Sunday, October 14, 2007



by H.G. Wells
Chapter 1
Mr. Bedford Meets Mr. Cavor at Lympne
As I sit down to write here amidst the shadows of vine-leaves under the
blue sky of southern Italy, it comes to me with a certain quality of
astonishment that my participation in these amazing adventures of Mr.
Cavor was, after all, the outcome of the purest accident. It might have
been any one. I fell into these things at a time when I thought myself
removed from the slightest possibility of disturbing experiences. I had
gone to Lympne because I had imagined it the most uneventful place in the
world. "Here, at any rate," said I, "I shall find peace and a chance to
And this book is the sequel. So utterly at variance is destiny with all
the little plans of men. I may perhaps mention here that very recently I
had come an ugly cropper in certain business enterprises. Sitting now
surrounded by all the circumstances of wealth, there is a luxury in
admitting my extremity. I can admit, even, that to a certain extent my
disasters were conceivably of my own making. It may be there are
directions in which I have some capacity, but the conduct of business
operations is not among these. But in those days I was young, and my youth
among other objectionable forms took that of a pride in my capacity for
affairs. I am young still in years, but the things that have happened to
me have rubbed something of the youth from my mind. Whether they have
brought any wisdom to light below it is a more doubtful matter.
It is scarcely necessary to go into the details of the speculations that
landed me at Lympne, in Kent. Nowadays even about business transactions
there is a strong spice of adventure. I took risks. In these things there
is invariably a certain amount of give and take, and it fell to me finally
to do the giving. Reluctantly enough. Even when I had got out of
everything, one cantankerous creditor saw fit to be malignant. Perhaps you
have met that flaming sense of outraged virtue, or perhaps you have only
felt it. He ran me hard. It seemed to me, at last, that there was nothing
for it but to write a play, unless I wanted to drudge for my living as a
clerk. I have a certain imagination, and luxurious tastes, and I meant to
make a vigorous fight for it before that fate overtook me. In addition to
my belief in my powers as a business man, I had always in those days had
an idea that I was equal to writing a very good play. It is not, I
believe, a very uncommon persuasion. I knew there is nothing a man can do
outside legitimate business transactions that has such opulent
possibilities, and very probably that biased my opinion. I had, indeed,
got into the habit of regarding this unwritten drama as a convenient
little reserve put by for a rainy day. That rainy day had come, and I set
to work.
I soon discovered that writing a play was a longer business than I had
supposed; at first I had reckoned ten days for it, and it was to have a
pied-a-terre while it was in hand that I came to Lympne. I reckoned myself
lucky in getting that little bungalow. I got it on a three years'
agreement. I put in a few sticks of furniture, and while the play was in
hand I did my own cooking. My cooking would have shocked Mrs. Bond. And
yet, you know, it had flavour. I had a coffee-pot, a sauce-pan for eggs,
and one for potatoes, and a frying-pan for sausages and bacon - such was
the simple apparatus of my comfort. One cannot always be magnificent, but
simplicity is always a possible alternative. For the rest I laid in an
eighteen-gallon cask of beer on credit, and a trustful baker came each
day. It was not, perhaps, in the style of Sybaris, but I have had worse
times. I was a little sorry for the baker, who was a very decent man
indeed, but even for him I hoped.
Certainly if any one wants solitude, the place is Lympne. It is in the
clay part of Kent, and my bungalow stood on the edge of an old sea cliff
and stared across the flats of Romney Marsh at the sea. In very wet
weather the place is almost inaccessible, and I have heard that at times
the postman used to traverse the more succulent portions of his route with
boards upon his feet. I never saw him doing so, but I can quite imagine
it. Outside the doors of the few cottages and houses that make up the
present village big birch besoms are stuck, to wipe off the worst of the
clay, which will give some idea of the texture of the district. I doubt if
the place would be there at all, if it were not a fading memory of things
gone for ever. It was the big port of England in Roman times, Portus
Lemanus, and now the sea is four miles away. All down the steep hill are
boulders and masses of Roman brickwork, and from it old Watling Street,
still paved in places, starts like an arrow to the north. I used to stand
on the hill and think of it all, the galleys and legions, the captives and
officials, the women and traders, the speculators like myself, all the
swarm and tumult that came clanking in and out of the harbour. And now
just a few lumps of rubble on a grassy slope, and a sheep or two - and me
And where the port had been were the levels of the marsh, sweeping round
in a broad curve to distant Jungeness, and dotted here and there with tree
clumps and the church towers of old medical towns that are following
Lemanus now towards extinction.
That outlook on the marsh was, indeed, one of the finest views I have ever
seen. I suppose Jungeness was fifteen miles away; it lay like a raft on
the sea, and farther westward were the hills by Hastings under the setting
sun. Sometimes they hung close and clear, sometimes they were faded and
low, and often the drift of the weather took them clean out of sight. And
all the nearer parts of the marsh were laced and lit by ditches and
The window at which I worked looked over the skyline of this crest, and it
was from this window that I first set eyes on Cavor. It was just as I was
struggling with my scenario, holding down my mind to the sheer hard work
of it, and naturally enough he arrested my attention.
The sun had set, the sky was a vivid tranquillity of green and yellow, and
against that he came out black - the oddest little figure.
He was a short, round-bodied, thin-legged little man, with a jerky quality
in his motions; he had seen fit to clothe his extraordinary mind in a
cricket cap, an overcoat, and cycling knickerbockers and stockings. Why he
did so I do not know, for he never cycled and he never played cricket. It
was a fortuitous concurrence of garments, arising I know not how. He
gesticulated with his hands and arms, and jerked his head about and
buzzed. He buzzed like something electric. You never heard such buzzing.
And ever and again he cleared his throat with a most extraordinary noise.
There had been rain, and that spasmodic walk of his was enhanced by the
extreme slipperiness of the footpath. Exactly as he came against the sun
he stopped, pulled out a watch, hesitated. Then with a sort of convulsive
gesture he turned and retreated with every manifestation of haste, no
longer gesticulating, but going with ample strides that showed the
relatively large size of his feet - they were, I remember, grotesquely
exaggerated in size by adhesive clay - to the best possible advantage.
This occurred on the first day of my sojourn, when my play-writing energy
was at its height and I regarded the incident simply as an annoying
distraction - the waste of five minutes. I returned to my scenario. But
when next evening the apparition was repeated with remarkable precision,
and again the next evening, and indeed every evening when rain was not
falling, concentration upon the scenario became a considerable effort.
"Confound the man," I said, "one would think he was learning to be a
marionette!" and for several evenings I cursed him pretty heartily. Then
my annoyance gave way to amazement and curiosity. Why on earth should a
man do this thing? On the fourteenth evening I could stand it no longer,
and so soon as he appeared I opened the french window, crossed the
verandah, and directed myself to the point where he invariably stopped.
He had his watch out as I came up to him. He had a chubby, rubicund face
with reddish brown eyes - previously I had seen him only against the
light. "One moment, sir," said I as he turned. He stared. "One moment,"
he said, "certainly. Or if you wish to speak to me for longer, and it is
not asking too much - your moment is up - would it trouble you to
accompany me? "
"Not in the least," said I, placing myself beside him.
"My habits are regular. My time for intercourse - limited."
"This, I presume, is your time for exercise? "
"It is. I come here to enjoy the sunset."
"You don't."
"Sir? "
"You never look at it."
"Never look at it? "
"No. I've watched you thirteen nights, and not once have you looked at the
sunset - not once."
He knitted his brows like one who encounters a problem.
"Well, I enjoy the sunlight - the atmosphere - I go along this path,
through that gate " - he jerked his head over his shoulder - " and round
"You don't. You never have been. It's all nonsense. There isn't a way.
To-night for instance"
"Oh! to-night! Let me see. Ah! I just glanced at my watch, saw that I had
already been out just three minutes over the precise half-hour, decided
there was not time to go round, turned -"
"You always do."
He looked at me - reflected. "Perhaps I do, now I come to think of it. But
what was it you wanted to speak to me about? "
"Why, this! "
"This? "
"Yes. Why do you do it? Every night you come making a noise"
"Making a noise? "
"Like this " - I imitated his buzzing noise. He looked at me, and it was
evident the buzzing awakened distaste. " Do I do that? " he asked.
"Every blessed evening."
"I had no idea."
He stopped dead. He regarded me gravely. " Can it be," he said, " that I
have formed a Habit ? "
"Well, it looks like it. Doesn't it? "
He pulled down his lower lip between finger and thumb. He regarded a
puddle at his feet.
"My mind is much occupied," he said. "And you want to know why! Well, sir,
I can assure you that not only do I not know why I do these things, but I
did not even know I did them. Come to think, it is just as you say; I
never have been beyond that field. ... And these things annoy you? "
For some reason I was beginning to relent towards him. "Not annoy, I said.
"But - imagine yourself writing a play!"
"I couldn't."
"Well, anything that needs concentration."
"Ah!" he said, "of course," and meditated. His expression became so
eloquent of distress, that I relented still more. After all, there is a
touch of aggression in demanding of a man you don't know why he hums on a
public footpath.
"You see," he said weakly, " it's a habit."
"Oh, I recognise that."
"I must stop it."
"But not if it puts you out. After all, I had no business - it's something
of a liberty."
"Not at all, sir," he said, "not at all. I am greatly indebted to you. I
should guard myself against these things. In future I will. Could I
trouble you - once again? That noise? "
"Something like this," I said. " Zuzzoo, zuzzoo. But really, you know -"
"I am greatly obliged to you. In fact, I know I am getting absurdly
absent-minded. You are quite justified, sir - perfectly justified. Indeed,
I am indebted to you. The thing shall end. And now, sir, I have already
brought you farther than I should have done."
"I do hope my impertinence -"
"Not at all, sir, not at all."
We regarded each other for a moment. I raised my hat and wished him a good
evening. He responded convulsively, and so we went our ways.
At the stile I looked back at his receding figure. His bearing had changed
remarkably, he seemed limp, shrunken. The contrast with his former
gesticulating, zuzzoing self took me in some absurd way as pathetic. I
watched him out of sight. Then wishing very heartily I had kept to my own
business, I returned to my bungalow and my play.
The next evening I saw nothing of him, nor the next. But he was very much
in my mind, and it had occurred to me that as a sentimental comic
character he might serve a useful purpose in the development of my plot.
The third day he called upon me.
For a time I was puzzled to think what had brought him. He made
indifferent conversation in the most formal way, then abruptly he came to
business. He wanted to buy me out of my bungalow.
"You see," he said, "I don't blame you in the least, but you've destroyed
a habit, and it disorganises my day. I've walked past here for years -
years. No doubt I've hummed. ... You've made all that impossible! "
I suggested he might try some other direction.
" No. There is no other direction. This is the only one. I've inquired.
And now - every afternoon at four - I come to a dead wall."
"But, my dear sir, if the thing is so important to you.."
"It's vital. You see, I'm - I'm an investigator - I am engaged in a
scientific research. I live -" he paused and seemed to think. "Just over
there," he said, and pointed suddenly dangerously near my eye. "The house
with white chimneys you see just over the trees. And my circumstances are
abnormal - abnormal. I am on the point of completing one of the most
important - demonstrations - I can assure you one of the most important
demonstrations that have ever been made. It requires constant thought,
constant mental ease and activity. And the afternoon was my brightest
time! - effervescing with new ideas - new points of view."
"But why not come by still?"
"It would be all different. I should be self-conscious. I should think of
you at your play -watching me irritated - instead of thinking of my work.
Oh! I must have the bungalow."
I meditated. Naturally, I wanted to think the matter over thoroughly
before anything decisive was said. I was generally ready enough for
business in those days, and selling always attracted me; but in the first
place it was not my bungalow, and even if I sold it to him at a good price
I might get inconvenienced in the delivery of goods if the current owner
got wind of the transaction, and in the second I was, well - un -
discharged. It was clearly a business that required delicate handling.
Moreover, the possibility of his being in pursuit of some valuable
invention also interested me. It occurred to me that I would like to know
more of this research, not with any dishonest intention, but simply with
an idea that to know what it was would be a relief from play-writing. I
threw out feelers.
He was quite willing to supply information. Indeed, once he was fairly
under way the conversation became a monologue. He talked like a man long
pent up, who has had it over with himself again and again. He talked for
nearly an hour, and I must confess I found it a pretty stiff bit of
listening. But through it all there was the undertone of satisfaction one
feels when one is neglecting work one has set oneself. During that first
interview I gathered very little of the drift of his work. Half his words
were technicalities entirely strange to me, and he illustrated one or two
points with what he was pleased to call elementary mathematics, computing
on an envelope with a copying-ink pencil, in a manner that made it hard
even to seem to understand. "Yes," I said, "yes. Go on!" Nevertheless I
made out enough to convince me that he was no mere crank playing at
discoveries. In spite of his crank-like appearance there was a force about
him that made that impossible. Whatever it was, it was a thing with
mechanical possibilities. He told me of a work-shed he had, and of three
assistants - originally jobbing carpenters - whom he had trained. Now,
from the work-shed to the patent office is clearly only one step. He
invited me to see those things. I accepted readily, and took care, by a
remark or so, to underline that. The proposed transfer of the bungalow
remained very conveniently in suspense.
At last he rose to depart, with an apology for the length of his call.
Talking over his work was, he said, a pleasure enjoyed only too rarely. It
was not often he found such an intelligent listener as myself, he mingled
very little with professional scientific men.
"So much pettiness," he explained; "so much intrigue! And really, when one
has an idea - a novel, fertilising idea - I don't want to be uncharitable,
but -"
I am a man who believes in impulses. I made what was perhaps a rash
proposition. But you must remember, that I had been alone, play-writing in
Lympne, for fourteen days, and my compunction for his ruined walk still
hung about me. "Why not," said I, "make this your new habit? In the place
of the one I spoilt? At least, until we can settle about the bungalow.
What you want is to turn over your work in your mind. That you have always
done during your afternoon walk. Unfortunately that's over - you can't get
things back as they were. But why not come and talk about your work to me;
use me as a sort of wall against which you may throw your thoughts and
catch them again ? It's certain I don't know enough to steal your ideas
myself - and I know no scientific men -".
I stopped. He was considering. Evidently the thing, attracted him. "But
I'm afraid I should bore you," he said.
"You think I'm too dull? "
" Oh, no; but technicalities "
"Anyhow, you've interested me immensely this afternoon."
" Of course it would be a great help to me. Nothing clears up one's ideas
so much as explaining them. Hitherto - "
" My dear sir, say no more."
" But really can you spare the time? "
" There is no rest like change of occupation," I said, with profound
The affair was over. On my verandah steps he turned. "I am already greatly
indebted to you," he said.
I made an interrogative noise.
" You have completely cured me of that ridiculous habit of humming," he
I think I said I was glad to be of any service to him, and he turned away.
Immediately the train of thought that our conversation had suggested must
have resumed its sway. His arms began to wave in their former fashion.
The faint echo of "zuzzoo" came back to me on the breeze. ...
Well, after all, that was not my affair. ...
He came the next day, and again the next day after that, and delivered two
lectures on physics to our mutual satisfaction. He talked with an air of
being extremely lucid about the "ether" and "tubes of force," and "
gravitational potential," and things like that, and I sat in my other
folding-chair and said, " Yes," " Go on," " I follow you," to keep him
going. It was tremendously difficult stuff, but I do not thing he ever
suspected how much I did not understand him. There were moments when I
doubted whether I was well employed, but at any rate I was resting from
that confounded play. Now and then things gleamed on me clearly for a
space, only to vanish just when I thought I had hold of them. Sometimes my
attention failed altogether, and I would give it up and sit and stare at
him, wondering whether, after all, it would not be better to use him as a
central figure in a good farce and let all this other stuff slide. And
then, perhaps, I would catch on again for a bit.
At the earliest opportunity I went to see his house It was large and
carelessly furnished; there were no servants other than his three
assistants, and his dietary and private life were characterised by a
philosophical simplicity. He was a water-drinker, a vegetarian, and all
those logical disciplinary things. But the sight of his equipment settled
many doubts. It looked like business from cellar to attic - an amazing
little place to find in an out-of-the-way village. The ground-floor rooms
contained benches and apparatus, the bakehouse and scullery boiler had
developed into respectable furnaces, dynamos occupied the cellar, and
there was a gasometer in the garden. He showed it to me with all the
confiding zest of a man who has been living too much alone. His seclusion
was overflowing now in an excess of confidence, and I had the good luck to
be the recipient.
The three assistants were creditable specimens of the class of" handy-men
" from which they came. Conscientious if unintelligent, strong, civil, and
willing. One, Spargus, who did the cooking and all the metal work, had
been a sailor; a second, Gibbs, was a joiner; and the third was an
ex-jobbing gardener, and now general assistant. They were the merest
labourers. All the intelligent work was done by Cavor. Theirs was the
darkest ignorance compared even with my muddled impression.
And now, as to the nature of these inquiries. Here, unhappily, comes a
grave difficulty. I am no scientific expert, and if I were to attempt to
set forth in the highly scientific language of Mr. Cavor the aim to which
his experiments tended, I am afraid I should confuse not only the reader
but myself, and almost certainly I should make some blunder that would
bring upon me the mockery of every up-to-date student of mathematical
physics in the country. The best thing I can do therefore is, I think to
give my impressions in my own inexact language, without any attempt to
wear a garment of knowledge to which I have no claim.
The object of Mr. Cavor's search was a substance that should be "opaque "
- he used some other word I have forgotten, but "opaque" conveys the idea
- to "all forms of radiant energy." "Radiant energy," he made me
understand, was anything like light or heat, or those Rontgen Rays there
was so much talk about a year or so ago, or the electric waves of Marconi,
or gravitation. All these things, he said, radiate out from centres, and
act on bodies at a distance, whence comes the term "radiant energy." Now
almost all substances are opaque to some form or other of radiant energy.
Glass, for example, is transparent to light, but much less so to heat, so
that it is useful as a fire-screen; and alum is transparent to light, but
blocks heat completely. A solution of iodine in carbon bisulphide, on the
other hand, completely blocks light, but is quite transparent to heat. It
will hide a fire from you, but permit all its warmth to reach you. Metals
are not only opaque to light and heat, but also to electrical energy,
which passes through both iodine solution and glass almost as though they
were not interposed. And so on.
Now all known substances are "transparent" to gravitation. You can use
screens of various sorts to cut off the light or heat, or electrical
influence of the sun, or the warmth of the earth from anything; you can
screen things by sheets of metal from Marconi's rays, but nothing will cut
off the gravitational attraction of the sun or the gravitational
attraction of the earth. Yet why there should be nothing is hard to say.
Cavor did not see why such a substance should not exist, and certainly I
could not tell him. I had never thought of such a possibility before. He
showed me by calculations on paper, which Lord Kelvin, no doubt, or
Professor Lodge, or Professor Karl Pearson, or any of those great
scientific people might have understood, but which simply reduced me to a
hopeless muddle, that not only was such a substance possible, but that it
must satisfy certain conditions. It was an amazing piece of reasoning.
Much as it amazed and exercised me at the time, it would be impossible to
reproduce it here. "Yes," I said to it all, "yes; go on!" Suffice it for
this story that he believed he might be able to manufacture this possible
substance opaque to gravitation out of a complicated alloy of metals and
something new - a new element, I fancy - called, I believe, helium, which
was sent to him from London in sealed stone jars. Doubt has been thrown
upon this detail, but I am almost certain it was helium he had sent him in
sealed stone jars. It was certainly something very gaseous and thin. If
only I had taken notes...
But then, how was I to foresee the necessity of taking notes ?
Any one with the merest germ of an imagination will understand the
extraordinary possibilities of such a substance, and will sympathise a
little with the emotion I felt as this understanding emerged from the haze
of abstruse phrases in which Cavor expressed himself. Comic relief in a
play indeed! It was some time before I would believe that I had
interpreted him aright, and I was very careful not to ask questions that
would have enabled him to gauge the profundity of misunderstanding into
which he dropped his daily exposition. But no one reading the story of it
here will sympathise fully, because from my barren narrative it will be
impossible to gather the strength of my conviction that this astonishing
substance was positively going to be made.
I do not recall that I gave my play an hour's consecutive work at any time
after my visit to his house. My imagination had other things to do. There
seemed no limit to the possibilities of the stuff; whichever way I tried I
came on miracles and revolutions. For example, if one wanted to lift a
weight, however enormous, one had only to get a sheet of this substance
beneath it, and one might lift it with a straw My first natural impulse
was to apply this principle to guns and ironclads, and all the material
and methods of war, and from that to shipping, locomotion, building, every
conceivable form of human industry. The chance that had brought me into
the very birth-chamber of this new time - it was an epoch, no less - was
one of those chances that come once in a thousand years. The thing
unrolled, it expanded and expanded. Among other things I saw in it my
redemption as a business man. I saw a parent company, and daughter
companies, applications to right of us, applications to left, rings and
trusts, privileges, and concessions spreading and spreading, until one
vast, stupendous Cavorite company ran and ruled the world.
And I was in it!
I took my line straight away. I knew I was staking everything, but I
jumped there and then.
"We're on absolutely the biggest thing that has ever been invented," I
said, and put the accent on "we." "If you want to keep me out of this,
you'll have to do it with a gun. I'm coming down to be your fourth
labourer to-morrow."
He seemed surprised at my enthusiasm, but not a bit suspicious or hostile.
Rather, he was self-depreciatory. He looked at me doubtfully. "But do you
really think - ?" he said. "And your play! How about that play? "
" It's vanished!" I cried. "My dear sir, don't you see what you've got?
Don't you see what you're going to do?"
That was merely a rhetorical turn, but positively, he didn't. At first I
could not believe it. He had not had the beginning of the inkling of an
idea. This astonishing little man had been working on purely theoretical
grounds the whole time; When he said it was "the most important" research
the world had ever seen, he simply meant it squared up so many theories,
settled so much that was in doubt; he had troubled no more about the
application of the stuff he was going to turn out than if he had been a
machine that makes guns. This was a possible substance, and he was going
to make it! V'la tout, as the Frenchman says.
Beyond that, he was childish; If he made it, it would go down to posterity
as Cavorite or Cavorine, and he would be made an F.R.S., and his portrait
given away as a scientific worthy with Nature, and things like that. And
that was all he saw! He would have dropped this bombshell into the world
as though he had discovered a new species of gnat, if it had not happened
that I had come along. And there it would have lain and fizzled, like one
or two other little things these scientific people have lit and dropped
about us.
When I realised this, it was I did the talking, and Cavor who said, "Go
on!" I jumped up. I paced the room, gesticulating like a boy of twenty. I
tried to make him understand his duties and responsibilities in the matter
- our duties and responsibilities in the matter. I assured him we might
make wealth enough to work any sort of social revolution we fancied, we
might own and order the whole world. I told him of companies and patents,
and the case for secret processes. All these things seemed to take him
much as his mathematics had taken me. A look of perplexity came into his
ruddy little face. He stammered something about indifference to wealth,
but I brushed all that aside. He had got to be rich, and it was no good
his stammering. I gave him to understand the sort of man I was, and that I
had had very considerable business experience. I did not tell him I was an
undischarged bankrupt at the time, because that was temporary, but I think
I reconciled my evident poverty with my financial claims. And quite
insensibly, in the way such projects grow, the understanding of a Cavorite
monopoly grew up between us. He was to make the stuff, and I was to make
the boom.
I stuck like a leech to the "we" - "you" and "I" didn't exist for me.
His idea was that the profits I spoke of might go to endow research, but
that, of course, was a matter we had to settle later. "That's all right,"
I shouted, " that's all right." The great point, as I insisted, was to get
the thing done.
"Here is a substance," I cried, "no home, no factory, no fortress, no ship
can dare to be without - more universally applicable even than a patent
medicine. There isn't a solitary aspect of it, not one of its ten thousand
possible uses that will not make us rich, Cavor, beyond the dreams of
avarice! "
"No!" he said. "I begin to see. It's extraordinary how one gets new points
of view by talking over things!"
"And as it happens you have just talked to the right man! "
" I suppose no one," he said, "is absolutely averse to enormous wealth. Of
course there is one thing - "
He paused. I stood still.
" It is just possible, you know, that we may not be able to make it after
all! It may be one of those things that are a theoretical possibility, but
a practical absurdity. Or when we make it, there may be some little
"We'll tackle the hitch when it comes." said I.
Chapter 2
The First Making of Cavorite
But Cavor's fears were groundless, so far as the actual making was
concerned. On the 14th of October, 1899, this incredible substance was
Oddly enough, it was made at last by accident, when Mr. Cavor least
expected it. He had fused together a number of metals and certain other
things - I wish I knew the particulars now ! - and he intended to leave
the mixture a week and then allow it to cool slowly. Unless he had
miscalculated, the last stage in the combination would occur when the
stuff sank to a temperature of 60 Fahr. But it chanced that, unknown to
Cavor, dissension had arisen about the furnace tending. Gibbs, who had
previously seen to this, had suddenly attempted to shift it to the man who
had been a gardener, on the score that coal was soil, being dug, and
therefore could not possibly fall within the province of a joiner; the man
who had been a jobbing gardener alleged, however, that coal was a metallic
or ore-like substance, let alone that he was cook. But Spargus insisted on
Gibbs doing the coaling, seeing that he was a joiner and that coal is
notoriously fossil wood. Consequently Gibbs ceased to replenish the
furnace, and no one else did so, and Cavor was too much immersed in
certain interesting problems concerning a Cavorite flying machine
(neglecting the resistance of the air and one or two other points) to
perceive that anything was wrong. And the premature birth of his invention
took place just as he was coming across the field to my bungalow for our
afternoon talk and tea.
I remember the occasion with extreme vividness. The water was boiling, and
everything was prepared, and the sound of his "zuzzoo" had brought me out
upon the verandah. His active little figure was black against the autumnal
sunset, and to the right the chimneys of his house just rose above a
gloriously tinted group of trees. Remoter rose the Wealden Hills, faint
and blue, while to the left the hazy marsh spread out spacious and serene.
And then -
The chimneys jerked heavenward, smashing into a string of bricks as they
rose, and the roof and a miscellany of furniture followed. Then overtaking
them came a huge white flame. The trees about the building swayed and
whirled and tore themselves to pieces, that sprang towards the flare. My
ears were smitten with a clap of thunder that left me deaf on one side for
life, and all about me windows smashed, unheeded.
I took three steps from the verandah towards Cavor's house, and even as I
did so came the wind.
Instantly my coat tails were over my head, and I was progressing in great
leaps and bounds, and quite against my will, towards him. In the same
moment the discoverer was seized, whirled about, and flew through the
screaming air. I saw one of my chimney pots hit the ground within six
yards of me, leap a score of feet, and so hurry in great strides towards
the focus of the disturbance. Cavor, kicking and flapping, came down
again, rolled over and over on the ground for a space, struggled up and
was lifted and borne forward at an enormous velocity, vanishing at last
among the labouring, lashing trees that writhed about his house.
A mass of smoke and ashes, and a square of bluish shining substance rushed
up towards the zenith. A large fragment of fencing came sailing past me,
dropped edgeways, hit the ground and fell flat, and then the worst was
over. The aerial commotion fell swiftly until it was a mere strong gale,
and 1 became once more aware that I had breath and feet. By leaning back
against the wind I managed to stop, and could collect such wits as still
remained to me.
In that instant the whole face of the world had changed. The tranquil
sunset had vanished, the sky was dark with scurrying clouds, everything
was flattened and swaying with the gale. I glanced back to see if my
bungalow was still in a general way standing, then staggered forwards
towards the trees amongst which Cavor had vanished, and through whose tall
and leaf-denuded branches shone the flames of his burning house.
I entered the copse, dashing from one tree to another and clinging to
them, and for a space I sought him in vain. Then amidst a heap of smashed
branches and fencing that had banked itself against a portion of his
garden wall I perceived something stir. I made a run for this, but before
I reached it a brown object separated itself, rose on two muddy legs, and
protruded two drooping, bleeding hands. Some tattered ends of garment
fluttered out from its middle portion and streamed before the wind.
For a moment I did not recognise this earthy lump, and then I saw that it
was Cavor, caked in the mud in which he had rolled. He leant forward
against the wind, rubbing the dirt from his eyes and mouth.
He extended a muddy lump of hand, and staggered a pace towards me. His
face worked with emotion, little lumps of mud kept falling from it. He
looked as damaged and pitiful as any living creature I have ever seen, and
his remark therefore amazed me exceeding.
"Gratulate me," he gasped; "gratulate me!"
"Congratulate you! said I. "Good heavens! What for?"
"I've done it."
"You have. What on earth caused that explosion? "
A gust of wind blew his words away. I understood him to say that it wasn't
an explosion at all. The wind hurled me into collision with him, and we
stood clinging to one another.
"Try and get back - to my bungalow," I bawled in his ear. He did not hear
me, and shouted something about "three martyrs - science," and also
something about "not much good." At the time he laboured under the
impression that his three attendants had perished in the whirlwind.
Happily this was incorrect. Directly he had left for my bungalow they had
gone. Off to the public-house in Lympne to discuss the question of the
furnaces over some trivial refreshment.
I repeated my suggestion of getting back to my bungalow, and this time he
understood. We clung arm-in-arm and started, and managed at last to reach
the shelter of as much roof as was left to me. For a space we sat in
arm-chairs and panted. All the windows were broken, and the lighter
articles of furniture were in great disorder, but no irrevocable damage
was done. Happily the kitchen door had stood the pressure upon it, so that
all my crockery and cooking materials had survived. The oil stove was
still burning, and I put on the water to boil again for tea. And that
prepared, I could turn on Cavor for his explanation.
"Quite correct," he insisted; "quite correct. I've done it, and it's all
"But", I protested. "All right! Why, there can't be a rick standing, or a
fence or a thatched roof undamaged for twenty miles round."
"It's all right - really. I didn't, of course, foresee this little upset.
My mind was preoccupied with another problem, and I'm apt to disregard
these practical side issues. But it's all right "
"My dear sir," I cried, " don't you see you've done thousands of pounds'
worth of damage?"
"There, I throw myself on your discretion. I'm not a practical man, of
course, but don't you think they will regard it as a cyclone? "
"But the explosion "
"It was not an explosion. It's perfectly simple. Only, as I say, I'm apt
to overlook these little things. Its that zuzzoo business on a larger
scale. Inadvertently I made this substance of mine, this Cavorite, in a
thin, wide sheet. ..."
He paused. "You are quite clear that the stuff is opaque to gravitation,
that it cuts off things from gravitating towards each other? "
"Yes," said I. "Yes."
"Well, so soon as it reached a temperature of 60 Fahr, and the process of
its manufacture was complete, the air above it, the portions of roof and
ceiling and floor above it ceased to have weight. I suppose you know -
everybody knows nowadays - that, as a usual thing, the air has weight,
that it presses on everything at the surface of the earth, presses in all
directions, with a pressure of fourteen and a half pounds to the square
inch? "
"I know that," said I. " Go on."
"I know that too," he remarked. " Only this shows you how useless
knowledge is unless you apply it. You see, over our Cavorite this ceased
to be the case, the air there ceased to exert any pressure, and the air
round it and not over the Cavorite was exerting a pressure of fourteen
pounds and a half to the square in upon this suddenly weightless air. Ah!
you begin to see! The air all about the Cavorite crushed in upon the air
above it with irresistible force. The air above the Cavorite was forced
upward violently, the air that rushed in to replace it immediately lost
weight, ceased to exert any pressure, followed suit, blew the ceiling
through and the roof off. ...
"You perceive," he said, "it formed a sort of atmospheric fountain, a kind
of chimney in the atmosphere. And if the Cavorite itself hadn't been loose
and so got sucked up the chimney, does it occur to you what would have
I thought. "I suppose," I said, "the air would be rushing up and up over
that infernal piece of stuff now."
"Precisely," he said. "A huge fountain "
"Spouting into space! Good heavens! Why, it would have squirted all the
atmosphere of the earth away! It would have robbed the world of air! It
would have been the death of all mankind! That little lump of stuff! "
"Not exactly into space," said Cavor, "but as bad - practically. It would
have whipped the air off the world as one peels a banana, and flung it
thousands of miles. It would have dropped back again, of course - but on
an asphyxiated world! From our point of view very little better than if it
never came back!"
I stared. As yet I was too amazed to realise how all my expectations had
been upset. "What do you mean to do now? " I asked.
"In the first place if I may borrow a garden trowel I will remove some of
this earth with which I am encased, and then if I may avail myself of your
domestic conveniences I will have a bath. This done, we will converse more
at leisure. It will be wise, I think " - he laid a muddy hand on my arm"
if nothing were said of this affair beyond ourselves. I know I have caused
great damage - probably even dwelling-houses may be ruined here and there
upon the country-side. But on the other hand, I cannot possibly pay for
the damage I have done, and if the real cause of this is published, it
will lead only to heartburning and the obstruction of my work. One cannot
foresee everything, you know, and I cannot consent for one moment to add
the burthen of practical considerations to my theorising. Later on, when
you have come in with your practical mind, and Cavorite is floated -
floated is the word, isn't it? - and it has realised all you anticipate
for it, we may set matters right with these persons. But not now - not
now. If no other explanation is offered, people, in the present
unsatisfactory state of meteorological science, will ascribe all this to a
cyclone; there might be a public subscription, and as my house has
collapsed and been burnt, I should in that case receive a considerable
share in the compensation, which would be extremely helpful to the
prosecution of our researches. But if it is known that I caused this,
there will be no public subscription, and everybody will be put out.
Practically I should never get a chance of working in peace again. My
three assistants may or may not have perished. That is a detail. If they
have, it is no great loss; they were more zealous than able, and this
premature event must be largely due to their joint neglect of the furnace.
If they have not perished, I doubt if they have the intelligence to
explain the affair. They will accept the cyclone story. And if during the
temporary unfitness of my house for occupation, I may lodge in one of the
untenanted rooms of this bungalow of yours - "
He paused and regarded me.
A man of such possibilities, I reflected, is no ordinary guest to
"Perhaps," said I, rising to my feet, " we had better begin by looking for
a trowel," and I led the way to the scattered vestiges of the greenhouse.
And while he was having his bath I considered the entire question alone.
It was clear there were drawbacks to Mr. Cavor's society I had not
foreseen. The absentmindedness that had just escaped depopulating the
terrestrial globe, might at any moment result in some other grave
inconvenience. On the other hand I was young, my affairs were in a mess,
and I was in just the mood for reckless adventure - with a chance of
something good at the end of it. I had quite settled in my mind that I was
to have half at least in that aspect of the affair. Fortunately I held my
bungalow, as I have already explained, on a three-year agreement, without
being responsible for repairs; and my furniture, such as there was of it,
had been hastily purchased, was unpaid for, insured, and altogether devoid
of associations. In the end I decided to keep on with him, and see the
business through.
Certainly the aspect of things had changed very greatly. I no longer
doubted at all the enormous possibilities of the substance, but I began to
have doubts about the gun-carriage and the patent boots. We set to work at
once to reconstruct his laboratory and proceed with our experiments. Cavor
talked more on my level than he had ever done before, when it came to the
question of how we should make the stuff next.
"Of course we must make it again," he said, with a sort of glee I had not
expected in him, "of course we must make it again. We have caught a
Tartar, perhaps, but we have left the theoretical behind us for good and
all. If we can possibly avoid wrecking this little planet of ours, we
will. But - there must be risks! There must be. In experimental work there
always are. And here, as a practical man, you must come in. For my own
part it seems to me we might make it edgeways, perhaps, and very thin. Yet
I don't know. I have a certain dim perception of another method. I can
hardly explain it yet. But curiously enough it came into my mind, while I
was rolling over and over in the mud before the wind, and very doubtful
how I the whole adventure was to end, as being absolutely the thing I
ought to have done.
Even with my aid we found some little difficulty, and meanwhile we kept at
work restoring the laboratory. There was plenty to do before it became
absolutely necessary to decide upon the precise form and method of our
second attempt. Our only hitch was the strike of the three labourers, who
objected to my activity as a foreman. But that matter we compromised after
two days' delay.
Chapter 3
The Building of the sphere
I REMEMBER the occasion very distinctly when Cavor told me of his idea of
the sphere. He had had intimations of it before, but at the time it seemed
to come to him in a rush. We were returning to the bungalow for tea, and
on the way he fell humming. Suddenly he shouted, "That's it! That
finishes it! A sort of roller blind!"
"Finishes what?" I asked.
"Space - anywhere! The moon."
"What do you mean? "
"Mean? Why - it must be a sphere! That's what I mean!"
I saw I was out of it, and for a time I let him talk in his own fashion. I
hadn't the ghost of an idea then of his drift. But after he had taken tea
he made it clear to me.
"It's like this," he said. "Last time I ran this stuff that cuts things
off from gravitation into a flat tank with an overlap that held it down.
And directly it had cooled and the manufacture was completed all that
uproar happened, nothing above it weighed anything, the air went squirting
up, the house squirted up, and if the stuff itself hadn't squirted up too,
I don't Know what would have happened! But suppose the substance is loose,
and quite free to go up? "
"It will go up at once!"
"Exactly. With no more disturbance than firing a big gun."
"But what good will that do? "
"I'm going up with it! "
I put down my teacup and stared at him.
"Imagine a sphere," he explained, "large enough to hold two people and
their luggage. It will be made of steel lined with thick glass; it will
contain a proper store of solidified air, concentrated food, water
distilling apparatus, and so forth. And enamelled, as it were, on the
outer steel - "
"Cavorite? "
"But how will you get inside? "
"There was a similar problem about a dumpling."
"Yes, I know. But how?"
"That's perfectly easy. An air-tight manhole is all that is needed. That,
of course, will have to be a little complicated; there will have to be a
valve, so that things may be thrown out, if necessary, without much loss
of air."
"Like Jules Verne's thing in A Trip to the Moon."
But Cavor was not a reader of fiction.
"I begin to see," I said slowly. "And you could get in and screw yourself
up while the Cavorite was warm, and as soon as it cooled it would become
impervious to gravitation, and off you would fly -"
"At a tangent."
"You would go off in a straight line - " I stopped abruptly. "What is to
prevent the thing travelling in a straight line into space for ever?" I
asked. "You're not safe to get anywhere, and if you do - how will you get
back? "
"I've just thought of that," said Cavor. "That's what I meant when I said
the thing is finished. The inner glass sphere can be air-tight, and,
except for the manhole, continuous, and the steel sphere can be made in
sections, each section capable of rolling up after the fashion of a roller
blind. These can easily be worked by springs, and released and checked by
electricity conveyed by platinum wires fused through the glass. All that
is merely a question of detail. So you see, that except for the thickness
of the blind rollers, the Cavorite exterior of the sphere will consist of
windows or blinds, whichever you like to call them. Well, when all these
windows or blinds are shut, no light, no heat, no gravitation, no radiant
energy of any sort will get at the inside of the sphere, it will fly on
through space in a straight line, as you say. But open a window, imagine
one of the windows open. Then at once any heavy body that chances to be in
that direction will attract us "
I sat taking it in.
"You see?" he said.
"Oh, I see."
"Practically we shall be able to tack about in space just as we wish. Get
attracted by this and that."
"Oh, yes. That's clear enough. Only - "
" Well? "
"I don't quite see what we shall do it for! It's really only jumping off
the world and back again."
"Surely! For example, one might go to the moon."
"And when one got there? What would you find? "
"We should see - Oh! consider the new knowledge."
"Is there air there? "
"There may be."
"It's a fine idea," I said, "but it strikes me as a large order all the
same. The moon! I'd much rather try some smaller things first."
"They're out of the question, because of the air difficulty."
"Why not apply that idea of spring blinds - Cavorite blinds in strong
steel cases - to lifting weights?"
"It wouldn't work," he insisted. "After all, to go into outer space is not
so much worse, if at all, than a polar expedition. Men go on polar
"Not business men. And besides, they get paid for polar expeditions. And
if anything goes wrong there are relief parties. But this - it's just
firing ourselves off the world for nothing."
"Call it prospecting."
"You'll have to call it that. ... One might make a book of it perhaps," I
"I have no doubt there will be minerals," said Cavor.
"For example? "
"Oh! sulphur, ores, gold perhaps, possibly new elements."
"Cost of carriage," I said. "You know you're not a practical man. The
moon's a quarter of a million miles away."
"It seems to me it wouldn't cost much to cart any weight anywhere if you
packed it in a Cavorite case."
I had not thought of that. "Delivered free on head of purchaser, eh? "
"It isn't as though we were confined to the moon."
"You mean? "
"There's Mars - clear atmosphere, novel surroundings, exhilarating sense
of lightness. It might be pleasant to go there."
"Is there air on Mars? "
"Oh, yes! "
"Seems as though you might run it as a sanatorium. By the way, how far is
Mars? "
"Two hundred million miles at present," said Cavor airily; "and you go
close by the sun."
My imagination was picking itself up again. "After all," I said, there's
something in these things. There's travel -"
An extraordinary possibility came rushing into my mind. Suddenly I saw, as
in a vision, the whole solar system threaded with Cavorite liners and
spheres deluxe. "Rights of pre-emption," came floating into my head -
planetary rights of pre-emption. I recalled the old Spanish monopoly in
American gold. It wasn't as though it was just this planet or that - it
was all of them. I stared at Cavor's rubicund face, and suddenly my
imagination was leaping and dancing. I stood up, I walked up and down; my
tongue was unloosened.
"I'm beginning to take it in," I said; "I'm beginning to take it in." The
transition from doubt to enthusiasm seemed to take scarcely any time at
all. "But this is tremendous!" I cried. "This is Imperial! I haven't
been dreaming of this sort of thing."
Once the chill of my opposition was removed, his own pent-up excitement
had play. He too got up and paced. He too gesticulated and shouted. We
behaved like men inspired. We were men inspired.
"We'll settle all that!" he said in answer to some incidental difficulty
that had pulled me up. "We'll soon settle that! We'll start the drawings
for mouldings this very night."
"We'll start them now," I responded, and we hurried off to the laboratory
to begin upon this work forthwith.
I was like a child in Wonderland all that night. The dawn found us both
still at work - we kept our electric light going heedless of the day. I
remember now exactly how these drawings looked. I shaded and tinted while
Cavor drew - smudged and haste-marked they were in every line, but
wonderfully correct. We got out the orders for the steel blinds and frames
we needed from that night's work, and the glass sphere was designed within
a week. We gave up our afternoon conversations and our old routine
altogether. We worked, and we slept and ate when we could work no longer
for hunger and fatigue. Our enthusiasm infected even our three men, though
they had no idea what the sphere was for. Through those days the man Gibbs
gave up walking, and went everywhere, even across the room, at a sort of
fussy run.
And it grew - the sphere. December passed, January - I spent a day with a
broom sweeping a path through the snow from bungalow to laboratory -
February, March. By the end of March the completion was in sight. In
January had come a team of horses, a huge packing-case; we had our thick
glass sphere now ready, and in position under the crane we had rigged to
sling it into the steel shell. All the bars and blinds of the steel shell
- it was not really a spherical shell, but polyhedral, with a roller blind
to each facet - had arrived by February, and the lower half was bolted
together. The Cavorite was half made by March, the metallic paste had gone
through two of the stages in its manufacture, and we had plastered quite
half of it on to the steel bars ad. blinds. It was astonishing how closely
we kept to the lines of Cavor's first inspiration in working out the
scheme. When the bolting together of the sphere was finished, he proposed
to remove the rough roof of the temporary laboratory in which the work was
done, and build a furnace about it. So the last stage of Cavorite making,
in which the paste is heated to a dull red glow in a stream of helium,
would be accomplished then it was already on the sphere.
And then we had to discuss and decide what provisions we were to take -
compressed foods, concentrated essences, steel cylinders containing
reserve oxygen, an arrangement for removing carbonic acid and waste from
the air and restoring oxygen by means of sodium peroxide, water
condensers, and so forth. I remember the little heap they made in the
corner - tins, and rolls, and boxes - convincingly matter-of-fact.
It was a strenuous time, with little chance of thinking. But one day,
when we were drawing near the end, an odd mood came over me. I had been
bricking up the furnace all the morning, and I sat down by these
possessions dead beat. Everything seemed dull and incredible.
"But look here, Cavor," I said. "After all! What's it all for?"
He smiled. "The thing now is to go."
"The moon," I reflected. But what do you expect? I thought the moon was a
dead world."
He shrugged his shoulders.
"We're going to see."
"Are we?" I said, and stared before me.
"You are tired," he remarked. "You'd better take a walk this afternoon."
"No," I said obstinately; "I'm going to finish this brickwork."
And I did, and insured myself a night of insomnia. I don't think I have
ever had such a night. I had some bad times before my business collapse,
but the very worst of those was sweet slumber compared to this infinity of
aching wakefulness. I was suddenly in the most enormous funk at the thing
we were going to do.
I do not remember before that night thinking at all of the risks we were
running. Now they came like that array of spectres that once beleaguered
Prague, and camped around me. The strangeness of what we were about to do,
the unearthliness of it, overwhelmed me. I was like a man awakened out of
pleasant dreams to the most horrible surroundings. I lay, eyes wide open,
and the sphere seemed to get more flimsy and feeble, and Cavor more unreal
and fantastic, and the whole enterprise madder and madder every moment.
I got out of bed and wandered about. I sat at the window and stared at
the immensity of space. Between the stars was the void, the unfathomable
darkness! I tried to recall the fragmentary knowledge of astronomy I had
gained in my irregular reading, but it was all too vague to furnish any
idea of the things we might expect. At last I got back to bed and snatched
some moments of sleep - moments of nightmare rather - in which I fell and
fell and fell for evermore into the abyss of the sky.
I astonished Cavor at breakfast. I told him shortly, "I'm not coming with
you in the sphere."
I met all his protests with a sullen persistence. "The thing's too mad,"
I said, "and I won't come. The thing's too mad."
I would not go with him to the laboratory. I fretted bout my bungalow for
a time, and then took hat and stick and set out alone, I knew not whither.
It chanced to be a glorious morning: a warm wind and deep blue sky, the
first green of spring abroad, and multitudes of birds singing. I lunched
on beef and beer in a little public-house near Elham, and startled the
landlord by remarking apropos of the weather, "A man who leaves the world
when days of this sort are about is a fool!"
"That's what I says when I heerd on it!" said the landlord, and I found
that for one poor soul at least this world had proved excessive, and there
had been a throat-cutting. I went on with a new twist to my thoughts.
In the afternoon I had a pleasant sleep in a sunny place, and went on my
way refreshed. I came to a comfortable - looking inn near Canterbury. It
was bright with creepers, and the landlady was a clean old woman and took
my eye. I found I had just enough money to pay for my lodging with her. I
decided to stop the night there. She was a talkative body, and among many
other particulars learnt she had never been to London. "Canterbury's as
far as ever I been," she said. "I'm not one of your gad-about sort."
"How would you like a trip to the moon?" I cried.
"I never did hold with them ballooneys," she said evidently under the
impression that this was a common excursion enough. "I wouldn't go up in
one - not for ever so."
This struck me as being funny. After I had supped I sat on a bench by the
door of the inn and gossiped with two labourers about brickmaking, and
motor cars, and the cricket of last year. And in the sky a faint new
crescent, blue and vague as a distant Alp, sank westward over the sun.
The next day I returned to Cavor. "I am coming," I said. "I've been a
little out of order, that's all."
That was the only time I felt any serious doubt our enterprise. Nerves
purely! Alter that I worked a little more carefully, and took a trudge for
an hour every day. And at last, save for the heating in the furnace, our
labours were at an end.
Chapter 4
Inside the Sphere
"GO ON," said Cavor, as I sat across the edge of the manhole, and looked
down into the black interior of the sphere. We two were alone. It was
evening, the sun had set, and the stillness of the twilight was upon
I drew my other leg inside and slid down the smooth glass to the bottom of
the sphere, then turned to take the cans of food and other impedimenta
from Cavor. The interior was warm, the thermometer stood at eighty, and as
we should lose little or none of this by radiation, we were dressed in
shoes and thin flannels. We had, however, a bundle of thick woollen
clothing and several thick blankets to guard against mischance.
By Cavor's direction I placed the packages, the cylinders of oxygen, and
so forth, loosely about my feet, and soon we had everything in. He walked
about the roofless shed for a time seeking anything we had overlooked, and
then crawled in after me. I noted something in his hand.
"What have you got there? " I asked.
"Haven't you brought anything to read? "
"Good Lord! No."
"I forgot to tell you. There are uncertainties - The voyage may last - We
may be weeks! "
"But - "
" We shall be floating in this sphere with absolutely no occupation."
"I wish I'd known"
He peered out of the manhole. " Look! " he said. " There's something
"Is there time? "
"We shall be an hour."
I looked out. It was an old number of Tit-Bits that one of the men must
have brought. Farther away in the corner I saw a torn Lloyd's News. I
scrambled back into the sphere with these things. "What have you got? " I
I took the book from his hand and read, "The Works of William
He coloured slightly. "My education has been so purely scientific -" he
said apologetically.
"Never read him? "
"He knew a little, you know - in an irregular sort of way."
"Precisely what I am told," said Cavor.
I assisted him to screw in the glass cover of the manhole, and then he
pressed a stud to close the corresponding blind in the outer case. The
little oblong of twilight vanished. We were in darkness. For a time
neither of us spoke. Although our case would not be impervious to sound,
everything was very still. I perceived there was nothing to grip when the
shock of our start should come, and I realised that I should be
uncomfortable for want of a chair.
"Why have we no chairs? " I asked.
"I've settled all that," said Cavor. "We won't need them."
"Why not?"
"You will see," he said, in the tone of a man who refuses to talk.
I became silent. Suddenly it had come to me clear and vivid that I was a
fool to be inside that sphere. Even now, I asked myself, is to too late to
withdraw? The world outside the sphere, I knew, would be cold and
inhospitable enough for me - for weeks I had been living on subsidies from
Cavor - but after all, would it be as cold as the infinite zero, as
inhospitable as empty space? If it had not been for the appearance of
cowardice, I believe that even then I should have made him let me out. But
I hesitated on that score, and hesitated, and grew fretful and angry, and
the time passed.
There came a little jerk, a noise like champagne being uncorked in another
room, and a faint whistling sound. For just one instant I had a sense of
enormous tension, a transient conviction that my feet were pressing
downward with a force of countless tons. It lasted for an infinitesimal
But it stirred me to action. "Cavor!" I said into the darkness, "my
nerve's in rags. I don't think - "
I stopped. He made no answer.
"Confound it!" I cried; "I'm a fool! What business have I here? I'm not
coming, Cavor. The thing's too risky. I'm getting out."
"You can't," he said.
"Can't! We'll soon see about that!"
He made no answer for ten seconds. "It's too late for us to quarrel now,
Bedford," he said. "That little jerk was the start. Already we are flying
as swiftly as a bullet up into the gulf of space."
"I -" I said, and then it didn't seem to matter what happened. For a time
I was, as it were, stunned; I had nothing to say. It was just as if I had
never heard of this idea of leaving the world before. Then I perceived an
unaccountable change in my bodily sensations. It was a feeling of
lightness, of unreality. Coupled with that was a queer sensation in the
head, an apoplectic effect almost, and a thumping of blood vessels at the
ears. Neither of these feelings diminished as time went on, but at last I
got so used to them that I experienced no inconvenience.
I heard a click, and a little glow lamp came, into being.
I saw Cavor's face, as white as I felt my own to be. We regarded one
another in silence. The transparent blackness of the glass behind him made
him seem as though he floated in a void.
"Well, we're committed," I said at last.
"Yes," he said, " we're committed."
"Don't move," he exclaimed, at some suggestion of a gesture. "Let your
muscles keep quite lax - as if you were in bed. We are in a little
universe of our own. Look at those things!"
He pointed to the loose cases and bundles that had been lying on the
blankets in the bottom of the sphere. I was astonished to see that they
were floating now nearly a foot from the spherical wall. Then I saw from
his shadow that Cavor was no longer leaning against the glass. I thrust
out my hand behind me, and found that I too was suspended in space, clear
of the glass.
I did not cry out nor gesticulate, but fear came upon me. It was like
being held and lilted by something - you know not what. The mere touch of
my hand against the glass moved me rapidly. I understood what had
happened, but that did not prevent my being afraid. We were cut off from
all exterior gravitation, only the attraction of objects within our sphere
had effect. Consequently everything that was not fixed to the glass was
falling - slowly because of the slightness of our masses - towards the
centre of gravity of our little world, which seemed to be somewhere about
the middle of the sphere, but rather nearer to myself than Cavor, on
account of my greater weight.
"We must turn round," said Cavor, "and float back to back, with the things
between us."
It was the strangest sensation conceivable, floating thus loosely in
space, at first indeed horribly strange, and when the horror passed, not
disagreeable at all, exceeding restful; indeed, the nearest thing in
earthly experience to it that I know is lying on a very thick, soft
feather bed. But the quality of utter detachment and independence! I had
not reckoned on things like this. I had expected a violent jerk at
starting, a giddy sense of speed. Instead I felt - as if I were
disembodied. It was not like the beginning of a journey; it was like the
beginning of a dream.
Chapter 5
The Journey to the Moon
PRESENTLY Cavor extinguished the light. He said we had not overmuch
energy stored, and that what we had we must economise for reading. For a
time, whether it was long or short I do not know, there was nothing but
blank darkness.
A question floated up out of the void. "How are we pointing?" I said.
"What is our direction?"
"We are flying away from the earth at a tangent, and as the moon is near
her third quarter we are going somewhere towards her. I will open a blind
Came a click, and then a window in the outer case yawned open. The sky
outside was as black as the darkness within the sphere, but the shape of
the open window was marked by an infinite number of stars.
Those who have only seen the starry sky from the earth cannot imagine its
appearance when the vague, half luminous veil of our air has been
withdrawn. The stars we see on earth are the mere scattered survivors that
penetrate our misty atmosphere. But now at last I could realise the
meaning of the hosts of heaven!
Stranger things we were presently to see, but that airless, star-dusted
sky! Of all things, I think that will be one of the last I shall forget.
The little window vanished with a click, another beside it snapped open
and instantly closed, and then a third, and for a moment I had to close my
eyes because of the blinding splendour of the waning moon.
For a space I had to stare at Cavor and the white-lit things about me to
season my eyes to light again, before I could turn them towards that
pallid glare.
Four windows were open in order that the gravitation of the moon might act
upon all the substances in our sphere. I found I was no longer floating
freely in space, but that my feet were resting on the glass in the
direction of the moon. The blankets and cases of provisions were also
creeping slowly down the glass, and presently came to rest so as to block
out a portion of the view. It seemed to me, of course, that I looked
"down" when I looked at the moon. On earth "down" means earthward, the way
things fall, and "up" the reverse direction. Now the pull of gravitation
was towards the moon, and for all I knew to the contrary our earth was
overhead. And, of course, when all the Cavorite blinds were closed, "down"
was towards the centre of our sphere, and " up " towards its outer wall.
It was curiously unlike earthly experience, too, to have the light coming
up to one. On earth light falls from above, or comes slanting down
sideways, but here it came from beneath our feet, and to see our shadows
we had to look up.
At first it gave me a sort of vertigo to stand only on thick glass and
look down upon the moon through hundreds of thousands of miles of vacant
space; but this sickness passed very speedily. And then - the splendour of
the sight!
The reader may imagine it best if he will lie on the ground some warm
summer's night and look between his upraised feet at the moon, but for
some reason, probably because the absence of air made it so much more
luminous, the moon seemed already considerably larger than it does from
earth. The minutest details of it's surface were acutely clear. And since
we did not see it through air, its outline was bright and sharp, there was
no glow or halo about it, and the star-dust that covered the sky came
right to its very margin, and marked the outline of its unilluminated
part. And as I stood and stared at the moon between my feet, that
perception of the impossible that had been with me off and on ever since
our start, returned again with tenfold conviction.
"Cavor," I said, "this takes me queerly. Those companies we were going to
run, and all that about minerals? "
"I don't see 'em here."
"No," said Cavor; "but you'll get over all that."
"I suppose I'm made to turn right side up again. Still, this - For a
moment I could half believe there never was a world."
"That copy of Lloyd's News might help you."
I stared at the paper for a moment, then held it above the level of my
face, and found I could read it quite easily. I struck a column of mean
little advertisements. " A gentleman of private means is willing to lend
money," I read. I knew that gentleman. Then somebody eccentric wanted to
sell a Cutaway bicycle, "quite new and cost 15 pounds," for five pounds;
and a lady in distress wished to dispose of some fish knives and forks, "a
wedding present," at a great sacrifice. No doubt some simple soul was
sagely examining these knives and forks, and another triumphantly riding
off on that bicycle, and a third trustfully consulting that benevolent
gentleman of means even as I read. I laughed, and let the paper drift from
my hand.
"Are we visible from the earth?" I asked.
"I knew some one who was rather interested in astronomy. It occurred to me
that it would be rather odd if - my friend - chanced to be looking through
come telescope."
"It would need the most powerful telescope on earth even now to see us as
the minutest speck."
For a time I stared in silence at the moon.
"It's a world," I said; "one feels that infinitely more than one ever did
on earth. People perhaps - "
"People!" he exclaimed. "No! Banish all that! Think yourself a sort of
ultra-arctic voyager exploring the desolate places of space. Look at it!"
He waved his hand at the shining whiteness below. "It's dead - dead! Vast
extinct volcanoes, lava wildernesses, tumbled wastes of snow, or frozen
carbonic acid, or frozen air, and everywhere landslip seams and cracks and
gulfs. Nothing happens. Men have watched this planet systematically with
telescopes for over two hundred years. How much change do you think they
have seen? "
"They have traced two indisputable landslips, a doubtful crack, and one
slight periodic change of colour, and that's all."
"I didn't know they'd traced even that."
"Oh, yes. But as for people!"
"By the way," I asked, how small a thing will the biggest telescopes show
upon the moon?"
"One could see a fair-sized church. One could certainly see any towns or
buildings, or anything like the handiwork of men. There might perhaps be
insects, something in the way of ants, for example, so that they could
hide in deep burrows from the lunar light, or some new sort of creatures
having no earthly parallel. That is the most probable thing, if we are to
find life there at all. Think of the difference in conditions! Life must
fit itself to a day as long as fourteen earthly days, a cloudless
sun-blaze of fourteen days, and then a night of equal length, growing ever
colder and colder under these, cold, sharp stars. In that night there must
be cold, the ultimate cold, absolute zero, 273 C. below the earthly
freezing point. Whatever life there is must hibernate through that, and
rise again each day."
He mused. "One can imagine something worm - like," he said, "taking its
air solid as an earth-worm swallows earth, or thick-skinned monsters -"
"By the bye," I said, "why didn't we bring a gun?"
He did not answer that question. "No," he concluded, "we just have to go.
We shall see when we get there."
I remembered something. "Of course, there's my minerals, anyhow," I said;
"whatever the conditions may be."
Presently he told me he wished to alter our course a little by letting the
earth tug at us for a moment. He was going to open one earthward blind
for thirty seconds. He warned me that it would make my head swim, and
advised me to extend my hands against the glass to break my fall. I did as
he directed, and thrust my feet against the bales of food cases and air
cylinders to prevent their falling upon me. Then with a click the window
flew open. I fell clumsily upon hands and face, and saw for a moment
between my black extended fingers our mother earth - a planet in a
downward sky.
We were still very near - Cavor told me the distance was perhaps eight
hundred miles and the huge terrestrial disc filled all heaven. But already
it was plain to see that the world was a globe. The land below us was in
twilight and vague, but westward the vast gray stretches of the Atlantic
shone like molten silver under the receding day. I think I recognised the
cloud-dimmed coast-lines of France and Spain and the south of England, and
then, with a click, the shutter closed again, and I found myself in a
state of extraordinary confusion sliding slowly over the smooth glass.
When at last things settled themselves in my mind again, it seemed quite
beyond question that the moon was "down" and under my feet, and that the
earth was somewhere away on the level of the horizon - the earth that had
been "down" to me and my kindred since the beginning of things.
So slight were the exertions required of us, so easy did the practical
annihilation of our weight make all we had to do, that the necessity for
taking refreshment did not occur to us for nearly six hours (by Cavor's
chronometer) after our start. I was amazed at that lapse of time. Even
then I was satisfied with very little. Cavor examined the apparatus for
absorbing carbonic acid and water, and pronounced it to be in satisfactory
order, our consumption of oxygen having been extraordinarily slight. And
our talk 'being exhausted for the time, and there being nothing further
for us to do, we gave way to a curious drowsiness that had come upon us,
and spreading our blankets on the bottom of the sphere in such a manner as
to shut out most of the moonlight, wished each other good-night, and
almost immediately fell asleep.
And so, sleeping, and sometimes talking and reading a little, and at times
eating, although without any keenness of appetite,3 but for the most part
in a sort of quiescence that was neither waking nor slumber, we fell
through a space of time that had neither night nor day in it, silently,
softly, and swiftly down towards the moon.
It is a curious thing, that while we were in the sphere we felt not the
slightest desire for food, nor did we feel the want of it when we
abstained. At first we forced our appetites, but afterwards we fasted
completely. Altogether we did not consume one-hundredth part of the
compressed provisions we had brought with us. The amount of carbonic acid
we breathed was also unnaturally low, but why this was, I am quite unable
to explain.
Chapter 6
The Landing on the Moon
I REMEBER how one day Cavor suddenly opened six of our shutters and
blinded me so that I cried aloud at him. The whole area was moon, a
stupendous scimitar of white dawn with its edge hacked out by notches of
darkness, the crescent shore of an ebbing tide of darkness, out of which
peaks and pinnacles came glittering into the blaze of the sun. I take it
reader has seen pictures or photographs of the moon and that I need not
describe the broader features of that landscape, those spacious ringlike
ranges vaster than any terrestrial mountains, their summits shining in the
day, their shadows harsh and deep, the gray disordered plains, the ridges,
hills, and craterlets, all passing at last from a blazing illumination
into a common mystery of black. Athwart this world we were flying scarcely
a hundred miles above its crests and pinnacles. And now we could see, what
no eye on earth will ever see, that under the blaze of the day the harsh
outlines of the rocks and ravines of the plains and crater floor grew gray
and indistinct under a thickening haze, that the white of their lit
surfaces broke into lumps and patches, and broke again and shrank and
vanished, and that here and there strange tints of brown and olive grew
and spread.
But little time we had for watching then. For now we had come to the real
danger of our journey. We had to drop ever closer to the moon as we spun
about it, to slacken our pace and watch our chance, until at last we could
dare to drop upon its surface.
For Cavor that was a time of intense exertion; for me it was an anxious
inactivity. I seemed perpetually to be getting out of his way. He leapt
about the sphere from point to point with an agility that would have been
impossible on earth. He was perpetually opening and closing the Cavorite
windows, making calculations, consulting his chronometer by means of the
glow lamp during those last eventful hours. For a long time we had all our
windows closed and hung silently in darkness hurling through space.
Then he was feeling for the shutter studs, and suddenly four windows were
open. I staggered and covered my eyes, drenched and scorched and blinded
by the unaccustomed splendour of the sun beneath my feet. Then again the
shutters snapped, leaving my brain spinning in a darkness that pressed
against the eyes. And after that I floated in another vast, black silence.
Then Cavor switched on the electric light, and told me he proposed to bind
all our luggage together with the blankets about it, against the
concussion of our descent. We did this with our windows closed, because in
that way our goods arranged themselves naturally at the centre of the
sphere. That too was a strange business; we two men floating loose in that
spherical space, and packing and pulling ropes. Imagine it if you can! No
up nor down, and every effort resulting in unexpected movements. Now I
would be pressed against the glass with the full force of Cavor's thrust,
now I would be kicking helplessly in a void. Now the star of the electric
light would be overhead, now under foot. Now Cavor's feet would float up
before my eyes, and now we would be crossways to each other. But at last
our goods were safely bound together in a big soft bale, all except two
blankets with head holes that we were to wrap about ourselves.
Then for a flash Cavor opened a window moonward, and we saw that we were
dropping towards a huge central crater with a number of minor craters
grouped in a sort of cross about it. And then again Cavor flung our little
sphere open to the scorching, blinding sun. I think he was using the
sun's attraction as a brake. "Cover yourself with a blanket," he - cried,
thrusting himself from me, and for a moment I did not understand.
Then I hauled the blanket from beneath my feet and got it about me and
over my head and eyes. Abruptly he closed the shutters again, snapped one
open again and closed it, then suddenly began snapping them all open, each
safely into its steel roller. There came a jar, and then we were rolling
over and over, bumping against the glass and against the big bale of our
luggage, and clutching at each other, and outside some white substance
splashed as if we were rolling down a slope of snow....
Over, clutch, bump, clutch, bump, over....
Came a thud, and I was half buried under the bale of our possessions, and
for a space everything was still. Then I could hear Cavor puffing and
grunting, and the snapping of a shutter in its sash. I made an effort,
thrust back our blanket-wrapped luggage, and emerged from beneath it. Our
open windows were just visible as a deeper black set with stars.
We were still alive, and we were lying in the darkness of the shadow of
the wall of the great crater into which we had fallen.
We sat getting our breath again, and feeling the bruises on our limbs. I
don't think either of us had had a very clear expectation of such rough
handling as we had received. I struggled painfully to my feet. "And now,"
said I, "to look at the landscape of the moon But It's tremendously dark,
The glass was dewy, and as I spoke I wiped at it with my blanket. "We're
half an hour or so beyond the day," he said. "We must wait."
It was impossible to distinguish anything. We might have been in a sphere
of steel for all that we could see. My rubbing with the blanket simply
smeared the glass, and as fast as I wiped it, it became opaque again with
freshly condensed moisture mixed with an increasing quantity of blanket
hairs. Of course I ought not to have used the blanket. In my efforts to
clear the glass I slipped upon the damp surface, and hurt my shin against
one of the oxygen cylinders that protruded from our bale.
The thing was exasperating - it was absurd. Here we were just arrived upon
the moon, amidst we knew not what wonders, and all we could see was the
gray and streaming wall of the bubble in which we had come.
"Confound it!" I said, "but at this rate we might have stopped at home;"
and I squatted on the bale and shivered, and drew my blanket closer about
Abruptly the moisture turned to spangles and fronds of frost. "Can you
reach the electric heater," said Cavor. "Yes - that black knob. Or we
shall freeze."
I did not wait to be told twice. "And now," said I, what are we to do?"
"Wait," lie said.
"Of course. We shall have to wait until our air gets warm again, and then
this glass will clear. We can't do anything till then. It's night here
yet; we must wait for the day to overtake us. Meanwhile, don't you feel
For a space I did not answer him, but sat fretting. I turned reluctantly
from the smeared puzzle of the glass and stared at his face. " Yes,"I
said, "I am hungry. I feel somehow enormously disappointed. I had expected
- I don't know what I had expected, but not this."
I summoned my philosophy, and rearranging my blanket about me sat down on
the bale again and began my first meal on the moon. I don't think I
finished it - I forget. Presently, first in patches, then running rapidly
together into wider spaces, came the clearing of the glass, came the
drawing of the misty veil that hid the moon world from our eyes.
We peered out upon the landscape of the moon.
Chapter 7
Sunrise on the Moon
As we saw it first it was the wildest and most desolate of scenes. We were
in an enormous amphitheatre, a vast circular plain. the floor of the giant
crater. Its cliff-like walls closed us in on every side. From the westward
the light of the unseen sun fell upon them, reaching to the very foot of
the cliff, and showed a disordered escarpment of drab and grayish rock,
lined here and there with banks and crevices of snow. This was perhaps a
dozen miles away, but at first no intervening atmosphere diminished in the
slightest the minutely detailed brilliancy with which these things glared
at us. They stood out clear and dazzling against a background of starry
blackness that seemed to our earthly eyes rather a gloriously spangled
velvet curtain than the spaciousness of the sky.
The eastward cliff was at first merely a starless selvedge to the starry
dome. No rosy flush, no creeping pallor, announced the commencing day.
Only the Corona, the Zodiacal light, a huge cone-shaped, luminous haze,
pointing up towards the splendour of the morning star, warned us of the
imminent nearness of the sun.
Whatever light was about us was reflected by the westward cliffs. It
showed a huge undulating plain, cold and gray, a gray that deepened
eastward into the absolute raven darkness of the cliff shadow. Innumerable
rounded gray summits, ghostly hummocks, billows of snowy substance,
stretching crest beyond crest into the remote obscurity, gave us our first
inkling of the distance of the crater wall. These hummocks looked like
snow. At the time I thought they were snow. But they were not - they were
mounds and masses of frozen air?
So it was at first, and then, sudden, swift, and amazing, came the lunar
The sunlight had crept down the cliff, it touched the drifted masses at
its base and incontinently came striding with seven-leagued boots towards
us. The distant cliff seemed to shift and quiver, and at the touch of the
dawn a reek of gray vapour poured upward from the crater floor, whirls and
puffs and drifting wraiths of gray, thicker and broader and denser, until
at last the whole westward plain was steaming like a wet handkerchief held
before the fire, and the westward cliffs were no more than refracted glare
"It is air," said Cavor. "It must be air - or it - would not rise like
this - at the mere touch of a sun-beam. And at this pace. ..."
He peered upwards. "Look! " he said.
"What? " I asked.
"In the sky. Already. On the blackness - a little touch of blue. See! The
stars seem larger. And the little ones and all those dim nebulosities we
saw in empty space - they are hidden! "
Swiftly, steadily, the day approached us. Gray summit after gray summit
was overtaken by the blaze, and turned to a smoking white intensity. At
last there was nothing to the west of us but a bank of surging fog, the
tumultuous advance and ascent of cloudy haze. The distant cliff had
receded farther and farther, had loomed and changed through the whirl, and
foundered and vanished at last in its confusion.
Nearer came that steaming advance, nearer and nearer, coming as fast as
the shadow of a cloud before the south-west wind. About us rose a thin
anticipatory haze.
Cavor gripped my arm. " What? " I said.
"Look! The sunrise! The sun!"
He turned me about and pointed to the brow of the eastward cliff, looming
above the haze about us, scarce lighter than the darkness of the sky. But
now its line was marked by strange reddish shapes, tongues of vermilion
flame that writhed and danced. I fancied It must be spirals of vapour that
had caught the light and made this crest of fiery tongues against the sky,
but indeed it was the solar prominences I Saw, a crown of fire about the
sun that is forever hidden from earthly eyes by our atmospheric veil.
And then - the sun!
Steadily, inevitably came a brilliant line, came a thin edge of
intolerable effulgence that took a circular shape, became a bow, became a
blazing sceptre, and hurled a shaft of heat at us as though it was a
It seemed verily to stab my eyes! I cried aloud and turned about blinded,
groping for my blanket beneath the bale.
And with that incandescence came a sound, the first sound that had reached
us from without since we left the earth, a hissing and rustling, the
stormy trailing of the aerial garment of the advancing day. And with the
coming of the sound and the light the sphere lurched, and blinded and
dazzled we staggered helplessly against each other. It lurched again, and
the hissing grew louder. I had shut my eyes perforce, I was making clumsy
efforts to cover my head with my blanket, and this second lurch sent me
helplessly off my feet. I fell against the bale, and opening my eyes had a
momentary glimpse of the air just outside our glass. It was running - it
was boiling - like snow into which a white-hot rod is thrust. What had
been solid air had suddenly at the touch of the 'sun become a paste, a
mud, a slushy liquefaction, that hissed and bubbled into gas.
There came a still more violent whirl of the sphere and we had clutched
one another. In another moment we were spun about again. Pound we went and
over, and then I was on all fours. The lunar dawn had hold of us. It meant
to show us little men what the moon could do with us.
I caught a second glimpse of things without, puffs of vapour, half liquid
slush, excavated, sliding, falling, sliding. We dropped into darkness. I
went down with Cavor's knees in my chest. Then he seemed to fly away from
me, and for a moment I lay with all the breath out of my body staring
upward. A toppling crag of the melting stuff had splashed over us, buried
us, and now it thinned and boiled off us. I saw the bubbles dancing on the
glass above. I heard Cavor exclaiming feebly.
Then some huge landslip in the thawing air had caught us, and spluttering
expostulation, we began to roll down a slope, rolling faster and faster,
leaping crevasses and rebounding from banks, faster and faster, westward
into the white-hot boiling tumult of the lunar day.
Clutching at one another we spun about, pitched this way and that, our
bale of packages leaping at us, pounding at us. We collided, we gripped,
we were torn asunder - our heads met, and the whole universe burst into
fiery darts and stars! On the earth we should have smashed one another a
dozen times, but on the moon, luckily for us, our weight was only
one-sixth of what it is terrestrially, and we fell very mercifully. I
recall a sensation of utter sickness, a feeling as if my brain were upside
down within my skull, and then -
Something was at work upon my face, some thin feelers worried my ears.
Then I discovered the brilliance of the landscape around was mitigated by
blue spectacles. Cavor bent over me, and I saw his face upside down, his
eyes also protected by tinted goggles. His breath came irregularly, and
his lip was bleeding from a bruise. "Better?" he said, wiping the blood
with the back of his hand.
Everything seemed swaying for a space, but that was simply my giddiness. I
perceived that he had closed some of the shutters in the outer sphere to
save me - from the direct blaze of the sun. I was aware that everything
about us was very brilliant.
"Lord! I gasped. "But this -"
I craned my neck to see. I perceived there was a blinding glare outside,
an utter change from the gloomy darkness of our first impressions. "Have I
been insensible long? " I asked.
"I don't know - the chronometer is broken. Some little time. ... My dear
chap! I have been afraid..."
I lay for a space taking this in. I saw his face still bore evidences of
emotion. For a while I said nothing. I passed an inquisitive hand over my
contusions, and surveyed ['is face for similar damages. The back of my
right hand had suffered most, and was skinless and raw. My forehead was
bruised and had bled. He handed me a little measure with some of the
restorative - I forget the name of it - he had brought with us. After a
time I felt a little better. I began to stretch my limbs carefully. Soon I
could talk.
"It wouldn't have done," I said, as though there had been no interval.
"No! it wouldn't."
He thought, his hands hanging over his knees. He peered through the glass
and then stared at me.
"Good Lord! " he said. "No!"
"What has happened?" I asked after a pause. "Have we jumped to the
tropics? "
"It was as I expected. This air has evaporated - if it is air. At any
rate, it has evaporated, and the surface of the moon is showing. We are
lying on a bank of earthy rock. Here and there bare soil is exposed. A
queer sort of soil!"
It occurred to him that it was unnecessary to explain. He assisted me into
a sitting position, and I could see with my own eyes.
Chapter 8
A Lunar Morning
The harsh emphasis, the pitiless black and white of scenery had altogether
disappeared. The glare of the sun had taken upon itself a faint tinge of
amber; the shadows upon the cliff of the crater wall were deeply purple.
To the eastward a dark bank of fog still crouched and sheltered from the
sunrise, but to the westward the sky was blue and clear. I began to
realise the length of my insensibility.
We were no longer in a void. An atmosphere had arisen about us. The
outline of things had gained in character, had grown acute and varied;
save for a shadowed space of white substance here and there, white
substance that was no longer air but snow, the arctic appearance had gone
altogether. Everywhere broad rusty brown spaces of bare and tumbled earth
spread to the blaze of the sun. Here and there at the edge of the
snowdrifts were transient little pools and eddies of water, the only
things stirring in that expanse of barrenness. The sunlight inundated the
upper two blinds of our sphere and turned our climate to high summer, but
our feet were still in shadow, and the sphere was lying upon a drift of
And scattered here and there upon the slope, and emphasised by little
white threads of unthawed snow upon their shady sides, were shapes like
sticks, dry twisted sticks of the same rusty hue as the rock upon which
they lay. That caught one's thoughts sharply. Sticks! On a lifeless
world? Then as my eye grew more accustomed to the texture of their
substance, I perceived that almost all this surface had a fibrous texture,
like the carpet of brown needles one finds beneath the shade of pine
"Cavor! " I said.
"It may be a dead world now - but once -"
Something arrested my attention. I had discovered among these needles a
number of little round objects. And it seemed to me that one of these had
moved. "Cavor," I whispered.
But I did not answer at once. I stared incredulous. For an instant I
could not believe my eyes. I gave an inarticulate cry. I gripped his arm.
I pointed. "Look!" I cried, finding my tongue. "There! Yes! And there!"
His eyes followed my pointing finger. "Eh?" he said.
How can I describe the thing I saw? It is so petty a thing to state, and
yet it seemed so wonderful, so pregnant with emotion. I have said that
amidst the stick-like litter were these rounded bodies, these little oval
bodies that might have passed as very small pebbles. And now first one and
then another had stirred, had rolled over and cracked, and down the crack
of each of them showed a minute line of yellowish green, thrusting outward
to meet the hot encouragement of the newly-risen sun. For a moment that
was all, and then there stirred, and burst a third!
"It is a seed," said Cavor. And then I heard him whisper very softly,
"Life!" And immediately it poured upon us that our vast journey had not
been made in vain, that we had come to no arid waste of minerals, but to a
world that lived and moved! We watched intensely. I remember I kept
rubbing the glass before me with my sleeve, jealous of the faintest
suspicion of mist.
The picture was clear and vivid only in the middle of the field. All about
that centre the dead fibres and seeds were magnified and distorted b~ the
curvature of the glass. But we could see enough! One after another all
down the sunlit slope these miraculous little brown bodies burst and gaped
apart, like seed-pods, like the husks of fruits; opened eager mouths.
that drank in the heat and light pouring in a cascade from the newly-risen
Every moment more of these seed coats ruptured, and even as they did so
the swelling pioneers overflowed their rent-distended seed-cases, and
passed into the second stage of growth. With a steady assurance, a swift
deliberation, these amazing seeds thrust a rootlet downward to the earth
and a queer little bundle-like bud into the air. In a little while the
whole slope was dotted with minute plantlets standing at attention in the
blaze of the sun.
They did not stand for long. The bundle-like buds swelled and strained and
opened with a jerk, thrusting out a coronet of little sharp tips,
spreading a whorl of tiny, spiky, brownish leaves, that lengthened
rapidly, lengthened visibly even as we watched. The movement was slower
than any animal's, swifter than any plant's I have ever seen before. How
can I suggest it to you - the way that growth went on? The leaf tips grew
so that they moved onward even while we looked at them. The brown
seed-case shrivelled and was absorbed with an equal rapidity. Have you
ever on a cold day taken a thermometer into your warm hand and watched the
little thread of mercury creep up the tube? These moon plants grew like
In a few minutes, as it seemed, the buds of the more forward of these
plants had lengthened into a stem and were even putting forth a second
whorl of leaves, and all the slope that had seemed so recently a lifeless
stretch of litter was now dark with the stunted olive-green herbage of
bristling spikes that swayed with the vigour of their growing.
I turned about, and behold! along the upper edge of a rock to the eastward
a similar fringe in a scarcely less forward condition swayed and bent,
dark against the blinding glare of the sun. And beyond this fringe was the
silhouette of a plant mass, branching clumsily like a cactus, and swelling
visibly, swelling like a bladder that fills with air.
Then to the westward also I discovered that another such distended form
was rising over the scrub. But here the light fell upon its sleek sides,
and I could see that its colour was a vivid orange hue It rose as one
watched it; if one looked away from it for a minute and then back, its
outline had changed; it thrust out blunt congested branches until in a
little time it rose a coralline shape of many feet in height. Compared
with such a growth the terrestrial puff-ball, which will sometimes swell a
foot in diameter in a single night, would be a hopeless laggard. But then
the puff-ball grows against a gravitational pull six times that of the
moon. Beyond, out of gullies and flats that had been hidden from us, but
not from the quickening sun, over reefs and banks of shining rock, a
bristling beard of spiky and fleshy vegetation was straining into view,
hurrying tumultuously to tale advantage of the brief day in which it must
flower and fruit and seed again and die. It was like a miracle, that
growth. So, one must imagine, the trees and plants arose at the Creation
and covered the desolation of the new-made earth.
Imagine it; Imagine that dawn! The resurrection of the frozen air, the
stirring and quickening of the soil, and then this silent uprising of
vegetation, this unearthly ascent of fleshiness and spikes. Conceive it
all lit by a blaze that would make the intensest sunlight of earth seem
watery and weak. And still around this stirring jungle, wherever there was
shadow, lingered banks of bluish snow. And to have the picture of our
impression complete, you must bear in mind that we saw it all through a
thick bent glass, distorting it as things are distorted by a lens, acute
only in the centre of the picture, and very bright there, and towards the
edges magnified and unreal.
Chapter 9
Prospecting Begins
WE ceased to gaze. We turned to each other, the same thought, the same
question in our eyes. For these plants to grow, there must be some air,
however attenuated, air that we also should be able to breathe.
"The manhole?" I said.
"Yes!" said Cavor, "if it is air we see!"
"In a little while," I said, "these plants will be as high as we are.
Suppose - suppose after all - Is it certain? How do you know that stuff
is air? It may be nitrogen - it may be carbonic acid even!"
"That's easy," he said, and set about proving it. He produced a big piece
of crumpled paper from the bale, lit it, and thrust it hastily through the
man-hole valve. I bent forward and peered down through the thick glass for
its appearance outside, that little flame on whose evidence depended so
I saw the paper drop out and lie lightly upon the snow. The pink flame of
its burning vanished. For an instant it seemed to be extinguished. And
then I saw a little blue tongue upon the edge of it that trembled, and
crept, and spread!
Quietly the whole sheet, save where it lay in Immediate contact with the
snow, charred and shrivelled and sent up a quivering thread of smoke.
There was no doubt left to me; the atmosphere of the moon was either pure
oxygen or air, and capable therefore - unless its tenuity was excessive -
of supporting our alien life. We might emerge - and live!
I sat down with my legs on either side of the manhole and prepared to
unscrew it, but Cavor stopped me. "There is first a little precaution," he
said. He pointed out that although it was certainly an oxygenated
atmosphere outside, it might still be so rarefied as to cause us grave
injury. He reminded me of mountain sickness, and of the bleeding that
often afflicts aeronauts who have ascended too swiftly, and he spent some
time in the preparation of a sickly-tasting drink which he insisted on my
sharing. It made me feel a little numb, but otherwise had no effect on me.
Then he permitted me to begin unscrewing.
Presently the glass stopper of the manhole was so far undone that the
denser air within our sphere began to escape along the thread of the
screw, singing as a kettle sings before it boils. Thereupon he made me
desist. It speedily became evident that the pressure outside was very much
less than it was within. How much less it was we had no means of telling.
I sat grasping the stopper with both hands, ready to close it again if, in
spite of our intense hope, the lunar atmosphere should after all prove too
rarefied for us, and Cavor sat with a cylinder of compressed oxygen at
hand to restore our pressure. We looked at one another in silence, and
then at the fantastic vegetation that swayed and grew visibly and
noiselessly without. And ever that shrill piping continued.
My blood-vessels began to throb in my ears, and the sound of Cavor's
movements diminished. I noted how still everything had become, because of
the thinning of the air.
As our air sizzled out from the screw the moisture of it condensed in
little puffs.
Presently I experienced a peculiar shortness of breath that lasted indeed
during the whole of the time of our exposure to the moon's exterior
atmosphere, and a rather unpleasant sensation about the ears and
finger-nails and the back of the throat grew upon my attention, and
presently passed off again.
But then came vertigo and nausea that abruptly changed the quality of my
courage. I gave the lid of the manhole half a turn and made a hasty
explanation to Cavor; but now he was the more sanguine. He answered me in
a voice that seemed extraordinarily small and remote, because of the
thinness of the air that carried the sound. He recommended a nip of
brandy, and set me the example, and presently I felt better. I turned the
manhole stopper back again. The throbbing in my ears grew louder, and then
I remarked that the piping note of the outrush had ceased. For a time I
could not be sure that it had ceased.
"Well?" said Cavor, in the ghost of a voice.
"Well?" said I.
"Shall we go on?"
I thought. "Is this all?"
"If you can stand it."
By way of answer I went on unscrewing. I lifted the circular operculum
from its place and laid it carefully on the bale. A flake or so of snow
whirled and vanished as that thin and unfamiliar air took possession of
our sphere. I knelt, and then seated myself at the edge of the manhole,
peering over it. Beneath, within a yard of my face, lay the untrodden snow
of the moon.
There came a little pause. Our eyes met.
"It doesn't distress your lungs too much?" said Cavor.
"No," I said. "I can stand this."
He stretched out his hand for his blanket, thrust his head through its
central hole, and wrapped it about him. He sat down on the edge of the
manhole, he let his feet drop until they were within six inches of the
lunar ground. He hesitated for a moment, then thrust himself forward,
dropped these intervening inches, and stood upon the untrodden soil of the
As he stepped forward lie was refracted grotesquely by the edge of the
glass. He stood for a moment looking this way and that. Then he drew
himself together and leapt.
The glass distorted everything, but it seemed to me even then to be an
extremely big leap. He had at one bound become remote. He seemed twenty or
thirty feet off. He was standing high upon a rocky mass and gesticulating
back to me. Perhaps he was shouting - but the sound did not reach me. But
how the deuce had he done this? I felt like a man who has just seen a new
conjuring trick.
In a puzzled state of mind I too dropped through the manhole. I stood up.
Just in front of me the snowdrift had fallen away and made a sort of
ditch. I made a step and jumped.
I found myself flying through the air, saw the rock on which he stood
coming to meet me, clutched it and clung in a state of infinite amazement.
I gasped a painful laugh. I was tremendously confused. Cavor bent down
arid shouted in piping tones for me to be careful.
I had forgotten that on the moon, with only an eighth part of the earth's
mass and a quarter of its diameter, my weight was barely a sixth what it
was on earth. But now that fact insisted on being remembered.
"We are out of Mother Earth's leading - strings now," he said.
With a guarded effort I raised myself to the top, and moving as cautiously
as a rheumatic patient, stood up beside him under the blaze of the sun.
The sphere lay behind us on its dwindling snowdrift thirty feet away.
As far as the eye could see over the enormous disorder of rocks that
formed the crater floor, the same bristling scrub that surrounded us was
starting into life, diversified here and there by bulging masses of a
cactus form, and scarlet and purple lichens that grew so fast they seemed
to crawl over the rocks. The whole area of the crater seemed to me then to
be one similar wilderness up to the very foot of the surrounding cliff.
This cliff was apparently bare of vegetation save at its base, and with
buttresses and terraces and platforms that did not very greatly attract
our attention at the time. It was many miles away from us in every
direction, we seemed to be almost at the centre of the crater, and we saw
it through a certain haziness that drove before the wind. For there was
even a wind now in the thin air, a swift yet weak wind that chilled
exceedingly but exerted little pressure. It was blowing I round the
crater, as it seemed, to the hot illuminated side from the foggy darkness
under the sunward wall. It was difficult to look into this eastward fog;
we had to peer with half-closed eyes beneath the shade of our hands,
because of the fierce intensity of the motionless sun.
"It seems to be deserted," said Cavor, "absolutely desolate."
I looked about me again. I retained even then a clinging hope of some
quasi-human evidence, some pinnacle of building, some house or engine, but
everywhere one looked spread the tumbled rocks in peaks and crests, and
the darting scrub and those bulging cacti that swelled and swelled, a flat
negation as it seemed of all such hope.
"It looks as though these plants had it to themselves," I said. " I see no
trace of any other creature."
"No insects - no birds, no! Not a trace, not a scrap nor particle of
animal life. If there was - what would they do in the night? ... No;
there's just these plants alone."
I shaded my eyes with my hand. "It's like the landscape of a dream. These
things are less like earthly land plants than the things one imagines
among the rocks at the bottom of the sea. Look at that yonder! One might
imagine it a lizard changed into a plant. And the glare! "
"This is only the fresh morning," said Cavor.
He sighed and looked about him. "This is no world for men," he said. "And
yet in a way - it appeals."
He became silent for a time, then commenced his meditative humming.
I started at a gentle touch, and found a thin sheet of livid lichen
lapping over my shoe. I kicked at it and it fell to powder, and each speck
began to grow.
I heard Cavor exclaim sharply, and perceived that one of the fixed
bayonets of the scrub had pricked him. He hesitated, his eyes sought
among the rocks about us. A sudden blaze of pink had crept up a ragged
pillar of crag. It was a most extraordinary pink, a livid magenta.
"Look!" said I, turning, and behold Cavor had vanished.
For an instant I stood transfixed. Then I made a hasty step to look over
the verge of the rock. But in my surprise at his disappearance I forgot
once more that we were on the moon. The thrust of my foot that I made in
striding would have carried me a yard on earth; on the moon it carried me
six - a good five yards over the edge. For the moment the thing had
something of the effect of those nightmares when one falls and falls. For
while one falls sixteen feet in the first second of a fall on earth, on
the moon one falls two, and with only a sixth of one's weight. I fell, or
rather I jumped down, about ten yards I suppose. It seemed to take quite a
long time, five or six seconds, I should think. I floated through the air
and fell like a feather, knee-deep in a snow-drift in the bottom of a
gully of blue-gray, white-veined rock.
I looked about me. "Cavor!" I cried; but no Cavor was visible.
"Cavor!" I cried louder, and the rocks echoed me.
I turned fiercely to the rocks and clambered to the summit of them.
"Cavor!" I cried. My voice sounded like the voice of a lost lamb.
The sphere, too, was not in sight, and for a moment a horrible feeling of
desolation pinched my heart.
Then I saw him. He was laughing and gesticulating to attract my attention.
He was on a bare patch of rock twenty or thirty yards away. I could not
hear his voice, but "jump" said his gestures. I hesitated, the distance
seemed enormous. Yet I reflected that surely I must be able to clear a
greater distance than Cavor.
I made a step back, gathered myself together, and leapt with all my might.
I seemed to shoot right up in the air as though I should never come down.
It was horrible and delightful, and as wild as a nightmare, to go flying
off in this fashion. I realised my leap had been altogether too violent. I
flew clean over Cavor's head and beheld a spiky confusion in a gully
spreading to meet my fall. I gave a yelp of alarm. I put out my hands and
straightened my legs.
I hit a huge fungoid bulk that burst all about me, scattering a mass of
orange spores in every direction, and covering me with orange powder. I
rolled over spluttering, and came to rest convulsed with breathless
I became aware of Cavor's little round face peering over a bristling
hedge. He shouted some faded inquiry. "Eh?" I tried to shout, but could
not do so for want of breath. He made his way towards me, coming gingerly
among the bushes.
"We've got to be careful," he said. "This moon has no discipline. She'll
let us smash ourselves."
He helped me to my feet. "You exerted yourself too much," he said, dabbing
at the yellow stuff with his hand to remove it from my garments.
I stood passive and panting, allowing him to beat off the jelly from my
knees and elbows and lecture me upon my misfortunes. " We don't quite
allow for the gravitation. Our muscles are scarcely educated yet. We must
practise a little, when you have got your breath."
I pulled two or three little thorns out of my hand, and sat for a time on
a boulder of rock. My muscles were quivering, and I had that feeling of
personal disillusionment that comes at the first fall to the learner of
cycling on earth.
It suddenly occurred to Cavor that the cold air in the gully, after the
brightness of the sun, might give me a fever. So we clambered back into
the sunlight. We found that beyond a few abrasions I had received no
serious injuries from my tumble, and at Cavor's suggestion we were
presently looking round for some safe and easy landing-place for my next
leap. We chose a rocky slab some ten yards off, separated from us by a
little thicket of olive-green spikes.
"Imagine it there!" said Cavor, who was assuming the airs of a trainer,
and he pointed to a spot about four feet from my toes. This leap I managed
without difficulty, and I must confess I found a certain satisfaction in
Cavor's falling short by a foot or so and tasting the spikes of the scrub.
"One has to be careful you see," he said, pulling out his thorns, and with
that he ceased to be my Mentor and became my fellow-learner in the art of
lunar locomotion.
We chose a still easier jump and did it without difficulty, and then leapt
back again, and to and fro several times, accustoming our muscles to the
new standard. I could never have believed had I not experienced it, how
rapid that adaptation would be. In a very little time indeed, certainly
after fewer than thirty leaps, we could judge the effort necessary for a
distance with almost terrestrial assurance.
And all this time the lunar plants were growing around us, higher and
denser and more entangled, every moment thicker and taller, spiked plants,
green cactus masses, fungi, fleshy and lichenous things, strangest radiate
and sinuous shapes. But we were so intent upon our leaping, that for a
time we gave no heed to their unfaltering expansion.
An extraordinary elation had taken possession of us. Partly, I think, it
was our sense of release from the confinement of the sphere. Mainly,
however, the thin sweetness of the air, which I am certain contained a
much larger proportion of oxygen than our terrestrial atmosphere. In spite
of the strange quality of all about us, I felt as adventurous and
experimental as a cockney would do placed for the first time among
mountains and I do not think it occurred to either of us, face to face
though we were with the unknown, to be very greatly afraid.
We were bitten by a spirit of enterprise. We selected a lichenous kopje
perhaps fifteen yards away, and landed neatly on its summit one after the
other. "Good!" we cried to each other; "good!" and Cavor made three steps
and went off to a tempting slope of snow a good twenty yards and more
beyond. I stood for a moment struck by the grotesque effect of his
soaring figure - his dirty cricket cap, and spiky hair, his little round
body, his arms and his knicker-bockered legs tucked up tightly - against
the weird spaciousness of the lunar scene. A gust of laughter seized me,
and then I stepped off to follow. Plump! I dropped beside him.
We made a few gargantuan strides, leapt three or four times more, and sat
down at last in a lichenous hollow. Our lungs were painful. We sat holding
our sides and recovering our breath, looking appreciation to one another.
Cavor panted something about "amazing sensations." And then came a thought
into my head. For the moment it did not seem a particularly appalling
thought, simply a natural question arising out of the situation.
"By the way," I said, "where exactly is the sphere?"
Cavor looked at me. "Eh?"
The full meaning of what we were saying struck me sharply.
"Cavor!" I cried, laying a hand on his arm, "where is the sphere?"
Chapter 10
Lost Men in the Moon
HIS face caught something of my dismay. He stood up and stared about him
at the scrub that fenced us in and rose about us, straining upward in a
passion of growth. He put a dubious hand to his lips. He spoke with a
sudden lack of assurance. "I think," he said slowly, "we left it ...
somewhere ... about there."
He pointed a hesitating finger that wavered in an arc.
"I'm not sure." His look of consternation deepened. "Anyhow," he said,
with his eyes on me, "it can't be far."
We had both stood up. We made unmeaning ejaculations, our eyes sought in
the twining, thickening jungle round about us.
All about us on the sunlit slopes frothed and swayed the darting shrubs,
the swelling cactus, the creeping lichens, and wherever the shade remained
the snow-drifts lingered. North, south, east, and west spread an identical
monotony of unfamiliar forms. And somewhere, buried already among this
tangled confusion, was our sphere, our home, our only provision, our only
hope of escape from this fantastic wilderness of ephemeral growths into
which we had come.
"I think after all," he said, pointing suddenly, "it might be over there."
"No," I said. "We have turned in a curve. See! here is the mark of my
heels. It's clear the thing must be more to the eastward, much more. No -
the sphere must be over there."
"I think," said Cavor, "I kept the sun upon my right all the time."
"Every leap, it seems to me," I said, "my shadow flew before me."
We stared into one another's eyes. The area of the crater had become
enormously vast to our imaginations, the growing thickets already
impenetrably dense.
"Good heavens! What fools we have been!"
"It's evident that we must find it again," said Cavor, "and that soon. The
sun grows stronger. We should be fainting with the heat already if it
wasn't so dry. And ... I'm hungry."
I stared at him. I had not suspected this aspect of the matter before. But
it came to me at once - a positive craving. "Yes," I said with emphasis.
"I am hungry too."
He stood up with a look of active resolution. "Certainly we must find the
As calmly as possible we surveyed the interminable reefs and thickets that
formed the floor of the crater, each of us weighing in silence the chances
of our finding the sphere before we were overtaken by heat and hunger.
"It can't be fifty yards from here," said Cavor, with indecisive gestures.
"The only thing is to beat round about until we come upon it."
"That is all we can do," I said, without any alacrity to begin our hunt.
"I wish this confounded spike bush did not grow so fast!"
"That's just it," said Cavor. "But it was lying on a bank of snow."
I stared about me in the vain hope of recognising some knoll or shrub that
had been near the sphere. But everywhere was a confusing sameness,
everywhere the aspiring bushes, the distending fungi, the dwindling snow
banks, steadily and inevitably changed. The sun scorched and stung, the
faintness of an unaccountable hunger mingled with our infinite perplexity.
And even as we stood there, confused and lost amidst unprecedented things,
we became aware for the first time of a sound upon the moon other than the
air of the growing plants, the faint sighing of the wind, or those that we
ourselves had made.
Boom. ... Boom. ... Boom.
It came from beneath our feet, a sound in the earth. We seemed to hear it
with our feet as much as with our ears. Its dull resonance was muffled by
distance, thick with the quality of intervening substance. No sound that I
can imagine could have astonished us more, or have changed more completely
the quality of things about us. For this sound, rich, slow, and
deliberate, seemed to us as though it could be nothing but the striking of
some gigantic buried clock.
Boom. ... Boom. ... Boom.
Sound suggestive of still cloisters, of sleepless nights in crowded
cities, of vigils and the awaited hour, cf all that is orderly and
methodical in life, booming out pregnant and mysterious in this fantastic
desert! To the eye everything was unchanged: the desolation of bushes and
cacti waving silently in the wind, stretched unbroken to the distant
cliffs, the still dark sky was empty overhead, and the hot sun hung and
burned. And through it all, a warning, a threat, throbbed this enigma of
Boom. ... Boom. ... Boom. ...
We questioned one another in faint and faded voices.
"A clock?"
"Like a clock!"
"What is it?"
"What can it be?"
"Count," was Cavor's belated suggestion, and at that word the striking
The silence, the rhythmic disappointment of the silence, came as a fresh
shock. For a moment one could doubt whether one had ever heard a sound. Or
whether it might not still be going on. Had I indeed heard a sound?
I felt the pressure of Cavor's hand upon my arm. He spoke in an
undertone, as though he feared to wake some sleeping thing. "Let us keep
together," he whispered, "and look for the sphere. We must get back to the
sphere. This is beyond our understanding."
"Which way shall we go?"
He hesitated. An intense persuasion of presences, of unseen things about
us and near us, dominated our minds. What could they be? Where could they
be? Was this arid desolation, alternately frozen and scorched, only the
outer rind and mask of some subterranean world? And if so, what sort of
world? What sort of inhabitants might it not presently disgorge upon us?
And then, stabbing the aching stillness as vivid and sudden as an
unexpected thunderclap, came a clang and rattle as though great gates of
metal had suddenly been flung apart.
It arrested our steps. We stood gaping helplessly. Then Cavor stole
towards me.
"I do not understand!" he whispered close to my face. He waved his hand
vaguely skyward, the vague suggestion of still vaguer thoughts.
"A hiding-place! If anything came..."
I looked about us. I nodded my head in assent to him.
We started off, moving stealthily with the most exaggerated precautions
against noise. We went towards a thicket of scrub. A clangour like hammers
flung about a boiler hastened our steps. "We must crawl," whispered Cavor.
The lower leaves of the bayonet plants, already overshadowed by the newer
ones above, were beginning to wilt and shrivel so that we could thrust our
way in among the thickening stems without serious injury. A stab in the
face or arm we did not heed. At the heart of the thicket I stopped, and
stared panting into Cavor's face.
"Subterranean," he whispered. "Below."
"They may come out."
"We must find the sphere!"
"Yes," I said; "but how?"
"Crawl till we come to it."
"But if we don't?"
"Keep hidden. See what they are like."
"We will keep together," said I.
He thought. "Which way shall we go?"
"We must take our chance."
We peered this way and that. Then very circumspectly, we began to crawl
through the lower jungle, making, so far as we could judge, a circuit,
halting now at every waving fungus, at every sound, intent only on the
sphere from which we had so foolishly emerged. Ever and again from out of
the earth beneath us came concussions, beatings, strange, inexplicable,
mechanical sounds; and once, and then again, we thought we heard
something, a faint rattle and tumult, borne to us through the air. But
fearful as we were we dared essay no vantage-point to survey the crater.
For long we saw nothing of the beings whose sounds were so abundant and
insistent. But for the faintness of our hunger and the drying of our
throats that crawling would have had the quality of a very vivid dream. It
was so absolutely unreal. The only element with any touch of reality was
these sounds.
Figure it to yourself! About us the dream-like jungle, with the silent
bayonet leaves darting overhead, and the silent, vivid, sun-splashed
lichens under our hands and knees, waving with the vigour of their growth
as a carpet waves when the wind gets beneath it. Ever and again one of the
bladder fungi, bulging and distending under the sun, loomed upon us. Ever
and again some novel shape in vivid colour obtruded. The very cells that
built up these plants were as large as my thumb, like beads of coloured
glass. And all these things were saturated in the unmitigated glare of the
sun, were seen against a sky that was bluish black and spangled still, in
spite of the sunlight, with a few surviving stars. Strange! the very forms
and texture of the stones were strange. It was all strange, the feeling of
one's body was unprecedented, every other movement ended in a surprise.
The breath sucked thin in one's throat, the blood flowed through one's
ears in a throbbing tide - thud, thud, thud, thud....
And ever and again came gusts of turmoil, hammering, the clanging and
throb of machinery, and presently - the bellowing of great beasts!
Chapter 11
The Mooncalf Pastures
SO we two poor terrestrial castaways, lost in that wild-growing moon
jungle, crawled in terror before the sounds that had come upon us. We
crawled, as it seemed, a long time before we saw either Selenite or
mooncalf, though we heard the bellowing and gruntulous noises of these
latter continually drawing nearer to us. We crawled through stony ravines,
over snow slopes, amidst fungi that ripped like thin bladders at our
thrust, emitting a watery humour, over a perfect pavement of things like
puff-balls, and beneath interminable thickets of scrub. And ever more
helplessly our eyes sought for our abandoned sphere. The noise of the
mooncalves would at times be a vast flat calf-like sound, at times it rose
to an amazed and wrathy bellowing, and again it would become a clogged
bestial sound, as though these unseen creatures had sought to eat and
bellow at the same time.
Our first view was but an inadequate transitory glimpse, yet none the less
disturbing because it was incomplete. Cavor was crawling in front at the
time, and he first was aware of their proximity. He stopped dead,
arresting me with a single gesture.
A crackling and smashing of the scrub appeared to be advancing directly
upon us, and then, as we squatted close and endeavoured to judge of the
nearness and direction of this noise, there came a terrific bellow behind
us, so close and vehement that the tops of the bayonet scrub bent before
it, and one felt the breath of it hot and moist. And, turning about, we
saw indistinctly through a crowd of swaying stems the mooncalf's shining
sides, and the long line of its back loomed out against the sky.
Of course it is hard for me now to say how much I saw at that time,
because my impressions were corrected by subsequent observation. First of
all impressions was its enormous size; the girth of its body was some
fourscore feet, its length perhaps two hundred. Its sides rose and fell
with its laboured breathing. I perceived that its gigantic, flabby body
lay along the ground, and that its skin was of a corrugated white,
dappling into blackness along the backbone. But of its feet we saw
nothing. I think also that we saw then the profile at least of the almost
brainless head, with its fat-encumbered neck, its slobbering omnivorous
mouth, its little nostrils, and tight shut eyes. (For the mooncalf
invariably shuts its eyes in the presence of the sun.) We had a glimpse of
a vast red pit as it opened its mouth to bleat and bellow again; we had a
breath from the pit, and then the monster heeled over like a ship, dragged
forward along the ground, creasing all its leathery skin, rolled again,
and so wallowed past us, smashing a path amidst the scrub, and was
speedily hidden from our eyes by the dense interlacings beyond. Another
appeared more distantly, and then another, and then, as though he was
guiding these animated lumps of provender to their pasture, a Selenite
came momentarily into ken. My grip upon Cavor's foot became convulsive at
the sight of him, and we remained motionless and peering long after he had
passed out of our range.
By contrast with the mooncalves he seemed a trivial being, a mere ant,
scarcely five feet high. He was, wearing garments of some leathery
substance, so that no portion of his actual body appeared, but of this, of
course, we were entirely ignorant. He presented himself, therefore, as a
compact, bristling creature, having much of the quality of a complicated
insect, with whip-like tentacles and a clanging arm projecting from his
shining cylindrical body case. The form of his head was hidden by his
enormous many-spiked helmet - we discovered afterwards that he used the
spikes for prodding refractory mooncalves - and a pair of goggles of
darkened glass, set very much at the side, gave a bird-like quality to the
metallic apparatus that covered his face. His arms did not project beyond
his body case, and he carried himself upon short legs that, wrapped though
they were in warm coverings, seemed to our terrestrial eyes inordinately
flimsy. They had very short thighs, very long shanks, and little feet.
In spite of his heavy-looking clothing, he was progressing with what would
be, from the terrestrial point of view, very considerable strides, and his
clanging arm was busy. The quality of his motion during the instant of his
passing suggested haste and a certain anger, and soon after we had lost
sight of him we heard the bellow of a mooncalf change abruptly into a
short, sharp squeal followed by the scuffle of its acceleration. And
gradually that bellowing receded, and then came to an end, as if the
pastures sought had been attained.
We listened. For a space the moon world was still. But it was some time
before we resumed our crawling search for the vanished sphere.
When next we saw mooncalves they were some little distance away from us in
a place of tumbled rocks. The less vertical surfaces of the rocks were
thick with a speckled green plant growing in dense mossy clumps, upon
which these creatures were browsing. We stopped at the edge of the reeds
amidst which we were crawling at the sight of them, peering out at then
and looking round for a second glimpse of a Selenite. They lay against
their food like stupendous slugs, huge, greasy hulls, eating greedily and
noisily, with a sort of sobbing avidity. They seemed monsters of mere
fatness, clumsy and overwhelmed to a degree that would make a Smithfield
ox seem a model of agility. Their busy, writhing, chewing mouths, and eyes
closed, together with the appetising sound of their munching, made up an
effect of animal enjoyment that was singularly stimulating to our empty
"Hogs!" said Cavor, with unusual passion. "Dis- gusting hogs!" and after
one glare of angry envy crawled off through the bushes to our right. I
stayed long enough to see that the speckled plant was quite hopeless for
human nourishment, then crawled after him, nibbling a quill of it between
my teeth.
Presently we were arrested again by the proximity of a Selenite, and this
time we were able to observe him more exactly. Now we could see that the
Selenite covering was indeed clothing, and not a sort of crustacean
integument. He was quite similar in his costume to the former one we had
glimpsed, except that ends of something like wadding were protruding front
his neck, and he stood on a promontory of rock and moved his head this way
and that, as though he was surveying the crater. We lay quite still,
fearing to attract his attention if we moved, and after a time he turned
about and disappeared.
We came upon another drove of mooncalves bellowing up a ravine, and then
we passed over a place of sounds, sounds of beating machinery as if some
huge hall of industry came near the surface there. And while these sounds
were still about us we came to the edge of a great open space, perhaps two
hundred yards in diameter, and perfectly level. Save for a few lichens
that advanced from its margin this space was bare, and presented a powdery
surface of a dusty yellow colour. We were afraid to strike out across
this space, but as it presented less obstruction to our crawling than the
scrub, we went down upon it and began very circumspectly to skirt its
For a little while the noises from below ceased and everything, save for
the faint stir of the growing vegetation, was very still. Then abruptly
there began an uproar, louder, more vehement, and nearer than any we had
so far heard. Of a certainty it came from below. Instinctively we crouched
as flat as we could, ready for a prompt plunge into the thicket beside us.
Each knock and throb seemed to vibrate through our bodies. Louder grew
this throbbing and beating, and that irregular vibration increased until
the whole moon world seemed to be jerking and pulsing.
"Cover," whispered Cavor, and I turned towards the bushes.
At that instant came a thud like the thud of a gun, and then a thing
happened - it still haunts me in my dreams. I had turned my head to look
at Cavor's face, and thrust out my hand in front of me as I so. And my
hand met nothing! Plunged suddenly into a bottomless hole!
My chest hit something hard, and I found myself with my chin on the edge
of an unfathomable abyss that had suddenly opened beneath me, my hand
extended stiffly into the void. The whole of that flat circular area was
no more than a gigantic lid, that was now sliding sideways from off the
pit it had covered into a slot prepared for it.
Had it not been for Cavor I think I should have remained rigid, hanging
over this margin and staring into the enormous gulf below, until at last
the edges of the slot scraped me off and hurled me into its depths. But
Cavor had not received the shock that had paralysed me. He had been a
little distance from the edge when the lid had first opened, and
perceiving the peril that held me helpless, gripped my legs and pulled me
backward. I came into a sitting position, crawled away from the edge for a
space on all fours, then staggered up and ran after him across the
thundering, quivering sheet of metal. It seemed to be swinging open with a
steadily accelerated velocity, and the bushes in front of me shifted
sideways as I ran.
I was none too soon. Cavor's back vanished amidst the bristling thicket,
and as I scrambled up after him, the monstrous valve came into its
position with a clang. For a long time we lay panting, not daring to
approach the pit.
But at last very cautiously and bit by bit we crept into a position from
which we could peer down. The bushes about us creaked and waved with the
force of a breeze that was blowing down the shaft. We could see nothing at
first except smooth vertical walls descending at last into an impenetrable
black. And then very gradually we became aware of a number of very faint
and little lights going to and fro.
For a time that stupendous gulf of mystery held us so that we forgot even
our sphere. In time, as we grew more accustomed to the darkness, we could
make out very small, dim, elusive shapes moving about among those
needle-point illuminations. We peered amazed and incredulous,
understanding so little that we could find no words to say. We could
distinguish nothing that would give us a clue to the meaning of the faint
shapes we saw.
"What can it be?" I asked; "what can it be?"
"The engineering!... They must live in these caverns during the night, and
come out during the day."
"Cavor! " I said. "Can they be - that - it was something like -, men?"
"That was not a man."
"We dare risk nothing"
"We dare do nothing until we find the sphere!"
"We can do nothing until we find the sphere."
He assented with a groan and stirred himself to move. He stared about him
for a space, sighed, and indicated a direction. We struck out through the
jungle. For a time we crawled resolutely, then with diminishing vigour.
Presently among great shapes of flabby purple there came a noise of
trampling and cries about us. We lay close, and for a long time the sounds
went to and fro and very near. But this time we saw nothing. I tried to
whisper to Cavor that I could hardly go without food much longer, but my
mouth had become too dry for whispering.
"Cavor," I said, "I must have food."
He turned a face full of dismay towards me. "It's a case for holding out,"
he said.
"But I must," I said, "and look at my lips!"
"I've been thirsty some time."
"If only some of that snow had remained!"
"It's clean gone! We're driving from arctic to tropical at the rate of a
degree a minute. ..."
I gnawed my hand.
"The sphere!" he said. "There is nothing for it but the sphere."
We roused ourselves to another spurt of crawling. My mind ran entirely on
edible things, on the hissing profundity of summer drinks, more
particularly I craved for beer. I was haunted by the memory of a sixteen
gallon cask that had swaggered in my Lympne cellar. I thought of the
adjacent larder, and especially of steak and kidney pie - tender steak and
plenty of kidney, and rich, thick gravy between. Ever and again I was
seized with fits of hungry yawning. We came to flat places overgrown with
fleshy red things, monstrous coralline growths; as we pushed against them
they snapped and broke. I noted the quality of the broken surfaces. The
confounded stuff certainly looked of a biteable texture. Then it seemed to
me that it smelt rather well.
I picked up a fragment and sniffed at it.
"Cavor," I said in a hoarse undertone.
He glanced at me with his face screwed up. "Don't,"
he said. I put down the fragment, and we crawled on through this tempting
fleshiness for a space.
"Cavor," I asked, "why not?"
"Poison," I heard him say, but he did not look round.
We crawled some way before I decided.
"I'll chance it," said I.
He made a belated gesture to prevent me. I stuffed my mouth full. He
crouched watching my face, his own twisted into the oddest expression.
"It's good," I said.
"O Lord!" he cried.
He watched me munch, his face wrinkled between desire and disapproval,
then suddenly succumbed to appetite and began to tear off huge mouthfuls.
For a time we did nothing but eat.
The stuff was not unlike a terrestrial mushroom, only it was much laxer in
texture, and, as one swallowed it, it warmed the throat. At first we
experienced a mere mechanical satisfaction in eating; then our blood began
to run warmer, and we tingled at the lips and fingers, and then new and
slightly irrelevant ideas came bubbling up in our minds.
"Its good," said I. "Infernally good! What a home for our surplus
population! Our poor surplus population," and I broke off another large
portion. It filled me with a curiously benevolent satisfaction that there
was such good food in the moon. The depression of my hunger gave way to an
irrational exhilaration. The dread and discomfort in which I had been
living vanished entirely. I perceived the moon no longer as a planet from
which I most earnestly desired the means of escape, but as a possible
refuge from human destitution. I think I forgot the Selenites, the
mooncalves, the lid, and the noises completely so soon as I had eaten that
Cavor replied to my third repetition of my "surplus population" remark
with similar words of approval. I felt that my head swam, but I put this
down to the stimulating effect cf food after a long fast. " Ess'lent
discov'ry yours, Cavor,' said I. "Se'nd on'y to the 'tato."
"Whajer mean?" asked Cavor. "'Scovery of the moon - se'nd on'y to the
'tato? "
I looked at him, shocked at his suddenly hoarse voice, and by the badness
of his articulation. It occurred to me in a flash that he was intoxicated,
possibly by the fungus. It also occurred to me that he erred in imaging
that he had discovered the moon; he had not discovered it, he had only
reached it. I tried to lay my hand on his arm and explain this to him, but
the issue was too subtle for his brain. It was also unexpectedly difficult
to express. After a momentary attempt to understand me - I remember
wondering if the fungus had made my eyes as fishy as his - he set off upon
some observations on his own account.
"We are," he announced with a solemn hiccup, "the creashurs o' Mat we eat
and drink."
He repeated this, and as I was now in one of my subtle moods, I determined
to dispute it. Possibly I wandered a little from the point. But Cavor
certainly did not attend at all properly. He stood up as well as he could,
putting a hand on my head to steady I himself, which was disrespectful,
and stood staring about him, quite devoid now of any fear of the moon
I tried to point out that this was dangerous for some reason that was not
perfectly clear to me, but the word "dangerous" had somehow got mixed with
"indiscreet," and came out rather more like "injurious" than either; and
after an attempt to disentangle them, I resumed my argument, addressing
myself principally to the unfamiliar but attentive coralline growths on
either side. I felt that it was necessary to clear up this confusion
between the moon and a potato at once - I wandered into a long parenthesis
on the importance of precision of definition in argument. I did my best to
ignore the fact that my bodily sensations were no longer agreeable.
In some way that I have now forgotten, my mind was led back to projects of
colonisation. "We must annex this moon," I said. " There must be no
shilly-shally. This is part of the White Man's Burthen. Cavor - we are -
hic - Satap - mean Satraps! Nempire Ceasar never dreamt. B'in all the
newspapers. Cavorecia. Bedfordecia. Bedfordecia - hic - Limited. Mean -
unlimited! Practically."
Certainly I was intoxicated.
I embarked upon an argument to show the infinite benefits our arrival
would confer on the moon. I involved myself in a rather difficult proof
that the arrival of Columbus was, on the whole, beneficial to America. I
found I had forgotten the line of argument I had intended to pursue, and
continued to repeat "Simlar to C'lumbus," to fill up time.
From that joint my memory of the action of that abominable fungus becomes
confused. I remember vaguely that we declared our intention of standing no
nonsense from any confounded insects, that we decided it ill became men to
hide shamefully upon a mere satellite, that we equipped ourselves with
huge armfuls of the fungus - whether for missile purposes or not I do not
know - and, heedless of the stabs of the bayonet scrub, we started forth
into the sunshine.
Almost immediately we must have come upon the Selenites. There were six of
them, and they were marching in single file over a rocky place, making the
most remarkable piping and whining sounds. They all seemed to become aware
of us at once, all instantly became silent and motionless, like animals,
with their faces turned towards us.
For a moment I was sobered.
"Insects," murmured Cavor, "insects! And they think I'm going to crawl
about on my stomach - on my vertebrated stomach!"
"Stomach," he repeated slowly, as though he chewed the indignity.
Then suddenly, with a shout of fury, he made three vast strides and leapt
towards them. He leapt badly; he made a series of somersaults in the air,
whirled right over them, and vanished with an enormous splash amidst the
cactus bladders. What the Selenites made of this amazing, and to my mind
undignified irruption from another planet, I have no means of guessing. I
seem to remember the sight of their backs as they ran in all directions,
but I am not sure. All these last incidents before oblivion came are vague
and faint in my mind. I know I made a step to follow Cavor, and tripped
and fell headlong among the rocks. I was, I am certain, suddenly and
vehemently ill. I seem to remember, a violent struggle and being gripped
by metallic clasps. ...
My next clear recollection is that we were prisoners at we knew not what
depths beneath the moon's surface; we were in darkness amidst strange
distracting noises; our bodies were covered with scratches and bruises,
and our heads racked with pain.
Chapter 12
The Selenite's Face
I FOUND myself sitting crouched together in a tumultuous darkness. For a
long time I could not understand where I was, nor how I had come to this
perplexity. I thought of the cupboard into which I had been thrust at
times when I was a child, and then of a very dark and noisy bedroom in
which I had slept during an illness. But these sounds about me were not
the noises I had known, and there was a thin flavour in the air like the
wind of a stable. Then I supposed we must still be at work upon the
sphere, and that somehow I had got into the cellar of Cavor's house. I
remembered we had finished the sphere, and fancied I must still be in it
and travelling through space.
"Cavor," I said, "cannot we have some light?"
There came no answer.
"Cavor!" I insisted.
I was answered by a groan. "My head!" I heard him say; "my head!"
I attempted to press my hands to my brow, which ached, and discovered they
were tied together. This startled me very much. I brought them up to my
mouth and felt the cold smoothness of metal. They were chained together. I
tried to separate my legs and made out they were similarly fastened, and
also that I was fastened to the ground by a much thicker chain about the
middle of my body.
I was more frightened that I had yet been by anything in all our strange
experiences. For a time I tugged silently at my bonds. " Cavor! " I cried
out sharply. "Why am I tied? Why have you tied me hand and foot? "
"I haven't tied you," he answered. "It's the Selenites."
The Selenites! My mind hung on that for a space. Then my memories came
back to me: the snowy desolation, the thawing of the air, the growth of"
the plants, our strange hopping and crawling among the rocks and
vegetation of the crater. All the distress of our frantic search for the
sphere returned to me. ... Finally the opening of the great lid that
covered the pit!
Then as I strained to trace our later movements down to our present
plight, the pain in my head became intolerable. I came to an
insurmountable barrier, an obstinate blank.
"Where are we?
"How should I know?"
"Are we dead?"
"What nonsense!"
"They've got us, then!"
He made no answer but a grunt. The lingering traces of the poison seemed
to make him oddly irritable.
"What do you mean to do?"
"How should I know what to do?"
"Oh, very well!" said I, and became silent. Presently, I was roused from
a stupor. "O Lord!" I cried; "I wish you'd stop that buzzing!"
We lapsed into silence again, listening to the dull confusion of noises
like the muffled sounds of a street or factory that filled our ears. I
could make nothing of it, my mind pursued first one rhythm and then
another, and questioned it in vain. But after a long time I became aware
of a new and sharper element, not mingling with the rest but standing out,
as it were, against that cloudy background of sound. It was a series of
relatively very little definite sounds, tappings and rubbings, like a
loose spray of ivy against a window or a bird moving about upon a box. We
listened and peered about us, but the darkness was a velvet pall. There
followed a noise like the subtle movement of the wards of a well-oiled
lock. And then there appeared before me, hanging as it seemed in an
immensity of black, a thin bright line.
"Look!" whispered Cavor very softly.
"What is it?"
"I don't know."
We stared.
The thin bright line became a band, and broader and paler. It took upon
itself the quality of a bluish light falling upon a white-washed wall. It
ceased to be parallel-sided; it developed a deep indentation on one side.
I turned to remark this to Cavor, and was amazed to see his ear in a
brilliant illumination - all the rest of him in shadow. I twisted my head
round as well as my bonds would permit. "Cavor," I said, "it's behind!"
His ear vanished - gave place to an eye!
Suddenly the crack that had been admitting the light broadened out, and
revealed itself as the space of an opening door. Beyond was a sapphire
vista, and in the doorway stood a grotesque outline silhouetted against
the glare.
We both made convulsive efforts to turn, and failing, sat staring over our
shoulders at this. My first impression was of some clumsy quadruped with
lowered head. Then I perceived it was the slender pinched body and short
and extremely attenuated bandy legs of a Selenite, with his head depressed
between his shoulders. He was without the helmet and body covering they
wear upon the exterior.
He was a blank, black figure to us, but instictively our imaginations
supplied features to his very human outline. I, at least, took it
instantly that he was somewhat hunchbacked, with a high forehead and long
He came forward three steps and paused for a time. His movements seemed
absolutely noiseless. Then he came forward again. He walked like a bird,
his feet fell one in front of the other. He stepped out of the ray of
light that came through the doorway, and it seemed as though he vanished
altogether in the shadow.
For a moment my eyes sought him in the wrong place, and then I perceived
him standing facing us both in the full light. Only the human features I
had attributed to him were not there at all!
Of course I ought to have expected that, only I didn't. It came to me as
an absolute, for a moment an overwhelming shock. It seemed as though it
wasn't a face, as though it must needs be a mask, a horror, a deformity,
that would presently be disavowed or explained. There was no nose, and the
thing had dull bulging eyes at the side - in the silhouette I had supposed
they were ears. There were no ears. ... I have tried to draw one of these
heads, but I cannot. There was a mouth, downwardly curved, like a human
mouth in a face that stares ferociously. ...
The neck on which the head was poised was jointed in three places, almost
like the short joints in the leg of a crab. The joints of the limbs I
could not see, because of the puttee-like straps in which they were
swathed, and which formed the only clothing the being wore.
There the thing was, looking at us!
At the time my mind was taken up by the mad impossibility of the creature.
I suppose he also was amazed, and with more reason, perhaps, for amazement
than we. Only, confound him! he did not show it. We did at least know what
had brought about this meeting of incompatible creatures. But conceive how
it would seem to decent Londoners, for example, to come upon a couple of
living things, as big as men and absolutely unlike any other earthly
animals, careering about among the sheep in Hyde Park! It must have taken
him like that.
Figure us! We were bound hand and foot, fagged and filthy; our beards two
inches long, our faces scratched and bloody. Cavor you must imagine in his
knickerbockers (torn in several places by the bayonet scrub) his Jaegar
shirt and old cricket cap, his wiry hair wildly disordered, a tail to
every quarter of the heavens. In that blue light his face did not look red
but very dark, his lips and the drying blood upon my hands seemed black.
If possible I was in a worse plight than he, on account of the yellow
fungus into which I had jumped. Our jackets were unbuttoned, and our shoes
had been taken off and lay at our feet. And we were sitting with our backs
to this queer bluish light, peering at such a monster as Durer might have
Cavor broke the silence; started to speak, went hoarse, and cleared his
throat. Outside began a terrific bellowing, as if a mooncalf were in
trouble. It ended in a shriek, and everything was still again.
Presently the Selenite turned about, flickered into the shadow, stood for
a moment retrospective at the door, and then closed it on us; and once
more we were in that murmurous mystery of darkness into which we had
Chapter 13
Mr. Cavor Makes Some Sugestions
FOR a time neither of us spoke. To focus together all the things we had
brought upon ourselves, seemed beyond my mental powers.
"They've got us," I said at last.
"It was that fungus."
"Well - if I hadn't taken it we should have fainted and starved."
"We might have found the sphere."
I lost my temper at his persistence, and swore to myself. For a time we
hated one another in silence. I drummed with my fingers on the floor
between my knees, and gritted the links of my fetters together. Presently
I was forced to talk again.
"What do you make of it, anyhow?" I asked humbly.
"They are reasonable creatures - they can make things and do things.
Those lights we saw..."
He stopped. It was clear he could make nothing of it.
When he spoke again it was to confess, "After all, they are more human
than we had a right to expect. I suppose -"
He stopped irritatingly.
"I suppose, anyhow - on any planet where there is an intelligent animal -
it will carry its brain case upward, and have hands, and walk erect."
Presently he broke away in another direction.
"We are some way in," he said. "I mean - perhaps a couple of thousand feet
or more."
"It's cooler. And our voices are so much louder. That faded quality - it
has altogether gone. And the feeling in one's ears and throat."
I had not noted that, but I did now.
"The air is denser. We must be some depths - a mile even, we may be -
inside the moon."
"We never thought of a world inside the moon."
"How could we?"
"We might have done. Only one gets into habits of mind."
He thought for a time.
"Now," he said, "it seems such an obvious thing."
"Of course! The moon must be enormously cavernous, with an atmosphere
within, and at the centre of its caverns a sea.
"One knew that the moon had a lower specific gravity than the earth, one
knew that it had little air or water outside, one knew, too, that it was
sister planet to the earth, and that it was unaccountable that it should
be different in composition. The inference that it was hollowed out was as
clear as day. And yet one never saw it as a fact. Kepler, of course -"
His voice had the interest now of a man who has discerned a pretty
sequence of reasoning.
"Yes," he said, "Kepler with his sub-volvani was right after all."
"I wish you had taken the trouble to find that out before we came," I
He answered nothing, buzzing to himself softly, as he pursued his
thoughts. My temper was going.
"What do you think has become of the sphere, anyhow? " I asked.
"Lost," he said, like a man who answers an uninteresting question.
"Among those plants?"
"Unless they find it."
"And then?"
"How can I tell?"
"Cavor," I said, with a sort of hysterical bitterness, "things look bright
for my Company..."
He made no answer.
"Good Lord!" I exclaimed. "Just think of all the trouble we took to get
into this pickle! What did we come for? What are we after? What was the
moon to us or we to the moon? We wanted too much, we tried too much. We
ought to have started the little things first. It was you proposed the
moon! Those Cavorite spring blinds! I am certain we could have worked them
for terrestrial purposes. Certain! Did you really understand what I
proposed? A steel cylinder - "
"Rubbish!" said Cavor.
We ceased to converse.
For a time Cavor kept up a broken monologue without much help from me.
"If they find it," he began, "if they find it ... what will they do with
it? Well, that's a question. It may be that's the question. They won't
understand it, anyhow. If they understood that sort of thing they would
have come long since to the earth. Would they? Why shouldn't they? But
they would have sent something - they couldn't keep their hands off such a
possibility. No! But they will examine it. Clearly they are intelligent
and inquisitive. They will examine it - get inside it - trifle with the
studs. Off! .. That would mean the moon for us for all the rest of our
lives. Strange creatures, strange knowledge ..."
"As for strange knowledge - " said I, and language failed me.
"Look here, Bedford," said Cavor, "you came on this expedition of your own
free will."
"You said to me, 'Call it prospecting'."
"There's always risks in prospecting."
"Especially when you do it unarmed and without thinking out every
"I was so taken up with the sphere. The thing rushed on us, and carried us
"Rushed on me, you mean."
"Rushed on me just as much. How was I to know when I set to work on
molecular physics that the business would bring me here - of all places?"
"It's this accursed science," I cried. "It's the very Devil. The medieval
priests and persecutors were right and the Moderns are all wrong. You
tamper with it - and it offers you gifts. And directly you take them it
knocks you to pieces in some unexpected way. Old passions and new weapons
- now it upsets your religion, now it upsets your social ideas, now it
whirls you off to desolation and misery!"
"Anyhow, it's no use your quarrelling with me now. These creatures -
these Selenites, or whatever we choose to call them - have got us tied
hand and foot. Whatever temper you choose to go through with it in, you
will have to go through with it. ... We have experiences before us that
will need all our coolness."
He paused as if he required my assent. But I sat sulking. "Confound your
science!" I said.
"The problem is communication. Gestures, I fear, will be different.
Pointing, for example. No creatures but men and monkeys point."
That was too obviously wrong for me. "Pretty nearly every animal," I
cried, "points with its eyes or nose."
Cavor meditated over that. "Yes," he said at last, "and we don't. There's
such differences - such differences!"
"One might. ... But how can I tell? There is speech. The sounds they make,
a sort of fluting and piping. I don't see how we are to imitate that. Is
it their speech, that sort of thing? They may have different senses,
different means of communication. Of course they are minds and we are
minds; there must be something in common. Who knows how far we may not get
to an understanding?"
"The things are outside us," I said. "They're more different from us than
the strangest animals on earth. They are a different clay. What is the
good of talking like this?"
Cavor thought. "I don't see that. Where there are minds they will have
something similar - even though they have been evolved on different
planets. Of course if it was a question of instincts, if we or they are
no more than animals "
"Well, are they? They're much more like ants on their hind legs than human
beings, and who ever got to any sort of understanding with ants?"
"But these machines and clothing! No, I don't hold with you, Bedford. The
difference is wide - "
"It's insurmountable."
"The resemblance must bridge it. I remember reading once a paper by the
late Professor Galton on the possibility of communication between the
planets. Unhappily, at that time it did not seem probable that that would
be of any material benefit to me, and I fear I did not give it the
attention I should have done - in view of this state of affairs. Yet. ...
Now, let me see!
"His idea was to begin with those broad truths that must underlie all
conceivable mental existences and establish a basis on those. The great
principles of geometry, to begin with. He proposed to take some leading
proposition of Euclid's, and show by construction that its truth was known
to us, to demonstrate, for example, that the angles at the base of an
isosceles triangle are equal, and that if the equal sides be produced the
angles on the other side of the base are equal also, or that the square on
the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the
squares on the two other sides. By demonstrating our knowledge of these
things we should demonstrate our possession of a reasonable
intelligence... Now, suppose I ... I might draw the geometrical figure
with a wet finger, or even trace it in the air ..."
He fell silent. I sat meditating his words. For a time his wild hope of
communication, of interpretation, with these weird beings held me. Then
that angry despair that was a part of my exhaustion and physical misery
resumed its sway. I perceived with a sudden novel vividness the
extraordinary folly of everything I had ever done. "Ass!" I said; "oh,
ass, unutterable ass. ... I seem to exist only to go about doing
preposterous things. Why did we ever leave the thing? ... Hopping about
looking for patents and concessions in the craters of the moon!... If only
we had had the sense to fasten a handkerchief to a stick to show where we
had left the sphere!
I subsided, fuming.
"It is clear," meditated Cavor, "they are intelligent. One can
hypotheticate certain things. As they have not killed us at once, they
must have ideas of mercy. Mercy! at any rate of restraint. Possibly of
intercourse. They may meet us. And this apartment and the glimpses we had
of its guardian. These fetters! A high degree of intelligence..."
"I wish to heaven," cried I, "I'd thought even twice! Plunge after plunge.
First one fluky start and then another. It was my confidence in you! Why
didn't I stick to my play? That was what I was equal to. That was my world
and the life I was made for. I could have finished that play. I'm certain
... it was a good play. I had the scenario as good as done. Then. ...
Conceive it! leaping to the moon! Practically I've thrown my life away!
That old woman in the inn near Canterbury had better sense."
I looked up, and stopped in mid-sentence. The darkness had given place to
that bluish light again. The door was opening, and several noiseless
Selenites were coming into the chamber. I became quite still, staring at
their grotesque faces.
Then suddenly my sense of disagreeable strangeness changed to interest. I
perceived that the foremost and second carried bowls. One elemental need
at least our minds could understand in common. They were bowls of some
metal that, like our fetters, looked dark in that bluish light; and each
contained a number of whitish fragments. All the cloudy pain and misery
that oppressed me rushed together and took the shape of hunger. I eyed
these bowls wolfishly, and, though it returned to me in dreams, at that
time it seemed a small matter that at the end of the arms that lowered one
towards me were not hands, but a sort of flap and thumb, like the end of
an elephant's trunk. The stuff in the bowl was loose in texture, and
whitish brown in colour - rather like lumps of some cold souffle, and it
smelt faintly like mushrooms. From a partially divided carcass of a
mooncalf that we presently saw, I am inclined to believe it must have been
mooncalf flesh.
My hands were so tightly chained that I could barely contrive to reach the
bowl; but when they saw the effort I made, two of them dexterously
released one of the turns about my wrist. Their tentacle hands were soft
and cold to my skin. I immediately seized a mouthful of the food. It had
the same laxness in texture that all organic structures seem to have upon
the moon; it tasted rather like a gauffre or a damp meringue, but in no
way was it disagreeable. I took two other mouthfuls. "I wanted - foo'! "
said I, tearing off a still larger piece. ...
For a time we ate with an utter absence of selfconsciousness. We ate and
presently drank like tramps in a soup kitchen. Never before nor since have
I been hungry to the ravenous pitch, and save that I have had this very
experience I could never have believed that, a quarter of a million of
miles out of our proper world, in utter perplexity of soul, surrounded,
watched, touched by beings more grotesque and inhuman than the worst
creations of a nightmare, it would be possible for me to eat in utter
forgetfulness of all these things. They stood about us watching us, and
ever and again making a slight elusive twittering that stood the suppose,
in the stead of speech. I did not even shiver at their touch. And when the
first zeal of my feeding was over, I could note that Cavor, too, had been
eating with the same shameless abandon.
Chapter 14
Experiments in intercourse
WHEN at last we had made an end of eating, the Selenites linked our hands
closely together again, and then untwisted the chains about our feet and
rebound them, so as to give us a limited freedom of movement. Then they
unfastened the chains about our waists. To do all this they had to handle
us freely, and ever and again one of their queer heads came down close to
my face, or a soft tentacle-hand touched my head or neck. I don't remember
that I was afraid then or repelled by their proximity. I think that our
incurable anthropomorphism made us imagine there were human heads inside
their masks. The skin, like everything else, looked bluish, but that was
on account of the light; and it was hard and shiny, quite in the
beetle-wing fashion, not soft, or moist, or hairy, as a vertebrated
animal's would be. Along the crest of the head was a low ridge of whitish
spines running from back to front, and a much larger ridge curved on
either side over the eyes. The Selenite who untied me used his mouth to
help his hands.
"They seem to be releasing us," said Cavor. "Remember we are on the moon!
Make no sudden movements!"
"Are you going to try that geometry?"
"If I get a chance. But, of course, they may make an advance first."
We remained passive, and the Selenites, having finished their
arrangements, stood back from us, and seemed to be looking at us. I say
seemed to be, because as their eyes were at the side and not in front, one
had the same difficulty in determining the direction in which they were
looking as one has in the case of a hen or a fish. They conversed with one
another in their reedy tones, that seemed to me impossible to imitate or
define. The door behind us opened wider, and, glancing over my shoulder, I
saw a vague large space beyond, in which quite a little crowd of Selenites
were standing. They seemed a curiously miscellaneous rabble.
"Do they want us to imitate those sounds? " I asked Cavor.
"I don't think so," he said.
"It seems to me that they are trying to make us understand something."
"I can't make anything of their gestures. Do you notice this one, who is
worrying with his head like a man with an uncomfortable collar? "
"Let us shake our heads at him."
We did that, and finding it ineffectual, attempted an imitation of the
Selenites' movements. That seemed to interest them. At any rate they all
set up the same movement. But as that seemed to lead to nothing, we
desisted at last and so did they, and fell into a piping argument among
themselves. Then one of them, shorter and very much thicker than the
others, and with a particularly wide mouth, squatted down suddenly beside
Cavor, and put his hands and feet in the same posture as Cavor's were
bound, and then by a dexterous movement stood up.
"Cavor," I shouted, "they want us to get up!"
He stared open-mouthed. "That's it!" he said.
And with much heaving and grunting, because our hands were tied together,
we contrived to struggle to our feet. The Selenites made way for our
elephantine heavings, and seemed to twitter more volubly. As soon as we
were on our feet the thick-set Selenite came and patted each of our faces
with his tentacles, and walked towards the open doorway. That also was
plain enough, and we followed him. We saw that four of the Selenites
standing in the doorway were much taller than the others, and clothed in
the same manner as those we had seen in the crater, namely, with spiked
round helmets and cylindrical body-cases, and that each of the four
carried a goad with spike and guard made of that same dull-looking metal
as the bowls. These four closed about us, one on either side of each of
us, as we emerged from our chamber into the cavern from which the light
had come.
We did not get our impression of that cavern all at once. Our attention
was taken up by the movements and attitudes of the Selenites immediately
about us, and by the necessity of controlling our motion, lest we should
startle and alarm them and ourselves by some excessive stride. In front of
us was the short, thick-set being who had solved the problem of asking us
to get up, moving with gestures that seemed, almost all of them,
intelligible to us, inviting us to follow him. His spout-like face turned
from one of us to the other with a quickness that was clearly
interrogative. For a time, I say, we were taken up with these things.
But at last the great place that formed a background to our movements
asserted itself. It became apparent that the source of much, at least, of
the tumult of sounds which had filled our ears ever since we had recovered
from the stupefaction of the fungus was a vast mass of machinery in active
movement, whose flying and whirling parts were visible indistinctly over
the heads and between the bodies of the Selenites who walked about us. And
not only did the web of sounds that filled the air proceed from this
mechanism, but also the peculiar blue light that irradiated the whole
place. We had taken it as a natural thing that a subterranean cavern
should be artificially lit, and even now, though the fact was patent to my
eyes, I did not really grasp its import until presently the darkness came.
The meaning and structure of this huge apparatus we saw I cannot explain,
because we neither of us learnt what it was for or how it worked. One
after another, big shafts of metal flung out and up from its centre, their
heads travelling in what seemed to me to be a parabolic path; each dropped
a sort of dangling arm as it rose towards the apex of its flight and
plunged down into a vertical cylinder, forcing this down before it. About
it moved the shapes of tenders, little figures that seemed vaguely
different from the beings about us. As each of the three dangling arms of
the machine plunged down, there was a clank and then a roaring, and out of
the top of the vertical cylinder came pouring this incandescent substance
that lit the place, and ran over as milk runs over a boiling pot, and
dripped luminously into a tank of light below. It was a cold blue light, a
sort of phosphorescent glow but infinitely brighter, and from the tanks
into which it fell it ran in conduits athwart the cavern.
Thud, thud, thud, thud, came the sweeping arms of this unintelligible
apparatus, and the light substance hissed and poured. At first the thing
seemed only reasonably large and near to us, and then I saw how
exceedingly little the Selenites upon it seemed, and I realised the full
immensity of cavern and machine. I looked from this tremendous affair to
the faces of the Selenites with a new respect. I stopped, and Cavor
stopped, and stared at this thunderous engine.
"But this is stupendous!" I said. "What can it be for?"
Cavor's blue-lit face was full of an intelligent respect. "I can't dream!
Surely these beings - Men could not make a thing like that! Look at those
arms, are they on connecting rods?"
The thick-set Selenite had gone some paces unheeded. He came back and
stood between us and the great machine. I avoided seeing him, because I
guessed somehow that his idea was to beckon us onward. He walked away in
the direction he wished us to go, and turned and came back, and flicked
our faces to attract our attention.
Cavor and I looked at one another.
"Cannot we show him we are interested in the machine? " I said.
"Yes," said Cavor. " We'll try that." He turned to our guide and smiled,
and pointed to the machine, and pointed again, and then to his head, and
then to the machine. By some defect of reasoning he seemed to imagine that
broken English might help these gestures. "Me look 'im," he said, "me
think 'im very much. Yes."
His behaviour seemed to check the Selenites in their desire for our
progress for a moment. They faced one another, their queer heads moved,
the twittering voices came quick and liquid. Then one of them, a lean,
tall creature, with a sort of mantle added to the puttee in which the
others were dressed, twisted his elephant trunk of a hand about Cavor's
waist, and pulled him gently to follow our guide, who again went on ahead.
Cavor resisted. "We may just as well begin explaining ourselves now. They
may think we are new animals, a new sort of mooncalf perhaps! It is most
important that we should show an intelligent interest from the outset."
He began to shake his head violently. "No, no," he said, "me not come on
one minute. Me look at 'im."
" Isn't there some geometrical point you might bring in apropos of that
affair? " I suggested, as the Selenites conferred again.
"Possibly a parabolic -" be began.
He yelled loudly, and leaped six feet or more!
One of the four armed moon-men had pricked him with a goad!
I turned on the goad-bearer behind me with a swift threatening gesture,
and he started back. This and Cavor's sudden shout and leap clearly
astonished all the Selenites. They receded hastily, facing us. For one of
those moments that seem to last for ever, we stood in angry protest, with
a scattered semicircle of these inhuman beings about us.
"He pricked me!" said Cavor, with a catching of the voice.
"I saw him," I answered.
"Confound it!" I said to the Selenites; "We're not going to stand that!
What on earth do you take us for?"
I glanced quickly right and left. Far away across the blue wilderness of
cavern I saw a number of other Selenites running towards us; broad and
slender they were, and one with a larger head than the others. The cavern
spread wide and low, and receded in every direction into darkness. Its
roof, I remember, seemed to bulge down as if with the weight of the vast
thickness of rocks that prisoned us. There was no way out of it - no way
out of it. Above, below, in every direction, was the unknown, and these
inhuman creatures, with goads and gestures, confronting us, and we two
unsupported men!
Chapter 15
The Giddy Bridge
JUST for a moment that hostile pause endured. I suppose that both we and
the Selenites did some very rapid thinking. My clearest impression was
that there was nothing to put my back against, and that we were bound to
be surrounded and killed. The overwhelming folly of our presence there
loomed over me in black, enormous reproach. Why had I ever launched my
self on this mad, inhuman expedition?
Cavor came to my side and laid his hand on my arm. His pale and terrified
face was ghastly in the blue light.
"We can't do anything," he said. "It's a mistake. They don't understand.
We must go. As they want us to go."
I looked down at him, and then at the fresh Selenites who were coming to
help their fellows. "If I had my hands free - "
"It's no use," he panted.
"We'll go."
And he turned about and led the way in the direction that had been
indicated for us.
I followed, trying to look as subdued as possible, and feeling at the
chains about my wrists. My blood was boiling. I noted nothing more of that
cavern, though it seemed to take a long time before we had marched across
it, or if I noted anything I forgot it as I saw it. My thoughts were
concentrated, I think, upon my chains and the Selenites, and particularly
upon the helmeted ones with the goads. At first they marched parallel with
us, and at a respectful distance, but presently they were overtaken by
three others, and then they drew nearer, until they were within arms
length again. I winced like a beaten horse as they came near to us. The
shorter, thicker Selenite marched at first on our right flank, but
presently came in front of us again.
How well the picture of that grouping has bitten into my brain; the back
of Cavor's downcast head just in front of me, and the dejected droop of
his shoulders, and our guide's gaping visage, perpetually jerking about
him, and the goad-bearers on either side, watchful, yet open-mouthed - a
blue monochrome. And after all, I do remember one other thing besides the
purely personal affair, which is, that a sort of gutter came presently
across the floor of the cavern, and then ran along by the side of the path
of rock we followed. And it was full of that same bright blue luminous
stuff that flowed out of the great machine. I walked close beside it, and
I can testify it radiated not a particle of heat. It was brightly shining,
and yet it was neither warmer nor colder than anything else in the cavern.
Clang, clang, clang, we passed right under the thumping levers of another
vast machine, and so came at last to a wide tunnel, in which we could even
hear the pad, pad, of our shoeless feet, and which, save for the trickling
thread of blue to the right of us, was quite unlit. The shadows made
gigantic travesties of our shapes and those of the Selenites on the
irregular wall and roof of the tunnel. Ever and again crystals in the
walls of the tunnel scintillated like gems, ever and again the tunnel
expanded into a stalactitic cavern, or gave off branches that vanished
into darkness.
We seemed to be marching down that tunnel for a long time. "Trickle,
trickle," went the flowing light very softly, and our footfalls and their
echoes made an irregular paddle, paddle. My mind settled down to the
question of my chains. If I were to slip off one turn so, and then to
twist it so ...
If I tried to do it very gradually, would they see I was slipping my wrist
out of the looser turn? If they did, what would they do?
"Bedford," said Cavor, "it goes down. It keeps on going down."
His remark roused me from my sullen pre-occupation.
"If they wanted to kill us," he said, dropping back to come level with me,
" there is no reason why they should not have done it."
"No," I admitted, "that's true."
"They don't understand us," he said, " they think we are merely strange
animals, some wild sort of mooncalf birth, perhaps. It will be only when
they have observed us better that they will begin to think we have minds"
"When you trace those geometrical problems," said I.
"It may be that."
We tramped on for a space.
"You see," said Cavor, "these may be Selenites of a lower class."
"The infernal fools!" said I viciously, glancing at their exasperating
"If we endure what they do to us"
"We've got to endure it," said I.
"There may be others less stupid. This is the mere outer fringe of their
world. It must go down and down, cavern, passage, tunnel, down at last to
the sea - hundreds of miles below."
His words made me think of the mile or so of rock and tunnel that might be
over our heads already. It was like a weight dropping, on my shoulders.
"Away from the sun and air," I said. "Even a mine half a mile deep is
stuffy." remarked.
"This is not, anyhow. It's probable - Ventilation! The air would blow
from the dark side of the moon to the sunlit, and all the carbonic acid
would well out there and feed those plants. Up this tunnel, for example,
there is quite a breeze. And what a world it must be. The earnest we have
in that shaft, and those machines"
"And the goad," I said. "Don't forget the goad!"
He walked a little in front of me for a time.
"Even that goad - " he said.
"I was angry at the time. But it was perhaps necessary we should get on.
They have different skins, and probably different nerves. They may not
understand our objection - Just as a being from Mars might not like our
earthly habit of nudging"
"They'd better be careful how they nudge me."
"And about that geometry. After all, their way is a way of understanding,
too. They begin with the elements of life and not of thought. Food.
Compulsion. Pain. They strike at fundamentals."
"There's no doubt about that," I said.
He went on to talk of the enormous and wonderful world into which we were
being taken. I realised slowly from his tone, that even now he was not
absolutely in despair at the prospect of going ever deeper into this
inhuman planet-burrow. His mind ran on machines and invention, to the
exclusion of a thousand dark things that beset me. It wasn't that he
intended to make any use of these things, he simply wanted to know them.
"After all," he said, " this is a tremendous occasion. It is the meeting
of two worlds! What are we going to see? Think of what is below us here."
"We shan't see much if the light isn't better," I remarked.
"This is only the outer crust. Down below - On this scale - There will be
everything. Do you notice how different they seem one from another? The
story we shall take back!"
"Some rare sort of animal," I said, "might comfort himself in that way
while they were bringing him to the Zoo. ... It doesn't follow that we are
going to be shown all these things."
"When they find we have reasonable minds," said Cavor, "they will want to
learn about the earth. Even if they have no generous emotions, they will
teach in order to learn. ... And the things they must know! The
unanticipated things!"
He went on to speculate on the possibility of their knowing things he had
never hoped to learn on earth, speculating in that way, with a raw wound
from that goad already in his skin! Much that he said I forget, for my
attention was drawn to the fact that the tunnel along which we had been
marching was opening out wider and wider. We seemed, from the feeling of
the air, to be going out into a huge space. But how big the space might
really be we could not tell, because it was unlit. Our little stream of
light ran in a dwindling thread and vanished far ahead. Presently the
rocky walls had vanished altogether on either hand. There was nothing to
be seen but the path in front of us and the trickling hurrying rivulet of
blue phosphorescence. The figures of Cavor and the guiding Selenite
marched before me, the sides of their legs and heads that were towards the
rivulet were clear and bright blue, their darkened sides, now that the
reflection of the tunnel wall no longer lit them, merged indistinguishably
in the darkness beyond.
And soon I perceived that we were approaching a declivity of some sort,
because the little blue stream dipped suddenly out of sight.
In another moment, as it seemed, we had reached the edge. The shining
stream gave one meander of hesitation and then rushed over. It fell to a
depth at which the sound of its descent was absolutely lost to us. Far
below was a bluish glow, a sort of blue mist - at an infinite distance
below. And the darkness the stream dropped out of became utterly void and
black, save that a thing like a plank projected from the edge of the cliff
and stretched out and faded and vanished altogether. There was a warm air
blowing up out of the gulf.
For a moment I and Cavor stood as near the edge as we dared, peering into
a blue-tinged profundity. And then our guide was pulling at my arm.
Then he left me, and walked to the end of that plank and stepped upon it,
looking back. Then when he perceived we watched him, he turned about and
went on along it, walking as surely as though he was on firm earth. For a
moment his form was distinct, then he became a blue blur, and then
vanished into the obscurity. I became aware of some vague shape looming
darkly out of the black.
There was a pause. "Surely! -" said Cavor.
One of the other Selenites walked a few paces out upon the plank, and
turned and looked back at us unconcernedly. The others stood ready to
follow after us. Our guide's expectant figure reappeared. He was returning
to see why we had not advanced.
"What is that beyond there?" I asked.
"I can't see."
"We can't cross this at any price," said I.
"I could not go three steps on it," said Cavor, "even with my hands free."
We looked at each other's drawn faces in blank consternation.
"They can't know what it is to be giddy!" said Cavor.
"It's quite impossible for us to walk that plank."
"I don't believe they see as we do. I've been watching them. I wonder if
they know this is simply blackness for us. How can we make them
"Anyhow, we must make them understand."
I think we said these things with a vague half hope the Selenites might
somehow understand. I knew quite clearly that all that was needed was an
explanation. Then as I saw their faces, I realised that an explanation was
impossible. Just here it was that our resemblances were not going to
bridge our differences. Well, I wasn't going to walk the plank, anyhow. I
slipped my wrist very quickly out of the coil of chain that was loose, and
then began to twist my wrists in opposite directions. I was standing
nearest to the bridge, and as I did this two of the Selenites laid hold of
me, and pulled me gently towards it.
I shook my head violently. "No go," I said, "no use. You don't
Another Selenite added his compulsion. I was forced to step forward.
"I've got an idea," said Cavor; but I knew his ideas.
"Look here!" I exclaimed to the Selenites. "Steady on! It's all very well
for you - "
I sprang round upon my heel. I burst out into curses. For one of the armed
Selenites had stabbed me behind with his goad.
I wrenched my wrists free from the little tentacles that held them. I
turned on the goad-bearer. "Confound you! " I cried. "I've warned you of
that. What on earth do you think I'm made of, to stick that into me? If
you touch me again - "
By way of answer he pricked me forthwith.
I heard Cavor's voice in alarm and entreaty. Even then I think he wanted
to compromise with these creatures. "I say, Bedford," he cried, "I know a
way! " But the sting of that second stab seemed to set free some pent-up
reserve of energy in my being. Instantly the link of the wrist-chain
snapped, and with it snapped all considerations that had held us
unresisting in the hands of these moon creatures. For that second, at
least, I was mad with fear and anger. I took no thought of consequences.
I hit straight out at the face of the thing with the goad. The chain was
twisted round my fist.
There came another of these beastly surprises of which the moon world is
My mailed hand seemed to go clean through him. He smashed like - like
some softish sort of sweet with liquid in it! He broke right in! He
squelched and splashed. It was like hitting a damp toadstool. The flimsy
body went spinning a dozen yards, and fell with a flabby impact. I was
astonished. I was incredulous that any living thing could be so flimsy.
For an instant I could have believed the whole thing a dream.
Then it had become real and imminent again. Neither Cavor nor the other
Selenites seemed to have done anything from the time when I had turned
about to the time when the dead Selenite hit the ground. Every one stood
back from us two, every one alert. That arrest seemed to last at least a
second after the Selenite was down. Every one must have been taking the
thing in. I seem to remember myself standing with my arm half retracted,
trying also to take it in. "What next?" clamoured my brain; "what next?"
Then in a moment every one was moving!
I perceived we must get our chains loose, and that before we could do this
these Selenites had to be beaten off. I faced towards the group of the
three goad-bearers. Instantly one threw his goad at me. It swished over
my head, and I suppose went flying into the abyss behind.
I leaped right at him with all my might as the goad flew over me. He
turned to run as I jumped, and I bore him to the ground, came down right
upon him, and slipped upon his smashed body and fell. He seemed to wriggle
under my foot.
I came into a sitting position, and on every hand the blue backs of the
Selenites were receding into the darkness. I bent a link by main force and
untwisted the chain that had hampered me about the ankles, and sprang to
my feet, with the chain in my hand. Another goad, flung javelin-wise,
whistled by me, and I made a rush towards the darkness out of which it had
come. Then I turned back towards Cavor, who was still standing in the
light of the rivulet near the gulf convulsively busy with his wrists, and
at the same time jabbering nonsense about his idea.
"Come on! " I cried.
"My hands! " he answered.
Then, realising that I dared not run back to him, because my
ill-calculated steps might carry me over the edge, he came shuffling
towards me, with his hands held out before him.
I gripped his chains at once to unfasten them.
"Where are they? " he panted.
"Run away. They'll come back. They're throwing things! Which way shall we
"By the light. To that tunnel. Eh?"
"Yes," said I, and his hands were free.
I dropped on my knees and fell to work on his ankle bonds. Whack came
something - I know not what - and splashed the livid streamlet into drops
about us. Far away on our right a piping and whistling began.
I whipped the chain off his feet, and put it in his hand. "Hit with that!
" I said, and without waiting for an answer, set off in big bounds along
the path by which we had come. I had a nasty sort of feeling that these
things could jump out of the darkness on to my back. I heard the impact of
his leaps come following after me.
We ran in vast strides. But that running, you must understand, was an
altogether different thing from any running on earth. On earth one leaps
and almost instantly hits the ground again, but on the moon, because of
its weaker pull, one shot through the air for several seconds before one
came to earth. In spite of our violent hurry this gave an effect of long
pauses, pauses in which one might have counted seven or eight. "Step,"
and one soared off! All sorts of questions ran through my mind: "Where are
the Selenites? What will they do? Shall we ever get to that tunnel? Is
Cavor far behind? Are they likely to cut him off?" Then whack, stride, and
off again for another step.
I saw a Selenite running in front of me, his legs going exactly as a man's
would go on earth, saw him glance over his shoulder, and heard him shriek
as he ran aside out of my way into the darkness. He was, I I think, our
guide, but I am not sure. Then in another vast stride the walls of rock
had come into view on either hand, and in two more strides I was in the
tunnel, and tempering my pace to its low roof. I went on to a bend, then
stopped and turned back, and plug, plug, plug, Cavor came into view,
splashing into the stream of blue light at every stride, and grew larger
and blundered into me. We stood clutching each other. For a moment, at
least, we had shaken off our captors and were alone.
We were both very much out of breath. We spoke In panting, broken
"You've spoilt it all!" panted Cavor. "Nonsense," I cried. "It was that
or death!"
"What are we to do?"
"How can we?"
"It's dark enough."
"But where?"
"Up one of these side caverns."
"And then?"
"Right - come on."
We strode on, and presently came to a radiating dark cavern. Cavor was in
front. He hesitated, and chose a black mouth that seemed to promise good
hiding. He went towards it and turned.
"Its dark," he said.
"Your legs and feet will light us. You're wet with that luminous stuff."
"But - "
A tumult of sounds, and in particular a sound like a clanging gong,
advancing up the main tunnel, became audible. It was horribly suggestive
of a tumultuous pursuit. We made a bolt for the unlit side cavern
forthwith. As we ran along it our way was lit by the irradiation of
Cavor's legs. "It's lucky," I panted, "they took off our boots, or we
should fill this place with clatter." On we rushed, taking as small steps
as we could to avoid striking the roof of the cavern. After a time we
seemed to be gaining on the uproar. It became muffled, it dwindled, it
died away.
I stopped and looked back, and I heard the pad, pad of Cavor's feet
receding. Then he stopped also. "Bedford," he whispered; " there's a sort
of light in front of us."
I looked, and at first could see nothing. Then I perceived his head and
shoulders dimly outlined against a fainter darkness. I saw, also, that
this mitigation of the darkness was not blue, as all the other light
within the moon had been, but a pallid gray, a very vague, faint white,
the daylight colour. Cavor noted this difference as soon, or sooner, than
I did, and I think, too, that it filled him with much the same wild hope.
"Bedford," he whispered, and his voice trembled. "That light - it is
possible -"
He did not dare to say the thing he hoped. Then came a pause. Suddenly I
knew by the sound of his feet that he was striding towards that pallor. I
followed him with a beating heart.
Chapter 16
Points of View
THE light grew stronger as we advanced. In a little time it was nearly as
strong as the phosphorescence on Cavor's legs. Our tunnel was expanding
into a cavern, and this new light was at the farther end of it. I
perceived something that set my hopes leaping and bounding.
"Cavor," I said, "it comes from above! I am certain it comes from above!"
He made no answer, but hurried on.
Indisputably it was a gray light, a silvery light.
In another moment we were beneath it. It filtered down through a chink in
the walls of the cavern, and as I stared up, drip, came a drop of water
upon my face. I started and stood aside - drip, fell another drop quite
audibly on the rocky floor.
"Cavor," I said, "if one of us lifts the other, he can reach that crack!"
"I'll lift you," he said, and incontinently hoisted me as though I was a
I thrust an arm into the crack, and just at my finger tips found a little
ledge by which I could hold. I could see the white light was very much
brighter now. I pulled myself up by two fingers with scarcely an effort,
though on earth I weigh twelve stone, reached to a still higher corner of
rock, and so got my feet on the narrow ledge. I stood up and searched up
the rocks with my fingers; the cleft broadened out upwardly. "It's
climbable," I said to Cavor. "Can you jump up to my hand if I hold it down
to you?"
I wedged myself between the sides of the cleft, rested knee and foot on
the ledge, and extended a hand. I could not see Cavor, but I could hear
the rustle of his movements as he crouched to spring. Then whack and he
was hanging to my arm - and no heavier than a kitten! I lugged him up
until he had a hand on my ledge, and could release me.
"Confound it!" I said, "any one could be a mountaineer on the moon;" and
so set myself in earnest to the climbing. For a few minutes I clambered
steadily, and then I looked up again. The cleft opened out steadily, and
the light was brighter. Only -
It was not daylight after all.
In another moment I could see what it was, and at the sight I could have
beaten my head against the rocks with disappointment. For I beheld simply
an irregularly sloping open space, and all over its slanting floor stood a
forest of little club-shaped fungi, each shining gloriously with that
pinkish silvery light. For a moment I stared at their soft radiance, then
sprang forward and upward among them. I plucked up half a dozen and flung
them against the rocks, and then sat down, laughing bitterly, as Cavor's
ruddy face came into view.
"It's phosphorescence again!" I said. "No need to hurry. Sit down and make
yourself at home." And as he spluttered over our disappointment, I began
to lob more of these growths into the cleft.
"I thought it was daylight," he said.
"Daylight!" cried I. "Daybreak, sunset, clouds, and windy skies! Shall we
ever see such things again?"
As I spoke, a little picture of our world seemed to rise before me, bright
and little and clear, like the background of some old Italian picture.
"The sky that changes, and the sea that changes, and the hills and the
green trees and the towns and cities shining in the sun. Think of a wet
roof at sunset, Cavor! Think of the windows of a westward house!" He made
no answer.
"Here we are burrowing in this beastly world that isn't a world, with its
inky ocean hidden in some abominable blackness below, and outside that
torrid day and that death stillness of night. And all these things that
are chasing us now, beastly men of leather - insect men, that come out of
a nightmare! After all, they're right! What business have we here smashing
them and disturbing their world! For all we know the whole planet is up
and after us already. In a minute we may hear them whimpering, and their
gongs going. What are we to do? Where are we to go? Here we are as
comfortable as snakes from Jamrach's loose in a Surbiton villa!"
"It was your fault," said Cavor.
"My fault! " I shouted. "Good Lord!"
"I had an idea!"
"Curse your ideas!"
"If we had refused to budge"
"Under those goads?"
"Yes. They would have carried us!"
"Over that bridge?"
"Yes. They must have carried us from outside."
"I'd rather be carried by a fly across a ceiling."
"Good Heavens!"
I resumed my destruction of the fungi. Then suddenly I saw something that
struck me even then. "Cavor," I said, "these chains are of gold!"
He was thinking intently, with his hands gripping his cheeks. He turned
his head slowly and stared at me, and when I had repeated my words, at the
twisted chain about his right hand. " So they are," he said, "so they
are." His face lost its transitory interest even as he looked. He
hesitated for a moment, then went on with his interrupted meditation. I
sat for a space puzzling over the fact that I had only just observed this,
until I considered the blue light in which we had been, and which had
taken all the colour out of tlie metal. And from that discovery I also
started upon a train of thought that carried me wide and far. I forgot
that I had just been asking what business we had in the moon. Gold -
It was Cavor who spoke first. "It seems to me that there are two courses
open to us."
"Either we can attempt to make our way - fight our way if necessary - out
to the exterior again, and then hunt for our sphere until we find it, or
the cold of the night comes to kill us, or else -"
He paused. "Yes?" I said, though I knew what was coming.
"We might attempt once more to establish some sort of understanding with
the minds of the people in the moon."
"So far as I'm concerned - it's the first."
"I doubt."
"I don't."
"You see," said Cavor, "I do not think we can judge the Selenites by what
we have seen of them. Their central world, their civilised world will be
far below in the profounder caverns about their sea. This region of the
crust in which we are is an outlying district, a pastoral region. At any
rate, that is my interpretation. These Selenites we have seen may be only
the equivalent of cowboys and engine-tenders. Their use of goads - in all
probability mooncalf goads - the lack of imagination they show in
expecting us to be able to do just what they can do, their indisputable
brutality, all seem to point to something of that sort. But if we endured
"Neither of us could endure a six-inch plank across the bottomless pit for
very long."
"No," said Cavor; "but then -"
"I won't," I said.
He discovered a new line of possibilities. "Well, suppose we got ourselves
into some corner, where we could defend ourselves against these hinds and
labourers. If, for example, we could hold out for a week or so, it is
probable that the news of our appearance would filter down to the more
intelligent and populous parts -"
"If they exist."
"They must exist, or whence came those tremendous machines?"
"That's possible, but it's the worst of the two chances."
"We might write up inscriptions on walls"
"How do we know their eyes would see the sort of marks we made?"
"If we cut them - "
"That's possible, of course."
I took up a new thread of thought. "After all," - I said, " I suppose you
don't think these Selenites so infinitely wiser than men."
"They must know a lot more - or at least a lot of different things."
"Yes, but -" I hesitated.
"I think you'll quite admit, Cavor, that you're rather an exceptional
"Well, you - you're a rather lonely man - have been, that is. You haven't
"Never wanted to. But why - "
"And you never grew richer than you happened to be? "
"Never wanted that either."
"You've just rooted after knowledge?"
"Well, a certain curiosity is natural - "
"You think so. That's just it. You think every other mind wants to know. I
remember once, when I asked you why you conducted all these researches,
you said you wanted your F.R.S., and to have the stuff called Cavorite,
and things like that. You know perfectly well you didn't do it for that;
but at the time my question took you by surprise, and you felt you ought
to have something to look like a motive. Really you conducted researches
because you had to. It's your twist."
"Perhaps it is -"
"It isn't one man in a million has that twist. Most men want - well,
various things, but very few want knowledge for its own sake. I don't, I
know perfectly well. Now, these Selenites seem to be a driving, busy sort
of being, but how do you know that even the most intelligent will take an
interest in us or our world? I don't believe they'll even know we have a
world. They never come out at night - they'd freeze if they did. They've
probably never seen any heavenly body at all except the blazing sun. How
are they to know there is another world? What does it matter to them if
they do? Well, even if they have had a glimpse of a few stars, or even of
the earth crescent, what of that? Why should people living inside a
planet trouble to observe that sort of thing? Men wouldn't have done it
except for the seasons and sailing; why should the moon people?...
"Well, suppose there are a few philosophers like yourself. They are just
the very Selenites who'll never have heard of our existence. Suppose a
Selenite had I dropped on the earth when you were at Lympne, you'd have
been the last man in the world to hear he had come. You never read a
newspaper! You see the chances against you. Well, it's for these chances
we're sitting here doing nothing while precious time is flying. I tell you
we've got into a fix. We've come unarmed, we've lost our sphere, we've got
no food, we've shown ourselves to the Selenites, and made them think we're
strange, strong, dangerous animals; and unless these Selenites are perfect
fools, they'll set about now and hunt us till they find us, and when they
find us they'll try to take us if they can, and kill us if they can't, and
that's the end of the matter. If they take us, they'll probably kill us,
through some misunderstanding. After we're done for, they may discuss us
perhaps, but we shan't get much fun out of that."
"Go on."
"On the other hand, here's gold knocking about like cast iron at home. If
only we can get some of it back, if only we can find our sphere again
before they do, and get back, then -"
"We might put the thing on a sounder footing. Come back in a bigger
sphere with guns."
"Good Lord!" cried Cavor, as though that was horrible.
I shied another luminous fungus down the cleft.
"Look here, Cavor," I said, "I've half the voting power anyhow in this
affair, and this is a case for a practical man. I'm a practical man, and
you are not. I'm not going to trust to Selenites and geometrical diagrams
if I can help it. That's all. Get back. Drop all this secrecy - or most
of it. And come again."
He reflected. "When I came to the moon," he said, "I ought to have come
"The question before the meeting," I said, "is how to get back to the
For a time we nursed our knees in silence. Then he seemed to decide for my
"I think," he said, "one can get data. It is clear that while the sun is
on this side of the moon the air will be blowing through this planet
sponge from the dark side hither. On this side, at any rate, the air will
be expanding and flowing out of the moon caverns into the craters. ...
Very well, there's a draught here."
"So there is."
"And that means that this is not a dead end; somewhere behind us this
cleft goes on and up. The draught is blowing up, and that is the way we
have to go. If we try to get up any sort of chimney or gully there is, we
shall not only get out of these passages where they are hunting for us - "
"But suppose the gully is too narrow?"
"We'll come down again."
"Ssh!" I said suddenly; "what's that?"
We listened. At first it was an indistinct murmur, and then one picked out
the clang of a gong. "They must think we are mooncalves," said I, "to be
frightened at that."
"They're coming along that passage, said Cavor.
"They must be."
"They'll not think of the cleft. They'll go past."
I listened again for a space. "This time," I whispered, "they're likely to
have some sort of weapon."
Then suddenly I sprang to my feet. "Good heavens, Cavor! " I cried. "But
they will! They'll see the fungi I have been pitching down. They'll - "
I didn't finish my sentence. I turned about and made a leap over the
fungus tops towards the upper end of the cavity. I saw that the space
turned upward and became a draughty cleft again, ascending to impenetrable
darkness. I was about to clamber up into this, and then with a happy
inspiration turned back.
"What are you doing? " asked Cavor.
"Go on! said I, and went back and got two of the shining fungi, and
putting one into the breast pocket of my flannel jacket, so that it stuck
out to light our climbing, went back with the other for Cavor. The noise
of the Selenites was now so loud that it seemed they must be already
beneath the cleft. But it might be they would have difficulty in
clambering in to it, or might hesitate to ascend it against our possible
resistance. At any rate, we had now the comforting knowledge of the
enormous muscular superiority our birth in another planet gave us. In
other minute I was clambering with gigantic vigour after Cavor's blue-lit
Chapter 17
The Fight in the Cave of the Moon Butchers
I DO not know how far we clambered before we came to the grating. It may
be we ascended only a few hundred feet, but at the time it seemed to me we
might have hauled and jammed and hopped and wedged ourselves through a
mile or more of vertical ascent. Whenever I recall that time,,there comes
into my head the heavy clank of our golden chains that followed every
movement. Very soon my knuckles and knees were raw, and I had a bruise on
one cheek. After a time the first violence of our efforts diminished, and
our movements became more deliberate and less painful. The noise of the
pursuing Selenites had died away altogether. It seemed almost as though
they had not traced us up the crack after all, in spite of the tell-tale
heap of broken fungi that must have lain beneath it. At times the cleft
narrowed so much that we could scarce squeeze up it; at others it expanded
into great drusy cavities, studded with prickly crystals or thickly beset
with dull, shining fungoid pimples. Sometimes it twisted spirally, and at
other times slanted down nearly to the horizontal direction. Ever and
again there was the intermittent drip and trickle of water by us. Once or
twice it seemed to us that small living things had rustled out of our
reach, but what they were we never saw. They may have been venomous beasts
for all I know, but they did us no harm, and we were now tuned to a pitch
when a weird creeping thing more or less mattered little. And at last, far
above, came the familiar bluish light again, and then we saw that it
filtered through a grating that barred our way.
We whispered as we pointed this out to one another, and became more and
more cautious in our ascent. Presently we were close under the grating,
and by pressing my face against its bars I could see a limited portion of
the cavern beyond. It was clearly a large space, and lit no doubt by some
rivulet of the same blue light that we had seen flow from the beating
machinery. An intermittent trickle of water dropped ever and again between
the bars near my face.
My first endeavour was naturally to see what might be upon the floor of
the cavern, but our grating lay in a depression whose rim hid all this
from our eyes. Our foiled attention then fell back upon the suggestion of
the various sounds we heard, and presently my eye caught a number of faint
shadows that played across the dim roof far overhead.
Indisputably there were several Selenites, perhaps a considerable number,
in this space, for we could hear the noises of their intercourse, and
faint sounds that I identified as their footfalls. There was also a
succession of regularly repeated sounds - chid, chid, chid - which began
and ceased, suggestive of a knife or spade hacking at some soft substance.
Then came a clank as if of chains, a whistle and a rumble as of a truck
running over a hollowed place, and then again that chid, chid, chid
resumed. The shadows told of shapes that moved quickly and rhythmically,
in agreement with that regular sound, and rested when it ceased.
We put our heads close together, and began to discuss these things in
noiseless whispers.
"They are occupied," I said, "they are occupied in some way."
"They're not seeking us, or thinking of us."
"Perhaps they have not heard of us."
"Those others are hunting about below. If suddenly we appeared here - "
We looked at one another.
"There might be a chance to parley," said Cavor.
"No," I said. "Not as we are."
For a space we remained, each occupied by his own thoughts.
Chid, chid, chid went the chopping, and the shadows moved to and fro.
I looked at the grating. "It's flimsy," I said. "We might bend two of the
bars and crawl through."
We wasted a little time in vague discussion. Then I took one of the bars
in both hands, and got my feet up against the rock until they were almost
on a level with my head, and so thrust against the bar. It bent so
suddenly that I almost slipped. I clambered about and bent the adjacent
bar in the opposite direction, and then took the luminous fungus from my
pocket and dropped it down the fissure.
"Don't do anything hastily," whispered Cavor, as I twisted myself up
through the opening I had enlarged. I had a glimpse of busy figures as I
came through the grating, and immediately bent down, so that the rim of
the depression in which the grating lay hid me from their eyes, and so lay
flat, signalling advice to Cavor as he also prepared to come through.
Presently we were side by side in the depression, peering over the edge at
the cavern and its occupants.
It was a much larger cavern than we had supposed from our first glimpse of
it, and we looked up from the lowest portion of its sloping floor. It
widened out as it receded from us, and its roof came down and hid the
remoter portion altogether. And lying in a line along its length,
vanishing at last far away in that tremendous perspective, were a number
of huge shapes, huge pallid hulls, upon which the Selenites were busy. At
first they seemed big white cylinders of vague import. Then I noted the
heads upon them lying towards us, eyeless and skinless like the heads of
sheep at a butcher's, and perceived they were the carcasses of mooncalves
being cut up, much as the crew of a whaler might cut up a moored whale.
They were cutting off the flesh in strips, and on some of the farther
trunks the white ribs were showing. It was the sound of their hatchets
that made that chid, chid. Some way away a thing like a trolley cable,
drawn and loaded with chunks of lax meat, was running up the slope of the
cavern floor. This enormous long avenue of hulls that were destined to be
food, gave us a sense of the vast populousness of the moon world second
only to the effect of our first glimpse down the shaft.
It seemed to me at first that the Selenites must be standing on
trestle-supported planks, and then I saw that the planks and supports and
their hatchets were really of the same leaden hue as my fetters had seemed
- before white light came to bear on them. A number of very thick-looking
crowbars lay about the floor, and had apparently assisted to turn the dead
mooncalf over on its side. They were perhaps six feet long, with shaped
handles, very tempting-looking weapons. The whole place was lit by three
transverse streams of the blue fluid.
[I do not remember seeing any wooden things on the moon; doors tables,
everything corresponding to our terrestrial joinery was made of metal, and
I believe for the most part of gold, which as a metal would, of course,
naturally recommend itself - other things being equal - on account of the
ease in working it, and its toughness and durability.]
We lay for a long time noting all these things in silence. "Well?" said
Cavor at last.
I crouched over and turned to him. I had come upon a brilliant idea.
"Unless they lowered those bodies by a crane," I said, "we must be nearer
the surface than I thought."
"The mooncalf doesn't hop, and it hasn't got wings."
He peered over the edge of the hollow again. "I wonder now ..." he began.
"After all, we have never gone far from the surface - "
I stopped him by a grip on his arm. I had heard a noise from the cleft
below us!
We twisted ourselves about, and lay as still as death, with every sense
alert. In a little while I did not doubt that something was quietly
ascending the cleft. Very slowly and quite noiselessly I assured myself
of a good grip on my chain, and waited for that something to appear.
"Just look at those chaps with the hatchets again," I said.
"They're all right," said Cavor.
I took a sort of provisional aim at the gap in the grating. I could hear
now quite distinctly the soft twittering of the ascending Selenites, the
dab of their hands against the rock, and the falling of dust from their
grips as they clambered.
Then I could see that there was something moving dimly in the blackness
below the grating, but what it might be I could not distinguish. The whole
thing I seemed to hang fire just for a moment - then smash! I had sprung
to my feet, struck savagely at something that had flashed out at me. It
was the keen point of a spear. I have thought since that its length in the
narrowness of the cleft must have prevented its being sloped to reach me.
Anyhow, it shot out from the grating like the tongue of a snake, and
missed and flew back and flashed again. But the second time I snatched and
caught it, and wrenched it away, but not before another had darted
ineffectually at me.
I shouted with triumph as I felt the hold of the Selenite resist my pull
for a moment and give, and then I was jabbing down through the bars,
amidst squeals from the darkness, and Cavor had snapped off the other
spear, and was leaping and flourishing it beside me, and making
inefficient jabs. Clang, clang, came up through the grating, and then an
axe hurtled through the air and whacked against the rocks beyond, to
remind me of the fleshers at the carcasses up the cavern.
I turned, and they were all coming towards us in open order waving their
axes. They were short, thick, little beggars, with long arms, strikingly
different from the ones we had seen before. If they had not heard of us
before, they must have realised the situation with incredible swiftness. I
stared at them for a moment, spear in hand. "Guard that grating, Cavor," I
cried, howled to intimidate them, and rushed to meet them. Two of them
missed with their hatchets, and the rest fled incontinently. Then the two
also were sprinting away up the cavern, with hands clenched and heads
down. I never saw men run like them!
I knew the spear I had was no good for me. It was thin and flimsy, only
effectual for a thrust, and too long for a quick recover. So I only chased
the Selenites as far as the first carcass, and stopped there and picked up
one of the crowbars that were lying about. It felt comfortingly heavy, and
equal to smashing any number of Selenites. I threw away my spear, and
picked up a second crowbar for the other hand. I felt five times better
than I had with the spear. I shook the two threateningly at the Selenites,
who had come to a halt in a little crowd far away up the cavern, and then
turned about to look at Cavor.
He was leaping from side to side of the grating, making threatening jabs
with his broken spear. That was all right. It would keep the Selenites
down - for a time at any rate. I looked up the cavern again. What on earth
were we going to do now?
We were cornered in a sort of way already. But these butchers up the
cavern had been surprised, they were probably scared, and they had no
special weapons, only those little hatchets of theirs. And that way lay
escape. Their sturdy little forms - ever so much shorter and thicker than
the mooncalf herds - were scattered up the slope in a way that was
eloquent of indecision. I had the moral advantage of a mad bull in a
street. But for all that, there seemed a tremendous crowd of them. Very
probably there was. Those Selenites down the cleft had certainly some
infernally long spears. It might be they had other surprises for us. ...
But, confound it! if we charged up the cave we should let them up behind
us, and if we didn't those little brutes up the cave would probably get
reinforced. Heaven alone knew what tremendous engines of warfare - guns,
bombs, terrestrial torpedoes - this unknown world below our feet, this
vaster world of which we had only pricked the outer cuticle, might not
presently send up to our destruction. It became clear the only thing to do
was to charge! It became clearer as the legs of a number of fresh
Selenites appeared running down the cavern towards us.
"Bedford! " cried Cavor, and behold! he was halfway between me and the
"Go back!" I cried. "What are you doing -"
"They've got - it's like a gun!"
And struggling in the grating between those defensive spears appeared the
head and shoulders of a singularly lean and angular Selenite, bearing some
complicated apparatus.
I realised Cavor's utter incapacity for the fight we had in hand. For a
moment I hesitated. Then I rushed past him whirling my crowbars, and
shouting to confound the aim of the Selenite. He was aiming in the
queerest way with the thing against his stomach. "Chuzz!" The thing
wasn't a gun; it went off like cross-bow more, and dropped me in the
middle of a leap.
I didn't fall down, I simply came down a little shorter than I should have
done if I hadn't been hit, and from the feel of my shoulder the thing
might have tapped me and glanced off. Then my left hand hit again the
shaft, and I perceived there was a sort of spear sticking half through my
shoulder. The moment after I got home with the crowbar in my right hand,
and hit the Selenite fair and square. He collapsed - he crushed and
crumpled - his head smashed like an egg.
I dropped a crowbar, pulled the spear out of my shoulder, and began to jab
it down the grating into the darkness. At each jab came a shriek and
twitter. Finally I hurled the spear down upon them with all my strength,
leapt up, picked up the crowbar again, and started for the multitude up
the cavern.
"Bedford!" cried Cavor. "Bedford!" as I flew past him.
I seem to remember his footsteps coming on behind me.
Step, leap ... whack, step, leap. ... Each leap seemed to last ages. With
each, the cave opened out and the number of Selenites visible increased.
At first they seemed all running about like ants in a disturbed ant-hill,
one or two waving hatchets and coming to meet me, more running away, some
bolting sideways into the avenue of carcasses, then presently others came
in sight carrying spears, and then others. I saw a most extraordinary
thing, all hands and feet, bolting for cover. The cavern grew darker
farther up.
Flick! something flew over my head. Flick! As I soared in mid-stride I saw
a spear hit and quiver in one of the carcasses to my left. Then, as I came
down, one hit the ground before me, and I heard the remote chuzz! with
which their things were fired. Flick, flick! for a moment it was a
shower. They were volleying!
I stopped dead.
I don't think I thought clearly then. I seem to remember a kind of
stereotyped phrase running through my mind: "Zone of fire, seek cover!" I
know I made a dash for the space between two ~ the carcasses, and stood
there panting and feeling very wicked.
I looked round for Cavor, and for a moment it seemed as if he had vanished
from the world. Then he came out of the darkness between the row of the
carcasses and the rocky wall of the cavern. I saw his little face, dark
and blue, and shining with perspiration and emotion.
He was saying something, but what it was I did not heed. I had realised
that we might work from mooncalf to mooncalf up the cave until we were
near enough to charge home. It was charge or nothing. "Come on! " I said,
and led the way.
"Bedford! " he cried unavailingly.
My mind was busy as we went up that narrow alley between the dead bodies
and the wall of the cavern. The rocks curved about - they could not
enfilade us. Though in that narrow space we could not leap, yet with our
earth-born strength we were still able to go very much faster than the
Selenites. I reckoned we should presently come right among them. Once we
were on them, they would be nearly as formidable as black beetles. Only -
there would first of all be a volley. I thought of a stratagem. I whipped
off my flannel jacket as I ran.
"Bedford!" panted Cavor behind me.
I glanced back. "What?" said I.
He was pointing upward over the carcasses. "White light!" he said. "White
light again!"
I looked, and it was even so, a faint white ghost of light in the remoter
cavern roof. That seemed to give me double strength.
"Keep close," I said. A flat, long Selenite dashed out of the darkness,
and squealed and fled. I halted, and stopped Cavor with my hand. I hung my
jacket over my crowbar, ducked round the next carcass, dropped jacket and
crowbar, showed myself, and darted back.
"Chuzz-flick," just one arrow came. We were close on the Selenites, and
they were standing in a crowd, broad, short, and tall together, with a
little battery of their shooting implements pointing down the cave. Three
or four other arrows followed the first, then their fire ceased.
I stuck out my head, and escaped by a hair's-breadth. This time I drew a
dozen shots or more, and heard the Selenites shouting and twittering as if
with excitement as they shot. I picked up jacket and crowbar again.
"Now! " said I, and thrust out the jacket.
"Chuzz-zz-zz-zz! Chuzz!" In an instant my jacket had grown a thick beard
of arrows, and they were quivering all over the carcass behind us.
Instantly I slipped the crowbar out of the jacket, dropped the jacket -
for all I know to the contrary it is lying up there in the moon now - and
rushed out upon them.
For a minute perhaps it was massacre. I was too fierce to discriminate,
and the Selenites were probably too scared to fight. At any rate they made
no sort of fight against me. I saw scarlet, as the saying is. I remember I
seemed to be wading among those leathery, thin things as a man wades
through tall grass, mowing and hitting, first right, then left; smash.
Little drops of moisture flew about. I trod on things that crushed and
piped and went slippery. The crowd seemed to open and close and flow like
water. They seemed to have no combined plan whatever. There were spears
flew about me, I was grazed over the ear by one. I was stabbed once in the
arm and once in the cheek, but I only found that out afterwards, when the
blood had had time to run and cool and feel wet.
What Cavor did I do not know. For a space it seemed that this fighting had
lasted for an age, and must needs go on for ever. Then suddenly it was all
over, and there was nothing to be seen but the backs of heads bobbing up
and down as their owners ran in all directions. ... I seemed altogether
unhurt. I ran forward some paces, shouting, then turned about. I was
I had come right through them in vast flying strides, they were all behind
me, and running hither and thither to hide.
I felt an enormous astonishment at the evaporation of the great fight into
which I had hurled myself, and not a little exultation. It did not seem to
me that I had discovered the Selenites were unexpectedly flimsy, but that
I was unexpectedly strong. I laughed stupidly. This fantastic moon!
I glanced for a moment at the smashed and writhing bodies that were
scattered over the cavern floor, with a vague idea of further violence,
then hurried on after Cavor.
Chapter 18
In the Sunlight
PRESENTLY we saw that the cavern before us opened upon a hazy void. In
another moment we had emerged upon a sort of slanting gallery, that
projected into a vast circular space, a huge cylindrical pit running
vertically up and down. Round this pit the slanting gallery ran without
any parapet or protection for a turn and a half, and then plunged high
above into the rock again. Somehow it reminded me then one of those spiral
turns of the railway through the Saint Gothard. It was all tremendously
huge. I can scarcely hope to convey to you the Titanic proportion of all
that place, the Titanic effect of it. Our eyes followed up the vast
declivity of the pit wall, and overhead and far above we beheld a round
opening set with faint stars, and half of the lip about it well nigh
blinding with the white light of the sun. At that we cried aloud
"Come on!" I said, leading the way.
"But there?" said Cavor, and very carefully stepped nearer the edge of the
gallery. I followed his example, and craned forward and looked down, but I
was dazzled by that gleam of light above, and I could see only a
bottomless darkness with spectral patches of crimson and purple floating
therein. Yet if I could not see, I could hear. Out of this darkness came a
sound, a sound like the angry hum one can hear if one puts one's ear
outside a hive of bees, a sound out of that enormous hollow, it may be,
four miles beneath our feet...
For a moment I listened, then tightened my grip on my crowbar, and led the
way up the gallery.
"This must be the shaft we looked down upon," said Cavor. "Under that
"And below there, is where we saw the lights."
"The lights!" said he. " Yes - the lights of the world that now we shall
never see."
"We'll come back," I said, for now we had escaped so much I was rashly
sanguine that we should recover the sphere.
His answer I did not catch.
"Eh?" I asked.
"It doesn't matter," he answered, and we hurried on in silence.
I suppose that slanting lateral way was four or five miles long, allowing
for its curvature, and it ascended at a slope that would have made it
almost impossibly steep on earth, but which one strode up easily under
lunar conditions. We saw only two Selenites during all that portion of our
flight, and directly they became aware of us they ran headlong. It was
clear that the knowledge of our strength and violence had reached them.
Our way to the exterior was unexpectedly plain. The spiral gallery
straightened into a steeply ascendent tunnel, its floor bearing abundant
traces of the mooncalves, and so straight and short in proportion to its
vast arch, that no part of it was absolutely dark. Almost immediately it
began to lighten, and then far off and high up, and quite blindingly
brilliant, appeared its opening on the exterior, a slope of Alpine
steepness surmounted by a crest of bayonet shrub, tall and broken down
now, and dry and dead, in spiky silhouette against the sun.
And it is strange that we men, to whom this very vegetation had seemed so
weird and horrible a little time ago, should now behold it with the
emotion a home-coming exile might feel at sight of his native land. We
welcomed even the rareness of the air that made us pant as we ran, and
which rendered speaking no longer the easy thing that it had been, but an
effort to make oneself heard. Larger grew the sunlit circle above us, and
larger, and all the nearer tunnel sank into a rim of indistinguishable
black. We saw the dead bayonet shrub no longer with any touch of green in
it, but brown and dry and thick, arid the M shadow of its upper branches
high out of sight made a densely interlaced pattern upon the tumbled
rocks. And at the immediate mouth of the tunnel was a wide trampled space
where the mooncalves had come and gone.
We came out upon this space at last into a light and heat that hit and
pressed upon us. We traversed the exposed area painfully, and clambered up
a slope among the scrub stems, and sat down at last panting in a high
place beneath the shadow of a mass of twisted lava. Even in the shade the
rock felt hot.
The air was intensely hot, and we were in great physical discomfort, but
for all that we were no longer in a nightmare. We seemed to have come to
our own province again, beneath the stars. All the fear and stress of our
flight through the dim passages and fissures below had fallen from us.
That last fight bad filled us with an enormous confidence in ourselves so
far as the Selenites were concerned. We looked back almost incredulously
at the black opening from which we had just emerged. Down there it was, in
a blue glow that now in our memories seemed the next thing to absolute
darkness, we had met with things like mad mockeries of men, helmet-headed
creatures, and had walked in fear before them, and had submitted to them
until we could submit no longer. And behold, they had smashed like wax and
scattered like chaff, and fled and vanished like the creatures of a dream!
I rubbed my eyes, doubting whether we had not slept and dreamt these
things by reason of the fungus we had eaten, and suddenly discovered the
blood upon my face, and then that my shirt was sticking painfully to my
shoulder and arm.
"Confound it!" I said, gauging my injuries with an investigatory hand, and
suddenly that distant tunnel mouth became, as it were, a watching eye.
"Cavor!" I said; "what are they going to do now? And what are we going to
He shook his head, with his eyes fixed upon the tunnel. "How can one tell
what they will do?"
"It depends on what they think of us, and I don't see how we can begin to
guess that. And it depends upon what they have in reserve. It's as you
say, Cavor, we have touched the merest outside of this world. They may
have all sorts of things inside here. Even with those shooting things they
might make it bad for us....
"Yet after all," I said, "even if we don't find the sphere at once, there
is a chance for us. We might hold out. Even through the night. We might go
down there again and make a fight for it."
I stared about me with speculative eyes. The character of the scenery had
altered altogether by reason of the enormous growth and subsequent drying
of the scrub. The crest on which we sat was high, and commanded a wide
prospect of the crater landscape, and we saw it now all sere and dry in
the late autumn of the lunar afternoon. Rising one behind the other were
long slopes and fields of trampled brown where the mooncalves had
pastured, and far away in the full blaze of the sun a drove of them basked
slumberously, scattered shapes, each with a blot of shadow against it like
sheep on the side of a down. But never a sign of a Selenite was to be
seen. Whether they had fled on our emergence from the interior passages,
or whether they were accustomed to retire after driving out the
mooncalves, I cannot guess. At the time I believed the former was the
"If we were to set fire to all this stuff, I said, "we might find the
sphere among the ashes."
Cavor did not seem to hear me. He was peering under his hand at the stars,
that still, in spite of the intense sunlight, were abundantly visible in
the sky. "How long do you think we've have been here?" he asked at last.
"Been where? "
"On the moon."
"Two earthly days, perhaps."
"More nearly ten. Do you know, the sun is past its zenith, and sinking in
the west. In four days' time or less it will be night."
"But - we've only eaten once!"
"I know that. And - But there are the stars! "
"But why should time seem different because we are on a smaller planet? "
"I don't know. There it is!"
"How does one tell time?"
"Hunger - fatigue - all those things are different. Everything is
different - everything. To me it seems that since first we came out of the
sphere has been only a question of hours - long hours - at most."
"Ten days," I said; "that leaves -" I looked up at the sun for a moment,
and then saw that it was halfway from the zenith to the western edge of
things. "Four days! ... Cavor, we musn't sit here and dream. How do you
think we may begin?"
I stood up. "We must get a fixed point we can recognise - we might hoist a
flag, or a handkerchief, or something - and quarter the ground, and work
round that."
He stood up beside me.
"Yes," he said, "there is nothing for it but to hunt the sphere. Nothing.
We may find it - certainly we may find it. And if not -"
"We must keep on looking."
He look this way and that, glanced up at the sky and down at the tunnel,
and astonished me by a sudden gesture of impatience. "Oh! but we have
done foolishly! To have come to this pass! Think how it might have been,
and the things we might have done!"
"We might do something yet."
"Never the thing we might have done. here below out feet is a world.
Think of what that world must be! Think of that machine we saw, and the
lid and the shaft! They were just remote outlying things, and those
creatures we have seen and fought with no more than ignorant peasants,
dwellers in the outskirts, yokels and labourers half akin to brutes. Down
below! Caverns beneath caverns, tunnels, structures, ways... It must
open out, and be greater and wider and more populous as one descends.
Assuredly. Right down at the last the central sea that washes round the
core of the moon. Think of its inky waters under the spare lights - if,
indeed, their eyes need lights! Think of the cascading tributaries
pouring down their channels to feed it! Think of the tides upon its
surface, and the rush and swirl of its ebb and flow! perhaps they have
ships that go upon it, perhaps down there are mighty cities and swarming
ways, and wisdom and order passing the wit of man. And we may die here
upon it, and never see the masters who must be - ruling over these things!
We may freeze and die here, and the air will freeze and thaw upon us, and
then - ! Then they will come upon us, come on our stiff and silent
bodies, and find the sphere we cannot find, and they will understand at
last too late all the thought and effort that ended here in vain!"
His voice for all that speech sounded like the voice of someone heard in a
telephone, weak and far away.
"But the darkness," I said.
"One might get over that."
"I don't know. How am I to know? One might carry a torch, one might have
a lamp - The others - might understand."
He stood for a moment with his hands held down and a rueful face, staring
out over the waste that defied him. Then with a gesture of renunciation
he turned towards me with proposals for the systematic hunting of the
"We can return," I said.
He looked about him. "First of all we shall have to get to earth."
"We could bring back lamps to carry and climbing irons, and a hundred
necessary things."
"Yes," he said.
"We can take back an earnest of success in this gold."
He looked at my golden crowbars, and said nothing for a space. He stood
with his hands clasped behind his back, staring across the crater. At
last he signed and spoke. "It was I found the way here, but to find a way
isn't always to be master of a way. If I take my secret back to earth,
what will happen? I do not see how I can keep my secret for a year, for
even a part of a year. Sooner or later it must come out, even if other
men rediscover it. And then ... Governments and powers will struggle to
get hither, they will fight against one another, and against these moon
people; it will only spread warfare and multiply the occasions of war. In
a little while, in a very little while, if I tell my secret, this planet
to its deepest galleries will be strewn with human dead. Other things are
doubtful, but that is certain. It is not as though man had any use for the
moon. What good would the moon be to men? Even of their own planet what
have they made but a battle-ground and theatre of infinite folly? Small
as his world is, and short as his time, he has still in his little life
down there far more than he can do. No! Science has toiled too long
forging weapons for fools to use. It is time she held her hand. Let him
find it out for himself again - in a thousand years' time."
"There are methods of secrecy," I said.
He looked up at me and smiled. "After all," he said, "why should one
worry? There is little chance of our finding the sphere, and down below
things are brewing. It's simply the human habit of hoping till we die that
makes us think of return. Our troubles are only beginning. We have shown
these moon folk violence, we have given them a taste of our quality, and
our chances are about as good as a tiger's that has got loose and killed a
man in Hyde Park. The news of us must be running down from gallery to
gallery, down towards the central parts. ... No sane beings will ever let
us take that sphere back to earth after so much as they have seen of us."
"We aren't improving our chances," said I, "by sitting here."
We stood up side by side.
"After all," he said, we must separate. We must stick up a handkerchief on
these tall spikes here and fasten it firmly, and from this as a centre we
must work over the crater. You must go westward, moving out in semicircles
to and fro towards the setting sun. You must move first with your shadow
on your right until it is at right angles with the direction of your
handkerchief, and then with your shadow on your left. And I will do the
same to the east. We will look into every gully, examine every skerry of
rocks; we will do all we can to find my sphere. If we see the Selenites we
will hide from them as well as we can. For drink we must take snow, and if
we feel the need of food, we must kill a mooncalf if we can, and eat such
flesh as it has - raw - and so each will go his own way."
"And if one of us comes upon the sphere?"
"He must come back to the white handkerchief, and stand by it and signal
to the other."
"And if neither?"
Cavor glanced up at the sun. "We go on seeking until the night and cold
overtake us."
"Suppose the Selenites have found the sphere and hidden it?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"Or if presently they come hunting us?"
He made no answer.
"You had better take a club," I said.
He shook his head, and stared away from me across the waste.
But for a moment he did not start. He looked round at me shyly, hesitated.
"Au revoir," he said.
I felt an odd stab of emotion. A sense of how we had galled each other,
and particularly how I must have galled him, came to me. "Confound it,"
thought I, "we might have done better!" I was on the point of asking him
to shake hands - for that, somehow, was how I felt just then - when he put
his feet together and leapt away from me towards the north. He seemed to
drift through the air as a dead leaf would do, fell lightly, and leapt
again. I stood for a moment watching him, then faced westward reluctantly,
pulled myself together, and with something of the feeling of a man who
leaps into icy water, selected a leaping point, and plunged forward to
explore my solitary half of the moon world. I dropped rather clumsily
among rocks, stood up and looked about me, clambered on to a rocky slab,
and leapt again. ...
When presently I looked for Cavor he was hidden from my eyes, but the
handkerchief showed out bravely on its headland, white in the blaze of the
I determined not to lose sight of that handkerchief whatever might betide.
Chapter 19
Mr. Bedford Alone
IN a little while it seemed to me as though I had always been alone on the
moon. I hunted for a time with a certain intentness, but the heat was
still very great, and the thinness of the air felt like a hoop about one's
chest. I came presently into a hollow basin bristling with tall, brown,
dry fronds about its edge, and I sat down under these to rest and cool. I
intended to rest for only a little while. I put down my clubs beside me,
and sat resting my chin on my hands. I saw with a sort of colourless
interest that the rocks of the basin, where here and there the crackling
dry lichens had shrunk away to show them, were all veined and splattered
with gold, that here and there bosses of rounded and wrinkled gold
projected from among the litter. What did that matter now? A sort of
languor had possession of my limbs and mind, I did not belive for a moment
that we should ever find the sphere in that vast desiccated wilderness. I
seemed to lack a motive for effort until the Selenites should come. Then
I supposed I should exert myself, obeying that unreasonable imperative
that urges a man before all things to preserve and defend his life, albeit
he may preserve it only to die more painfully in a little while.
Why had we come to the moon?
The thing presented itself to me as a perplexing problem. What is this
spirit in man that urges him for ever to depart from happiness and
security, to toil, to place himself in danger, to risk even a reasonable
certainty of death? It dawned upon me up there in the moon as a thing I
ought always to have known, that man is not made simply to go about being
safe and comfortable and well fed and amused. Almost any man, if you put
the thing to him, not in words, but in the shape of opportunities, will
show that he knob as much. Against his interest, against his happiness, he
is constantly being driven to do unreasonable things. Some force not
himself impels him, and go he must. But why? Why? Sitting there in the
midst of that useless moon gold, amidst the things of another world, I
took count of all my life. Assuming I was to die a castaway upon the moon,
I failed altogether to see what purpose I had served. I got no light on
that point, but at any rate it was clearer to me than it had ever been in
my life before that I was not serving my own purpose, that all my life I
had in truth never served the purposes of my private life. Whose purposes,
what purposes, was I serving? ... I ceased to speculate on why we had come
to the moon, and took a wider sweep. Why had I come to the earth? Why had
I a private life at all? ... I lost myself at last in bottomless
speculations. ...
My thoughts became vague and cloudy, no longer leading in definite
directions. I had not felt heavy or weary - I cannot imagine one doing so
upon the moon - but I suppose I was greatly fatigued. At any rate I slept.
Slumbering there rested me greatly, I think, and the sun was setting and
the violence of the heat abating, through all the time I slumbered. When
at last I was roused from my slumbers by a remote clamour, I felt active
and capable again. I rubbed my eyes and stretched my arms. I rose to my
feet - I was a little stiff - and at once prepared to resume my search. I
shouldered my golden clubs, one on each shoulder, and went on out of the
ravine of the gold-veined rocks.
The sun was certainly lower, much lower than it had been; the air was very
much cooler. I perceived I must have slept some time. It seemed to me that
a faint touch of misty blueness hung about the western cliff I leapt to a
little boss of rock and surveyed the crater. I could see no signs of
mooncalves or Selenites, nor could I see Cavor, but I could see my
handkerchief far off, spread out on its thicket of thorns. I looked bout
me, and then leapt forward to the next convenient view-point.
I beat my round in a semicircle, and back again in a still remoter
crescent. It was very fatiguing and hopeless. The air was really very much
cooler, and it seemed to me that the shadow under the westward cliff was
growing broad. Ever and again I stopped and reconnoitred, but there was no
sign of Cavor, no sign of Selenites; and it seemed to me the mooncalves
must have been driven into the interior again - I could see none of them.
I became more and more desirous of being Cavor. The winged outline of the
sun had sunk now, until it was scarcely the distance of its diameter from
the rim of the sky. I was oppressed by the idea that the Selenites would
presently close their lids and valves, and shut us out under the
inexorable onrush of the lunar night. It seemed to me high time that he
abandoned his search, and that we took counsel together. I felt how urgent
it was that we should decide soon upon our course. We had failed to find
the sphere, we no longer had time to seek it, and once these valves were
closed with us outside, we were lost men. The great night of space would
descend upon us - that blackness of the void which is the only absolute
death. All my being shrank from that approach. We must get into the moon
again, though we were slain in doing it. I was haunted by a vision of our
freezing to death, of our hammering with our last strength on the valve of
the great pit.
I took no thought any more of the sphere. I thought only of finding Cavor
again I was half inclined to go back into the moon without him, rather
than seek him until it was too late. I was already half-way back towards
our handkerchief, when suddenly -
I saw the sphere!
I did not find it so much as it found me. It was lying much farther to the
westward than I had gone, and the sloping rays of the sinking sun
reflected from its glass had suddenly proclaimed its presence in a
dazzling beam. For an instant I thought this was some new device of the
Selenites against us, and then I understood.
I threw up my arms, shouted a ghostly shout, and set off in vast leaps
towards it. I missed one of my leaps and dropped into a deep ravine and
twisted my ankle, and after that I stumbled at almost every leap. I was
in a state of hysterical agitation, trembling violently, and quite
breathless long before I got to it. Three times at least I had to stop
with my hands resting on my side and spite of the thin dryness of the air,
the perspiration was wet upon my face.
I thought of nothing but the sphere until I reached it, I forgot even my
trouble of Cavor's whereabouts. My last leap flung me with my hands hard
against its glass; then I lay against it panting, and trying vainly to
shout, "Cavor! here is the sphere!" When I had recovered a little I peered
through the thick glass, and the things inside seemed tumbled. I stooped
to peer closer. Then I attempted to get in. I had to hoist it over a
little to get my head through the manhole. The screw stopper was inside,
and I could see now that nothing had been touched, nothing had suffered.
It lay there as we had left it when we had dropped out amidst the snow.
For a time I was wholly occupied in making and remaking this inventory. I
found I was trembling violently. It was good to see that familiar dark
interior again! I cannot tell you how good. Presently I crept inside and
sat down among the things. I looked through the glass at the moon world
and shivered. I placed my gold clubs upon the table, and sought out and
took a little food; not so much because I wanted it, but because it was
there. Then it occurred to me that it was time to go out and signal for
Cavor. But I did not go out and signal for Cavor forthwith. Something
held me to the sphere.
After all, everything was coming right. There would be still time for us
to get more of the magic stone that gives one mastery over men. Away
there, close handy, was gold for the picking up; and the sphere would
travel as well half full of gold as though it were empty. We could go
back now, masters of ourselves and our world, and then -
I roused myself at last, and with an effort got myself out of the sphere.
I shivered as I emerged, for the evening air was growing very cold. I
stood in the hollow staring about me. I scrutinised the bushes round me
very carefully before I leapt to the rocky shelf hard by, and took once
more what had been my first leap in the moon. But now I made it with no
effort whatever.
The growth and decay of the vegetation had gone on apace, and the whole
aspect of the rocks had changed, but still it was possible to make out the
slope on which the seeds had germinated, and the rocky mass from which we
had taken our first view of the crater. But the spiky shrub on the slope
stood brown and sere now, and thirty feet high, and cast long shadows that
stretched out of sight, and the little seeds that clustered in its upper
branches were brown and ripe. Its work was done, and it was brittle and
ready to fall and crumple under the freezing air, so soon as the nightfall
came. And the huge cacti, that had swollen as we watched them, had long
since burst and scattered their spores to the four quarters of the moon.
Amazing little corner in the universe - the landing place of men!
Some day, thought I, I will have an inscription standing there right in
the midst of the hollow. It came to me, if only this teeming world within
knew of the full import of the moment, how furious its tumult would
But as yet it could scarcely be dreaming of the significance of our
coming. For if it did, the crater would surely be an uproar of pursuit,
instead of as still as death! I looked about for some place from which I
might signal Cavor, and saw that same patch of rock to which he had leapt
from my present standpoint, still bare and barren in the sun. For a moment
I hesitated at going so far from the sphere. Then with a pang of shame at
that hesitation, I leapt. ...
From this vantage point I surveyed the crater again. Far away at the top
of the enormous shadow I cast was the little white handkerchief fluttering
on the bushes. It was very little and very far, and Cavor was not in
sight. It seemed to me that by this time he ought to be looking for me.
That was the agreement. But he was nowhere to be seen.
I stood waiting and watching, hands shading my eyes, expecting every
moment to distinguish him. Very probably I stood there for quite a long
time. I tried to shout, and was reminded of the thinness of the air. I
made an undecided step back towards the sphere. But a lurking dread of
the Selenites made me hesitate to signal my whereabouts by hoisting one of
our sleeping-blankets on to the adjacent scrub. I searched the crater
It had an effect of emptiness that chilled me. And it was still; Any sound
from the Selenites in the world beneath, even had died away. It was as
still as death. Save for the faint stir of the shrub about me in the
little breeze that was rising, there was no sound nor shadow of a sound.
And the breeze blew chill.
Confound Cavor!
I took a deep breath. I put my hands to the sides of my mouth. "Cavor!" I
bawled, and the sound was like some manikin shouting far away.
I looked at the handkerchief, I looked behind me at the broadening shadow
of the westward cliff I looked under my hand at the sun. It seemed to me
that almost visibly it was creeping down the sky. I felt I must act
instantly if I was to save Cavor. I whipped off my vest and flung it as a
mark on the sere bayonets of the shrubs behind me, and then set off in a
straight line towards the handkerchief. Perhaps it was a couple of miles
away - a matter of a few hundred leaps and strides. I have already told
how one seemed to hang through those lunar leaps. In each suspense I
sought Cavor, and marvelled why he should be hidden. In each leap I could
feel the sun setting behind me. Each time I touched the ground I was
tempted to go back.
A last leap and I was in the depression below our handkerchief, a stride,
and I stood on our former vantage point within arms' reach of it. I stood
up straight and scanned the world about me, between its lengthening bars
of shadow. Far away, down a long declivity, was the opening of the tunnel
up which we had fled, and my shadow reached towards it, stretched towards
it, and touched it, like a finger of the night.
Not a sign of Cavor, not a sound in all the stillness, only the stir and
waving of the scrub and of the shadows increased. And suddenly and
violently I shivered. "Cav-" I began, and realised once more the
uselessness of the human voice in that thin air. Silence. The silence of
Then it was my eye caught something - a little thing lying, perhaps fifty
yards away down the slope, amidst a litter of bent and broken branches.
What was it? I knew, and yet for some reason I would not know. I went
nearer to it. It was the little cricket-cap Cavor had worn. I did not
touch it, I stood looking at it.
I saw then that the scattered branches about it had been forcibly smashed
and trampled. I hesitated, stepped forward, and picked it up.
I stood with Cavor's cap in my hand, staring at the trampled reeds and
thorns about me. On some, of them were little smears of something dark,
something that I dared not touch. A dozen yards away, perhaps, the rising
breeze dragged something into view, something small and vividly white.
It was a little piece of paper crumpled tightly, as though it had been
clutched tightly. I picked it up, and on it were smears of red. My eye
caught faint pencil marks. I smoothed it out, and saw uneven and broken
writing ending at last in a crooked streak up on the paper.
I set myself to decipher this.
"I have been injured about the knee, I think my kneecap is hurt, and I
cannot run or crawl," it began - pretty distinctly written.
Then less legibly: "They have been chasing me for some time, and it is
only a question of" - the word "time" seemed to have been written here and
erased in favour of something illegible - "before they get me. They are
beating all about me."
Then the writing became convulsive. "I can hear them," I guessed the
tracing meant, and then it was quite unreadable for a space. Then came a
little string of words that were quite distinct: "a different sort of
Selenite altogether, who appears to be directing the" The writing became a
mere hasty confusion again.
"They have larger brain cases - much larger, and slenderer bodies, and
very short legs. They make gentle noises, and move with organized
"And though I am wounded and helpless here, their appearance still gives
me hope " That was like Cavor. "They have not shot at me or attempted...
injury. I intend -"
Then came the sudden streak of the pencil across the paper, and on the
back and edges - blood!
And as I stood there stupid, and perplexed, with this dumbfounding relic
in my hand, something very soft and light and chill touched my hand for a
moment and ceased to be, and then a thing, a little white speck, drifted
athwart a shadow. It was a tiny snowflake, the first snowflake, the herald
of the night.
I looked up with a start, and the sky had darkened almost to blackness,
and was thick with a gathering multitude of coldly watchful stars. I
looked eastward, and the light of that shrivelled world was touched with
sombre bronze; westward, and the sun robbed now by a thickening white mist
of half its heat and splendour, was touching the crater rim, was sinking
out of sight, and all the shrubs and jagged and tumbled rocks stood out
against it in a bristling disorder of black shapes. Into the great lake
of darkness westward, a vast wreath of mist was sinking. A cold wind set
all the crater shivering. Suddenly, for a moment, I was in a puff of
falling snow, and all the world about me gray and dim.
And then it was I heard, not loud and penetrating as at first, but faint
and dim like a dying voice, that tolling, that same tolling that had
welcomed the coming of the day: Boom!... Boom!... Boom!...
It echoed about the crater, it seemed to throb with the throbbing of the
greater stars, the blood-red crescent of the sun's disc sank as it tolled
out: Boom!... Boom!... Boom! ...
What had happened to Cavor? All through that tolling I stood there
stupidly, and at last the tolling ceased.
And suddenly the open mouth of the tunnel down below there, shut like an
eye and vanished out of sight.
Then indeed was I alone.
Over me, around me, closing in on me, embracing me ever nearer, was the
Eternal; that which was before the beginning, and that which triumphs over
the end; that enormous void in which all light and life and being is but
the thin and vanishing splendour of a falling star, the cold, the
stillness, the silence - the infinite and final Night of space.
The sense of solitude and desolation became the sense of an overwhelming
presence that stooped towards me, that almost touched me.
"No," I cried. "No! Not yet! not yet! Wait! Wait! Oh, wait!" My voice
went up to a shriek. I flung the crumpled paper from me, scrambled back
to the crest to take my bearings, and then, with all the will that was in
me, leapt out towards the mark I had left, dim and distant now in the very
margin of the shadow.
Leap, leap, leap, and each leap was seven ages.
Before me the pale serpent-girdled section of the sun sank and sank, and
the advancing shadow swept to seize the sphere before I could reach it. I
was two miles away, a hundred leaps or more, and the air about me was
thinning out as it thins under an air-pump, and the cold was gripping at
my joints. But had I died, I should have died leaping. Once, and then
again my foot slipped on the gathering snow as I leapt and shortened my
leap; once I fell short into bushes that crashed and smashed into dusty
chips and nothingness, and once I stumbled as I dropped and rolled head
over heels into a gully, and rose bruised and bleeding and confused as to
my direction.
But such incidents were as nothing to the intervals, those awful pauses
when one drifted through the air towards that pouring tide of night. My
breathing made a piping noise, and it was as though knives were whirling
in my lungs. My heart seemed to beat against the top of my brain. "Shall I
reach it? O Heaven! Shall I reach it?"
My whole being became anguish.
"Lie down!" screamed my pain and despair; "lie down!"
The near I struggled, the more awfully remote it seemed. I was numb, I
stumbled, I bruised and cut myself and did not bleed.
It was in sight.
I fell on all fours, and my lungs whooped.
I crawled. The frost gathered on my lips, icicles hung from my moustache,
I was white with the freezing atmosphere.
I was a dozen yards from it. My eyes had become dim. "Lie down!" screamed
despair; "lie down!"
I touched it, and halted. "Too late!" screamed despair; "lie down!"
I fought stiffly with it. I was on the manhole lip, a stupefied, half-dead
being. The snow was all about me. I pulled myself in. There lurked within
a little warmer air.
The snowflakes - the airflakes - danced in about me, as I tried with
chilling hands to thrust the valve in and spun it tight and hard. I
sobbed. "I will," I chattered in my teeth. And then, with fingers that
quivered and felt brittle, I turned to the shutter studs.
As I fumbled with the switches - for I had never controlled them before -
I could see dimly through the steaming glass the blazing red streamers of
the sinking sun, dancing and flickering through the snowstorm, and the
black forms of the scrub thickening and bending and breaking beneath the
accumulating snow. Thicker whirled the snow and thicker, black against
the light. What if even now the switches overcame me? Then something
clicked under my hands, and in an instant that last vision of the moon
world was hidden from my eyes. I was in the silence and darkness the
inter-planetary sphere.
Chapter 20
Mr. Bedford in Infinite Space
IT was almost as though I had been killed. Indeed, I could imagine a man
suddenly and violently killed would feel very much as I did. One moment, a
passion of agonising existence and fear; the next darkness and stillness,
neither light nor life nor sun, moon nor stars, the blank infinite.
Although the thing was done by my own act, although I had already tasted
this very of effect in Cavor's company, I felt astonished, dumbfounded,
and overwhelmed. I seemed to be borne upward into an enormous darkness. My
fingers floated off the studs, I hung as if I were annihilated, and at
last very softly and gently I came against the bale and the golden chain,
and the crowbars that had drifted to the middle of the sphere.
I do not know how long that drifting took. In the sphere of course, even
more than on the moon, one's earthly time sense was ineffectual. At the
touch of the bale it was as if I had awakened from a dreamless sleep. I
immediately perceived that if I wanted to keep awake and alive I must get
a light or open a window, so as to get a grip of something with my eyes.
And besides, I was cold. I kicked off from the bale, therefore, clawed on
to the thin cords within the glass, crawled along until I got to the
manhole rim, and so got my bearings for the light and blind studs, took a
shove off, and flying once round the bale, and getting a scare from
something big and flimsy that was drifting loose, I got my hand on the
cord quite close to the studs, and reached them. I lit the little lamp
first of all to see what it was I had collided with, and discovered that
old copy of Lloyd's News had slipped its moorings, and was adrift in the
void. That brought me out of the infinite to my own proper dimensions
again. It made me laugh and pant for a time, and suggested the idea of a
little oxygen from one of the cylinders. After that I lit the heater until
I felt warm, and then I took food. Then I set to work in a very gingerly
fashion on the Cavorite blinds, to see if I could guess by any means how
the sphere was travelling.
The first blind I opened I shut at once, and hung for a time flattened and
blinded by the sunlight that had hit me. After thinking a little I started
upon the windows at right angles to this one, and got the huge crescent
moon and the little crescent earth behind it, the second time. I was
amazed to find how far I was from the moon. I had reckoned that not only
should I have little or none of the "kick-off" that the earth's atmosphere
had given us at our start, but that the tangential "fly off" of the moon's
spin would be at least twenty-eight times less than the earth's. I had
expected to discover myself hanging over our crater, and on the edge of
the night, but all that was now only a part of the outline of the white
crescent that filled the sky. And Cavor - ?
He was already infinite.
I tried to imagine what could have happened to him. But at that time I
could think of nothing but death. I seemed to see him, bent and smashed
at the foot of some interminably high cascade of blue. And all about him
the stupid insects stared...
Under the inspiring touch of the drifting newspaper I became practical
again for a while. It was quite clear to me that what I had to do was to
get back to earth, but as far as I could see I was drifting away from it.
Whatever had happened to Cavor, even if he was still alive, which seemed
to me incredible after that blood-stained scrap, I was powerless to help
him. There he was, living or dead behind the mantle of that rayless night,
and there he must remain at least until I could summon our fellow men to
his assistance. Should I do that? Something of the sort I had in my mind;
to come back to earth if it were possible, and then as maturer
consideration might determine, either to show and explain the sphere to a
few discreet persons, and act with them, or else to keep my secret, sell
my gold,, obtain weapons, provisions, and an assistant, and return with
these advantages to deal on equal terms with the flimsy people of the
moon, to rescue Cavor, if that were still possible, and at any rate to
procure a sufficient supply of gold to place my subsequent proceedings on
a firmer basis. But that was hoping far; I had first to get back.
I set myself to decide just exactly how the return to earth could be
contrived. As I struggled with that problem I ceased to worry about what I
should do when I got there. At last my only care was to get back.
I puzzled out at last that my best chance would be to drop back towards
the moon as near as I dared in order to gather velocity, then to shut my
windows, and fly behind it, and when I was past to open my earthward
windows, and so get off at a good pace homeward. But whether I should ever
reach the earth by that device, or whether I might not simply find myself
spinning about it in some hyperbolic or parabolic curve or other, I could
not tell. Later I had a happy inspiration, and by opening certain windows
to the moon, which had appeared in the sky in front of the earth, I turned
my course aside so as to head off the earth, which it had become evident
to me I must pass behind without some such expedient. I did a very great
deal of complicated thinking over these, problems - for I am no
mathematician - and in the end I am certain it was much more my good luck
than my reasoning that enabled me to hit the earth. Had I known then, as I
know now, the mathematical chances there were against me, I doubt if I
should have troubled even to touch the studs to make any attempt. And
having puzzled out what I considered to be the thing to do, I opened all
my moonward windows, and squatted down - the effort lifted me for a time
some feet or so into the air, and I hung there in the oddest way - and
waited for the crescent to get bigger and bigger until I felt I was near
enough for safety. Then I would shut the windows, fly past the moon with
the velocity I had got from it - if I did not smash upon it - and so go on
towards the earth.
And that is what I did.
At last I felt my moonward start was sufficient. I shut out the sight of
the moon from my eyes, and in a state of mind that was, I now recall,
incredibly free from anxiety or any distressful quality, I sat down to
begin a vigil in that little speck of matter in infinite space that would
last until I should strike the earth. The heater had made the sphere
tolerably warm, the air had been refreshed by the oxygen, and except for
that faint congestion of the head that was always with me while I was away
from earth, I felt entire physical comfort. I had extinguished the light
again, lest it should fail me in the end; I was in darkness, save for the
earthshine and the glitter of the stars below me. Everything was so
absolutely silent and still that I might indeed have been the only being
in the universe, and yet, strangely enough, I had no more feeling of
loneliness or fear than if I had been lying in bed on earth. Now, this
seems all the stranger to me, since during my last hours in that crater of
the moon, the sense of my utter loneliness had been an agony. ...
Incredible as it will seem, this interval of time that I spent in space
has no sort of proportion to any other interval of time in my life.
Sometimes it seemed as though I sat through immeasurable eternities like
some god upon a lotus leaf, and again as though there was a momentary
pause as I leapt from moon to earth. In truth, it was altogether some
weeks of earthly time. But I had done with care and anxiety, hunger or
fear, for that space. I floated, thinking with a strange breadth and
freedom of all that we had undergone, and of all my life and motives, and
the secret issues of my being. I seemed to myself to have grown greater
and greater, to have lost all sense of movement; to be floating amidst the
stars, and always the sense of earth's littleness and the infinite
littleness of my life upon it, was implicit in my thoughts.
I can't profess to explain the things that happened in my mind. No doubt
they could all be traced directly or indirectly to the curious physical
conditions under which I was living. I set them down here just for what
they are worth, and without any comment. The most prominent quality of it
was a pervading doubt of my own identity. I became, if I may so express
it, dissociate from Bedford; I looked down on Bedford as a trivial,
incidental thing with which I chanced to be connected. I saw Bedford in
many relations - as an ass or as a poor beast, where I had hitherto been
inclined to regard him with a quiet pride as a very spirited or rather
forcible person. I saw him not only as an ass, but as the son of many
generations of asses. I reviewed his school-days and his early manhood,
and his first encounter with love, very much as one might review the
proceedings of an ant in the sand. Something of that period of lucidity I
regret still hangs about me, and I doubt if I shall ever recover the
full-bodied self satisfaction of my early days. But at the time the thing
was not in the least painful, because I had that extraordinary persuasion
that, as a matter of fact, I was no more Bedford than I was any one else,
but only a mind floating in the still serenity of space. Who should I be
disturbed about this Bedford's shortcomings? I was not responsible for him
or them.
For a time I struggled against this really very grotesque delusion. I
tried to summon the memory of vivid moments, of tender or intense emotions
to my assistance; I felt that if I could recall one genuine twinge of
feeling the growing severance would be stopped. But I could not do it. I
saw Bedford rushing down Chancery Lane, hat on the back of his head, coat
tails flying out, en route for his public examination. I saw him dodging
and bumping against, and even saluting, other similar little creatures in
that swarming gutter of people. Me? I saw Bedford that same evening in the
sitting-room of a certain lady, and his hat was on the table beside him,
and it wanted brushing badly, and he was in tears. Me? I saw him with that
lady in various attitudes and emotions - I never felt so detached before.
... I saw him hurrying off to Lympne to write a play, and accosting Cavor,
and in his shirt sleeves working at the sphere, and walking out to
Canterbury because he was afraid to come! Me? I did not believe it.
I still reasoned that all this was hallucination due to my solitude, and
the fact that I had lost all weight and sense of resistance. I endeavoured
to recover that sense by banging myself about the sphere, by pinching my
hands and clasping them together. Among other things, I lit the light,
captured that torn copy of Lloyd's, and read those convincingly realistic
advertisements about the Cutaway bicycle, and the gentleman of private
means, and the lady in distress who was selling those "forks and spoons."
There was no doubt they existed surely enough, and, said I, "This is your
world, and you are Bedford, and you are going back to live among things
like that for all the rest of your life." But the doubts within me could
still argue: "It is not you that is reading, it is Bedford, but you are
not Bedford, you know. That's just where the mistake comes in."
"Confound it!" I cried; "and if I am not Bedford, what am I?"
But in that direction no light was forthcoming, though the strangest
fancies came drifting into my brain, queer remote suspicions, like shadows
seen from away. Do you know, I had a sort of idea that really I was
something quite outside not only the world, but all worlds, and out of
space and time, and that this poor Bedford was just a peephole through
which I looked at life? ...
Bedford! However I disavowed him, there I was most certainly bound up with
him, and I knew that wherever or whatever I might be, I must needs feel
the stress of his desires, and sympathise with all his joys and sorrows
until his life should end. And with the dying of Bedford - what then? ...
Enough of this remarkable phase of my experiences! I tell it here simply
to show how one's isolation and departure from this planet touched not
only the functions and feeling of every organ of the body, but indeed also
the very fabric of the mind, with strange and unanticipated disturbances.
All through the major portion of that vast space journey I hung thinking
of such immaterial things as these, hung dissociated and apathetic, a
cloudy megalomaniac, as it were, amidst the stars and planets in the void
of space; and not only the world to which I was returning, but the
blue-lit caverns of the Selenites, their helmet faces, their gigantic and
wonderful machines, and the fate of Cavor, dragged helpless into that
world, seemed infinitely minute and altogether trivial things to me.
Until at last I began to feel the pull of the earth upon my being, drawing
me back again to the life that is real for men. And then, indeed, it grew
clearer and clearer to me that I was quite certainly Bedford after all,
and returning after amazing adventures to this world of ours, and with a
life that I was very likely to lose in this return. I set myself to puzzle
out the conditions under which I must fall to earth.
Chapter 21
Mr. Bedford at Littlestone
My line of flight was about parallel with the surface as I came into the
upper air. The temperature of sphere began to rise forthwith. I knew it
behoved me to drop at once. Far below me, in a darkling twilight,
stretched a great expanse of sea. I opened every window I could, and fell
- out of sunshine into evening, and out of evening into night. Vaster grew
the earth and vaster, swallowing up the stars, and the silvery translucent
starlit veil of cloud it wore spread out to catch me. At last the world
seemed no longer a sphere but flat, and then concave. It was no longer a
planet in the sky, but the world of Man. I shut all but an inch or so of
earthward window, and dropped with a slackening velocity. The broadening
water, now so near that I could see the dark glitter of the waves, rushed
up to meet me. The sphere became very hot. I snapped the last strip of
window, and sat scowling and biting my knuckles, waiting for the impact.
The sphere hit the water with a huge splash: it must have sent it fathoms
high. At the splash I flung the Cavorite shutters open. Down I went, but
slower and slower, and then I felt the sphere pressing against my feet,
and so drove up again as a bubble drives. And at the last I was floating
and rocking upon the surface of the sea, and my journey in space was at an
The night was dark and overcast. Two yellow pinpoints far away showed the
passing of a ship, and nearer was a red glare that came and went. Had not
the electricity of my glow-lamp exhausted itself, I could have got picked
up that night. In spite of the inordinate fatigue I was beginning to feel,
I was excited now, and for a time hopeful, in a feverish, impatient way,
that so my travelling might end.
But at last I ceased to move about, and sat, wrists on knees, staring at a
distant red light. It swayed up and down, rocking, rocking. My excitement
passed. I realised I had yet to spend another night at least in the
sphere. I perceived myself infinitely heavy and fatigued. And so I fell
A change in my rhythmic motion awakened me. I peered through the
refracting glass, and saw that I had come aground upon a huge shallow of
sand. Far away I seemed to see houses and trees, and seaward a curve,
vague distortion of a ship hung between sea and sky.
I stood up and staggered. My one desire was to emerge. The manhole was
upward, and I wrestled with the screw. Slowly I opened the manhole. At
last the air was singing in again as once it had sung out. But this time
I did not wait until the pressure was adjusted. In another moment I had
the weight of the window on my hands, and I was open, wide open, to the
old familiar sky of earth.
The air hit me on the chest so that I gasped. I dropped the glass screw. I
cried out, put my hands to my chest, and sat down. For a time I was in
pain. Then I took deep breaths. At last I could rise and move about
I tried to thrust my head through the manhole, and the sphere rolled over.
It was as though something had lugged my head down directly it emerged. I
ducked back sharply, or I should have been pinned face under water. Alter
some wriggling and shoving I managed to crawl out upon sand, over which
the retreating waves still came and went.
I did not attempt to stand up. It seemed to me that my body must be
suddenly changed to lead. Mother Earth had her grip on me now - no
Cavorite intervening. I sat down heedless of the water that came over my
It was dawn, a gray dawn, rather overcast but showing here and there a
long patch of greenish gray. Some way out a ship was lying at anchor, a
pale silhouette of a ship with one yellow light. The water came rippling
in in long shallow waves. Away to the right curved the land, a shingle
bank with little hovels, and at last a lighthouse, a sailing mark and a
point. Inland stretched a space of level sand, broken here and there by
pools of water, and ending a mile away perhaps in a low shore of scrub. To
the north-east some isolated watering-place was visible, a row of gaunt
lodging-houses, the tallest things that I could see on earth, dull dabs
against the brightening sky. What strange men can have reared these
vertical piles in such an amplitude of space I do not know. There they
are, like pieces of Brighton lost in the waste.
For a long time I sat there, yawning and rubbing my face. At last I
struggled to rise. It made me feel that I was lifting a weight. I stood
I stared at the distant houses. For the first time since our starvation in
the crater I thought of earthly food. "Bacon," I whispered, "eggs. Good
toast and good coffee. ... And how the devil am I going to all this stuff
to Lympne?" I wondered where I was. It was an east shore anyhow, and I
had seen Europe before I dropped.
I heard footsteps scrunching in the sand, and a little round-faced,
friendly-looking man in flannels, with a bathing towel wrapped about his
shoulders, and his bathing dress over his arm, appeared up the beach. I
knew instantly that I must be in England. He was staring most intently at
the sphere and me. He advanced staring. I dare say I looked a ferocious
savage enough - dirty, unkempt, to an indescribable degree; but it did not
occur to me at the time. He stopped at a distance of twenty yards.
"Hul-lo, my man! " he said doubtfully.
"Hullo yourself!" said I.
He advanced, reassured by that. "What on earth is that thing? " he asked.
"Can you tell me where I am?" I asked.
"That's Littlestone," he said, pointing to the houses; "and that's
Dungeness! Have you just landed? What's that thing you've got? Some sort
of machine?"
"Have you floated ashore? Have you been wrecked or something? What is it?"
I meditated swiftly. I made an estimate of the little man's appearance as
he drew nearer. "By Jove! " he said, "you've had a time of it! I thought
you - Well - Where were you cast away? Is that thing a sort of floating
thing for saving life?"
I decided to take that line for the present. I made a few vague
affirmatives. "I want help," I said hoarsely. " I want to get some stuff
up the beach - stuff I can't very well leave about." I became aware of
three other pleasant-looking young men with towels, blazers, and straw
hats, coming down the sands towards me. Evidently the early bathing
section of this Littlestone.
"Help!" said the young man: "rather!" He became vaguely active. "What
particularly do you want done? " He turned round and gesticulated. The
three young men accelerated their pace. In a minute they there about me,
plying me with questions I was indisposed to answer. "I'll tell all that
later," I said. "I'm dead beat. I'm a rag."
"Come up to the hotel," said the foremost little man. "We'll look after
that thing there."
I hesitated. "I can't," I said. "In that sphere there's two big bars of
They looked incredulously at one another, then at me with a new inquiry. I
went to the sphere, stooped, crept in, and presently they had the
Selenites' crowbars and the broken chain before them. If I had not been so
horribly fagged I could have laughed at them. It was like kittens round a
beetle. They didn't know what to do with the stuff. The fat little man
stooped and lifted the end of one of the bars, and then dropped it with a
grunt. Then they all did.
"It's lead, or gold!" said one.
"Oh, it's gold!" said another.
"Gold, right enough," said the third.
Then they all stared at me, and then they all stared at the ship lying at
"I say!" cried the little man. "But where did you get that?"
I was too tired to keep up a lie. "I got it in the moon."
I saw them stare at one another.
"Look here!" said I, "I'm not going to argue now. Help me carry these
lumps of gold up to the hotel - I guess, with rests, two of you can manage
one, and I'll trail this chain thing - and I'll tell you more when I've
had some food."
"And how about that thing?"
"It won't hurt there," I said. "Anyhow - confound it! - it must stop there
now. If the tide comes up, it will float all right."
And in a state of enormous wonderment, these young men most obediently
hoisted my treasures on their shoulders, and with limbs that felt like
lead I headed a sort of procession towards that distant fragment of
"sea-front." Half-way there we were reinforced by two awe-stricken little
girls with spades, and later a lean little boy, with a penetrating sniff,
appeared. He was, I remember, wheeling a bicycle, and he accompanied us at
a distance of about a hundred yards on our right flank, and then I
suppose, gave us up as uninteresting, mounted his bicycle and rode off
over the level sands in the direction of the sphere.
I glanced back after him.
"He won't touch it," said the stout young man reassuringly, and I was only
too willing to be reassured.
At first something of the gray of the morning was in my mind, but
presently the sun disengaged itself from the level clouds of the horizon
and lit the world, and turned the leaden sea to glittering waters. My
spirits rose. A sense of the vast importance of the things I had done and
had yet to do came with the sunlight into my mind. I laughed aloud as the
foremost man staggered under my gold. When indeed I took my place in the
world, how amazed the world would be!
If it had not been for my inordinate fatigue, the landlord of the
Littlestone hotel would have been amusing, as he hesitated between my gold
and my respectable company on the one and my filthy appearance on the
other. But at last I found myself in a terrestrial bathroom once more with
warm water to wash myself with, and a change of raiment, preposterously
small indeed, but anyhow clean, that the genial little man had lent me. He
lent me a razor too, but I could not screw up my resolution to attack even
the outposts of the bristling beard that covered my face.
I sat down to an English breakfast and ate with a sort of languid appetite
- an appetite many weeks old and very decrepit - and stirred myself to
answer the questions of the four young men. And I told them the truth.
"Well," said I, "as you press me - I got it in the moon."
"The moon?"
"Yes, the moon in the sky."
"But how do you mean?"
"What I say, confound it!"
"Then you have just come from the moon?"
"Exactly! through space - in that ball." And I took a delicious mouthful
of egg. I made a private note that when I went back to the moon I would
take a box of eggs.
I could see clearly that they did not believe one word what I told them,
but evidently they considered me the most respectable liar they had ever
met. They glanced at one another, and then concentrated the fire of their
eyes on me. I fancy they expected a clue to me in the way I helped myself
to salt. They seemed to find something significant in my peppering my egg.
These strangely shaped masses of gold they had staggered under held their
minds. There the lumps lay in front of me, each worth thousands of pounds,
and as impossible for any one to steal as a house or a piece of land. As I
looked at their curious faces over my coffee-cup, I realised something of
the enormous wilderness of explanations into which I should have to wander
to render myself comprehensible again.
"You don't really mean -" began the youngest young man, in the tone of one
who speaks to an obstinate child.
"Just pass me that toast-rack," I said, and shut him up completely.
"But look here, I say," began one of the others. "We're not going to
believe that, you know."
"Ah, well," said I, and shrugged my shoulders.
"He doesn't want to tell us," said the youngest young man in a stage
aside; and then, with an appearance of great sang-froid, " You don't mind
if I take a cigarette?"
I waved him a cordial assent, and proceeded with my breakfast. Two of the
others went and looked out of the farther window and talked inaudibly. I
was struck by a thought. "The tide," I said, "is running out?"
There was a pause, a doubt who should answer me.
"It's near the ebb," said the fat little man.
"Well, anyhow," I said, "it won't float far."
I decapitated my third egg, and began a little speech. "Look here," I
said. " Please don't imagine I'm surly or telling you uncivil lies, or
anything of that sort. I'm forced almost, to be a little short and
mysterious. I can quite understand this is as queer as it can be, and
that your imaginations must be going it. I can assure you, you're in at a
memorable time. But I can't make it clear to you now - it's impossible. I
give you my word of honour I've come from the moon, and that's all I can
tell you. ... All the same, I'm tremendously obliged to you, you know,
tremendously. I hope that my manner hasn't in any way given you offence."
"Oh, not in the least!" said the youngest young man affably. "We can quite
understand," and staring hard at me all the time, he heeled his chair back
until it very nearly upset, and recovered with some exertion. "Not a bit
of it," said the fat young man.
"Don't you imagine that!" and they all got up and dispersed, and walked
about and lit cigarettes, and generally tried to show they were perfectly
amiable and disengaged, and entirely free from the slightest curiosity
about me and the sphere. "I'm going to keep an eye on that ship out there
all the same," I heard one of them remarking in an undertone. If only they
could have forced themselves to it, they would, I believe, even have gone
out and left me. I went on with my third egg.
"The weather," the fat little man remarked presently, "has been immense,
has it not? I don't know when we have had such a summer."
Phoo-whizz! Like a tremendous rocket!
And somewhere a window was broken. ...
"What's that?" said I.
"It isn't - ?" cried the little man, and rushed to the corner window.
All the others rushed to the window likewise. I sat staring at them.
Suddenly I leapt up, knocked over my third egg, rushed for the window
also. I had just thought of something. "Nothing to be seen there," cried
the little man, rushing for the door.
"It's that boy!" I cried, bawling in hoarse fury; "it's that accursed
boy!" and turning about I pushed the waiter aside - he was just bring me
some more toast - and rushed violently out of the room and down and out
upon the queer little esplanade in front of the hotel.
The sea, which had been smooth, was rough now with hurrying cat's-paws,
and all about where the sphere had been was tumbled water like the wake of
a ship. Above, a little puff of cloud whirled like dispersing smoke, and
the three or four people on the beach were bring up with interrogative
faces towards the point of that unexpected report. And that was all! Boots
and waiter and the four young men in blazers came rushing out behind me.
Shouts came from windows and doors, and all sorts of worrying people came
into sight - agape.
For a time I stood there, too overwhelmed by this new development to think
of the people.
At first I was too stunned to see the thing as any definite disaster - I
was just stunned, as a man is by some accidental violent blow. It is only
afterwards he begins to appreciate his specific injury.
"Good Lord!"
I felt as though somebody was pouring funk out of a can down the back of
my neck. My legs became feeble. I had got the first intimation of what the
disaster meant for me. There was that confounded boy - sky high! I was
utterly left. There was the gold in the coffee-room - my only possession
on earth. How would it all work out? The general effect was of a gigantic
unmanageable confusion.
"I say," said the voice of the little man behind. "I say, you know."
I wheeled about, and there were twenty or thirty people, a sort of
irregular investment of people, all bombarding me with dumb interrogation,
with infinite doubt and suspicion. I felt the compulsion of their eyes
intolerably. I groaned aloud.
"I can't! " I shouted. "I tell you I can't! I'm not equal to it! You must
puzzle and - and be damned to you!"
I gesticulated convulsively. He receded a step as though I had threatened
him. I made a bolt through them into the hotel. I charged back into the
coffee-room, rang the bell furiously. I gripped the waiter as he entered.
"D'ye hear?" I shouted. "Get help and carry these bars up to my room right
He failed to understand me, and I shouted and raved at him. A
scared-looking little old man in a green apron appeared, and further two
of the young men in flannels. I made a dash at them and commandeered their
services. As soon as the gold was in my room I felt free to quarrel. "Now
get out," I shouted; "all of you get out if you don't want to see a man go
mad before your eyes!" And I helped the waiter by the shoulder as he
hesitated in the doorway. And then, as soon as I had the door locked on
them all, I tore off the little man's clothes again, shied them right and
left, and got into bed forthwith. And there I lay swearing and panting and
cooling for a very long time.
At last I was calm enough to get out of bed and ring up the round-eyed
waiter for a flannel nightshirt, a soda and whisky, and some good cigars.
And these things being procured me, after an exasperating delay that drove
me several times to the bell, I locked the door again and proceeded very
deliberately to look entire situation in the face.
The net result of the great experiment presented itself as an absolute
failure. It was a rout, and I was the sole survivor. It was an absolute
collapse, and this was the final disaster. There was nothing for it but to
save myself, and as much as I could in the way of prospects from our
debacle. At one fatal crowning blow all my vague resolutions of return and
recovery had vanished. My intention of going back to the moon, of getting
a sphereful of gold, and afterwards of having a fragment of Cavorite
analysed and so recovering the great secret - perhaps, finally, even of
recovering Cavor's body - all these ideas vanished altogether.
I was the sole survivor, and that was all.
I think that going to bed was one of the luckiest ideas I have ever had in
an emergency. I really believe I should either have got loose-headed or
done some indiscreet thing. But there, locked in and secure from all
interruptions, I could think out the position in all its bearings and make
my arrangements at leisure.
Of course, it was quite clear to me what had happened to the boy. He had
crawled into the sphere, meddled with the studs, shut the Cavorite
windows, and gone up. It was highly improbable he had screwed the manhole
stopper, and, even if he had, the chances were a thousand to one against
his getting back. It was fairly evident that he would gravitate with my
bales to somewhere near the middle of the sphere and remain there, and so
cease to be a legitimate terrestrial interest, however remarkable he might
seem to the inhabitants of some remote quarter of space. I very speedily
convinced myself on that point. And as for any responsibility I might have
in the matter, the more I reflected upon that, the clearer it became that
if only I kept quiet about things, I need not trouble myself about that.
If I was faced by sorrowing parents demanding their lost boy, I had merely
to demand my lost sphere - or ask them what they meant. At first I had had
a vision of weeping parents and guardians, and all sorts of complications;
but now I saw that I simply had to keep my mouth shut, and nothing in that
way could arise. And, indeed, the more I lay and smoked and thought, the
more evident became the wisdom of impenetrability.
It is within the right of every British citizen, provided he does not
commit damage nor indecorum, to appear suddenly wherever he pleases, and
as ragged and filthy as he pleases, and with whatever amount of virgin
gold he sees fit to encumber himself, and no one has any right at all to
hinder and detain him in this procedure. I formulated that at last to
myself, and repeated it over as a sort of private Magna Charta of my
Once I had put that issue on one side, I could take up and consider in an
equable manner certain considerations I had scarcely dared to think of
before, namely, those arising out of the circumstances of my bankruptcy.
But now, looking at this matter calmly and at leisure, I could see that if
only I suppressed my identity by a temporary assumption of some less
well-known name, and if I retained the two months' beard that had grown
upon me, the risks of any annoyance from the spiteful creditor to whom I
have already alluded became very small indeed. From that to a definite
course of rational worldly action was plain sailing. It was all amazingly
petty, no doubt, but what was there remaining for me to do?
Whatever I did I was resolved that I would keep myself level and right
side up.
I ordered up writing materials, and addressed a letter to the New Romney
Bank - the nearest, the waiter informed me - telling the manager I wished
to open an account with him, and requesting him to send two trustworthy
persons properly authenticated in a cab with a good horse to fetch some
hundredweight of gold with which I happened to be encumbered. I signed the
letter "Blake," which seemed to me to be a thoroughly respectable sort of
name. This done, I got a Folkstone Blue Book, picked out an outfitter, and
asked him to send a cutter to measure me for a dark tweed suit, ordering
at the same time a valise, dressing bag, brown boots, shirts, hat (to
fit), and so forth; and from a watchmaker I also ordered a watch. And
these letters being despatched, I had up as good a lunch as the hotel
could give, and then lay smoking a cigar, as calm and ordinary as
possible, until in accordance with my instructions two duly authenticated
clerks came from the bank and weighed and took away my gold. After which I
pulled the clothes over my ears in order to drown any knocking, and went
very comfortably to sleep.
I went to sleep. No doubt it was a prosaic thing for the first man back
from the moon to do, and I can imagine that the young and imaginative
reader will find my behaviour disappointing. But I was horribly fatigued
and bothered, and, confound it! what else was there to do? There certainly
was not the remotest chance of my being believed, if I had told my story
then, and it would certainly have subjected me to intolerable annoyances.
I went to sleep. When at last I woke up again I was ready to face the
world as I have always been accustomed to face it since I came to years of
discretion. And so I got away to Italy, and there it is I am writing this
story. If the world will not have it as fact, then the world may take it
as fiction. It is no concern of mine.
And now that the account is finished, I am amazed to think how completely
this adventure is gone and done with. Everybody believes that Cavor was a
not very brilliant scientific experimenter who blew up his house and
himself at Lympne, and they explain the bang that followed my arrival at
Littlestone by a reference to the experiments with explosives that are
going on continually at the government establishment of Lydd, two miles
away. I must confess that hitherto I have not acknowledged my share in the
disappearance of Master Tommy Simmons, which was that little boy's name.
That, perhaps, may prove a difficult item of corroboration to explain
away. They account for my appearance in rags with two bars of indisputable
gold upon the Littlestone beach in various ingenious ways - it doesn't
worry me what they think of me. They say I have strung all these things
together to avoid being questioned too closely as to the source of my
wealth. I would like to see the man who could invent a story that would
hold together like this one. Well, they must take it as fiction - there it
I have told my story - and now, I suppose, I have to take up the worries
of this terrestrial life again. Even if one has been to the moon, one has
still to earn a living. So I am working here at Amalfi, on the scenario of
that play I sketched before Cavor came walking into my world, and I am
trying to piece my life together as it was before ever I saw him. I must
confess that I find it hard to keep my mind on the play when the moonshine
comes into my room. It is full moon here, and last night I was out on the
pergola for hours, staring away at the shining blankness that hides so
much. Imagine it! tables and chairs, and trestles and bars of gold!
Confound it! - if only one could hit on that Cavorite again! But a thing
like that doesn't come twice in a life. Here I am, a little better off
than I was at Lympne, and that is all. And Cavor has committed suicide in
a more elaborate way than any human being ever did before. So the story
closes as, finally and completely as a dream. It fits in so little with
all the other things of life, so much of it is so utterly remote from all
human experience, the leaping, the eating, the breathing, and these
weightless times, that indeed there are moments when, in spite of my moon
gold, I do more than half believe myself that the whole thing was a dream.
Chapter 22
The Astonishing Communication of Mr. Julius Wendigee
WHEN I had finished my account of my return to the earth at Littlestone, I
wrote, "The End," made a flourish, and threw my pen aside, fully believing
that the whole story of the First Men in the Moon was done. Not only had I
done this, but I had placed my manuscript in the hands of a literary
agent, had permitted it to be sold, had seen the greater portion of it
appear in the Strand Magazine, and was setting to work again upon the
scenario of the play I had commenced at Lympne before I realised that the
end was not yet. And then, following me from Amalfi to Algiers, there
reached me (it is now about six months ago) one of the most astounding
communications I have ever been fated to receive. Briefly, it informed me
that Mr. Julius Wendigee, a Dutch electrician, who has been experimenting
with certain apparatus akin to the apparatus used by Mr. Tesla in America,
in the hope of discovering some method of communication with Mars, was
receiving day by day a curiously fragmentary message in English, which was
indisputably emanating from Mr. Cavor in the moon.
At first I thought the thing was an elaborate practical by some one who
had seen the manuscript of my narrative. I answered Mr. Wendigee
jestingly, but he replied in a manner that put such suspicion altogether
aside, and in a state of inconceivable excitement I hurried from Algiers
to the little observatory upon the St. Gothard in which he was working. In
the presence of his record and his appliances - and above all of the
messages from Cavor that were coming to hand - my lingering doubts
vanished. I decided at once to accept a proposal he made to me to remain
with him, assisting him to take down the record from day to day, and
endeavouring with him to send a message back to the moon. Cavor, we
learnt, was not only alive, but free, in the midst of an almost
inconceivable community of these ant-like beings, these ant-men, in the
blue darkness of the lunar caves. He was lamed, it seemed, but otherwise
in quite good health - in better health, he distinctly said, than he
usually enjoyed on earth. He had had a fever, but it had left no bad
effects. But curiously enough he seemed to be labouring under a conviction
that I was either dead in the moon crater or lost in the deep of space.
His message began to be received by Mr. Wendigee when that gentleman was
engaged in quite a different investigation. The reader will no doubt
recall the little excitement that began the century, arising out an
announcement by Mr. Nikola Tesla, the American electrical celebrity, that
he had received a message from Mars. His announcement renewed attention to
fact that had long been familiar to scientific people, namely: that from
some unknown source in space, waves of electromagnetic disturbance,
entirely similar those used by Signor Marconi for his wireless telegraphy,
are constantly reaching the earth. Besides Tesla quite a number of other
observers have been engaged in perfecting apparatus for receiving and
recording these vibrations, though few would go so far to consider them
actual messages from some extraterrestrial sender. Among that few,
however, we must certainly count Mr. Wendigee. Ever since 1898 he had
devoted himself almost entirely to this subject, and being a man of ample
means he had erected an observatory on the flanks of Monte Rosa, in a
position singularly adapted in every way for such observations.
My scientific attainments, I must admit, are not great, but so far as they
enable me to judge, Mr. Wendigee's contrivances for detecting and
recording any disturbances in the electromagnetic conditions of space are
singularly original and ingenious. And by a happy combination of
circumstances they were set up and in operation about two months before
Cavor made his first attempt to call up the earth. Consequently we have
fragments of his communication even from the beginning. Unhappily, they
are only fragments, and the most momentous of all the things that he had
to tell humanity - the instructions, that is, for the making of Cavorite,
if, indeed, he ever transmitted them - have throbbed themselves away
unrecorded into space. We never succeeded in getting a response back to
Cavor. He was unable to tell, therefore, what we had received or what we
had missed; nor, indeed, did he certainly know that any one on earth was
really aware of his efforts to reach us. And the persistence he displayed
in sending eighteen long descriptions of lunar affairs - as they would be
if we had them complete - shows how much his mind must have turned back
towards his native planet since he left it two years ago.
You can imagine how amazed Mr. Wendigee must have been when he discovered
his record of electromagnetic disturbances interlaced by Cavor's
straightforward English. Mr. Wendigee knew nothing of our wild journey
moonward, and suddenly - this English out of the void!
It is well the reader should understand the conditions under which it
would seem these messages were sent. Somewhere within the moon Cavor
certainly had access for a time to a considerable amount of electrical
apparatus, and it would seem he rigged up - perhaps furtively - a
transmitting arrangement of the Marconi type. This he was able to operate
at irregular intervals: sometimes for only half an hour or so, sometimes
for three or four hours at a stretch. At these times he transmitted his
earthward message, regardless of the fact that the relative position of
the moon and points upon the earth's surface is constantly altering. As a
consequence of this and of the necessary imperfections of our recording
instruments his communication comes and goes in our records in an
extremely fitful manner; it becomes blurred; it "fades out" in a
mysterious and altogether exasperating way. And added to this is the fact
that he was not an expert operator; he had partly forgotten, or never
completely mastered, the code in general use, and as he became fatigued he
dropped words and misspelt in a curious manner.
Altogether we have probably lost quite half of the communications he made,
and much we have is damaged, broken, and partly effaced. In the abstract
that follows the reader must be prepared therefore for a considerable
amount of break, hiatus, and change of topic. Mr. Wendigee and I are
collaborating in a complete and annotated edition of the Cavor record,
which we hope to publish, together with a detailed account of the
instruments employed, beginning with the first volume in January next.
That will be the full and scientific report, of which this is only the
popular transcript. But here we give at least sufficient to complete the
story I have told, and to give the broad outlines of the state of that
other world so near, so akin, and yet so dissimilar to our own.
Chapter 23
An Abstract of the Six Messages First Received from Mr. Cavor
THE two earlier messages of Mr. Cavor may very well be reserved for that
larger volume. They simply tell, with greater brevity and with a
difference in several details that is interesting, but not of any vital
importance, the bare facts of the making of the sphere and our departure
from the world. Throughout, Cavor speaks of me as a man who is dead, but
with a curious change of temper as he approaches our landing on the moon.
"Poor Bedford," he says of me, and "this poor young man "; and he blames
himself for inducing a young man, "by no means well equipped for such
adventures," to leave a planet "on which he was indisputably fitted to
succeed" on so precarious a mission. I think he underrates the part my
energy and practical capacity played in bringing about the realisation of
his theoretical sphere. "We arrived," he says, with no more account of our
passage through space than if we had made a journey of common occurrence
in a railway train.
And then he becomes increasingly unfair to me. Unfair, indeed, to an
extent I should not have expected in a man trained in the search for
truth. Looking back over my previously written account of these things, I
must insist that I have been altogether juster to Cavor than he has been
to me. I have extenuated little and suppressed nothing. But his account
"It speedily became apparent that the entire strangeness of our
circumstances and surroundings - great loss of weight, attenuated but
highly oxygenated air, consequent exaggeration of the results of muscular
effort, rapid development of weird plants from obscure spores, lurid sky -
was exciting my companion unduly. On the moon his character seemed to
deteriorate. He became impulsive, rash, and quarrelsome. In a little while
his folly in devouring some gigantic vesicles and his consequent
intoxication led to our capture by the Selenites - before we had had the
slightest opportunity of properly observing their ways. ..."
(He says, you observe, nothing of his own concession to these same
And he goes on from that point to say that "We came to a difficult passage
with them, and Bedford mistaking certain gestures of theirs" - pretty
gestures they were! - "gave way to a panic violence. He ran amuck, killed
three, and perforce I had to flee with him after the outrage. Subsequently
we fought with a number who endeavoured to bar our way, and slew seven or
eight more. It says much for the tolerance of these beings that on my
recapture I was not instantly slain. We made our way to the exterior and
separated in the crater of our arrival, to increase our chances of
recovering our sphere. But presently I came upon a body of Selenites, led
by two who were curiously different, even in form, from any of these we
had seen hitherto, with larger heads and smaller bodies, and much more
elaborately wrapped about. And after evading them for some time I fell
into a crevasse, cut my head rather badly, and displaced my patella, and,
finding crawling very painful, decided to surrender - if they would still
permit me to do so. This they did, and, perceiving my helpless condition,
carried me with them again into the moon. And of Bedford I have heard or
seen nothing more, nor, so far as I can gather, any Selenite. Either the
night overtook him in the crater, or else, which is more probable, he
found the sphere, and, desiring to steal a march upon me, made off with it
- only, I fear, to find it uncontrollable, and to meet a more lingering
fate in outer space."
And with that Cavor dismisses me and goes on to more interesting topics. I
dislike the idea of seeming to use my position as his editor to deflect
his story in my own interest, but I am obliged to protest here against the
turn he gives these occurrences. He said nothing about that gasping
message on the blood-stained paper in which he told, or attempted to tell,
a very different story. The dignified self-surrender is an altogether new
view of the affair that has come to him, I must insist, since he began to
feel secure among the lunar people; and as for the "stealing a march"
conception, I am quite willing to let the reader decide between us on what
he has before him. I know I am not a model man - I have made no pretence
to be. But am I that?
However, that is the sum of my wrongs. From this point I can edit Cavor
with an untroubled mind, for he mentions me no more.
It would seem the Selenites who had come upon him carried him to some
point in the interior down "a great shaft" by means of what he describes
as "a sort of balloon." We gather from the rather confused passage in
which he describes this, and from a number of chance allusions and hints
in other and subsequent messages, that this "great shaft" is one of an
enormous system of artificial shafts that run, each from what is called a
lunar "crater," downwards for very nearly a hundred miles towards the
central portion of our satellite. These shafts communicate by transverse
tunnels, they throw out abysmal caverns and expand into great globular
places; the whole of the moon's substance for a hundred miles inward,
indeed, is a mere sponge of rock. "Partly," says Cavor, "this sponginess
is natural, but very largely it is due to the enormous industry of the
Selenites in the past. The enormous circular mounds of the excavated rock
and earth it is that form these great circles about the tunnels known to
earthly astronomers (misled by a false analogy) as volcanoes."
It was down this shaft they took him, in this "sort of balloon" he speaks
of, at first into an inky blackness and then into a region of continually
increasing phosphorescence. Cavor's despatches show him to be curiously
regardless of detail for a scientific man, but we gather that this light
was due to the streams and cascades of water - "no doubt containing some
phosphorescent organism" - that flowed ever more abundantly downward
towards the Central Sea. And as he descended, he says, "The Selenites also
became luminous." And at last far below him he saw, as it were, a lake of
heatless fire, the waters of the Central Sea, glowing and eddying in
strange perturbation, "like luminous blue milk that is just on the boil."
"This Lunar Sea," says Cavor, in a later passage "is not a stagnant ocean;
a solar tide sends it in a perpetual flow around the lunar axis, and
strange storms and boilings and rushings of its waters occur, and at times
cold winds and thunderings that ascend out of it into the busy ways of the
great ant-hill above. It is only when the water is in motion that it
gives out light; in its rare seasons of calm it is black. Commonly, when
one sees it, its waters rise and fall in an oily swell, and flakes and big
rafts of shining, bubbly foam drift with the sluggish, faintly glowing
current. The Selenites navigate its cavernous straits and lagoons in
little shallow boats of a canoe-like shape; and even before my journey to
the galleries about the Grand Lunar, who is Master of the Moon, I was
permitted to make a brief excursion on its waters.
"The caverns and passages are naturally very tortuous. A large proportion
of these ways are known only to expert pilots among the fishermen, and not
infrequently Selenites are lost for ever in their labyrinths. In their
remoter recesses, I am told, strange creatures lurk, some of them terrible
and dangerous creatures that all the science of the moon has been unable
to exterminate. There is particularly the Rapha, an inextricable mass of
clutching tentacles that one hacks to pieces only to multiply; and the
Tzee, a darting creature that is never seen, so subtly and suddenly does
it slay..."
He gives us a gleam of description.
"I was reminded on this excursion of what I have read of the Mammoth
Caves; if only I had had a yellow flambeau instead of the pervading blue
light, and a solid-looking boatman with an oar instead of a scuttle-faced
Selenite working an engine at the back of the canoe, I could have imagined
I had suddenly got back to earth. The rocks about us were very various,
sometimes black, sometimes pale blue and veined, and once they flashed and
glittered as though we had come into a mine of sapphires. And below one
saw the ghostly phosphorescent fishes flash and vanish in the hardly less
phosphorescent deep. Then, presently, a long ultra-marine vista down the
turgid stream of one of the channels of traffic, and a landing stage, and
then, perhaps, a glimpse up the enormous crowded shaft of one of the
vertical ways.
"In one great place heavy with glistening stalactites a number of boats
were fishing. We went alongside one of these and watched the long-armed
Selenites winding in a net. They were little, hunchbacked insects, with
very strong arms, short, bandy legs, and crinkled face-masks. As they
pulled at it that net seemed the heaviest thing I had come upon in the
moon; it was loaded with weights - no doubt of gold - and it took a long
time to draw, for in those waters the larger and more edible fish lurk
deep. The fish in the net came up like a blue moonrise - a blaze of
darting, tossing blue.
"Among their catch was a many-tentaculate, evil-eyed black thing,
ferociously active, whose appearance they greeted with shrieks and
twitters, and which with quick, nervous movements they hacked to pieces by
means of little hatchets. All its dissevered limbs continued to lash and
writhe in a vicious manner. Afterwards, when fever had hold of me, I
dreamt again and again of that bitter, furious creature rising so vigorous
and active out of the unknown sea. It was the most active and malignant
thing of all the living creatures I have yet seen in this world inside the
moon. ...
"The surface of this sea must be very nearly two hundred miles (if not
more) below the level of the moon's exterior; all the cities of the moon
lie, I learnt, immediately above this Central Sea, in such cavernous
spaces and artificial galleries as I have described, and they communicate
with the exterior by enormous vertical shafts which open invariably in
what are called by earthly astronomers the 'craters' of the moon. The lid
covering one such aperture I had already seen during the wanderings that
had preceded my capture.
"Upon the condition of the less central portion of the moon I have not yet
arrived at very precise knowledge. There is an enormous system of caverns
in which the mooncalves shelter during the night; and there are abattoirs
and the like - in one of these it was that I and Bedford fought with the
Selenite butchers - and I have since seen balloons laden with meat
descending out of the upper dark. I have as yet scarcely learnt as much of
these things as a Zulu in London would learn about the British corn
supplies in the same time. It is clear, however, that these vertical
shafts and the vegetation of the surface must play an essential role in
ventilating and keeping fresh the atmosphere of the moon. At one time, and
particularly on my first emergence from my prison, there was certainly a
cold wind blowing down the shaft, and later there was a kind of sirocco
upward that corresponded with my fever. For at the end of about three
weeks I fell ill of an indefinable sort of fever, and in spite of sleep
and the quinine tabloids that very fortunately I had brought in my pocket,
I remained ill and fretting miserably, almost to the time when I was taken
into the presence of the Grand Lunar, who is Master of the Moon.
"I will not dilate on the wretchedness of my condition," he remarks, "
during those days of ill-health." And he goes on with great amplitude with
details I omit here. "My temperature," he concludes, "kept abnormally high
for a long time, and I lost all desire for food. I had stagnant waking
intervals, and sleep tormented by dreams, and at one phase I was, I
remember, so weak as to be earth-sick and almost hysterical. I longed
almost intolerably for colour to break the everlasting blue..."
He reverts again presently to the topic of this sponge caught lunar
atmosphere. I am told by astronomers and physicists that all he tells is
in absolute accordance with what was already known of the moon's
condition. Had earthly astronomers had the courage and imagination to
push home a bold induction, says Mr. Wendigee, they might have foretold
almost everything that Cavor has to say of the general structure of the
moon. They know now pretty certainly that moon and earth are not so much
satellite and primary as smaller and greater sisters, made out of one
mass, and consequently made of the same material. And since the density of
the moon is only three-fifths that of the earth, there can be nothing for
it but that she is hollowed out by a great system of caverns. There was no
necessity, said Sir Jabez Flap, F.R.S., that most entertaining exponent of
the facetious side of the stars, that we should ever have gone to the moon
to find out such easy inferences, and points the pun with an allusion to
Gruyere, but he certainly might have announced his knowledge of the
hollowness of the moon before. And if the moon is hollow, then the
apparent absence of air and water is, of course, quite easily explained.
The sea lies within at the bottom of the caverns, and the air travels
through the great sponge of galleries, in accordance with simple physical
laws. The caverns of the moon, on the whole, are very windy places. As the
sunlight comes round the moon the air in the outer galleries on that side
is heated, its pressure increases, some flows out on the exterior and
mingles with the evaporating air of the craters (where the plants remove
its carbonic acid), while the greater portion flows round through the
galleries to replace the shrinking air of the cooling side that the
sunlight has left. There is, therefore, a constant eastward breeze in the
air of the outer galleries, and an upflow during the lunar day up the
shafts, complicated, of course, very greatly by the varying shape of the
galleries, and the ingenious contrivances of the Selenite mind. ...
Chapter 24
The Natural History of the Selenites
THE messages of Cavor from the sixth up to the sixteenth are for the most
part so much broken, and they abound so in repetitions, that they scarcely
form a consecutive narrative. They will be given in full, of course, in
the scientific report, but here it will be far more convenient to continue
simply to abstract and quote as in the former chapter. We have subjected
every word to a keen critical scrutiny, and my own brief memories and
impressions of lunar things have been of inestimable help in interpreting
what would otherwise have been impenetrably dark. And, naturally, as
living beings, our interest centres far more upon the strange community of
lunar insects in which he was living, it would seem, as an honoured guest
than upon the mere physical condition of their world.
I have already made it clear, I think, that the Selenites I saw resembled
man in maintaining the erect attitude, and in having four limbs, and I
have compared the general appearance of their heads and the jointing of
their limbs to that of insects. I have mentioned, too, the peculiar
consequence of the smaller gravitation of the moon on their fragile
slightness. Cavor confirms me upon all these points. He calls them
"animals," though of course they fall under no division of the
classification of earthly creatures, and he points out "the insect type of
anatomy had, fortunately for men, never exceeded a relatively very small
size on earth." The largest terrestrial insects, living or extinct, do
not, as a matter of fact, measure 6 in. in length; "but here, against the
lesser gravitation of the moon, a creature certainly as much an insect as
vertebrate seems to have been able to attain to human and ultra-human
He does not mention the ant, but throughout his allusions the ant is
continually being brought before my mind, in its sleepless activity, in
its intelligence and social organisation, in its structure, and more
particularly in the fact that it displays, in addition to the two forms,
the male and the female form, that almost all other animals possess, a
number of other sexless creatures, workers, soldiers, and the like,
differing from one another in structure, character, power, and use, and
yet all members of the same species. For these Selenites, also, have a
great variety of forms. Of course, they are not only colossally greater in
size than ants, but also, in Cavor's opinion at least, in intelligence,
morality, and social wisdom are they colossally greater than men. And
instead of the four or five different forms of ant that are found, there
are almost innumerably different forms of Selenite. I had endeavoured to
indicate the very considerable difference observable in such Selenites of
the outer crust as I happened to encounter; the differences in size and
proportions were certainly as wide as the differences between the most
widely separated races of men. But such differences as I saw fade
absolutely to nothing in comparison with the huge distinctions of which
Cavor tells. It would seem the exterior Selenites I saw were, indeed,
mostly engaged in kindred occupations - mooncalf herds, butchers,
fleshers, and the like. But within the moon, practically unsuspected by
me, there are, it seems, a number of other sorts of Selenite, differing in
size, differing in the relative size of part to part, differing in power
and appearance, and yet not different species of creatures, but only
different forms of one species, and retaining through all their variations
a certain common likeness that marks their specific unity. The moon is,
indeed, a sort of vast ant-hill, only, instead of there being only four or
five sorts of ant, there are many hundred different sorts of Selenite, and
almost every gradation between one sort and another.
It would seem the discovery came upon Cavor very speedily. I infer rather
than learn from his narrative that he was captured by the mooncalf herds
under the direction of these other Selenites who "have larger brain cases
(heads?) and very much shorter legs." Finding he would not walk even under
the goad, they carried him into darkness, crossed a narrow, plank-like
bridge that may have been the identical bridge I had refused, and put him
down in something that must have seemed at first to be some sort of lift.
This was the balloon - it had certainly been absolutely invisible to us in
the darkness - and what had seemed to me a mere plank-walking into the
void was really, no doubt, the passage of the gangway. In this he
descended towards constantly more luminous caverns of the moon. At first
they descended in silence - save for the twitterings of the Selenites -
and then into a stir of windy movement. In a little while the profound
blackness had made his eyes so sensitive that he began to see more and
more of the things about him, and at last the vague took shape.
"Conceive an enormous cylindrical space," says Cavor, in his seventh
message, " a quarter of a mile across, perhaps; very dimly lit at first
and then brighter, with big platforms twisting down its sides in a spiral
that vanishes at last below in a blue profundity; and lit even more
brightly - one could not tell how or why. Think of the well of the very
largest spiral staircase or lift-shaft that you have ever looked down, and
magnify that by a hundred. Imagine it at twilight seen through blue glass.
Imagine yourself looking down that; only imagine also that you feel
extraordinarily light, and have got rid of any giddy feeling you might
have on earth, and you will have the first conditions of my impression.
Round this enormous shaft imagine a broad gallery running in a much
steeper spiral than would be credible on earth, and forming a steep road
protected from the gulf only by a little parapet that vanishes at last in
perspective a couple of miles below.
"Looking up, I saw the very fellow of the downward vision; it had, of
course, the effect of looking into a very steep cone. A wind was blowing
down the shaft, and far above I fancy I heard, growing fainter and
fainter, the bellowing of the mooncalves that were being driven down again
from their evening pasturage on the exterior. And up and down the spiral
galleries were scattered numerous moon people, pallid, faintly luminous
beings, regarding our appearance or busied on unknown errands.
"Either I fancied it or a flake of snow came drifting down on the icy
breeze. And then, falling like a snowflake, a little figure, a little
man-insect, clinging to a parachute, drove down very swiftly towards the
central places of the moon.
"The big-headed Selenite sitting beside me, seeing me move my head with
the gesture of one who saw, pointed with his trunk-like 'hand' and
indicated a sort of jetty coming into sight very far below: a little
landing-stage, as it were, hanging into the void. As it swept up towards
us our pace diminished very rapidly, and in a few moments, as it seemed,
we were abreast of it, and at rest. A mooring-rope was flung and grasped,
and I found myself pulled down to a level with a great crowd of Selenites,
who jostled to see me.
"It was an incredible crowd. Suddenly and violently there was forced upon
my attention the vast amount of difference there is amongst these beings
of the moon.
"Indeed, there seemed not two alike in all that jostling multitude. They
differed in shape, they differed in size, they rang all the horrible
changes on the theme of Selenite form! Some bulged and overhung, some ran
about among the feet of their fellows. All of them had a grotesque and
disquieting suggestion of an insect that has somehow contrived to mock
humanity; but all seemed to present an incredible exaggeration of some
particular feature: one had a vast right fore-limb, an enormous antennal
arm, as it were; one seemed all leg, poised, as it were, on stilts;
another protruded the edge of his face mask into a nose-like organ that
made him startlingly human until one saw his expressionless gaping mouth.
The strange and (except for the want of mandibles and palps) most
insect-like head of the mooncalf-minders underwent, indeed, the most
incredible transformations: here it was broad and low, here high and
narrow; here its leathery brow was drawn out into horns and strange
features; here it was whiskered and divided, and there with a grotesquely
human profile. One distortion was particularly conspicuous. There were
several brain cases distended like bladders to a huge size, with the face
mask reduced to quite small proportions. There were several amazing forms,
with heads reduced to microscopic proportions and blobby bodies; and
fantastic, flimsy things that existed, it would seem, only as a basis for
vast, trumpet-like protrusions of the lower part of the mask. And oddest
of all, as it seemed to me for the moment, two or three of these weird
inhabitants of a subterranean world, a world sheltered by innumerable
miles of rock from sun or rain, carried umbrellas in their tentaculate
hands - real terrestrial looking umbrellas! And then I thought of the
parachutist I had watched descend.
"These moon people behaved exactly as a human crowd might have done in
similar circumstances: they jostled and thrust one another, they shoved
one another aside, they even clambered upon one another to get a glimpse
of me. Every moment they increased in numbers, and pressed more urgently
upon the discs of my ushers" - Cavor does not explain what he means by
this - "every moment fresh shapes emerged from the shadows and forced
themselves upon my astounded attention. And presently I was signed and
helped into a sort of litter, and lifted up on the shoulders of
strong-armed bearers, and so borne through the twilight over this seething
multitude towards the apartments that were provided for me in the moon.
All about me were eyes, faces, masks, a leathery noise like the rustling
of beetle wings, and a great bleating and cricket-like twittering of
Selenite voices.
We gather he was taken to a "hexagonal apartment," and there for a space
he was confined. Afterwards he was given a much more considerable liberty;
indeed, almost as much freedom as one has in a civilised town on earth.
And it would appear that the mysterious being who is the ruler and master
of the moon appointed two Selenites "with large heads" to guard and study
him, and to establish whatever mental communications were possible with
him. And, amazing and incredible as it may seem, these two creatures,
these fantastic men insects, these beings of other world, were presently
communicating with Cavor by means of terrestrial speech.
Cavor speaks of them as Phi-oo and Tsi-puff. Phi-oo, he says, was about 5
ft. high; he had small slender legs about 18 in. long, and slight feet of
the common lunar pattern. On these balanced a little body, throbbing with
the pulsations of his heart. He had long, soft, many-jointed arms ending
in a tentacled grip, and his neck was many-jointed in the usual way, but
exceptionally short and thick. His head, says Cavor - apparently alluding
to some previous description that has gone astray in space - "is of the
common lunar type, but strangely modified. The mouth has the usual
expressionless gape, but it is unusually small and pointing downward, and
the mask is reduced to the size of a large flat nose-flap. On either side
are the little eyes.
"The rest of the head is distended into a huge globe and the chitinous
leathery cuticle of the mooncalf herds thins out to a mere membrane,
through which the pulsating brain movements are distinctly visible. He in
is a creature, indeed, with a tremendously hypertrophied brain, and with
the rest of his organism both relatively and absolutely dwarfed."
In another passage Cavor compares the back view of him to Atlas supporting
the world. Tsi-puff it seems was a very similar insect, but his "face" was
drawn out to a considerable length, and the brain hypertrophy being in
different regions, his head was not round but pear-shaped, with the stalk
downward. There were also litter-carriers, lopsided beings, with enormous
shoulders, very spidery ushers, and a squat foot attendant in Cavor's
The manner in which Phi-oo and Tsi-puff attacked the problem of speech was
fairly obvious. They came into this " hexagonal cell" in which Cavor was
confined, and began imitating every sound he made, beginning with a cough.
He seems to have grasped their intention with great quickness, and to have
begun repeating words to them and pointing to indicate the application.
The procedure was probably always the same. Phi-oo would attend to Cavor
for a space, then point also and say the word he had heard.
The first word he mastered was "man," and the second "Mooney" - which
Cavor on the spur of the moment seems to have used instead of "Selenite"
for the moon race. As soon as Phi-oo was assured of the meaning of a word
he repeated it to Tsi-puff, who remembered it infallibly. They mastered
over one hundred English nouns at their first session.
Subsequently it seems they brought an artist with them to assist the work
of explanation with sketches and diagrams - Cavor's drawings being rather
crude. he was, says Cavor, "a being with an active arm and an arresting
eye," and he seemed to draw with incredible swiftness.
The eleventh message is undoubtedly only a fragment of a longer
communication. After some broken sentences, the record of which is
unintelligible, it goes on:-
"But it will interest only linguists, and delay me too long, to give the
details of the series of intent parleys of which these were the beginning,
and, indeed, I very much doubt if I could give in anything like the proper
order all the twistings and turnings that we made in our pursuit of mutual
comprehension. Verbs were soon plain sailing - at least, such active verbs
as I could express by drawings; some adjectives were easy, but when it
came to abstract nouns, to prepositions, and the sort of hackneyed figures
of speech, by means of which so much is expressed on earth, it was like
diving in cork-jackets. Indeed, these difficulties were insurmountable
until to the sixth lesson came a fourth assistant, a being with a huge
football-shaped head, whose forte was clearly the pursuit of intricate
analogy. He entered in a preoccupied manner, stumbling against a stool,
and the difficulties that arose had to be presented to him with a certain
amount of clamour and hitting and pricking before they reached his
apprehension. But once he was involved his penetration was amazing.
Whenever there came a need of thinking beyond Phi-oo's by no means limited
scope, this prolate-headed person was in request, but he invariably told
the conclusion to Tsi-puff, in order that it might be remembered; Tsi-puff
was ever the arsenal for facts. And so we advanced again.
"It seemed long and yet brief - a matter of days - before I was positively
talking with these insects of the moon. Of course, at first it was an
intercourse infinitely tedious and exasperating, but imperceptibly it has
grown to comprehension. And my patience has grown to meet its limitations,
Phi-oo it is who does all the talking. He does it with a vast amount of
meditative provisional 'M'm-M'm' and has caught up one or two phrases, 'If
I may say,' 'If you understand,' and beads all his speech with them.
"Thus he would discourse. Imagine him explaining his artist.
"'M'm-M'm - he - if I may say - draw. Eat little - drink little - draw.
Love draw. No other thing. Hate all who not draw like him. Angry. Hate all
who draw like him better. Hate most people. Hate all who not think all
world for to draw. Angry. M'm. All things mean nothing to him - only draw.
He like you ... if you understand. ... New thing to draw. Ugly - striking.
"'He' - turning to Tsi-puff - 'love remember words. Remember wonderful
more than any. Think no, draw no - remember. Say' - here he referred to
his gifted assistant for a word - 'histories - all things. He hear once -
say ever.'
"It is more wonderful to me than I dreamt that anything ever could be
again, to hear, in this perpetual obscurity, these extraordinary creatures
- for even familiarity fails to weaken the inhuman effect of their
appearance - continually piping a nearer approach to coherent earthly
speech - asking questions, giving answers. I feel that I am casting back
to the fable-hearing period of childhood again, when the ant and the
grasshopper talked together and the bee judged between them..."
And while these linguistic exercises were going on Cavor seems to have
experienced a considerable relaxation of his confinement. "The first dread
and distrust our unfortunate conflict aroused is being," he said,
"continually effaced by the deliberate rationality of all I do." ... "I am
now able to come and go as I please, or I am restricted only for my own
good. So it is I have been able to get at this apparatus, and, assisted
by a happy find among the material that is littered in this enormous
store-cave, I have contrived to despatch these messages. So far not the
slightest attempt has been made to interfere with me in this, though I
have made it quite clear to Phi-oo that I am signalling to the earth.
"'You talk to other?' he asked, watching me.
"'Others,' said I.
"'Others,' he said. 'Oh yes, Men?'
"And I went on transmitting."
Cavor was continually making corrections in his previous accounts of the
Selenites as fresh facts flowed upon him to modify his conclusions, and
accordingly one gives the quotations that follow with a certain amount of
reservation. They are quoted from the ninth, thirteenth, and sixteenth
messages, and, altogether vague and fragmentary as they are, they probably
give as complete a picture of the social life of this strange community as
mankind can now hope to have for many generations.
"In the moon," says Cavor, "every citizen knows his place. He is born to
that place, and the elaborate discipline of training and education and
surgery he undergoes fits him at last so completely to it that he has
neither ideas nor organs for any purpose beyond it. 'Why should he?'
Phi-oo would ask. If, for example, a Selenite is destined to be a
mathematician, his teachers and trainers set out at once to that end. They
check any incipient disposition to other pursuits, they encourage his
mathematical bias with a perfect psychological skill. His brain grows, or
at least the mathematical faculties of his brain grow, and the rest of him
only so much as is necessary to sustain this essential part of him. At
last, save for rest and food, his one delight lies in the exercise and
display of his facility, his one interest in its application, his sole
society with other specialists in his own line. His brain glows
continually larger, at least so far as the portions engaging in
mathematics are concerned; they bulge ever larger and seem to suck all
life and vigour from the rest of his frame. His limbs shrivel, his heart
and digestive organs diminish, his insect face is hidden under its bulging
contours. His voice becomes a mere stridulation for the stating of
formula; he seems deaf to all but properly enunciated problems. The
faculty of laughter, save for the sudden discovery of some paradox, is
lost to him; his deepest emotion is the evolution of a novel computation.
And so he attains his end.
"Or, again, a Selenite appointed to be a minder of mooncalves is from his
earliest years induced to think and live mooncalf, to find his pleasure in
mooncalf lore, his exercise in their tending and pursuit. He is trained to
become wiry and active, his eye is indurated to the tight wrappings, the
angular contours that constitute a 'smart mooncalfishness.' He takes at
last no interest in the deeper part of the moon; he regards all Selenites
not equally versed in mooncalves with indifference, derision, or
hostility. His thoughts are of mooncalf pastures, and his dialect an
accomplished mooncalf technique. So also he loves his work, and discharges
in perfect happiness the duty that justifies his being. And so it is with
all sorts and conditions of Selenites - each is a perfect unit in a world
"These beings with big heads, on whom the intellectual labours fall, form
a sort of aristocracy in this strange society, and at the head of them,
quintessential of the moon, is that marvellous gigantic ganglion the Grand
Lunar, into whose presence I am finally to come. The unlimited development
of the minds of the intellectual class is rendered possible by the absence
of any body skull in the lunar anatomy, that strange box of bone that
clamps about the developing brain of man, imperiously insisting 'thus far
and no farther' to all his possibilities. They fall into three main
classes differing greatly in influence and respect. There are
administrators, of whom Phi-oo is one, Selenites of considerable
initiative and versatility, responsible each for a certain cubic content
of the moon's bulk; the experts like the football-headed thinker, who are
trained to perform certain special operations; and the erudite, who are
the repositories of all knowledge. To the latter class belongs Tsi-puff,
the first lunar professor of terrestrial languages. With regard to these
latter, it is a curious little thing to note that the unlimited growth of
the lunar brain has rendered unnecessary the invention of all those
mechanical aids to brain work which have distinguished the career of man.
There are no books, no records of any sort, no libraries or inscriptions.
All knowledge is stored in distended brains much as the honey-ants of
Texas store honey in their distended abdomens. The lunar Somerset House
and the lunar British Museum Library are collections of living brains...
"The less specialised administrators, I note, do for the most part take a
very lively interest in me whenever they encounter me. They will come out
of the way and stare at me and ask questions to which Phi-oo will reply. I
see them going hither and thither with a retinue of bearers, attendants,
shouters, parachute-carriers, and so forth - queer groups to see. The
experts for the most part ignore me completely, even as they ignore each
other, or notice me only to begin a clamorous exhibition of their
distinctive skill. The erudite for the most part are rapt in an impervious
and apoplectic complacency, from which only a denial of their erudition
can rouse them. Usually they are led about by little watchers and
attendants, and often there are small and active-looking creatures, small
females usually, that I am inclined to think are a sort of wife to them;
but some of the profounder scholars are altogether too great for
locomotion, and are carried from place to place in a sort of sedan tub,
wabbling jellies of knowledge that enlist my respectful astonishment. I
have just passed one in coming to this place where I am permitted to amuse
myself with these electrical toys, a vast, shaven, shaky head, bald and
thin-skinned, carried on his grotesque stretcher. In front and behind came
his bearers, and curious, almost trumpet-faced, news disseminators
shrieked his fame.
"I have already mentioned the retinues that accompany most of the
intellectuals: ushers, bearers, valets, extraneous tentacles and muscles,
as it were, to replace the abortive physical powers of these hypertrophied
minds. Porters almost invariably accompany them. There are also extremely
swift messengers with spider-like legs and 'hands' for grasping
parachutes, and attendants with vocal organs that could well nigh wake the
dead. Apart from their controlling intelligence these subordinates are as
inert and helpless as umbrellas in a stand. They exist only in relation to
the orders they have to obey, the duties they have to perform.
"The bulk of these insects, however, who go to and fro upon the spiral
ways, who fill the ascending balloons and drop past me clinging to flimsy
parachutes are, I gather, of the operative class. 'Machine hands,' indeed,
some of these are in actual nature - it is not figure of speech, the
single tentacle of the mooncalf herd is profoundly modified for clawing,
lifting, guiding, the rest of them no more than necessary subordinate
appendages to these important mechanisms, have enormously developed
auditory organs; some whose work lies in delicate chemical operations
project a vast olfactory organ; others again have flat feet for treadles
with anchylosed joints; and others - who I have been told are glassblowers
- seem mere lung-bellows. but every one of these common Selenites I have
seen at work is exquisitely adapted to the social need it meets. Fine work
is done by fined-down workers, amazingly dwarfed and neat. Some I could
hold on the palm of my hand. There is even a sort of turnspit Selenite,
very common, whose duty and only delight it is to apply the motive power
for various small appliances. And to rule over these things and order any
erring tendency there might be in some aberrant natures are the most
muscular beings I have seen in the moon, a sort of lunar police, who must
have been trained from their earliest years to give a perfect respect and
obedience to the swollen heads.
"The making of these various sorts of operative must be a very curious and
interesting process. I am very much in the dark about it, but quite
recently I came upon a number of young Selenites confined in jars from
which only the fore-limbs protruded, who were being compressed to become
machine-minders of a special sort. The extended 'hand' in this highly
developed system of technical education is stimulated by irritants and
nourished by injection, while the rest of the body is starved. Phi-oo,
unless I misunderstood him, explained that in the earlier stages these
queer little creatures are apt to display signs of suffering in their
various cramped situations, but they easily become indurated to their lot;
and he took me on to where a number of flexible-minded messengers were
being drawn out and broken in. It is quite unreasonable, I know, but such
glimpses of the educational methods of these beings affect me
disagreeably. I hope, however, that may pass off, and I may be able to
see more of this aspect of their wonderful social order. That
wretched-looking hand-tentacle sticking out of its jar seemed to have a
sort of limp appeal for lost possibilities; it haunts me still, although,
of course it is really in the end a far more humane proceeding than our
earthly method of leaving children to grow into human beings, and then
making machines of them.
"Quite recently, too - I think it was on the eleventh or twelfth visit I
made to this apparatus - I had a curious light upon the lives of these
operatives. I was being guided through a short cut hither, instead of
going down the spiral, and by the quays to the Central Sea. From the
devious windings of a long, dark gallery, we emerged into a vast, low
cavern, pervaded by an earthy smell, and as things go in this darkness,
rather brightly lit. The light came from a tumultuous growth of livid
fungoid shapes - some indeed singularly like our terrestrial mushrooms,
but standing as high or higher than a man.
"'Mooneys eat these?' said I to Phi-oo.
"'Yes, food.'
"'Goodness me!' I cried; 'what's that?'
"My eye had just caught the figure of an exceptionally big and ungainly
Selenite lying motionless among the stems, face downward. We stopped.
"'Dead?' I asked. (For as yet I have seen no dead the moon, and I have
grown curious.)
"'No! ' exclaimed Phi-oo. 'Him - worker - no work to do. Get little drink
then - make sleep - till we him want. What good him wake, eh? No want him
walking about.'
"'There's another!' cried I.
"And indeed all that huge extent of mushroom ground was, I found, peppered
with these prostrate figures sleeping under an opiate until the moon had
need of them. There were scores of them of all sorts, and we were able to
turn over some of them, and examine them more precisely than I had been
able to previously. They breathed noisily at my doing so, but did not
wake. One, I remember very distinctly: he left a strong impression, I
think, because some trick the light and of his attitude was strongly
suggestive a drawn-up human figure. His fore-limbs were long, delicate
tentacles - he was some kind of refined manipulator - and the pose of his
slumber suggested a submissive suffering. No doubt it was a mistake for to
interpret his expression in that way, but I did. And as Phi-oo rolled him
over into the darkness among the livid fleshiness again I felt a
distinctly unpleasant sensation, although as he rolled the insect in him
was confessed.
"It simply illustrates the unthinking way in which one acquires habits of
feeling. To drug the worker one does not want and toss him aside is surely
far better than to expel him from his factory to wander starving in the
streets. In every complicated social community there is necessarily a
certain intermittency of employment for all specialised labour, and in
this way the trouble of an 'unemployed' problem is altogether anticipated.
And yet, so unreasonable are even scientifically trained minds, I still do
not like the memory of those prostrate forms amidst those quiet, luminous
arcades of fleshy growth, and I avoid that short cut in spite of the
inconveniences of the longer, more noisy, and more crowded alternative.
"My alternative route takes me round by a huge, shadowy cavern, very
crowded and clamorous, and here it is I see peering out of the hexagonal
openings of a sort of honeycomb wall, or parading a large open space
behind, 01 selecting the toys and amulets made to please them by the
dainty-tentacled jewellers who work in kennels below, the mothers of the
moon world - the queen bees, as it were, of the hive. They are
noble-looking beings, fantastically and sometimes quite beautifully
adorned, with a proud carriage, and, save for their mouths, almost
microscopic heads.
"Of the condition of the moon sexes, marrying and giving in marriage, and
of birth and so forth among the Selenites, I have as yet been able to
learn very little. With the steady progress of Phi-oo in English, however,
my ignorance will no doubt as steadily disappear. I am of opinion that, as
with the ants and bees, there is a large majority of the members in this
community of the neuter sex. Of course on earth in our cities there are
now many who never live that life of parentage which is the natural life
of man. Here, as with the ants, this thing has become a normal condition
of the race, and the whole of such eplacement as is necessary falls upon
this special and by no means numerous class of matrons, the mothers of the
moon-world, large and stately beings beautifully fitted to bear the larval
Selenite. Unless I misunderstand an explanation of Phi-oo's, they are
absolutely incapable of cherishing the young they bring into the moon;
periods of foolish indulgence alternate with moods of aggressive violence,
and as soon as possible the little creatures, who are quite soft and
flabby and pale coloured, are transferred to the charge of celibate
females, women 'workers' as it were, who in some cases possess brains of
almost masculine dimensions."
Just at this point, unhappily, this message broke off. Fragmentary and
tantalising as the matter constituting this chapter is, it does
nevertheless give a vague, broad impression of an altogether strange and
wonderful world - a world with which our own may have to reckon we know
not how speedily. This intermittent trickle of messages, this whispering
of a record needle in the stillness of the mountain slopes, is the first
warning of such a change in human conditions as mankind has scarcely
imagined heretofore. In that satellite of ours there are new elements, new
appliances, traditions, an overwhelming avalanche of new ideas, a strange
race with whom we must inevitably struggle for mastery - gold as common as
iron or wood...
Chapter 25
The Grand Lunar
THE penultimate message describes, with occasionally elaborate detail, the
encounter between Cavor and the Grand Lunar, who is the ruler or master of
the moon. Cavor seems to have sent most of it without interference, but to
have been interrupted in the concluding portion. The second came after an
interval of a week.
The first message begins: "At last I am able to resume this" it then
becomes illegible for a space, and after a time resumed in mid-sentence.
The missing words of the following sentence are probably "the crowd."
There follows quite clearly: "grew ever denser as we drew near the palace
of the Grand Lunar - if I may call a series of excavations a palace.
Everywhere faces stared at me - blank, chitinous gapes and masks, eyes
peering over tremendous olfactory developments, eyes beneath monstrous
forehead plates; and undergrowth of smaller creatures dodged and yelped,
and helmet faces poised on sinuous, long-jointed necks appeared craning
over shoulders and beneath armpits. Keeping a welcome space about me
marched a cordon of stolid, scuttle-headed guards, who had joined us on
our leaving the boat in which we had come along the channels of the
Central Sea. The quick-eyed artist with the little brain joined us also,
and a thick bunch of lean porter-insects swayed and struggled under the
multitude of conveniences that were considered essential to my state. I
was carried in a litter during the final stage of our journey. This litter
was made of some very ductile metal that looked dark to me, meshed and
woven, and with bars of paler metal, and about me as I advanced there
grouped itself a long and complicated procession.
"In front, after the manner of heralds, marched four trumpet-faced
creatures making a devastating bray; and then came squat, resolute-moving
ushers before and behind, and on either hand a galaxy of learned heads, a
sort of animated encyclopedia, who were, Phi-oo explained, to stand about
the Grand Lunar for purposes of reference. (Not a thing in lunar science,
not a point of view or method of thinking, that these wonderful beings did
not carry in their heads!) Followed guards and porters, and then Phi-oo's
shivering brain borne also on a litter. Then came Tsi-puff in a slightly
less important litter; then myself on a litter of greater elegance than
any other, and surrounded by my food and drink attendants. More trumpeters
came next, splitting the ear with vehement outcries, and then several big
brains, special correspondents one might well call them, or
historiographers, charged with the task of observing and remembering every
detail of this epoch-making interview. A company of attendants, bearing
and dragging banners and masses of scented fungus and curious symbols,
vanished in the darkness behind. The way was lined by ushers and officers
in caparisons that gleamed like steel, and beyond their line, so far as my
eyes could pierce the gloom, the heads of that enormous crowd extended.
"I will own that I am still by no means indurated. to the peculiar effect
of the Selenite appearance, and to find myself, as it were, adrift on this
broad sea of excited entomology was by no means agreeable. Just for a
space I had something very like what I should imagine people mean when
they speak of the 'horrors.' It had come to me before in these lunar
caverns, when on occasion I have found myself weaponless and with an
undefended back, amidst a crowd of these Selenites, but never quite so
vividly. It is, of course, as absolutely irrational a feeling as one could
well have, and I hope gradually to subdue it. But just for a moment, as I
swept forward into the welter of the vast crowd, it was only by gripping
my litter tightly and summoning all my will-power that I succeeded in
avoiding an outcry or some such manifestation. It lasted perhaps three I
minutes; then I had myself in hand again.
"We ascended the spiral of a vertical way for some time, and then passed
through a series of huge halls dome-roofed and elaborately decorated. The
approach to the Grand Lunar was certainly contrived to give one a vivid
impression of his greatness. Each cavern one entered seemed greater and
more boldly arched than its predecessor. This effect of progressive size
was enhanced by a thin haze of faintly phosphorescent blue incense that
thickened as one advanced, and robbed even the nearer figures of
clearness. I seemed to advance continually to something larger, dimmer,
and less material.
"I must confess that all this multitude made me feel extremely shabby and
unworthy. I was unshaven and unkempt; I had brought no razor; I had a
coarse beard over my mouth. On earth I have always been inclined to
despise any attention to my person beyond a proper care for cleanliness;
but under the exceptional circumstances in which I found myself,
representing, as I did, my planet and my kind, and depending very largely
upon the attractiveness of my appearance for a proper reception, I could
have given much for something a little more artistic and dignified than
the husks I wore. I had been so serene in the belief that the moon was
uninhabited as to overlook such precautions altogether. As it was I was
dressed in a flannel jacket, knickerbockers, and golfing stockings,
stained with every sort of dirt the moon offered, slippers (of which the
left heel was wanting), and a blanket, through a hole in which I thrust my
head. (These clothes, indeed, I still wear.) Sharp bristles are anything
but an improvement to my cast of features, and there was an unmended tear
at the knee of my knickerbockers that showed conspicuously as I squatted
in my litter; my right stocking, too persisted in getting about my ankle.
I am fully alive to the injustice my appearance did humanity, and if by
any expedient I could have improvised something a little out of the way
and imposing I would have done so. But I could hit upon nothing. I did
what I could with my blanket - folding it somewhat after the fashion of a
toga, and for the rest I sat as upright as the swaying of my litter
"Imagine the largest hall you have ever been in, imperfectly lit with blue
light and obscured by a gray-blue fog, surging with metallic or livid-gray
creatures of such a mad diversity as I have hinted. Imagine this hall to
end in an open archway beyond which is a still larger hall, and beyond
this yet another and still larger one, and so on. At the end of the vista,
dimly seen, a flight of steps, like the steps of Ara Coeli at Rome, ascend
out of sight. Higher and higher these steps appear to go as one draws
nearer their base. But at last I came under a huge archway and beheld the
summit of these steps, and upon it the Grand Lunar exalted on his throne.
" He was seated in what was relatively a blaze of incandescent blue. This,
and the darkness about him gave him an effect of floating in a blue-black
void. He seemed a small, self-luminous cloud at first, brooding on his
sombre throne; his brain case must have measured many yards in diameter.
For some reason that I cannot fathom a number of blue search-lights
radiated from behind the throne on which he sat, and immediately
encircling him was a halo. About him, and little and indistinct in this
glow, a number of body-servants sustained and supported him, and
overshadowed and standing in a huge semicircle beneath him were his
intellectual subordinates, his remembrancers and computators and searchers
and servants, and all the distinguished insects of the court of the moon.
Still lower stood ushers and messengers, and then all down the countless
steps of the throne were guards, and at the base, enormous, various,
indistinct, vanishing at last into an absolute black, a vast swaying
multitude of the minor dignitaries of the moon. Their feet made a
perpetual scraping whisper on the rocky floor, as their limbs moved with a
rustling murmur.
"As I entered the penultimate hall the music rose and expanded into an
imperial magnificence of sound, and the shrieks of the news-bearers died
away. ...
"I entered the last and greatest hall....
"My procession opened out like a fan. My ushers and guards went right and
left, and the three litters bearing myself and Phi-oo and Tsi-puff marched
across a shiny darkness of floor to the foot of the giant stairs. Then
began a vast throbbing hum, that mingled with the music. The two Selenites
dismounted, but I was bidden remain seated - I imagine as a special
honour. The music ceased, but not that humming, arid by a simultaneous
movement of ten thousand respectful heads my attention was directed to the
enhaloed supreme intelligence that hovered above me.
"At first as I peered into the radiating glow this quintessential brain
looked very much like an opaque, featureless bladder with dim, undulating
ghosts of convolutions writhing visibly within. Then beneath its enormity
and just above the edge of the throne one saw with a start minute elfin
eyes peering out of the glow. No face, but eyes, as if they peered through
holes. At first I could see no more than these two staring little eyes,
and then below I distinguished the little dwarfed body and its
insect-jointed limbs shrivelled and white. The eyes stared down at me with
a strange intensity, and the lower part of the swollen globe was wrinkled.
Ineffectual-looking little hand-tentacles steadied this shape on the
throne. ...
"It was great. It was pitiful. One forgot the hall and the crowd.
"I ascended the staircase by jerks. It seemed to me that this darkly
glowing brain case above us spread over me, and took more and more of the
whole effect into itself as I drew nearer. The tiers of attendants and
helpers grouped about their master seemed to dwindle and fade into the
night. I saw that shadowy attendants were busy spraying that great brain
with a cooling spray, and patting and sustaining it. For my own part, I
sat gripping my swaying litter and staring at the Grand Lunar, unable to
turn my gaze aside. And at last, as I reached a little landing that was
separated only by ten steps or so from the supreme seat, the woven
splendour of the music reached a climax and ceased, and I was left naked,
as it were, in that vastness, beneath the still scrutiny of the Grand
Lunar's eyes.
"He was scrutinising the first man he had ever seen. ...
"My eyes dropped at last from his greatness to the ant figures in the blue
mist about him, and then down the steps to the massed Selenites, still and
expectant in their thousands, packed on the floor below. Once again an
unreasonable horror reached out towards me. ... And passed.
"After the pause came the salutation. I was assisted from my litter, and
stood awkwardly while a number of curious and no doubt deeply symbolical
gestures were vicariously performed for me by two slender officials. The
encyclopaedic galaxy of the learned that had accompanied me to the
entrance of the last hall appeared two steps above me and left and right
of me, in readiness for the Grand Lunar's need, and Phi-oo's pale brain
placed itself about half-way up to the throne in such a position as to
communicate easily between us without turning his back on either the Grand
Lunar or myself. Tsi-puff took up position behind him. Dexterous ushers
sidled sideways towards me, keeping a full face to the Presence. I seated
myself Turkish fashion, and Phi-oo and Tsi-puff also knelt down above me.
There came a pause. The eyes of the nearer court went from me to the Grand
Lunar and came back to me, and a hissing and piping of expectation passed
across the hidden multitudes below and ceased.
"That humming ceased.
"For the first and last time in my experience the moon was silent.
"I became aware of a faint wheezy noise. The Grand Lunar was addressing
me. It was like the rubbing of a finger upon a pane of glass.
"I watched him attentively for a time, and then glanced at the alert
Phi-oo. I felt amidst these slender beings ridiculously thick and fleshy
and solid; my head all jaw and black hair. My eyes went back to the Grand
Lunar. He had ceased; his attendants were busy, and his shining superfices
was glistening and running with cooling spray.
"Phi-oo meditated through an interval. He consulted Tsi-puff. Then he
began piping his recognisable English - at first a little nervously, so
that he was not very clear.
"'M'm - the Grand Lunar - wishes to say - wishes to say - he gathers you
are - m'm - men - that you are a man from the planet earth. He wishes to
say that he welcomes you - welcomes you - and wishes to learn - learn, if
I may use the word - the state of your world, and the reason why you came
to this.'
"He paused. I was about to reply when he resumed. He proceeded to remarks
of which the drift was not very clear, though I am inclined to think they
were intended to be complimentary. He told me that the earth was to the
moon what the sun is to the earth, and that the Selenites desired very
greatly to learn about the earth and men. He then told me no doubt in
compliment also, the relative magnitude and diameter of earth and moon,
and the perpetual wonder and speculation with which the Selenites had
regarded our planet. I meditated with downcast eyes, and decided to reply
that men too had wondered what might lie in the moon, and had judged it
dead, little recking of such magnificence as I had seen that day. The
Grand Lunar, in token of recognition, caused his long blue rays to rotate
in a very confusing manner, and all about the great hall ran the pipings
and whisperings and rustlings of the report of what I had said. He then
proceeded to put to Phi-oo a number of inquiries which were easier to
"He understood, he explained, that we lived on the surface of the earth,
that our air and sea were outside the globe; the latter part, indeed, he
already knew from his astronomical specialists. He was very anxious to
have more detailed information of what he called this extraordinary state
of affairs, for from the solidity of the earth there had always been a
disposition regard it as uninhabitable. He endeavoured first to ascertain
the extremes of temperature to which we earth beings were exposed, and he
was deeply interested by my descriptive treatment of clouds and rain. His
imagination was assisted by the fact that the lunar atmosphere in the
outer galleries of the night side is not infrequently very foggy. He
seemed inclined to marvel that we did not find the sunlight too intense
for our eyes, and was interested in my attempt to explain that the sky was
tempered to a bluish colour through the refraction of the air, though I
doubt if he clearly understood that. I explained how the iris of the human
eyes can contract the pupil and save the delicate internal structure from
the excess of sunlight, and was allowed to approach within a few feet of
the Presence in order that this structure might be seen. This led to a
comparison of the lunar and terrestrial eyes. The former is not only
excessively sensitive to such light as men can see, but it can also see
heat, and every difference in temperature within the moon renders objects
visible to it.
"The iris was quite a new organ to the Grand Lunar. For a time he amused
himself by flashing his rays into my face and watching my pupils contract.
As a consequence, I was dazzled and blinded for some little time. ...
"But in spite of that discomfort I found something reassuring by
insensible degrees in the rationality of this business of question and
answer. I could shut my eyes, think of my answer, and almost forget that
the the Grand Lunar has no face. ...
"When I had descended again to my proper place the Grand Lunar asked how
we sheltered ourselves from heat and storms, and I expounded to him the
arts of building and furnishing. Here we wandered into misunderstandings
and cross-purposes, due largely, I must admit, to the looseness of my
expressions. For a long time I had great difficulty in making him
understand the nature of a house. To him and his attendant Selenites it
seemed, no doubt, the most whimsical thing in the world that men should
build houses when they might descend into excavations, and an additional
complication was introduced by the attempt I made to explain that men had
originally begun their homes in caves, and that they were now taking their
railways and many establishments beneath the surface. Here I think a
desire for intellectual completeness betrayed me. There was also a
considerable tangle due to an equally unwise attempt on my part to explain
about mines. Dismissing this topic at last in an incomplete state, the
Grand Lunar inquired what we did with the interior of our globe.
"A tide of twittering and piping swept into the remotest corners of that
great assembly then it was last made clear that we men know absolutely
nothing of the contents of the world upon which the immemorial generations
of our ancestors had been evolved. Three times had I to repeat that of all
the 4000 miles of distance between the earth and its centre men knew only
to the depth of a mile, and that very vaguely. I understood the Grand
Lunar to ask why had I come to the moon seeing we had scarcely touched our
own planet yet, but he did not trouble me at that time to proceed to an
explanation, being too anxious to pursue the details of this mad inversion
of all his ideas.
"He reverted to the question of weather, and I tried to describe the
perpetually changing sky, and snow, and frost and hurricanes. 'But when
the night comes,' he ed, 'is it not cold?'
"I told him it was colder than by day. "'And does not your atmosphere
"I told him not; that it was never cold enough for that, because our
nights were so short.
"'Not even liquefy?'
"I was about to say 'No,' but then it occurred to me that one part at
least of our atmosphere, the water vapour of it, does sometimes liquefy
and form dew, and sometimes freeze and form frost - a process perfectly
analogous to the freezing of all the external atmosphere of the moon
during its longer night. I made myself clear on this point, and from that
the Grand Lunar went on to speak with me of sleep. For the need of sleep
that comes so regularly every twenty-four hours to all things is part also
of our earthly inheritance. On the moon they rest only at rare intervals,
and after exceptional exertions. Then I tried to describe to him the soft
splendours of a summer night, and from that I passed to a description of
those animals that prowl by night and sleep by day. I told him of lions
and tigers, and here it seemed as though we had come to a deadlock. For,
save in their waters, there are no creatures in the moon not absolutely
domestic and subject to his will, and so it has been for immemorial years.
They have monstrous water creatures, but no evil beasts, and the idea of
anything strong and large existing 'outside' in the night is very
difficult for them. ...
The record is here too broken to transcribe for the space of perhaps
twenty words or more.
"He talked with his attendants, as I suppose, upon the strange
superficiality and unreasonableness of (man) who lives on the mere surface
of a world, a creature of waves and winds, and all the chances of space,
who cannot even unite to overcome the beasts that prey upon his kind, and
yet who dares to invade another planet. During this aside I sat thinking,
and then at his desire I told him of the different sorts of men. He
searched me with questions. "And for all sorts of work you have the same
sort of men. But who thinks? Who governs?'
"I gave him an outline of the democratic method.
"When I had done he ordered cooling sprays upon his brow, and then
requested me to repeat my explanation conceiving something had miscarried.
"'Do they not do different things, then?' said Phi-oo.
"Some, I admitted, were thinkers and some officials; some hunted, some
were mechanics, some artists, some toilers. 'But all rule,' I said.
"'And have they not different shapes to fit them to their different
"'None that you can see,' I said, 'except perhaps, for clothes. Their
minds perhaps differ a little,' I reflected.
"'Their minds must differ a great deal,' said the Grand Lunar, 'or they
would all want to do the same things.'
"In order to bring myself into a closer harmony with his preconceptions, I
said that his surmise was right 'It was all hidden in the brain,' I said;
'but the difference was there. Perhaps if one could see the minds and
souls of men they would be as varied and unequal as the Selenites. There
were great men and small men, men who could reach out far and wide, men
who could go swiftly; noisy, trumpet-minded men, and men who could
remember without thinking. ... The record is indistinct for three words.
He interrupted me to recall me to my previous statements. 'But you said
all men rule?' he pressed.
"To a certain extent," I said, and made, I fear, a denser fog with my
"He reached out to a salient fact. "Do you mean," asked, 'that there is
no Grand Earthly?'
I thought of several people, but assured him finally there was none. I
explained that such autocrats and emperors as we had tried upon earth had
usually ended in drink, or vice, or violence, and that the large and
influential section of the people of the earth to which I belonged, the
Anglo-Saxons, did not mean to try that sort of thing again. At which the
Grand Lunar was even more amazed.
"But how do you keep even such wisdom as you have?" he asked; and I
explained to him the way we helped our limited [a word omitted here,
probably "brains"] with libraries of books. I explained to him how our
science was growing by the united labours of innumerable little men, and
on that he made no comment save that it was evident we had mastered much
in spite of our social savagery, or we could not have come to the moon.
Yet the contrast was very marked. With knowledge the Selenites grew and
changed; mankind stored their knowledge about them and remained brutes -
equipped. He said this... [Here there is a short piece of the record
"He then caused me to describe how we went about this earth of ours, and I
described to him our railways and ships. For a time he could not
understand that we had had the use of steam only one hundred years, but
when he did he was clearly amazed. (I may mention as a singular thing,
that the Selenites use years to count by, just as we do on earth, though I
can make nothing of their numeral system. That, however, does not matter,
because Phi-oo understands ours.) From that I went on to tell him that
mankind had dwelt in cities only for nine or ten thousand years, and that
we were still not united in one brotherhood, but under many different
forms of government. This astonished the Grand Lunar very much, when it
was made clear to him. At first he thought we referred merely to
administrative areas.
"'Our States and Empires are still the rawest sketches of what order will
some day be,' I said, and so I came to tell him. ... [At this point a
length of record that probably represents thirty or forty words is totally
"The Grand Lunar was greatly impressed by the folly of men in clinging to
the inconvenience of diverse tongues. 'They want to communicate, and yet
not to communicate,' he said, and then for a long time he questioned me
closely concerning war.
"He was at first perplexed and incredulous. 'You mean to say,' he asked,
seeking confirmation, 'that you run about over the surface of your world -
this world, whose riches you have scarcely begun to scrape - killing one
another for beasts to eat?'
"I told him that was perfectly correct.
"He asked for particulars to assist his imagination.
"'But do not ships and your poor little cities get injured? ' he asked,
and I found the waste of property and conveniences seemed to impress him
almost as much as the killing. 'Tell me more,' said the Grand Lunar; 'make
me see pictures. I cannot conceive these things.'
"And so, for a space, though something loath, I told him the story of
earthly War.
"I told him of the first orders and ceremonies of war, of warnings and
ultimatums, and the marshalling and marching of troops. I gave him an idea
of manoeuvres and positions and battle joined. I told him of sieges and
assaults, of starvation and hardship in trenches, and of sentinels
freezing in the snow. I told him of routs and surprises, and desperate
last stands and faint hopes, and the pitiless pursuit of fugitives and the
dead upon the field. I told, too, of the past, of invasions and massacres,
of the Huns and Tartars, and the wars of Mahomet and the Caliphs, and of
the Crusades. And as I went on, and Phi-oo translated, and the Selenites
cooed and murmured in a steadily intensified emotion.
"I told them an ironclad could fire a shot of a ton twelve miles, and go
through 20 ft. of iron - and how we could steer torpedoes under water. I
went on to describe a Maxim gun in action, and what I could imagine of the
Battle of Colenso. The Grand Lunar was so incredulous that he interrupted
the translation of what I had said in order to have my verification of my
account. They particularly doubted my description of the men cheering and
rejoicing as they went into (? battle).
"'But surely they do not like it!' translated Phi-oo.
"I assured them men of my race considered battle the most glorious
experience of life, at which the whole assembly was stricken with
"'But what good is this war?' asked the Grand Lunar, sticking to his
"'Oh! as for good!' said I; 'it thins the population!'
"'But why should there be a need - ?' ..
"There came a pause, the cooling sprays impigned upon his brow, and then
he spoke again."
[At this point a series of undulations that have been apparent as a
perplexing complication as far back as Cavor's description of the silence
that fell before the first speaking of the Grand Lunar become confusingly
predominant in the record. These undulations are evidently the result of
radiations proceeding from a lunar source, and their persistent
approximation to the alternating signals of Cavor is curiously suggestive
of some operator deliberately seeking to mix them in with his message and
render it illegible. At first they are small and regular, so that with a
little care and the loss of very few words we have been able to
disentangle Cavor's message; then they become broad and larger, then
suddenly they are irregular, with an irregularity that gives the effect at
last of some one scribbling through a line of writing. For a long time
nothing can be made of this madly zigzagging trace; then quite abruptly
the interruption ceases, leaves a few words clear, and then resumes and
continues for the rest of the message, completely obliterating whatever
Cavor was attempting to transmit. Why, if this is indeed a deliberate
intervention, the Selenites should have preferred to let Cavor go on
transmitting his message in happy ignorance of their obliteration of its
record, when it was clearly quite in their power and much more easy and
convenient for them to stop his proceedings at any time, is a problem to
which I can contribute nothing. The thing seems to have happened so, and
that is all I can say. This last rag of his description of the Grand Lunar
begins in mid-sentence.]
"...interrogated me very closely upon my secret. I was able in a little
while to get to an understanding with them, and at last to elucidate what
has been a puzzle to me ever since I realised the vastness of there
science, namely, how it is they themselves have never discovered
'Cavorite.' I find they know of it as a theoretical substance, but they
have always regarded it as a practical impossibility, because for some
reason there is no helium in the moon, and helium..."
[Across the last letters of helium slashes the resumption of that
obliterating trace. Note that word "secret," for that, and that alone, I
base my interpretation of the message that follows, the last message, as
both Mr. Wendigee and myself now believe it to be, that he is ever likely
to send us.]
Chapter 26
The Last Message Cavor sent to the Earth
ON this unsatisfactory manner the penultimate message of Cavor dies out.
One seems to see him away there in the blue obscurity amidst his apparatus
intently signalling us to the last, all unaware of the curtain of
confusion that drops between us; all unaware, too, of the final dangers
that even then must have been creeping upon him. His disastrous want of
vulgar common sense had utterly betrayed him. He had talked of war, he had
talked of all the strength and irrational violence of men, of their
insatiable aggressions, their tireless futility of conflict. He had filled
the whole moon world with this impression of our race, and then I think it
is plain that he made the most fatal admission that upon himself alone
hung the possibility - at least for a long time - of any further men
reaching the moon. The line the cold, inhuman reason of the moon would
take seems plain enough to me, and a suspicion of it, and then perhaps
some sudden sharp realisation of it, must have come to him. One imagines
him about the moon with the remorse of this fatal indiscretion growing in
his mind. During a certain time I am inclined to guess the Grand Lunar was
deliberating the new situation, and for all that time Cavor may have gone
as free as ever he had gone. But obstacles of some sort prevented his
getting to his electromagnetic apparatus again after that message I have
just given. For some days we received nothing. Perhaps he was having fresh
audiences, and trying to evade his previous admissions. Who can hope to
And then suddenly, like a cry in the night, like a cry that is followed by
a stillness, came the last message. It is the briefest fragment, the
broken beginnings of two sentences.
The first was: "I was mad to let the Grand Lunar know."
There was an interval of perhaps a minute. One imagines some interruption
from without. A departure from the instrument - a dreadful hesitation
among the looming masses of apparatus in that dim, blue-lit cavern - a
sudden rush back to it, full of a resolve that came too late. Then, as if
it were hastily transmitted came: "Cavorite made as follows: take-"
There followed one word, a quite unmeaning word as it stands: "uless."
And that is all.
It may be he made a hasty attempt to spell "useless" when his fate was
close upon him. Whatever it was that was happening about that apparatus we
cannot tell. Whatever it was we shall never, I know, receive another
message from the moon. For my own part a vivid dream has come to my help,
and I see, almost as plainly as though I had seen it in actual fact, a
blue-lit shadowy dishevelled Cavor struggling in the grip of these insect
Selenites, struggling ever more desperately and hopelessly as they press
upon him, shouting, expostulating, perhaps even at last fighting, and
being forced backwards step by step out of all speech or sign of his
fellows, for evermore into the Unknown - into the dark, into that silence
that has no end. ...

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