Across the Zodiac eBook

Percy Greg
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 490 pages of information about Across the Zodiac.

He said:—­“I have not, as you must be aware, pressed you to disclose a secret which, for some reason or other, you are evidently anxious to preserve.  Of course the exclusive possession of a motive power so marvellous as that employed in your voyage is of almost incalculable pecuniary value, and it is perfectly right that you should use your own discretion with regard to the time and the terms of its communication.”

“Pardon me,” I interposed, “if I interrupt you, Prince, to prevent any misconception.  It is not with a view to profit that I have carefully avoided giving any clue whatever to my secret.  Tour munificence would render it most ungrateful and unjust in me to haggle over the price of any service I could render you; and I should be greedy indeed if I desired greater wealth than you have bestowed.  If I may say so without offending, I earnestly wish that you would permit me, by resigning your gifts, to retain in my own eyes the right to keep my secret without seeming undutiful or unthankful.”

“I have said,” he replied, “that on that point you misconceive our respective positions.  No one supposes that you are indebted to us for anything more than it was the duty of the Sovereign to give, as a mark of the universal admiration and respect, to our guest from another world; still less could any imagine that on such a trifle could be founded any claim to a secret so invaluable.  You will offend me much and only if you ever again speak of yourself as bound by personal obligation to me or mine.  But as we are wishful to buy, so I cannot understand any reluctance on your part to sell your secret on your own terms.”

“I think, Prince,” I replied, “that I have already asked you what you would think of a subject of your own, who should put such a power into the hands of enemies as formidable to you as you would be to the races of the Earth.”

“And I think,” he rejoined with a smile, “that I reminded you how little my judgment would matter to one possessed of such a power.  I have gathered from your conversation how easily we might conquer a world as far behind us in destructive powers as in general civilisation.  But why should you object?  You can make your own terms both for yourself and for any of your race for whom you feel an especial interest.”

“A traitor is none the less a despicable and loathsome wretch because his Prince cannot punish him.  I am bound by no direct tie of loyalty to any Terrestrial sovereign.  I was born the subject of one of the greatest monarchs of the Earth; I left his country at an early age, and my youth was passed in the service of less powerful rulers, to one at least of whom I long owed the same military allegiance that binds your guards and officers to yourself.  But that obligation also is at an end.  Nevertheless, I cannot but recognise that I owe a certain fealty to the race to which I belong, a duty to right and justice.  Even if I thought, which I do not think,

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Across the Zodiac from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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