Across the Zodiac eBook

Percy Greg
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 587 pages of information about Across the Zodiac.
that the Earth would be better governed and its inhabitants happier under your rule, I should have no right to give them up to a conquest I know they would fiercely and righteously resist.  If—­pardon me for saying it—­you, Prince, would commit no common crime in assailing and slaughtering those who neither have wronged nor can wrong you, one of themselves would be tenfold more guilty in sharing your enterprise.”

“You shall ensure,” he replied, “the good government of your own world as you will.  You shall rule it with all the authority possessed by the Regents under me, and by the laws which you think best suited to races very different from our own.  You shall be there as great and absolute as I am here, paying only an obedience to me and my successors which, at so immense a distance, can be little more than formal.”

“Is it to acquire a merely formal power that a Prince like yourself would risk the lives of your own people, and sacrifice those of millions of another race?”

“To tell you the truth,” he replied, “I count on commanding the expedition myself; and perhaps I care more for the adventure than for its fruits.  You will not expect me to be more chary of the lives of others than of my own?”

“I understand, and as a soldier could share, perhaps, a feeling natural to a great, a capable, and an ambitious Prince.  But alike as soldier and subject it is my duty to resist, not to aid, such an ambition.  My life is at your disposal, but even to save my life I could not betray the lives of hundreds of millions and the future of a whole world.”

“I fail to understand you fully,” he said, abandoning with a sigh a hope that had evidently been the object of long and eager day-dreams.  “But in no case would I try to force from you what you will not give or sell; and if you speak sincerely—­and I suppose you must do so, since I can see no motive but those you assign that could induce you to refuse my offer—­I must believe in the existence of what I have heard of now and then but deemed incredible—­men who are governed by care for other things than their own interests, who believe in right and wrong, and would rather suffer injustice than commit it.”

“You may be sure, Prince,” I replied, perhaps imprudently, “that there are such men in your own world, though they are perhaps among those who are least known and least likely to be seen at your Court.”

“If you know them,” he said, “you will render me no little service in bringing them to my knowledge.”

“It is possible,” I ventured to observe, “that their distinguishing excellences are connected with other distinctions which might render it a disservice to them to indicate their peculiar character, I will not say to yourself, but to those around you.”

“I hardly understand you,” he rejoined.  “Take, however, my assurance that nothing you say here shall, without your own consent, be used elsewhere.  It is no light gratification, no trifling advantage to me, to find one man who has neither fear nor interest that can induce him to lie to me; to whom I can speak, not as sovereign to subject, but as man to man, and of whose private conversation my courtiers and officials are not yet suspicious or jealous.  You shall never repent any confidence you give to me.”

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Across the Zodiac from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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