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Across the Zodiac by Percy Greg

Seeing that the Regent and his companion had dismounted


this time we had reached the utmost point to which the carriages could take us, about a furlong from the platform on which I had rested during my descent. Seeing that the Regent and his companion had dismounted, I stopped and sprang down from my carriage, holding out my hand to assist Eveena's descent, an attention which I thought seemed to surprise her. Up to the platform the path was easy enough; after that it became steep even for me, and certainly a troublesome and difficult ascent for a lady dressed as I have described, and hardly stronger than a child of the same height and size on earth. Still my companion did not seem to expect, and certainly did not invite assistance. That she found no little difficulty in the walk was evident from her turning back both sleeves and releasing her bird, which hovered closely round her. Very soon her embarrassments and stumbles threatened such actual danger as overcame my fear of committing what, for aught I knew, might be an intrusion. Catching her as she fell, and raising her by the left hand, I held it fast in my own right, begging to be permitted to assist her for the rest of the journey. Her manner and the tone of her voice made it evident that such an attention, if unusual, was not offensive; but I observed that those who were following us looked at us with some little surprise, and spoke together in words which I could not catch, but the tone of which was not exactly pleasant or complimentary. The Regent, a few steps in advance of
us, turned back from time to time to ask me some trivial question. At last we reached the summit, and here I released my companion's hand and stepped forward a pace or two to point out to the Regent the external structure of the Astronaut. I was near enough, of course, to be heard by Eveena, and endeavoured to address my explanations as much to her as to the authority to whom I was required to render an account. But from the moment that we had actually joined him she withdrew from all part and all apparent interest in the conversation. When our companions moved forward to reach the entrance, which I had indicated, I again offered my hand, saying, "I am afraid you will find some little difficulty in getting into the vessel by the window by which I got out."

The Regent, however, had brought with him several light metal poles, which I had not observed while carried by his companion, but which being put together formed a convenient ladder of adequate length. He desired me to ascend first and cut the riband by means of which the window had been sealed; the law being so strict that even he would not violate the symbol of private ownership which protected my vessel. Having done this and opened the window, I sprang down, and he, followed by his companion, ascended the ladder, and resting himself upon the broad inner ledge of the window--which afforded a convenient seat, since the crystal was but half the thickness of the wall--first took a long look all round the interior, and then leaped down, followed by his attendant. Eveena drew back, but was at last persuaded to mount the ladder with my assistance, and rest on the sill till I followed her and lifted her down inside. The Regent had by this time reached the machinery, and was examining it very curiously, with greater apparent appreciation of its purpose than I should have expected. When we joined them, I found little difficulty in explaining the purpose and working of most parts of the apparatus. The nature and generation of the apergic power I took care not to explain. The existence of such a repulsive force was the point on which the Regent

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