Dominic Alessio, ed.
The Great Romance, by The Inhabitant
The Great Romance, a 55-page
utopian/science-fiction novelette published in New Zealand in 1881, is apparently listed
in only one published bibliography, A.G. Bagnall's New Zealand National Bibliography to
the Year 1960.1 The only copy known to exist is in the Alexander Turnbull
Library in Wellington. This copy has two title pages, one making Dunedin the place of
publication, the other, Ashburton—a small agricultural town in the South Island.2
The author's name is given as The Inhabitant, a pseudonym common at the time for
guidebooks in the United Kingdom and the United States and appropriate for this work since
it purports to be, in part, a kind of guidebook to Venus written by a terrestrial visitor
to that planet who is now, his comrades having returned to Earth, its sole inhabitant. As
to the identity of the author, nothing is known.
1. Its Place in the History of SF. The Great
Romance is worthy of attention both for its position in the history of utopias and SF
and in its own right. That it was the principal source for the frame story of Edward
Bellamy's Looking Backward 2000-1887 (1888), the most widely read and, with the
general public, the most influential of all utopias, is highly probable—and becomes
all but certain when it is compared to Bellamy's 1898 short story "To Whom This May
Come," on which its influence is pervasive. It is also of historical interest in
providing another instance of how widespread the writing and publishing of SF was in the
19th century: a story not only of the future but also about space travel written and
published in rural New Zealand and one that fits into the tradition of those more
important contemporary authors whose utopias and SF revealed a distinct New Zealand motif
and thrust, such as Samuel Butler, Jules Verne, and Anthony Trollope.
In both The Great Romance (GR) and Looking
Backward (LB) the narrator (John Brenton Hope3 in GR, Julian
West in LB) awakes after a long sleep—193 years for Hope, 113 years for West.4
When Hope awakens, he sees a strange man staring at him who appears to be a "mesmerist"
(312); West was put to sleep by a "mesmerist" (ß2:35). Each narrator falls in love with
a woman named Edith, in GR the sister, in LB the daughter of the man present
at his awakening. Hope's Edith "swept completely all other thoughts or imaginations,
joys, or sorrows, from my heart" (316). West describes his Edith as "the most beautiful
girl I had ever seen" (ß4:46). Each Edith is a descendant of a friend of the
protagonist: Edith Leete is the great grand-daughter of West's 19th-century
Edith Bartlett; Edith Weir is descended from John Malcolm Weir, Hope's closest friend in
his earlier life. And for each narrator his Edith and her friends serve as his cicerones
in the future world.
A further likeness between GR and LB,
though one common to utopian tales of the future, is that for both authors the future
assumes the millennium-like dimensions of a golden age. The cities of the future are
depicted as the apotheosis of an urban planner's dream. When Hope is shown the urban
landscape of the 22nd century for the first time, he sees "an immense city. The streets
were as thickly peopled as the old London streets, but they were four times their width,
and planted with trees along either side" (318). West's description of Boston in the year
2000 is similar: "At my feet lay a great city. Miles of broad streets shaded by trees and
lined with fine buildings...stretched in every direction" (ß3:43).
Where the two works differ, however, is in
intent. While the author of The Great Romance would appear primarily concerned with
producing an entertaining novelette and possibly a promotional piece aimed at attracting
settlers to New Zealand,5 Bellamy stresses the need for a type of socialist
transformation that would end "the old laissez faire capitalist order," and
transform America "into an orderly society based on cooperation and social harmony"
(Lipow 23). GR, which narrates a flight into the unknown, reads like a fevered
dream or prophetic vision, and at times is reminiscent of Pilgrim's Progress. The
author exhibits a passionate thirst for knowledge and new experience, an "appetite for
the wonderful" (338), an innatus cognitionis amor, like Dante's Ulysses. Rather
than providing answers, however, his novelette is characterized by questions. Bellamy, on
the other hand, after picking up the Inhabitant's dreams and frame story, turns them into
a more concrete and practical reality, his paradise being restricted to Earth, where
progress is achievable and not simply a dream.
Another difference between the two works is the
means by which these utopias come about. Whereas the Inhabitant attributes the rise of
utopia to the advent of telepathy, Bellamy envisions it as the result of "nationalism,"
the peaceful and gradual absorption of the old predatory monopolies into one central
monopoly run by the national government. Telepathy, therefore, plays no part in the
cooperative Boston of AD 2000. Bellamy did, however, credit the rise of a utopian and
harmonious society to telepathy in "To Whom This May Come," published in 1888. In this
story, the shipwrecked narrator is rescued by the telepathic inhabitants of a group of
South Sea islands cut off from the rest of the world by the savage currents in which his
ship went down. Here, as in GR, the fact that one's every thought is public, so
that wicked intentions cannot be concealed, has resulted in everyone's having only
honorable thoughts, or (in GR) in the isolation of those who have socially
undesirable motives or intentions (314, 323). In both stories, the telepathic utopians are
friendly, white, intelligent, and handsome. And here again the narrator finds both a
friendly guide to educate him in the ways of the society and a beautiful woman to love and
return his love.
That the writing of GR was influenced by
Bulwer-Lytton's The Coming Race (1871) is evident in the scene (339) in which
Moxton uses "magnetism" to control the movements of a stick; this is reminiscent of the
rod used in The Coming Race to control the power of vril. Susan Stone-Blackburn,
who discusses the treatment of psi powers in The Coming Race in her "Consciousness
Evolution and Early Telepathic Tales," calls Bellamy's story "a trailblazer in its
exploration of effects telepathy might have on society, and in its suggestion that under
special conditions evolution might distill ancient and genuine but sporatic and unreliable
human psi abilities into universal and reliable ones" (247). It should now be evident
that the trail was blazed not by Bellamy in 1888 but by The Inhabitant in 1881.
In the history of SF, then, The Great Romance
forms a bridge between Bulwer-Lytton's The Coming Race and Bellamy's "To
Whom This May Come."
Bellamy scholars (including his biographer Arthur
E. Morgan) have suggested that Bellamy may have borrowed some of his ideas for
Backward from John Macnie's 1883 dystopian novel The Diothas, written after The
Great Romance and before Looking Backward. Similarities between Macnie's and
Bellamy's work, however, would appear much more tenuous than those between The Great
Romance and Looking Backward.6
At this juncture the question arises as to how
Bellamy came across The Great Romance, for he never visited New Zealand. It is
possible that someone visiting New Zealand brought back to America a copy that eventually
made its way into Bellamy's hands—and it is even possible that the publisher sent
copies of the book to American publishers for possible reprinting or distribution. It is
also possible that someone will some day come across notices of the book in some American
or British periodical.
2. The Work Itself. The Great Romance is
unusual among SF works of the time in being primarily an adventure story and in being
science-fictional from the outset. The story begins not in the time of author and reader,
1881, but in a scientifically advanced 1950. The potion that puts Hope into a state of
suspended animation,7 which he enters in order to experience for himself
whatever the future might bring, has been concocted by "John Malcolm Weir, the greatest
chemist of his day" (312). In addition, the Hope of 1950 is a renowned scientist whose
concepts have been, at least in part, responsible for the technological developments that
have led to the world of 2143: "You first started the mechanical world on this new track.
You found out the power which so swiftly drives us through the air and over the earth..."
The society described in GR is unusual,
though hardly unique in 19th-century SF, in that it is a free-love society: "law and
ceremony and promise are hardly needed now" (322). Whereas sexuality in any physical
sense never influences the behavior of West and Edith Leete, it does affect that of Hope
and Edith Weir: "It was with us, then, like Danty's [sic] lovers, when they ceased to
read of the loves of Launcelot and the Queen" (323). When Hope is about to embark for
Venus, he wonders whether Edith will "follow me to this new world, or had I had my day,"
remembering "the happy hours, those dumb, unspeakably double sweet moments, that had
swept over us, when we drank to its dregs the cup of pleasure," and longing for
ties—even the prejudice, that would have bound her to me for good or ill" (324).
The Great Romance is perhaps most
interesting for its depiction of space travel. While a number of space-travel stories were
published earlier, there was perhaps only one, Percy Greg's Across the Zodiac
(1880), which provided so detailed and extensive an account of the problems involved. The
author's vision of the shape of things to come includes accounts of the absence of gravity
on a spaceship and the need to exercise to prevent muscle fatigue, the problem of meteor
damage to a ship (avoided by Star Climber's having a defensive cannon powerful
enough to destroy a moon), possible regions in space through which passage would disable a
spaceship, the need for a cooling device on board to prevent damage from the extreme heat
generated by a planet's atmosphere during entry, the use of a planet's or moon's rotation
and/or atmosphere to increase or decrease a space vessel's speed, initial landings in a
planet's ocean (reminiscent of America's manned capsules returning to land in the Pacific
or Atlantic), the problems of monotony and fresh air on a long space voyage, reasons as to
why Venus is chosen over the moon as a destination for the voyage (there is no atmosphere
on the moon and apparently one on Venus), and the description of Venus from space
moon at three-quarter's full" (331), strikingly reminiscent of today's popular television
images of the view of Earth as seen from space. One other interesting point is that the Star
Climber is driven not by the anti-gravity almost universal in 19th-century spaceships,
but, while in an atmosphere, by metallic wings that, like a hummingbird's, flap so rapidly
that they can't be seen and, when additional velocity is needed in space, by
Finally, it should perhaps be noted that The
Great Romance seems to be the first draft of an unfinished story, for the
title page calls it "VOL 1," the dedication speaks of "THE VOLUMES OF THE GREAT ROMANCE," and it
ends abruptly with Hope's exploration of Venus.
NOTES. I am grateful to the staff of the
Alexander Turnbull Library for their permission to copy the work and to have it reprinted.
I should also like to thank David Hamer, R.D. Mullen, and Lyman Tower Sargent for their
valuable suggestions during the preparation of this article.
1. See A.G. Bagnall, ed. New Zealand National
Bibliography to the Year 1960 (Wellington: A.R.Shearer, 1969). The book has been
recently added to the copy of Lyman Tower Sargent's bibliography deposited in the Turnbull
2. The Dunedin title leaf was printed at the
"Daily Times" office, the Ashburton at "The Guardian" office. Bagnall, having also
examined the copy in the Turnbull Library, gives the place of publication as Ashburton
without explanation for the discrepancy in the title pages. Since the Dunedin title is
printed on yellow paper whereas the paper of the Ashburton title and the rest of the book
is white, and since nearly all the advertising is for Ashburton business firms, it seems
probable that the Turnbull copy was printed entirely at Ashburton and that there was a
special issue for Dunedin with different advertising as well as a different title page.
Since there is no "All rights reserved" on either title leaf, and no listing of the book
in either the British Museum or Library of Congress catalogue, the book was apparently not
registered for copyright.
3. So it is on page 318; on page 331 it is John
4. The stories differ in that, whereas Julian
West's long sleep was private and unintentional, Hope's was public and purposeful (see
below, the first paragraph of section 2). The story of Graham, in H.G. Wells's When the
Sleeper Wakes (1899), resembles West's in that his hundred-year sleep was
unintentional, but Hope's in that his body during his sleep was carefully guarded and in
that his awakening was an event of public significance.
5. The Great Romance is also a good
example of a sub-genre of utopian literature in New Zealand with its own promotional
and/or reformist agenda, one designed either to attract emigrants to the supposedly
Arcadian lands to be found in the Antipodes or to advance the benefits of political or
social legislation. The reader has simply to substitute the advanced but overcrowded
utopia of Earth in the 22nd century with that of Europe in the late 1870s, and then
replace the descriptions of the vast and supposedly uninhabited lands of a Venus rich in
wildlife and natural resources with either New Zealand or Australia, for the booster
intent of the novelette to become readily apparent. The Inhabitant, in fact, has even
included kangaroos as one of the exotic animal species on Venus (338). (The Inhabitant,
however, was not the only SF author during this period to depict an alien world with such
creatures, as kangaroo-like animals also appear to thrive on the planet Mars in Percy
Greg's pivotal 1880 work entitled Across the Zodiac.) It is interesting to note
that, in The Inhabitant's discussion of the possibility of intelligent alien life on
Venus, he surprisingly concludes that humanity would leave the planet alone if such a
condition were the case. The Inhabitant says that Earth people will instead have to seek
another world to colonize (331). Such an enlightened point of view contrasts remarkably
with the actual European colonization of the Americas and Australasia, which were already
inhabited and whose indigenous people were either displaced or eradicated.
6. According to Morgan, in both The Diothas
and Looking Backward, "the device of hypnotism was used" and "the hero had a
sweetheart named Edith. On awaking from the long sleep in each case the hero fell in love
with a distant descendant of 'Edith.' In each case, too, the father or guardian of the
heroine, a man of exceptional intelligence and culture, became interpreter of the new
world to the hero who had emerged from the nineteenth century. Each of the works forecasts
radio, television, automobiles, and other technical developments..." (241). See also page
46 in Thomas's introduction to LB (Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward 2000-1887,
ed. John L. Thomas [Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 1967]). The
possibility that Macnie himself was influenced by The Great Romance
cannot be excluded at this point. Certainly he was familiar with New Zealand,
for he devoted a great deal of space to the material progress which the
Antipodes were supposed to have made over the course of the centuries and refers
to New Zealand (which he has given the new name of "Maoria") many times. In fact, the protagonist of The Diothas from the
future—Ismar Thiusen—is from the North Island of the country (58).
7. The Great Romance may well be the first
story in which a person travels into the future via induced suspended animation rather
than simply by sleep: none earlier is mentioned in Bleiler.
Bellamy, Edward. Looking Backward,
2000—1887. 1888. NY: New American Library, 1960.
Whom This May Come." The Blindman's World and Other Stories. By Bellamy. Boston, 1898.
389-415. The story also appears in H. Bruce Franklin's Future Perfect (1966) and
Arthur O. Lewis's American Utopias (1971).
Bleiler, Everett F. Science-Fiction: The Early
Years. Kent: Kent State UP, 1990.
Lipow, Arthur. Authoritarian Socialism in
America: Edward Bellamy and the Nationalist Movement. Los Angeles, 1982.
Macnie, John. The Diothas. 1883. New York:
The Arno Press, 1971.
Morgan, Arthur E. Edward Bellamy.
Stone-Blackburn, Susan. "Consciousness
Evolution and Early Telepathic Tales." SFS 20:241-50, #60, July 1983.
NOTES FOR THE TEXT. The text that follows is a
letter-for-letter, point-for-point reproduction of the original. The spelling, in which
there are some variants (especially with ere) is untouched. But a few changes have
been made, and there are other matters perhaps worth noting here.
312, line 22. out?" > out"?
313, line 26, others > other's
314, line 4. others > other's
314, line 16. "Ah, yes"—I said to my
father—"It were better." > "'Ah, yes'—I said to my father—'It were
319, line 15. "Then > Then
320, line 7. "look," > look,"
320, line 13. down. > down."
320, line 24. She > "She
320, line 27. guided should perhaps be glided
320, line 43. "Weir > Weir
323, line 18. Danty's [sic]
323, line 34. laws." > laws?"
324, line 28. The sentence John Weir, the father
of the second man, I saw when awakened, came in to see me in the evening should probably
read John Weir, the father of the first man I saw when awakened, came in to see me in the
324, line 37. Schyler should probably be Schiller
325, line 4. distruction [sic]
325, line 35. my own our thoughts [sic]
326, line 14. not on empty feat should perhaps be
not an empty feat
326, line 26. principle [sic]
327, line 9. loosing [sic]
327, line 35. satillite [sic]
327, line 42. whiles [sic]
329, line 22. griping should perhaps be gripping
331, line 6. store. > store."
335, line 33. carreering [sic]
336, line 36. Eve. > Eve?
337, line 31. dust. > dust."
337, line 44. month [sic]
339, line 23.
The Great Romance
By The Inhabitant
A TALE WILDER
THAN POET EVER DREAMED!
YEA, STRANGER THAN
THE VISION OF
TO JOHN KEATS,
TO WHOSE MEMORY
THE VOLUMES OF THE GREAT ROMANCE ARE
O, thou whose voice, as from the setting sun,
As from the land where old gods deathless
Poured in my heart like an Archangel's trump,
Wakening a deathless memory, which to-day,
The offspring of past blisses and deep joys
Unto the outer air doth feebly cry.
O, hush in billowy volumes, low and sweet
As love and birth, passion and strange pain mixed
The sound doth creep, yea folds me round
As I have felt, when past the light of day,
The darkness dumbly creep into my brain,
A prelude dim and strange as of eternal sleep.
CHAPTER 1. "What is it" I
I awoke and tried to collect my thoughts. Before
me stood a man; I don't like to confess it, but a glance told me a much better man than
I was just awakened. Then gradually there stole
into my mind the past facts.
"What year is it?" and the man lifted his eyes
and looked straight into mine. Was he a mesmerist? Something from his look seemed to
wander around my brain and try to find an entrance.
"Two thousand one hundred and forty-three," I
said. A ridiculous guess, I thought at the same moment.
Again the man lifted his eyes, and before I could
think again I said to myself, "You are right."
I was abashed, and turned my eyes to the ground.
Then it all came back to me.
In the year one thousand nine hundred and fifty
my dearest friend, John Malcolm Weir, the greatest chemist of his day, had given me the
sleeping draught: it should tie up the senses—life itself—for an indefinite
period; and when the appointed years were over life might again be awakened.
Yes, I recollect, I was depicted in Punch as the
"Sleeping Beauty," just a week or two before I went off.—Yes, and John Weir on the
next page, drinking the elixir of life, while, with his finger on his nose, his thumb
pointed me out in the corner.—Yes, Punch started three large-sized engravings just
before. I suppose wit was growing more plentiful. Moxton had the third—great chemist
too—great everything—the philosopher's stone: but that was not so good. Punch
could only write "Coal" on one heap and "Gold" on another. I always advocated his
going into colors; but—what!—did someone speak?—did someone say—
"The one thing we have not yet found
I looked at my companion. He had grand eyes, and
now they were bent on me with a wonderful power and interest.
"Confound the man, does he think I am a woman?"
My hand naturally sought my chin; the large growth of hair quite relieved me. I looked
again—the man before me looked up. He had evidently been blushing—I looked hard.
Good God! he had no hair on his face; he was very young. His eyes fell to the ground. His
garments were the garments of a man; but— what—I must confess my thoughts did
wander wild. Yet, as my eyes returned and once again met his—yes, his—I knew it
instantly; if I had been sleeping a thousand years I should have known it. If I had been
lying on a couch for ten thousand years I should have jumped up, as I did then, as he
advanced towards me.
"Why will you make me speak?—Why do you
think so animal-like of woman? If you have no curb for your spirit, know that
almost every one you meet can read your thoughts."
We are startled out of exclamation and fear when
some sudden immense fact breaks like light on the mind. I looked hard at my companion as
he stood before me—a wondrous, glorious feeling—awe, benevolence, love,
enjoyment, seemed to come round about me, almost to enter into my life, as I met his
I was on the point of speaking; something—I
cannot recollect what—was rising in my brain, when he again opened his lips;—
"Why do you want to speak?"
I could only gaze in astonishment.
He continued—"I thought it must be so."
Then, in a still sweeter tone, he said—"We do not often speak now;" and, as his
face grew troubled, "Your mind is more than irregular; try to cleanse and calm
it while only I am here; it will hurt you else in after years to think that
others saw it thus. Yes, I believe it would have been better to have made your
sleep death, soon after your friend left this world; but the older men would not
hear of it. You first started the mechanical world on this new track. You found
out that power which so swiftly drives us through the air and over the earth;
so—not to seem ungrateful even to a straying thought, we let you sleep on."
I have many times felt a thrill of pleasure when,
in doubt or difficulty, a trusted friend has taken my hand, and I have been assured that
through everything he would stand by me. But that was but a semblance—a faint
sketch—of the thrill that went through me as my companion stretched out his hand to
me, and a voice seemed to wind round me again, saying—"Think nothing you would be
ashamed to put into words and acts; no, not even in a desert, for, though your friends may
be now on the other side of the world, they may afterwards catch the imprint of your
thoughts." But yet the man was only looking at me.
It was confusing.
I said to him—"How old are you?"
He would not speak, but smiled.
I said to myself—"Twenty-one."
"Yes," he replied, "cannot you think
But as I did not answer, he went on—"We
need not to speak for utility, only when we wish for the melody of the voice; we
can read so well each other's thoughts, conversing for hours, without a word."
"Oh!" said I, "that was one of the
things Punch never thought of, and if he had I don't know how he would have
"Ah, Punch, "said my companion, "An
old, old paper; we keep it going yet, but we have regulated his features
I was still looking at the young man, but as he
mentioned the features of Punch an idea of my own looks stole before me. I was conscious
of ugliness —but I recollect I was not thought an ill-looking man; never saw my bad
These thoughts, though they take time to read,
took no appreciable time to think.
My companion instantly began—"I
beg your pardon, sir—forgive my rudeness."
"What do you mean?" said I.
He answered—"I ought, perhaps, to warn you,
as I think this may be a new trouble. Sir, this time which you have slept has helped on
fast the work on which you must have noticed the beginning; re-cast the human face and
figure—improved it—beautified it." And again the man smiled, with an earnest,
beautiful expression. I doubt not many pleasant thoughts were passing in his mind, but I
could catch none of them. Then he went on—
"You will suffer most from women; when
they see you, often, often, I fear, will their thoughts revert to your
looks—(this young man was just twenty-one)—their minds are less controllable
than man's. If you read our best photographic histories you will learn that when
men began to read each other's thoughts, all thoughts that were not good or
inharmonious had to be banished, at first only with friends, then everywhere.
The man that passed you in the street would turn round to look at you. Then it
was too late, he knew your thoughts. And now no place is safe for any evil; as
your thoughts grow strong—and all evil things do, ere they bloom to
fruition—they get rampant, like a weed in a garden; then some other mind catches
the vibration, and the world knows—crime is almost impossible, for great deeds
of wickedness would appear written on the brain in shining letters. Men have
asked to be destroyed for very shame, men with great minds, too, yet so mixed
with vile relics of the past that they were in a perpetual hell."
I thought, half-bitterly, that I should like to
go to them. I suppose the man read my thoughts, for he seemed to answer them.
"'Ah, yes'—I said to my father—'It
were better."'—"As I looked on you I said—'Ah, why should he ever wake?"'
A cold feeling ran over me as he said these
"But you would not kill a man for
The start, the flush, the look of bewilderment
did me good.
"Kill a man before he wished to die! Do I
interpret your thoughts? Why should we not go back and eat the human flesh, and drink the
blood? Oh, faugh. Do not think thus. Oh, banish that worst relic of the past, that disennobling fear, which has scarce so appeared in the human face this half
century"—he checked himself a little—"at least not among the higher
"But" I said, "Where are those men now?
What did you do with them?"
"Some are yet struggling around this world, some
will even drink of the aqua vitae, like you, they fear to lose their being—it is for
them, however, sad and hard—and they gradually lose respect, for the new generations
are moulded to the present time, beautiful—strong—and I must use for you the old
word, holy. He who outlives nature's limits, except under peculiar
circumstances, is thought to be fearful—a weak man. Yet I tell you this, amongst
the younger men and women, the old idea of perpetual life is reviving, and
although we have never flown beyond this planet, only perfected your thought, we
are dreaming now of other worlds—of Mars and Venus. Could we reach them and
inhabit them life might again increase. I don't think we should feel degraded,
at least for two or three hundred years."
Oh, what a wild hope sprung up in my heart as he
spoke these words. And then he smiled as he continued—
"Some rash philosophers say that we are
perfection, that it was the change from speech to thought that so swiftly
altered the human type; the change from half evil to good, by that made
necessary, which so improved the human features. But all these things we leave
to time, or until another genius like you shall come."
"Sir," I said, "let me think a little." As he
still looked at me—"Leave me; I am amazed by what I have heard."
He said to me—"Though I leave you
I shall be near you; my mind is already strung to your pitch, resounds to your
every thought. I shall know whither your thoughts tend."
I answered—"Though you may—I shall
be to myself alone. I do not yet feel influenced by your mind, except you, as it
were, speak to me."
He closed the light from his face—the
I felt intensely relieved. He gave me a draught
and went out. I drank, and, for the first time since I arose from my long sleep, I seemed
CHAPTER II. I was
alone—thought—the free motion of the brain—began pleasurably to stir within
Weir—yes, if I could only see him now. If he
could only see me.
I can recollect how the old man's hand trembled
as he gave me the last draught, 'twas my death to him. He knew that a few more years would
finish his career, and we had been fast friends so long.
Then—Oh Heaven!—with what vigor the new
thought rushed in—that centuries had passed, that the deed had been done. The old
world was now in the background—all the old faces, friends—gone.
Yet I lived. Alive?—well?—Yes—To
see, to know more than I had ever dreamed of.
I had an intense desire to rush abroad, to see
the men and women.—Glorious—beautiful faces rolled away past me in the stream of
imagination.—To see—everything.—What, I could scarcely conceive.
Yet I would not. I would think first—wait
till I heard more.
My companion's talk had made me feel almost like
a prisoner. I had pictured to myself ere I slept, that my awakening would be like the
crowning of a king; the world would be wondering at it. Yet, now it had come, what was I?
One of those great epochs of time—I might
say the second—had passed over the world.
The first made man a knowledgeable animal, to
know good and evil; the second made him to know not only his conscious self, but also all
others around him; to read their thoughts like open books, and that, in sequence, had
brought on the dream of past time—THE GOLDEN AGE.
Yes—even though there were still amid it
all, those who wished themselves blotted out of existence.—
Surely by this time they should be able to visit
the planets—the little group of worlds swimming, not so far away.
What had my companion said? They talked of it; it
was not done yet, but then he had not told me all.
When I recalled his manner I felt a conviction
that this also was soon to be accomplished, and then! and there! would we find a nobler
race or a wide empty world. Had the creative power chosen this earth alone for its
battle-field, with the dead inertness of matter? Left the rest of the solar system for our
increase, for the increase of those godlike moving beings, where not only dust stood, a
symbol of beauty and life, but where to an immense extent, power was transmuted into
I saw that though I could not read the mind of my
late companion I had been sensibly affected. A semi-knowledge, which was not thought, was
wandering through my brain—a dim, beautiful idea of intense mental pleasure—a
pleasure which made friends happier than lovers;—and, lovers, can you imagine a sea
of glory, a stream of intense moving rapture, yet self-conscious with beautiful calmness
and a delicate unfaltering perception?
My spirit was wondering at its own imaginations.
'Twere good indeed that this people should reach
out to the stars and fill the vacant world with emphatically the Glory of God!
While I was thus thinking a woman opened the door
and stood before me.
I was (that is before I slept) about fifty-six
years old.—I had known women in every form and phase,—in my other life. I had
lived twelve years with one whose features I yet recall blent with a halo of beauty and
kindness; yet this woman swept completely all other thoughts or imaginations, joys, or
sorrows, from my heart; her look—like that one might bend on some noble yet wounded
beast struggling bravely for its life amid pain and partial helplessness. Yet so much
more; I felt huge pulses throbbing about my head, of whose existence I had not been before
She came near to me—she stretched out her
hand, and as I took it, I seemed to begin to know thousands of events, people's acts, some
past, some present, but all indistinct, dim—yet thrilling my heart with exquisite
Moved by instinct, for who could think with such
a face, such eyes, before them?—impelled by instinct, I say, I moved from off the
couch, I know not how, still holding that divine hand, and whether I tried to steal my arm
around her, or kiss as I pressed that hand, or whether either went beyond thought—or
whether both were madly mixed and produced a strange position, I cannot tell; but what I
know is, that that calm, yet intense face looked down on mine, without displeasure, and
the words—"Not yet," like the tones of a bell, fell from her lips.
I think the rush of thought and pleasure took
away all power from me; I sank to the ground, and, with those glorious eyes still bent on
mine, she sat beside me.
Then she began to speak in a wondrous voice,
whose soft tones, though seemingly restrained to a level nigh monotony, roused my spirit
like a song of freedom. During all that low-toned monologue, whose restful words flowed on
in unchallenged certainty, my heart seemed to be moving beneath its old fetters—the
past life—ready to rise and be one with the present, one in the great onward march to
the great future.
"I often saw you sleeping, and read off
the half-effaced thoughts of your past life. Long before you awoke, your brain
would respond to mine, and tell off, though in a broken manner, all your
strongest desires—all your troubled longings; and now, as you begin to see, we
know so much of each other, you may speak without fear of myself—of anybody—of
others—as man would speak to man, or woman to woman, for we read the thought if
we speak not the word, and you must come into this same state of liberty."
Then my heart called out so loudly that she must
have anticipated the spoken words—"If I might but follow so fair a guide till I
could stand in perfect equality on the great plain of this new life; if I
could"—but, ah, my rising spirit fell back as the words—"NOT YET" again
dropped alone in my heart, and her clear liquid eye looked so steadily into mine, that it
fell back in wonderment.
"Listen," she said, and, in what seemed a
secret corner of my heart, the old words—"NOT YET" seemed again to rise, and the
glimmering spark that flitted in her eyes told me she too heard it. That single word
"Listen" seemed to be repeated in my spirit till it calmed it. Then the fair, clear
voice began anew—"The passions, the varied emotions of our hearts have ever been
used to build up the mind and empower the brain. We do not now dismiss or try to conceal
our passions. Women are now educated that their feelings may live in their intensest
strength, but always in fit place, environed with beautiful circumstances." "No," she
said, as answering my thought, "not gold or pearls, and grandeur, but beauty and
pleasure of thought and coalescence of spirit, that could live alone in another
world for years, and yet not weary."
She rose to go, and my heart strove again to
assert itself, and seemed to struggle to grasp some tangible object—to break that
impenetrable calm, and extract—if but one word—from her unguarded heart. But,
held by the spell of her being, it fell back, and, erecting a secret altar within itself,
it there poured out its worship.
But not, as I thought, unknown. Even as she
passed, a strange smile flitted on her features, and the words—"NOT YET" seemed to
ring anew over all my heart. A glorious mocking of my secresy!
CHAPTER III. She was gone, yet her presence
lingered. All the fair beauty of her pure thought, the ideal, the essence of her existence
hung like a glamour over me, and, as after the other visit, I began to be aware of many
things ere this unknown. While she was with me the full tide of her life seemed poured all
about my heart, burying the landmarks of the past, and swallowing up knowledge in emotion.
But now, as I grew calmer, facts and incidents sprung up in my brain—knowledge that
came as a dream, I knew not how. Were these things true? Or was my amazed soul beside
itself? Were these indeed—Alfred Malcolm Weir and Edith Weir—brother and sister,
and the descendants of my best friend? and had they, while watching over me as sacred
dust, read my thoughts? Yes, here at least I could recollect Edith Weir had said as much.
Oh, Pride! Ambition! Glory! What are ye all when friendship and trust draw nigh and
breathe upon the shipwrecked solitary spirit? Not more does the escaped mariner rejoice in
the safety, the warmth, the comfort of the house of refuge, than did my naked soul—as
it seemed to escape from the perilous exposure, and find in this relationship a cloak, a
shelter, a refuge from its pitiless eye of the great world. Ah, yes—did I belong to
another age? and was my spirit old, and gnarled, and full of crooked ways? Give me but a
vision of that sweet face, and what else in my heart could be seen or known? What of any
hatred or malice, or any uncharitableness, even by an eye Almighty, and rising up like
little knobs left by the retreating waters, other thoughts appeared.
They, the people of the new world, knew this, and
for this reason had that fair face looked so often on my sleeping features, had her strong
soul so often tried to wind itself about the convolutions of my half-frozen brain. And,
perchance, for this—but, ah! how dim and shadowy grew this imparted knowledge
now!—for this,—she would be ever with me, and all her love be mine, to guide and
comfort me, and make my coming life glad as that of those I should dwell among. And though
it came from farther than an echo, "faint as the faintest breath on polished stone," it
was indeed "a chance that would redeem all sorrows." Pay—ah, doubly pay—for
all the risk and dangers past. If it might be!
I was walking up and down in my apartment, still
filled with my surging thoughts, when the man who first awakened me again came nigh.
I hear a knock at the door; I cry "Come in,"
and there we stood, with a new sense of relationship, face to face.
"Ah! I see," he said, "what you are
thinking of. I am very glad that our relationship gives you some pleasure—'tis
something like the trust and confidence we have in each other now. But you have
not yet seen the outer world. Come."
I followed him outside. We seemed to be in the
midst of an immense city. The streets were as thickly peopled as the old London streets,
but they were four times their width, and planted with trees along either side. And then
the flying machines!—my eyes were ever straying aloft—they were sailing like
swallows in the summer afternoon, beautifully shaped, glittering in the light. My
companion turned to me. "Yes, they look well. I think we beat the birds now, in
command, as well as in pace; but still the old principle holds good. You are in
front of the time there."
Of course I accepted this with a graceful bow.
But young Weir (for thus I began already to think of my new companion) continued—
"When I look at the sky oftentimes, and think
that but for you, we might be yet grovelling on the earth, but for you, horses or men, or
cumbrous steam might be yet painfully turning up the hard earth, and reaping the scant
harvest, I wonder the world in general does not rise up and give you an ovation—show
at least that they are not forgetful of those who thought and worked long ages ago. But
here comes Moxton; let me introduce him."
Then I, John Brenton Hope, almost wished myself
asleep again. I did. They looked at each other. I knew they were speaking; but that was
not the thing that went into my heart. Up rose before me the woman's face I had seen,
Edith Weir. I seemed to hear her name—I saw her—through Moxton's presence.
He looked out so hardly and proudly that minute,
as though he would crush remorselessly every weak or unlovely thing, even though it were
part of himself—Lucifer, but Lucifer triumphant, and as Byron imagined he would be in
I thought all this and much more in the second of
time ere we were made known to each other. Of course the speaking was a condescension to
my old-world weakness, which I thought they might almost have dispensed with; but was
rather taken aback when Moxton said, as if answering me—
"It were better."
I looked hard at him, as I had looked through
many a man before.
He smiled and said—"I wonder in what manner
we are alike?" Then, as I still gazed—"Edith Weir has taken so much of our
I answered—"Charles Moxton, I do
not quite comprehend all your meaning. I suppose you know all my thoughts. I
only know some of yours, and even those seem to obey different laws, to be
governed by different instincts to those common to the old world."
Alfred Weir interposed—"Moxton, you and
I are the only men Hope has yet conversed with."
Then turning to me—"As soon as you
become a little more accomplished in our language of thought you will read the
laws of morals and manners in the mind of every one you converse with—not that
they are difficult, the negative part is the lack of all you are ashamed of; the
positive, as it is used, runs farther with some than with others."
"But what is this?" I said, as a huge building
caught my eye, supported on pillars like a temple, but that the spaces between the pillars
were filled by huge doors, some of which were open, and some shut. I should not have
noticed it, perhaps, but for its being surrounded by a large open space about a quarter of
a mile in width.
"Oh, the new shed for goods traffic," said
Weir; "let us walk down and see the Aphis start." We passed several of the aerial boats
standing on an inner railway, which circled several times round the enclosure.
In shape and fashion these boats were like the
old blockade runners, their upper lines being as graceful as those of the hull, in fact,
more so, for beneath their symmetry was marred by the wheels on which they ran.
"Yes," said Weir, "if some fellow could get
rid of gravitation we could improve their appearance." Then, as if struck with a sudden
thought, he said—"I say, Charlie, pitch out that stick of yours."
"All right," said Moxton, with a smile; and he
then threw it out twenty yards or so in front of us.
We stopped. The stick rose up and began to come
steadily towards us—it had a curiously carved head and looked like a species of snake
Weir began to laugh, then going slowly toward it,
motioned with his hands to push it back. It was absurd to see the head thrown back by
every pass he made; yet, despite his efforts, it still made way, Moxton standing with just
a touch of Lucifer on his countenance.
"Oh, come on," said Weir, as he came back to
us, and the stick resumed its original motion; but suddenly it was dashed to the ground as
by a gun-shot.
We both of us felt a slight shock.
I simply looked round, but Weir
exclaimed—"I say, Moxton, you are getting as strong as a battery."
Moxton did not answer him, but seemed to be
concentrating his energies.
He said—"Now look."
The stick rose with its point in the air, then,
dashing that to the ground, it came with a bound like a tumbler right into his hand.
"Oh Lord, Moxton," said Weir, as he took the
stick and began facetiously to examine its head, "its eyes are growing, it will begin to
eat next week;—look," he said, handing it to me.
"Is it a trick?" I asked.
"No," answered Moxton, "magnetic power of no
practical use at present. Try it, Weir. That stick," he said, as he handed it to Weir,
"it is like an old violin, constant use has made it more easy to be penetrated
by the magnetic power."
"But," I said, "we both felt the shock
when you dashed it down."
"Yes," he replied with a smile, "all
that you feel was dissipated, lost. But don't be a fool, Weir."
For Alfred Weir, after several vain attempts, had
induced the inanimate bit of timber to follow him, retreating with his face still towards
it, and giving it, as far as he was able, the motions of a frolicksome drunkard. Hearing
Moxton's words, he brought it to grief on a rail in front of us, letting it lay; but I
noticed it rose up by instinct into Moxton's hand as we walked over it.
"Here comes the Aphis," said Weir, as one of
the huge doors rolled up and a beautiful, almost steel-blue vessel, came slowly out.
"She is one of the largest yet built," said Moxton, as four immense pinions pushed themselves out from each side of the vessel. They
shook the air for an instant with a tremulous motion, then poised themselves as the Aphis
slowly guided off on an outside track, which I could now see running round the enclosure.
The wings remained poised, but the vessel's speed increased continually, so that ere she
had travelled a mile she must have been going at the rate of a hundred miles per hour. As
she again neared us, I saw her wings moving again faster and faster till the points faded
from sight, and the whole pinion resolved itself into a flutter of air close to her body.
Then she lifted herself steadily upwards, propelled forward as yet by her attained motion.
"Now she has her full swing," said Moxton, as
the vibratory motion at her sides seemed suddenly to lengthen, and, even at our distance,
we could see her dash forward with an immense accession of speed.
"You could almost visit a planet in a boat like
that," said Moxton. "Yes," answered Weir, "that is what I proposed, but Moxton
is afraid we should use him up as motive power if anything broke down or wore
out. The only reason, I assure you, that kept us from starting."
Moxton observed, in a
"to-those-whom-it-may-concern-manner," that Weir always made bad jokes when hungry.
CHAPTER IV. So their minds are
not always strung up to that intense height of thought—a decided feeling of relief,
of relaxation, had been stealing over me during the walk; the childlike fun of my friends
seemed to give me more assurance than I could have gathered even from a perfect knowledge
of their thoughts. The only thing that disconcerted me was Moxton saying, with his
eyes—"Yes, men play now, and children think."
I had enough wit left, however, to say in the
same manner—"Then, to which class do you belong?"
"We are as yet betwixt either."
And I knew there were further thoughts in his
mind, which, perhaps, he did not intend me to catch, of how I was standing betwixt the old
and the new, and, though living in the new world, only half its child—half pained, my
eyes strayed to Alfred Weir; there, too, the same strain of thought was playing. The face
that looked on mine as when I first wakened.
Moxton broke up the reverie, "Suppose
we go for your sister, Weir, and you dine with me?"
We agreed; and, hailing a carriage, we rolled
swiftly away to the outskirts of the city.
What a brightness seemed to infuse itself around
us with her presence—each heavy thought, each hard, out-stretching idea, was put far
away, a sweet pure stream of bright ideas, interspersed with words, musical and beautiful.
And, though she gave by far the larger part of her attention to Moxton, there was what may
be best described as a steady current of serenity flowing continually from her head to
mine, and again I was aware that my appreciation of it heightened her enjoyment.
But if Edith Weir shed light around her, Lucy
Moxton seemed to bring us into the region of sunshine;—like the angels of life and
death. When her brother introduced her to me, he, dark and tall, with every motion
indicating power, her beautiful hair and sunlit face—yet, no—not life and death,
but love amd death—for Edith Weir was yet the embodiment of life to me—my
I sat beside Lucy Moxton during that long and
happy dinner hour, drinking in her flowing, bubbling thoughts, and rejoicing in her happy
"The old world was not so bad if all
the men were like you."
I could not but rejoin, "The new world was
indeed a paradise if all the women were"—but I did not even in thought conclude the
sentence, and she knew the "you" was inclusive.
I described to her John Malcolm Weir and Wilsdon
Moxton, whom I had known, ah, far better than I knew her brother and Alfred Weir.
The summer evening air stole in through the long
open window—the level sunshine seemed to be caught and broken in the rustling leaves;
to be born in to us among the faint sounds they awakened, and to mingle with the fine
pleasure that, like an atmosphere, enveloped us.
As I look back on this time through the halo of
time and the immense distances of space, on the old, new world, thronging with its almost
glorious inhabitants—I wonder and try to forecast the future, my thoughts circling
out in wider ranges, till the life of the universe and the mastery of creative power
seemed only akin to the distant circling system, and almost within our grasp.
That was a strange evening. I remember walking
out into the fairy-like garden with Lucy Moxton, while she told me some of the many
incidents that passed in my sleep—how many had at first gazed at me; how unwise
imitators had fallen through to the unawaking sleep; how it had been made criminal to give
the draught of sleep; the names of great men; the coalescence of nations, the final
triumph of sense over brute force; till, in a soft, low voice, how Edith Weir with herself
had watched the living relic of the past, and tried to read the last thoughts imprinted on
the brain, of which, by the way, she startled me by saying—"We formed a chart, which
I will show you some day"—she repeated what I knew so well, of the affinity which
they had discovered between the mind of Edith and my own, and then I remember walking in
the holy twilight, the dim, beautiful glow, till the face of my companion seemed to be
fading in the long distance, the darkness to creep into my brain. I seemed to feel it
numbly as a noiseless prelude to death, and only saw among it, like a star, the face of
Edith; then it closed over me.
CHAPTER V. But with the breaking
day again came the full tide of sensation—'twas not so much the body as the brain,
the press of ideas, the tide of thought, and then, perhaps, it was but that the meats and
wines were not such as we used two hundred years ago.
Yet even as I became conscious, almost at once I
heard a chorus of voices, and down the street came chaunting a troop of girls. In the
clear morning air, in the delicious breeze—had I slept, and dreamed of
yesterday!—had I awakened a thousand years back in this world's history, such
beautiful youth seemed not to belong to dreams of philosophy and the latter days. Yet they
did. And many a morning since have I hovered in my aerial boat over the great city, and
seen the troops of men and maidens, who would sing as they passed to their labors, strong
and joyous with an intense vigor, that only required restraint. For, as I quickly saw, a
few years' work in the early years of life sufficed to keep the world full and plenteous
of all store, and many wrought on, some for pleasure, some ambition, and some for gain.
And, though millions thronged the vast pleasure-grounds of Europe, and cities grew out
like countries, there was enough, plenty, and as provision for inclement seasons, such
immense stores that never were dreamt of in other days; but this is all what I saw and
gathered later, and when rolling over the fertile plains of Africa, or watching the Amazon
with its myriad streams.
I was for an hour with Edith that morning. She
told me much concerning the social welfare of that day. She said "You do not
seem quite to understand that law and ceremony and promise are hardly needed
now—should a man deceive a woman not one in all these throngs you see would
speak to him, whilst she would receive daily comfort; then each one marries
It was strange to see the frank smile which made
the blush pleasurable as the young girl told me of all these things.
"But do you take one another for better or
worse, richer or poorer?"—she knew the rest, and said with a smile that seemed to
becalm my brain—
"Sometimes—the struggle for existence is
really ended, and so much sweetness fills every relation of life, that the old sins and
sorrows are gone; except"—she stopped. The first cloud I had seen swept over her
brow,— "there are some like the monks and nuns of old. They are not closed
in by walls or pointed out by garments; they wander among the crowd; but they
are bound by the voice of the world—they have no interest in the future, nor
could they hardly wish to perpetuate their own existence."
Then I said to her—"This opening
of the gates of thought has not swept away all weakness or unworthiness."
She looked one of those strange looks—"Do
you understand impossibility. Can thought give you six fingers, or take away an inherited
disease or deformity?"—but she continued "They have pleasure to the full,
and though they have sympathy from the rest of the world, they oftener draw
together. Their joy is wilder, but it seems to us like that of a drunkard."
It was with us, then, like Danty's lovers, when
they ceased to read of the loves of Launcelot and the Queen. "Our eyes oftentimes grew
together," could it be possible that we should simply clasp hands and she would be
mine,—but she went away with a laugh, seeming to fling back on me a shower of
thoughts—of stolen waters—and old world gallantries.
Then she came back and looked at me till a thin,
freezing fear crept like despair around my heart.
As I looked on her glorious form and triumphant
features, the thought of my own meagre body and my face like that of one of those who are
not fit for the battle of life, filled all my mind; but she came and gave me her hand as
she had done when first awakened, and then I doubly knew and felt and believed all her
goodness, and in her thoughts I read that had the social decree doomed me to remain with
the things of the past, doomed me never to mingle my own life with present and future,
then other than her brother would have met me wakening, other than herself would have
gazed on me sleeping.
"Yes, I was content, but did no one
break these unwritten laws?"
"But rarely, and then they are put out of the
commonwealth and live amongst those nations not yet incorporated in the kingdom of
thought, the Hottentot, the degraded Negro, and the great border land of
"And are there many of these?"
"Yes, in numbers, but in proportion we
are ten to one, and soon shall be a hundred."
As I talked with her, she seemed not so much the
glorious creature of the new world, but a maiden with a strong, true mind, in whose love
one could be—oh, how wonderfully—at rest, for before the morning was far gone,
her brother and Moxton came for me.
CHAPTER VI. The fertile
brain—the power to do—next only to the power to be; that which guided the world
a thousand years ago would guide it now. Were Shakespeare or Darwin now alive, still
striding before the mass of humanity, their great minds would cast into farther recesses
the rays of human knowledge. So I thought on the eventful morning—not yet a year
above ground, for I seemed truly to be alive again, and was I—I—once again to
launch the world into another cycle of progress—or was it madness— should we go
wandering on in the pathless places of eternity. Should we meet the God of the Universe as
we went out between the planets—wonderful—more wonderful than were the present
men and women to me and my eventful awakening.—Then a host of details
intruded—the expansive force of an atmosphere when in space. The greatest time we
would supply ourselves with oxygen—down to the number of revolutions our winged
wheels would make in space; and whether it would be safe to use the Yankee Eternal
Lubricator—or yet again—would she follow me to this new world, or had I had my
day, the greatest reward this world could offer, and now its vastest tomb.
I thought of the happy hours, those dumb,
unspeakably doubly sweet moments, that had swept over us, when we drained to its dregs the
cup of pleasure, and her hand seemed ever to fill it again, I longed for the old
ties—even the prejudice, that would have bound her to me for good or ill. Yes, I
longed passionately to return again to the old delicious bondage.
Yes, we all know it, this old longing for
childhood's day again. Anything to be at rest, when tired with the upward
struggle—and the upward struggle with me had been long—yet could I be so selfish
as to wish even for a moment that she should share the danger, the hardships of the first
But why delay the coming moment? Three of us,
Charles Moxton, Weir, and myself, were soon to start on that most eventful voyage.
John Weir, the father of the second man, I saw
when awakened, came in to see me in the evening.
"Well, Hope, you are a fool," he said.
"When there are hundreds of useless, dull-brained animals whose loss would be no
detriment to anything, you must go and immolate yourself before the golden idol
I reminded John Weir that I had once before done
the same thing, and had arisen like a phoenix.
"Yes," he replied complacently, "death is
fire, a whirlpool which sucks in all, but gives it not back.
There is an old legend of Schyler's, of the youth
who plunged into the whirlpool for the golden cup of the king—he came back again with
the cup, but when he attempted the feat a second time"—
"I know," I said, "but I thought it was
your opinion that nature should take her course, and that we old world
inhabitants should make room for the younger race."
"Yes," he said, "that is it, that is what you
are struggling for, you are afraid to let nature take its course, you are strengthening
your body with the perpetual elixir, forgetting the terrible struggle that may come on
between life and death, forgetting even your disadvantages of form and face when compared
with the present race, hoping to give yourself a right to perpetual life, hoping I know
not what, some wild dream of founding another world in the distant planets, taking your
own genius and two or three of the first men amongst us to certain distruction."
I looked at John Weir, and innumerable thoughts
came crowding over me—weird, vague, intense, yet so thick, so fantastic, that I
myself could not assimulate them.
"Yes," I repeated in my own mind, "even your
form and face proclaim your disadvantage with the present race." I knew well he was
thinking of his son and daughter, but not more vividly were their faces engraved on his
memory than on my mind.
We sat and thought against each other. I of those
men and women whose younger life I loved so well, whose aspirations seemed to touch a
perpetual fountain in my breast, of the vast outlook of the future, the intense joys of
which the human heart is capable; but during all the time I was aware of the strong
counter current of idea. The strong noble mind which willingly, firmly, resigned, its
entirety, satisfied to cease to be. The gravity in all its beauty which lingered so long
in the features of the sphinx, and seemed to live anew in Grecian art, settled down on
John Weir's countenance, as the full force of the idea swept from him to me. Then the
thought rose up and seemed to cry aloud within me, as in revolt from the known sentence of
his law. It was but an hour ago and your greatest wish was peace and perfect rest.
What a grim, powerful smile illumining the old
man's features as in his eyes this but weak thought like a crying child arose.
Yes, you allow yourself to be flattered by your
own mind, the wish for certain life and pleasure is put in the balance against the
strength to resign, all and yet be calm, and not self-complacent.
I felt beaten back like one who would leave a
desolate island, yet wave after wave leaves him exhausted on the beach. Yet even in the
moment, something—that unknown power which rises up with a resistless energy and
assures us of victory—awoke and began to move. I felt the light break on my face and
fall into the old man's eyes, before ever articulate thoughts were formed.
To leave this greatest act to dull-brained fools,
and my own our thoughts to be wrought out by a stranger, to wait at home and count
death—to send out on the wildest and furthest voyage ever dreamt of by man, those men
of the present whose later birth had brought them nearer to the eternal harmonies.
Yes, John Weir, though heaven and earth be now
against me, I will see through my latest and brightest thought. I know the future will be
for me, and if in yon world afar I can attain that endless being, which the present race
seem to think me unfitted for, who, even in thought, can there render me aught but homage.
"Yes—yes, so far 'tis well. 'Tis a
noble thing for the caterpillar to live all through the summer, but can he
refrain from envying the butterfly?"
And as he left, the looks of the girl and her
father were mingled together in my spirit—I thought of the hour when first watched by
those eyes that looked too deeply into mine. I saw as in a dream through the countless
ages, the eternal warfare of matter with spirit, the intensity of impossibility, and again
I wished I had never awakened.
CHAPTER VII. We had sped around
the world, across oceans and continents, we had wandered away into space till the world
looked dim and luminous. We had performed the greatest feat of the age, we had voyaged
round the Earth's only satellite—ours was not the first, nor had ours like the others
been only frought with barren honor as we sailed slowly round that minature globe, whose
frost and sunshine and lifeless air we could not for a moment breathe, or live in.
All our thoughts were turned to the future, to
our great attempt—not on empty feat, but the opening of a new world—bringing
another planet beneath the sway of human intellect, perhaps to find another form of
god-gifted life beings who were not human, yet—yet—yes, what could they be in
form and feature. I—Moxton and Weir—for five months we should be rushing through
space—a second ark—would it carry life to another world? Should we reach Venus,
I had intended to stay while Moxton and Weir returned. Not that I wished—as old John
Weir had hinted—to bring a second time the golden cup of life from the whirlpool of
the unknown. We had each and all volunteered, and I was chosen—my two comrades would
return. Then Weir would lead the second voyage—and were it practicable Edith and Lucy
Moxton would come with others. The boats for the second voyage now were far advanced, e'er
the first one left the earth.
Our greatest danger lay in the meteors—the
principle streams that circulated round the world were pretty well known, but should all
that immense space be strewn with them— 'twould add another danger. We had
established an intense magnetic current in the Star Climber—for that was her
name—so that any metallic aerolite would so affect our boat and be, unless very
large, so affected itself, that a collision was at all events placed farther off. Thus, if
you raised the Star Climber steadily on her third pair of pinions, or hovers, as they were
named—say with her head to the north—she would spring backward at the rate of
fifty miles an hour. Stop her and turn her round she would be at the North Pole in twelve
hours. This, however, was nothing to our intense motive power. Fancy a humming bird five
hundred feet long of burnished silvered steel. You may then begin to comprehend what the
Star Climber was like. She was truly a glorious boat. Her main pinions ninety feet long,
whose slowest motion was after the first five seconds invisible, whose fine steel
feathered points and edges, though more delicate than the most fragile fan, could not even
be bent by the human hand, yet such was their flexibility and temper, that the last ten
feet, the real pinion, was packed in a box scarce double the old fashion pillbox.
We never expected to use a hundredth part of our
power. Once into space, our acquired motion would not need augmenting till we came within
the attraction of some other planet. Yet here lay our danger: we might perish miserably on
some large but airless planet as the mad voyagers DeReef and Frenzy did on the moon. In
vain their wings fanned the resistless air. They could spring from the ground, their
momentum carried them a few hundred yards upwards, then slowly the gravitation of the
little orb drew them back. The thin air was poisoned for them. With a third part admixed
they could scarcely breathe; with all their powers exerted they just hovered; the meagre
atmosphere, did not extend three hundred yards, in that they could move, although but
slowly, after once loosing their acquired, momentum. But of that they could not rise.
The wreck lies yet in one of the deep craters in
the North Eastern Hollow. There, with their patent air supplyers they walked out, trying
to find material to re-supply their oxygen; and had they been as clever as they were
daring I believe they could have existed for months; but with little practical knowledge,
they soon saw their helplessness, and ceased to strive. Moxton was with the party who
found and buried them, and he took us down to see the place.
"A grave in the moon," with a huge natural
tombstone of black rock above it, and deeply engraved their names and cause of death.
Moxton said he thought for our benefit, as he
never saw anyone wandering about there, and although we were sure of an atmosphere in
Venus, there might be many unknown causes to drive us out from the new world.
Our offensive powers were certainly enormous. A
cannon or mortar was almost built into the vessel, yet swivel-working with patent
discharge, so that with its mouth in space it could pour forth such an incessant stream of
fierce projectiles as might frighten the boldest adversary; it was also intended to use
also against any small mass we might meet with in space, and last, but not least, as a
motive power if we needed it; its range was between fifty and a hundred miles, and the
explosive strength of the projectile only limited by its proximity of the enemy to
Moxton used to say he could dissipate the moon if
it was worth while, but as that would have necessitated an aerial snagging contract, or
made still more unsafe the interstellar way, we persuaded him to turn his thoughts to
other fields, and let our little satillite still go on its way rejoicing.
We were very happy that last week—I and
Edith—her brother had wild spirits—his caricatures of our party, in which I and
Moxton figured conspicuously, were, as he used to say, "If not heart rending,
"The Star Climber wildly diving through blue ice
for some unattainable South Pole, while Moxton and I with feet firmly planted
were holding her by the rudder."
"Moxton succumbed to Venusian whiles, a
fish like maiden combing his hair—a man fish grim—in the distance."
"Seven years after, John B. Hope, very seedy,
twenty-four young half fish, assorted sizes, two flabby creatures in the rear, he sings
dolefully—'Home, Sweet Home."'
CHAPTER VIII. As the planets
roll in space—as the world turns its varied features to day and to night, with
insensible motion, and as the solar system is swiftly moving in its predistinated
course—noiselessly, silently, without even a rush of air around. So when our little
bark shot into space, the noise, the throng, the sea of faces were gone. The fleet of air
boats which hovered about us so long fell off one by one. We were alone.
Then the throb of our machinery was silenced. We
had left the attraction of the world, had become as it were, an independent atom of the
universe, had joined the grand march in the old world heavens, could see our natal world,
now an orb, hung in the air.
We all knew the sensation—this loss of
gravitation—this general unstability—this strange silentness, had felt it
before. Yet it now seemed to quadruple its force. Perhaps it was the thought of danger,
the knowledge, the realisation of how much, well nigh certain life and happiness; we were
leaving behind, were risking for the air-bubble of fame, futurity. Yet this did not last
long. We wished afterwards it had held us longer. Our brains were tired with the
inevitable inactivity. We were forced to take refuge in work before the first incident
broke the monotony of our journey.
One of us was always in our watch tower, with an
intense electric light ready to turn in any direction, piercing for miles and miles the
wonderful half-lit purple gloom that enveloped us—the gloom that was not darkness,
yet want of light. We could see both the sun and stars shining, yet it was not light. The
want of something to catch and stay those arrowy beams made the realms of space seemed dim
This was the thirtieth day of our journey. So far
everything had prospered—all our machinery worked beautifully. An even temperature,
which did not vary, except at our pleasure; our supply of air equal to that of a new
country, and our speed, as we found from observations, had not slacked since the second
day we left the earth, or since we had been entirely free from its attraction. We had met
no meteor, no aereolite had dashed across our way; both our offensive and defensive
instruments were as when we parted from our last friends, and all our munitions of war
were as yet in full stock. But this day, as I looked out of our watch tower, I saw right
ahead of us, an increase in the darkness—an aerial fog bank—a Magellan cloud;
and as we got nearer it stretched away farther than the eye could see on every side. We
then threw forward the intensest light of our electric lamp—its rays seemed to touch
it and stop, yet we knew from a variety of tests, it (the Magellan cloud) had no
substance—not the least attractive power, and though earlier we could have avoided
this huge—devil—Moxton called it. And, as we afterwards found it—canker in
the universe—this, death of matter—as death here is the death of life. This
unutterable thing, which dissolved all things—everything—not into their original
atoms, but into itself, into vacuity—nothingness. We could have avoided it—but
before we had made up our minds, the intense speed of our noble boat carried us into its
midst, no ray of light pierced it—a sense of unnerving fear swept over us and
vibrated from soul to soul as we found ourselves in this unknown thing.
Moxton was the first to recover himself. He
quickly took our instrument provided for the purpose of testing the exterior air, which
could be thrust out as you push out a telescope, then opened, enclosed a small sample of
the atmosphere and could be withdrawn. This Moxton did and detaching it, placed it in a
glass vacuum chamber, and opened it. But what was our surprise and horror to see a small
black patch float out into the receiver. It's was then Moxton gave it the name—"It's
a bit of that old-fashioned thing," he said,—"the devil." But his eyes were not,
as ours, on the curious little black cloud, but on the outside of the instrument in which
he had caught it. His strong thought dragged our eyes there too;—although it had been
exposed but a few seconds to this infernal gloom, it was cankered, its polished surface
dulled and roughened. We drew down part of our signal staff, which was also of polished
steel. Into it also this infernal atmosphere was marauding, and we comprehended in an
instant our awful danger, for the whole exterior of our beautiful boat must be in the same
manner disintegrating. This unreal blackness must be feeding among all her delicate wings,
weakening each minute her glorious frame. Quicker than any word could be spoken we all
knew our best course—our only hope—Moxton opened the box in which lay the
springs of our defensive powers. "Hold on," he said, then laid his hands on the springs
of our defensive organs—though prepared for the effect, the rebound that in this thin
air would drive us so fiercely onward, and griping was within our reach—both Weir and
I were thrown well nigh the length of the cabin. The constant and enduring recoil of the
perpetual discharge trebly accelerated the Star Climber's speed, and although she weighed,
say a hundred tons, there was absolutely nothing to stop her. For ten minutes did the
smoking stream of fire and noise bellow through, and fight in this horrible
space—then Moxton again touched the handles, and the voice of our deliverer ceased.
The speed we had attained must be frightful, yet the hideous darkness was yet around
us—the minutes seemed hours, for we knew we were going faster than a shot from a gun,
then at the same second the same thought penetrated us. I sprang to our lookout tower,
closing down the outer casement, made haste to disconnect one of the glasses—while
Moxton turned to our stores for a new one—but Weir, though later in thought, was
quicker in action—with a turn of a handle, which was close to us, he sent the
electric current through our outside signal lamp, and as the light came back, blurred and
faint through our roughened half-decayed windows, we knew we were out of that horrible
gloom, for as we entered it Weir had tried this same lamp, but then not one of those
glorious vibrations had come back, all had been quenched by that enemy of nature and life.
We adjusted the new glass, threw back the outer
casement, and there, behind us lay the horror we had passed through—a black fog bank
stretching away on either side farther than the eye could reach, and in height and depth
it filled from Zenith to Nadir the purple Heavens.
This starlit gloom, this mock sunshine seemed now
like a home, we rejoiced and felt safe in it; but, before anything else, we must make
exact observations, and know our rate of speed; also how much we should need to alter our
course, for we were not rushing on to a fixed spot, to an oasis in the desert of the
heavens, but to a wandering star that was here and there, or still farther on, according
to the hour at which you sought it. We could not rush madly on, or we should reach the
place appointed weeks before the planet spun its immense mass thither. It was a long and
anxious time e'er we could say with certainty we were again right, and fix the precise
hour and spot of our meeting ground.
CHAPTER IX. At last it was
done—we knew our position, had replenished our instruments, and ascertained as far as
possible the damage done to the exterior our gallant craft. We had spread out her silvery
wings, and though their beauty was gone, they were practically uninjured. In the air of
the planet we had left I think we could even now go near to five thousand miles per hour,
although their delicate edges were frayed and ragged, just as if we had been in a bath of
some strong acid for ten minutes.
As for our appearance, it must surely be
something like Coleridge's idea of the "Ancient Mariner's" bark. If our sails were not,
our wings certainly were "thin and sere;" and should we again re-visit the glimpses of
our natal moon we might startle more than "the pilot and the pilot's boy."
We were all thinking of our past danger, Moxton
keeping his watch, gazing into the infinite space before him. He suddenly began to give us
the moral of our last danger and escape. "There seems to be no limit to the speed we
might attain in space, and if so, then distance becomes annihilated, and the whole
universe open to us, there are other suns, and doubtless around them systems of planets
such as we find here, but"—here he turned sharply round, "let us examine our friend
the devil." Intimating in this coarse manner his wish to try some experiments on our
little black genii—the handful of cloud we had fortunately secured.
We spent some little time in finding its specific
gravity, or in trying to—but as we might have guessed, like the element it floated
in, it was lighter than the lightest gas. We introduced a little common air, and soon
observed a faint brown envelope all over the black mass, and by the aid of our instruments
a slight sound between crackling and frizzling, evidently some chemical action going on.
After confining our friend in a still smaller
compass we took from our small stock of living creatures a mouse and introduced it; we
might as well have put it into a bath of prussic acid—its death was instantaneous.
The effect on it being much the same as though it had been put through a flame.
To think of a world, like the one we had left,
plunging into such a mass as it came rushing through space. A garden of Eden—a
desolate wilderness—would be nothing to the brightness and beauty and life before,
the canker eaten blackness—the universal death behind. There would be no time for
thought—like a black fogbank it would loom—then sweep over all with awful
swiftness—and amid unutterable darkness the stinging vapor would lap everything to
its destruction—and presently the world would ride forth to the outer day with its
load of lifelessness—and creative work must begin anew.
"But," said Moxton, "perhaps the
envelope of air would protect the planet, and all this destruction be reduced to
a frizzling match some miles above us—in which the ancient deities ought to be
more interested than the mundane inhabitant—all this, however, our little friend
would probably enable us to find out—like the witches of old and all other
scions of wickedness—when caught, a lively time would be in store."
And we, like an earlier-aged pilgrim, went on our
way rejoicing—having, we believed, escaped from our Giant Despair, nearing we hoped,
a better country.
Weir said—"Suppose we find the
Moxton—"Suppose it is inhabited."
I answered—"In that case most of
our hopes will be disappointed—we must seek another planet—for over earth's
over-crowded happiness—perhaps before our search is ended it will lead us even
to another system."
"Yes," answered Weir, "if we return
from this first journey."
For the great globe of Venus was daily growing
larger before us, like a moon at three-quarter's full it now appeared—yet not so
clear as the earth's attendant; with our strongest glasses we could see both mountain,
plain, and water; clouds, too, sometimes could be distinguished, altering the appearance
of whole tracts of country, and making us doubt our geography.
Our spirits grew bouyant, and a strange hope
uplifted us day by day, that our enterprise would be successful—I think we began now
to realise "the wonder of our work." Day had followed day with such unenviable calmness,
as we walked up and down our gangway, but there was always an undercurrent; whispering is
it a reality, or but a dream, are you in the Star Climber amidst boundless space, or are
those centuries of sleep unfinished, and are the dreams in that long night so real, John Bredford Hope.
Moxton and Weir knew all this—far more
satisfactorily than I could gather their thoughts.
Moxton said to me—"You do not lose
much—we are fuller of ideas than thought; our minds are like new wine—strong and
fiery; they want the glamour of age—the charm of long experience."
So we sped on, piercing the boundless, trackless
space, that long purple gloom, where day follows day, and night, night all wrapped in the
same cold sunshine. Since the eternal ages dawned and the vast matter of this universe was
gathered into orbs—those same swift vibrations had rushed through the thin air
carrying heat and life to the bounds of the system.
And were it possible that other vibrations could
travel swifter even than the beams of the sun, unseen yet no less real, I might have said
that from the old world streamed a sweet influence. How well I remember it, as if some
archangel had poured out a vial of sweet peace over my troubled heart. The influence
wrapped and crept like the thickening mist of evening around my spirit, and that night, as
Moxton and Weir slept, was, and is, one of the sweetest I ever lived.
Edith seemed to be always near me in her every
beauty, sweeping all thought and care from the troubled brain, and when that influence
faded like the red in the sunset, an intense peace seemed left. Such a mind as one would
wish the spirit to possess when it quits this body of life, that whether, like a seed cast
off from the tree of Humanity to find a rooting place in some other matter; or to be
wafted, perhaps, on the ocean of infinity through long ages, till it drift ashore in some
other world, and began again to mould the material, by that, which, to our sense, is not,
or like a spark it flitted out in darkness.
The old past days my earliest life all revived
and ran through my brain; but not in wild disorder, the influence in which they moved
never waned, not even the monotonous morning could affect it, though, instead of clouds
and dew and rising light and shadow and mists and an awakening world, the same dreary
night light poured its unvarying sunshine over us, the monotonous air all about us, and
around the nicely finished interior of the Star Climber.
Weir kicked it the other day—wished for a
toothache—said that pain would come to be considered an epicureism—a
dainty—a mental olive. Then sat down and calculated that for more than two full days
we should have to career around our destined landing place. Skimming the thin
air—most likely diving in and out of the atmosphere—getting rid as fast as we
could of our superabundant speed. This was largely owing to our friend of whom we bottled
"But even then," Moxton said "We should
be large gainers. Our increased space having saved us some hundreds of hours,
and as yet given no larger risk."
In truth we had not sighted or felt a
meteor—the chances of meeting one seemed less, than that of a collision between the
water going ships on the ocean.
CHAPTER X. We were old
travellers. We knew the heavenly way; we had e'er this left the attraction of our native
orb; we had seen with wondering eyes another world growing out and becoming immense before
us, till it suddenly filled the whole horizon. We had heard the sharp sounds of the first
thin air as we rushed through it, but that experience did not quiet our beating hearts, as
we eagerly watched for the critical moment, when we must check that headlong plunge which
our vessel would appear to make as the huge force of gravity again enfolded us.
We were fully conscious of, yet not able to
realise the intense speed of our vessel. The pace at which we left the earth might be
roughly estimated at twenty miles per second, not that we moved at that enormous speed in
the earth, but we entered space, not only with our proper motion, but with that of the
world we left added—viz, that mighty speed which annually brings winter and summer,
and carries the earth and all its inhabitants some six hundred millions of miles in the
year, and its smaller, yet not despicable diurnal motion, which might be roughly estimated
at a thousand miles per hour. Of both these motions we were enabled by the course we chose
to take the largest possible advantage, thus we were not laggards, even by comparison,
with the giant orbs we were among. Then our adventure in the Magellan Cloud had superadded
to that enormous speed another speed which we computed to be equal to a third of that
We could not, as I said, realise this intense
velocity so far beyond any terrestrial speed—even that of the ball as it leaves the
cannon's mouth. Yet, the knowledge of it made us doubly watchful to catch the first sign
of an atmosphere, for should we continue this course uninterrupted—like a comet or
falling star—should we blaze up, and either drop on the new world a blot of molten
steel, or be whirled away, blasted and burnt up on a wild comet—like track—to
form, perchance, a study for some latter day Venusian astronomer, as our erratic orbit
brought us again and again within his ken.
When journeying between the earth and moon none
of this fierce speed troubled us, the distance in itself so small (but a two hours'
journey at our present pace), and the fact that the speed of the moon in its orbit is the
same as that of the earth's diurnal motion had greatly helped us.
This new world, too, possessed a moon, but not
such a one as accompanied the earth—smaller, held by a shorter chain, and moving
across the diurnal motion of the planet, while its speed was very large; it would form a
curious study to a gazer on the surface of the new world.
We resolved, however, to make, if possible, some
use of it, for we dreaded the many days which we should need to consume ere we could
sufficiently check our headlong career—to venture into the denser air of Venus.
By creating for ourselves a temporary orbit,
which should at first graze, as it were, the exterior of both orbs (viz.—Venus and
its attendant moon) and afterwards gradually lessen till it was altogether included in the
atmosphere of the planet, we reckoned to bring all the powers of gravitation into play,
and make of them a more effectual brake than could be obtained in any other way.
Also, by bringing our course into the same plain
as that of the moon, we should be able to examine it as we passed over and by it, indeed,
we reckoned that the completion of the second circle of this orbit would bring down our
speed to that of the lesser orb.
But all this while we were swiftly nearing our
destination; the great globe of Venus, in apparent size far beyond that of the earthly
moon, now began to grow fast upon us.
It came—that wished-for sound, like the
noise of far-off wings, or the whisper of a zephyr; but thus only for a while, like a
nearing cataract or coming storm it grew upon us.
Then the mighty wings of our vessel began to
play, beating swiftly the thickening air, and driving us fast upward again into space, but
not before a great glow of heat pervaded all the ship, growing every moment stronger,
though we had now left the thicker air. "Start the cold air machine," said Moxton,
there will be no end to this business." This soon assisted us, though the heat gathered
by the steel exterior of our vessel still continued to strike inward. We were again in the
depths of space borne by our own velocity, with nothing to retard, nothing to guide us.
Weir who was on the look-out, already beginning to abuse the Venusian moon, when we caught
sight of it. Beautiful indeed had Moxton calculated our course; we could see it like a
huge ball spinning in the shadow of the planet away before us, our course would take us
very near it, we were, perhaps, two hours 'ere we came to it; then there came a sudden
roar, a huge swerve of our vessel, as under its influence we shot in again to the planet.
Again we repeated the experiment, although I now had the command, and Moxton in the
look-out. "Keep her in it," they both said, and we dipped down so close as well nigh to
touch the feathery clouds; this was enough for us all; the heat we subsisted in for the
next hour would have fairly cooked any dead substance. But as we got clear again and began
to cool, we saw what an immense part of our speed we had lost, we were well satisfied with
the effects of our purgatorial discipline. Now, although we were sailing in a smaller
circuit, we almost failed to catch again the moon.
We seemed to creep on the little satellite, but
inch by inch, at last, however, we drew near, helped on by its attraction as we approached
it; so small was it that when it looked like terra firma, we could observe its rotundity.
We seemed to be floating, floating towards it on our back. It seemed at one time as though
we should have to use our explosives to prevent our vessel being cast on her back on this
airless little orb—an accident we certainly had never calculated on.
But at last we caught the welcome sound; then she
heeled over, and we floated silently down on to a smooth sandy plain.
We took in a specimen of the air, it was thin and
poor; scarcely sufficient to sustain the lowest forms of life, and the orb itself looked
cold, dry, bare, and grey, a few meagre lichens being the only visible living things.
We prepared to strike off again, for there,
hanging above us, as though it might suddenly fall and crush us into oblivion, hung the
great planet, half in sunshine, half in shadow, covering a third of the sky, hanging right
over our heads its clouds and waters, mountains and forests, spread out in wonderful state
We would not lose time on this useless orb, so
alike that it might have served as a prototype for the attendant of our own earth, we were
growing familiar with new spheres, and our familiarity was working to its proverbial end.
We thought far more of our vessel than of the orb
when, like a living creature, she reared herself as a tower on the plain. But as we wished
to lose as much of the speed of this satellite as we could, we pointed her back towards
the way she came; then gathering her power, and throwing it into a sudden and continued
motion of her wings, and, opening the thunder of her artillery, she sprang away, and
rushed upwards to the larger world.
For a little while we could see our rushing
speed; then the little moon seemed to be leaving us, and we to be hanging out in space.
For hours we were thus, and well pleased to be
so, as the passing time told plainly of the speed parted with. The planet now beneath
us—for the instinct of gravity soon changed as we left the moon—was in its
revolutions, bringing another face to our view, and we only needed that as we extended the
air again we should bring our course into unison with the planet's diurnal motion, to
reduce our speed to an earthly measure.
Once more it came—the rush of air growing to
a thunderous roar; and we must steer upwards and outwards, but not afar; still, though the
seas and mountains fled away beneath us, we were able to keep within the higher
atmosphere, and ever and anon to take a dip into the region of the clouds.
We were weary with watching and
waiting—tired, yet determined to endure to the end of our journey ere we slept. The
gallant speed and the great plunging dips which our vessel made grew monotonous to us.
Below us lay a sea well nigh an ocean. Moxton took from our stores a large electric ball,
which could be discharged from a cannon and would burn with an intense light for some time
afterwards. He pointed it straight down and discharged it into the ocean beneath us, we
saw it strike the water and plough through the blue depths for a mile or more, then lay
like a drowned sun beneath us.
"That will do," said Moxton,—"shall
I take the helm?"
It was given him, and under his hands the vessel
made a short turn, then with her wings set to catch the air she rushed downwards. It was a
terrific plunge—perhaps seven miles as we came, but we knew our strength—how
beautifully our wings closed in ere we touched the blue element—a heavy blow—a
prolonged hiss—and we were carreering beneath the waves, but well did the elastic
liquid do its work, under the facile hand of Moxton the Star Climber was already returning
on her own tracks, coming nearer the dimly lit surface and circling around in a
comparatively small space.
"That will do," we said to Moxton, and almost
at once, like a denizen of the deep, the Star Climber clove the surface of the water.
We looked out, and indeed our journey was
ended—we were floating on a calm sea, with a great sun casting its long sloping rays
upon us, a blue sky above us, and away a mile on the right was seen the cloud of steam our
entrance into the water had raised. Moxton stepped to our outer cabin, closed the
door—we waited while we heard the withdrawal of the air tight plugs, then his voice
sang out—"All right," and Weir's hand, which had been resting on the levers, gave
the motion. Our ceilings and roof, which had seemed so solid for the last four months,
began to lift and throw themselves back, till we stood out on the deck—fell in the
free air—a slight breeze sweeping over us, and a slight swell rising and falling
along the sides of our vessel.
CHAPTER XI. After all our
troubles we were landed safe. We were floating on an ocean of another world—'twas not
quite the same as that we left—it seemed both clearer and softer, for a long way down
we could see, and for a long time saw nothing but water, then shoals of fish came
round—not fish such as we have on earth—but fish of pronounced forms—fish
with fins like hands—fish with elongated fins—on which we did not doubt they
could walk when in a shallower water. But then stranger than all—we saw them form
bands, and glide past us in ranks with a leader waving his long fin-like arm, directing or
Now, too, we began to feel the changing
atmosphere. Night was coming on, but what was night to us—we knew that all around the
northern pole of the planet was spread the long six months'-day; and again rising from the
ocean, we swept onwards.
Two hours landed us in another climate, we got
away from the forests and water out on to a vast high dreary plain, with the sun about ten
degrees above the horizon.
Away to the north stretched the limitless desert,
and all around us a huge waste of sand.
Here again we rested and took counsel—for
nothing like human life had we seen, and not a bird in the air. We had seen of troupes of
beasts cropping the herbage on the open ground, but had gone on wondering and hoping.
And there in this solitary place we determined to
spend the night—at least our night. We put out our gangways, and descended to the
ground; we walked around our vessel, and looked at her closely. She was not that blue and
gold and silver creation which left the other world; the cankerous mist through which we
passed had spoiled her beauty, yet otherwise she was as sound as when we started in her.
It was an intense relief to stretch our limbs by
walking on the solid earth. During our voyage, where a hasty step would send you flying up
against the roof, and even the heaviest things were without appreciable weight; our
muscles had, despite our best endeavors, become relaxed and weakened, and we found a very
slight amount of exercise sufficient for us.
As we returned to our boat, Weir was, as usual,
in the most frolicsome of humors, and I almost in the opposite mood.
I mentally compared myself to the seer in the
Revelations—"Behold! one woe is past, and another cometh quickly." It was the
thought of the coming days of solitude, when Weir and Moxton should have gone back to the
world, yet not thought in its purity; but the thought debased and made painful by an
understratum of want of faith in the new generation. Weir, perhaps, rightly interpreted
it, when he exclaimed—"Yes, truly you will be a second Adam, but where,
alas, is thy Eve? Never mind, Hope, perhaps an old cherubim may turn up to keep
you company, you could lodge him in the tent, you know."
But I could not joke with him; strange and new
ideas were thronging my mind. Moxton, seeing this, brought out the real aqua vitae, and we
drank in liquor that might have been distilled from the veins of the ancient
Gods—"To the new world, and to our farther success."
'Twas a wondrous medicine—all that alcohol
seems to the savage, when he feels it tingling with pleasure through all his veins, and
throwing a glamour of light over his very soul.
Like alcohol, too, the excitement it caused was
very great, even a strong brain would go wild with delight, and under a regime of excess,
the over-powered subject seemed led as by Houries in a flowery way—seemed to rest on
beds of aspodel and live in joy—the opium smokers' heaven was always his, meat and
drink were no longer needed, the swiftly attenuating body seemed a cage too fragile to
hold the soul which would step laughingly over the portal of death.
While, on the other hand, if used with due
discretion under its glorious influences, these soft, the frail bodies of ours—if
uninjured by accident, if not crushed by brute force—might outlive the very world we
stood on, and who could say, perchance, even the system that this world is moving
with—yea, why should we not go out with the speed of a comet on the thousand years'
journey to another sun—another system.
We—Moxton Weir and I—all believed in
this elixir. Our lives were, if not supremely blest, very happy, and had we not even now
solved the great problem and opened out a dwelling-place for the people of the future, we
did not doubt that next generations would surpass us as much as—"Yes," I said
aloud, "As much as you do me." Nor could I repress a return of that distrustful, bitter
feeling which seemed to well up from some unknown and longer buried spot in my
heart—I had scarcely felt it since Edith Weir had given me her love.
I wished them at that moment to come over and
clasp me by the hand in old world fashion, and to say that we stood or fell together, that
they would be always with me.
But Moxton smiled almost in pity—"Those
feelings of yours, Hope, are the strangest relics you preserve of the past. You carry fear
like a devil in your heart, and every now and then he rises up and frightens you. The
reign of violence is nearly done, and should the world ever weary of you and need the air
you breathe for better lips, it would but be like a cry of conscience to you, never
articulated or breathed through any tangible mouth or spirit, it would be no cause for
fear. I am sure you could now for the good of humanity resign with a calm mind, your body
to the dust." I did not answer, for they both knew my thoughts, and I think both felt a
longing for those softer spirits, those kinder natures, those eyes—which even now,
now and again, knew tears. I know that in my heart Edith was again enshrined, chasing
worlds and systems and planets far away, and filling it with herself, till my breath came
quicker, and mine eyes grew bright under her influence. She was there so truly—"so
near and yet so far." We looked out and saw the great sun moving round, and felt the air
thin and keen, yet tempered by his beams. We took a last glance around, making all things
safe; and then, for the first time since leaving our present earth, we all slept,
resolving to visit together all the wonders of the new world, and to see together all that
we should find.
CHAPTER XII. The poles of the
planet Venus are at such an angle that about half the planet enjoys alternately a day of
three month—a long dim day of twilight, and then night; as a natural consequence, the
regions approaching this country are strangely affected. When we woke in the morning we
saw the first proof of this in the low sun, still hanging at the same altitude, the
live-long night he had been thus creeping around, so that here there was no day or night,
morning or evening, and the waste of desert around us seemed as if made for these
We spread out the wings of our vessel and went on
our way—but found the land still rising as we went north—and though the cold did
not increase with the increasing altitude, as it would on the earth, the air grew thinner,
and the barometer sank lower and lower, till it touched the fourtenth inch, and breathing
became very laborious work.
We had determined to go right over the pole of
the planet, but, as we did not like to shut ourselves up again, we were soon obliged by
the rarified air to turn to the lower and warmer regions, going away swiftly till grass
and wood and water again began to reign, then sailing slowly, and not too high, that we
might observe if anything like humanity should appear—we saw troops of beasts,
four-legged and two-legged—ape-like creatures—kangaroo, or more properly
three-legged animals; but none of them seemed struck with wonder as we glided slowly above
them—they all fed and played and fought, as though there were nothing new under their
Heaven, and if we swept down near them went away with screams and cries to their shelters.
Their forms were very strange—ever recalling something we knew, yet always differing
from it; yet what we most noticed—what seemed to be an unvarying
characteristic—was that, whether large or small, they all moved in troops and bands,
all fed and fought together, and all seemed well provided for either attack or defense;
but nothing human appeared, nought of a nature similar to our own.
I can hardly tell how much we wished—how our
hearts would have gone out towards any living creature which should have risen above the
level of the animal world, or how out thoughts wondered over the intellectual union which
might arise, should two such experiences join their pleasures, their results; yet here
there was enough to recall the wildest wandering thoughts, as we went hither and thither
to and from every new object, everything that promised a revelation, over lakes and
mountains, rivers and forests, till we felt ourselves in the tropical regions, with the
high sun blazing overhead, and the great bush herbage, and vast trees all about us.
Yet none of this would please Moxton, he would
press on to the winter half of the planet, to the land of shadow, and we expected of ice
and snow, for warm as the planet was, we thought that three months' exclusion from the
sun's heat, would bring the temperature very low. Yet we could not help lingering, turning
to each new beauty of flower and fruit, leaf, or herbage, skimming near the edge of the
forest, or the waters of the rivers, hoping to see some new elephant or huge mastodon, for
the appetite for the wonderful, not sufficiently substantial I suppose, for Solomon's
classification is, however, one of the hardest things to satisfy, so far from ever crying
enough, it grows with its food.
So we were borne steadily onward through the
fresh air of the new world—were always eager to behold something
fresh—unsatisfied with the wonders of Heaven—we seemed to forget the leagues
that we had travelled, unmindful of our great fate, to run like older babes in the wood
from flower to flower as fancy guided us.
Yet stopping often as we did, our immense speed
led us fast from clime to clime, and before the natural day would decline the sun began to
grow low on the northern horizon; the tropical forests to be replaced by grassy plains and
rolling, scantily timbered hills. Sometimes, too, we came on arid sand—huge dry
deserts without even the proverbial vulture to enliven them; then succeeded strange
twilight, with the sun low down, and its beams striking along the world—the air
seemed to grow vague and yellow, a thickness and foggyness pervaded everything. How
changed seemed the vegetation—rotting leaves and bare boughs; huge stalked grass,
half-decayed—and here, too, we saw more birds, great downy owls, and bats to which
the devil of the middle ages was a mild creature, it also seemed the land of frogs and
toads—huge speckled tawny creatures, not good to look at; and the vegetation altered
fast now, the reign of the fungus seemed to have begun—the ground, the trees, the
water, were covered with minute forms, and in the opener spaces huge growths stranger than
the cactus or fungus of the world, immense groups of all shapes, so strange were they,
that even Moxton agreed to come to a stand for a while.
We left our vessel and walked among these
wonders—taking, however, our weapons with us—we seemed like the little men of
Gustave DorË , walking in some
strange antediluvian world. Now they rose around us like
the groups of miniature towers with their snow-white tops and their flesh-colored
interiors, others would strike away in convolutions over yards of ground in disgusting
mimicry of a dissected animal; others built up of narrow ridges and spines, and every
interesting shape, and every shade and color—some beautiful, some hideous, one large
flower-like thing, like a thick-lipped convolvulus, had attracted us, and Moxton thrust
his stick into it—its anthers closed immediately on it, then its thick leaves folded
down with a wonderful grip, but if Moxton was the first to be surprised, the would-be
glutton was the next. With scarcely any visible motion beyond the setting of his muscles,
he set the magnetic power of which he had a wonderful command, thrilling into the flabby
monster—the effect was instantaneous, it curled for a moment as under galvanic
action, then its whole system collapsed and seemed to fall into itself in flaccid
weakness, while its juices exhaled and dripped from its whole surface.
Perhaps had we seen these things under the broad
sunlight, they would have made little impression, but the strange light, the long shadows,
and the great patches of color, the result of minute organism, covering both earth and
water, made them strange and wonderful to look on, like a peep show of Dame Nature; but it
was not good to stay in, and our curiosity being satisfied, there was nothing to keep us.
We went to the Star Climber, which seemed more
like a home than it had been for months past, and we felt quite a pleasure as we trod once
again the familiar deck. We passed on over miles and miles of this twilight country, the
sun going lower and lower till every little hollow was in perpetual shade, and there
seemed no end to the shadow of a tree. We had still our decks open, and could perceive the
chilling temperature. This did not seem the region of storms, but an unaltering,
unrelieved, steady rawness gradually verging into a pronounced state of cold. It was many
hundred miles before we came to the real ice and snow, where the water was all locked up,
and all the ground covered with the downy mantle, but here again we saw occasionally
troops of beasts dashing away in the dim light, and a solitary large-eyed bird rose and
flitted into the darkness that spread around us. The stars were very faint, the air did
not seem yet to be clear of the mist and lingering sunshine, and there above us—a dim
star amongst thousands—lay the earth, our native home; and as we looked at it the
thought that we should soon stand there again seemed to partake of impossibility and
Weir said—"I wish you would not
think so dismally, Hope; those ideas of yours would unstring the nerves of a
lion. There is nothing renders a man so helpless as that sense of fatality and
Moxton said with a laugh—"I should
think it would be less trouble for you to rule against the entrance of Hope's
ideas than for him to perfectly control them."
This brought a smile to our faces, though from
different feelings. Weir was always kind-natured. My smile was, I suppose, so grim that
Moxton, looking at me, said—"Well?"
I answered—"I do not care what
either of you think when I feel like this."
"No," replied Moxton, "the human brain was so
dulled and attuned to sorrow through many centuries, that the sentiment of it is bound to
be pleasant, wakening as it does all the half forgotten motions. 'Tis the same
in kind as that the old athlete feels after years of disuse he stretches his
But it was growing cold. We agreed to again shut
down the outer covering of the Star Climber, as Moxton wished to run through this region
of darkness, and as we sped on our way it grew brighter, the air seemed clearer, the
ground sparkled with snow and frost; the rivers and seas were coated with ice, a thorough
winter reigned all around us.
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