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Across the Zodiac by Percy Greg

I waive the probability of your statements


The

Academists are provided by the State with incomes, of an amount very much larger than the modest allowances which the richest nations of the Earth almost grudge to the men whose names in future history will probably be remembered longer than those of eminent statesmen and warriors. Some of them have made considerable fortunes by turning to account in practical invention this or that scientific discovery. But as a rule, in Mars as on Earth, the gifts and the career of the discoverer, and the inventor are distinct. It is, however, from the purely theoretical labours of the men of science that the inventions useful in manufactures, in communication, in every department of life and business, are generally derived; and the prejudice or judgment of this strange people has laid it down that those who devote their lives to work in itself unremunerative, but indirectly most valuable to the public, should be at least as well off as the subordinate servants of the State. In society they are perhaps more honoured than any but the highest public authorities; and my audience was the most distinguished, according to the ideas of that world, that it could furnish.

At noon each day I entered the hall, which was crowded with benches rising on five sides from the centre to the walls, the sixth being occupied by a platform where the lecturer and the members of the Academy sat. After each lecture, which occupied some two hours, questions more or less perplexing were

put by the latter. Only, however, on the first occasion, when I reserved, as before the Zinta and the Court, all information that could enable my hearers to divine the nature of the apergic force, was incredulity so plainly insinuated as to amount to absolute insult.

"If," I said, "you choose to disbelieve what I tell you, you are welcome to do so. But you are not at liberty to express your disbelief to me. To do so is to charge me with lying; and to that charge, whatever may be the customs of this world, there is in mine but one answer," and I laid my hand on the hilt of the sword I wore in deference to Davilo's warnings, but which he and others considered a Terrestrial ornament rather than a weapon.

The President of the Academy quietly replied--"Of all the strange things we have heard, this seems the strangest. I waive the probability of your statements, or the reasonableness of the doubts suggested. But I fail to understand how, here or in any other world, if the imputation of falsehood be considered so gross an offence--and here it is too common to be so regarded--it can be repelled by proving yourself more skilled in the use of weapons, or stronger or more daring than the person who has challenged your assertion."

The moral courage and self-possession of the President were as marked as his logic was irrefragable; but my outbreak, however illogical, served its purpose. No one was disposed to give mortal offence to one who showed himself so ready to resent it, though probably the apprehension related less to my swordsmanship than the favour I was supposed to enjoy with the Suzerain.

Seriously impressed by the growing earnestness of Davilo's warnings, and feeling that I could no longer conceal the pressure of some anxiety on my mind, gradually, cautiously, and tenderly


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