregard her vows
of abstention from Love, or Marriage, with a
view of paving the way for his own purposes.
He dwelt upon the folly of continuing a course
of asceticism, whose only effect would be
ultimately, a serious injury to her health and
happiness ; and she in the perfect innocence
of her pure mind, accepted it at the moment,
as a piece of fatherly advice that should not
' Like the Eastern fable of Eve and the
Serpent, she listened to the voice of the
Tempter not knowing he was planning her
downfall. But luckier than our First Mother,
Mercia discovered her mistake before touching
the forbidden fruit.
' From the evidence you will learn that the
Tempter used every argument he could think
of, offering the possible and the impossible
to induce her to comply. At length, with a
heart bursting with mortification and indigna-
tion she essayed to leave him, when he
endeavoured to forcibly detain her ; upon
which she raised her ebony life-preserver to
warn him from trespassing on her person.
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 311
At this juncture lie was surprised by the
entrance of the Prince and Geometrus, who
were amazed at a scene so unexpected.
Mortified at being caught at such a moment
he tried to explain away the difficulty, and
coolly turned the tables upon the lady, by
accusing her of some failure in duty ; at this
moment who should emerge from a corner of
the apartment, which was partially concealed
by a large screen, but Mr. Sadbag, whose
presence it will be my duty to explain.
' It appears that this gentleman having just
purchased a phonograph, constructed on a
new principle, and being wishful to present it
to one of his grand-children, as a scientific
plaything, he carried it to Mistress Mercia
with a view of obtaining a record of her
conversation, which he expected would prove
equally instructive, as interesting to his grand-
' It was his intention to ask this favour, as
soon as she made her appearance, and in
order that her time, usually so valuable,
should not be unduly taken up, he opened
out his instrument, making it ready for the
reception of the sound-waves. Finding, at
length, that he would have to wait some
little time before seeing her, he took up a
book and commenced reading, and finished
by dozing off into a light slumber, according
to the manner of elderly folk with nothing to
occupy their attention.
' He was awakened from his sleep by the
sound of voices, — that of the Emperor, and
the fair Astronomer ; both evidently in a state
of unusual excitement.
* To his utter annoyance he discovered that
the nature of the conversation to which he
was being made an unwilling listener, was of
a character wholly unsuitable for the presence
of a third person. The situation became
more and more distressing to him ; he knew
not what to do. It was impossible to leave
the apartment without discovery ; it was
equally objectionable to reveal his presence
at such a moment. With many conflicting
thoughts, he finally decided to stay where
he was until the termination of the interview,
when he would leave the room comfortably ;
at the same time forming a resolution to keep
the affair a dead secret within his own bosom,
and let it rest there for ever.
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 313
' This merciful intention on his part towards
the Emperor, he was compelled to abandon,
on account of the false charge that monarch
had so quickly and ingeniously invented
against Mercia, whereby he hoped to cover
' I will now call upon Mr. Sadbag to open
his instrument, and give us the dialogue that
was so unintentionally recorded therein ; but
which I am afraid will prove more interesting
to the company present, than edifying or in-
structive to that gentleman's progeny.'
Mr. Sadbag immediately sprang to his
feet, and taking up the mysterious parcel pro-
ceeded to the witness box, when he requested
a few moments' grace to adjust the mechanism
of his unique witness ; after which was heard
in the most natural tones the voice of the
Emperor in lively mood saying — ' Ah, Mis-
tress Mercia, what cheerful looks thou dost
carry to-day ! Methinks thy face betokens
much content : hast thou taken my words
to heart, fair lady, 'twas truly excellent ad-
vice ? '
Then followed Mercia's musical voice, in
this wise — ' Sire, thou saidst something con-
3i 4 MERCIA
cerning the sun. Thou didst talk of coming
to learn more of his condition, I believe.'
Then followed a little laugh, half satirical,
half good-humoured from Felicitas, after
which the machine said — * I fain would
know more of the sun's late vagaries : but
it would please me infinitely better to learn
something of thyself. Dost thou never feel
lonely ? '
Here a suppressed titter went round the
Court, but the machine heeded it not.
' Often enough, Sire,' it said in Mercia's
sweet tones, * the hours speed away at times
very quickly when I am hard at work ; but
when it is time to rest then the feeling of
solitude overwhelms me. I get appalled at
the silence that surrounds me, and a melan-
choly seizes me so severely, that I rise unable
to cope with my duties.'
' Art thou then tired of this occupation ?
It is indeed too much for thee. Eest a while,
sweet Mercia, and let the stars take care of
themselves for a season.'
The voice of the machine grew quite
pathetic here : evidently Felicitas was grow-
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 315
' Oh, that would spoil all my calculations,'
said the machine, very sweetly, ' the work of
years would be as nought were I to stay my
hand now. No, I will wait until my treatise
on the stars is complete ; then I will take
some little change for my health's sake.'
' Health and love, sweet Mercia, go hand
in hand together,' the machine sang out in
melting tones, ' let thine heart soften to its
influence, and all will go well with thee.
Thy melancholies will disappear ; thy solitude
lightened, for thou wilt have a new theory to
analyse — a new and a better one. Yes, thou
canst love, Mercia, I know it ; for thine eyes
were made for the conquest of man's heart,
rather than star-gazing. Cease to disregard
the designs of Nature when she formed thee,
and give thyself unto the pleasure of love.'
' Sire,' answered Mercia's sweet voice,
which now had a strange, startled tone — ' I
know not what answer to give in this matter
— I am yet unprepared — perplexed with this
reasoning of thine.'
' Hast thou not felt the want of com-
panionship, dear Mercia ? Here penned in
this solitude only fit for a greybeard thou
3i 6 MERCIA
dost pine, yet knoweth not what it is ails
thee. It is good to be loved, fair one, to
realise how much thy womanhood means.
Hast thou never felt its joys — its pains?'
asked the voice in a coaxing sort of tone.
' But my bond, Sire, I cannot break my
bond, signed by my own hand, to forswear
love and marriage : no one but thyself can
relieve me of this obligation,' replied Mercia's
' I heartily relieve thee, then, my good
Mercia : I care not for the bond one iota, if
that be all that's in thy way. Keep thy post,
as thou likest thy work so well, and enjoy the
delights of love at the same time,' reeled out
the machine in the Emperor's most insinuat-
Then followed a low cry of joy, in
Mercia's voice, and the sound of a kiss ;
listening ladies blushed, smart young men
sniggered, and elderly men looked as if things
were getting serious.
' Isn't that machine playing it low on the
lady ? ' whispered Prince Osbert to Louis, his
' Hush,' returned the French Emperor —
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 317
' listen, there's a volley of kisses going off — be
quiet, pray ! '
' It's getting beyond a joke — it really is !
Just look at the Empress, she's gone green in
the face ! Mercia's looking pretty pink, and
altogether the matter is too blue for my
modesty ! ' exclaimed the Prince, while burst-
ing with suppressed mirth.
All eyes regarded the beautiful culprit
seated in the witness box with increased
interest. ' Oh, thou guilty creature — think
shame to thyself ! ' the ladies' looks said as
plainly as possible.
' He's having a good time of it ! ' whispered
one to his neighbour.
' She's no better than she should be, after
all ! ' muttered another.
' Such pretty lips were made for kissing ! '
remarked another jocularly.
' So it seems ! ' answered his neighbour
' Felicitas hasn't bad taste ! ' cried another.
1 He knows how to do it ! ' was the re-
'Most entertaining, truly,' remarked a
' Entertaining isn't the word for it — 'tis
scrumptious ! ' returned her husband. ' One
hears the kisses, and sees the lady ; 'tis a
treat for the gods ! '
1 Oh, the hussy ! Don't look at her.
What a cheek, to face it out like this ! '
These various remarks, and many more
besides, occupied but a few seconds for
delivery, for the Usher calling out silence,
on hearing the low murmur of voices, the
machine began talking again.
' What means the Emperor by this un-
heard-of liberty ? What have I done that I
should be treated as a courtesan by my
Sovereign ? ' cried the machine, in a voice
choked with pain and indignation.
' A courtesan ! ' repeated the Emperor's
voice, ' I would give thee a crown if I could !
Thy queenly brow was truly made for one.
And by the stars, thou shalt have it yet !
Yes, dear Mercia, thou shalt share my throne,
and rule me, my sweet, together with mine
' Share thy throne and rule thine Empire !
Surely, Sire, thou hast gone mad ! '
' Yes, truly, I am mad — mad with love
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 319
for thee, and thou knowest it, Mercia, else
wouldst thou have kissed my hand in ac-
knowledgment of it ? '
' In acknowledgment of thy love ! ' cried
the machine scornfully. ' It was not so — thy
love never entered my thought.'
' Whose then ? '
' Geometrus,' said the instrument, in
Mercia's soft voice.
' Geometrus ! ' scoffed the machine in the
Emperor's tones. ' And dost thou place that
poltroon before me ? Am I to be flouted for
him ? '
' His love is honourable, and thine is not ;
therein lies the difference, my Sire,' the voice
of Mercia replied in a propitiating tone ; as if
to win the monarch over to give consent to
her marriage with Geometrus.
' But my love shall be made honourable,
Mercia, I will get a divorce, and thou shalt
till the Empress' place. Aye, and fill it far
away better than she has ever done ! 1 hate
her — curse her ! ' Then followed a grating
noise as if the Emperor were grinding his
teeth in fury at the thought of his marriage
fetters. A painful feeling spread itself
through the Court ; the Empress became the
cynosure of all eyes : her face turned deathly
white ; a minute later she had fainted, and
was carried away from the scene that
jealousy had prompted her to witness.
' But I cannot rob another woman of her
husband : I would not defraud the meanest
in thy realms, still less thine Empire's highest
lady ! ' uttered the machine in pure clear tones.
A suppressed murmur of applause greeted
this avoAval, but the machine went on heed-
less of interruption.
' It is not robbery, Mercia, she doth not
own my heart, and never did ! I was cozened
into the marriage by my cousin Osbert — curse
him, for a meddling fool ! '
' He did it, doubtless, for the best. The
whole of thy Cabinet approved, so did the
nation. It is a new thing for me to learn that
our Emperor lives unhappily with his spouse
— I cannot understand it.'
' She's trying to reason him out of his folly,'
remarked Louis, of France, ' good little girl ! '
' I never felt the chains gall till now,
Mercia,' the machine confessed with relentless
veracity. ' A quiet indifference kept me con-
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 321
tent until thy beauty set my heart a-beating
with a new joy. I knew not love till mine
eyes dwelt upon thy loveliness, and mine ears
listened to the words that flowed from thy lips
like a sweet rippling fountain ; whose waters
gave forth a pure, clear, life-giving stream.
' Yes, I have drunk therein, and am filled
with new emotions — new joys — new hopes —
new life ! ' The phonograph here made a
pause, when it recommenced with a sobbing
' Now is my beauty an evil thing, and a
curse to me ! ' cried Mercia's voice, in soft,
pathetic sweetness. ' Would I had never
been born, or that Nature had shaped me
uncomely, for then this misfortune could not
have overtaken me ! Two men desire me,
and I may not have either. I must live iu a,
world filled like a garden with flowers —
flowers and blossoms of love. Yet, I may not
touch them ; their fragrance is not for me ;
not one may I wear on my breast !
* Yet, they nod and beckon me to pluck
them. They offer me the incense of their
being, and would fain spend their full fragrance
upon me ; for their desire is to nestle on my
322 MERC I A
bosom, and give me the joy of their beauty
As the instrument gave utterance to this
sweet rhapsody, delivered in a low, clear,
plaintive voice, that fell like music on the
ear of the enraptured auditory, who listened
breathlessly to every word that fell from her
lips, as it were ; for in imagination they saw
her with bowed head, and clasped hands
breathing the poetry of that moment of divine
The human desire for human love was
linding expression : the longing of the soul
for companionship was shaping itself into
language so intensely irresistible, that it
went to every heart with the fleetness of the
Only one feeling prevailed throughout that
great assembly — admiration for the noble
character of the beautiful woman sitting there
before them, whose flushed cheek and lowered
eyelids, evidenced the modesty of her woman-
As soon as a pause was reached by the
instrument, the enthusiasm of the people could
be restrained no longer. Men testified their
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 323
approval in true English fashion by the
heartiest round of applause as was never
before heard in that soberly-conducted Justice
Hall. When the excitement had somewhat
subsided, Mercia rose to her feet, and turning
her gaze with an air of modest dignity upon
the people, she addressed them. —
' Dear friends — until this moment, I knew
not I possessed so many '
Another round of applause.
' Dear friends,' she continued sweetly,
' accept my warmest thanks for your generosity
in believing in me while yet I remained un-
heard. My lords,' and she turned to the
presiding Judges, ' it is true that this instru-
ment,' she pointed then to the phonograph —
' has been signally instrumental in rendering
undeniable testimony of the value of the
evidence placed before you. Nevertheless, I
knew not when I came hither that I was to
encounter my own words uttered without
thought, or preparation, in a moment of
excitement ; for probably, had I been aware
that such was my friend, Mr. Sad bag's
intention, my place at this justice bar would
never have been rilled.
• Holding his Majesty's " pardon " as I do,
I was under no necessity to appear before
you, and plead the justice of my cause.
Nevertheless, I do not regret the exposure,
for after all, it has given the opportunity, to
you, dear people, of showing the good feeling
you entertain for me.
' I felt in my heart when I elected to go
forward with my defence that the people of
this great Empire would render me justice
and see me safely through this trying ordeal.'
4 Good people,' exclaimed Mr. Sadbag,
smiling good-humouredly, ' pray don't ap-
plaud any more ; I can't get along with my
talking-machine ; and until I finish the Court
is unable to arrive at a decision. 'Tis a pity
to hinder the Emperor's pretty speeches, just
listen to this, and see how poetical he is : the
tender passion makes even kings grow quite
' Mercia, Mercia, give me thy love ! Take
me, my beloved, spurn me no longer, for
without thee I am as one dead. As a world
without sun, without life, without warmth I
shall go on my way darkened for ever.
' Take me into the sunshine of thy love ;
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 325
give rue new life, dearest ; resuscitate and
refresh me with the joy of thy beauty, and
let us drink of the wine of Love's pleasures
' Then shall we two learn how good it is
to love ; how sweet it is to be together !
How delightful the blending of two souls
made satisfied with their own companion-
ship ! '
4 It is Geometrus who speaks,' came the
soft dreamy tones of Mercia, ' Geometrus has
opened his heart to me at last ! '
' Geometrus ! ' shouted the machine in the
angry tones of the Emperor, ' it is not
Geometrus ; it is I — Felicitas — Felicitas thine
Emperor, who abjectly offers thee his love ;
his crown, and sues thee, Mercia, his servant
— his astronomer.'
Then Mercia awakening, evidently, from
her love-dream, and realising her true posi-
tion exclaimed with great dignity, ' Felicitas,
the Emperor, hath no crown to offer his
subject, Mercia, for it sits already on the
brow of his Eoyal Spouse. Neither has he
love to offer his astronomer, for it is sworn
to his Empress for ever. It is an insult to
326 MERC I A
me, Mercia, thine offer of illicit love and I
refuse to longer remain in thy service.'
' That will do, Mr. Sadbag,' interrupted
the senior Judge, ' we have heard quite
sufficient to enable us to arrive at a decision.
The prisoner — I mean the accused, is found
Not Guilty of the charge against her. The
lady and her friends may now leave the
Court without a stain on their character.
It is unnecessary to go into the charges
brought against these gentlemen, as the
clearing of the principal defender establishes
the innocence of the whole three. This case
ought never to have come before the Court
' Good ! ' exclaimed Sadbag to his trusty
phonograph, ' thy testimony is worth more
than a score of witnesses, or a Court full of
lawyers ; thou hast served us well, little one ;
thanks to Edison, or whoever it was invented
thee ! '
' Three cheers, three times over for Mercia,
the Astronomer Eoyal ! ' shouted a stentorian
voice, and the tremendous volume of sound
was caught up by the thousands who were
awaiting the verdict in the streets, and all
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 327
the city shouted — ' Hurrah ! Hurrah ! Hur-
rah ! ' nine times in succession, and women
wept for joy, and wreaths were showered
upon her, and all the homage due to a great
hero was rendered her, just as Felicitas had
seen pictured in the psycho-development the
Swami had prepared the carriage and
horses for her use, which now stood in
readiness. But the climax of the ovation
was reached when the people, not knowing
what to do to show her honour, removed the
prancing steeds, which were startled by the
clamour, and drew the chariot themselves.
Publicly, in presence of the crowd, and
of her intimate friends, Swami stepped up
to the carriage, already piled with laurel
wreaths intermixed with flowers of rare
beauty, and presented her with his wonderful
crown of precious jewels. It represented a
wreath of glittering blossoms intertwined
witli bay leaves ; which sparkled with a
thousand rays in the bright sunshine ; plac-
ing this brilliant trophy of that day's triumph
on her head he took his seat beside her.
A deeper flush of pleasure came into
Mercia's radiant face, for her happiness was
now complete in having him near.
' Three cheers for Swami our great thought-
reader and Mercia's friend ! ' cried one of the
crowd, who had seen Swami escort her into
the Court, and thereby deduced that he was
her most trusty friend.
The people willingly accorded him the
acclamation, giving a share also to Geo-
metrus, and the intrepid Sadbag.
But before all this took place, when she
was about to leave the Court, crowds of those
present gathered round, and gave her their
Among these were the Emperor Nicholas
of Russia, and the newly-crowned Emperor
of France, for that country having grown
tired of a republic, imitated America in this
Even Prince Osbert, the cousin of Felicitas,
offered Mercia his congratulations ; but not
an atom of sympathy was expressed for the
absent Emperor, though many sincerely pitied
The Empress of Eussia, not satisfied with
mere hand-shaking, kissed Mercia warmly, as
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 329
she exclaimed — 'Noble Mercia, then thou
wouldst not accept the offer of Felicitas, and
discrown my dear daughter — thou wearest
already the brightest crown, that of pure
virtue. May God ever bless, and reward
' I'll make Felicitas pay for this ! ' muttered
the Emperor Nicholas to himself, 'his con-
duct both as an Emperor and husband is
' There is no occasion for thy Majesty to
trouble further in the matter,' observed
Swami, ' thy son-in-law hath received his
lesson, and will prove, in time, a model hus-
band. Parental responsibilities will make
him the most virtuous of monarchs living.'
' Then my daughter will have children ? '
inquired the Empress eagerly.
4 Even so,' answered Swami, smiling, as
he turned to lead Mercia away to her carriage.
All along the drive to Greenwich the
people took up the glad shout of triumph ;
but upon Mercia's arrival there, who was
accompanied by Swami and Geometrus only,
for Sadbag had been carried off by his own
political and personal friends, she found that
handsome triumphal arches had been erected
to do her honour, in loyal anticipation of her
Mercia's eyes filled at this warm tribute
of the people's affection ; while Swami pressed
her hand and whispered that this was as nothing
compared with what awaited her in the very
near future. Geometrus, in the meantime,
overhearing what was said, looked perfectly
petrified with astonishment, as each feature
of the situation was developed.
As the events of the day unfolded them-
selves his. mind became almost a whirligig of
wonder and excitement. He could not under-
stand the presence of Swami at all, at the
trial ; for he knew that up to then Mercia
was entirely unacquainted with him. But
what appeared to him as misplaced as it was
unwelcome, was the part Swami was taking
in the ovation, by whose personality he felt
himself completely overshadowed.
i Who is this Anglo-Indian that I should
have to play second fiddle to him ? ' thought
Geometrus to himself, ' why does Mercia
occupy herself with him ? '
From the talking-machine he had learnt
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 331
to his infinite joy, of Mercia's love for him ;
it was the first intimation he had received
of her affection, but before he could drink in
the delight of his unexpected bliss, it was
melting away like a dream.
All her attention was engrossed by this
Swami. When she was not engaged giving
her graceful acknowledgments to the enthusi-
astic crowd, her eyes were looking into his
with that soul-worship, which women accord,
when they have met their ideal.
' She never gazed into my face with that
fervour,' he thought, ' she loves him, else how
could she be so devoted ? I have loved her
for years, and this is the reward of my
constancy ; in one day a stranger has ousted
me. This comes of over-cautiousness ; had
I been reckless of consequences, Mercia would
have been mine by this time, made safe by
bonds of wedlock. But I hesitated, believing
her position had greater charms for her than
matrimony. And now — well, no one can
bottom a woman's heart, or gather its mean-
ing. I imagined I was consulting her best
interests when I refrained from declaring my
love, leaving over the matter for time to
put things right. And this is the result ; a
stranger has accomplished more in one day
than I with all my years of opportunity. It is
1 However, I'll wait no longer, this night
shall conclude the matter. Ere another
day elapses I will have asked her to share
my poor fortunes ; surely we two can meet
with appointments as teachers of astronomy
and make a respectable livelihood between us.
It isn't a very brilliant position to offer, but
she will then be mine legally, and no man can
take her from me. My prudence has made
me play the fool, so far, but this night shall
I learn my fate. I will delay no longer.
Mercia has told the whole world of her
preference for me, how then can she have the
face to refuse me ? '
As these thoughts passed through Geo-
metrus' mind whilst seated near Swami, the
latter looked into his face and remarked im-
* The chances and changes of this mortal
life are never ending. They bring sorrow to
one, and joy to another. Strange arrange-
ment this of Fortune ; one moment bestowing
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL m
good, the next evil. If thou shouldst regard
thyself illused to-day, learn that a morrow
will come when thou shalt be made content ;
but not in the manner that is in thine heart
at this moment.'
' There is nothing that can bring me con-
tent, Swami,' replied Geometrus bitterly, ' but
that which thou seekest to deprive me of.'
Mercia at this moment was oblivious of
the nature of their conversation, her attention
having been engaged by the arrival of friends
to congratulate her.
When the party reached the Observatory
Swami expressed his intention of returning ;
and as soon as he had assisted Mercia to
alight, he conducted her to her sitting-room.
' Take a rest, my beloved,' he whispered
softly, ' it will refresh thee ; to-morrow I will
come and stay awhile beside thee ; when I
trust thy friend Geometrus will not favour us
with his presence. Evidently, by his dark
looks he would fain annihilate me, if that were
'Ah, yes,' returned Mercia, with a sigh
and a smile intermixed ; ' we two must have
explanations. That talking-machine has made
things awkward for me. But for that tell-tale
instrument I owed him no apologies, seeing
that the nature of our friendship had never
been discussed between us. Since then I have
learnt that which the concentrated wisdom
of all the schools could not impart by theory ;
for it is the realisation and knowledge of what
the poets of all ages have made their uni-
versal theme ; but experience only can reveal
' And it is as fresh to us as if utterly un-
known hitherto ! It is our new discovery ! '
cried Swami in a rapture as he caught her in
' But we can't take out a patent for it ! •
Mercia was in the act of replying, when her
words were smothered by the warm kisses
pressed upon her lips.
' And must we really part ? ' exclaimed she,
while playfully holding his hands prisoners.
' It will seem an eternity till the morrow,'
he murmured, making no effort to escape.
'When I sleep I shall dream of thee,
Swami,' and her liquid eyes looked softly into
' My day dream shuts out the visions of
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 335
the night ; for my happiness is too great for
the waters of Lethe to cover. With thee to
concentre my thought upon, I ask no other
refreshment,' uttered Swami softly.
When fame is won, leisure is lost, Mercia
quickly discovered ; for no sooner had Swami
left than she found herself surrounded by
crowds of persons who had come to offer
their congratulations. Of course the sincerity
of those demonstrative ones was not to be
doubted, nevertheless the visits of a goodly
percentage were prompted more by curiosity
to see the woman who might have displaced
their Empress, had she been so minded, and
the Divorce Courts sufficiently obliging, than
anything else. Consequently, Mercia had a
livelier time of it for several hours than she
was prepared for. People to whom she was
a perfect stranger poured in upon her, until
at length fairly wearied out with the strain
she gave orders to admit no more.
As soon as the apartments were fairly
cleared of their visitors she sank down on a
sofa exhausted ; and was in the act of utter-
ing an exclamation of thankfulness when
Geometrus put in an appearance.
' May I have a word with thee ? ' he asked
' To-morrow, Geometrus, won't it keep till
then ? ' she said sweetly.
' No, Mercia, I must know my fate to-
night, I cannot wait another day. My mind
is in such a state of perplexity, that to dream
of getting sleep is a folly : I come therefore
to sue thee for a good night's rest, and to be
made happy for all time ; ' saying which he
took a seat in front of her.
' And how can I make thee comfortable,
Geometrus ? ' laughed Mercia gaily. ' Better
take a nerve-soothing tabloid instead of sup-
per, I'll warrant that will give thy mind more
rest than anything that I can tell thee.'
1 Perhaps it might,' answered he gloomily
' All the same, I would prefer a hearing
if thou wilt grant the favour.'
' Certainly,' she answered with an assumed
airiness of manner, for she guessed she was
about to go through a bad quarter of an hour,
* now be reasonable, and I will give this matter
my best attention,' she added.
' I know I am trespassing upon thy time
at an awkward moment,' he went on to say
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 3#
with a certain bitterness in his voice, ' but for
all that we will have it out now. What is
the meaning of this fortune-telling fellow
hanging round thee? What does he want
dangling after thee ? '
' That is my business,' answered Mercia,
suddenly freezing in her manner and turning
quite haughty, ' I was not aw r are that I was
answerable to thee in the choice of my
At this reproof he reddened, and stam-
mered out —
1 1 did not mean to put it that way, — but
I want to know what is this Swami to thee
that he should interest himself so greatly in
thy affairs ? '
' He is my intended husband, Geometrus,'
replied Mercia in a low but firm voice. ' I
mean to give up my post and marry. He is
the only man for whom I could make this
sacrifice, as I love my profession greatly.
But I love Swami better, and intend to share
my fortunes with him whatever they be.'
' And what is to become of me ? ' inquired
Geometrus while his face turned deathly
white ; ' I thought the phonograph said thou
didst love me. What am I to think ? Was
it Swami that filled thy thought when Felicitas
asked the same question ? '
' Of course not,' rejoined Mercia candidly,
• I was unacquainted with him when the
Emperor sought me. But I will endeavour
to explain it ; otherwise thou mightest arrive
at false conclusions.
' I formed a sincere regard for thee, Geo-
metrus, in the course of these five years that
we have worked together ; and this regard,
owing partly to thy devotion to me, and
partly from a sense of loneliness, the result of
my necessarily solitary mode of life, grew into
such a tender affection that I imagined it was
what people call love. Consequently, the
notion came into my head that at some time
or other — some day in the distant future, I
would marry thee if such continued to be
thy desire. But now all those ideas have
been dissipated ; my heart has gone through
a complete revolution, for I have met with
the man for whom I would willingly give up
' I love him better than all the stars in the
wide universe ! Much as I delighted to gaze
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 339
into the Heavens and study with intense
interest the wonders of the Celestial depths,
yet he is above them all ! He is more to me
than thousands of worlds ! He is nearer and
dearer than millions of suns ! ' cried Mercia
with clasped hands, and eyes alight with
' He is certainly nearer if propinquity
counts for anything ; ' rejoined Geometrus
dryly ; ' of course, then, I am to understand
that the man who has bowled out the whole
Universe, has played it low on me : in other
words, I am nowhere now ? '
c That is so,' said Mercia, ' I now know
what love is, for he has taught me, where
thou didst fail. Thou hadst no power to
impart this knowledge to my understanding.
When I look back, I see that Friendship only
inspired my thought for thee. I should have
continued all my life searching the Heavens,
and worrying out the secrets of Nature had I
not met my Marrow, my Ideal, my Fate ! '
' All three represented in the person of
Swami ? ' added Geometrus cynically.
'Even so,' answered Mercia, taking no
notice of his derisive tone. ' In a few days I
leave this place, and thou Geometrus canst
worthily fill it, and make thy name illustrious
' And this is to be the end of my dream ! '
he burst out in a voice choking with feeling.
' The end of one, and the beginning of
another,' returned Mercia, ' thou wilt yet be
a great man, whom all men will honour. I
leave thee a fair field and a free hand to
accomplish this noble ambition.'
' The providence that's in a watchful state
Knows almost every grain of Pluto's gold ;
Finds bottom in the uncomprehensive deeps ;
Keeps pace with thought, and almost like the Gods,
Does thoughts unveil in their dumb cradles.'
Troilus and Cressida.
As soon as the trial was concluded, — if the
series of extraordinary scenes that took place
in the court, could be so designated — the
reporters rushed out en masse to send their
respective phonographs to the editors of the
various journals they represented.
Never before had they such a titbit to
offer their employers as was now their good
luck to possess. A love scene between their
Emperor and his astronomer, delivered in a
dialogue wherein the actual voices were re-
produced was a treat not to be met with
At least a hundred delicate voice-recorders
had caught the sound-waves from Sadbag's
phonograph, and borrowing the tones of
Felicitas and Mercia in their never-to-be-
forgotten colloquy, gave them a value un-
precedented in all time. As soon as it got
abroad that their proprietors were in posses-
sion of these treasures, hundreds of speculators
offered enormous prices for their purchase,
with a view of reeling out their contents to
admiring and appreciative audiences through-
out the globe.
These offers proved, indeed, too tempting
to be resisted, so that in the course of a week
or two, India, together with many distant
parts, was in the enjoyment of the actual
love scene that took place at Greenwich
Observatory, the most unlikely of all places
for such an incident to happen in.
The Great Test Tournament had been
fought and won by the Easterners. Their
freedom now achieved, there remained only
the nomination and coronation of a Supreme
Euler to go through, the responsibility of
which weighed heavily upon the mind of the
It was ultimately decided however, that
their first Monarch should be elected by the
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 343
vote of the whole nation, independently of
all claims of royal descent made by members
of the native aristocracy.
The interesting news of Felicitas' unsuc-
cessful love suit having been brought to the
ears of the people so graphically through the
medium of the voice-recorders, created an in-
tense excitement in their mind, at all times
so sensitive to every emotion.
It brought out Mercia's character in such
vivid colours that she appeared to them men-
tally projected on a living reflector. In their
intense imagination, they saw her before them
uttering in her melodious dream-like voice
her now famous rhapsody ; the tenderness of
which appealing to their hearts, stirred up
their deepest emotions.
But when they arrived at her indignant
refusal of the Emperor's offer to put away
his wife, and give her the crown of his Con-
sort, the climax was reached, and the enthu-
siasm of the people found vent in loud cries
of — ' Mercia for ever ! Long live Mercia,
our Empress ! '
And so the cry spreading itself through
every quarter of that vast Empire was caught
up in wild delight — Long live Mercia, our
Empress, being echoed from every part, by
people of every caste and every creed. But
when the intelligence reached this impression-
able people that Mercia, the greatest Astro-
nomer, and noblest woman the world had
ever seen, was about to enter into a matri-
monial alliance with Dayanand Swami, the
actual lineal descendant of The Great Mogul
Dynasty, which governed India from the early
centuries downwards, that settled the ques-
In the course of the discussion upon the
subject, which took place in the House of
Parliament at Calcutta, Sir John Punjaub
their well-beloved minister said — ' Now is this
matter settled to our utmost satisfaction and
content. In Dayanand Swami we have the
direct descendant of India's greatest, wisest,
and most beneficent Euler, the renowned
Abkar, who was the son of Humayun, who
was the son of Baber, the founder of the
Great Royal Dynasty in the fifteenth cen-
' In Dayanand we shall have a second
Abkar, for the mantle of his great Ancestor
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 345
hath fallen on him. In him the people of this
great Empire will have a kind Father, a wise
Teacher, a just Euler, and a lover and pro-
moter of learning.
' By the union of Mercia and Dayanand
we shall have restored to us the lost Eoyal
Line : in beauteous Mercia, perfect in face,
and form, in soul and mind, we have found
the true representative of what a monarch
ought to be.
' Herein is crystallised the talent, wisdom,
and virtue of all generations. In her person
we shall have the embodiment of our coun-
try's dignity and honour. She shall become
the Great Mother of India. The Founder of
our Royal Line, and her name shall shine as
the stars for ever and ever.'
In the presence of the greatest and most
brilliant assemblage India had ever seen since
the days of her ancient splendour ; consisting
of Princes and Potentates richly attired in
court dress and coronet, representative of
their respective positions of Peishwar, Raja
and Maharajah the coronation took place a
By dint of working day and night the pre-
parations for the grand Imperial Procession
to be followed by the Crowning Function,
were completed in that period.
One thousand elephants, richly caparisoned
in cloth of gold and various embroideries ;
their heads ornamented with fine filagree
work in gold or silver, interspersed with
gems, according to the wealth of their re-
spective owners, carried the howdahs con-
tainino; the wives and daughters of the
dignitaries of the Realm. For Mercia had
issued a mandate beforehand that the ladies
of the Chiefs of the Empire would be ex-
pected to take part in the Function, veiled,
or unveiled, according to their respective
ideas of propriety. In obedience to which
every Ameer, Maharajah, Rajah, Nawab,
Sirdar, Dewan, and Nazim had the ladies of
his family carried in howdahs, where they
enjoyed a splendid view of the situation,
owing to their elevated position, and at the
same time added an Eastern air of gorgeous-
ness to the procession, most impressive to the
eye of the beholder.
The Princes, and native dignitaries them-,
selves followed in carriages drawn by horses,
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 347
in the order of their rank the splendidly-
appointed Imperial Chariot, containing
1 Mercia, The Peerless,' as she was now
named, and by her side was seated her
Imperial Consort, ' Dayanand, The Wise.'
Long lines of body-guards composed of
the finest physiqued men in the realms,
attired in a rich uniform of pale blue and
gold bearing silver lances, and mounted on
high-mettled steeds, preceded and followed
the royal chariot, the sight of which drew
forth the wildest acclamations of joy from
The ceremony took place neither in
Christian nor Hindu temple, but in the
great hall of their Parliament House, the
most stately building in Calcutta.
A3 soon as the Coronation Oath was
taken by Mercia, in accordance with the
custom of their most remote ancestry, she
was sprinkled with water from the Ganges,
which was contained in a golden bowl glitter-
ing with precious jewels. After which, the
grand Imperial Crown was placed upon her
head by the venerable Prime Minister, who
officiated as high priest of the ceremony.
' Now,' said the old man, * I will finish by
quoting a counsel from a part of the most
ancient of India's literature, — the Dasakuma-
racharita, or ' Stories of Ten Princes.'
' Government is an arduous matter ; it has
three principles ; Council, Authority, and Ac-
tivity. These mutually assisting each other
dispatch all affairs. Council determines ob-
jects, Authority commences, and Activity
effects their attainment. Policy is a tree of
which Council is the root, Authority the
stem, and Activity the main branch. The
seventy-two Prakritis are the leaves ; the six
qualities of Eoyalty the blossoms ; power and
success the flowers and the fruit. Let this
shade protect our Gracious Empress for ever.
' And as at the birth of the Great Abkar,
which happened at a time when his father's
fortunes were fallen so low that he possessed
neither crown, nor kingdom, nor even the
wherewithal to make the necessary gifts to
his friends and followers when a son was born
unto him, he took a musk-pod, and breaking
it divided it amongst them, uttering the wish
that proved a prophecy ; so may thy name,
most noble Mercia, and thy virtues spread in
THE ASTRONOMER ROYAL 349
waves of perfume throughout thy wide do-
mains, making glad the hearts of thy faithful
subjects, and filling them with joy, and peace
' May the blessing of the Eternal Father
rest upon thee and thine for ever and for
(3P0TTISW00DE AND CO., NEW-STRKET SQUARE
IDYLLS, LEGENDS, AND
By A. GARLAND MEARS.
Portrait. Superfine paper. Cloth, gold lettered. Price 6s.
NEWCASTLE CHRONICLE.—' As an Alpine traveller might
pluck the eidelweiss in some unexpected cranny, so we open the
pages of a volume of Idylls, Legends, and Lybics. It is the
work of a poet of Nature. . . . Mrs. Mears strikes her harp with
power and grace, and breathes life and poetry into the dry bones of
history. Interest will be aroused in them, not only by their poetic
treatment, but also by the erudition displayed by the author.
' The legends of her volume are enhanced by notes betraying
considerable research. . . . Mrs. Mears may be indeed described as
the poet of love. . . . She is a close observer of human passion.
Never before have we seen such a complete analysis of the tender
passion as that given in the series of eighteen sonnets under the
title of Honoeia's Love. . . . Idylls, Legends, and Lyrics
go into the world with the stamp of approval, and, in winning
credit for their author, they reflect honour upon the town that saw
MANCHESTER CO URIER.— 1 Considerable variety of style
and sentiment are illustrated in these interesting verses. The
dramatic Idyll Ilamea; Honoeia's Love, and other Sonnets;
Edain, an Ancient Legend of Ireland; Poems in Bl^nk
Veese ; Cedmon, an Early English Idyll, together with Songs
and Lybical Poems, are all samples of composition which indicate
that the author is no novice in such work. In Honoeia's Leva
are depicted the several emotions of the mind when under the
influence of love, each sonnet expressing a separate phase of that
passion which is admitted to be the strongest of all human passions
Owing to the form of the verse these eighteen sonnets are less a
love story, perhaps, than an exposition of the emotions. The
IDYLLS, LEGENDS, AND LYBICS.
following is a specimen of them. . . . With one other quotation we
will close this admirable book.
•LOVE, THE UNIVERSAL LAW.
' As atom unto atom firmly lies
Obeying blindly that great law which makes
Subservient even lifeless matter ; wakes
An energy, a force whose hidden ties
Bind animate, or inanimate in wise
True order. See, the silver cloudlet breaks,
With others interweaves ; thus changed forsakes
An individual existence, dies.
' Wave follows wave in rhythmic lines, and one
By one they lose themselves in close embrace ;
Thus are we twain commingled : our lives run
In closest sympathy ; we interlace
Our mind's emotions : now, there hath begun
Creation new, to which past life gives place.'
OXFORD CHRONICLE.— 1 This is an 8vo. volume, printed in
clear type, on thick paper ; cloth, gilt lettered. Its pages are
laden with the music of the love song and old-time love story.
The aim of the author, not only to reach the reasoning faculties,
but to appeal to the imagination and emotions; and to yield that
pleasure to the mind which is the design of poetry as of music,
has been gained. True poetry, it has been said, portrays, with
terrible energy, the excesses of the passions ; but they are passions
which show a mighty nature ; which are full of power ; which
command awe, and excite a deep though shuddering sympathy.
Its great tendency and power is to carry the mind above and
beyond the beaten, dusty, and weary walks of ordinary life: to
lift it into a purer element, and to breathe into it a more profound
and generous emotion. This consummation has been obtained by
the dramatic Idyll lLAMEA, with which Part I. opens. Its
sublimity and elegance of style entitle it to rank as one of the
finest classics ever written on love.'
NORTHERN ECHO.— 'Idylls, Legends, and Lyrics bespeak
the true poetic vein ; the light phantasy of romantic thought ;
and the faculty of expressing all in rhythmic verse. A Dramatic
Idyll, Ilamea, is, perhaps, the happiest in the volume It dwells, as
IDYIiLS, LEGENDS, AND LYKICS.
really does the whole book, on the immortal theme of love ; and an
argumentative colloquy between two persons, the Count and Ilamea,
reveals a flow of language and beautifully balanced metre that
make it a pleasure to read or recite.'
DAILY TELEGRAPH. — 'This work is principally composed
of old-time love stories in verse, which the author claims have
never before formed subject of treatment by the poet. They
present a picture, though only a legendary one, of the days of our
ancestors, and are interesting on that account. A bouquet of love
sonnets are treated with no little skill and originality. An ancient
legend of Ireland is very cleverly and sympathetically rendered
in Edain ; (Ledmon, an Early English Idyll, is also noteworthy.
It is something to be reminded of the " peasant poet who, a
thousand years before Milton, sang the epic of the Creation ;
vividly depicting the War in Heaven, the Fall of Satan, and
his Counsellings in Hell." The author has produced a collection
of poems which exhibit true poetic instinct ; and the work makes
a goodly and acceptable volume.'
THE GRAPHIC. — 'The love song and love story form the
staple of Mrs. Garland Mears' Idylls, Legends, and Lyrics.
She possesses much fluency of expression, and is not troubled
in her theme by any melancholy transcendentalism. In her view
the object of poetry is to yield pleasure to the mind, and it should
appeal either to the imagination or to the emotions. " Its true
object," she observes, " is not obtained when it becomes chiefly
the vehicle for philosophical or metaphysical instruction reaching
only the reasoning faculties." Some of the poems have a simple
love tale for their basis, as in Ilamea, Cedmon, and The Love
op Uthee, the British King, for Igerna, with the resultant birth
of Arthur. In HONOEIA'S LOVE we have a series of eighteen
sonnets ; from the first of these we quote the eight opening lines
dealing with " Love's Entrance."
' " Oh, kingly Love, when first thou didst enthral
My soul in thy sweet bonds I hardly knew
Thy presence : filled with joy, what could I do
But gaze upon thy face, and at thy call
Give willing ear 1 Then straight before thee fall,
In meekness yielding loving homage, true.
What sum of bliss wrapped up in moments few ,
Life's sweetest mystery is made my all ! " '
IDYLLS, LEGENDS, AND LYRICS.
Extracts from Letters containing Criticisms by the
Chairmen and Secretaries of Public Libraries : —
• The librarian has handed to me the volume of Idylls,
Legends, and Lyrics. I have had time to read the dramatic
Idyll Ilamea, and am greatly pleased with its sweetness and
' It makes one feel better and stronger for its impressive lesson,
so vividly, and pathetically, and sympathetically told. Ilamea is
worth the price of the whole volume.
' I will devote the earliest opportunity to go through its pages,
feeling sure that they will add much pleasure to my life, as well
as intensify my attachment to poetry. The work is placed in the
library of this borough.
1 B. P. WRIGHT, J.P.,
' Chairman of Committee, Free Public
' Library, Stafford.'
1 The Mayoe of Sligo has requested that a second copy of
Idylls, Legends, and Lyrics be purchased. The verses are very
sweet. They do not stir the spirit like the strong lines of Byron :
but they come over us with a bewitching softness that in certain
moods is still more delightful, and soothe the troubled spirits with
a refreshing sense of truth, purity, and elegance.
' They are pensive rather than passionate, and more full of
wisdom and tenderness than nights of fancy, or overwhelming
bursts of emotion ; while they are moulded into grace, at least as
much by the effect of the moral beauties they disclose as by the
t;iste and judgment with which they are constructed.
' Chief Librarian, Free Public Library,
' Sligo, Ireland.'
IDYLLS, LEGENDS, AND LYRICS.
' I have read the first poem, Ilamea, in this interesting volume
of verse, and can bear my testimony as to its beauty of conception
and true poetic merit. I like the poetry exceedingly, and feel quite
confident that the work only requires to be better known to secure
it a very wide circulation.
' Chief Librarian, Free Public Library,
' St. Helens?
'I am very glad to see in Idylls, Legends, and Lyrics a
poem on Caedmon. I am particularly interested in old-time litera-
ture myself, and am giving special attention to such subjects as
" Csedmon " and " Beowulf."
' I shall be very glad to have another copy, as it is the first work
I have seen for a long time which is so exactly suited to my taste.
' Free Public Library, Brentford.''
' This work is an exceptionally good one, and I thank you for
calling my attention to a volume of poems of such merit as these
' I have told my committee that, as far as I am a judge of poetry,
1 considered that this work was entitled to a place on our shelves.
'Our public here are quick to form fairly accurate opinions as to
the value of works of this class. I shall be only too glad to find
my own judgment endorsed by that large body I have the pleasure
' Chief Librarian, Free Public Library,
THE STOEY OF A TEUST
By the same Author.
PORTRAIT AND BIOGRAPHICAL NOTICE.
Crown 8vo. 300 pp. cloth, gilt lettered, price 2s. 6d.
OXFORD CHRONICLE.—' The authoress has been designated
" the Poet of Love, and Nature," one who deserves the thanks of
every student of early English literature for reviving one's interest
in old-time literature. Her claim to the eulogy is fully justified . . .
this latest production of her pen is thoroughly realistic, and con-
tains word-pictures graphically descriptive of English country life.
. . . Margaret is a gem, a perfect type of womanhood, calling forth
love and admiration. The chapter containing the tragedy is ably
written, and will commend itself to the approval of lovers of the
dramatic; while the chapter on " Sorrow " appeals powerfully to
NEWCASTLE CHRONICLE.— 'Deserves a hearty welcome at
the hands of the general public, and especially of North-country
people. . . . Mrs. Garland Mears' style is fluent and forcible; she
avoids all prevalent errors of latter-day writers, and depending
entirely on her own thoughts, which she expresses in good English.'
SHEFFIELD DAILY TELEGRAPH— 'The tale is most
interesting and graphically written. . . . Mrs. Garland Mears has
creditably added both in prose and poetry to the literature of the
BRADFORD MERCURY. -' The narrative is vividly told, and
is interspersed with many historical references to Bradford. Mrs.
Mears is a charming writer, and all her tales are graphically
BRADFORD OBSER VER.—' Considerable dramatic interest
in the stories, and their relation to the West Riding of Yorkshire,
will give them special interest in this neighbourhood.'
MANCHESTER EXAMINER. — ' The book is interesting
throughout. The historical chapters dealing with York City and
Hartlepool are admirable.'
YORKSHIRE POST— 'The tone of the book is always