Part 2 out of 4
deliberation, these amazing seeds thrust a rootlet downward to the earth
and a queer little bundle-like bud into the air. In a little while the
whole slope was dotted with minute plantlets standing at attention in the
blaze of the sun.
They did not stand for long. The bundle-like buds swelled and strained and
opened with a jerk, thrusting out a coronet of little sharp tips,
spreading a whorl of tiny, spiky, brownish leaves, that lengthened
rapidly, lengthened visibly even as we watched. The movement was slower
than any animal's, swifter than any plant's I have ever seen before. How
can I suggest it to you - the way that growth went on? The leaf tips grew
so that they moved onward even while we looked at them. The brown
seed-case shrivelled and was absorbed with an equal rapidity. Have you
ever on a cold day taken a thermometer into your warm hand and watched the
little thread of mercury creep up the tube? These moon plants grew like
In a few minutes, as it seemed, the buds of the more forward of these
plants had lengthened into a stem and were even putting forth a second
whorl of leaves, and all the slope that had seemed so recently a lifeless
stretch of litter was now dark with the stunted olive-green herbage of
bristling spikes that swayed with the vigour of their growing.
I turned about, and behold! along the upper edge of a rock to the eastward
a similar fringe in a scarcely less forward condition swayed and bent,
dark against the blinding glare of the sun. And beyond this fringe was the
silhouette of a plant mass, branching clumsily like a cactus, and swelling
visibly, swelling like a bladder that fills with air.
Then to the westward also I discovered that another such distended form
was rising over the scrub. But here the light fell upon its sleek sides,
and I could see that its colour was a vivid orange hue It rose as one
watched it; if one looked away from it for a minute and then back, its
outline had changed; it thrust out blunt congested branches until in a
little time it rose a coralline shape of many feet in height. Compared
with such a growth the terrestrial puff-ball, which will sometimes swell a
foot in diameter in a single night, would be a hopeless laggard. But then
the puff-ball grows against a gravitational pull six times that of the
moon. Beyond, out of gullies and flats that had been hidden from us, but
not from the quickening sun, over reefs and banks of shining rock, a
bristling beard of spiky and fleshy vegetation was straining into view,
hurrying tumultuously to tale advantage of the brief day in which it must
flower and fruit and seed again and die. It was like a miracle, that
growth. So, one must imagine, the trees and plants arose at the Creation
and covered the desolation of the new-made earth.
Imagine it; Imagine that dawn! The resurrection of the frozen air, the
stirring and quickening of the soil, and then this silent uprising of
vegetation, this unearthly ascent of fleshiness and spikes. Conceive it
all lit by a blaze that would make the intensest sunlight of earth seem
watery and weak. And still around this stirring jungle, wherever there was
shadow, lingered banks of bluish snow. And to have the picture of our
impression complete, you must bear in mind that we saw it all through a
thick bent glass, distorting it as things are distorted by a lens, acute
only in the centre of the picture, and very bright there, and towards the
edges magnified and unreal.
WE ceased to gaze. We turned to each other, the same thought, the same
question in our eyes. For these plants to grow, there must be some air,
however attenuated, air that we also should be able to breathe.
"The manhole?" I said.
"Yes!" said Cavor, "if it is air we see!"
"In a little while," I said, "these plants will be as high as we are.
Suppose - suppose after all - Is it certain? How do you know that stuff
is air? It may be nitrogen - it may be carbonic acid even!"
"That's easy," he said, and set about proving it. He produced a big piece
of crumpled paper from the bale, lit it, and thrust it hastily through the
man-hole valve. I bent forward and peered down through the thick glass for
its appearance outside, that little flame on whose evidence depended so
I saw the paper drop out and lie lightly upon the snow. The pink flame of
its burning vanished. For an instant it seemed to be extinguished. And
then I saw a little blue tongue upon the edge of it that trembled, and
crept, and spread!
Quietly the whole sheet, save where it lay in Immediate contact with the
snow, charred and shrivelled and sent up a quivering thread of smoke.
There was no doubt left to me; the atmosphere of the moon was either pure
oxygen or air, and capable therefore - unless its tenuity was excessive -
of supporting our alien life. We might emerge - and live!
I sat down with my legs on either side of the manhole and prepared to
unscrew it, but Cavor stopped me. "There is first a little precaution," he
said. He pointed out that although it was certainly an oxygenated
atmosphere outside, it might still be so rarefied as to cause us grave
injury. He reminded me of mountain sickness, and of the bleeding that
often afflicts aeronauts who have ascended too swiftly, and he spent some
time in the preparation of a sickly-tasting drink which he insisted on my
sharing. It made me feel a little numb, but otherwise had no effect on me.
Then he permitted me to begin unscrewing.
Presently the glass stopper of the manhole was so far undone that the
denser air within our sphere began to escape along the thread of the
screw, singing as a kettle sings before it boils. Thereupon he made me
desist. It speedily became evident that the pressure outside was very much
less than it was within. How much less it was we had no means of telling.
I sat grasping the stopper with both hands, ready to close it again if, in
spite of our intense hope, the lunar atmosphere should after all prove too
rarefied for us, and Cavor sat with a cylinder of compressed oxygen at
hand to restore our pressure. We looked at one another in silence, and
then at the fantastic vegetation that swayed and grew visibly and
noiselessly without. And ever that shrill piping continued.
My blood-vessels began to throb in my ears, and the sound of Cavor's
movements diminished. I noted how still everything had become, because of
the thinning of the air.
As our air sizzled out from the screw the moisture of it condensed in
Presently I experienced a peculiar shortness of breath that lasted indeed
during the whole of the time of our exposure to the moon's exterior
atmosphere, and a rather unpleasant sensation about the ears and
finger-nails and the back of the throat grew upon my attention, and
presently passed off again.
But then came vertigo and nausea that abruptly changed the quality of my
courage. I gave the lid of the manhole half a turn and made a hasty
explanation to Cavor; but now he was the more sanguine. He answered me in
a voice that seemed extraordinarily small and remote, because of the
thinness of the air that carried the sound. He recommended a nip of
brandy, and set me the example, and presently I felt better. I turned the
manhole stopper back again. The throbbing in my ears grew louder, and then
I remarked that the piping note of the outrush had ceased. For a time I
could not be sure that it had ceased.
"Well?" said Cavor, in the ghost of a voice.
"Well?" said I.
"Shall we go on?"
I thought. "Is this all?"
"If you can stand it."
By way of answer I went on unscrewing. I lifted the circular operculum
from its place and laid it carefully on the bale. A flake or so of snow
whirled and vanished as that thin and unfamiliar air took possession of
our sphere. I knelt, and then seated myself at the edge of the manhole,
peering over it. Beneath, within a yard of my face, lay the untrodden snow
of the moon.
There came a little pause. Our eyes met.
"It doesn't distress your lungs too much?" said Cavor.
"No," I said. "I can stand this."
He stretched out his hand for his blanket, thrust his head through its
central hole, and wrapped it about him. He sat down on the edge of the
manhole, he let his feet drop until they were within six inches of the
lunar ground. He hesitated for a moment, then thrust himself forward,
dropped these intervening inches, and stood upon the untrodden soil of the
As he stepped forward lie was refracted grotesquely by the edge of the
glass. He stood for a moment looking this way and that. Then he drew
himself together and leapt.
The glass distorted everything, but it seemed to me even then to be an
extremely big leap. He had at one bound become remote. He seemed twenty or
thirty feet off. He was standing high upon a rocky mass and gesticulating
back to me. Perhaps he was shouting - but the sound did not reach me. But
how the deuce had he done this? I felt like a man who has just seen a new
In a puzzled state of mind I too dropped through the manhole. I stood up.
Just in front of me the snowdrift had fallen away and made a sort of
ditch. I made a step and jumped.
I found myself flying through the air, saw the rock on which he stood
coming to meet me, clutched it and clung in a state of infinite amazement.
I gasped a painful laugh. I was tremendously confused. Cavor bent down
arid shouted in piping tones for me to be careful.
I had forgotten that on the moon, with only an eighth part of the earth's
mass and a quarter of its diameter, my weight was barely a sixth what it
was on earth. But now that fact insisted on being remembered.
"We are out of Mother Earth's leading - strings now," he said.
With a guarded effort I raised myself to the top, and moving as cautiously
as a rheumatic patient, stood up beside him under the blaze of the sun.
The sphere lay behind us on its dwindling snowdrift thirty feet away.
As far as the eye could see over the enormous disorder of rocks that
formed the crater floor, the same bristling scrub that surrounded us was
starting into life, diversified here and there by bulging masses of a
cactus form, and scarlet and purple lichens that grew so fast they seemed
to crawl over the rocks. The whole area of the crater seemed to me then to
be one similar wilderness up to the very foot of the surrounding cliff.
This cliff was apparently bare of vegetation save at its base, and with
buttresses and terraces and platforms that did not very greatly attract
our attention at the time. It was many miles away from us in every
direction, we seemed to be almost at the centre of the crater, and we saw
it through a certain haziness that drove before the wind. For there was
even a wind now in the thin air, a swift yet weak wind that chilled
exceedingly but exerted little pressure. It was blowing I round the
crater, as it seemed, to the hot illuminated side from the foggy darkness
under the sunward wall. It was difficult to look into this eastward fog;
we had to peer with half-closed eyes beneath the shade of our hands,
because of the fierce intensity of the motionless sun.
"It seems to be deserted," said Cavor, "absolutely desolate."
I looked about me again. I retained even then a clinging hope of some
quasi-human evidence, some pinnacle of building, some house or engine, but
everywhere one looked spread the tumbled rocks in peaks and crests, and
the darting scrub and those bulging cacti that swelled and swelled, a flat
negation as it seemed of all such hope.
"It looks as though these plants had it to themselves," I said. " I see no
trace of any other creature."
"No insects - no birds, no! Not a trace, not a scrap nor particle of
animal life. If there was - what would they do in the night? ... No;
there's just these plants alone."
I shaded my eyes with my hand. "It's like the landscape of a dream. These
things are less like earthly land plants than the things one imagines
among the rocks at the bottom of the sea. Look at that yonder! One might
imagine it a lizard changed into a plant. And the glare! "
"This is only the fresh morning," said Cavor.
He sighed and looked about him. "This is no world for men," he said. "And
yet in a way - it appeals."
He became silent for a time, then commenced his meditative humming.
I started at a gentle touch, and found a thin sheet of livid lichen
lapping over my shoe. I kicked at it and it fell to powder, and each speck
began to grow.
I heard Cavor exclaim sharply, and perceived that one of the fixed
bayonets of the scrub had pricked him. He hesitated, his eyes sought
among the rocks about us. A sudden blaze of pink had crept up a ragged
pillar of crag. It was a most extraordinary pink, a livid magenta.
"Look!" said I, turning, and behold Cavor had vanished.
For an instant I stood transfixed. Then I made a hasty step to look over
the verge of the rock. But in my surprise at his disappearance I forgot
once more that we were on the moon. The thrust of my foot that I made in
striding would have carried me a yard on earth; on the moon it carried me
six - a good five yards over the edge. For the moment the thing had
something of the effect of those nightmares when one falls and falls. For
while one falls sixteen feet in the first second of a fall on earth, on
the moon one falls two, and with only a sixth of one's weight. I fell, or
rather I jumped down, about ten yards I suppose. It seemed to take quite a
long time, five or six seconds, I should think. I floated through the air
and fell like a feather, knee-deep in a snow-drift in the bottom of a
gully of blue-gray, white-veined rock.
I looked about me. "Cavor!" I cried; but no Cavor was visible.
"Cavor!" I cried louder, and the rocks echoed me.
I turned fiercely to the rocks and clambered to the summit of them.
"Cavor!" I cried. My voice sounded like the voice of a lost lamb.
The sphere, too, was not in sight, and for a moment a horrible feeling of
desolation pinched my heart.
Then I saw him. He was laughing and gesticulating to attract my attention.
He was on a bare patch of rock twenty or thirty yards away. I could not
hear his voice, but "jump" said his gestures. I hesitated, the distance
seemed enormous. Yet I reflected that surely I must be able to clear a
greater distance than Cavor.
I made a step back, gathered myself together, and leapt with all my might.
I seemed to shoot right up in the air as though I should never come down.
It was horrible and delightful, and as wild as a nightmare, to go flying
off in this fashion. I realised my leap had been altogether too violent. I
flew clean over Cavor's head and beheld a spiky confusion in a gully
spreading to meet my fall. I gave a yelp of alarm. I put out my hands and
straightened my legs.
I hit a huge fungoid bulk that burst all about me, scattering a mass of
orange spores in every direction, and covering me with orange powder. I
rolled over spluttering, and came to rest convulsed with breathless
I became aware of Cavor's little round face peering over a bristling
hedge. He shouted some faded inquiry. "Eh?" I tried to shout, but could
not do so for want of breath. He made his way towards me, coming gingerly
among the bushes.
"We've got to be careful," he said. "This moon has no discipline. She'll
let us smash ourselves."
He helped me to my feet. "You exerted yourself too much," he said, dabbing
at the yellow stuff with his hand to remove it from my garments.
I stood passive and panting, allowing him to beat off the jelly from my
knees and elbows and lecture me upon my misfortunes. " We don't quite
allow for the gravitation. Our muscles are scarcely educated yet. We must
practise a little, when you have got your breath."
I pulled two or three little thorns out of my hand, and sat for a time on
a boulder of rock. My muscles were quivering, and I had that feeling of
personal disillusionment that comes at the first fall to the learner of
cycling on earth.
It suddenly occurred to Cavor that the cold air in the gully, after the
brightness of the sun, might give me a fever. So we clambered back into
the sunlight. We found that beyond a few abrasions I had received no
serious injuries from my tumble, and at Cavor's suggestion we were
presently looking round for some safe and easy landing-place for my next
leap. We chose a rocky slab some ten yards off, separated from us by a
little thicket of olive-green spikes.
"Imagine it there!" said Cavor, who was assuming the airs of a trainer,
and he pointed to a spot about four feet from my toes. This leap I managed
without difficulty, and I must confess I found a certain satisfaction in
Cavor's falling short by a foot or so and tasting the spikes of the scrub.
"One has to be careful you see," he said, pulling out his thorns, and with
that he ceased to be my Mentor and became my fellow-learner in the art of
We chose a still easier jump and did it without difficulty, and then leapt
back again, and to and fro several times, accustoming our muscles to the
new standard. I could never have believed had I not experienced it, how
rapid that adaptation would be. In a very little time indeed, certainly
after fewer than thirty leaps, we could judge the effort necessary for a
distance with almost terrestrial assurance.
And all this time the lunar plants were growing around us, higher and
denser and more entangled, every moment thicker and taller, spiked plants,
green cactus masses, fungi, fleshy and lichenous things, strangest radiate
and sinuous shapes. But we were so intent upon our leaping, that for a
time we gave no heed to their unfaltering expansion.
An extraordinary elation had taken possession of us. Partly, I think, it
was our sense of release from the confinement of the sphere. Mainly,
however, the thin sweetness of the air, which I am certain contained a
much larger proportion of oxygen than our terrestrial atmosphere. In spite
of the strange quality of all about us, I felt as adventurous and
experimental as a cockney would do placed for the first time among
mountains and I do not think it occurred to either of us, face to face
though we were with the unknown, to be very greatly afraid.
We were bitten by a spirit of enterprise. We selected a lichenous kopje
perhaps fifteen yards away, and landed neatly on its summit one after the
other. "Good!" we cried to each other; "good!" and Cavor made three steps
and went off to a tempting slope of snow a good twenty yards and more
beyond. I stood for a moment struck by the grotesque effect of his
soaring figure - his dirty cricket cap, and spiky hair, his little round
body, his arms and his knicker-bockered legs tucked up tightly - against
the weird spaciousness of the lunar scene. A gust of laughter seized me,
and then I stepped off to follow. Plump! I dropped beside him.
We made a few gargantuan strides, leapt three or four times more, and sat
down at last in a lichenous hollow. Our lungs were painful. We sat holding
our sides and recovering our breath, looking appreciation to one another.
Cavor panted something about "amazing sensations." And then came a thought
into my head. For the moment it did not seem a particularly appalling
thought, simply a natural question arising out of the situation.
"By the way," I said, "where exactly is the sphere?"
Cavor looked at me. "Eh?"
The full meaning of what we were saying struck me sharply.
"Cavor!" I cried, laying a hand on his arm, "where is the sphere?"
Lost Men in the Moon
HIS face caught something of my dismay. He stood up and stared about him
at the scrub that fenced us in and rose about us, straining upward in a
passion of growth. He put a dubious hand to his lips. He spoke with a
sudden lack of assurance. "I think," he said slowly, "we left it ...
somewhere ... about there."
He pointed a hesitating finger that wavered in an arc.
"I'm not sure." His look of consternation deepened. "Anyhow," he said,
with his eyes on me, "it can't be far."
We had both stood up. We made unmeaning ejaculations, our eyes sought in
the twining, thickening jungle round about us.
All about us on the sunlit slopes frothed and swayed the darting shrubs,
the swelling cactus, the creeping lichens, and wherever the shade remained
the snow-drifts lingered. North, south, east, and west spread an identical
monotony of unfamiliar forms. And somewhere, buried already among this
tangled confusion, was our sphere, our home, our only provision, our only
hope of escape from this fantastic wilderness of ephemeral growths into
which we had come.
"I think after all," he said, pointing suddenly, "it might be over there."
"No," I said. "We have turned in a curve. See! here is the mark of my
heels. It's clear the thing must be more to the eastward, much more. No -
the sphere must be over there."
"I think," said Cavor, "I kept the sun upon my right all the time."
"Every leap, it seems to me," I said, "my shadow flew before me."
We stared into one another's eyes. The area of the crater had become
enormously vast to our imaginations, the growing thickets already
"Good heavens! What fools we have been!"
"It's evident that we must find it again," said Cavor, "and that soon. The
sun grows stronger. We should be fainting with the heat already if it
wasn't so dry. And ... I'm hungry."
I stared at him. I had not suspected this aspect of the matter before. But
it came to me at once - a positive craving. "Yes," I said with emphasis.
"I am hungry too."
He stood up with a look of active resolution. "Certainly we must find the
As calmly as possible we surveyed the interminable reefs and thickets that
formed the floor of the crater, each of us weighing in silence the chances
of our finding the sphere before we were overtaken by heat and hunger.
"It can't be fifty yards from here," said Cavor, with indecisive gestures.
"The only thing is to beat round about until we come upon it."
"That is all we can do," I said, without any alacrity to begin our hunt.
"I wish this confounded spike bush did not grow so fast!"
"That's just it," said Cavor. "But it was lying on a bank of snow."
I stared about me in the vain hope of recognising some knoll or shrub that
had been near the sphere. But everywhere was a confusing sameness,
everywhere the aspiring bushes, the distending fungi, the dwindling snow
banks, steadily and inevitably changed. The sun scorched and stung, the
faintness of an unaccountable hunger mingled with our infinite perplexity.
And even as we stood there, confused and lost amidst unprecedented things,
we became aware for the first time of a sound upon the moon other than the
air of the growing plants, the faint sighing of the wind, or those that we
ourselves had made.
Boom. ... Boom. ... Boom.
It came from beneath our feet, a sound in the earth. We seemed to hear it
with our feet as much as with our ears. Its dull resonance was muffled by
distance, thick with the quality of intervening substance. No sound that I
can imagine could have astonished us more, or have changed more completely
the quality of things about us. For this sound, rich, slow, and
deliberate, seemed to us as though it could be nothing but the striking of
some gigantic buried clock.
Boom. ... Boom. ... Boom.
Sound suggestive of still cloisters, of sleepless nights in crowded
cities, of vigils and the awaited hour, cf all that is orderly and
methodical in life, booming out pregnant and mysterious in this fantastic
desert! To the eye everything was unchanged: the desolation of bushes and
cacti waving silently in the wind, stretched unbroken to the distant
cliffs, the still dark sky was empty overhead, and the hot sun hung and
burned. And through it all, a warning, a threat, throbbed this enigma of
Boom. ... Boom. ... Boom. ...
We questioned one another in faint and faded voices.
"Like a clock!"
"What is it?"
"What can it be?"
"Count," was Cavor's belated suggestion, and at that word the striking
The silence, the rhythmic disappointment of the silence, came as a fresh
shock. For a moment one could doubt whether one had ever heard a sound. Or
whether it might not still be going on. Had I indeed heard a sound?
I felt the pressure of Cavor's hand upon my arm. He spoke in an
undertone, as though he feared to wake some sleeping thing. "Let us keep
together," he whispered, "and look for the sphere. We must get back to the
sphere. This is beyond our understanding."
"Which way shall we go?"
He hesitated. An intense persuasion of presences, of unseen things about
us and near us, dominated our minds. What could they be? Where could they
be? Was this arid desolation, alternately frozen and scorched, only the
outer rind and mask of some subterranean world? And if so, what sort of
world? What sort of inhabitants might it not presently disgorge upon us?
And then, stabbing the aching stillness as vivid and sudden as an
unexpected thunderclap, came a clang and rattle as though great gates of
metal had suddenly been flung apart.
It arrested our steps. We stood gaping helplessly. Then Cavor stole
"I do not understand!" he whispered close to my face. He waved his hand
vaguely skyward, the vague suggestion of still vaguer thoughts.
"A hiding-place! If anything came..."
I looked about us. I nodded my head in assent to him.
We started off, moving stealthily with the most exaggerated precautions
against noise. We went towards a thicket of scrub. A clangour like hammers
flung about a boiler hastened our steps. "We must crawl," whispered Cavor.
The lower leaves of the bayonet plants, already overshadowed by the newer
ones above, were beginning to wilt and shrivel so that we could thrust our
way in among the thickening stems without serious injury. A stab in the
face or arm we did not heed. At the heart of the thicket I stopped, and
stared panting into Cavor's face.
"Subterranean," he whispered. "Below."
"They may come out."
"We must find the sphere!"
"Yes," I said; "but how?"
"Crawl till we come to it."
"But if we don't?"
"Keep hidden. See what they are like."
"We will keep together," said I.
He thought. "Which way shall we go?"
"We must take our chance."
We peered this way and that. Then very circumspectly, we began to crawl
through the lower jungle, making, so far as we could judge, a circuit,
halting now at every waving fungus, at every sound, intent only on the
sphere from which we had so foolishly emerged. Ever and again from out of
the earth beneath us came concussions, beatings, strange, inexplicable,
mechanical sounds; and once, and then again, we thought we heard
something, a faint rattle and tumult, borne to us through the air. But
fearful as we were we dared essay no vantage-point to survey the crater.
For long we saw nothing of the beings whose sounds were so abundant and
insistent. But for the faintness of our hunger and the drying of our
throats that crawling would have had the quality of a very vivid dream. It
was so absolutely unreal. The only element with any touch of reality was
Figure it to yourself! About us the dream-like jungle, with the silent
bayonet leaves darting overhead, and the silent, vivid, sun-splashed
lichens under our hands and knees, waving with the vigour of their growth
as a carpet waves when the wind gets beneath it. Ever and again one of the
bladder fungi, bulging and distending under the sun, loomed upon us. Ever
and again some novel shape in vivid colour obtruded. The very cells that
built up these plants were as large as my thumb, like beads of coloured
glass. And all these things were saturated in the unmitigated glare of the
sun, were seen against a sky that was bluish black and spangled still, in
spite of the sunlight, with a few surviving stars. Strange! the very forms
and texture of the stones were strange. It was all strange, the feeling of
one's body was unprecedented, every other movement ended in a surprise.
The breath sucked thin in one's throat, the blood flowed through one's
ears in a throbbing tide - thud, thud, thud, thud....
And ever and again came gusts of turmoil, hammering, the clanging and
throb of machinery, and presently - the bellowing of great beasts!
The Mooncalf Pastures
SO we two poor terrestrial castaways, lost in that wild-growing moon
jungle, crawled in terror before the sounds that had come upon us. We
crawled, as it seemed, a long time before we saw either Selenite or
mooncalf, though we heard the bellowing and gruntulous noises of these
latter continually drawing nearer to us. We crawled through stony ravines,
over snow slopes, amidst fungi that ripped like thin bladders at our
thrust, emitting a watery humour, over a perfect pavement of things like
puff-balls, and beneath interminable thickets of scrub. And ever more
helplessly our eyes sought for our abandoned sphere. The noise of the
mooncalves would at times be a vast flat calf-like sound, at times it rose
to an amazed and wrathy bellowing, and again it would become a clogged
bestial sound, as though these unseen creatures had sought to eat and
bellow at the same time.
Our first view was but an inadequate transitory glimpse, yet none the less
disturbing because it was incomplete. Cavor was crawling in front at the
time, and he first was aware of their proximity. He stopped dead,
arresting me with a single gesture.
A crackling and smashing of the scrub appeared to be advancing directly
upon us, and then, as we squatted close and endeavoured to judge of the
nearness and direction of this noise, there came a terrific bellow behind
us, so close and vehement that the tops of the bayonet scrub bent before
it, and one felt the breath of it hot and moist. And, turning about, we
saw indistinctly through a crowd of swaying stems the mooncalf's shining
sides, and the long line of its back loomed out against the sky.
Of course it is hard for me now to say how much I saw at that time,
because my impressions were corrected by subsequent observation. First of
all impressions was its enormous size; the girth of its body was some
fourscore feet, its length perhaps two hundred. Its sides rose and fell
with its laboured breathing. I perceived that its gigantic, flabby body
lay along the ground, and that its skin was of a corrugated white,
dappling into blackness along the backbone. But of its feet we saw
nothing. I think also that we saw then the profile at least of the almost
brainless head, with its fat-encumbered neck, its slobbering omnivorous
mouth, its little nostrils, and tight shut eyes. (For the mooncalf
invariably shuts its eyes in the presence of the sun.) We had a glimpse of
a vast red pit as it opened its mouth to bleat and bellow again; we had a
breath from the pit, and then the monster heeled over like a ship, dragged
forward along the ground, creasing all its leathery skin, rolled again,
and so wallowed past us, smashing a path amidst the scrub, and was
speedily hidden from our eyes by the dense interlacings beyond. Another
appeared more distantly, and then another, and then, as though he was
guiding these animated lumps of provender to their pasture, a Selenite
came momentarily into ken. My grip upon Cavor's foot became convulsive at
the sight of him, and we remained motionless and peering long after he had
passed out of our range.
By contrast with the mooncalves he seemed a trivial being, a mere ant,
scarcely five feet high. He was, wearing garments of some leathery
substance, so that no portion of his actual body appeared, but of this, of
course, we were entirely ignorant. He presented himself, therefore, as a
compact, bristling creature, having much of the quality of a complicated
insect, with whip-like tentacles and a clanging arm projecting from his
shining cylindrical body case. The form of his head was hidden by his
enormous many-spiked helmet - we discovered afterwards that he used the
spikes for prodding refractory mooncalves - and a pair of goggles of
darkened glass, set very much at the side, gave a bird-like quality to the
metallic apparatus that covered his face. His arms did not project beyond
his body case, and he carried himself upon short legs that, wrapped though
they were in warm coverings, seemed to our terrestrial eyes inordinately
flimsy. They had very short thighs, very long shanks, and little feet.
In spite of his heavy-looking clothing, he was progressing with what would
be, from the terrestrial point of view, very considerable strides, and his
clanging arm was busy. The quality of his motion during the instant of his
passing suggested haste and a certain anger, and soon after we had lost
sight of him we heard the bellow of a mooncalf change abruptly into a
short, sharp squeal followed by the scuffle of its acceleration. And
gradually that bellowing receded, and then came to an end, as if the
pastures sought had been attained.
We listened. For a space the moon world was still. But it was some time
before we resumed our crawling search for the vanished sphere.
When next we saw mooncalves they were some little distance away from us in
a place of tumbled rocks. The less vertical surfaces of the rocks were
thick with a speckled green plant growing in dense mossy clumps, upon
which these creatures were browsing. We stopped at the edge of the reeds
amidst which we were crawling at the sight of them, peering out at then
and looking round for a second glimpse of a Selenite. They lay against
their food like stupendous slugs, huge, greasy hulls, eating greedily and
noisily, with a sort of sobbing avidity. They seemed monsters of mere
fatness, clumsy and overwhelmed to a degree that would make a Smithfield
ox seem a model of agility. Their busy, writhing, chewing mouths, and eyes
closed, together with the appetising sound of their munching, made up an
effect of animal enjoyment that was singularly stimulating to our empty
"Hogs!" said Cavor, with unusual passion. "Dis- gusting hogs!" and after
one glare of angry envy crawled off through the bushes to our right. I
stayed long enough to see that the speckled plant was quite hopeless for
human nourishment, then crawled after him, nibbling a quill of it between
Presently we were arrested again by the proximity of a Selenite, and this
time we were able to observe him more exactly. Now we could see that the
Selenite covering was indeed clothing, and not a sort of crustacean
integument. He was quite similar in his costume to the former one we had
glimpsed, except that ends of something like wadding were protruding front
his neck, and he stood on a promontory of rock and moved his head this way
and that, as though he was surveying the crater. We lay quite still,
fearing to attract his attention if we moved, and after a time he turned
about and disappeared.
We came upon another drove of mooncalves bellowing up a ravine, and then
we passed over a place of sounds, sounds of beating machinery as if some
huge hall of industry came near the surface there. And while these sounds
were still about us we came to the edge of a great open space, perhaps two
hundred yards in diameter, and perfectly level. Save for a few lichens
that advanced from its margin this space was bare, and presented a powdery
surface of a dusty yellow colour. We were afraid to strike out across
this space, but as it presented less obstruction to our crawling than the
scrub, we went down upon it and began very circumspectly to skirt its
For a little while the noises from below ceased and everything, save for
the faint stir of the growing vegetation, was very still. Then abruptly
there began an uproar, louder, more vehement, and nearer than any we had
so far heard. Of a certainty it came from below. Instinctively we crouched
as flat as we could, ready for a prompt plunge into the thicket beside us.
Each knock and throb seemed to vibrate through our bodies. Louder grew
this throbbing and beating, and that irregular vibration increased until
the whole moon world seemed to be jerking and pulsing.
"Cover," whispered Cavor, and I turned towards the bushes.
At that instant came a thud like the thud of a gun, and then a thing
happened - it still haunts me in my dreams. I had turned my head to look
at Cavor's face, and thrust out my hand in front of me as I so. And my
hand met nothing! Plunged suddenly into a bottomless hole!
My chest hit something hard, and I found myself with my chin on the edge
of an unfathomable abyss that had suddenly opened beneath me, my hand
extended stiffly into the void. The whole of that flat circular area was
no more than a gigantic lid, that was now sliding sideways from off the
pit it had covered into a slot prepared for it.
Had it not been for Cavor I think I should have remained rigid, hanging
over this margin and staring into the enormous gulf below, until at last
the edges of the slot scraped me off and hurled me into its depths. But
Cavor had not received the shock that had paralysed me. He had been a
little distance from the edge when the lid had first opened, and
perceiving the peril that held me helpless, gripped my legs and pulled me
backward. I came into a sitting position, crawled away from the edge for a
space on all fours, then staggered up and ran after him across the
thundering, quivering sheet of metal. It seemed to be swinging open with a
steadily accelerated velocity, and the bushes in front of me shifted
sideways as I ran.
I was none too soon. Cavor's back vanished amidst the bristling thicket,
and as I scrambled up after him, the monstrous valve came into its
position with a clang. For a long time we lay panting, not daring to
approach the pit.
But at last very cautiously and bit by bit we crept into a position from
which we could peer down. The bushes about us creaked and waved with the
force of a breeze that was blowing down the shaft. We could see nothing at
first except smooth vertical walls descending at last into an impenetrable
black. And then very gradually we became aware of a number of very faint
and little lights going to and fro.
For a time that stupendous gulf of mystery held us so that we forgot even
our sphere. In time, as we grew more accustomed to the darkness, we could
make out very small, dim, elusive shapes moving about among those
needle-point illuminations. We peered amazed and incredulous,
understanding so little that we could find no words to say. We could
distinguish nothing that would give us a clue to the meaning of the faint
shapes we saw.
"What can it be?" I asked; "what can it be?"
"The engineering!... They must live in these caverns during the night, and
come out during the day."
"Cavor! " I said. "Can they be - that - it was something like -, men?"
"That was not a man."
"We dare risk nothing"
"We dare do nothing until we find the sphere!"
"We can do nothing until we find the sphere."
He assented with a groan and stirred himself to move. He stared about him
for a space, sighed, and indicated a direction. We struck out through the
jungle. For a time we crawled resolutely, then with diminishing vigour.
Presently among great shapes of flabby purple there came a noise of
trampling and cries about us. We lay close, and for a long time the sounds
went to and fro and very near. But this time we saw nothing. I tried to
whisper to Cavor that I could hardly go without food much longer, but my
mouth had become too dry for whispering.
"Cavor," I said, "I must have food."
He turned a face full of dismay towards me. "It's a case for holding out,"
"But I must," I said, "and look at my lips!"
"I've been thirsty some time."
"If only some of that snow had remained!"
"It's clean gone! We're driving from arctic to tropical at the rate of a
degree a minute. ..."
I gnawed my hand.
"The sphere!" he said. "There is nothing for it but the sphere."
We roused ourselves to another spurt of crawling. My mind ran entirely on
edible things, on the hissing profundity of summer drinks, more
particularly I craved for beer. I was haunted by the memory of a sixteen
gallon cask that had swaggered in my Lympne cellar. I thought of the
adjacent larder, and especially of steak and kidney pie - tender steak and
plenty of kidney, and rich, thick gravy between. Ever and again I was
seized with fits of hungry yawning. We came to flat places overgrown with
fleshy red things, monstrous coralline growths; as we pushed against them
they snapped and broke. I noted the quality of the broken surfaces. The
confounded stuff certainly looked of a biteable texture. Then it seemed to
me that it smelt rather well.
I picked up a fragment and sniffed at it.
"Cavor," I said in a hoarse undertone.
He glanced at me with his face screwed up. "Don't,"
he said. I put down the fragment, and we crawled on through this tempting
fleshiness for a space.
"Cavor," I asked, "why not?"
"Poison," I heard him say, but he did not look round.
We crawled some way before I decided.
"I'll chance it," said I.
He made a belated gesture to prevent me. I stuffed my mouth full. He
crouched watching my face, his own twisted into the oddest expression.
"It's good," I said.
"O Lord!" he cried.
He watched me munch, his face wrinkled between desire and disapproval,
then suddenly succumbed to appetite and began to tear off huge mouthfuls.
For a time we did nothing but eat.
The stuff was not unlike a terrestrial mushroom, only it was much laxer in
texture, and, as one swallowed it, it warmed the throat. At first we
experienced a mere mechanical satisfaction in eating; then our blood began
to run warmer, and we tingled at the lips and fingers, and then new and
slightly irrelevant ideas came bubbling up in our minds.
"Its good," said I. "Infernally good! What a home for our surplus
population! Our poor surplus population," and I broke off another large
portion. It filled me with a curiously benevolent satisfaction that there
was such good food in the moon. The depression of my hunger gave way to an
irrational exhilaration. The dread and discomfort in which I had been
living vanished entirely. I perceived the moon no longer as a planet from
which I most earnestly desired the means of escape, but as a possible
refuge from human destitution. I think I forgot the Selenites, the
mooncalves, the lid, and the noises completely so soon as I had eaten that
Cavor replied to my third repetition of my "surplus population" remark
with similar words of approval. I felt that my head swam, but I put this
down to the stimulating effect cf food after a long fast. " Ess'lent
discov'ry yours, Cavor,' said I. "Se'nd on'y to the 'tato."
"Whajer mean?" asked Cavor. "'Scovery of the moon - se'nd on'y to the
I looked at him, shocked at his suddenly hoarse voice, and by the badness
of his articulation. It occurred to me in a flash that he was intoxicated,
possibly by the fungus. It also occurred to me that he erred in imaging
that he had discovered the moon; he had not discovered it, he had only
reached it. I tried to lay my hand on his arm and explain this to him, but
the issue was too subtle for his brain. It was also unexpectedly difficult
to express. After a momentary attempt to understand me - I remember
wondering if the fungus had made my eyes as fishy as his - he set off upon
some observations on his own account.
"We are," he announced with a solemn hiccup, "the creashurs o' Mat we eat
He repeated this, and as I was now in one of my subtle moods, I determined
to dispute it. Possibly I wandered a little from the point. But Cavor
certainly did not attend at all properly. He stood up as well as he could,
putting a hand on my head to steady I himself, which was disrespectful,
and stood staring about him, quite devoid now of any fear of the moon
I tried to point out that this was dangerous for some reason that was not
perfectly clear to me, but the word "dangerous" had somehow got mixed with
"indiscreet," and came out rather more like "injurious" than either; and
after an attempt to disentangle them, I resumed my argument, addressing
myself principally to the unfamiliar but attentive coralline growths on
either side. I felt that it was necessary to clear up this confusion
between the moon and a potato at once - I wandered into a long parenthesis
on the importance of precision of definition in argument. I did my best to
ignore the fact that my bodily sensations were no longer agreeable.
In some way that I have now forgotten, my mind was led back to projects of
colonisation. "We must annex this moon," I said. " There must be no
shilly-shally. This is part of the White Man's Burthen. Cavor - we are -
hic - Satap - mean Satraps! Nempire Ceasar never dreamt. B'in all the
newspapers. Cavorecia. Bedfordecia. Bedfordecia - hic - Limited. Mean -
Certainly I was intoxicated.
I embarked upon an argument to show the infinite benefits our arrival
would confer on the moon. I involved myself in a rather difficult proof
that the arrival of Columbus was, on the whole, beneficial to America. I
found I had forgotten the line of argument I had intended to pursue, and
continued to repeat "Simlar to C'lumbus," to fill up time.
From that joint my memory of the action of that abominable fungus becomes
confused. I remember vaguely that we declared our intention of standing no
nonsense from any confounded insects, that we decided it ill became men to
hide shamefully upon a mere satellite, that we equipped ourselves with
huge armfuls of the fungus - whether for missile purposes or not I do not
know - and, heedless of the stabs of the bayonet scrub, we started forth
into the sunshine.
Almost immediately we must have come upon the Selenites. There were six of
them, and they were marching in single file over a rocky place, making the
most remarkable piping and whining sounds. They all seemed to become aware
of us at once, all instantly became silent and motionless, like animals,
with their faces turned towards us.
For a moment I was sobered.
"Insects," murmured Cavor, "insects! And they think I'm going to crawl
about on my stomach - on my vertebrated stomach!"
"Stomach," he repeated slowly, as though he chewed the indignity.
Then suddenly, with a shout of fury, he made three vast strides and leapt
towards them. He leapt badly; he made a series of somersaults in the air,
whirled right over them, and vanished with an enormous splash amidst the
cactus bladders. What the Selenites made of this amazing, and to my mind
undignified irruption from another planet, I have no means of guessing. I
seem to remember the sight of their backs as they ran in all directions,
but I am not sure. All these last incidents before oblivion came are vague
and faint in my mind. I know I made a step to follow Cavor, and tripped
and fell headlong among the rocks. I was, I am certain, suddenly and
vehemently ill. I seem to remember, a violent struggle and being gripped
by metallic clasps. ...
My next clear recollection is that we were prisoners at we knew not what
depths beneath the moon's surface; we were in darkness amidst strange
distracting noises; our bodies were covered with scratches and bruises,
and our heads racked with pain.
The Selenite's Face
I FOUND myself sitting crouched together in a tumultuous darkness. For a
long time I could not understand where I was, nor how I had come to this
perplexity. I thought of the cupboard into which I had been thrust at
times when I was a child, and then of a very dark and noisy bedroom in
which I had slept during an illness. But these sounds about me were not
the noises I had known, and there was a thin flavour in the air like the
wind of a stable. Then I supposed we must still be at work upon the
sphere, and that somehow I had got into the cellar of Cavor's house. I
remembered we had finished the sphere, and fancied I must still be in it
and travelling through space.
"Cavor," I said, "cannot we have some light?"
There came no answer.
"Cavor!" I insisted.
I was answered by a groan. "My head!" I heard him say; "my head!"
I attempted to press my hands to my brow, which ached, and discovered they
were tied together. This startled me very much. I brought them up to my
mouth and felt the cold smoothness of metal. They were chained together. I
tried to separate my legs and made out they were similarly fastened, and
also that I was fastened to the ground by a much thicker chain about the
middle of my body.
I was more frightened that I had yet been by anything in all our strange
experiences. For a time I tugged silently at my bonds. " Cavor! " I cried
out sharply. "Why am I tied? Why have you tied me hand and foot? "
"I haven't tied you," he answered. "It's the Selenites."
The Selenites! My mind hung on that for a space. Then my memories came
back to me: the snowy desolation, the thawing of the air, the growth of"
the plants, our strange hopping and crawling among the rocks and
vegetation of the crater. All the distress of our frantic search for the
sphere returned to me. ... Finally the opening of the great lid that
covered the pit!
Then as I strained to trace our later movements down to our present
plight, the pain in my head became intolerable. I came to an
insurmountable barrier, an obstinate blank.
"Where are we?
"How should I know?"
"Are we dead?"
"They've got us, then!"
He made no answer but a grunt. The lingering traces of the poison seemed
to make him oddly irritable.
"What do you mean to do?"
"How should I know what to do?"
"Oh, very well!" said I, and became silent. Presently, I was roused from
a stupor. "O Lord!" I cried; "I wish you'd stop that buzzing!"
We lapsed into silence again, listening to the dull confusion of noises
like the muffled sounds of a street or factory that filled our ears. I
could make nothing of it, my mind pursued first one rhythm and then
another, and questioned it in vain. But after a long time I became aware
of a new and sharper element, not mingling with the rest but standing out,
as it were, against that cloudy background of sound. It was a series of
relatively very little definite sounds, tappings and rubbings, like a
loose spray of ivy against a window or a bird moving about upon a box. We
listened and peered about us, but the darkness was a velvet pall. There
followed a noise like the subtle movement of the wards of a well-oiled
lock. And then there appeared before me, hanging as it seemed in an
immensity of black, a thin bright line.
"Look!" whispered Cavor very softly.
"What is it?"
"I don't know."
The thin bright line became a band, and broader and paler. It took upon
itself the quality of a bluish light falling upon a white-washed wall. It
ceased to be parallel-sided; it developed a deep indentation on one side.
I turned to remark this to Cavor, and was amazed to see his ear in a
brilliant illumination - all the rest of him in shadow. I twisted my head
round as well as my bonds would permit. "Cavor," I said, "it's behind!"
His ear vanished - gave place to an eye!
Suddenly the crack that had been admitting the light broadened out, and
revealed itself as the space of an opening door. Beyond was a sapphire
vista, and in the doorway stood a grotesque outline silhouetted against
We both made convulsive efforts to turn, and failing, sat staring over our
shoulders at this. My first impression was of some clumsy quadruped with
lowered head. Then I perceived it was the slender pinched body and short
and extremely attenuated bandy legs of a Selenite, with his head depressed
between his shoulders. He was without the helmet and body covering they
wear upon the exterior.
He was a blank, black figure to us, but instictively our imaginations
supplied features to his very human outline. I, at least, took it
instantly that he was somewhat hunchbacked, with a high forehead and long
He came forward three steps and paused for a time. His movements seemed
absolutely noiseless. Then he came forward again. He walked like a bird,
his feet fell one in front of the other. He stepped out of the ray of
light that came through the doorway, and it seemed as though he vanished
altogether in the shadow.
For a moment my eyes sought him in the wrong place, and then I perceived
him standing facing us both in the full light. Only the human features I
had attributed to him were not there at all!
Of course I ought to have expected that, only I didn't. It came to me as
an absolute, for a moment an overwhelming shock. It seemed as though it
wasn't a face, as though it must needs be a mask, a horror, a deformity,
that would presently be disavowed or explained. There was no nose, and the
thing had dull bulging eyes at the side - in the silhouette I had supposed
they were ears. There were no ears. ... I have tried to draw one of these
heads, but I cannot. There was a mouth, downwardly curved, like a human
mouth in a face that stares ferociously. ...
The neck on which the head was poised was jointed in three places, almost
like the short joints in the leg of a crab. The joints of the limbs I
could not see, because of the puttee-like straps in which they were
swathed, and which formed the only clothing the being wore.
There the thing was, looking at us!
At the time my mind was taken up by the mad impossibility of the creature.
I suppose he also was amazed, and with more reason, perhaps, for amazement
than we. Only, confound him! he did not show it. We did at least know what
had brought about this meeting of incompatible creatures. But conceive how
it would seem to decent Londoners, for example, to come upon a couple of
living things, as big as men and absolutely unlike any other earthly
animals, careering about among the sheep in Hyde Park! It must have taken
him like that.
Figure us! We were bound hand and foot, fagged and filthy; our beards two
inches long, our faces scratched and bloody. Cavor you must imagine in his
knickerbockers (torn in several places by the bayonet scrub) his Jaegar
shirt and old cricket cap, his wiry hair wildly disordered, a tail to
every quarter of the heavens. In that blue light his face did not look red
but very dark, his lips and the drying blood upon my hands seemed black.
If possible I was in a worse plight than he, on account of the yellow
fungus into which I had jumped. Our jackets were unbuttoned, and our shoes
had been taken off and lay at our feet. And we were sitting with our backs
to this queer bluish light, peering at such a monster as Durer might have
Cavor broke the silence; started to speak, went hoarse, and cleared his
throat. Outside began a terrific bellowing, as if a mooncalf were in
trouble. It ended in a shriek, and everything was still again.
Presently the Selenite turned about, flickered into the shadow, stood for
a moment retrospective at the door, and then closed it on us; and once
more we were in that murmurous mystery of darkness into which we had
Mr. Cavor Makes Some Sugestions
FOR a time neither of us spoke. To focus together all the things we had
brought upon ourselves, seemed beyond my mental powers.
"They've got us," I said at last.
"It was that fungus."
"Well - if I hadn't taken it we should have fainted and starved."
"We might have found the sphere."
I lost my temper at his persistence, and swore to myself. For a time we
hated one another in silence. I drummed with my fingers on the floor
between my knees, and gritted the links of my fetters together. Presently
I was forced to talk again.
"What do you make of it, anyhow?" I asked humbly.
"They are reasonable creatures - they can make things and do things.
Those lights we saw..."
He stopped. It was clear he could make nothing of it.
When he spoke again it was to confess, "After all, they are more human
than we had a right to expect. I suppose -"
He stopped irritatingly.
"I suppose, anyhow - on any planet where there is an intelligent animal -
it will carry its brain case upward, and have hands, and walk erect."
Presently he broke away in another direction.
"We are some way in," he said. "I mean - perhaps a couple of thousand feet
"It's cooler. And our voices are so much louder. That faded quality - it
has altogether gone. And the feeling in one's ears and throat."
I had not noted that, but I did now.
"The air is denser. We must be some depths - a mile even, we may be -
inside the moon."
"We never thought of a world inside the moon."
"How could we?"
"We might have done. Only one gets into habits of mind."
He thought for a time.
"Now," he said, "it seems such an obvious thing."
"Of course! The moon must be enormously cavernous, with an atmosphere
within, and at the centre of its caverns a sea.
"One knew that the moon had a lower specific gravity than the earth, one
knew that it had little air or water outside, one knew, too, that it was
sister planet to the earth, and that it was unaccountable that it should
be different in composition. The inference that it was hollowed out was as
clear as day. And yet one never saw it as a fact. Kepler, of course -"
His voice had the interest now of a man who has discerned a pretty
sequence of reasoning.
"Yes," he said, "Kepler with his sub-volvani was right after all."
"I wish you had taken the trouble to find that out before we came," I
He answered nothing, buzzing to himself softly, as he pursued his
thoughts. My temper was going.
"What do you think has become of the sphere, anyhow? " I asked.
"Lost," he said, like a man who answers an uninteresting question.
"Among those plants?"
"Unless they find it."
"How can I tell?"
"Cavor," I said, with a sort of hysterical bitterness, "things look bright
for my Company..."
He made no answer.
"Good Lord!" I exclaimed. "Just think of all the trouble we took to get
into this pickle! What did we come for? What are we after? What was the
moon to us or we to the moon? We wanted too much, we tried too much. We
ought to have started the little things first. It was you proposed the
moon! Those Cavorite spring blinds! I am certain we could have worked them
for terrestrial purposes. Certain! Did you really understand what I
proposed? A steel cylinder - "
"Rubbish!" said Cavor.
We ceased to converse.
For a time Cavor kept up a broken monologue without much help from me.
"If they find it," he began, "if they find it ... what will they do with
it? Well, that's a question. It may be that's the question. They won't
understand it, anyhow. If they understood that sort of thing they would
have come long since to the earth. Would they? Why shouldn't they? But
they would have sent something - they couldn't keep their hands off such a
possibility. No! But they will examine it. Clearly they are intelligent
and inquisitive. They will examine it - get inside it - trifle with the
studs. Off! .. That would mean the moon for us for all the rest of our
lives. Strange creatures, strange knowledge ..."
"As for strange knowledge - " said I, and language failed me.
"Look here, Bedford," said Cavor, "you came on this expedition of your own
"You said to me, 'Call it prospecting'."
"There's always risks in prospecting."
"Especially when you do it unarmed and without thinking out every
"I was so taken up with the sphere. The thing rushed on us, and carried us
"Rushed on me, you mean."
"Rushed on me just as much. How was I to know when I set to work on
molecular physics that the business would bring me here - of all places?"
"It's this accursed science," I cried. "It's the very Devil. The medieval
priests and persecutors were right and the Moderns are all wrong. You
tamper with it - and it offers you gifts. And directly you take them it
knocks you to pieces in some unexpected way. Old passions and new weapons
- now it upsets your religion, now it upsets your social ideas, now it
whirls you off to desolation and misery!"
"Anyhow, it's no use your quarrelling with me now. These creatures -
these Selenites, or whatever we choose to call them - have got us tied
hand and foot. Whatever temper you choose to go through with it in, you
will have to go through with it. ... We have experiences before us that
will need all our coolness."
He paused as if he required my assent. But I sat sulking. "Confound your
science!" I said.
"The problem is communication. Gestures, I fear, will be different.
Pointing, for example. No creatures but men and monkeys point."
That was too obviously wrong for me. "Pretty nearly every animal," I
cried, "points with its eyes or nose."
Cavor meditated over that. "Yes," he said at last, "and we don't. There's
such differences - such differences!"
"One might. ... But how can I tell? There is speech. The sounds they make,
a sort of fluting and piping. I don't see how we are to imitate that. Is
it their speech, that sort of thing? They may have different senses,
different means of communication. Of course they are minds and we are
minds; there must be something in common. Who knows how far we may not get
to an understanding?"
"The things are outside us," I said. "They're more different from us than
the strangest animals on earth. They are a different clay. What is the
good of talking like this?"
Cavor thought. "I don't see that. Where there are minds they will have
something similar - even though they have been evolved on different
planets. Of course if it was a question of instincts, if we or they are
no more than animals "
"Well, are they? They're much more like ants on their hind legs than human
beings, and who ever got to any sort of understanding with ants?"
"But these machines and clothing! No, I don't hold with you, Bedford. The
difference is wide - "
"The resemblance must bridge it. I remember reading once a paper by the
late Professor Galton on the possibility of communication between the
planets. Unhappily, at that time it did not seem probable that that would
be of any material benefit to me, and I fear I did not give it the
attention I should have done - in view of this state of affairs. Yet. ...
Now, let me see!
"His idea was to begin with those broad truths that must underlie all
conceivable mental existences and establish a basis on those. The great
principles of geometry, to begin with. He proposed to take some leading
proposition of Euclid's, and show by construction that its truth was known
to us, to demonstrate, for example, that the angles at the base of an
isosceles triangle are equal, and that if the equal sides be produced the
angles on the other side of the base are equal also, or that the square on
the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the
squares on the two other sides. By demonstrating our knowledge of these
things we should demonstrate our possession of a reasonable
intelligence... Now, suppose I ... I might draw the geometrical figure
with a wet finger, or even trace it in the air ..."
He fell silent. I sat meditating his words. For a time his wild hope of
communication, of interpretation, with these weird beings held me. Then
that angry despair that was a part of my exhaustion and physical misery
resumed its sway. I perceived with a sudden novel vividness the
extraordinary folly of everything I had ever done. "Ass!" I said; "oh,
ass, unutterable ass. ... I seem to exist only to go about doing
preposterous things. Why did we ever leave the thing? ... Hopping about
looking for patents and concessions in the craters of the moon!... If only
we had had the sense to fasten a handkerchief to a stick to show where we
had left the sphere!
I subsided, fuming.
"It is clear," meditated Cavor, "they are intelligent. One can
hypotheticate certain things. As they have not killed us at once, they
must have ideas of mercy. Mercy! at any rate of restraint. Possibly of
intercourse. They may meet us. And this apartment and the glimpses we had
of its guardian. These fetters! A high degree of intelligence..."
"I wish to heaven," cried I, "I'd thought even twice! Plunge after plunge.
First one fluky start and then another. It was my confidence in you! Why
didn't I stick to my play? That was what I was equal to. That was my world
and the life I was made for. I could have finished that play. I'm certain
... it was a good play. I had the scenario as good as done. Then. ...
Conceive it! leaping to the moon! Practically I've thrown my life away!
That old woman in the inn near Canterbury had better sense."
I looked up, and stopped in mid-sentence. The darkness had given place to
that bluish light again. The door was opening, and several noiseless
Selenites were coming into the chamber. I became quite still, staring at
their grotesque faces.
Then suddenly my sense of disagreeable strangeness changed to interest. I
perceived that the foremost and second carried bowls. One elemental need
at least our minds could understand in common. They were bowls of some
metal that, like our fetters, looked dark in that bluish light; and each
contained a number of whitish fragments. All the cloudy pain and misery
that oppressed me rushed together and took the shape of hunger. I eyed
these bowls wolfishly, and, though it returned to me in dreams, at that
time it seemed a small matter that at the end of the arms that lowered one
towards me were not hands, but a sort of flap and thumb, like the end of
an elephant's trunk. The stuff in the bowl was loose in texture, and
whitish brown in colour - rather like lumps of some cold souffle, and it
smelt faintly like mushrooms. From a partially divided carcass of a
mooncalf that we presently saw, I am inclined to believe it must have been
My hands were so tightly chained that I could barely contrive to reach the
bowl; but when they saw the effort I made, two of them dexterously
released one of the turns about my wrist. Their tentacle hands were soft
and cold to my skin. I immediately seized a mouthful of the food. It had
the same laxness in texture that all organic structures seem to have upon
the moon; it tasted rather like a gauffre or a damp meringue, but in no
way was it disagreeable. I took two other mouthfuls. "I wanted - foo'! "
said I, tearing off a still larger piece. ...
For a time we ate with an utter absence of selfconsciousness. We ate and
presently drank like tramps in a soup kitchen. Never before nor since have
I been hungry to the ravenous pitch, and save that I have had this very
experience I could never have believed that, a quarter of a million of
miles out of our proper world, in utter perplexity of soul, surrounded,
watched, touched by beings more grotesque and inhuman than the worst
creations of a nightmare, it would be possible for me to eat in utter
forgetfulness of all these things. They stood about us watching us, and
ever and again making a slight elusive twittering that stood the suppose,
in the stead of speech. I did not even shiver at their touch. And when the
first zeal of my feeding was over, I could note that Cavor, too, had been
eating with the same shameless abandon.
Experiments in intercourse
WHEN at last we had made an end of eating, the Selenites linked our hands
closely together again, and then untwisted the chains about our feet and
rebound them, so as to give us a limited freedom of movement. Then they
unfastened the chains about our waists. To do all this they had to handle
us freely, and ever and again one of their queer heads came down close to
my face, or a soft tentacle-hand touched my head or neck. I don't remember
that I was afraid then or repelled by their proximity. I think that our
incurable anthropomorphism made us imagine there were human heads inside
their masks. The skin, like everything else, looked bluish, but that was
on account of the light; and it was hard and shiny, quite in the
beetle-wing fashion, not soft, or moist, or hairy, as a vertebrated
animal's would be. Along the crest of the head was a low ridge of whitish
spines running from back to front, and a much larger ridge curved on
either side over the eyes. The Selenite who untied me used his mouth to
help his hands.
"They seem to be releasing us," said Cavor. "Remember we are on the moon!
Make no sudden movements!"
"Are you going to try that geometry?"
"If I get a chance. But, of course, they may make an advance first."
We remained passive, and the Selenites, having finished their
arrangements, stood back from us, and seemed to be looking at us. I say
seemed to be, because as their eyes were at the side and not in front, one
had the same difficulty in determining the direction in which they were
looking as one has in the case of a hen or a fish. They conversed with one
another in their reedy tones, that seemed to me impossible to imitate or
define. The door behind us opened wider, and, glancing over my shoulder, I
saw a vague large space beyond, in which quite a little crowd of Selenites
were standing. They seemed a curiously miscellaneous rabble.
"Do they want us to imitate those sounds? " I asked Cavor.
"I don't think so," he said.
"It seems to me that they are trying to make us understand something."
"I can't make anything of their gestures. Do you notice this one, who is
worrying with his head like a man with an uncomfortable collar? "
"Let us shake our heads at him."
We did that, and finding it ineffectual, attempted an imitation of the
Selenites' movements. That seemed to interest them. At any rate they all
set up the same movement. But as that seemed to lead to nothing, we
desisted at last and so did they, and fell into a piping argument among
themselves. Then one of them, shorter and very much thicker than the
others, and with a particularly wide mouth, squatted down suddenly beside
Cavor, and put his hands and feet in the same posture as Cavor's were
bound, and then by a dexterous movement stood up.
"Cavor," I shouted, "they want us to get up!"
He stared open-mouthed. "That's it!" he said.
And with much heaving and grunting, because our hands were tied together,
we contrived to struggle to our feet. The Selenites made way for our
elephantine heavings, and seemed to twitter more volubly. As soon as we
were on our feet the thick-set Selenite came and patted each of our faces
with his tentacles, and walked towards the open doorway. That also was
plain enough, and we followed him. We saw that four of the Selenites
standing in the doorway were much taller than the others, and clothed in
the same manner as those we had seen in the crater, namely, with spiked
round helmets and cylindrical body-cases, and that each of the four
carried a goad with spike and guard made of that same dull-looking metal
as the bowls. These four closed about us, one on either side of each of
us, as we emerged from our chamber into the cavern from which the light
We did not get our impression of that cavern all at once. Our attention
was taken up by the movements and attitudes of the Selenites immediately
about us, and by the necessity of controlling our motion, lest we should
startle and alarm them and ourselves by some excessive stride. In front of
us was the short, thick-set being who had solved the problem of asking us
to get up, moving with gestures that seemed, almost all of them,
intelligible to us, inviting us to follow him. His spout-like face turned
from one of us to the other with a quickness that was clearly
interrogative. For a time, I say, we were taken up with these things.
But at last the great place that formed a background to our movements
asserted itself. It became apparent that the source of much, at least, of
the tumult of sounds which had filled our ears ever since we had recovered
from the stupefaction of the fungus was a vast mass of machinery in active
movement, whose flying and whirling parts were visible indistinctly over
the heads and between the bodies of the Selenites who walked about us. And
not only did the web of sounds that filled the air proceed from this
mechanism, but also the peculiar blue light that irradiated the whole
place. We had taken it as a natural thing that a subterranean cavern
should be artificially lit, and even now, though the fact was patent to my
eyes, I did not really grasp its import until presently the darkness came.
The meaning and structure of this huge apparatus we saw I cannot explain,
because we neither of us learnt what it was for or how it worked. One
after another, big shafts of metal flung out and up from its centre, their
heads travelling in what seemed to me to be a parabolic path; each dropped
a sort of dangling arm as it rose towards the apex of its flight and
plunged down into a vertical cylinder, forcing this down before it. About
it moved the shapes of tenders, little figures that seemed vaguely
different from the beings about us. As each of the three dangling arms of
the machine plunged down, there was a clank and then a roaring, and out of
the top of the vertical cylinder came pouring this incandescent substance
that lit the place, and ran over as milk runs over a boiling pot, and
dripped luminously into a tank of light below. It was a cold blue light, a
sort of phosphorescent glow but infinitely brighter, and from the tanks
into which it fell it ran in conduits athwart the cavern.
Thud, thud, thud, thud, came the sweeping arms of this unintelligible
apparatus, and the light substance hissed and poured. At first the thing
seemed only reasonably large and near to us, and then I saw how
exceedingly little the Selenites upon it seemed, and I realised the full
immensity of cavern and machine. I looked from this tremendous affair to
the faces of the Selenites with a new respect. I stopped, and Cavor
stopped, and stared at this thunderous engine.
"But this is stupendous!" I said. "What can it be for?"
Cavor's blue-lit face was full of an intelligent respect. "I can't dream!
Surely these beings - Men could not make a thing like that! Look at those
arms, are they on connecting rods?"
The thick-set Selenite had gone some paces unheeded. He came back and
stood between us and the great machine. I avoided seeing him, because I
guessed somehow that his idea was to beckon us onward. He walked away in
the direction he wished us to go, and turned and came back, and flicked
our faces to attract our attention.
Cavor and I looked at one another.
"Cannot we show him we are interested in the machine? " I said.
"Yes," said Cavor. " We'll try that." He turned to our guide and smiled,
and pointed to the machine, and pointed again, and then to his head, and
then to the machine. By some defect of reasoning he seemed to imagine that
broken English might help these gestures. "Me look 'im," he said, "me
think 'im very much. Yes."
His behaviour seemed to check the Selenites in their desire for our
progress for a moment. They faced one another, their queer heads moved,
the twittering voices came quick and liquid. Then one of them, a lean,
tall creature, with a sort of mantle added to the puttee in which the
others were dressed, twisted his elephant trunk of a hand about Cavor's
waist, and pulled him gently to follow our guide, who again went on ahead.
Cavor resisted. "We may just as well begin explaining ourselves now. They
may think we are new animals, a new sort of mooncalf perhaps! It is most
important that we should show an intelligent interest from the outset."
He began to shake his head violently. "No, no," he said, "me not come on
one minute. Me look at 'im."
" Isn't there some geometrical point you might bring in apropos of that
affair? " I suggested, as the Selenites conferred again.
"Possibly a parabolic -" be began.
He yelled loudly, and leaped six feet or more!
One of the four armed moon-men had pricked him with a goad!
I turned on the goad-bearer behind me with a swift threatening gesture,
and he started back. This and Cavor's sudden shout and leap clearly
astonished all the Selenites. They receded hastily, facing us. For one of
those moments that seem to last for ever, we stood in angry protest, with
a scattered semicircle of these inhuman beings about us.
"He pricked me!" said Cavor, with a catching of the voice.
"I saw him," I answered.
"Confound it!" I said to the Selenites; "We're not going to stand that!
What on earth do you take us for?"
I glanced quickly right and left. Far away across the blue wilderness of
cavern I saw a number of other Selenites running towards us; broad and
slender they were, and one with a larger head than the others. The cavern
spread wide and low, and receded in every direction into darkness. Its
roof, I remember, seemed to bulge down as if with the weight of the vast
thickness of rocks that prisoned us. There was no way out of it - no way
out of it. Above, below, in every direction, was the unknown, and these
inhuman creatures, with goads and gestures, confronting us, and we two
The Giddy Bridge
JUST for a moment that hostile pause endured. I suppose that both we and
the Selenites did some very rapid thinking. My clearest impression was
that there was nothing to put my back against, and that we were bound to
be surrounded and killed. The overwhelming folly of our presence there
loomed over me in black, enormous reproach. Why had I ever launched my
self on this mad, inhuman expedition?
Cavor came to my side and laid his hand on my arm. His pale and terrified
face was ghastly in the blue light.
"We can't do anything," he said. "It's a mistake. They don't understand.
We must go. As they want us to go."
I looked down at him, and then at the fresh Selenites who were coming to
help their fellows. "If I had my hands free - "
"It's no use," he panted.
And he turned about and led the way in the direction that had been
indicated for us.
I followed, trying to look as subdued as possible, and feeling at the
chains about my wrists. My blood was boiling. I noted nothing more of that
cavern, though it seemed to take a long time before we had marched across
it, or if I noted anything I forgot it as I saw it. My thoughts were
concentrated, I think, upon my chains and the Selenites, and particularly
upon the helmeted ones with the goads. At first they marched parallel with
us, and at a respectful distance, but presently they were overtaken by
three others, and then they drew nearer, until they were within arms
length again. I winced like a beaten horse as they came near to us. The
shorter, thicker Selenite marched at first on our right flank, but
presently came in front of us again.
How well the picture of that grouping has bitten into my brain; the back
of Cavor's downcast head just in front of me, and the dejected droop of
his shoulders, and our guide's gaping visage, perpetually jerking about
him, and the goad-bearers on either side, watchful, yet open-mouthed - a
blue monochrome. And after all, I do remember one other thing besides the
purely personal affair, which is, that a sort of gutter came presently
across the floor of the cavern, and then ran along by the side of the path
of rock we followed. And it was full of that same bright blue luminous
stuff that flowed out of the great machine. I walked close beside it, and
I can testify it radiated not a particle of heat. It was brightly shining,
and yet it was neither warmer nor colder than anything else in the cavern.
Clang, clang, clang, we passed right under the thumping levers of another
vast machine, and so came at last to a wide tunnel, in which we could even
hear the pad, pad, of our shoeless feet, and which, save for the trickling
thread of blue to the right of us, was quite unlit. The shadows made
gigantic travesties of our shapes and those of the Selenites on the
irregular wall and roof of the tunnel. Ever and again crystals in the
walls of the tunnel scintillated like gems, ever and again the tunnel
expanded into a stalactitic cavern, or gave off branches that vanished
We seemed to be marching down that tunnel for a long time. "Trickle,
trickle," went the flowing light very softly, and our footfalls and their
echoes made an irregular paddle, paddle. My mind settled down to the
question of my chains. If I were to slip off one turn so, and then to
twist it so ...
If I tried to do it very gradually, would they see I was slipping my wrist
out of the looser turn? If they did, what would they do?
"Bedford," said Cavor, "it goes down. It keeps on going down."
His remark roused me from my sullen pre-occupation.
"If they wanted to kill us," he said, dropping back to come level with me,
" there is no reason why they should not have done it."
"No," I admitted, "that's true."
"They don't understand us," he said, " they think we are merely strange
animals, some wild sort of mooncalf birth, perhaps. It will be only when
they have observed us better that they will begin to think we have minds"
"When you trace those geometrical problems," said I.
"It may be that."
We tramped on for a space.
"You see," said Cavor, "these may be Selenites of a lower class."
"The infernal fools!" said I viciously, glancing at their exasperating
"If we endure what they do to us"
"We've got to endure it," said I.
"There may be others less stupid. This is the mere outer fringe of their
world. It must go down and down, cavern, passage, tunnel, down at last to
the sea - hundreds of miles below."
His words made me think of the mile or so of rock and tunnel that might be
over our heads already. It was like a weight dropping, on my shoulders.
"Away from the sun and air," I said. "Even a mine half a mile deep is
"This is not, anyhow. It's probable - Ventilation! The air would blow
from the dark side of the moon to the sunlit, and all the carbonic acid
would well out there and feed those plants. Up this tunnel, for example,
there is quite a breeze. And what a world it must be. The earnest we have
in that shaft, and those machines"
"And the goad," I said. "Don't forget the goad!"
He walked a little in front of me for a time.
"Even that goad - " he said.
"I was angry at the time. But it was perhaps necessary we should get on.
They have different skins, and probably different nerves. They may not
understand our objection - Just as a being from Mars might not like our
earthly habit of nudging"
"They'd better be careful how they nudge me."
"And about that geometry. After all, their way is a way of understanding,
too. They begin with the elements of life and not of thought. Food.
Compulsion. Pain. They strike at fundamentals."
"There's no doubt about that," I said.
He went on to talk of the enormous and wonderful world into which we were
being taken. I realised slowly from his tone, that even now he was not
absolutely in despair at the prospect of going ever deeper into this
inhuman planet-burrow. His mind ran on machines and invention, to the
exclusion of a thousand dark things that beset me. It wasn't that he
intended to make any use of these things, he simply wanted to know them.
"After all," he said, " this is a tremendous occasion. It is the meeting
of two worlds! What are we going to see? Think of what is below us here."
"We shan't see much if the light isn't better," I remarked.
"This is only the outer crust. Down below - On this scale - There will be
everything. Do you notice how different they seem one from another? The
story we shall take back!"
"Some rare sort of animal," I said, "might comfort himself in that way
while they were bringing him to the Zoo. ... It doesn't follow that we are
going to be shown all these things."
"When they find we have reasonable minds," said Cavor, "they will want to
learn about the earth. Even if they have no generous emotions, they will
teach in order to learn. ... And the things they must know! The
He went on to speculate on the possibility of their knowing things he had
never hoped to learn on earth, speculating in that way, with a raw wound
from that goad already in his skin! Much that he said I forget, for my
attention was drawn to the fact that the tunnel along which we had been
marching was opening out wider and wider. We seemed, from the feeling of
the air, to be going out into a huge space. But how big the space might
really be we could not tell, because it was unlit. Our little stream of
light ran in a dwindling thread and vanished far ahead. Presently the
rocky walls had vanished altogether on either hand. There was nothing to
be seen but the path in front of us and the trickling hurrying rivulet of
blue phosphorescence. The figures of Cavor and the guiding Selenite
marched before me, the sides of their legs and heads that were towards the
rivulet were clear and bright blue, their darkened sides, now that the
reflection of the tunnel wall no longer lit them, merged indistinguishably
in the darkness beyond.
And soon I perceived that we were approaching a declivity of some sort,
because the little blue stream dipped suddenly out of sight.
In another moment, as it seemed, we had reached the edge. The shining
stream gave one meander of hesitation and then rushed over. It fell to a
depth at which the sound of its descent was absolutely lost to us. Far
below was a bluish glow, a sort of blue mist - at an infinite distance
below. And the darkness the stream dropped out of became utterly void and
black, save that a thing like a plank projected from the edge of the cliff
and stretched out and faded and vanished altogether. There was a warm air
blowing up out of the gulf.
For a moment I and Cavor stood as near the edge as we dared, peering into
a blue-tinged profundity. And then our guide was pulling at my arm.
Then he left me, and walked to the end of that plank and stepped upon it,
looking back. Then when he perceived we watched him, he turned about and
went on along it, walking as surely as though he was on firm earth. For a
moment his form was distinct, then he became a blue blur, and then
vanished into the obscurity. I became aware of some vague shape looming
darkly out of the black.
There was a pause. "Surely! -" said Cavor.
One of the other Selenites walked a few paces out upon the plank, and
turned and looked back at us unconcernedly. The others stood ready to
follow after us. Our guide's expectant figure reappeared. He was returning
to see why we had not advanced.
"What is that beyond there?" I asked.
"I can't see."
"We can't cross this at any price," said I.
"I could not go three steps on it," said Cavor, "even with my hands free."
We looked at each other's drawn faces in blank consternation.
"They can't know what it is to be giddy!" said Cavor.
"It's quite impossible for us to walk that plank."
"I don't believe they see as we do. I've been watching them. I wonder if
they know this is simply blackness for us. How can we make them
"Anyhow, we must make them understand."
I think we said these things with a vague half hope the Selenites might
somehow understand. I knew quite clearly that all that was needed was an
explanation. Then as I saw their faces, I realised that an explanation was
impossible. Just here it was that our resemblances were not going to
bridge our differences. Well, I wasn't going to walk the plank, anyhow. I
slipped my wrist very quickly out of the coil of chain that was loose, and
then began to twist my wrists in opposite directions. I was standing
nearest to the bridge, and as I did this two of the Selenites laid hold of
me, and pulled me gently towards it.
I shook my head violently. "No go," I said, "no use. You don't
Another Selenite added his compulsion. I was forced to step forward.
"I've got an idea," said Cavor; but I knew his ideas.
"Look here!" I exclaimed to the Selenites. "Steady on! It's all very well
for you - "
I sprang round upon my heel. I burst out into curses. For one of the armed
Selenites had stabbed me behind with his goad.
I wrenched my wrists free from the little tentacles that held them. I
turned on the goad-bearer. "Confound you! " I cried. "I've warned you of
that. What on earth do you think I'm made of, to stick that into me? If
you touch me again - "
By way of answer he pricked me forthwith.
I heard Cavor's voice in alarm and entreaty. Even then I think he wanted
to compromise with these creatures. "I say, Bedford," he cried, "I know a
way! " But the sting of that second stab seemed to set free some pent-up
reserve of energy in my being. Instantly the link of the wrist-chain
snapped, and with it snapped all considerations that had held us
unresisting in the hands of these moon creatures. For that second, at
least, I was mad with fear and anger. I took no thought of consequences.
I hit straight out at the face of the thing with the goad. The chain was
twisted round my fist.
There came another of these beastly surprises of which the moon world is
My mailed hand seemed to go clean through him. He smashed like - like
some softish sort of sweet with liquid in it! He broke right in! He
squelched and splashed. It was like hitting a damp toadstool. The flimsy
body went spinning a dozen yards, and fell with a flabby impact. I was
astonished. I was incredulous that any living thing could be so flimsy.
For an instant I could have believed the whole thing a dream.
Then it had become real and imminent again. Neither Cavor nor the other
Selenites seemed to have done anything from the time when I had turned
about to the time when the dead Selenite hit the ground. Every one stood
back from us two, every one alert. That arrest seemed to last at least a
second after the Selenite was down. Every one must have been taking the
thing in. I seem to remember myself standing with my arm half retracted,
trying also to take it in. "What next?" clamoured my brain; "what next?"
Then in a moment every one was moving!
I perceived we must get our chains loose, and that before we could do this
these Selenites had to be beaten off. I faced towards the group of the
three goad-bearers. Instantly one threw his goad at me. It swished over
my head, and I suppose went flying into the abyss behind.
I leaped right at him with all my might as the goad flew over me. He
turned to run as I jumped, and I bore him to the ground, came down right
upon him, and slipped upon his smashed body and fell. He seemed to wriggle
under my foot.
I came into a sitting position, and on every hand the blue backs of the
Selenites were receding into the darkness. I bent a link by main force and
untwisted the chain that had hampered me about the ankles, and sprang to
my feet, with the chain in my hand. Another goad, flung javelin-wise,
whistled by me, and I made a rush towards the darkness out of which it had
come. Then I turned back towards Cavor, who was still standing in the
light of the rivulet near the gulf convulsively busy with his wrists, and
at the same time jabbering nonsense about his idea.
"Come on! " I cried.
"My hands! " he answered.
Then, realising that I dared not run back to him, because my
ill-calculated steps might carry me over the edge, he came shuffling
towards me, with his hands held out before him.
I gripped his chains at once to unfasten them.
"Where are they? " he panted.
"Run away. They'll come back. They're throwing things! Which way shall we
"By the light. To that tunnel. Eh?"
"Yes," said I, and his hands were free.
I dropped on my knees and fell to work on his ankle bonds. Whack came
something - I know not what - and splashed the livid streamlet into drops
about us. Far away on our right a piping and whistling began.
I whipped the chain off his feet, and put it in his hand. "Hit with that!
" I said, and without waiting for an answer, set off in big bounds along
the path by which we had come. I had a nasty sort of feeling that these
things could jump out of the darkness on to my back. I heard the impact of
his leaps come following after me.
We ran in vast strides. But that running, you must understand, was an
altogether different thing from any running on earth. On earth one leaps
and almost instantly hits the ground again, but on the moon, because of
its weaker pull, one shot through the air for several seconds before one
came to earth. In spite of our violent hurry this gave an effect of long
pauses, pauses in which one might have counted seven or eight. "Step,"
and one soared off! All sorts of questions ran through my mind: "Where are
the Selenites? What will they do? Shall we ever get to that tunnel? Is
Cavor far behind? Are they likely to cut him off?" Then whack, stride, and
off again for another step.
I saw a Selenite running in front of me, his legs going exactly as a man's
would go on earth, saw him glance over his shoulder, and heard him shriek
as he ran aside out of my way into the darkness. He was, I I think, our
guide, but I am not sure. Then in another vast stride the walls of rock
had come into view on either hand, and in two more strides I was in the
tunnel, and tempering my pace to its low roof. I went on to a bend, then
stopped and turned back, and plug, plug, plug, Cavor came into view,
splashing into the stream of blue light at every stride, and grew larger
and blundered into me. We stood clutching each other. For a moment, at
least, we had shaken off our captors and were alone.
We were both very much out of breath. We spoke In panting, broken