Esmo called on me in my turn to give such account as I might choose of my own world, and my journey thence. I frankly avowed my indisposition to explain the generation and action of the apergic force. The power which a concurrent knowledge of two separate kinds of science had given to a very few Terrestrials, and which all the science of a far more enlightened race had failed to attain, was in my conscientious conviction a Providential trust; withheld from those in whose hands it might be a fearful temptation and an instrument of unbounded evil. My reserve was perfectly intelligible to the Children of the Star, and evidently raised me in their estimation. I was much impressed by the simple and unaffected reliance placed on my statements, as on those of every other member of the Order. As a rule, Martialists are both, and not without reason, to believe any unsupported statement that might be prompted by interest or vanity. But the Zveltau can trust one another’s word more fully than the followers of Mahomet that of his strictest disciples, or the most honest nations of the West the most solemn oaths of their citizens; while that bigotry of scientific unbelief, that narrowness of thought which prevails among their countrymen, has been dispelled by their wider studies and loftier interests. They have a saying, whose purport might be rendered in the proverbial language of the Aryans by saying that the liar “kills the goose that lays the golden eggs.” Again, “The liar is like an opiatised tunneller” (miner), i.e., more likely to blow himself to pieces than to effect his purpose. Again, “The liar drives the point into a friend’s heart, and puts the hilt into a foe’s hand.” The maxim that “a lie is a shield in sore need, but the spear of a scoundrel,” affirms the right in extremity to preserve a secret from impertinent inquisitiveness. Rarely, but on some peculiarly important occasions, the Zveltau avouch their sincerity by an appeal to their own symbols; and it is affirmed that an oath attested by the Circle and the Star has never, in the lapse of ages, been broken or evaded.
Before midnight Esmo dismissed the assembly by a formula which dimly recalled to memory one heard in my boyhood. It is not in the power of my translation to preserve the impressive solemnity of the immemorial ritual of the Zinta, deepened alike by the earnestness of its delivery, and the reverence of the hearers. There was something majestic in the mere antiquity of a liturgy whereof no word has ever been committed to writing. Five hundred generations have, it is alleged, gathered four times in each year in the Hall of Initiation; and every meeting has been concluded by the utterance from the same spot and in the same words of the solemn but simple Zulvakalfe [word of peace]:—