BEING THE VERY REMARKABLE EXPERIENCES IN ANOTHER WORLD OF ISIDOR WERNER
(WRITTEN BY HIMSELF)
EDITED, ARRANGED, AND WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY ELLSWORTH DOUGLASS
LONDON C. ARTHUR PEARSON LIMITED HENRIETTA STREET W.C. 1899
Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note. Obsolete spellings have been retained. The oe ligature is represented by [oe].
PAGE INTRODUCTION: ELUSIVE TRUTH 7
BOOK I. SECRETS OF SPACE
CHAPTER I. DR. HERMANN ANDERWELT 19 II. THE GRAVITY PROJECTILE 27 III. STRUCTURE OF THE PROJECTILE 37 IV. WHAT IS ON MARS? 48 V. FINAL PREPARATIONS 57 VI. FAREWELL TO EARTH 67 VII. THE TERRORS OF LIGHT 81 VIII. THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW 91 IX. TRICKS OF REFRACTION 99 X. THE TWILIGHT OF SPACE 108 XI. TELLING THE TIME BY GEOGRAPHY 117 XII. SPACE FEVER 126 XIII. THE MYSTERY OF A MINUS WEIGHT 141
BOOK II. OTHER WORLD LIFE
I. WHY MARS GIVES A RED LIGHT 157 II. THE TERROR BIRDS 170 III. TWO OF US AGAINST THE ARMIES OF MARS 182 IV. THE STRANGE BRAVERY OF MISS BLANK 192 V. ZAPHNATH, RULER OF THE KEMI 204 VI. THE IRON MEN FROM THE BLUE STAR 220 VII. PARALLEL PLANETARY LIFE 240 VIII. A PLAGIARIST OF DREAMS 249 IX. GETTING INTO THE CORNER 260 X. HUMANITY ON PTAH 275 XI. REVOLUTIONIST AND EAVESDROPPER 283 XII. THE DOCTOR DISAPPEARS 292 XIII. THE REVELATION OF HOTEP 304
It was the Chicago Tribune of June 13th, 189-, which contained this paragraph under the head-line: "Big Broker Missing!"
"The friends of Isidor Werner, a young man prominent in Board of Trade circles, are much concerned about him, as he has not been seen for several days. He made his last appearance in the wheat pit as a heavy buyer Tuesday forenoon. That afternoon he left his office at Room 87 Board of Trade, and has not been seen since, nor can his whereabouts be learned. He is six feet two inches high, of athletic build, with black hair and moustache, a regular nose, and an unpronounced Jewish appearance. His age is hardly more than twenty-seven, but he has often made himself felt as a market force on the Board of Trade, where he was well thought of."
But it was the Evening Post of the same date which prided itself on unearthing the real sensation. A scare-head across the top of a first page column read:
"A PLUNGER'S LAST PLUNGE!"
"The daring young broker who held the whole wheat market in his hands a few months ago, amassing an independent fortune in three days, but losing most of it gamely on subsequent changes in the market, has made his last plunge. This time he has gone into the cold, kind bosom of Lake Michigan. Isidor Werner evened up his trades in the wheat market last Tuesday forenoon, and then applied for his balance-sheet at a higher clearing house! No trace of him or clue to his whereabouts was found, until the Evening Post, on the principle of setting one mystery to solve another, sent its representative to examine a strange steel rocket, discovered half-buried in the sands of Lake Michigan, near Berrien Springs, two days ago. Our reporter investigated this bullet-shaped contrivance and found an opening into it, and within he discovered a scrap of paper on which were written the words: 'Farewell to Earth for ever!' Werner's friends, when interviewed by the Evening Post, all positively identified the handwriting of this scrap as his chirography. It is supposed that he took an excursion steamer to St. Joseph, Michigan, last Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon, and walking down the shore toward Berrien Springs, finally threw himself into the Lake. Neither Israel Werner, with whom the dead man lived on Indiana Avenue, nor Patrick Flynn, the chief clerk at his office, can give any reason for the suicide, or explain the exact connection of the infernal machine (if such it be) with the sad circumstance. But they both positively identify the handwriting on the scrap of paper. We have wired our representative to bring the mysterious machine to Chicago; and those who think they may be able to throw any light upon the case, are invited to call at the office of the Evening Post and examine it."
The Inter Ocean developed a theory that the suicide was only a pretended one for the purpose of fraudulently collecting life insurance policies. It was cited that Isidor Werner had insured his life for more than $100,000, and this in spite of the fact that he had no family, parents, brothers or sisters to provide for; but had taken the policies in favour of his uncle, Israel Werner, and in case of his prior death, in favour of a cousin, Ruth Werner. This theory gained but little currency among those who knew the man best, and although the insurance companies prepared to resist payment of the policies to the bitter end, yet, as time went on, no one attempted to prove his death, nor to claim the handsome sum which would result from it. Moreover, Israel Werner and his daughter Ruth, the beneficiaries under the policies, persisted in believing that their relative was yet alive, though they could give no good reasons for so believing, nor explain his disappearance.
In its issue of June 15th the Tribune scouted the idea of suicide altogether. It had a better and more plausible theory of the case. Isidor Werner had a large sum of money in the Corn Exchange Bank, drawing interest by the year. In case of either a premeditated or a pretended suicide he would most certainly have withdrawn, and made some disposition of, this money. In fact, he had, on the day of his disappearance, drawn out five thousand dollars of it in gold. For this coin the Tribune believed he had been murdered, and that they had a clue to the murderer. The vanished man had several times been seen in the company of a suspicious German, of intelligent but erratic appearance. This queer character lived in a hotbed of socialism on the West Side, and the young broker was supposed to be in his power. In fact, it was known for certain that the erratic German had secured a large sum of money from him, and that Werner had visited his rooms in the slums of the West Side more than once. Moreover, the two had made a secret railway journey together two days before the disappearance, and on the very day that Werner was last seen, the German had fled his lodgings without giving any explanation of his departure to his few acquaintances. When the Tribune reporter called at these lodgings, the landlord still had in his possession a gold eagle, with which the German had paid his rent, and in the grate of the deserted room were the charred remains of burnt papers. One of these was a rather firm, crisp cinder, and had been a blue-print of a drawing. As nearly as could be judged, from its shrivelled state, it appeared to be the plan of some infernal machine. The name of the fugitive was Anderwelt, and he called himself a doctor. Further investigations were being carried on by the Tribune, which promised to prove beyond a doubt that he was the murderer of Isidor Werner.
But the Evening Post still held the palm for sensations, and I copy verbatim from its columns of June 15th:
"It is rare that a newspaper, dealing strictly in facts, has to record anything so closely bordering on the supernatural and mysterious as that which we must now relate. The following facts, however, are vouched for by the entire editorial department of the Evening Post, and many of them by several hundred witnesses. We begin by apologising to the hundreds who have called at this office and have been unable to see the Werner infernal machine. We gave it that name in a thoughtless jest, but its subsequent actions have more than justified the title. Our reporter brought it from Berrien Springs, as directed, and deposited it in the court of the Evening Post building. As is quite generally known, this court is a central well in the building, affording ventilation and light to the interior offices, from every one of which can be seen what goes on in it. The well is spanned by a glass roof above the eighth storey. In this court, at eleven o'clock this morning, the entire editorial and a large part of the business staff of this paper, repaired, to examine the mysterious rocket-like thing. A little lid was opened, showing the recess where the tell-tale scrap of paper, written by Werner, had been found. Inside there seemed to be a pair of peculiar battery cells, whose exact nature was hidden by the outer shell. Outside there were several thumb-screws, which were turned both ways without any apparent effect. While making this examination the machine had been set up on its lower end, and when it was again laid down it refused to lie on its side, but persisted in standing erect of its own accord. This was the more wonderful because the lower end was not flat, so that it would afford a good base, but was pointed. More than a hundred people saw it stand up on this sharp tip, saw it lift up light weights which were placed upon it to hold it on its side, and saw it quickly right itself when it was placed vertically but wrong end down.
"Thinking this queer property had been contributed to it in some way by loosening the thumb-screws, they were next all set down as tightly as possible, to see if this tendency to erectness would be lost. Then, to the astonishment of every one in the court, and of several hundred people who were by this time watching from the interior windows, this infernal machine, without any explosion, burning of gases, or any apparent force acting upon it, slowly rose from the ground, and then, travelling more swiftly, shot through the roof of glass and vanished from sight! Nor has the most diligent search enabled us to recover it. Does it possess the secret of Isidor Werner's death?"
But the Chicago Herald had been working thoroughly and saying little until its issue of June 16th, when it claimed the credit of solving the whole mystery. Its long article lies before me as I write: There had been no suicide; there had been no murder; there had been no infernal machine. Doctor Anderwelt was a learned man, and the warm personal friend of Isidor Werner. Both men had shared the same fate; they might yet be alive, but they were certainly at the bottom of Lake Michigan together! They were imprisoned there in a sunken submarine boat, which was the invention of Doctor Anderwelt, and was built with funds furnished by the young broker. The foundryman who had constructed the big torpedo-shaped contrivance had been interviewed. He knew both men, and they were on the most friendly terms. In a moment of confidence Doctor Anderwelt had told him the machine was for submarine exploration; had explained the four-winged rudder, which would make it dive into the water, rise to the surface, or direct it to right or to left. Moreover, there were closed living compartments, around which were chambers containing a supply of air. He himself had pumped them full of compressed air, and it was so arranged that foul air could be let out when used and new air admitted. When all had been finished the foundryman had shipped the new invention, via the Michigan Southern Railway, to the shore of the Lake near Whiting, Indiana. Next the Herald had sought and found the conductor whose train had hauled it to Whiting. He remembered switching off the flat-car there, and he was surprised on his return trip next morning to see the heavy thing already unloaded and gone.
Undoubtedly, the two men had made an experiment with the diving boat under the surface of the water; and its failure to operate as hoped had resulted in its sinking to the bottom, with the two men imprisoned in it. On no other hypothesis could its disappearance, and that of the two men, be so plausibly accounted for. But as they had stores of air, and probably of food, there was a possibility that they were still alive inside the thing in the bottom of the Lake! Only three days had elapsed since it had been launched, and the Herald was willing to head a subscription to drag the Lake and send divers to search for and rescue the two unfortunate men!
All this serves to illustrate the untiring energy of newspaper investigation, as well as the remarkable fertility of journalistic imagination; for none of these clever theories hit at the real truth, or explained the correct bearing of the astonishing facts which the newspapers had so industriously unearthed.
And if the mystery of the disappearance of Isidor Werner was uncommonly deep and wonderful, the explanation and final solution of it is not less marvellous. After a delay of more than six years, it has just now come into my hands whole and perfect. It is in no less satisfactory form than a complete manuscript written by the very hand of Isidor Werner! I came strangely into possession of it, and it relates a story of interest and wonder, compared with which the mystery of his disappearance pales into insignificance. But the reader may judge for himself, for here follows the story exactly as he wrote it. Upon his manuscript I have bestowed hardly more than a proof-reader's technical revision.
BOSTON, U.S.A., December 13th, 1898.
Secrets of Space
Dr. Hermann Anderwelt
I had been busy all day trying to swarm the bees and secure my honey. The previous day had been February 29th, a date which doesn't often happen, and which I had especial reason to remember, for it had been the most successful of my business career. I had made a long guess at the shaky condition of the great house of Slater, Bawker & Co., who had been heavy buyers of wheat. I had talked the market down, sold it down, hammered it down; and, true enough, what nobody else seemed to expect really happened. The big firm failed, the price of wheat went to smash in a panic of my mixing, and, as a result, I saw a profit of more than two hundred thousand dollars in the deal. But, in order to secure this snug sum, I still had to buy back the wheat I had sold at higher prices, and this I didn't find so easy. The crowd in the wheat pit had seen my hand, and were letting me play it alone against them all.
After the session I hurried to my office to get my overcoat and hat, having an engagement to lunch at the Club.
"If you please, Mr. Werner, there is a queer old gentleman in your private office who wishes to see you," said Flynn, my chief clerk.
"Ask him to call again to-morrow; I am in a great hurry to-day," I said, slipping on one sleeve of my overcoat as I started out.
"But he has been waiting in there since eleven o'clock, and said he very much wished to see you when you had plenty of time. He would not allow me to send on the floor for you during the session."
"Since eleven o'clock! Did he have his lunch and a novel sent up? Well, I can hardly run away from a man who has waited three and a half hours to see me;" and I entered my private office with my overcoat on.
Seated in my deep, leathern arm-chair was an elderly man, with rather long and bushy iron-grey hair, and an uneven grey beard. His head inclined forward, he breathed heavily, and was apparently fast asleep.
"You will pardon my awaking you, but I never do business asleep!" I ventured rather loudly.
Slowly the steel-blue eyes opened, and, without any start or discomposure, the old man answered,—
"And I—my most successful enterprises are developed in my dreams."
His features and his accent agreed in pronouncing him German. He arose calmly, buttoned the lowest button of his worn frock-coat, and, instead of extending his hand to me, he poked it inside his coat, letting it hang heavily on the single button. It was a lazy but characteristic attitude. It tended to make his coat pouch and his shoulders droop. I remembered having seen it somewhere before.
"Mr. Werner, I have a matter of the deepest and vastest importance to unfold to you," he began, rather mysteriously, "for which I desire five hours of your unemployed time——"
"Five hours!" I interrupted. "You do not know me! That much is hard to find without running into the middle of the night, or into the middle of the day—which is worse for a busy man. I have just five minutes to spare this afternoon, which will be quite time enough to tell me who you are and why you have sought me."
"You do not know me because you do not expect to see me on this hemisphere," he continued. "Nor did I expect to find you a potent force in the commercial world, only three years after a literary and linguistic preparation for a scholarly career. Why, the maedchens of Heidelberg have hardly had time to forget your tall, athletic figure, or ceased wondering if you were really a Hebrew——"
"You seem to be altogether familiar with my history," I put in with a little heat. "Kindly enlighten me equally well as to your own."
"I gave you the pleasure of an additional year of residence at the University of Heidelberg not long ago," he answered.
"I do not know how that can be, for to my uncle I owe my entire education there."
"Perhaps an unappreciated trifle of it you owe to your instructors and lecturers. Do you forget that I refused to pass your examinations in physics, and kept you there a year longer?"
"You are not Doctor Anderwelt, then?"
"Hermann Anderwelt, Ph.D., at your service, sir," he replied somewhat proudly.
"But when and why did you leave your chair at Heidelberg?"
"It is to answer this that I ask the five hours," he said slowly.
"Oh, come now, doctor, you used to tell me more in a two-hour lecture than I could remember in a week," I answered, taking off my overcoat, and touching an electric button at my desk. My office boy entered.
"Teddy, have I had lunch to-day?" This was my favourite question on a busy day, and Teddy always answered it seriously.
"No, sir, you have an engagement to lunch at the Standard Club," he replied.
"Telephone to Gus at the Club that I can't come up to-day. Also send over to the Grand Pacific for a good lunch for two. Have some beer in it—real Munchner, and in steins," I directed, and then I reclined on a long leather lounge, and motioned to the doctor to have a chair. He declined, however, and walked slowly back and forth before me as he talked, keeping his right hand inside his coat, and with the left he occasionally ploughed up his heavy hair, as if to ventilate his brain.
"A year ago I gave up theoretical physics for applied physics; I resigned my chair at Heidelberg, and came to this progressive city. I brought with me a working model of the greatest invention of this inventive age. Yet it was then neither perfect in design nor complete in detail. But now I have hit on the plan that makes it practicable and certain of success. I need only a little money to build it, and the world will open its eyes!"
"But you must pardon me if instead of opening mine I shut them," I interrupted, seeing the point quickly, and losing no time in dodging. "I have no money to invest in patent rights; but still, you must stay to lunch with me."
Just here the doctor seemed to find it necessary to diverge from the orderly course of his lecture as he had prepared it, and interject a few impromptu observations.
"Events are difficult to forecast, but the capabilities of a youth are harder to divine. One educates his son in all the fine arts, and he turns out a founder of pig iron. One's nephew is apprenticed to a watchmaker, and in a few years, behold, he is a great barrister. Your uncle educated you thoroughly in the old Hebrew and Chaldee of the rabbis, and, lo! you are now the ursa major of the wheat market.
"Just now you are in the centre of the kaleidoscope of success. Slater, Bawker & Co. were there a month ago, but now they are only bits of broken glass in the bottom of the heap! And you? you are really a twisted bit of coloured glass like the rest, but you chance to be thrown to the middle. The mirrors of public opinion multiply your importance half a dozen times, and behold you are reflected into the whole picture. But the kaleidoscope turns, and the pieces of glass are shifted. Other broken chips now at the bottom of the heap will soon be filling the centre!
"Permit me to change my figure of speech. You are sweeping back the waves of the sea while the tide is falling, and the wide-mouthed public looks on, and whispers about that your broom makes all the waves obey, and drives them back at will. Just when you begin to believe it yourself the tide may turn, and neither brooms nor all the powers on earth can then sweep it back.
"Isidor Werner, you believe yourself rich; but your wealth is like molasses in a sieve. If you do not dip in your finger and taste the sweet occasionally, you will have nothing to show for your pains in the end. I shall ask you for but a taste of the sweet now, so that I may preserve a little of it against that day which may come, when the sieve will be bright and clean and empty again!"
There was a knock at the door.
"Come in!" I shouted. "Nothing but this lunch can save me from your eloquence. You have already ruined me in three similes!"
The waiter arranged a bountiful and tempting luncheon on a writing table. I commenced on it at once, but the doctor, though repeatedly urged, persistently refused. He took a long draught at a stein of Munich beer, and continued:—
"My invention proposes to navigate the air and the ether beyond, as well as the interplanetary spaces," he said impressively.
"Flying machine, eh?" I sneered, between bites of planked whitefish.
"Indeed no!" he growled, as if he detested this name. "My invention is not a machine but a projectile. It is not self-propelling, because if it depended upon its own propelling apparatus, it could not in thousands of years navigate the interplanetary spaces. It is a gravity projectile, and will travel at a rate of speed almost incalculable. It does not fly, but its manner of travelling is more nearly like falling."
I gave the doctor a quick searching look to see if I could discover any signs of incipient insanity. I met a firm, steady gaze; an earnest, convincing look. Somehow, I felt there was something real and true and wonderful about to come from the great scholar before me, and that I must hear it and hear it all; that I must lend a serious and thoughtful attention. My eyes were rivetted upon the doctor's for fully a minute in silence.
"Go on," I said at last; "I am all attention."
The Gravity Projectile
Hermann Anderwelt had probably suffered many disappointments and waited long for a hearing. Now he seemed to feel that his opportunity had come, for he continued with growing enthusiasm:—
"Hitherto all attempts at space travelling have been too timid or puerile. We have experimented at aerial navigation, as if the brief span of air were a step in the mighty distance which separates us from our sister planets. As well might steamboats have been invented to cross narrow streams, and never have ventured on the mighty ocean! We have tried to imitate the bird, the kite, and the balloon, and our experiments have failed, and always must, so long as we do not look farther and think deeper. Every Icarus who attempts to overcome the force of gravity, which conquers planets, and propel himself through the air by any sort of apparatus, will always finish the trip with a wiser but badly bruised head."
"Still, it has been freely predicted," I ventured, "that this century will not close without the invention of a successful air-travelling machine."
"And I alone have hit upon the right plan, because I have not attempted to struggle against gravity, but have made use of it only for propelling my projectile!" exclaimed the doctor triumphantly.
"But wait!" I interposed. "Gravity acts only in one direction, and that is exactly opposite to the one you propose to travel."
"That brings me to the very important discovery I made in physics two years ago, upon which the whole success of the projectile rests. You will remember that, according to the text-books, very little is known about gravity except the laws of its action. What it is, and how it can be controlled or modified, have never been known. Electricity was as much a mystery fifty years ago, but we know all its attributes. We can make it, store it, control it, and use it for almost every necessity of life. The era of electricity is in full bloom, but the era of gravitational force is just budding."
"Can it be that we have as much to learn from gravity as electricity has taught us in the last half-century?" I exclaimed, as my eyes began to open.
"I believe it will teach us far more wonderful things, because it will take us to unknown worlds, while electricity has been confined to Earth. Its realm is the wide universe. It will show us what life there is on the planets. It will make us at home with the stars.
"What!" he continued in a sort of ecstasy. "Do you think all great discoveries are over, all wonderful inventions made? As well might a trembling child, elated with the success of its first feeble steps alone, suppose it had exhausted all the possibilities of life. We are but spelling over the big letters on the title page of the primary book of knowledge. There be other pages and grander chapters further on. There be greater volumes, and sweeter, more expressive tongues which man may learn some day.
"Has a reasoning Divinity created the heavens and peopled the myriad stars with thinking, capable beings, who must be perpetually isolated? Or may they not know each other some time? But shall we attempt to sail the vast heavens with a paper kite, or try to fly God's distances with the wings of fluttering birds? Nay; we must use God's engine for such a task. Has He tied the planets to the sun, and knitted the suns and their systems into one great universe obedient to a single law, with no possibility that we may use that law for intercommunication? With what wings do the planets fly around the sun, and the suns move through the heavens? With the wings of gravity! The same force for minute satellite or mighty sun. It is God's omnipotence applied to matter. Let us fly with that!"
"But will you permit me to suggest that we are soaring before the projectile is built?" I put in.
"Quite right. Let us come back to Earth, and return to facts. My studies in physics led me to believe that all natural forces—gravity, centrifugal force, and even capillary attraction—are, like electricity and magnetism, both positive and negative in their action. If they do not normally alternate between a positive and negative current, as electricity does, they can be made to do so. Gravity and capillary attraction, as we know them, always act positively; that is, they always attract. On the other hand, centrifugal force always acts negatively; that is, it always repels. But each of these forces, I believe, can temporarily be made to act opposite to its usual manner. I know this to be the case with gravity, for I have caused its positive and negative currents to alternate; that is, I have made it repel and then attract, and so on, at will, by changing the polarity of the body which it acts upon."
"Now that I remember it," I added, "our original ideas of magnetism were that it simply attracted. We knew the lodestone drew the steel, but only on better acquaintance did we learn of its alternating currents, attractive and repellant."
"I have positively demonstrated with my working model that I can reverse the force of gravity acting upon the model, and make it sail away into space. I will show you this whenever you like. It is so arranged that the polarizing action ceases in three minutes, after which the positive current controls, and the model falls to the Earth again."
"But have you ever attempted a trip yet?" I inquired.
"Oh, no. The model was not built to carry me, but it has demonstrated all the important facts, and I now need ten thousand dollars to build one large enough to carry several persons, and to equip it with everything necessary to make a trip to one of the planets. With a man inside to control the currents, it will be far more easily managed than the experimental model has been."
"Suppose you had the projectile built, and everything was ready for a start," I said, "what would be the method of working it?"
"I should enter the forward compartment," began the doctor.
"But would you make the trial trip yourself?"
"I certainly would not trust the secret of operating the currents to any one else," he remarked, with emphasis. "And will you accompany me in the rear compartment?"
"No, indeed; unless you will promise to return in time for the following day's market," I replied.
"Then I shall engage some adventurous fellow as assistant. First, we must set the rudder, which is both horizontal and vertical, so that the projectile can be steered up, down, or to either side. Having fixed it so as to be directed a little upward, I begin with the currents. Suppose the projectile weighs a ton, I gradually neutralize the positive current, which we are acquainted with as gravity. When it is exactly neutralized, the projectile weighs nothing, and the pressure of the air is enough to make it rise more rapidly than a balloon. When I have created a negative current, the projectile acquires a buoyancy equal to its previous weight. That is, it will now fall up as rapidly as it would previously have fallen down. It will not do to put on the full negative current at once, for we should acquire a velocity that would simply burn us up by friction with the atmosphere. However, the air is soon passed; if in the ether beyond there is very little friction, or none at all, we shall go at full speed, which will be the constantly increasing velocity of a falling body.
"Somewhere between the Earth and the nearest planet," he continued, "there is a place where the attraction of one is just equal to the attraction of the other; and if a body is stopped in that fatal spot it will be anchored there for ever, by the equally matched forces tugging in opposite directions. There is such a dead line between all the planets, and our principal danger lies in falling into one of these, for we should remain there a twinkling star throughout eternity! We must trust to our momentum to carry us past this point, and into space where the gravitational attraction of the other planet is paramount. Then we must promptly change our current from negative to positive, so that the other planet will attract us to her. Otherwise, she would repel us back to the dead line.
"With a positive current we are now literally falling into the new planet. We need not land unless we wish, for as soon as we enter a resisting atmosphere we can steer a course lacking barely a quarter of being directly away from the planet, just as you can sail a boat three quarters against the wind."
"But suppose you experiment at making a landing on this new planet?" I suggested.
"Very well. Of course, as soon as we enter an atmosphere, it behoves us to travel slowly to avoid overheating. We can still safely travel several hundred miles an hour, however. We continue falling until rather near the planet; then, turning the rudder gently down, we can sail around and around the planet until we choose our landing place. Gently reversing currents, a mild negative one soon overcomes our momentum. Tempering our currents experimentally to the pressure of the air, we can, if we desire, float like a feather and be wafted with every breeze. Just a suspicion of a positive current brings us gently to the surface, and, when we have cooled, we unscrew the rear port-hole and crawl out to explore a new world."
I had mentally made the trip, and was not only intensely interested, but infinitely pleased. I was lost for some time with my imagination on the new sphere, but presently my mind returned to the practical side of the question, and I inquired,—
"Are you quite sure that ten thousand dollars will be sufficient to build and fully equip the projectile?"
"Yes, quite certain," he answered with decision. "It will be ample for that and for the expenses of forming a corporation to own my patents and exploit the invention. It is easy to see the projectile will be cheap of construction. No machinery is necessary; no strong building to withstand enormous shocks or anything of that kind. The principal expenditures will be for stores of food and for scientific and astronomical instruments. Of course, I wish to show you my working model and my plans for the practical projectile, and to explain to you many further details."
It was growing dark. I arose, turned on the electric light, and rang my bell. The office boy entered.
"Teddy, tell all the boys they may go, except Flynn. Ask him to wait, please."
I was quite used to making ten thousand dollar bargains in a few seconds of time and without the scratch of a pen. I had risked more money than that on the fact that Slater looked worried and Bawker was very cross when at his office, and it had won immensely. But here, what a prospect, what a far-reaching, all-encircling prospect it was! No time was to be lost; besides, there was pleasure to me in driving a good bargain and driving it quickly.
"And if I give you the ten thousand dollars, what do I get in return?" I asked, mentally placing my part at fifty-five per cent. of the shares at the lowest, so that I might control the company.
"You may organize the corporation yourself. The projectile must bear my name, and I must have the credit for all discoveries and inventions. Then you may give me such a part of the shares of the company as you think right," he replied.
On hearing this, I mentally advanced my portion to seventy-five per cent. Then I said,—
"When the projectile is built and proves successful, who is to manage the affairs of the company? Who is to finance it and raise further funds for exploiting its business?"
"I have no capacity for business," he declared. "I have no ambition to be a Pullman or an Edison. I would rather see myself a Franklin or a Fulton. You shall manage all the business affairs."
"Then I will undertake the whole matter, and give you my cheque for ten thousand dollars to-night, provided you allow me—ninety-five per cent. of the company's shares!" I said, simulating a burst of generosity.
Doctor Anderwelt ploughed his hair and harrowed his beard. He knew this was giving too much, but to have the projectile built, to sail away, to make all those grand new discoveries, to write books, and have future generations pronounce his name reverently along with Kepler and Newton! I did not believe he would have the courage to say no. While he meditated, my bell summoned Flynn.
"Please draw a cheque for ten thousand dollars to the order of Hermann Anderwelt," I said, watching the doctor as I spoke. There was indecision in his face.
"Suppose I allow you, say, ninety per cent.?" he said at last.
I was signing the cheque Flynn had brought me. "Done!" I cried, handing it over. He scanned it carefully, and after a long time said,—
"Mars is nearest to the Earth on the third day of next August. Fortunately Chicago is a good place to do things in a hurry. The projectile must be ready to start early in June, but its construction and its first trip must be kept a profound secret."
The doctor must have been hungry since noon. He began munching a chicken sandwich. The cold planked whitefish tasted quite as good as smoked herrings, perhaps, and strawberry short-cake in March was a luxury which he evidently appreciated.
Structure of the Projectile
A few weeks later I received a letter from Dr. Anderwelt asking me to call at his rooms on the West Side that afternoon, as soon as the market had closed. He desired to exhibit and explain the drawings of the new projectile and talk over the preparations for the trip. I had been so engrossed with every sort of worry that I had thought but little of the doctor and his grand schemes of late. But now I was anxious to know what progress he was making. Sometimes I felt that I had been foolish to put any money into the thing; but the doctor's idea of reversing gravity was so simple and so elemental, that I marvelled it had never occurred to scientists before.
After the market I hunted up the street and number the doctor had given me, and found a little, dingy boarding-house, lost among machine shops and implement factories, near the west side of the river. In a third-floor back room, with one small window looking out on dark, sooty buildings and belching chimneys, Dr. Anderwelt was thinking out all the incidental problems, and preparing for all the emergencies that might arise on a trip of some forty million miles, through unknown space, to a strange planet whose composition was unguessed.
The walls of the room were soiled and bare, except for blue-prints of drawings from which the projectile was being built in neighbouring foundries. There were but two plain, hard chairs in the room. The doctor sat on one with a pillow doubled up under him for a cushion. He was bending over a draughting board, which was propped up on the bed during the day and went under it at night.
Three flights of steep stairs had taken my breath, and I dropped into the other hard chair and exclaimed,—
"I say, Doctor, why didn't you take an office in the twelfth heaven of a modern office building over in town, where they have elevators? I have really forgotten how to climb stairs. Didn't I furnish you money enough to do this thing right?"
"Don't you think this is a good place?" he inquired in some surprise. "The rent is cheap, and it is convenient to the work. But speaking of elevators, we are going to revolutionize all that. No more hoisting or hydraulic lifts after we apply our ideas to the lifting of these elevator cages!"
"I am afraid this idea of negative gravity is apt to revolutionize everything, and generally upset the entire universe," I replied. "I have been wondering what would happen if you were to apply a negative current to this Earth of ours and send it whirling out of its orbit, an ostracised Pariah, repelled by all the celestial bodies!"
"Not the slightest danger of any such calamity," he answered. "The reversal of polarity can only be accomplished with comparatively small and insignificant masses. It would be impossible to impart a negative condition even to the smallest satellite. Our projectile will weigh but a few thousand pounds, compared to the millions of tons of the smallest celestial bodies. The Creator has looked out for the stability of the universe, never fear for that! And He has also given us a few hints of negative currents and repellant gravities in the form of meteorites and falling stars, which cannot be so well explained by any other theory. But what I want to talk to you about is the vital importance of providing against every possible emergency before starting on this trip through space. A trifling oversight in the preparations may mean death in the end, and things we put no value on here we might be willing to give a fortune for on Mars!"
"Well, let's hear how this thing is built," I said, rising and facing the larger blue-print. "So that's the shape of it, is it? Looks like a cigar!"
"Yes, the design resembles that of a torpedo considerably," replied the doctor, and referring to the sectional blue-print he began explaining the construction.
"This outer covering is a crust of graphite or black lead, inside which is a two-inch layer of asbestos. Both of these resist enormous heats, and they will prevent our burning by friction with atmospheres, and protect us against extremes of cold. Also, when we are ready, they will enable us to visit planets about whose cooled condition we are not certain. We might touch safely for a short time on a molten planet with this covering.
"Next comes the general outer framework of steel, just within which, and completely surrounding the living compartments, are the chambers for the storage of condensed air for use on the trip. These chambers are lined inside with another layer of asbestos. Now, air being a comparatively poor conductor of heat, and asbestos one of the best non-conductors we know of, this insures a stable temperature of the living compartments, regardless of the condition without, whether of extreme heat or extreme cold. Afterward comes the inner framework of steel, and lastly a wainscotting of hard wood to give the compartments a finish."
"How large are these living rooms?" I inquired.
"The rear one is four feet high and eight feet long. The forward one, designed for my own use, is longer, and must contain a good-size telescope and all my scientific instruments. The apparatus with which I produce the currents is built into the left wall, and it acts on the steel work of the projectile only. The rear compartment has a sideboard for preparing meals, which will have to be wholly of bread, biscuits, and various tinned vegetables and meats. We shall not attempt any cooking."
"But are there no windows for looking out?" I queried.
"Certainly, there are two of them, made of thick mica. One is directly in the front end, through which my telescope will look. The other is in the port-hole in the rear end. Each window is provided with an outer shutter of asbestos, which can be closed in case of great heat or cold. You will notice the two compartments can be separated by an air-tight plunger, fitting into the aperture between them. It will be necessary for both of us to occupy the same compartment while the air is being changed in the other. The foul air will be forced outside by a powerful pump until a partial vacuum is created. Then a certain measure of condensed air is emptied in, and expands until the barometer in that compartment indicates a proper pressure."
"The air will be made to order while you wait, then?" I put in.
"That is exactly what will be done in a more literal manner than you may suppose!" exclaimed the doctor. "This air problem is a most interesting one, for we must educate ourselves on the trip to use the sort of atmosphere we expect to find when we land. For instance, going to Mars we must use an atmosphere more and more rarefied each day, until gradually we become used to the thin air we expect to find there. Of course, there is an especially designed barometer and thermometer, capable of being read in the rear compartment, but exposed outside near the rudder. The barometer will give us the pressure of the earthly atmosphere as it becomes more and more rare with our ascent. It will show us what pressure there is of the ether, which may vary considerably, depending on our nearness to heavenly bodies. It will also immediately indicate to us when we are entering any new atmosphere. When we have arrived at Mars, we shall observe the exact pressure of the Martian air, and then manufacture one of the same pressure inside, and try breathing it before we venture out. The thermometer will give us the temperature of the ether, will indicate the loss of heat as we leave the sun, and will show us the Martian temperature before we venture into it."
"But you have said the condensed air will be used to resist the outer heat. This will certainly make it so hot it will be unfit to breathe," I interposed.
"Ah, but you forget that the quick expansion of a gaslike air produces cold. We shall regulate our temperature in that way. If it is becoming too warm inside, the new measure of condensed air will be quickly introduced into the partial vacuum, and its sudden expansion will produce great cold, and freeze ice for us if we wish it. On the other hand, if the compartments are already cold, we shall allow the condensed air to enter very gradually, and its slow expansion will produce but little cold. The question of heating the projectile is the most difficult one I have found. We cannot have any fires, for there is no way for the smoke to escape, and we cannot carry oxygen enough to keep them burning. I have decided that we must depend on the heat arising from outer friction and from absorption of the Sun's rays by our black surface. When we are in ether where friction is very little, the velocity will be all the greater, and I believe we shall always be warm enough. You must remember, we shall not have the slightest suspicion of a draught, and we must necessarily take along the warmest clothing for use on Mars. Even then we probably cannot safely visit any but his equatorial districts."
"This is the rudder, I suppose; but haven't you put it in wrong end first?" I asked. "It is just the opposite of a fish's tail. You have the widened end near the projectile and the narrow end extending."
"Yes, and with good reason. You will note that the rudder slides into the rear end of the projectile so that none of it extends out. This is a variable steering apparatus, adapted to every sort of atmosphere. Naturally, a rudder that would steer in the water, might not steer the same craft in the air. There is probably a vaster difference between air and ether than between water and air. It is necessary, therefore, to have a small rudder with but little extending surface in thick atmosphere; but when it becomes thinner the rudder must be pushed out, so that a greater surface will offer resistance. When we start, the smallest portion of this rudder moved but the sixteenth of an inch, up, down, or to either side, will quickly change our course correspondingly. When we have reached the ether, the full surface of the rudder pushed out and exposed broadside may not have much effect in changing our course. This is one of the things that we cannot possibly know till we try. However, if ether is anything at all but a name, if it is the thinnest, lightest conceivable gas, and we are rushing through it at a speed of a thousand miles a minute, our rudder certainly should have some effect."
"But suppose you cannot steer at all in the ether, what then?" I interposed, hunting all the trouble possible.
"Even that will not be so very dreadful, provided we have taken a true course for Mars while coming through the Earth's atmosphere. There is no other planet or star nearer to us than Mars when in opposition. Therefore there will be nothing to attract us out of our correct course; and if we can manage to come anywhere near the true course, the gravitational attraction of Mars will draw us to him in a straight line. The Moon might give us some trouble, and we shall be obliged, either to avoid her entirely by starting so as to cross her orbit when she is on the opposite side of the Earth, or else go directly to the Moon, land there, and make a new start. But if the ether which surrounds the Moon (for she has no atmosphere so far as we know) has no resisting power whatever, we might have rather a difficult time there. The only thing we could do would be to land on the side toward the Earth, then disembark and carry the projectile on our shoulders around the Moon to the opposite side, making a new start from there!"
"What on earth do you mean?" I exclaimed, interrupting. "Land on a satellite which has no atmosphere, and carry this projectile, weighing over a ton, half-way around the globe?"
"But the point is, it isn't on the Earth, but on the Moon! Think it over a little, and see how easily we could do it now. In the first place, we shall always carry divers' suits and helmets, to use in going ashore on planets having no atmosphere. Air will be furnished through tubes from inside the compartments. In the second place, the projectile in its natural state will hardly weigh two hundred pounds on the Moon, since the mass of that satellite is so much less than the Earth's, and weight therefore proportionately less. But you must remember I can make the projectile weigh nothing at all, so one of us could run ahead and tow it, as a child would play with its toy balloon."
"I perceive you have already made this trip several times, and are quite familiar with everything. But in case the Moon's surface is not suitable for foot passengers, what then? I understand it to be rough, jagged, mountainous, and even crossed by immense, yawning, unbridged fissures."
"That is most likely true, and for that reason we must carry a jointed punt-pole, and take turns standing on the back, landing and punting along through space just above the surface. Do you remember how far you can send a slightly shrunk toy balloon with one light blow? And how it finally stops with the resistance of the air? Without any resisting atmosphere, how far and how easily could it be sent along?"
"I can quite imagine you, astride the rudder of this thing, with a punt-pole as long as a ship's mast and as light as a broom-straw, bumping and skipping along in the utter darkness on the other side of the Moon; scaling mountains, bridging yawning chasms, and skimming over sombre sea-beds!" I laughed, for it aroused my active sense of the ridiculous.
"And the Moon may be well worth the exploration," exclaimed the always serious doctor. "Who knows what treasure of gold and silver, or other metals, rare and precious here, may not be found there? Why was the Moon ever created without an atmosphere, and therefore probably without the possibility of ever being inhabited? Is it put there only to illume our nights? Remember, we do the same service for her fourteen times as well; and if she has inhabitants they may think the Earth exists only for that purpose. Is it not more reasonable to suppose that some vast treasures are there, which the Earth will some day be in pressing need of? That it is a great warehouse of earthly necessities, which will be discovered just as they are being exhausted here? And who knows but we may be the discoverers ourselves? If the satellite is uninhabited, it will belong to the first explorers. Its treasures may be ours! We shall at least have a monopoly on the only known method of getting there and bringing them away."
"Ah! now you tempt me to go with you," I said, in a mild excitement. "Now I see myself, erect on the rudder, a new Count of Monte Cristo, waving the long punt-pole majestically, and exclaiming, 'The Moon is mine!'"
What is on Mars?
"I only wish you would come along with me," replied the doctor. "I have no idea what intelligent, educated person I can persuade to accompany me, unless he is given an interest in the discoveries. You are the person most interested in the enterprise, and you should go. If it is money-making that detains you here, you may rest assured that we shall find fortunes for both of us somewhere."
"I am a slave to the excitement of my business," I answered. "I could not possibly spend two or three months in a lonely cell, flying through space, without a ticker or a quotation of the market. Besides, there are people on the earth I should not care to leave, unless I was certain of getting back soon."
"You may be sure of excitement enough, and of a continuously novel kind. Besides, of what interest are the people of this earth, who are all alike, and whom we have known all our lives, compared with the rapture of finding a new and different race, of investigating another civilization, and exploring an entire new world?"
"I shall have to warn my friends about you and have myself watched, lest you persuade me and run away with me when the time comes. If your adventures are half as exciting and varied as your theories, I should hate to miss them. But tell me why you have chosen Mars for a first visit."
"Because of all the planets he is the one which most resembles the Earth in all the essential conditions of life. He is the Earth's little brother, situated next farther out in the path from the Sun. He has the same seasons, day and night of the same length, and zones of about the same extent. He possesses air, water, and sufficient heat to make habitation by us quite possible. Moreover, his gravity problem will not put earthly visitors at a disadvantage, as it would on the very large planets, but rather at a distinct advantage over the Martians."
"What do you expect to find on Mars?" I queried.
"That is a very comprehensive question, and any answer is the merest guess-work, guided by a few known facts," replied the doctor. "The principal controlling fact is the reduced gravitational attraction of Mars, which will make things weigh about one-third as much as on the Earth. The air will be far less dense than here. In the mineral kingdom the dense metals will be very rare. I doubt if platinum will be found at all; gold and silver very little; iron, lead, and copper will be comparatively scarce, while aluminium may be the common and useful metal. Gases should abound, and doubtless many entirely new to us will be there. It is not unlikely that many of these will serve as foods for the animals and intelligent beings. It is also quite possible that the heavier gases may run in channels, like rivers, and be alive with winged fish and chameleons."
"How about vegetation?" I suggested.
"The vegetable kingdom will certainly not be rank and luxurious, because there is not enough sunlight or heat for that; nor will it be gnarled and tough, but more likely spongy and cactus-like. The weak gravity will oppose but a mild resistance to the activity and climbing propensities of vegetable sap, however, which is likely to result in very tall, slender trees. The forces that lie hidden in an acorn should be able to build a most grandly towering oak on Mars. Among the animals the species of upright, two-legged things is apt to abound. There is no reason for four legs when the body weighs but little. On the Earth an extremely strong development of the lower limbs is necessary for upright things, as is shown in the cases of kangaroos and men. In order that a cow might go comfortably on two legs, she would have to be furnished with the hind-legs of an elephant; but not so on Mars. Creeping things would be very few, and it is possible that fish may fly in the water with a short pair of wings. What four-legged animals there are will very likely be large and monstrous; for an enormous animal could exist comfortably and move about easily without clumsiness. For instance, an earthly elephant transferred to Mars would weigh only one-third as much, and so there might well be elephants three times as large as ours, perfectly able to handle themselves with ease."
"By the same reasoning then, I suppose the intelligent beings, or what we call men, will be great giants twenty-five feet high?" I put in.
"Some have thought so, but I do not at all agree with them," replied the doctor. "I stick to the theory of small men for small planets, and large men for large planets. There is no possible reason for a large man on Mars, where muscular development is uncalled for and useless, and where the inhabitable space is small. If there are men on Jupiter, they must of necessity be enormously strong to hold themselves up and resist gravitation. If they walk upright (which I think unlikely), their legs must be very large and as solid as iron. The Martian legs are likely to be small and puny, and I believe the upper limbs will be much more strongly developed. In fact, on Mars the Creator had His one great opportunity of making a flying man, and I do not think He has overlooked it. With a rather small, tightly-knit frame, and the upper limbs developed into wings as long as the body, flying against the weak Martian gravitation would be perfectly easy, and a vast advantage over walking."
"Ah! then perhaps they will fly out to meet you!" I ejaculated.
"If they do, they will be stricken with fear to see that we fly without wings and so much more rapidly," he answered, and continued: "If a flying race has been created there, we shall probably find the atmosphere deeper and relatively (though not actually) denser than the Earth's. This would serve to add buoyancy and still further diminish weight, thus making flying quite natural and simple. I certainly do not believe that the Martians are subjected to the tedium of walking. If they do not fly, they will at least make long, swift, graceful hops or jumps of some ten or fifteen feet each. This would require a more hinged development of the lower limbs, like a bird's. It is also possible that the lower limbs may have the prehensile function, and do all the handling and working."
"But how about intelligence and intellectual development? That is the main thing, after all," said I.
"To answer that takes one into the realm of pure speculation. There are but few facts to guide one's guesses. But the trip yonder is worth making, if only to learn that. I do not incline to the opinion that their civilization is vastly older and more developed than ours. Granting the nebular theory of the origin of the universe (which is, after all, only a guess), it is not even then certain that Mars was thrown off the central sun before the Earth. It is much smaller, and may have been thrown off later and travelled farther for this reason. Another good reason for believing in a less advanced civilization is the length of the Martian year and consequent sluggishness of the seasons. He requires 687 of our days to complete his sun revolution, making his years nearly twice as long as ours. I believe his whole development is at a correspondingly slow rate of speed."
"Which do you think is the most advanced and enlightened planet, then?" I ventured.
"That one which finds a way to visit the others first," he answered, with a touch of pride.
"But there may be a tinge of personal conceit in that idea," I suggested.
"Possibly a mere tinge, but the essence of it is apparent truth," he declared. "That planet which has learned the most, made the greatest discoveries and the most useful inventions, is the best and fittest teacher of the others, and will be the sharpest and keenest to gather new information and formulate new science. It is eminently fit that representatives of such a planet should visit the others, and eminently unfit that any primitive civilization engaged in base wars and striving for mere conquest should be allowed that privilege. An all-wise Creator would not permit a huge, strong, ignorant race entirely to overrun and extinguish one weaker but more intelligent. He might permit a strong, intelligent, masterful race to rule and direct a weaker and dependent one, as a schoolmaster rules and guides a child."
"Then you think we are the wise and masterful race?"
"As no other race has yet discovered us; as they have all left the Space Problem unsolved, and as it has been uncovered to us, that is my irresistible conclusion."
"Still, you will not go with ideas of conquest, but to teach and to learn?"
"We shall take with us swords, shields, and fire-arms, for defence. Unless I mistake the nature of their metals, our steel will resist any weapon they can manufacture. But what explosives or what noxious gases they may have, all strange to us, it is impossible to conjecture. Therefore, we shall go with peace in our hands."
"What progress do you think they have made in inventions?" I suggested, as the doctor hesitated.
"If they are winged men, I should say they have never felt that urgent need of railroads, steam boats, telegraphs and telephones, which was the mother of their invention here. Flying or air-travelling machines will no more have occurred to them than a walking machine to us. They will have thoroughly explored every part of their planet, and it is possible that their cities will have been built on high plateaus, or even on mountain peaks. But they will not have builded greatly, for they will have been able to use the great architecture of nature in a way impossible to us."
"Have you heard the theory advanced by some humorous scientist not long ago, that the organs of locomotion and prehension would some day, or on some planet, be supplanted by machinery, and that digestive apparatus would give way for artificially prepared blood?" I asked.
"Oh, yes, that fanciful idea is novel, but irrational. It makes man only a fraction of a being. On every planet, no matter what the advancement of civilization, we shall find complete beings, not dependent on adventitious machinery for locomotion or labour, or on artificial or animal blood for nutriment. Think how helpless such a creature would be at the loss or rusting of his machinery, and at the exhaustion of just the right sort of nutritive fluid. Our digestive apparatus will convert a thousand different foods into blood. Suppose we could live only on buffalo meat? We should all have been dead long ago. We might as well imagine men as mere fungus brains, swimming in rivers of blood; or as beings beyond the necessity of personal thought, and living on brain sandwiches, cut from the thinking heads of others. Eating is not only a necessity, but a pleasure——"
"That is just what I was thinking," I interposed, looking at my watch, for it was growing late.
"Well, now I have told you how I would have peopled Mars had the order been sent to me here to do it," said the doctor, "will you go along with me, and see how nearly I am right?"
"I am afraid not," I replied; "my business ties forbid. However, I want to see you make the start and the moment you return!"
On the tenth day of June, Dr. Anderwelt had written me as follows:
"Please catch the 7.25 train on the Lake Shore for Whiting this evening. I will take the same train, and we will walk from Whiting to a deserted railway siding two miles further on, where the projectile has been shipped. We will unload it from the flat car and take it into a grove of scrub oaks on the shore of Lake Michigan, near by. This will be enough to demonstrate to you our control of gravity. The experimental model is there also, and we will send it off on a trip if you like. Everything will be ready for the start to Mars to-morrow night."
I dined early and caught the train specified at Twenty-Second Street. The doctor was looking for me from the rear platform of a car. It was a local train, and crept slowly out through the smoky blackness of South Chicago, illuminated here and there by the flaming chimneys of her great iron furnaces, to the little city of pungent smells, of petroleum tanks and oil refineries, in Northern Indiana. The doctor was explaining the difficulties he had experienced in getting a companion for the trip.
"Men whom I could hire for mere wages are not intelligent enough to understand the workings of the projectile, or to comprehend the risks they may run. Besides, their companionship and assistance during the trip through space and on a new planet is worth nothing. On the other hand, I could not afford to go about explaining the workings of so important an invention miscellaneously to people capable of understanding it in an experimental search for a companion. I might not find one among twenty, and I would be tossing my secrets to the winds, and inviting all the daily papers to send their representatives to report the start. My reputation as a scientist, on the other side, is too dear to me to risk a public failure. If the projectile acts, as I am confident it must, on our return we shall take out letters patent and form our company to exploit the business features. But primarily, this is a test of the projectile and a journey of exploration and research. Business afterward."
Naturally on this point we had disagreed. My motto had always been "Business first!" and I had desired to have the patents secured immediately. But the doctor would not consent to the filing of the required specifications and claims, lest his secrets should be learned before success was demonstrated. As a compromise, the doctor had agreed to leave the necessary descriptions and data in a sealed envelope with me, which I was to be at liberty to open and place on record at any time during the doctor's absence that I might deem it necessary in order to protect our rights.
"Whom have you finally secured to go with you, then?" I asked.
"I will tell you that after we have finished to-night's work," said the doctor, and then abruptly changed the subject.
The walk from Whiting was inspiriting. It was a beautiful night. There was not a cloud in the sky and no Moon, which made the stars all the brighter. Everything was still, save the constant lapping of the great lake on the sandy shore, but a short way off.
"Yonder is the mustard seed planted in the heavens, which shall grow into a whole new world for us!" exclaimed the doctor, pointing out a particularly bright star. "That is Mars rushing on to opposition. In six weeks he will be nearest to the Earth; so for that time he will be flying to meet us. To-morrow is our last day on Earth; to-morrow night the ether! And in six weeks, diminutive but mighty man will have known two worlds!"
"There you go, soaring again!" I cried. "Let us keep on practical subjects. What have the foundry people who built this thing, and the railroad people who brought it down here, thought about its probable use? Have they not guessed something?"
"You may trust the popular mind not to guess flying unless it sees wings! They have imagined this is a new sort of torpedo, sent down here for a private trial in the lake. In fact, the conductor of the freight train, who switched the car off here, asked me in a confidential way if he should get teams and men and help me to launch her? I have fostered this idea, and really had the projectile sent here to carry out that impression."
A more fitting place for an unobserved start could not have been selected, however. All this part of the country is a sandy waste, with a sparse growth of scrub oaks and but little vegetation. There are no farms, and the nearest houses are at Whiting. No one could see our work, except, possibly, the passengers from occasional trains, which rushed by without stopping, and were infrequent at this time of day.
As we were arriving, I stood off at some distance to observe the black object on the open car. It was five feet through, and twenty feet long, not counting the rudder, which was now entirely drawn into the rear end.
"Looks exactly like a cigar," I said. "Sharp and pointed in front, slightly swelled in the middle, and cut squarely off behind. Only it is too thick for its length, of course."
But the doctor already had the rear port-hole open. This was two feet in diameter, and permitted a rather awkward entrance to the rear compartment. The interior was crowded with boxes, as yet unpacked, containing scientific instruments, tinned foods, biscuits, meat extracts, condensed milk and coffee, bottled fruits, vegetables, and the like. Over these the doctor worked his way to the forward compartment, while I followed him, anxious to explore the interior.
"I will unpack all these goods and put them in their places to-morrow forenoon," explained the doctor. "Here, in my compartment on the left, I have my gravity apparatus, battery cells and the like, and a small table for writing and other work. On the right is the bunk on which I sleep, and under it is the big telescope, neatly fitted and swinging up easily into place before the mica window."
"Has the compressed air been put in yet?" I inquired.
"Oh, yes, that had to be done in the city, where they have powerful air compressors. I would have preferred this purer air out here, but it was impossible. The air we put in only increased the weight of the projectile eighteen pounds, but it will be sufficient for two of us for six months. We were obliged to make the most careful and thorough tests for leaks in the air-chambers; for if there were any of these, our life would leak out with the air."
"And such airless satellites as the Moon will make the most desperate efforts to steal your atmosphere, too!" I added.
"Yes, but we will give them only our foul air as a small stock-in-trade with which they may begin business. But I see my batteries are commencing to work nicely. I think I can lift her now. You go outside and make a hitch with that rope you saw just forward of the middle of the projectile. Then, when I have neutralized her weight, you tow her over beyond that clump of trees you saw near the shore. That will be out of the view of trains."
"Must I concentrate my mind or keep my thoughts fixed on anything?" I asked quizzically.
"Rubbish! Concentrate it on this. If the projectile starts up, don't try to hold her with your little rope. Let go quickly, or you may get uncomfortable holding on!"
I went outside, untied the coil of rope and threw one end over. Meantime the doctor had opened the forward window, so that he might give directions, and I said to him,—
"I can't get the rope under her; she is lying flat on the car."
"Wait a moment and I will lift her for you," he replied. The railroad ties rose a little out of the sand, and there was a slight creaking of the woodwork of the car as the weight came off. Presently the forward end of the projectile rose slowly an inch, two inches!
"That's enough!" I cried, thrusting the rope under, and she settled back gently. Having made my knot, I went out to the other end of the rope, about thirty feet distant. Forgetting the doctor's injunction about not hanging on, I wrapped the rope around my body, worked my feet firmly into the sand, and finally cried out, "All ready!"
There was a faint creaking of the car again, and soon the doctor said, "Pull away!" I threw all my force into the effort and gave a tremendous heave, and tumbled over backwards. Had I not done so, the projectile must have hit me as it glided rapidly from the car, sinking very slowly to the sand about fifty feet away. I scrambled to my feet, went in front again, and easily dragged it along on the sand to an open place just beyond the trees. There the doctor allowed it to settle. It sank into the loose sand about eight inches, remaining steady in this position.
"She works beautifully!" I cried. "How I would like to see her turned loose for a real flight!"
"That will come to-morrow night," said the doctor, crawling out of the port-hole. "But if you will help me remove these boxes from the experimental model, you shall see it lost in the sky." We uncovered and dragged out a small steel thing, about the same shape as the projectile, but less than a foot thick and four feet long. It had a lid opening into its batteries from the top. The doctor entered his compartment to secure some chemicals.
"If you have no further use for this model," I suggested, "why not create a very strong current and let it sail off into indefinite space?"
"Very well; I don't wish to leave it behind me for some one to discover, and I can't take it along. We will send it off for a long trip, and if it falls back it will be into the lake."
"Wait a moment, then! Let's put a good-bye message in it;" and so saying I took an old envelope from my pocket and wrote on the back of it with a pencil in a bold hand: "Farewell to Earth for ever!" Laughing, I put this inside and closed the lid.
Then the doctor turned down a thumb-screw upon a little wire which connected the poles, and stepped back quickly. Presently the forward end began to rise slowly, until it stood upright, but there it hesitated. The doctor stepped forward and gave the thumb-screw a hard turn down, and the model lifted immediately, rising at first gradually, but soon shooting off with the whizz of a rocket over the lake. We watched it as long as we could distinguish its dark outline.
"It will go a long way," said the doctor. "I have never seen it make so good a start. It will lose itself in the lake far from here."
We fastened up the front window and the port-hole, and started back to Whiting, where the doctor was to remain all night, so as to begin work early in the morning. Presently, as we walked along, the doctor said,—
"Well, Isidor, now you have seen a practical demonstration of the elementary working of the projectile. You also have some idea of all there is to be discovered up yonder in the red planet. You are the most interested in making and profiting by those discoveries. I want you to consent to go along."
"Haven't you secured a companion, then?" I inquired.
"Yes, I have a friend, a countryman of mine here, who will go wherever I say. He appreciates neither the risks nor the opportunities of the trip, still he will take my word for everything. Yet if I ask him to go I take the responsibility of his life as well as my own. He is not a suitable man, however, and I have really relied on you to come," he insisted.
"My dear doctor, I have every faith in you and in the projectile, and I prophesy a most successful trip. I should like nothing better than the adventure; but you must not count on me; I could not leave my business. There's a fever in my blood that thirsts for it!"
"Your business, indeed! You will never really amount to much till you have left it. It's half a throw of dice and the other half a struggle of cut-throats!"
"That is what people say who know nothing at all about it," I retorted. "It occupies a large and important place in the world's commerce. Besides, I could not well leave Ruth and my uncle."
"Isn't it time you did something to make her proud of you, and to be worthy the education which he gave you? You have a chance now to be great. Isn't that worth ten chances to be rich? What would you have thought of Galileo if he hadn't had time to use the telescope after inventing it, but had devoted his time and talent to the maccaroni market? You are one man in ten million; you have an opportunity Columbus would have been proud of! Will you neglect it for mere gold-grubbing? Leave that to the rest of your race and to this money-mad Chicago. You come along with me. Let's make this work-a-day world of ours take time to stop and shake hands with her heavenly neighbours!"
"You tempt me to do it, Doctor! Can you wait two or three days for me?"
"I can, but Mars won't," he answered laconically. "Besides, you must not tell any one that you are going."
"If there are any two things I love, it's a secret and a hurry! I will be here to-morrow night," I exclaimed.
Farewell to Earth
The next day I quietly bought in my wheat, and told Flynn I was thinking of taking a little vacation. I said I was worn out fighting the contrary market, and told him to run the office as if it were his own until I returned. At home I said nothing about the vacation, for I didn't care to have my stories agree very perfectly. I simply packed a few necessities for the trip in a dress-suit case. My uncle was used to seeing me carry my evening clothes to the Club in this manner, and I casually told him I should remain the night this time.
I could not leave without kissing cousin Ruth good-bye, but this excited no suspicion, as it was a thing I did on every pretext. Then I slipped out and took back streets till I was several blocks away from the house. Taking a closed carriage here, I was driven to the same station and took the same train for Whiting as on the previous evening. I found the doctor awaiting me with a lantern. As we walked down the tracks in the twilight I said to him,—
"I never made so quick a preparation, nor attempted so long a trip. I have left my friends a lot of guessing! Now, how soon shall we be off?"
"Within an hour," he answered. "Mars will not be directly overhead until midnight, but there is a little side trip I wish to make first, to test the projectile before we get too far above the Earth's surface."
The sky was densely cloudy, there was no Moon, and it was already growing very dark. As we began to have difficulty in finding the way, the doctor lighted his lantern. Peering up into the darkness, I said to him,—
"There is not a star visible. How are you to find your way in the heavens a night like this?"
"That is all perfectly easy. We shall soon rise far above those clouds, and then the stars will come out. Besides, I shall show you perfect daylight again before midnight."
"I don't see just how, but I will take your word for it, Doctor. I daresay you have thought it all out, and the whole trip will contain no surprises for you."
"I have tried to think it all out and prepare for everything. But I am certain I have forgotten something. I have a feeling amounting to a dreadful presentiment that I have overlooked something important. I wish you would see if you can think of anything I have omitted."
"The only really important thing I have remembered is half a dozen boxes of the best cigars," I replied.
"Leave them right here in Whiting," he said with emphasis. "We are carrying only a limited supply of pure air, and we cannot afford to contaminate it with tobacco smoke. No, sir, you can't smoke on this trip."
"Then I won't go! Imagine not smoking for two whole months! Do you think I have sworn off?"
"No, not yet. But you must. It pollutes the air, which we must keep clean and fresh as long as possible."
"Now, Doctor, you must let me have a good smoke once a day, just before pumping the air out of my compartment."
"No, not even that. It is impossible to pump all the air out, and what is left mixes back with what is in my compartment. Once contaminated with tobacco smoke, we could never get it perfectly pure again."
"Well, may I smoke on Mars, then? I will take them along for that. But, I warn you, I eat like a farm horse when I can't smoke."
"I have provided plenty to eat, but I know I have forgotten something. Mention something now, mention everything you can think of, so that I may see if it is provided for."
"Have you any money?" I asked. "I have changed some into gold, and have a fairly heavy bag here."
"Oh, yes, I have some gold and silver money, besides a lot of beads, trinkets, and gaudy tinsel things, such as earthly savages have been willing to barter valuable merchandise for."
"So you are going on a trading expedition, are you?" I asked.
"Not exactly. I leave all that to your superior abilities. But we may find these things valuable to give as presents. Many of them are of tin, and if they do not happen to have that useful metal on Mars, they will be of rare value there."
We had now reached the little grove where the projectile was hidden. I proceeded to open the rear port-hole, saying,—
"Let me look inside, and when I see what you have, some other necessary thing may suggest itself."
"Let me go in first, for I am afraid you will allow the menagerie to escape," he said, as he peered in by the light of the lantern. A diminutive fox terrier barked from the inside, and wagged his tail faster than a watch ticks, so glad he was to see us. The bright light also awakened a small white rabbit that had been asleep in the doctor's compartment.
"You are taking these along for companions, I suppose?"
"Yes, for that and for experiments. We may reach places where it will be necessary to determine whether living, breathing things can exist before we try it ourselves. Then we shall put one of these out and observe the effects."
"You may experiment on the rabbit all you please, but this little puppy and I are going to be fast friends, and we shall die together; shan't we, Two-spot?"
"Why do you call him Two-spot? There is only one spot on him, and his name is Himmelshundchen."
"Rubbish! The idea of such a long, heavy name for such a little puppy! I shall call him Two-spot because he is the smallest thing in the pack. Heavenly-puppy, indeed!"
The doctor had entered and lighted a small gas jet, supplied on the Pintsch system from compressed gas stored in one of the chambers. The rear compartment, which was to be mine, looked half an arsenal and half a pantry. On the right side a cupboard was filled with newly-cooked meats. I remember how plentiful the store looked at the time, but, alas! how soon it vanished and we were reduced to tinned and bottled foods! There was a cold joint of beef, a quarter of roast mutton, three boiled hams and four roast chickens.
On the left, folding up into the concavity of the wall, like the upper berth of a Pullman sleeping car, was my bunk. On the walls not thus occupied the arms were hung. There were two repeating rifles, each carrying seventeen cartridges; two large calibre hammerless revolvers; two long and heavy swords, designed for cleaving rather than for stabbing; two chain shirts, to be worn under the clothing to protect against arrows; and finally two large shields, made of overlapping steel plates and almost four feet high. The doctor explained to me that the idea was to rest the lower edge of these on the ground and crouch behind them. They were rather heavy and cumbersome to be carried far, and were grooved in three sections, so that they slipped together into an arc one-third of their circumference.
I examined everything closely and asked a hundred questions, but the doctor seemed to have provided for every necessity or contingency.
"Let us waste no more time," said I. "If we have forgotten anything, we must get along without it. All aboard! What is our first stop?"
"The planet Mars, only thirty-six million miles away, if we are successful in meeting him just as he comes into opposition on the third day of August. This is the most favourable opposition in which to meet him for the past quarter of a century. Back in the year 1877 he was only about thirty-five million miles away, and it was then that we learned most that we know of his physical features. But we shall not have a more favourable time than this for the next seventeen years."
"Still it seems like nonsense to talk about travelling such an incomprehensible distance, doesn't it?" I ventured.
"Not at all!" he replied positively. "If the Earth travels a million miles per day in her orbit, without any motion being apparent to her inhabitants, why should we not travel just as fast and just as unconsciously? We are driven by the same force. The same engine of the Creator's which drives all the universe, drives us. When we have left the atmosphere we shall rush through the void of space without knowing whether we are travelling at a thousand miles per minute or standing perfectly still. Our senses will have nothing to lay hold on to form a judgment of our rate of speed. But if we make an average of only five hundred miles per minute we shall accomplish the distance in about fifty days, and arrive soon after opposition."
"But have you given up stopping on the Moon?" I asked. "I had great hopes of making those rich discoveries there."
"We must leave all that until our return trip. I have chosen this starting time in the dark of the Moon in order to have the satellite on the other side of the Earth and out of the way. She would only impede our progress, as we wish to acquire a tremendous velocity just as soon as we leave the atmosphere. We must accelerate our speed as long as gravity will do it for us. When we can no longer gain speed, we shall at least continue to maintain our rapid pace.
"But if we stopped on the Moon, we should only have her weak gravity to repel us towards Mars, and we could make but little speed. On our return, the stop on the Moon will be a natural and easy one. We shall be near home and can afford to loiter."
While the doctor was saying this, he had been busy making tests of his apparatus. He now called me to see his buoyancy gauge, which was a half-spherical mass of steel weighing just ten pounds. It was pierced with a hole at right angles to its plane surface and strung upon a vertical copper wire. Small leaden weights, weighing from an ounce to four pounds each, were provided to be placed upon the plane surface of the steel. The doctor explained its action to me thus:—
"The polarizing action of the gravity apparatus affects only steel and iron, and has no effect upon lead. Therefore, when the current is conducted through the copper wire into the soft steel ball, it will immediately rise up the wire, by the repulsion of negative gravity. Now, if the leaden weights are piled upon the steel ball one by one, until it is just balanced half way up the wire, our buoyancy is thus measured or weighed. For instance, with the first two batteries turned in we have a buoyancy a little exceeding one pound. That means, we should rise with one-tenth the velocity that we should fall. Turning in two more batteries, you see the buoyancy is three pounds, or our flying speed will be three-tenths of our falling speed. With all the batteries acting upon the gauge, you see it will carry up more than ten pounds of lead, because the pressure of the air is against weight and in favour of buoyancy. So long as we are in atmospheres, then, it is possible to fall up more rapidly than to fall down; but, on account of friction and the resultant heat, it is not safe to do so."
"So we have been doing the hard thing, by falling all our lives, when flying would really have been easier!" I put in.
"We have been overlooking a very simple thing for a long time, just as our forefathers overlooked the usefulness of steam, being perfectly well acquainted with its expansive qualities. But let us be off. Close your port-hole, and screw it in tightly and permanently for the trip. Then let down your bunk and prepare for a night of awkward, cramped positions. We shall be more uncomfortable to-night than any other of the trip. You see, when we start, this thing will stand up on its rear end, and that end will continue to be the bottom until we begin to fall into Mars. Then the forward end will be the bottom. But after the first night our weight will have so diminished that we can sleep almost as well standing on our heads as any other way. Within fifteen hours you will have lost all idea which end of you should be right side up, and we will be quite as likely to float in the middle of the projectile as to rest upon anything."
My bed was hinged in the middle, and one end lifted up until it looked like a letter L, with the shorter part extending across the projectile and the longer part reaching up the side. I could sit in it in a half reclining posture. The doctor then pulled out a fan-like, extending lattice-work of steel slats, to form a sort of false floor over the port-hole. This was full of diamond-shaped openings between the slats, so that the view out of the rear window was not obstructed. Then he did the same to form a false floor for his compartment. Finally he said to me,—
"Now, if you are all ready, I will stand her on end;" and by applying the currents to the forward end only he caused her to rise slowly until she stood upright. The cupboard in my compartment and the desk in his end were each hung upon a central bolt, and they righted themselves as the projectile stood up, so that nothing in them was disarranged. I was sitting on the lower hinge of my bed, clutching tightly and watching everything, when the doctor called to me to turn the little wheel which operated a screw and served to push out the rudder.
"But the whole weight of the projectile is now on the rudder," I objected.
"You will have to make over all your ideas of weight," he said, with some impatience. "Run the rudder out. The gauge shows an ounce of buoyancy, which is nearly enough to counteract all the dead weight we have. You can lift the rest with the rudder-screw."
And, true enough, it was perfectly easy to whirl the little wheel around which made the rudder creep out. There was a steering wheel in the doctor's compartment and one in my own. He set it exactly amidships, and told me to prepare for the ascent. I turned out the gas in my compartment and crouched nervously over the port-hole window to watch the panorama of Earth fade away.
"Here go two batteries!" he cried. I held on frantically, expecting that we would leap into the heavens in one grand bound, as I had seen the model do. But we began to rise very slowly, a foot and a half the first second, three feet the next, and so on, as the doctor told me afterwards. It was all so slow and quiet that I was suddenly possessed with a fear that after all the projectile was a failure. Had a balloon started so slowly, it would never have risen far. This fear held me for only a minute, for when I looked down again, the landscape below was beginning to look like a dim map or a picture, instead of the reality. The doctor was steering to the northward, directly over the lake. I could see its great purple, restful surface below me, but more plainly could I discern the outline where its silvery edge bathed the white sands of the shore. Following this outline I could see a web of railroads, like ropes bent around the lower end of the lake. The night was too dark to see it long. The hundreds of huge oil tanks of Whiting had now disappeared, and I could see only the flaming tops of the iron furnaces of South Chicago. Suddenly they went out in an instant, as if a thick fog had smothered them, and there was a long minute of pale mist; and then suddenly a bright blue sky, the twinkling stars and a veil of grey shutting off all view of the Earth.
"We have passed through the clouds," said the doctor cheerily. "What does the barometer register?"
I looked, and was astonished to see the mercury down to fifteen. I asked him if he thought the barometer might be broken.
"No, that is quite right," he replied. "That is half the surface pressure, which shows that we are two and a half miles high. I have four batteries in, and we are going at a constantly increasing speed now."
I could easily believe it, for the wind howled around my compartment and whistled over the rudder aperture in a most dismal way. Whenever the rudder was changed, there was a new sound to the moaning. Still, as I looked back at the clouds, I saw that no wind was moving them. It was not wind, but only the air whistling as we rushed through it.
"Watch the barometer, and let me know the exact time when it registers seven and a half inches," said the doctor. "We shall be five miles high then, and we started at nine o'clock to a second."
I noted the rapidly sinking mercury and opened my watch. When it was just at seven and a half, I looked at the watch, and it said half a minute after nine. Knowing that could not be correct, I held it to my ear and discovered it was stopped. I attempted to wind it, but found it almost wound up.
"Something wrong with my watch, Doctor. You will have to look."
"Half a minute after nine, that can't be right!" he exclaimed. Then as the truth flashed upon him he added,—
"There is the first thing I have overlooked! Our watch springs are steel, and the magnetic currents affect them. It is strange I did not think of that, for I knew a mariner's compass would be of no use to us in steering on account of the currents. For that reason I have risen above the clouds so as to steer by the stars. I am making for the North Star yonder, now."
"We will have to get back to the same primitive methods of measuring time," I put in. "Neither weight clocks nor spring clocks would have been of any account. And an hour glass would tell a different tale just as gravity varied. We will have to rely on the Moon and stars, and it may be rather awkward." But I did not then appreciate how awkward it would be when even the markings of day and night would be taken away from us.
"We can count our pulse or go by our stomachs," said the doctor, who was really disappointed at having forgotten anything. But he was destined to get used to that. Presently he inquired,—
"What is the barometer now? Perhaps we are high enough for the present."
"There is scarcely two inches of mercury in the tube!" I cried out.
He hesitated for a moment as if calculating, and then said,—
"That makes us ten miles high. Work the rudder gradually very much farther out for this thinner atmosphere, and we will try falling awhile, with a long slant to northward."
And so saying, the doctor detached all the polarizing batteries, and I could hear the monotonous howling of the wind die down; and the whistling ceased altogether as the feeble resistance of the rarefied air slowly but surely overcame our momentum. As we began to fall, the doctor turned the rudder hard down, in order to give us a long sailing slant. This modified the position of the projectile so that it lay almost flat again, with a dip of the forward end downward.
"Lie down and have a nap while she is in this comfortable position," he said to me. "When you waken, I shall have a surprise for you."
The Terrors of Light
I was weary from the trials of the day on Earth, and fell asleep easily. It was the red sunlight streaming in at the port-hole that awakened me. I thought I had slept but a very short time, but the night was evidently over. As soon as the doctor heard me moving, he cried out to me,—