DAYBREAK A ROMANCE OF AN OLD WORLD
BY JAMES COWAN
CHAPTER I. AN ASTRONOMER ROYAL.
CHAPTER II. A FALLEN SATELLITE.
CHAPTER III. TWO MEN IN THE MOON.
CHAPTER IV. AND ONE WOMAN.
CHAPTER V. OUR INTRODUCTION TO MARS.
CHAPTER VI. A REMARKABLE PEOPLE.
CHAPTER VII. RAPID TRANSIT ON MARS.
CHAPTER VIII. THORWALD PUZZLED.
CHAPTER IX. THORWALD AS A PROPHET.
CHAPTER X. MORE WORLDS THAN TWO.
CHAPTER XI MARS AS IT IS.
CHAPTER XII. WE REACH THORWALD'S HOME.
CHAPTER XIII. A MORNING TALK.
CHAPTER XIV. PROCTOR SHOWS US THE EARTH.
CHAPTER XV. A NIGHT ADVENTURE.
CHAPTER XVI. AN UNLIKELY STORY.
CHAPTER XVII. THE DOCTOR IS CONVINCED.
CHAPTER XVIII. STRUCK BY A COMET.
CHAPTER XIX. I DISCOVER THE SINGER.
CHAPTER XX. A WONDERFUL REVELATION.
CHAPTER XXI. A LITTLE ANCIENT HISTORY.
CHAPTER XXII. AGAIN THE MOON.
CHAPTER XXIII. WE SEARCH FOR MONA.
CHAPTER XXIV. THE PICTURE TELEGRAPH.
CHAPTER XXV. AN UNSATISFACTORY LOVER.
CHAPTER XXVI. AN ENVIABLE CONDITION.
CHAPTER XXVII. THE CHILDREN'S DAY.
CHAPTER XXVIII. BUSINESS ETHICS.
CHAPTER XXIX. THE INDUSTRIAL PROBLEM.
CHAPTER XXX. ATTEMPTS TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM.
CHAPTER XXXI. WINE-DRINKING IN MARS.
CHAPTER XXXII. A GENUINE ACCIDENT.
CHAPTER XXXIII. THE EMANCIPATION OF WOMAN.
CHAPTER XXXIV. THE EMANCIPATION OF MAN.
CHAPTER XXXV. AN EXALTED THEME.
CHAPTER XXXVI. VANQUISHED AGAIN BY A VOICE.
CHAPTER XXXVII. UNTIL THE DAY BREAK.
CHAPTER XXXVIII. AND THE SHADOWS FLEE AWAY.
CHAPTER XXXIX. A SUDDEN RETURN TO THE EARTH.
DAYBREAK: A ROMANCE OF AN OLD WORLD
AN ASTRONOMER ROYAL.
It was an evening in early autumn in the last year of the nineteenth century. We were nearing the close of a voyage as calm and peaceful as our previous lives.
Margaret had been in Europe a couple of years and I had just been over to bring her home, and we were now expecting to reach New York in a day or two.
Margaret and I were the best of friends. Indeed, we had loved each other from our earliest recollection. No formal words of betrothal had ever passed between us, but for years we had spoken of our future marriage as naturally as if we were the most regularly engaged couple in the world.
"Walter," asked Margaret in her impulsive way, "at what temperature does mercury melt?"
"Well, to hazard a guess," I replied, "I should say about one degree above its freezing point. Why, do you think of making an experiment?"
"Yes, on you. And I am going to begin by being very frank with you. You have made me a number of hurried visits during my stay in Europe, but we have seen more of each other in the course of this voyage than for two long years. I trust you will not be offended when I say I hoped to find you changed. I have never spoken to you about this, even in my letters, and it is only because I am a little older now, and because my love for you has increased with every day of life, that I have the courage to frame these words."
"Do tell me what it is," I exclaimed, thoroughly alarmed at her serious manner. "Let me know how I have disappointed you and I will make what amends I can. Tell me the nature of the change you have been looking for and I will begin the transformation at once, before my character becomes fixed."
"Alas! and if it should be already fixed," she replied, without a smile. "Perhaps it is unreasonable in me to expect it in you as a man, when you had so little of it as a boy; but I used to think it was only shyness then, and always hoped you would outgrow that and gradually become an ideal lover. You have such a multitude of other perfections, however, that it may be nature has denied you this so that I may be reminded that you are human. If the choice had been left with me I think I should have preferred to leave out some other quality in the make-up of your character, good as they all are."
"What bitter pill is this," I asked, "that you are sugar-coating to such an extent? Don't you see that I am aching to begin the improvement in my manners, as soon as you point out the direction?"
"You must know what I mean from my first abrupt question," she answered. "To make an extreme comparison, frozen mercury is warm beside you, Walter. If you are really to be loyal knight of mine I must send you on a quest for your heart."
"Ah, I supposed it was understood that I had given it to you."
"I have never seen it," she continued, "and you have never before said as much as is contained in those last words. Here we are, talking of many things we shall do after we are married, and yet you have nothing to say of all that wonderful and beautiful world of romance that ought to come before marriage. Is this voyage to come to an end and mean no more to us than to these hundreds of passengers around us, who seem only intent to get back to their work at the earliest possible moment? And is our wedding day to approach and pass and be looked upon merely as part of the necessary and becoming business of our lives? In short, am I never to hear a real love note?"
"Margaret, I have a sister. You know something of the depth of my affection for her. When I meet her in New York to-morrow or next day, if I should throw my arms around her neck and exclaim, in impassioned tones, 'My sister, I love you,' what would she think of me?"
"She would think you had left your senses on the other side," replied Margaret, laughing. "But I decline to accept the parallel. I have not given up my heart to your keeping these many years to be only a sister to you at last."
"But my mother! Is it possible for me to love you more than my mother loved me? And yet I never heard her speak one word on the subject, and, now that I think of it, I am not sure but words would have cheapened her affection in my mind. You do not doubt me, Margaret?"
"No more than you doubted your mother, although she never told her love. No, it is not so serious as that; but I wish you were more demonstrative, Walter."
"What, in words? Isn't there something that speaks louder than words?"
"Yes, but let us hear the words, too. There is a beautiful proverb in India which says, 'Words are the daughters of earth and deeds are the sons of heaven.' That is true, but let us not try to pass through life without enjoying the company of some of the 'daughters of earth.'"
"I will confess this much, Margaret, that your words are one of your principal charms."
"Oh, do you really think so? I consider that a great compliment from you, for I have often tried to repress myself, fearing that my impulsive and sometimes passionate speech would offend your taste, you who are outwardly so cold. Do you know, I have a whole vocabulary of endearing terms ready to be poured into your ears as soon as you begin to give me encouragement?"
"Then teach me how to encourage you, and I will certainly begin at once. Shall we seek some retired spot, where we can be free from observation, and then shall I seize your hand, fall on my knees, and, in vehement and extravagant words, declare a passion which you already know I have, just as well as you know I am breathing at this moment?"
"Good!" cried Margaret. "That's almost as fine as the real scene. So you have a passion for me. I really think you are improving."
Before going on with this conversation, let me tell you a little more about Margaret and my relations to her.
There was good cause for her complaint. I was at that time a sort of animated icicle, as far as my emotional nature was concerned. But although I could not express my feelings to Margaret in set phrase, I do not mind saying to you that I loved her dearly, or thought I did, which was the same thing for the time being. I loved her as well as I was capable of loving anybody. What I lacked Margaret more than made up, for she was the warmest-hearted creature in all the world. If I should begin to enumerate her perfections of person and character I should never care to stop.
Her educational advantages had been far above the average, and she had improved them in a manner to gratify her friends and create for herself abundant mental resources. She had taken the full classical course at Harvard, carrying off several of the high prizes, had then enjoyed two years of post-graduate work at Clark, and finally spent two more years in foreign travel and study. As has been intimated, I had been over for her, and we were now on our way home, expecting to land on the morrow or the day after.
If you imagine that Margaret had lost anything by her education or was less fitted to make a good home, it is because you never knew her. Instead of being stunted in her growth, broken in constitution, round-shouldered, pale-faced and weak-eyed, the development of her body had kept pace with the expansion of her mind, and she was now in the perfect flower of young womanhood, with body and soul both of generous mold. Her marvelous beauty had been refined and heightened by her intellectual culture, and even her manners, so charming before, were now more than ever the chaste and well- ordered adornments of a noble character. She was as vivacious and sparkling as if she had never known the restraints of school, but without extravagance of any kind to detract from her self-poise. In short, she was a symphony, a grand and harmonious composition, and still human enough to love a mortal like me. Such was the woman who was trying to instill into my wooing a little of the warmth and sympathy of her delightful nature. As for myself, it will be necessary to mention only a single characteristic. I had a remarkably good ear, as we say. Not only was my sense of hearing unusually acute, but I had an almost abnormal appreciation of musical sounds. Although without the ability to sing or play and without the habit of application necessary to learn these accomplishments, I was, from my earliest years, a great lover of music. People who are born without the power of nicely discriminating between sounds often say they enjoy music, but these excellent people do not begin to understand the intense pleasure with which one listens, whose auricular nerves are more highly developed. But this rare and soul-stirring enjoyment is many times accompanied, as in my case, with acute suffering whenever the tympanum is made to resound with the slightest discord. The most painful moments of my life, physically speaking, have been those in which I have been forced to listen to diabolical noises. A harsh, rasping sound has often given me a pang more severe than neuralgia, while even an uncultivated voice or an instrument out of tune has jarred on my sensitive nerves for hours.
My musical friends all hated me in their hearts, for my peculiarity made me a merciless critic; and the most serious youthful quarrel between Margaret and myself arose from the same cause. Nature had given Margaret a voice of rare sweetness and a fine musical taste, and her friends had encouraged her in singing from her youth. One day, before she had received much instruction, she innocently asked me to listen to a song she was studying, when I was cruel enough to laugh at her and ridicule the idea of her ever learning to sing correctly. This rudeness made such an impression on her girlish mind that, although she forgave the offense and continued to love the offender, she could never be induced again to try her vocal powers before me. All through her school and college days she devoted some attention to music, and while I heard from others much about her advancement and the extraordinary quality of her voice, she always declared she would never sing for me until she was sure she could put me to shame for my early indiscretion, so painfully present in her memory. This became in time quite a feature of our long courtship, for I was constantly trying to have her break her foolish resolution and let me hear her. Although unsuccessful, the situation was not without a pleasurable interest for me, for I knew it must end some time, and in a way, no doubt, to give me great enjoyment, judging from the accounts which came to my ears. Margaret, too, was well satisfied to let the affair drift along indefinitely, while she anticipated with delight the surprise she was preparing for me.
During the years she had just been spending abroad a good share of her time had been given to her musical studies, principally vocal culture, and in her letters she provokingly quoted, for my consideration, the flattering comments of her instructors and other acquaintances. She did this as part of my punishment, trying to make me realize how much pleasure I was losing. Each time I crossed the ocean to visit her I expected she would relent, but I was as often disappointed; and now this homeward voyage had almost come to an end, and I had never heard her voice in song since she was a child. Open and unreserved as she was by nature, in this particular she had schooled herself to be as reticent and undemonstrative as she accused me of being.
Our talk on the subject of my shortcomings, that evening on shipboard, had not continued much longer before I acknowledged in plain language that I knew my fault and was ready to cooperate in any scheme that could be suggested to cure it.
"What you need," said Margaret, "is some violent sensation, some extraordinary experience to stir your soul."
"Yes," I answered, "my humdrum life, my wealth, which came to me without any effort of my own, and the hitherto almost unruffled character of my relations with you have all conspired to make me satisfied with an easy and rather indolent existence. I realize I need a shaking up. I want to forget myself in some novel experience, which shall engross all my attention for a time and draw upon my sympathies if I have any."
"But what can one do in 'this weak piping time of peace'? There are no maidens to be rescued from the enchantments of the wizard, and it is no longer the fashion to ride forth with sword and halberd to murder in the name of honor all who oppose themselves. No more dark continents wait to be explored, neither is there novelty left in searching the ocean's depths nor in sailing the sky above us. Civilized warfare itself, the only field remaining where undying fame may be purchased, seems likely to lose its hold on men, and soon the arbitrator will everywhere replace the commander-in-chief and the noble art of war will degenerate into the ignoble lawsuit. So even universal peace may have its drawbacks."
"That is quite sufficient in that line," said Margaret. "Now let us come down to something practicable."
"Well, I might bribe the pilot to sink the steamer when we are going up the bay, so that I could have the opportunity of saving your life."
"It would be almost worth the trial if it were not for the other people," she returned. "Such a role would become you immensely."
"I regret that I cannot accommodate you," I said. "But I have thought of something which would be rather safer for you. How would you like to have me fall desperately in love with some pretty girl?"
"Just the thing," exclaimed Margaret, laughing and clapping her hands, "if you can only be sure she will not return your passion."
"Small chance of that," I answered. "So you approve the plan, do you?"
"Certainly, if you care to try it. Lady never held knight against his will. But have you forgotten that, after the resources of this planet are exhausted, as you seem to think they are soon likely to be, you and I have other worlds to conquer? Perhaps in that work you may find diversion powerful enough to draw you out of yourself and, possibly, opportunities for some heart culture."
I must explain that this was a reference to a plan of life we were marking out for ourselves. Margaret was an enthusiast on the subject of astronomy. I would include myself in the same remark, only the word enthusiast did not fit my temperament at that time. But our tastes agreed perfectly in that matter, and we had always read with avidity everything we could find on the subject. Margaret, however, was the student, and as she had developed great proficiency in mathematics, she had decided to make astronomy her profession.
It was understood that I was to perform the easier part of furnishing the money for an observatory and instruments of our own, and I was determined to keep pace with Margaret in her studies as well as I could in an amateurish way, so that she might be able to retain me as an assistant. We were to be married at sunrise sharp, on the first day of the next century, and to lay the corner-stone of our observatory at the exact moment of the summer solstice of the same year. These were Margaret's suggestions, but even I was not averse to letting my friends see I had a little sentiment.
That night I dreamed of almost everything we had been talking about, but lay awake at intervals, wondering if I could, by force of will, work out the reform in my character which Margaret desired. The night passed, and it was just as I was rising that a thought flashed upon me which I determined to put into execution at the first opportunity. This came early the next evening. As we expected to reach our wharf soon, we had finished our packing, and were now sitting alone in a retired spot on deck on the starboard side. As soon as we were comfortably arranged I said to my companion:
"Margaret, as this is the last evening of this voyage, it makes an epoch in our lives. Your school days are now over, and henceforth we hope to be together. Would not this be a most appropriate time for me to be introduced to a voice with which I propose to spend the rest of my life? Last night you were anxious to think of something which would arouse my dormant heart and draw out in more passionate expression my too obscure affections. Your words haunted my sleeping and waking thoughts until it fortunately occurred to me that you yourself had the very means for accomplishing my reformation. You know how impressionable I am to every wave of sound. Who knows but your voice, which I am sure will be the sweetest in the world to me, may be the instrument destined to stir my drowsy soul, to loose my halting tongue, and even to force my proud knees to bend before you? In short, why not adopt my suggestion, break your long-kept resolution, and sing for me this moment? Is the possible result not worth the trial?" To this long address, which was a great effort for me, Margaret answered:
"You surprise me already, Walter. If the mere thought of hearing me sing can prompt such a sentimental speech as that, what would the song itself do? Perhaps it would drive you to the other extreme, and you would become gushing. Just think of that. But, seriously, I am afraid you would laugh at my voice and send me back to Germany. When you were talking I thought I could detect an undercurrent of fun in your words."
"I assure you I was never more in earnest in my life, and I am sorry you will not sing. Is your answer final?"
"I think I will wait a little longer. We are liable to be disturbed here. And now that you have made a start, perhaps you will improve in manners becoming a lover without any more help."
"No, I shall relapse and be worse than ever. Now is your time to help me find my heart."
Without answering, Margaret sprang up impulsively, exclaiming:
"There! I have forgotten that book the professor borrowed. Men never return anything. I must go and get it, and put it into my bag. And I had better run down and see if auntie wants anything. You stay right here; don't move, and I'll be back in just three minutes."
A FALLEN SATELLITE.
I promised, and then settled myself more comfortably into my steamer chair to await Margaret's return. The three minutes passed, and she did not come. Evidently it was hard to find the professor, or perhaps he was holding her, against her will, for a discussion of the book. At any rate, I could do nothing but sit there, in that easy, half-reclining position, and watch the full moon, which had just risen, and was shining square in my face, if that could be said of an object that looked so round.
I fell into a deep reverie. My mind was filled with contending emotions, and such opposing objects as rolling worlds and lovely maidens flitted in dim images across my mental vision. I loved the best woman on the earth, and I wondered if any of those other globes contained her equal. If so, then perhaps some other man was as fortunate as myself. I was drowsy, but determined to keep awake and pursue this fancy. I remember feeling confident that I could not sleep if I only kept my eyes open, and so I said I would keep them fixed on the bright face of the moon. But how large it looked. Surely something must be wrong with it, or was it my memory that was at fault? I thought the moon generally appeared smaller as it rose further above the horizon, but now it was growing bigger every minute. It was coming nearer, too. Nearer, larger—why, it was monstrous. I could not turn my eyes away now, and everything else was forgotten, swallowed up in that one awful sight. How fast it grew. Now it fills half the sky and makes me tremble with fear. Part of it is still lighted by the sun, and part is in dark, threatening shadow. I see pale faces around me. Others are gazing, awe-stricken, at the same object. We are in the open street, and some have glasses, peering into the deep craters and caverns of the surface.
I seemed to be a new-comer on the scene, and could not help remarking to my nearest neighbor:
"This is a strange sight. Do you think it is real, or are we all bereft of our senses?"
"Strange indeed, but true," he answered.
"But what does it mean?" And then, assuming a gayety I did not feel, I asked further: "Does the moon, too, want to be annexed to the United States?"
"You speak lightly, young man," my neighbor said, "and do not appear to realize the seriousness of our situation. Where have you been, that you have not heard this matter discussed, and do not understand that the moon is certain to come into collision with the earth in a very short time?"
He seemed thoroughly alarmed, and I soon found that all the people shared his feeling. The movement of the earth carried us out of sight of the moon in a few hours, but after a brief rest everybody was on the watch again at the next revolution. The excitement over the behavior of our once despised moon increased rapidly from this time. Nothing else was talked of, business was well-nigh suspended, and the newspapers neglected everything else to tell about the unparalleled natural phenomenon. Speculation was rife as to what would be the end, and what effect would follow a union of the earth with its satellite.
While this discussion was going on, the unwelcome visitor was approaching with noticeable rapidity at every revolution of the earth, and the immense dark shadow which it now made, as it passed beneath the sun, seemed ominous of an ill fate to our world and its inhabitants. It was a time to try the stoutest hearts, and, of course, the multitude of the people were overwhelmed with alarm. As no one could do anything to ward off what seemed a certain catastrophe, the situation was all the more dreadful. Men could only watch the monster, speculate as to the result, and wait, with horrible suspense, for the inevitable. The circle of revolution was now becoming so small that the crisis was hourly expected. Men everywhere left their houses and sought the shelterless fields, and it was well they did so, for there came a day when the earth received a sudden and awful shock. After it had passed, people looked at each other wonderingly to find themselves alive, and began congratulating each other, thinking the worst was over. But the dreadful anxiety returned when, after some hours, the moon again appeared, a little tardy this time, but nearer and more threatening than ever. The news was afterwards brought that it had struck the high mountain peaks of Central Asia, tearing down their sides with the power of a thousand glaciers and filling the valleys below with ruin.
It was now felt that the end must soon come, and this was true, for at the earth's very next revolution the tired and feeble satellite, once the queen of the sky and the poet's glory, scraped across the continent of South America, received the death blow in collision with the Andes, careened, and fell at last into the South Pacific Ocean. The shock given to the earth was tremendous, but no other result was manifest except that the huge mass displaced water enough to submerge many islands and to reconstruct the shore lines of every continent. There was untold loss of life and property, of course, but it is astonishing how easily those who were left alive accepted the new state of things, when it was found that the staid earth, in spite of the enormous wart on her side, was making her daily revolution almost with her accustomed regularity.
The lovers of science, however, were by no means indifferent to the new- comer. To be able at last to solve all the problems of the constitution and geography of the moon was enough to fill them with the greatest enthusiasm. But, while thousands were ready to investigate the mysterious visitor, one great difficulty stood in the way of all progress. It seemed impossible to get a foothold on the surface. The great globe rose from the waves on all sides at such an angle on account of its shape that a lodgment could not easily be made. Ships sailed under the overhanging sides, and in a calm sea they would send out their boats, which approached near enough to secure huge specimens. These were broken into fragments and were soon sold on the streets of every city.
The first to really set foot on the dead satellite were some adventurous advertisers, who shot an arrow and cord over a projecting crag, pulled a rope after it, and finally drew themselves up, and soon the lunar cliffs were put to some practical use, blazoning forth a few staring words. These men could not go beyond their narrow standing place, for the general curve of the surface, although broken up by many irregularities, presented no opportunities for the most skillful climbing.
But it was impossible that, with the moon so near, the problem of reaching it could long remain unsolved. Dr. Schwartz, an eminent scientist, was the first to suggest that it must be approached in a balloon, and at the same time he announced that he would be one of two men, if another could be found, to undertake to effect a landing in that way. Here, I saw, was my opportunity. I had often dreamed of visiting the moon and other heavenly bodies, and now here was a chance to go in reality. I had some acquaintance with Dr. Schwartz, and my prompt application for the vacant place in the proposed expedition was successful. The doctor kindly wrote me that my enthusiasm in the cause was just what he was looking for, and he was sure I would prove a plucky and reliable companion. The matter attracted so much attention that the United States Government, moved to action by the public nature of the enterprise, took it up and offered to bear all the expense of the equipment and carrying out of the expedition. Encouraged by this assistance, the doctor began his plans at once. All recognized that one great object was to settle the question as to the existence of life on the other side of the moon; for, in spite of its rude collisions with mountains and continents before it rested as near the heart of the earth as it could get, it had insisted, with an almost knowing perversity, in keeping its old, familiar face next to us. To solve this problem might take much time, and so we determined to go so well prepared that, if we once reached the upper surface of the moon, we could stay as long as our errand demanded.
It was decided to make the ascent from a town near the coast of the southern part of Chile, and thither we went with our balloon, some scientific apparatus, and a large quantity of dried provisions. We took with us also papers from the State Department showing that we were accredited agents from our Government to the inhabitants of the moon, if we should find any. Our arrangements were speedily made, and on a still, bright morning we bade adieu to our friends who had accompanied us thus far, mounted our car, and set sail.
We left the earth with light hearts, excited with the novel and interesting character of the enterprise, and but little realizing its difficulty and danger. Ordinary balloon journeys had become frequent, and the evolution of the air ship had almost passed beyond the experimental stage, but nothing like our present undertaking had ever been attempted.
Our starting place was far enough from the resting point of the moon to enable us to clear the rounded side, but in order to reach the equatorial line of the fallen globe we would be obliged to ascend over a thousand miles.
The fact that we were not appalled by the mere thought of rising to such a height shows how thoroughly we were carried away with the excitement. But we were better prepared for a lofty flight than might be supposed. For among the recent wonders of science had been the invention of an air- condensing machine, by which the rarefied atmosphere of the upper regions could be converted into good food for the lungs. These machines had been successfully tested more than once by voyagers of the air, but the present occasion promised to give them a much more severe trial than they had yet received. And, indeed, it is impossible to imagine how we could have survived without them. Another important aid to science rendered by this air-condensing apparatus is that in the process of condensation water is produced in sufficient quantities to drink. Our little car was tightly inclosed, and we took enough surplus gas with us to keep it comfortably warm. So, with plenty of food, air, water, and fuel, we were pretty well prepared for a long journey.
Our instruments, placed just outside the glass sides of the car, told us how fast we were rising and what height we had reached from time to time, and as we left the denser atmosphere of the earth we were gratified to find that we continued to rise rapidly. On one side of us we could see the rugged surface of the moon, now, on account of its rounded form, drawing nearer to us every hour as we approached the point where we hoped to land. We thought it best to try to pass the center and land, if possible, somewhere on the upper hemisphere, which was the part of the monstrous object that we wanted to investigate. But when at length we thought we were about to fly past the moon's equator successfully, an unexpected thing happened.
If we suppose the moon was resting, at the bottom of the ocean, on one of its poles, we were going toward the equatorial line, and we thought we should not be able to retain a foothold anywhere below that line certainly. But now, what was our surprise to find ourselves under some mysterious influence. Our balloon refused to obey us as heretofore, and in spite of rudder and sail we were drifting about, and appeared to be going toward the moon's surface sooner than we had intended.
In scientific emergencies I deferred to my companion, and now asked for an explanation of this erratic behavior of our balloon. Instead of replying at once, the doctor stooped and cut a fine wire, which released one of the sand bags suspended for ballast from the bottom of our car, and told me to watch it. We both watched it, and instead of starting with rapidity for the center of the earth, as all well-conducted sand bags have done from the beginning of the world, it seemed to hesitate and float around a minute, as though it were no more than a handful of feathers. And then, slowly at first, but soon more and more swiftly, forgetting its birthplace and its old mother earth, it fell unblushingly toward the moon.
Intent on watching the fickle sand bag, we did not at first notice that our whole conveyance was practicing the same unhandsome maneuver. But we soon became aware that we had changed allegiance also. We had started with the earth at our feet and the moon looming up on one side of us, but here we were now riding with the moon under us and the earth away off at our side.
My fellow in this strange experience now found his voice.
"You doubtless realize," said he, "what has taken place. We are now so far from the earth that its attraction is very weak and the nearer mass of the moon is drawing us."
"That is quite evident," I said, "but you seem as unconcerned about it as if such a trip as this were an everyday affair with you."
"I am not at all indifferent to the wonderful character of this journey," he replied, "but its scientific value swallows up all personal considerations."
I believed this to be true, and I will say right here that in all our future experiences the doctor showed the same indifference to everything like fear, and seemed content to go to any length in the interest of science.
We were now able to govern our movements by the ordinary methods of ballooning, and after sailing over the surface of the moon a few hours, studying its rugged outlines, we began to think of selecting a place for landing. There was no water to be seen and no forests nor other vegetation, but everywhere were huge mountains and deep valleys, all as bare and uninviting as it is possible to imagine.
But it would not do to turn a cold shoulder to her now, and so we descended gracefully to make her close acquaintance, cast out our anchor, and were soon on the moon in reality.
TWO MEN IN THE MOON.
"Well, Doctor," said I, as soon as our feet touched the ground, "the moon is inhabited now if never before."
"Yes, yes," he answered, "and I am glad to find the inhabitants are of such a lively disposition."
"Oh, who can help being light-hearted," I rejoined, "when one's body is so light?"
For as soon as we left our car we began to have the queerest sensations of lightness. We felt as if we were standing on springs, which the least motion would set off and up we would go toward the sky. Everything we handled had but a small fraction of the weight it would possess on the earth, and our great air-condensing machines we carried about with ease. But however high we might jump we always returned to the ground, and whether we were on top of the moon or on the bottom of it, it was pretty certain that we could not fall off, any more than we could have fallen off the earth before we voluntarily but so rashly left it.
My exhilaration of spirit did not last, for I could not help thinking of our condition. The law of gravitation surely held us, although with less force than we had been accustomed to, on account of the smaller size of the moon; and how were we to get away from it?
I again appealed to my companion.
"I do not like the idea of spending the rest of our lives on the moon, Doctor, but can you tell me how we are to prevent it? Can we ever get back within the earth's attraction again?"
"I have been pondering the subject myself," he replied, "and I think I can give you some hope of seeing home once more. If our old measurements of the moon are correct, and if we are, as I suppose, somewhere near the equator, we must be about fifteen hundred miles from the earth, following the curve of the moon's surface. Now, after we have finished our investigations here, we can start for home on foot. We can cover a good many miles a day, since walking can be no burden here, and we can easily tow our balloon along. As we approach the earth, my impression is that we shall become more and more light-footed, for we shall be gradually getting back to the earth's attraction. Somewhere between this point and our planet there must be a spot where the attraction of both bodies will be equal, and we can stay on the moon or drop off and return to the earth in our balloon as we please."
"What a curious idea," I answered; "and yet, considering the strange behavior of our sand bag, I don't know but you are right. And I have only one suggestion to make; that is, that we start earthward at once and try the experiment. Let the investigations go. If there are any inhabitants here they will never miss us, since we haven't made their acquaintance yet. Science or no science, I object to remaining any longer than necessary in this uncertainty in regard to our future. You know very well we couldn't live long in this temperature and with nothing for our lungs but what comes through these horrid machines. And what good would come of our discoveries if we are never to get back to the earth again? I profess to have as much courage left as the ordinary mortal would have, but in the present circumstances I believe no one would blame us for wanting to settle this question at once."
"It would seem a trifle ridiculous," said the doctor in reply to this harangue, "for us to return to our planet without any further effort to accomplish our errand. But I will not deny that I share something of your feeling, and I will start with you right away, on condition that you will return here if we find that I am correct in believing we can leave the moon at our pleasure."
"Agreed," I cried, and we were soon on our way.
So far we had been exposed to the sun and were almost scorched by the intensity of its rays. We had never experienced anything like such heat and would not have supposed the human body could endure it. But now, soon after we had started to find the place where the moon would let go of us, the sun set and, with scarcely a minute's warning, we were plunged into darkness and cold. The darkness was relieved by the exceedingly brilliant appearance of the stars, the sky fairly blazing with them, but the cold was almost unendurable even for the few moments in which we were exposed to it. We secured our car as speedily as possible, climbed into it, and got a little warmth from our gas heater.
These extremes of temperature convinced us that no life such as we were acquainted with could exist a great while on the moon.
We found we could make no progress at all by night. We could only shut ourselves up and wait for the sun to come. In trying to keep warm we would work our air-condensers harder than usual, and the water thus produced we would freeze in little cakes, and have them to help mitigate the burning heat a short time the next day.
The country through which we were traveling was made up of bold mountain peaks and deep ravines. There was no sign of vegetation and not even the soil for it to grow in, but everywhere only hard, metallic rock that showed unmistakably the action of fire.
And so it was with the greatest difficulty that we made our way earthward, although there was so little effort needed in walking. As I pondered the doctor's idea, it seemed to me more and more that he must be right. We were certainly held to the moon where we were by gravitation. It was just as true that near the surface of the earth its superior attraction would draw all objects to itself. Accordingly, if we kept on our way, why should we not in time come to a place where we could throw ourselves once more under the influence of the old earth, now becoming very dear to us?
Thinking chiefly of this subject and talking of it every day, we labored on, and finally were wonderfully encouraged with the belief that we were actually walking easier and everything was becoming lighter. Soon this belief became a certainty, and, since leaping was no effort, we leaped with joy and hope.
And now how shall I describe our sensations as we went bounding along, hardly touching the ground, until we finally came to the place where it was not necessary to touch the ground at all? Now we knew that by going only a little further we should be able to mount our car and set sail for the earth again. But with this knowledge we lost at once much of our desire, and thought we would not hasten our departure. Here we were, absolutely floating in the air, and it maybe believed that the feeling was as delicious as it was unique. Using our hands as fins we could with the slightest effort sail around at pleasure, resting in any position we chose to take, truly a most luxurious experience.
"How shall we make our friends believe all this when we try to tell them about it, Doctor?" said I.
"The best way to make them believe it," he replied, "is to bring them up here and let them try it for themselves. I propose to organize an expedition on our return and bring up a large party. We could manage to land somewhere in this vicinity, I think, instead of going up as far as you and I did. What a place this would be for summer vacations! The moon is a fixture now; it cannot get away. I am sure of that, for the law of gravitation will never release it. So we may as well make what use of it we can, and these delightful sensations will no doubt form the most important discovery that we shall ever make on this dried-up and worn-out satellite. You know many people are willing to put themselves to much inconvenience and to undergo many hardships for the sake of a change from the monotony of home life. If we can induce them to come up here for a few weeks, and if they can endure this rather erratic climate, they will find change enough to break up the monotony for one year, I think."
After enjoying this rare exercise to our content, we began preparing for the night which was now coming on. The doctor had reminded me of my promise to return to our former position on the moon, and we agreed to set out the next day. Having fastened our car securely to the ground, so that we might not drift off toward the earth, we entered it and made ourselves as comfortable as possible.
Our resting place was near the center of what seemed to be an immense crater, and some time before morning we were roused by a violent shaking of the ground beneath us, which startled us beyond expression.
"What's that?" I exclaimed.
"That feels very much like a moon-quake," replied my companion.
I was terribly frightened, but resolved to follow the doctor's example and make light of what we could not help.
So I said:
"But I thought the lunar volcanoes were all dead ages ago. I hope we haven't camped in the crater of one that is likely to go off again."
"My opinion is," answered the doctor, "that there is still water inside the moon which is gradually freezing. That operation would sometimes crack the surface, and this has probably caused the quaking that we have felt."
While we were talking the wind began to blow, and soon, although it was long before time for the sun to rise, we suddenly emerged from darkness into bright sunlight. We sprang up instinctively to look about us and try to discover what this could mean, when what was our consternation to find ourselves adrift!
There, in full view of our wondering eyes, was the whole, round earth, hanging in space, and where were we? Then we began to realize gradually that the trembling of the ground was the grating of the moon against the earth as it left its resting place, and the wind was caused by our motion.
The novelty of the situation took away for a time the sense of fear, and I exclaimed:
"Another scientific certainty gone to smash! I thought you said the moon could never get away from the earth. What are we going to do now?"
"Well," replied the doctor, "this is certainly something I never dreamed of in my philosophy. I didn't see how the moon could be drawn away from the earth when once actually attached to it, but I suppose the sun and planets all happen to be pulling in one direction just now and are proving too much for the earth's attraction. But what concerns us more at this time is covered by your question, 'What are we going to do now?' And I will answer that I think we will stick to the moon for a while. You can see for yourself that we are held here much more firmly than when we were disporting ourselves in the air yesterday, and the earth is now too far away for us to throw ourselves and our balloon within its attraction."
I knew by the feeling of increasing weight that what my companion said must be true, but we could not then appreciate the dreadful nature of our condition, so wrapped up were we in the grandeur of the object before our eyes. To those who have never been on the moon in such circumstances it will be impossible to adequately describe our feelings as we gazed upon our late home and knew that we were fast drifting away from it.
There the round globe hung, as I had often pictured it in my imagination— oceans and continents, mountains, lakes, and rivers, all spread out before us—the greatest object lesson ever seen by the eye of man. As we studied it, recognizing feature after feature, lands and waters that we knew by their familiar shape, the doctor broke our reverie with these words, evidently with the endeavor to keep up my spirits:
"That looks as natural as a map, doesn't it? You have seen globes with those divisions pictured on them, but there is the globe itself. If our summer tourists could take in this experience also, it would make a vacation worth having. Isn't it grand? I see you are thinking about our personal peril, but I think I know men who would take the risk and put themselves in our place for the sake of this magnificent view."
"If you know of any way to send for one of those friends, I wish you would do so," I replied. "I would willingly give him my place."
It may be believed that we were all this time anxiously watching the earth, and it did not lessen our anxiety to realize that we were traveling very rapidly away from it. I had reached a point now where I did not place much dependence upon the doctor's science, but to get some expression of his thoughts I said to him:
"Well, have you any opinion about our fate? Are we doomed to pass the remainder of our lives circling around our dear old earth, looking upon her face day by day but never to approach her again?"
"I think you have stated the case about as it is," said he, "if, indeed, this rate of speed does not carry us entirely beyond the earth's attraction, out into illimitable space."
The thought of such an additional catastrophe silenced me, especially as I could not deny its possibility. Life on the moon, if we could only keep the earth in sight even, seemed almost endurable now, beside the idea that we might be cast out to shift for ourselves, without a tie save such as the universal law of gravitation might find for us somewhere.
It must not be imagined that our conversation was carried on with ease or that we were half enjoying our novel situation. We were simply trying to make the best of a very bad matter. Not long after we had started the wind had taken away the balloon part of our air ship, and now threatened every moment to tear the car from its moorings and end our unhappy career at once. Besides this impending catastrophe, it was with the greatest difficulty that we could get air enough to fill our lungs, but the cold was so intense whenever our side of the moon was turned away from the sun that we needed the severe labor on our condensers to keep us from freezing.
Meantime, our speed increasing every hour, the planet that had once been our home was growing smaller before our eyes. At length we were flying through space at such a rate that we could not suppress our fears that the terrible suggestion of the doctor's would be realized. We had both made a mental calculation as to how large the earth ought to look from the moon at its normal distance, and as it approached that size we could not hide our anxiety from each other. Without a word from the doctor I could see by his face that hope was fast leaving him, and as we were now going more rapidly than ever I felt that we had nothing to do but accept our fate.
In regard to such intensity of feeling at this stage of our experience, it maybe objected that our condition was hopeless anyway, and it could make no difference whether we remained within the earth's influence or not. But in spite of our desperate situation we had some sentiment remaining. The earth was the only home we had ever known, and I am not ashamed to say that we did not like to lose sight of it; especially as there was not the slightest possibility that we should ever see it again, unless, indeed, our moon should turn into a comet with eccentric orbit, and so bring us back at some future day—a very unlikely occurrence, as all will admit who know anything about moons and comets.
Our speed did not lessen but rather increased as we gradually broke away from the earth's attraction, and the dear old earth was fast becoming a less significant object in our sky. If our situation was lonesome before, it was now desolation itself.
"Doctor," said I, when I could control my emotions enough to speak, "where now?"
"Well," he replied, with a grim attempt at a smile, "my opinion is not worth much in our present strange circumstances, but it seems to me we are on our way either to the sun or one of the large planets."
I did not reply, and we both soon found it wise to expend no unnecessary breath in talking. The ether was now so thin that it took oceans of it, literally, to make enough air to keep us alive.
Our provisions were nearly exhausted, our strength was failing, and I really believe we would not have lived many days had not something occurred to divert our minds and to relieve some of our physical discomforts.
AND ONE WOMAN.
At the time we tied our car to the rocks, to prevent us from drifting away from the earth, we did not anticipate that the fastenings would receive any very severe strain, but now the velocity of the wind was such that there was great danger of our breaking away. The moon was not a very hospitable place, to be sure, as we had thus far found it, but still we preferred it to the alternative of flying off into space in our glass car and becoming a new species of meteor.
And yet it seemed to be courting instant death to attempt to leave the car and seek for other shelter. We could not decide which course to take. Both were so full of peril that there seemed to be no possible safety in either.
As I review our situation now, and think of us spinning along on that defunct world we knew not whither, with no ray of light to illumine the darkness of our future or show us the least chance of escape from our desperate plight, it is astonishing to me that we did not give up all hope and lie down and die at once. It only shows what the human body can endure and of what stuff our minds are made. I think it would not be making a rash statement to say that no man ever found himself in a worse situation and survived.
But help was nearer than we supposed. From what we had seen of the moon we could not have imagined a more unexpected thing than that which happened to us then. Suddenly, above the roar of the wind and the thumping of our car on the rocks, even above the tumult of our spirits, there came to us the strains of more than earthly music. Whether it was from voice or instrument we could not tell, and in its sweetness and power it was absolutely indescribable. At first we did not try to discover its source but were content to sit and quietly enjoy it, as it fell gently upon us, pervading our whole being and so filling us with courage and strength that we seemed to be transformed into new men.
Then, wondering if we could discover from whence the notes came, we turned and looked about us, when there was revealed to us a vision of beauty which filled and satisfied the sense of sight as completely as our ears had been enchanted with the angelic music.
Not far from our car, with her flowing garments nearly torn from her in the fierceness of the gale, was a young girl, stretching out her hands imploringly toward us and pouring forth her voice in that exquisite song. We soon discovered it was not for herself that she was anxious, but for us; for when she observed that she had attracted our attention she smiled and turned to go back the way she had come, beckoning us with hand and eye to follow her, and still singing her sweet but unintelligible words. Perhaps I flattered myself, but I thought she was looking at me more than at my companion, and I began with great eagerness to unfasten the door of the car.
"Wait!" cried the doctor. "Where are you going?"
I could not stop an instant, but answered with feeling:
"Going? I am going wherever she is going. I'll follow her to the end of the moon if necessary, though the surface be everywhere as bleak as our own north pole."
"Well," he replied, "if it is such a desperate case as that, I'll have to go along to take care of you."
I found that when such a woman beckons and such a voice calls there is but one thing to do. The sirens were not to be mentioned in comparison. Twenty thousand hurricanes could not have prevented me from attempting to follow where she led as long as I had breath.
We reached the ground in safety, and with the greatest difficulty made our way in the footsteps of our guide, leaving all our possessions behind us, to the doctor's murmured regret. And now the words of the singer seemed to take on a joyous meaning, and we could almost distinguish her invitation to follow her to a place where the wind did not blow and where our present troubles would be over. She kept well in the lead but walked only as fast as our strength would allow, looking back constantly to encourage us with her smile and ravishing one heart at least with the melody of her song.
Presently we came to the edge of an immense crater, hundreds of feet deep and as empty and cold as all the others we had seen on the moon. Instead of going around this, our leader chose a narrow ravine and took us down the steep side to the bottom of the crater. We supposed she did this just to give us protection from the wind, and we were very much sheltered, but she did not stop here. Entering one of the many fissures in the rocks, she led us into a narrow passage whose floor descended so rapidly and whose solid roof shut out the light so quickly that in ordinary circumstances we would have hesitated about proceeding. But, although it was soon absolutely dark, we kept on, guided by that marvelous voice, now our sole inspiration.
"Come, come, fear no harm," it seemed to say, and we were content to follow blindly, even the doctor no longer objecting.
How many hours we proceeded in this way, going down, down, all the time, toward the center of the globe, I have no means of telling; but I distinctly remember that we began, after a time, to find, to our great joy, that the air was becoming denser and we could breathe quite freely. This gave us needed strength and justified the faith with which our mysterious deliverer had filled us.
At length we were gladdened by a glimmer of light ahead of us, which increased until our path was all illumined with a beautiful soft haze. Soon the way broadened and grew still brighter, and then we were led forth into an open street, which seemed to be part of a small village. There were but few houses, and even these, although they showed signs of a former grandeur, were sadly in need of care. Not a creature of any kind was stirring, and in our hasty review the whole place looked as if it might have been deserted by its inhabitants for a hundred years. There was one spot, however, so retired as to be entirely hidden from our view at first, which had anything but a deserted appearance. The house was small, but it was a perfect bower of beauty, half-concealed with a mass of flowers and vines. Here our journey ended, for our guide led us to the door and, entering, turned and invited us to follow her.
The doctor and I were tired enough to accept with eagerness her hospitality, and soon we were all seated in a pleasant room, which was filled with the evidences of a refined taste. Now we had a much better opportunity to observe the resplendent beauty of our new friend, and we found, also, that her manners were as captivating as her other personal qualities. At intervals, all through our long walk, her song had ceased and we expected she would make some attempt to speak to us; but being disappointed in this, it struck me after we had entered the house that I ought to end the embarrassment by addressing her. The circumstances of our meeting were peculiar, to say the least, and, of all the thousand things I might have appropriately said, nothing could have been more meaningless or have better shown the vacant condition of my mind than the words I chose.
"It's a fine day," I said, looking square in her eyes and trying to speak pleasantly.
In answer she gave me a smile which almost deprived me of what little wit remained, and at the same time emitted one exquisite note.
I was now at the end of my resources. I had always thought I could talk on ordinary topics as well as the average man, but in the presence of this girl, with everything in the world unsaid, I could not think of one word to say. The doctor soon saw my predicament and hastened to assist me, and the remark which he selected shows again his wonderful self-possession in the midst of overwhelming difficulties. He waved his hand gently toward me to attract her attention and said:
"My friend and I are from the United States and have come to make you a visit. This is your home, I suppose, away down here in the middle of the moon? It is very kind of you to bring us here. I hope you will excuse me for my rudeness, but what time do you have supper?"
This time three little notes of the same quality as before and then a little trill, and the whole accompanied by a smile so sweet that I suddenly began to wish the doctor had been blown off the top of the moon. It was a wicked thought and I put it away from me as quickly as possible, being assisted by the recollection that the doctor had a charming wife already, who was no doubt thinking of him at this very moment.
We were not making much progress in opening conversation, but our charming hostess seemed to understand either the doctor's words or his looks, for, stepping into another room, she called us presently to sit down to a table well supplied with plain but substantial food. She soon made us feel quite at home, just by her easy and agreeable ways. We did not once hear her voice in ordinary speech, and at length we began to suspect, what we afterward learned to be true, that she talked as the birds talk, only in song. Whether she used her language or ours she would always sing or chant her words, and every expression was perfect in rhythm and melody.
The doctor and I hesitated to say much to each other, out of deference to the feelings of this fair lunarian, but he took occasion to remark to me quietly that as she could not tell us her name just yet he proposed to call her Mona [Footnote: Mona is old Saxon for moon.] for the present. I assented easily, as it made little difference to me what we called her, if she would only remain with us.
It happened that the doctor, who knew everything, was well acquainted with dactylology and the latest sign language, used in the instruction of deaf mutes, and as it seemed likely that our stay in our present abode might be a prolonged one, he told me he would try to teach Mona to converse with us. I could not object, although I secretly wished I could have taken the place of instructor. But it soon occurred to me that I must be a fellow pupil, if we were all to talk in that way; and so, with this bond of sympathy established between us, Mona and I began our lessons.
During the closing years of the century great progress had been made, on the earth, in the method of talking by arbitrary signs and motions. The movements of the body and limbs and the great variety of facial expressions were all so well adapted to the ideas to be represented that it was comparatively easy for an intelligent person to learn to make known many of his thoughts. As our studies progressed day after day it began to dawn on me that Mona, in spite of the disadvantage of not knowing our spoken language, was learning faster than I was. I was somewhat chagrined at this at first, but it finally turned out to my advantage, for the doctor announced one day that Mona had acquired all he knew and could thenceforth teach me if I pleased. Here was a bond of sympathy that I had not looked for, but I was glad enough to avail myself of it, and delighted to find that Mona was also pleased with the plan. With her for a teacher it did not take me long to finish. Her graceful movements made poetry of the language, and the web she was weaving around my heart was strengthened every hour.
As Mona gradually learned to express herself to our comprehension we began to ask her questions about herself and her history. The doctor, being less under the spell of her charms than I was, showed a greater curiosity, and one of the first things he asked was:
"When do you expect the other members of your family home?"
Mona was at first puzzled, but saw his meaning as soon as the motions were repeated, and answered with a few simple signs:
"I have no friends to come home. I am alone."
The expression we put into our faces told her of our sorrow and sympathy better than any words, and the doctor continued:
"But these other houses! Surely they are not all empty?"
"Yes," she replied, "their inmates are all gone. I am the only inhabitant left."
And then she told us from time to time that there were no other villages anywhere in the moon and that she was absolutely the last of her race. Our method of conversation was not free enough to allow her to tell us how she had discovered the truth of this astounding information, and there were a thousand other questions for whose answers we were obliged to wait, but not forever.
The doctor and I talked freely to each other now, and playfully said a great many things to Mona, who, though she did not understand them, laughed with us and gave us much pleasure with her easy, unembarrassed manner and piquant ways. And she not only jabbered away with hands and face in the manner we had taught her, but she did not cease also to make life bright for us by repaying us in our own coin and talking to us in her natural, delicious way. With such music in the house life could not be dull.
My infatuation increased as the days went by, and I began to seek every possible occasion to be alone with Mona. I often encouraged the doctor to go out and learn what he could of our surroundings, excusing myself from bearing him company on the ground that I did not think it safe to leave Mona alone. Or if Mona wanted to go out I would suggest to the doctor that I needed the exercise also, and that he really ought to be writing down our experiences while he had leisure, as there was no telling how soon the moon would land us somewhere.
I did not then know whether the doctor saw through my designs or not. I thought not, for I did not suppose he was ever so deeply in love as I was. But if he did he was good enough to take my little hints and say nothing.
On these occasions, whether Mona and I remained in the house or walked abroad, I wasted no time in asking her more questions about the moon or such trivial matters, but spent all my efforts in trying to establish closer personal relations between us. While she was exceedingly pleasant and agreeable, she did not seem to understand my feeling exactly, although I tried in every way to show her my heart. She was not coquettish, but perfectly unaffected, and simply did not realize my meaning. For once the sign language did not prove adequate; and so, as my feelings would not be controlled, I was fain to resort to my natural tongue, and poured forth my love to my own satisfaction if not to her comprehension. I did not stint the words, astonishing myself at the fullness of my vocabulary, and hoping that the fervor of my manner and the passion exhibited in my voice would make the right impression on my companion.
Day after day, as opportunity offered, I returned to the same theme. Mona was sympathetic in her own charming way, but apparently not affected in the manner I was looking for. And still, "I love you, I love you," was repeated in her ears a thousand times. The fact that she did not understand the words made me all the more voluble, and I lavished my affectionate terms upon her without restraint.
One day, after this had been going on for some time, the doctor came in from a walk and found us together as usual. He had a rare blossom in his hand, and stepping to Mona's side he offered it to her with some gallantry. She accepted it with a beaming countenance which set my heart to thumping, and then she burst forth in a strain so sweet that it thrilled my whole being and roused in me again that jealous fear that Mona was learning to care more for the doctor than for me. But how shall I describe my emotions when she suddenly blended syllables of our language with the accents of her song, and, still looking into the doctor's eyes, closed her entrancing melody with the burning words, "I love you"?
I wonder how other men have borne such a shock as that. It seemed to me that by simply living during the next few minutes I was proving myself stronger than others. And I was able to think, too. It occurred to me that perhaps Mona was merely a parrot, repeating, with no perception of their meaning, words which she had so often heard from me. But this idea passed swiftly away when I remembered the warmth of her expression and the ardor of her manner, both of which, alas, she had also learned from me.
As I recovered somewhat from the effects of the blow I found Mona's eyes were fixed on me, and she looked so innocent, so entirely unconscious of wrong, that if I had any anger in my heart it melted away and left me more her slave than ever. There was something in her behavior which I could not comprehend, and it was evident that she had not yet acquired any particular fondness for me, but these were not sufficient reasons to make me cease to care for her. My love was too strong to give her up, even after I had just heard her declare, in such a passionate way, her love for another. These thoughts passed through my mind as she beamed upon me in her radiant beauty, smiling as sweetly as ever, as if to encourage me still to live and hope.
But how did the doctor receive this remarkable love-song? Like the philosopher he was. Being astonished beyond measure at what he had heard, he sat and pondered the subject for some minutes. What chiefly interested him was not the personal element in Mona's words, which was so vital a point to me, but the fact that she could make use of any words of our language. The possibilities which this fact opened up to him were of the greatest moment. If Mona could learn to talk freely she would be able to give us much information that would be of great scientific value. After he had pursued these thoughts a while it suddenly struck him that the expression she had used was a singular one to begin with, and he turned to me and laughingly said:
"You must have taught her those words. I did not."
"I shall have to acknowledge it," I replied, "but I assure you I did not influence her to make such use of them."
"No, I suppose not; but that question is of small account beside the knowledge that Mona has begun to learn our speech. Now let us give all our attention to her instruction."
We did so from that hour, the doctor from high motives of philosophy and philanthropy, while I was actuated by more selfish reasons. Although I had learned that I had been too hasty in my attempt to gain Mona's affections I did not despair of success. I should have to take time and approach the citadel of her untutored heart with more caution. In the pleasant task of teaching her the intricacies of the English language I anticipated many delightful opportunities of leading her into the Elysian fields of romance. If she could learn to understand fully my intense feeling for her I had no doubt she would return my passion. With such a hopeful spirit does the love god inspire his happy victims.
In order to assist in the realization of these rosy fore-thoughts, I suggested to the doctor that each of us should take his turn in Mona's instruction, so as to make it as easy and informal for her as possible. He had no objections to make, and we began a task which proved to be much simpler than we had imagined. Mona had heard us talk so much that she had half-learned a great many words and expressions, and her remarkable quickness of intellect helped her to pick up their meaning rapidly as soon as we gave her systematic aid. Hence it was not long before she began to converse with considerable freedom.
From the first the doctor and I had been curious to know if she would give up the musical tone and simply talk as we did, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that her song was not interrupted by the form of words she used. Whatever the phrase she wanted to employ she turned it into verse on the instant and chanted it forth in perfect melody. So spontaneous was every expression that her very thoughts seemed to be framed in harmony. Her voice was not obtrusive nor monotonous and generally not loud, but was always well adapted to the sense of what she was singing. The tones mostly used in conversation were low and sweet, like rippling water, but these were constantly varied by the introduction of notes of greater power and range.
To have such use made of our rugged speech was a revelation to us, and words, as we employ them, are inadequate to express our enjoyment of Mona's song, when to its former beauty was added the clear enunciation of language that we could understand.
It was through this rare medium that the doctor and I learned, from day to day, something of the history of Mona's race. The surface of the moon had once been peopled, as we supposed, but as the day of decay and death approached the outside of the globe became too inhospitable to longer support life. The interior had cooled and contracted, and as the solid crust was rigid enough to keep its place, great, sublunar caverns had been formed. Into these rushed the water and the atmosphere, accompanied by the few remaining inhabitants. The conditions were not favorable, in such places, to the continuation of the race, although their advanced knowledge in every direction prevented them from melting away suddenly.
Settlements had been formed in many different sections of the moon, and interior communication was established between them. As the people gradually passed away, those who remained naturally drew nearer together until at last the remnant of the population of the globe were all gathered in the little village where we were now living. Here the process still went on, and year after year saw a constantly diminishing number. A few years before our arrival Mona's last companion, a girl of her own age, had died, and ever since then this tuneful creature, possessed of the most sunny disposition we had ever known, had lived alone, with the knowledge that there was not another living being in all the moon.
"So you see," she sang, "I was as glad to find you as you were to hear me."
"But," asked the doctor, "how did you know we were out there, nearly ready to be blown off into space?"
"I didn't know it till I saw you. I went out to try to discover what was the matter with my old world. For some time I had had the queerest sensations imaginable. I was accustomed to being out of doors a great deal, and I first began to notice that I could walk and run more easily than before. I was becoming rather sprightly for one who was so soon to pass off this deserted stage. Then everything I took up seemed to be growing marvelously light, and I began to have a feeling that I must hold on to all my movable possessions, to keep them from getting away. After this unaccountable state of things had existed for a while, there came, one day, a terrible shock, which threatened to crack the moon's skull and rattle its fragments down upon my head. This was followed at intervals by similar or lighter shocks, and it was all so exceedingly unusual that I became very curious to know what was happening. Then all was quiet for many days, but when at length the quakings began again my natural instinct of self-preservation told me I ought not to take the risk of another such siege, and so I started to make my way to the surface by a well-known path. The trouble did not continue as I feared, but I kept on, fortunately for you as well as for myself, and found the outside world too uncomfortable a place for any of us to remain in longer than necessary."
This halting prose represents the meaning of what Mona said, but it gives a feeble idea of the beauty of her poetic expressions, chanted in melodious phrase and in ever-changing, ever-joyous tune.
We replied by explaining to her what had happened to her disjointed world, expressing our gratitude also for her kindness in bringing us to her sheltered home.
OUR INTRODUCTION TO MARS.
Ever since the doctor had been inside of the moon he had not ceased to regret that we had left all our goods in the car of our balloon. He mourned the loss of the instruments and other apparatus which had cost him so much care, and then there were our official papers. Our introduction to Mona had been rather too informal, and we thought we might stand better with her if we could show her our credentials, though, to be sure, she could not read them.
Several times the doctor proposed to me that we should go out and bring in what we could carry if, perchance, we should find the wind had left us anything. But I had my own reasons for preferring to remain where we were. I was happy and was expecting every day to be happier still, and so I put the doctor off by reminding him that the weather was very bad outside and that we had been glad enough to get in with our lives.
I think he would have agreed with me and would have been contented to stay if the question had been left entirely to ourselves. But Mona heard us talking it over one day and said we could go without much risk if we cared to try it, and she would go with us to take care of us.
Although it would be difficult to tell how Mona could help us when we were outside, this idea sounded so assuring that the doctor determined to make the attempt. I was obliged to acquiesce, fearing, in my ignorance of all that was to happen to us, that the trip would keep me too much from Mona's side.
After due preparation we started, and reached the upper end of the long passage without incident. But as we emerged we noticed that the light had a peculiar tinge of red, quite different from its usual tone. Meditating on this phenomenon, and speaking to each other as we could find breath, we ascended the side of the crater, when there burst upon our view a magnificent world, apparently but a little way off. Its ruddy face showed us plainly what had caused the red light, and the doctor made haste to exclaim:
"Aha! let me introduce you to the planet Mars."
"Yes," I replied, "and we may become too well acquainted before a great while if our rapid flight is not checked."
We soon found our car just as we had left it, and were glad to take advantage of its shelter. In the new danger which loomed up before us so threateningly, we all agreed that it would be rash to return into the interior of the moon, to be crushed to death in the shock of the impending collision; and yet, in remaining where we were, the doctor and I felt that no reputable insurance company would call our lives a very good risk.
But now was our opportunity to witness some of the depths of Mona's character. What was there in her nature so entirely different from anything we had ever known? We had seen persons of cheerful disposition before, and had heard of many exhibitions of courage and indifference to danger, but here we had the very personification of fearlessness and contentment. She talked freely of our situation and of what was likely to happen, but appeared to be as light-hearted as ever, and her song was just as cheerful as it had been in her quiet home. When we asked her if she were not afraid, she replied that there was no such word in her language and she could not appreciate its meaning.
"Fear," said the doctor, "is a feeling excited by the apprehension of danger."
"I think I know about the danger we are in," she answered, "but I have not the feeling you are trying to describe. When I was alone in my underground village and thought the roof was about to fall down and bury me there, I had no fear, as you say. I know that whatever has come to me or to any of my race has always been for our good, and I am sure it will be so in the future. I have but a short time to remain as the sole inhabitant of this now useless globe, and the manner of my taking off is not of the slightest moment. This old world's day is now passed, and I realize in that fact the reason for its unseemly behavior, first knocking its toughened crust so rudely against the earth and then coquetting in this manner with Mars. It certainly no longer shows any respect for the race it has nourished, and hence I see that my day, too, will soon be over. Whatever may be your fate you will doubtless see no more of me after this excursion is ended."
In the light of history this seemed extremely probable, and yet Mona was not half as concerned about it as I was. I thought she ought to have shown more anxiety about her future for my sake if not for her own, and I ventured to say, although in a rather doleful tone:
"I hope, Mona, if the doctor and I are freed from this peril that you will escape with us. If I thought there was no hope of that, I am sure I should propose that we return at once to the middle of the moon and be buried together."
She laughed aloud as she sang out in joyous notes:
"Your mournful voice, my ardent friend, makes me think you would not be very happy with the last alternative. But cheer up, we will all stand by each other to the last." It was in her abounding good nature and in her faculty for inspiring us with her own hopeful disposition that we found Mona fulfilling her promise to take care of us.
But now our attention could not be diverted from the planet which was rapidly growing before our eyes. As we approached nearer and nearer every minute, flying at such a terrific rate and aimed, apparently, for a direct collision, it may be imagined that the doctor and I, in spite of Mona's presence, began to be exceedingly anxious lest our journey and our lives should meet an abrupt and common end.
Unless such excursions as ours become more frequent in the future, it will probably always remain a mystery how this one came to a close. I can only relate our experience during the time that we retained our consciousness, and leave the imagination to picture the rest. As we entered the atmosphere of the planet, the rush of air increased till it seemed as if a hundred Niagaras were sounding in our ears. I remember having a dim feeling of satisfaction in the belief that such a violent contact with the atmosphere must impede the moon's progress, and offer us some chance of landing in safety. Then I was bereft of all sense, and when I regained consciousness I was lying in the bottom of our car in perfect quiet and apparently unharmed.
I called aloud for the doctor, but no voice replied. Rising, I looked about me and found I was afloat on a ruddy sea, alone, as far as my senses could inform me, alone in a new world. Such a sensation of homesickness came over me, such a longing for human fellowship, that our former lonesome condition on the moon seemed like a paradise compared to my present wretchedness.
So this was Mars, which we had studied with our telescopes and about whose condition and history we had so often speculated. And now, as I leaned my elbows on the edge of the car and gazed off over the deep, I wondered, with more interest than I had ever before possessed, if the world I had discovered were inhabited. Perhaps because it was such a vital question with me, my naturally hopeful disposition began to find reasons for a cheerful view. There were certainly favorable evidences all about me. I was breathing an atmosphere evidently made for lungs like mine. The air was soft and pleasant, and though I was drenched with water by my fall I was not uncomfortable. I tasted the water and, oh! joyful reminder of home, it was salt. The sun shed a beautiful light around me, and as I glanced upward to see how bright and cheerful the sky was, my reverie was suddenly broken off, for directly over my head, poised as quietly as if it had always been there, was our old moon. It seemed but a few miles away and I gazed at it with mixed feelings, with thankfulness that I had escaped from its inhospitable surface with my life, and with scorn for its present behavior. For there it was, apparently perfectly at home and ready to bear the torch for Mars as faithfully as it always had for the earth, its rightful mistress.
"Inconstancy," I cried, "thy name is Luna."
When the novelty of this sensational discovery was gone, my mind returned to the contemplation of myself, and my situation seemed to me so unique as to remove some of the natural feeling of fear. When one is shipwrecked in the ordinary way his anxiety is caused by the uncertainty that anyone will come to his rescue; while in my case I did not even know there was anyone to come. But when I looked up at the moon and remembered its erratic climate and our wild, unearthly journey, I could not suppress a feeling of satisfaction with my changed condition. If the doctor had only been with me we would have been able to extract considerable comfort from our surroundings. But, as it was, I was very lonesome, and whatever consolation I got from my reasoning about the planet's habitability was increased a thousand fold by seeing a speck upon the horizon, which I hoped might prove to be a sail. I watched it with intense interest, and was not disappointed. I will not try to describe my feelings as this ship of Mars approached me, while I sat wondering what manner of men I should see. The first thing that struck me was the enormous size of the craft, and as it drew near I could see that it was manned by beings proportionately large. I now began to fear I should be run down, but soon I noticed one of the passengers or crew who seemed to be looking at me through a glass. In a little while the vessel slowed up, and a boat was put off in which a number of giants, including the man with the glass, rowed toward me. When they had nearly reached me I heard the latter say to the others:
"Yes, this is surely the little fellow we are searching for."
I could not imagine what he meant by this, although it occurred to me that it was a pleasant thing to have him speak good, plain English; but the other circumstances were so entirely novel that, instead of opening the conversation with some conventional remark, like a sensible person, I burst out with:
"But Proctor says Mars has passed its life-bearing period."
I hardly knew what I said, but it proved that they were just the words to commend me to my new friend, for as he reached over and lifted me into the boat he said:
"Why, how did you know Proctor? You must have misunderstood him, for he would never say such a thing as that."
While I was puzzling over this strange speech he continued:
"I think we have some one in the ship whom you will be glad to see."
I began to fear I should not get on very well in Mars if all the inhabitants talked in such riddles, but I said, as politely as I could:
"I am sure I need not wait to get to the ship to be pleased. I am delighted to see you and your companions here."
While we were returning to the vessel I gave Thorwald, for such I found to be his name, a brief account of our journey on the moon and of my mysterious arrival on their planet. I expatiated on the merits of the doctor, and told Thorwald that he was probably still on the moon or else at the bottom of their ocean.
I was thinking that Thorwald did not show much sympathy with me, when, our boat having nearly reached the ship's side, I looked up and saw the doctor himself standing on the deck, a pigmy among giants. I was soon by his side, and we embraced before our new-found friends without a blush.
"Where's Mona?" were the first words he said.
"Mona!" I replied. "Who's Mona?"
"Who's Mona?" he returned. "Well, you have recovered pretty rapidly."
I now discovered that, although I had found the body of my friend, the best part of him was missing. In the fall from the moon he had evidently lost his wits. I thought I would not let him know too suddenly what was the matter, and so I merely said:
"Yes, I went into the water, but was not much hurt. When I came to my senses I found myself in our car still. Tell me how you escaped."
"Oh, I happened to fall near this ship, fortunately, and they picked me up, and then, at my request, they set out to search for you and Mona."
"Well," said I, "you found me, and I am very thankful for it, but Mona I fear you will never see."
"What was the last you saw of her?" he asked.
I had great difficulty in keeping myself from laughing in the doctor's face at his odd fancy, but the thought came to me with some force that I must not let his mental condition become known to the men of Mars around us; and so, instead of replying to his question, I turned to Thorwald and asked him if he could tell us how the moon had landed us so easily on their planet.
In answer he gave it as his opinion that as the moon came rushing toward them so swiftly it compressed the air in its path to such a degree that it acted as a cushion, preventing a collision and sending the moon bounding back over the path by which it had come. Probably at the moment when it was nearest the surface, we had fallen off into the ocean. The rebound, he supposed, was not sufficient to carry it beyond the attraction of the planet, and so it poised itself and began to make a revolution around Mars in its old-fashioned way.
Thorwald told us we had taken the best possible time to visit them, for Mars had not been so near the earth before in a great while.
Our new acquaintances were from nine to ten feet tall and proportionately large every other way, so that they appeared quite monstrous to us. But they were agile and even graceful in their movements, while in manner they were so gentle and pleasing that we recognized at once their high culture.
The vessel was soon under way and made rapid progress, and though our voyage was not very long, it proved to be an exceedingly profitable one to the doctor and me, for we learned more, through conversation with our new friends, about the history and condition of Mars than we could have gained in any other way. The men were all kind to us and seemed to be all equally able to impart information, but most of our intercourse was with Thorwald. He gave us much of his time, at intervals as he could be spared from work, for every man helped at the service of the ship. There seemed to be no system of leadership, but all appeared to know what was to be done, and did it without orders and without clashing.
As we entered into conversation about the earth and Mars, I was surprised to find the doctor taking his full share in it with his usual intelligence. His questions and answers were all so pertinent that I should have supposed his mind was entirely unaffected, had I not known to the contrary. When I saw he could hold his own so well, I determined to take the first opportunity when we were alone to ask him again who Mona was.
A REMARKABLE PEOPLE.
The conversation with our new friends was not all on one side, for we had many questions to answer about the earth, the Martian mind showing as great a thirst for knowledge as ours. One of the first things Thorwald said after we had settled down to a good talk was:
"But, Doctor, your little head is so full of thought that it seems to me you ought not to have been surprised to find us so large here. You knew before you came that Mars is much smaller than the earth and, therefore, the attraction of gravitation being less, that everything can grow more easily. Things may as well be one size as another if only they are well adapted to each other, and we would never have known we were large or that you were small had we not been brought together. In the sight of Him who made both the earth and Mars, and fashioned one for you and the other for us, we are neither great nor small. In fact, size is never absolute but only relative."
"That is very clear to us now," said the doctor, "and I promise not to be surprised again, even when I walk the streets of your cities and see you in your houses."
"Then, Doctor," said I, "if we had found inhabitants on the moon what great folks they must have seemed to us."
This was an exceedingly foolish remark for me to make, for it resulted in the doctor's almost betraying his condition to our friends.
Of course Thorwald was interested in what I said, and eagerly inquired:
"So you found no inhabitants in the moon?"
"Just one," spoke up the doctor quickly.
"What! you found one and left him there?"
"It was a woman," said the doctor.
This talk had been so rapid that I had not had a chance to interfere, but I saw that I must stop it now for the doctor's sake. When I could see him alone I could tell him his memory was playing him a trick and he must avoid that subject. So, before Thorwald could speak again, I said:
"Let me suggest, Thorwald, that we let the moon rest till we have heard more of Mars, which I am sure is of greater importance. We have told you many things in regard to our planet, and are willing to answer all the questions you may please to ask from time to time, but now we would like to listen a while."
"Yes," said the doctor, "we started on this expedition to add to our scientific knowledge, and we seem in a fair way to accomplish our purpose; so that, if you will find a way to send us back to the earth some time, I think our friends will admit that we have been successful. But first we want to learn all we can about this wonderful world. How long has your race existed? Our astronomers tell us Mars is too old to be inhabited, and, considering some of my own recent experiences in finding my science unreliable, it rather consoles me to discover that they are mistaken."
"They are right," Thorwald answered, "in believing that Mars is very old, and so our race is nearing its maturity. It is impossible to judge accurately of the age of the planet itself, but we know it is exceedingly old from the evidences of changes that have taken place on its surface. Neither can we tell when our race was born, though we have legends and traditions dating back fifty thousand years, and authentic history for nearly half that time."
The doctor and myself now began to realize that we had indeed something to learn from these people, and I remarked:
"These figures astonish us, Thorwald, and you can hardly understand how interested we are. But please continue. From what little I have seen I should think you are much farther advanced in everyway than the inhabitants of the earth."
"We believe," replied the Martian, "that our planet is much older than the earth, and if we are right in that it is but natural that our civilization should be older also. If the tendency of mind is toward perfection, if in your experience you have found that, in the main, men look upward more than downward, what would you expect to find in a world so beautiful as this and where life has existed so long? From what we know of our own history and from what we have learned of the worlds around us, we believe the life-bearing period of Mars has long since passed its middle point, and that both our planet and our race have passed through convulsions and changes to which other worlds, perhaps the earth, are now subjected."
This appeared so reasonable that I said to him:
"We must believe that Mars is an afternoon planet. And now we want to hear whatever you may choose to tell us about your civilization."
"That is a broad subject," replied Thorwald, "but it is something I like to talk about. If I judge rightly of what you have already told me of the earth and its people, I think we were in just about your situation ages ago and that we have merely matured. That is, the causes now at work on the earth are having in us their legitimate effect. These processes are slow but sure. To the Infinite time is of no more importance in itself than is size.
"I know of no better topic to begin with," continued Thorwald, "than the matter of government. You wondered at the peculiar discipline on board this ship. It is but a type of what you will find on land. We have no government in its strict sense, for there is no one that needs governing. We have organization for mutual help in many ways, but no rulers nor legislators. The only government is that of the family. Here character is formed so that when the children go forth into the world no one desires to wrong his neighbor. We know from our histories of all the struggles our ancestors passed through before the days of universal peace and brotherhood. Now we go and come as we please, with no fear of harm. We are all one nation because all national boundaries have been obliterated, and we have a common language. There are no laws of compulsion or restraint, for all do by instinct what is best for themselves and their neighbors."
"Oh, happy Mars!" here broke in the usually prosaic doctor. "That sounds like a story. And yet what is it," he continued, addressing me, "but the effect of perfect obedience to our golden rule? If men should really learn to do to others as they would have others do to them, what a transformation it would accomplish."
"So that is what you call the golden rule, is it?" asked Thorwald. "And are you all trying to live by it?"
"Well," I replied, "that is what many of us profess to be doing, but I must say we fall far, very far short of the mark. I do not know a single inhabitant of the earth, with the possible exception of my companion here, who fully obeys that command."
The doctor's smile was not lost on Thorwald, who replied:
"It was rather too bad of you to bring so far away from the earth the only good man the planet contained; but I am glad to know the golden rule, as you may well call it, has been given to men. We have had the same here, and, oh! if I could make you realize something of the struggle our race has had in working it into life and practice, you would gain some hope for the people of the earth. I mean, the result of this struggle would give you hope, for I am not ashamed to say that we are now living up to the full requirements of this law, and if you should spend the remainder of your lives with us I am sure you would not find my statement untrue. It is only by actually loving our neighbors as ourselves that we are able to live as we do. The law of love has replaced the law of force. It is well for you to understand this at the beginning, for it is the secret of our wonderful success in all the higher forms of civilization."
"It must have helped you greatly," said I, "in the matter of which you have just been speaking, that of government."
"Yes, it has," he replied. "In our histories we have full accounts of the long course of events when we were divided into hundreds of nations, each with its own pride and ambition, and each striving to build up itself upon the misfortunes or the ruins of its neighbors. You can perhaps imagine what a mass of material we have for reading and study."
"We can," spoke up the student doctor, "and it fairly makes my mouth water. But tell us briefly, Thorwald, how you ever passed from those troublous times to the blissful state in which we now find you."
"The transition was exceedingly slow; it seemed, in fact, impossible that such a change could ever be effected. But it began with the establishment of universal peace, which was demanded by the growing spirit of brotherly love, and assisted by commercial reciprocity and a world language. Gradually national boundaries were found to be only an annoyance, and in time—a long time, of course—we became one nation and finally no nation. For now no one exercises any authority over his neighbors, since the need for all artificial distinctions has long since passed away."
"Then," said I, "you have no doubt lost all fear and anxiety over the conflicting interests of capital and labor."
"Yes," replied Thorwald, "for we have no such distinctions in society as rich and poor, workingmen and capitalists. We all work as we please, but there is so little to do that no one is burdened, and one cannot be richer than another because all the material bounties of nature and art are common to all, being as free as the air. I suppose, as this seems to be strange talk to you, that you cannot realize what it is to belong to a society where everyone considers the interests of his neighbor as much as his own. You will find when you reach that point that most of your troubles will be gone, as ours are."
"Our troubles!" said the doctor. "Many of our troubles, to be sure, arise from our passions and appetites—in other words, from our selfishness—and these will no doubt disappear when we reach that blessed state of which you have spoken, a condition prayed for and dimly expected by many of our race. But other troubles of ours come from sickness and severe toil, from accidents, famines, and the convulsions of nature. How, for example, can you have escaped the latter, unless, indeed, God has helped those who have so wisely helped themselves?"