I may add, before I quit this subject, that the Martial system of arithmetic differs from ours principally in the use of a duodecimal instead of a decimal basis. Figures are written on a surface divided into minute squares, and the value of a figure, whether it signify so many units, dozens, twelve dozens, and so forth, depends upon the square in which it is placed. The central square of a line represents the unit’s place, and is marked by a line drawn above it. Thus a figure answering to our I, if placed in the fourth square to the left, represents 1728. In the third place to the right, counting the unit square in both cases, it signifies 1/144, and so forth.
In less than a fortnight I had obtained a general idea of the language, and was able to read easily the graven representations of spoken sound which I have described; and by the end of a month (to use a word which had no meaning here) I could speak intelligibly if not freely. Only in a language so simple could my own anxiety to overcome as soon as possible a fatal obstacle to all investigation of this new world, and the diligent and patient assistance given by my host or his son for a great part of every day, have enabled me to make such rapid progress. I had noted even, during the short evening gatherings when the whole family was assembled, the extreme taciturnity of both sexes; and by the time I could make myself understood, I was not surprised to learn that the Martials have scarcely the idea of what we mean by conversation, not talking for the sake of talking, or speaking unless they have something to discuss, explain, or communicate. I found, again, that a new and much more difficult task, though fortunately one not so indispensable, was still in store for me. The Martials have two forms of writing: the one I have described, which is simply a mechanical rendering of spoken words into artificially simplified visible signs; the other, written by hand, with a fine pencil of some chemical material on a prepared surface, textile or metallic. The characters of the latter are, like ours wholly arbitrary; but the contractions and abbreviations are so numerous that the mastery of the mere alphabet,