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The First Men In The Moon by H. G. Wells

Part 4 out of 4

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of the people.

At first I was too stunned to see the thing as any definite disaster - I
was just stunned, as a man is by some accidental violent blow. It is only
afterwards he begins to appreciate his specific injury.

"Good Lord!"

I felt as though somebody was pouring funk out of a can down the back of
my neck. My legs became feeble. I had got the first intimation of what the
disaster meant for me. There was that confounded boy - sky high! I was
utterly left. There was the gold in the coffee-room - my only possession
on earth. How would it all work out? The general effect was of a gigantic
unmanageable confusion.

"I say," said the voice of the little man behind. "I say, you know."

I wheeled about, and there were twenty or thirty people, a sort of
irregular investment of people, all bombarding me with dumb interrogation,
with infinite doubt and suspicion. I felt the compulsion of their eyes
intolerably. I groaned aloud.

"I can't! " I shouted. "I tell you I can't! I'm not equal to it! You must
puzzle and - and be damned to you!"

I gesticulated convulsively. He receded a step as though I had threatened
him. I made a bolt through them into the hotel. I charged back into the
coffee-room, rang the bell furiously. I gripped the waiter as he entered.
"D'ye hear?" I shouted. "Get help and carry these bars up to my room right
away."

He failed to understand me, and I shouted and raved at him. A
scared-looking little old man in a green apron appeared, and further two
of the young men in flannels. I made a dash at them and commandeered their
services. As soon as the gold was in my room I felt free to quarrel. "Now
get out," I shouted; "all of you get out if you don't want to see a man go
mad before your eyes!" And I helped the waiter by the shoulder as he
hesitated in the doorway. And then, as soon as I had the door locked on
them all, I tore off the little man's clothes again, shied them right and
left, and got into bed forthwith. And there I lay swearing and panting and
cooling for a very long time.

At last I was calm enough to get out of bed and ring up the round-eyed
waiter for a flannel nightshirt, a soda and whisky, and some good cigars.
And these things being procured me, after an exasperating delay that drove
me several times to the bell, I locked the door again and proceeded very
deliberately to look entire situation in the face.

The net result of the great experiment presented itself as an absolute
failure. It was a rout, and I was the sole survivor. It was an absolute
collapse, and this was the final disaster. There was nothing for it but to
save myself, and as much as I could in the way of prospects from our
debacle. At one fatal crowning blow all my vague resolutions of return and
recovery had vanished. My intention of going back to the moon, of getting
a sphereful of gold, and afterwards of having a fragment of Cavorite
analysed and so recovering the great secret - perhaps, finally, even of
recovering Cavor's body - all these ideas vanished altogether.

I was the sole survivor, and that was all.

I think that going to bed was one of the luckiest ideas I have ever had in
an emergency. I really believe I should either have got loose-headed or
done some indiscreet thing. But there, locked in and secure from all
interruptions, I could think out the position in all its bearings and make
my arrangements at leisure.

Of course, it was quite clear to me what had happened to the boy. He had
crawled into the sphere, meddled with the studs, shut the Cavorite
windows, and gone up. It was highly improbable he had screwed the manhole
stopper, and, even if he had, the chances were a thousand to one against
his getting back. It was fairly evident that he would gravitate with my
bales to somewhere near the middle of the sphere and remain there, and so
cease to be a legitimate terrestrial interest, however remarkable he might
seem to the inhabitants of some remote quarter of space. I very speedily
convinced myself on that point. And as for any responsibility I might have
in the matter, the more I reflected upon that, the clearer it became that
if only I kept quiet about things, I need not trouble myself about that.
If I was faced by sorrowing parents demanding their lost boy, I had merely
to demand my lost sphere - or ask them what they meant. At first I had had
a vision of weeping parents and guardians, and all sorts of complications;
but now I saw that I simply had to keep my mouth shut, and nothing in that
way could arise. And, indeed, the more I lay and smoked and thought, the
more evident became the wisdom of impenetrability.

It is within the right of every British citizen, provided he does not
commit damage nor indecorum, to appear suddenly wherever he pleases, and
as ragged and filthy as he pleases, and with whatever amount of virgin
gold he sees fit to encumber himself, and no one has any right at all to
hinder and detain him in this procedure. I formulated that at last to
myself, and repeated it over as a sort of private Magna Charta of my
liberty.

Once I had put that issue on one side, I could take up and consider in an
equable manner certain considerations I had scarcely dared to think of
before, namely, those arising out of the circumstances of my bankruptcy.
But now, looking at this matter calmly and at leisure, I could see that if
only I suppressed my identity by a temporary assumption of some less
well-known name, and if I retained the two months' beard that had grown
upon me, the risks of any annoyance from the spiteful creditor to whom I
have already alluded became very small indeed. From that to a definite
course of rational worldly action was plain sailing. It was all amazingly
petty, no doubt, but what was there remaining for me to do?

Whatever I did I was resolved that I would keep myself level and right
side up.

I ordered up writing materials, and addressed a letter to the New Romney
Bank - the nearest, the waiter informed me - telling the manager I wished
to open an account with him, and requesting him to send two trustworthy
persons properly authenticated in a cab with a good horse to fetch some
hundredweight of gold with which I happened to be encumbered. I signed the
letter "Blake," which seemed to me to be a thoroughly respectable sort of
name. This done, I got a Folkstone Blue Book, picked out an outfitter, and
asked him to send a cutter to measure me for a dark tweed suit, ordering
at the same time a valise, dressing bag, brown boots, shirts, hat (to
fit), and so forth; and from a watchmaker I also ordered a watch. And
these letters being despatched, I had up as good a lunch as the hotel
could give, and then lay smoking a cigar, as calm and ordinary as
possible, until in accordance with my instructions two duly authenticated
clerks came from the bank and weighed and took away my gold. After which I
pulled the clothes over my ears in order to drown any knocking, and went
very comfortably to sleep.

I went to sleep. No doubt it was a prosaic thing for the first man back
from the moon to do, and I can imagine that the young and imaginative
reader will find my behaviour disappointing. But I was horribly fatigued
and bothered, and, confound it! what else was there to do? There certainly
was not the remotest chance of my being believed, if I had told my story
then, and it would certainly have subjected me to intolerable annoyances.
I went to sleep. When at last I woke up again I was ready to face the
world as I have always been accustomed to face it since I came to years of
discretion. And so I got away to Italy, and there it is I am writing this
story. If the world will not have it as fact, then the world may take it
as fiction. It is no concern of mine.

And now that the account is finished, I am amazed to think how completely
this adventure is gone and done with. Everybody believes that Cavor was a
not very brilliant scientific experimenter who blew up his house and
himself at Lympne, and they explain the bang that followed my arrival at
Littlestone by a reference to the experiments with explosives that are
going on continually at the government establishment of Lydd, two miles
away. I must confess that hitherto I have not acknowledged my share in the
disappearance of Master Tommy Simmons, which was that little boy's name.
That, perhaps, may prove a difficult item of corroboration to explain
away. They account for my appearance in rags with two bars of indisputable
gold upon the Littlestone beach in various ingenious ways - it doesn't
worry me what they think of me. They say I have strung all these things
together to avoid being questioned too closely as to the source of my
wealth. I would like to see the man who could invent a story that would
hold together like this one. Well, they must take it as fiction - there it
is.

I have told my story - and now, I suppose, I have to take up the worries
of this terrestrial life again. Even if one has been to the moon, one has
still to earn a living. So I am working here at Amalfi, on the scenario of
that play I sketched before Cavor came walking into my world, and I am
trying to piece my life together as it was before ever I saw him. I must
confess that I find it hard to keep my mind on the play when the moonshine
comes into my room. It is full moon here, and last night I was out on the
pergola for hours, staring away at the shining blankness that hides so
much. Imagine it! tables and chairs, and trestles and bars of gold!
Confound it! - if only one could hit on that Cavorite again! But a thing
like that doesn't come twice in a life. Here I am, a little better off
than I was at Lympne, and that is all. And Cavor has committed suicide in
a more elaborate way than any human being ever did before. So the story
closes as, finally and completely as a dream. It fits in so little with
all the other things of life, so much of it is so utterly remote from all
human experience, the leaping, the eating, the breathing, and these
weightless times, that indeed there are moments when, in spite of my moon
gold, I do more than half believe myself that the whole thing was a dream.
...

Chapter 22

The Astonishing Communication of Mr. Julius Wendigee

WHEN I had finished my account of my return to the earth at Littlestone, I
wrote, "The End," made a flourish, and threw my pen aside, fully believing
that the whole story of the First Men in the Moon was done. Not only had I
done this, but I had placed my manuscript in the hands of a literary
agent, had permitted it to be sold, had seen the greater portion of it
appear in the Strand Magazine, and was setting to work again upon the
scenario of the play I had commenced at Lympne before I realised that the
end was not yet. And then, following me from Amalfi to Algiers, there
reached me (it is now about six months ago) one of the most astounding
communications I have ever been fated to receive. Briefly, it informed me
that Mr. Julius Wendigee, a Dutch electrician, who has been experimenting
with certain apparatus akin to the apparatus used by Mr. Tesla in America,
in the hope of discovering some method of communication with Mars, was
receiving day by day a curiously fragmentary message in English, which was
indisputably emanating from Mr. Cavor in the moon.

At first I thought the thing was an elaborate practical by some one who
had seen the manuscript of my narrative. I answered Mr. Wendigee
jestingly, but he replied in a manner that put such suspicion altogether
aside, and in a state of inconceivable excitement I hurried from Algiers
to the little observatory upon the St. Gothard in which he was working. In
the presence of his record and his appliances - and above all of the
messages from Cavor that were coming to hand - my lingering doubts
vanished. I decided at once to accept a proposal he made to me to remain
with him, assisting him to take down the record from day to day, and
endeavouring with him to send a message back to the moon. Cavor, we
learnt, was not only alive, but free, in the midst of an almost
inconceivable community of these ant-like beings, these ant-men, in the
blue darkness of the lunar caves. He was lamed, it seemed, but otherwise
in quite good health - in better health, he distinctly said, than he
usually enjoyed on earth. He had had a fever, but it had left no bad
effects. But curiously enough he seemed to be labouring under a conviction
that I was either dead in the moon crater or lost in the deep of space.

His message began to be received by Mr. Wendigee when that gentleman was
engaged in quite a different investigation. The reader will no doubt
recall the little excitement that began the century, arising out an
announcement by Mr. Nikola Tesla, the American electrical celebrity, that
he had received a message from Mars. His announcement renewed attention to
fact that had long been familiar to scientific people, namely: that from
some unknown source in space, waves of electromagnetic disturbance,
entirely similar those used by Signor Marconi for his wireless telegraphy,
are constantly reaching the earth. Besides Tesla quite a number of other
observers have been engaged in perfecting apparatus for receiving and
recording these vibrations, though few would go so far to consider them
actual messages from some extraterrestrial sender. Among that few,
however, we must certainly count Mr. Wendigee. Ever since 1898 he had
devoted himself almost entirely to this subject, and being a man of ample
means he had erected an observatory on the flanks of Monte Rosa, in a
position singularly adapted in every way for such observations.

My scientific attainments, I must admit, are not great, but so far as they
enable me to judge, Mr. Wendigee's contrivances for detecting and
recording any disturbances in the electromagnetic conditions of space are
singularly original and ingenious. And by a happy combination of
circumstances they were set up and in operation about two months before
Cavor made his first attempt to call up the earth. Consequently we have
fragments of his communication even from the beginning. Unhappily, they
are only fragments, and the most momentous of all the things that he had
to tell humanity - the instructions, that is, for the making of Cavorite,
if, indeed, he ever transmitted them - have throbbed themselves away
unrecorded into space. We never succeeded in getting a response back to
Cavor. He was unable to tell, therefore, what we had received or what we
had missed; nor, indeed, did he certainly know that any one on earth was
really aware of his efforts to reach us. And the persistence he displayed
in sending eighteen long descriptions of lunar affairs - as they would be
if we had them complete - shows how much his mind must have turned back
towards his native planet since he left it two years ago.

You can imagine how amazed Mr. Wendigee must have been when he discovered
his record of electromagnetic disturbances interlaced by Cavor's
straightforward English. Mr. Wendigee knew nothing of our wild journey
moonward, and suddenly - this English out of the void!

It is well the reader should understand the conditions under which it
would seem these messages were sent. Somewhere within the moon Cavor
certainly had access for a time to a considerable amount of electrical
apparatus, and it would seem he rigged up - perhaps furtively - a
transmitting arrangement of the Marconi type. This he was able to operate
at irregular intervals: sometimes for only half an hour or so, sometimes
for three or four hours at a stretch. At these times he transmitted his
earthward message, regardless of the fact that the relative position of
the moon and points upon the earth's surface is constantly altering. As a
consequence of this and of the necessary imperfections of our recording
instruments his communication comes and goes in our records in an
extremely fitful manner; it becomes blurred; it "fades out" in a
mysterious and altogether exasperating way. And added to this is the fact
that he was not an expert operator; he had partly forgotten, or never
completely mastered, the code in general use, and as he became fatigued he
dropped words and misspelt in a curious manner.

Altogether we have probably lost quite half of the communications he made,
and much we have is damaged, broken, and partly effaced. In the abstract
that follows the reader must be prepared therefore for a considerable
amount of break, hiatus, and change of topic. Mr. Wendigee and I are
collaborating in a complete and annotated edition of the Cavor record,
which we hope to publish, together with a detailed account of the
instruments employed, beginning with the first volume in January next.
That will be the full and scientific report, of which this is only the
popular transcript. But here we give at least sufficient to complete the
story I have told, and to give the broad outlines of the state of that
other world so near, so akin, and yet so dissimilar to our own.

Chapter 23

An Abstract of the Six Messages First Received from Mr. Cavor

THE two earlier messages of Mr. Cavor may very well be reserved for that
larger volume. They simply tell, with greater brevity and with a
difference in several details that is interesting, but not of any vital
importance, the bare facts of the making of the sphere and our departure
from the world. Throughout, Cavor speaks of me as a man who is dead, but
with a curious change of temper as he approaches our landing on the moon.
"Poor Bedford," he says of me, and "this poor young man "; and he blames
himself for inducing a young man, "by no means well equipped for such
adventures," to leave a planet "on which he was indisputably fitted to
succeed" on so precarious a mission. I think he underrates the part my
energy and practical capacity played in bringing about the realisation of
his theoretical sphere. "We arrived," he says, with no more account of our
passage through space than if we had made a journey of common occurrence
in a railway train.

And then he becomes increasingly unfair to me. Unfair, indeed, to an
extent I should not have expected in a man trained in the search for
truth. Looking back over my previously written account of these things, I
must insist that I have been altogether juster to Cavor than he has been
to me. I have extenuated little and suppressed nothing. But his account
is:-

"It speedily became apparent that the entire strangeness of our
circumstances and surroundings - great loss of weight, attenuated but
highly oxygenated air, consequent exaggeration of the results of muscular
effort, rapid development of weird plants from obscure spores, lurid sky -
was exciting my companion unduly. On the moon his character seemed to
deteriorate. He became impulsive, rash, and quarrelsome. In a little while
his folly in devouring some gigantic vesicles and his consequent
intoxication led to our capture by the Selenites - before we had had the
slightest opportunity of properly observing their ways. ..."

(He says, you observe, nothing of his own concession to these same
"vesicles.")

And he goes on from that point to say that "We came to a difficult passage
with them, and Bedford mistaking certain gestures of theirs" - pretty
gestures they were! - "gave way to a panic violence. He ran amuck, killed
three, and perforce I had to flee with him after the outrage. Subsequently
we fought with a number who endeavoured to bar our way, and slew seven or
eight more. It says much for the tolerance of these beings that on my
recapture I was not instantly slain. We made our way to the exterior and
separated in the crater of our arrival, to increase our chances of
recovering our sphere. But presently I came upon a body of Selenites, led
by two who were curiously different, even in form, from any of these we
had seen hitherto, with larger heads and smaller bodies, and much more
elaborately wrapped about. And after evading them for some time I fell
into a crevasse, cut my head rather badly, and displaced my patella, and,
finding crawling very painful, decided to surrender - if they would still
permit me to do so. This they did, and, perceiving my helpless condition,
carried me with them again into the moon. And of Bedford I have heard or
seen nothing more, nor, so far as I can gather, any Selenite. Either the
night overtook him in the crater, or else, which is more probable, he
found the sphere, and, desiring to steal a march upon me, made off with it
- only, I fear, to find it uncontrollable, and to meet a more lingering
fate in outer space."

And with that Cavor dismisses me and goes on to more interesting topics. I
dislike the idea of seeming to use my position as his editor to deflect
his story in my own interest, but I am obliged to protest here against the
turn he gives these occurrences. He said nothing about that gasping
message on the blood-stained paper in which he told, or attempted to tell,
a very different story. The dignified self-surrender is an altogether new
view of the affair that has come to him, I must insist, since he began to
feel secure among the lunar people; and as for the "stealing a march"
conception, I am quite willing to let the reader decide between us on what
he has before him. I know I am not a model man - I have made no pretence
to be. But am I that?

However, that is the sum of my wrongs. From this point I can edit Cavor
with an untroubled mind, for he mentions me no more.

It would seem the Selenites who had come upon him carried him to some
point in the interior down "a great shaft" by means of what he describes
as "a sort of balloon." We gather from the rather confused passage in
which he describes this, and from a number of chance allusions and hints
in other and subsequent messages, that this "great shaft" is one of an
enormous system of artificial shafts that run, each from what is called a
lunar "crater," downwards for very nearly a hundred miles towards the
central portion of our satellite. These shafts communicate by transverse
tunnels, they throw out abysmal caverns and expand into great globular
places; the whole of the moon's substance for a hundred miles inward,
indeed, is a mere sponge of rock. "Partly," says Cavor, "this sponginess
is natural, but very largely it is due to the enormous industry of the
Selenites in the past. The enormous circular mounds of the excavated rock
and earth it is that form these great circles about the tunnels known to
earthly astronomers (misled by a false analogy) as volcanoes."

It was down this shaft they took him, in this "sort of balloon" he speaks
of, at first into an inky blackness and then into a region of continually
increasing phosphorescence. Cavor's despatches show him to be curiously
regardless of detail for a scientific man, but we gather that this light
was due to the streams and cascades of water - "no doubt containing some
phosphorescent organism" - that flowed ever more abundantly downward
towards the Central Sea. And as he descended, he says, "The Selenites also
became luminous." And at last far below him he saw, as it were, a lake of
heatless fire, the waters of the Central Sea, glowing and eddying in
strange perturbation, "like luminous blue milk that is just on the boil."

"This Lunar Sea," says Cavor, in a later passage "is not a stagnant ocean;
a solar tide sends it in a perpetual flow around the lunar axis, and
strange storms and boilings and rushings of its waters occur, and at times
cold winds and thunderings that ascend out of it into the busy ways of the
great ant-hill above. It is only when the water is in motion that it
gives out light; in its rare seasons of calm it is black. Commonly, when
one sees it, its waters rise and fall in an oily swell, and flakes and big
rafts of shining, bubbly foam drift with the sluggish, faintly glowing
current. The Selenites navigate its cavernous straits and lagoons in
little shallow boats of a canoe-like shape; and even before my journey to
the galleries about the Grand Lunar, who is Master of the Moon, I was
permitted to make a brief excursion on its waters.

"The caverns and passages are naturally very tortuous. A large proportion
of these ways are known only to expert pilots among the fishermen, and not
infrequently Selenites are lost for ever in their labyrinths. In their
remoter recesses, I am told, strange creatures lurk, some of them terrible
and dangerous creatures that all the science of the moon has been unable
to exterminate. There is particularly the Rapha, an inextricable mass of
clutching tentacles that one hacks to pieces only to multiply; and the
Tzee, a darting creature that is never seen, so subtly and suddenly does
it slay..."

He gives us a gleam of description.

"I was reminded on this excursion of what I have read of the Mammoth
Caves; if only I had had a yellow flambeau instead of the pervading blue
light, and a solid-looking boatman with an oar instead of a scuttle-faced
Selenite working an engine at the back of the canoe, I could have imagined
I had suddenly got back to earth. The rocks about us were very various,
sometimes black, sometimes pale blue and veined, and once they flashed and
glittered as though we had come into a mine of sapphires. And below one
saw the ghostly phosphorescent fishes flash and vanish in the hardly less
phosphorescent deep. Then, presently, a long ultra-marine vista down the
turgid stream of one of the channels of traffic, and a landing stage, and
then, perhaps, a glimpse up the enormous crowded shaft of one of the
vertical ways.

"In one great place heavy with glistening stalactites a number of boats
were fishing. We went alongside one of these and watched the long-armed
Selenites winding in a net. They were little, hunchbacked insects, with
very strong arms, short, bandy legs, and crinkled face-masks. As they
pulled at it that net seemed the heaviest thing I had come upon in the
moon; it was loaded with weights - no doubt of gold - and it took a long
time to draw, for in those waters the larger and more edible fish lurk
deep. The fish in the net came up like a blue moonrise - a blaze of
darting, tossing blue.

"Among their catch was a many-tentaculate, evil-eyed black thing,
ferociously active, whose appearance they greeted with shrieks and
twitters, and which with quick, nervous movements they hacked to pieces by
means of little hatchets. All its dissevered limbs continued to lash and
writhe in a vicious manner. Afterwards, when fever had hold of me, I
dreamt again and again of that bitter, furious creature rising so vigorous
and active out of the unknown sea. It was the most active and malignant
thing of all the living creatures I have yet seen in this world inside the
moon. ...

"The surface of this sea must be very nearly two hundred miles (if not
more) below the level of the moon's exterior; all the cities of the moon
lie, I learnt, immediately above this Central Sea, in such cavernous
spaces and artificial galleries as I have described, and they communicate
with the exterior by enormous vertical shafts which open invariably in
what are called by earthly astronomers the 'craters' of the moon. The lid
covering one such aperture I had already seen during the wanderings that
had preceded my capture.

"Upon the condition of the less central portion of the moon I have not yet
arrived at very precise knowledge. There is an enormous system of caverns
in which the mooncalves shelter during the night; and there are abattoirs
and the like - in one of these it was that I and Bedford fought with the
Selenite butchers - and I have since seen balloons laden with meat
descending out of the upper dark. I have as yet scarcely learnt as much of
these things as a Zulu in London would learn about the British corn
supplies in the same time. It is clear, however, that these vertical
shafts and the vegetation of the surface must play an essential role in
ventilating and keeping fresh the atmosphere of the moon. At one time, and
particularly on my first emergence from my prison, there was certainly a
cold wind blowing down the shaft, and later there was a kind of sirocco
upward that corresponded with my fever. For at the end of about three
weeks I fell ill of an indefinable sort of fever, and in spite of sleep
and the quinine tabloids that very fortunately I had brought in my pocket,
I remained ill and fretting miserably, almost to the time when I was taken
into the presence of the Grand Lunar, who is Master of the Moon.

"I will not dilate on the wretchedness of my condition," he remarks, "
during those days of ill-health." And he goes on with great amplitude with
details I omit here. "My temperature," he concludes, "kept abnormally high
for a long time, and I lost all desire for food. I had stagnant waking
intervals, and sleep tormented by dreams, and at one phase I was, I
remember, so weak as to be earth-sick and almost hysterical. I longed
almost intolerably for colour to break the everlasting blue..."

He reverts again presently to the topic of this sponge caught lunar
atmosphere. I am told by astronomers and physicists that all he tells is
in absolute accordance with what was already known of the moon's
condition. Had earthly astronomers had the courage and imagination to
push home a bold induction, says Mr. Wendigee, they might have foretold
almost everything that Cavor has to say of the general structure of the
moon. They know now pretty certainly that moon and earth are not so much
satellite and primary as smaller and greater sisters, made out of one
mass, and consequently made of the same material. And since the density of
the moon is only three-fifths that of the earth, there can be nothing for
it but that she is hollowed out by a great system of caverns. There was no
necessity, said Sir Jabez Flap, F.R.S., that most entertaining exponent of
the facetious side of the stars, that we should ever have gone to the moon
to find out such easy inferences, and points the pun with an allusion to
Gruyere, but he certainly might have announced his knowledge of the
hollowness of the moon before. And if the moon is hollow, then the
apparent absence of air and water is, of course, quite easily explained.
The sea lies within at the bottom of the caverns, and the air travels
through the great sponge of galleries, in accordance with simple physical
laws. The caverns of the moon, on the whole, are very windy places. As the
sunlight comes round the moon the air in the outer galleries on that side
is heated, its pressure increases, some flows out on the exterior and
mingles with the evaporating air of the craters (where the plants remove
its carbonic acid), while the greater portion flows round through the
galleries to replace the shrinking air of the cooling side that the
sunlight has left. There is, therefore, a constant eastward breeze in the
air of the outer galleries, and an upflow during the lunar day up the
shafts, complicated, of course, very greatly by the varying shape of the
galleries, and the ingenious contrivances of the Selenite mind. ...

Chapter 24

The Natural History of the Selenites

THE messages of Cavor from the sixth up to the sixteenth are for the most
part so much broken, and they abound so in repetitions, that they scarcely
form a consecutive narrative. They will be given in full, of course, in
the scientific report, but here it will be far more convenient to continue
simply to abstract and quote as in the former chapter. We have subjected
every word to a keen critical scrutiny, and my own brief memories and
impressions of lunar things have been of inestimable help in interpreting
what would otherwise have been impenetrably dark. And, naturally, as
living beings, our interest centres far more upon the strange community of
lunar insects in which he was living, it would seem, as an honoured guest
than upon the mere physical condition of their world.

I have already made it clear, I think, that the Selenites I saw resembled
man in maintaining the erect attitude, and in having four limbs, and I
have compared the general appearance of their heads and the jointing of
their limbs to that of insects. I have mentioned, too, the peculiar
consequence of the smaller gravitation of the moon on their fragile
slightness. Cavor confirms me upon all these points. He calls them
"animals," though of course they fall under no division of the
classification of earthly creatures, and he points out "the insect type of
anatomy had, fortunately for men, never exceeded a relatively very small
size on earth." The largest terrestrial insects, living or extinct, do
not, as a matter of fact, measure 6 in. in length; "but here, against the
lesser gravitation of the moon, a creature certainly as much an insect as
vertebrate seems to have been able to attain to human and ultra-human
dimensions."

He does not mention the ant, but throughout his allusions the ant is
continually being brought before my mind, in its sleepless activity, in
its intelligence and social organisation, in its structure, and more
particularly in the fact that it displays, in addition to the two forms,
the male and the female form, that almost all other animals possess, a
number of other sexless creatures, workers, soldiers, and the like,
differing from one another in structure, character, power, and use, and
yet all members of the same species. For these Selenites, also, have a
great variety of forms. Of course, they are not only colossally greater in
size than ants, but also, in Cavor's opinion at least, in intelligence,
morality, and social wisdom are they colossally greater than men. And
instead of the four or five different forms of ant that are found, there
are almost innumerably different forms of Selenite. I had endeavoured to
indicate the very considerable difference observable in such Selenites of
the outer crust as I happened to encounter; the differences in size and
proportions were certainly as wide as the differences between the most
widely separated races of men. But such differences as I saw fade
absolutely to nothing in comparison with the huge distinctions of which
Cavor tells. It would seem the exterior Selenites I saw were, indeed,
mostly engaged in kindred occupations - mooncalf herds, butchers,
fleshers, and the like. But within the moon, practically unsuspected by
me, there are, it seems, a number of other sorts of Selenite, differing in
size, differing in the relative size of part to part, differing in power
and appearance, and yet not different species of creatures, but only
different forms of one species, and retaining through all their variations
a certain common likeness that marks their specific unity. The moon is,
indeed, a sort of vast ant-hill, only, instead of there being only four or
five sorts of ant, there are many hundred different sorts of Selenite, and
almost every gradation between one sort and another.

It would seem the discovery came upon Cavor very speedily. I infer rather
than learn from his narrative that he was captured by the mooncalf herds
under the direction of these other Selenites who "have larger brain cases
(heads?) and very much shorter legs." Finding he would not walk even under
the goad, they carried him into darkness, crossed a narrow, plank-like
bridge that may have been the identical bridge I had refused, and put him
down in something that must have seemed at first to be some sort of lift.
This was the balloon - it had certainly been absolutely invisible to us in
the darkness - and what had seemed to me a mere plank-walking into the
void was really, no doubt, the passage of the gangway. In this he
descended towards constantly more luminous caverns of the moon. At first
they descended in silence - save for the twitterings of the Selenites -
and then into a stir of windy movement. In a little while the profound
blackness had made his eyes so sensitive that he began to see more and
more of the things about him, and at last the vague took shape.

"Conceive an enormous cylindrical space," says Cavor, in his seventh
message, " a quarter of a mile across, perhaps; very dimly lit at first
and then brighter, with big platforms twisting down its sides in a spiral
that vanishes at last below in a blue profundity; and lit even more
brightly - one could not tell how or why. Think of the well of the very
largest spiral staircase or lift-shaft that you have ever looked down, and
magnify that by a hundred. Imagine it at twilight seen through blue glass.
Imagine yourself looking down that; only imagine also that you feel
extraordinarily light, and have got rid of any giddy feeling you might
have on earth, and you will have the first conditions of my impression.
Round this enormous shaft imagine a broad gallery running in a much
steeper spiral than would be credible on earth, and forming a steep road
protected from the gulf only by a little parapet that vanishes at last in
perspective a couple of miles below.

"Looking up, I saw the very fellow of the downward vision; it had, of
course, the effect of looking into a very steep cone. A wind was blowing
down the shaft, and far above I fancy I heard, growing fainter and
fainter, the bellowing of the mooncalves that were being driven down again
from their evening pasturage on the exterior. And up and down the spiral
galleries were scattered numerous moon people, pallid, faintly luminous
beings, regarding our appearance or busied on unknown errands.

"Either I fancied it or a flake of snow came drifting down on the icy
breeze. And then, falling like a snowflake, a little figure, a little
man-insect, clinging to a parachute, drove down very swiftly towards the
central places of the moon.

"The big-headed Selenite sitting beside me, seeing me move my head with
the gesture of one who saw, pointed with his trunk-like 'hand' and
indicated a sort of jetty coming into sight very far below: a little
landing-stage, as it were, hanging into the void. As it swept up towards
us our pace diminished very rapidly, and in a few moments, as it seemed,
we were abreast of it, and at rest. A mooring-rope was flung and grasped,
and I found myself pulled down to a level with a great crowd of Selenites,
who jostled to see me.

"It was an incredible crowd. Suddenly and violently there was forced upon
my attention the vast amount of difference there is amongst these beings
of the moon.

"Indeed, there seemed not two alike in all that jostling multitude. They
differed in shape, they differed in size, they rang all the horrible
changes on the theme of Selenite form! Some bulged and overhung, some ran
about among the feet of their fellows. All of them had a grotesque and
disquieting suggestion of an insect that has somehow contrived to mock
humanity; but all seemed to present an incredible exaggeration of some
particular feature: one had a vast right fore-limb, an enormous antennal
arm, as it were; one seemed all leg, poised, as it were, on stilts;
another protruded the edge of his face mask into a nose-like organ that
made him startlingly human until one saw his expressionless gaping mouth.
The strange and (except for the want of mandibles and palps) most
insect-like head of the mooncalf-minders underwent, indeed, the most
incredible transformations: here it was broad and low, here high and
narrow; here its leathery brow was drawn out into horns and strange
features; here it was whiskered and divided, and there with a grotesquely
human profile. One distortion was particularly conspicuous. There were
several brain cases distended like bladders to a huge size, with the face
mask reduced to quite small proportions. There were several amazing forms,
with heads reduced to microscopic proportions and blobby bodies; and
fantastic, flimsy things that existed, it would seem, only as a basis for
vast, trumpet-like protrusions of the lower part of the mask. And oddest
of all, as it seemed to me for the moment, two or three of these weird
inhabitants of a subterranean world, a world sheltered by innumerable
miles of rock from sun or rain, carried umbrellas in their tentaculate
hands - real terrestrial looking umbrellas! And then I thought of the
parachutist I had watched descend.

"These moon people behaved exactly as a human crowd might have done in
similar circumstances: they jostled and thrust one another, they shoved
one another aside, they even clambered upon one another to get a glimpse
of me. Every moment they increased in numbers, and pressed more urgently
upon the discs of my ushers" - Cavor does not explain what he means by
this - "every moment fresh shapes emerged from the shadows and forced
themselves upon my astounded attention. And presently I was signed and
helped into a sort of litter, and lifted up on the shoulders of
strong-armed bearers, and so borne through the twilight over this seething
multitude towards the apartments that were provided for me in the moon.
All about me were eyes, faces, masks, a leathery noise like the rustling
of beetle wings, and a great bleating and cricket-like twittering of
Selenite voices.

We gather he was taken to a "hexagonal apartment," and there for a space
he was confined. Afterwards he was given a much more considerable liberty;
indeed, almost as much freedom as one has in a civilised town on earth.
And it would appear that the mysterious being who is the ruler and master
of the moon appointed two Selenites "with large heads" to guard and study
him, and to establish whatever mental communications were possible with
him. And, amazing and incredible as it may seem, these two creatures,
these fantastic men insects, these beings of other world, were presently
communicating with Cavor by means of terrestrial speech.

Cavor speaks of them as Phi-oo and Tsi-puff. Phi-oo, he says, was about 5
ft. high; he had small slender legs about 18 in. long, and slight feet of
the common lunar pattern. On these balanced a little body, throbbing with
the pulsations of his heart. He had long, soft, many-jointed arms ending
in a tentacled grip, and his neck was many-jointed in the usual way, but
exceptionally short and thick. His head, says Cavor - apparently alluding
to some previous description that has gone astray in space - "is of the
common lunar type, but strangely modified. The mouth has the usual
expressionless gape, but it is unusually small and pointing downward, and
the mask is reduced to the size of a large flat nose-flap. On either side
are the little eyes.

"The rest of the head is distended into a huge globe and the chitinous
leathery cuticle of the mooncalf herds thins out to a mere membrane,
through which the pulsating brain movements are distinctly visible. He in
is a creature, indeed, with a tremendously hypertrophied brain, and with
the rest of his organism both relatively and absolutely dwarfed."

In another passage Cavor compares the back view of him to Atlas supporting
the world. Tsi-puff it seems was a very similar insect, but his "face" was
drawn out to a considerable length, and the brain hypertrophy being in
different regions, his head was not round but pear-shaped, with the stalk
downward. There were also litter-carriers, lopsided beings, with enormous
shoulders, very spidery ushers, and a squat foot attendant in Cavor's
retinue.

The manner in which Phi-oo and Tsi-puff attacked the problem of speech was
fairly obvious. They came into this " hexagonal cell" in which Cavor was
confined, and began imitating every sound he made, beginning with a cough.
He seems to have grasped their intention with great quickness, and to have
begun repeating words to them and pointing to indicate the application.
The procedure was probably always the same. Phi-oo would attend to Cavor
for a space, then point also and say the word he had heard.

The first word he mastered was "man," and the second "Mooney" - which
Cavor on the spur of the moment seems to have used instead of "Selenite"
for the moon race. As soon as Phi-oo was assured of the meaning of a word
he repeated it to Tsi-puff, who remembered it infallibly. They mastered
over one hundred English nouns at their first session.

Subsequently it seems they brought an artist with them to assist the work
of explanation with sketches and diagrams - Cavor's drawings being rather
crude. he was, says Cavor, "a being with an active arm and an arresting
eye," and he seemed to draw with incredible swiftness.

The eleventh message is undoubtedly only a fragment of a longer
communication. After some broken sentences, the record of which is
unintelligible, it goes on:-

"But it will interest only linguists, and delay me too long, to give the
details of the series of intent parleys of which these were the beginning,
and, indeed, I very much doubt if I could give in anything like the proper
order all the twistings and turnings that we made in our pursuit of mutual
comprehension. Verbs were soon plain sailing - at least, such active verbs
as I could express by drawings; some adjectives were easy, but when it
came to abstract nouns, to prepositions, and the sort of hackneyed figures
of speech, by means of which so much is expressed on earth, it was like
diving in cork-jackets. Indeed, these difficulties were insurmountable
until to the sixth lesson came a fourth assistant, a being with a huge
football-shaped head, whose forte was clearly the pursuit of intricate
analogy. He entered in a preoccupied manner, stumbling against a stool,
and the difficulties that arose had to be presented to him with a certain
amount of clamour and hitting and pricking before they reached his
apprehension. But once he was involved his penetration was amazing.
Whenever there came a need of thinking beyond Phi-oo's by no means limited
scope, this prolate-headed person was in request, but he invariably told
the conclusion to Tsi-puff, in order that it might be remembered; Tsi-puff
was ever the arsenal for facts. And so we advanced again.

"It seemed long and yet brief - a matter of days - before I was positively
talking with these insects of the moon. Of course, at first it was an
intercourse infinitely tedious and exasperating, but imperceptibly it has
grown to comprehension. And my patience has grown to meet its limitations,
Phi-oo it is who does all the talking. He does it with a vast amount of
meditative provisional 'M'm-M'm' and has caught up one or two phrases, 'If
I may say,' 'If you understand,' and beads all his speech with them.

"Thus he would discourse. Imagine him explaining his artist.

"'M'm-M'm - he - if I may say - draw. Eat little - drink little - draw.
Love draw. No other thing. Hate all who not draw like him. Angry. Hate all
who draw like him better. Hate most people. Hate all who not think all
world for to draw. Angry. M'm. All things mean nothing to him - only draw.
He like you ... if you understand. ... New thing to draw. Ugly - striking.
Eh?

"'He' - turning to Tsi-puff - 'love remember words. Remember wonderful
more than any. Think no, draw no - remember. Say' - here he referred to
his gifted assistant for a word - 'histories - all things. He hear once -
say ever.'

"It is more wonderful to me than I dreamt that anything ever could be
again, to hear, in this perpetual obscurity, these extraordinary creatures
- for even familiarity fails to weaken the inhuman effect of their
appearance - continually piping a nearer approach to coherent earthly
speech - asking questions, giving answers. I feel that I am casting back
to the fable-hearing period of childhood again, when the ant and the
grasshopper talked together and the bee judged between them..."

And while these linguistic exercises were going on Cavor seems to have
experienced a considerable relaxation of his confinement. "The first dread
and distrust our unfortunate conflict aroused is being," he said,
"continually effaced by the deliberate rationality of all I do." ... "I am
now able to come and go as I please, or I am restricted only for my own
good. So it is I have been able to get at this apparatus, and, assisted
by a happy find among the material that is littered in this enormous
store-cave, I have contrived to despatch these messages. So far not the
slightest attempt has been made to interfere with me in this, though I
have made it quite clear to Phi-oo that I am signalling to the earth.

"'You talk to other?' he asked, watching me.

"'Others,' said I.

"'Others,' he said. 'Oh yes, Men?'

"And I went on transmitting."

Cavor was continually making corrections in his previous accounts of the
Selenites as fresh facts flowed upon him to modify his conclusions, and
accordingly one gives the quotations that follow with a certain amount of
reservation. They are quoted from the ninth, thirteenth, and sixteenth
messages, and, altogether vague and fragmentary as they are, they probably
give as complete a picture of the social life of this strange community as
mankind can now hope to have for many generations.

"In the moon," says Cavor, "every citizen knows his place. He is born to
that place, and the elaborate discipline of training and education and
surgery he undergoes fits him at last so completely to it that he has
neither ideas nor organs for any purpose beyond it. 'Why should he?'
Phi-oo would ask. If, for example, a Selenite is destined to be a
mathematician, his teachers and trainers set out at once to that end. They
check any incipient disposition to other pursuits, they encourage his
mathematical bias with a perfect psychological skill. His brain grows, or
at least the mathematical faculties of his brain grow, and the rest of him
only so much as is necessary to sustain this essential part of him. At
last, save for rest and food, his one delight lies in the exercise and
display of his facility, his one interest in its application, his sole
society with other specialists in his own line. His brain glows
continually larger, at least so far as the portions engaging in
mathematics are concerned; they bulge ever larger and seem to suck all
life and vigour from the rest of his frame. His limbs shrivel, his heart
and digestive organs diminish, his insect face is hidden under its bulging
contours. His voice becomes a mere stridulation for the stating of
formula; he seems deaf to all but properly enunciated problems. The
faculty of laughter, save for the sudden discovery of some paradox, is
lost to him; his deepest emotion is the evolution of a novel computation.
And so he attains his end.

"Or, again, a Selenite appointed to be a minder of mooncalves is from his
earliest years induced to think and live mooncalf, to find his pleasure in
mooncalf lore, his exercise in their tending and pursuit. He is trained to
become wiry and active, his eye is indurated to the tight wrappings, the
angular contours that constitute a 'smart mooncalfishness.' He takes at
last no interest in the deeper part of the moon; he regards all Selenites
not equally versed in mooncalves with indifference, derision, or
hostility. His thoughts are of mooncalf pastures, and his dialect an
accomplished mooncalf technique. So also he loves his work, and discharges
in perfect happiness the duty that justifies his being. And so it is with
all sorts and conditions of Selenites - each is a perfect unit in a world
machine....

"These beings with big heads, on whom the intellectual labours fall, form
a sort of aristocracy in this strange society, and at the head of them,
quintessential of the moon, is that marvellous gigantic ganglion the Grand
Lunar, into whose presence I am finally to come. The unlimited development
of the minds of the intellectual class is rendered possible by the absence
of any body skull in the lunar anatomy, that strange box of bone that
clamps about the developing brain of man, imperiously insisting 'thus far
and no farther' to all his possibilities. They fall into three main
classes differing greatly in influence and respect. There are
administrators, of whom Phi-oo is one, Selenites of considerable
initiative and versatility, responsible each for a certain cubic content
of the moon's bulk; the experts like the football-headed thinker, who are
trained to perform certain special operations; and the erudite, who are
the repositories of all knowledge. To the latter class belongs Tsi-puff,
the first lunar professor of terrestrial languages. With regard to these
latter, it is a curious little thing to note that the unlimited growth of
the lunar brain has rendered unnecessary the invention of all those
mechanical aids to brain work which have distinguished the career of man.
There are no books, no records of any sort, no libraries or inscriptions.
All knowledge is stored in distended brains much as the honey-ants of
Texas store honey in their distended abdomens. The lunar Somerset House
and the lunar British Museum Library are collections of living brains...

"The less specialised administrators, I note, do for the most part take a
very lively interest in me whenever they encounter me. They will come out
of the way and stare at me and ask questions to which Phi-oo will reply. I
see them going hither and thither with a retinue of bearers, attendants,
shouters, parachute-carriers, and so forth - queer groups to see. The
experts for the most part ignore me completely, even as they ignore each
other, or notice me only to begin a clamorous exhibition of their
distinctive skill. The erudite for the most part are rapt in an impervious
and apoplectic complacency, from which only a denial of their erudition
can rouse them. Usually they are led about by little watchers and
attendants, and often there are small and active-looking creatures, small
females usually, that I am inclined to think are a sort of wife to them;
but some of the profounder scholars are altogether too great for
locomotion, and are carried from place to place in a sort of sedan tub,
wabbling jellies of knowledge that enlist my respectful astonishment. I
have just passed one in coming to this place where I am permitted to amuse
myself with these electrical toys, a vast, shaven, shaky head, bald and
thin-skinned, carried on his grotesque stretcher. In front and behind came
his bearers, and curious, almost trumpet-faced, news disseminators
shrieked his fame.

"I have already mentioned the retinues that accompany most of the
intellectuals: ushers, bearers, valets, extraneous tentacles and muscles,
as it were, to replace the abortive physical powers of these hypertrophied
minds. Porters almost invariably accompany them. There are also extremely
swift messengers with spider-like legs and 'hands' for grasping
parachutes, and attendants with vocal organs that could well nigh wake the
dead. Apart from their controlling intelligence these subordinates are as
inert and helpless as umbrellas in a stand. They exist only in relation to
the orders they have to obey, the duties they have to perform.

"The bulk of these insects, however, who go to and fro upon the spiral
ways, who fill the ascending balloons and drop past me clinging to flimsy
parachutes are, I gather, of the operative class. 'Machine hands,' indeed,
some of these are in actual nature - it is not figure of speech, the
single tentacle of the mooncalf herd is profoundly modified for clawing,
lifting, guiding, the rest of them no more than necessary subordinate
appendages to these important mechanisms, have enormously developed
auditory organs; some whose work lies in delicate chemical operations
project a vast olfactory organ; others again have flat feet for treadles
with anchylosed joints; and others - who I have been told are glassblowers
- seem mere lung-bellows. but every one of these common Selenites I have
seen at work is exquisitely adapted to the social need it meets. Fine work
is done by fined-down workers, amazingly dwarfed and neat. Some I could
hold on the palm of my hand. There is even a sort of turnspit Selenite,
very common, whose duty and only delight it is to apply the motive power
for various small appliances. And to rule over these things and order any
erring tendency there might be in some aberrant natures are the most
muscular beings I have seen in the moon, a sort of lunar police, who must
have been trained from their earliest years to give a perfect respect and
obedience to the swollen heads.

"The making of these various sorts of operative must be a very curious and
interesting process. I am very much in the dark about it, but quite
recently I came upon a number of young Selenites confined in jars from
which only the fore-limbs protruded, who were being compressed to become
machine-minders of a special sort. The extended 'hand' in this highly
developed system of technical education is stimulated by irritants and
nourished by injection, while the rest of the body is starved. Phi-oo,
unless I misunderstood him, explained that in the earlier stages these
queer little creatures are apt to display signs of suffering in their
various cramped situations, but they easily become indurated to their lot;
and he took me on to where a number of flexible-minded messengers were
being drawn out and broken in. It is quite unreasonable, I know, but such
glimpses of the educational methods of these beings affect me
disagreeably. I hope, however, that may pass off, and I may be able to
see more of this aspect of their wonderful social order. That
wretched-looking hand-tentacle sticking out of its jar seemed to have a
sort of limp appeal for lost possibilities; it haunts me still, although,
of course it is really in the end a far more humane proceeding than our
earthly method of leaving children to grow into human beings, and then
making machines of them.

"Quite recently, too - I think it was on the eleventh or twelfth visit I
made to this apparatus - I had a curious light upon the lives of these
operatives. I was being guided through a short cut hither, instead of
going down the spiral, and by the quays to the Central Sea. From the
devious windings of a long, dark gallery, we emerged into a vast, low
cavern, pervaded by an earthy smell, and as things go in this darkness,
rather brightly lit. The light came from a tumultuous growth of livid
fungoid shapes - some indeed singularly like our terrestrial mushrooms,
but standing as high or higher than a man.

"'Mooneys eat these?' said I to Phi-oo.

"'Yes, food.'

"'Goodness me!' I cried; 'what's that?'

"My eye had just caught the figure of an exceptionally big and ungainly
Selenite lying motionless among the stems, face downward. We stopped.

"'Dead?' I asked. (For as yet I have seen no dead the moon, and I have
grown curious.)

"'No! ' exclaimed Phi-oo. 'Him - worker - no work to do. Get little drink
then - make sleep - till we him want. What good him wake, eh? No want him
walking about.'

"'There's another!' cried I.

"And indeed all that huge extent of mushroom ground was, I found, peppered
with these prostrate figures sleeping under an opiate until the moon had
need of them. There were scores of them of all sorts, and we were able to
turn over some of them, and examine them more precisely than I had been
able to previously. They breathed noisily at my doing so, but did not
wake. One, I remember very distinctly: he left a strong impression, I
think, because some trick the light and of his attitude was strongly
suggestive a drawn-up human figure. His fore-limbs were long, delicate
tentacles - he was some kind of refined manipulator - and the pose of his
slumber suggested a submissive suffering. No doubt it was a mistake for to
interpret his expression in that way, but I did. And as Phi-oo rolled him
over into the darkness among the livid fleshiness again I felt a
distinctly unpleasant sensation, although as he rolled the insect in him
was confessed.

"It simply illustrates the unthinking way in which one acquires habits of
feeling. To drug the worker one does not want and toss him aside is surely
far better than to expel him from his factory to wander starving in the
streets. In every complicated social community there is necessarily a
certain intermittency of employment for all specialised labour, and in
this way the trouble of an 'unemployed' problem is altogether anticipated.
And yet, so unreasonable are even scientifically trained minds, I still do
not like the memory of those prostrate forms amidst those quiet, luminous
arcades of fleshy growth, and I avoid that short cut in spite of the
inconveniences of the longer, more noisy, and more crowded alternative.

"My alternative route takes me round by a huge, shadowy cavern, very
crowded and clamorous, and here it is I see peering out of the hexagonal
openings of a sort of honeycomb wall, or parading a large open space
behind, 01 selecting the toys and amulets made to please them by the
dainty-tentacled jewellers who work in kennels below, the mothers of the
moon world - the queen bees, as it were, of the hive. They are
noble-looking beings, fantastically and sometimes quite beautifully
adorned, with a proud carriage, and, save for their mouths, almost
microscopic heads.

"Of the condition of the moon sexes, marrying and giving in marriage, and
of birth and so forth among the Selenites, I have as yet been able to
learn very little. With the steady progress of Phi-oo in English, however,
my ignorance will no doubt as steadily disappear. I am of opinion that, as
with the ants and bees, there is a large majority of the members in this
community of the neuter sex. Of course on earth in our cities there are
now many who never live that life of parentage which is the natural life
of man. Here, as with the ants, this thing has become a normal condition
of the race, and the whole of such eplacement as is necessary falls upon
this special and by no means numerous class of matrons, the mothers of the
moon-world, large and stately beings beautifully fitted to bear the larval
Selenite. Unless I misunderstand an explanation of Phi-oo's, they are
absolutely incapable of cherishing the young they bring into the moon;
periods of foolish indulgence alternate with moods of aggressive violence,
and as soon as possible the little creatures, who are quite soft and
flabby and pale coloured, are transferred to the charge of celibate
females, women 'workers' as it were, who in some cases possess brains of
almost masculine dimensions."

Just at this point, unhappily, this message broke off. Fragmentary and
tantalising as the matter constituting this chapter is, it does
nevertheless give a vague, broad impression of an altogether strange and
wonderful world - a world with which our own may have to reckon we know
not how speedily. This intermittent trickle of messages, this whispering
of a record needle in the stillness of the mountain slopes, is the first
warning of such a change in human conditions as mankind has scarcely
imagined heretofore. In that satellite of ours there are new elements, new
appliances, traditions, an overwhelming avalanche of new ideas, a strange
race with whom we must inevitably struggle for mastery - gold as common as
iron or wood...

Chapter 25

The Grand Lunar

THE penultimate message describes, with occasionally elaborate detail, the
encounter between Cavor and the Grand Lunar, who is the ruler or master of
the moon. Cavor seems to have sent most of it without interference, but to
have been interrupted in the concluding portion. The second came after an
interval of a week.

The first message begins: "At last I am able to resume this" it then
becomes illegible for a space, and after a time resumed in mid-sentence.

The missing words of the following sentence are probably "the crowd."
There follows quite clearly: "grew ever denser as we drew near the palace
of the Grand Lunar - if I may call a series of excavations a palace.
Everywhere faces stared at me - blank, chitinous gapes and masks, eyes
peering over tremendous olfactory developments, eyes beneath monstrous
forehead plates; and undergrowth of smaller creatures dodged and yelped,
and helmet faces poised on sinuous, long-jointed necks appeared craning
over shoulders and beneath armpits. Keeping a welcome space about me
marched a cordon of stolid, scuttle-headed guards, who had joined us on
our leaving the boat in which we had come along the channels of the
Central Sea. The quick-eyed artist with the little brain joined us also,
and a thick bunch of lean porter-insects swayed and struggled under the
multitude of conveniences that were considered essential to my state. I
was carried in a litter during the final stage of our journey. This litter
was made of some very ductile metal that looked dark to me, meshed and
woven, and with bars of paler metal, and about me as I advanced there
grouped itself a long and complicated procession.

"In front, after the manner of heralds, marched four trumpet-faced
creatures making a devastating bray; and then came squat, resolute-moving
ushers before and behind, and on either hand a galaxy of learned heads, a
sort of animated encyclopedia, who were, Phi-oo explained, to stand about
the Grand Lunar for purposes of reference. (Not a thing in lunar science,
not a point of view or method of thinking, that these wonderful beings did
not carry in their heads!) Followed guards and porters, and then Phi-oo's
shivering brain borne also on a litter. Then came Tsi-puff in a slightly
less important litter; then myself on a litter of greater elegance than
any other, and surrounded by my food and drink attendants. More trumpeters
came next, splitting the ear with vehement outcries, and then several big
brains, special correspondents one might well call them, or
historiographers, charged with the task of observing and remembering every
detail of this epoch-making interview. A company of attendants, bearing
and dragging banners and masses of scented fungus and curious symbols,
vanished in the darkness behind. The way was lined by ushers and officers
in caparisons that gleamed like steel, and beyond their line, so far as my
eyes could pierce the gloom, the heads of that enormous crowd extended.

"I will own that I am still by no means indurated. to the peculiar effect
of the Selenite appearance, and to find myself, as it were, adrift on this
broad sea of excited entomology was by no means agreeable. Just for a
space I had something very like what I should imagine people mean when
they speak of the 'horrors.' It had come to me before in these lunar
caverns, when on occasion I have found myself weaponless and with an
undefended back, amidst a crowd of these Selenites, but never quite so
vividly. It is, of course, as absolutely irrational a feeling as one could
well have, and I hope gradually to subdue it. But just for a moment, as I
swept forward into the welter of the vast crowd, it was only by gripping
my litter tightly and summoning all my will-power that I succeeded in
avoiding an outcry or some such manifestation. It lasted perhaps three I
minutes; then I had myself in hand again.

"We ascended the spiral of a vertical way for some time, and then passed
through a series of huge halls dome-roofed and elaborately decorated. The
approach to the Grand Lunar was certainly contrived to give one a vivid
impression of his greatness. Each cavern one entered seemed greater and
more boldly arched than its predecessor. This effect of progressive size
was enhanced by a thin haze of faintly phosphorescent blue incense that
thickened as one advanced, and robbed even the nearer figures of
clearness. I seemed to advance continually to something larger, dimmer,
and less material.

"I must confess that all this multitude made me feel extremely shabby and
unworthy. I was unshaven and unkempt; I had brought no razor; I had a
coarse beard over my mouth. On earth I have always been inclined to
despise any attention to my person beyond a proper care for cleanliness;
but under the exceptional circumstances in which I found myself,
representing, as I did, my planet and my kind, and depending very largely
upon the attractiveness of my appearance for a proper reception, I could
have given much for something a little more artistic and dignified than
the husks I wore. I had been so serene in the belief that the moon was
uninhabited as to overlook such precautions altogether. As it was I was
dressed in a flannel jacket, knickerbockers, and golfing stockings,
stained with every sort of dirt the moon offered, slippers (of which the
left heel was wanting), and a blanket, through a hole in which I thrust my
head. (These clothes, indeed, I still wear.) Sharp bristles are anything
but an improvement to my cast of features, and there was an unmended tear
at the knee of my knickerbockers that showed conspicuously as I squatted
in my litter; my right stocking, too persisted in getting about my ankle.
I am fully alive to the injustice my appearance did humanity, and if by
any expedient I could have improvised something a little out of the way
and imposing I would have done so. But I could hit upon nothing. I did
what I could with my blanket - folding it somewhat after the fashion of a
toga, and for the rest I sat as upright as the swaying of my litter
permitted.

"Imagine the largest hall you have ever been in, imperfectly lit with blue
light and obscured by a gray-blue fog, surging with metallic or livid-gray
creatures of such a mad diversity as I have hinted. Imagine this hall to
end in an open archway beyond which is a still larger hall, and beyond
this yet another and still larger one, and so on. At the end of the vista,
dimly seen, a flight of steps, like the steps of Ara Coeli at Rome, ascend
out of sight. Higher and higher these steps appear to go as one draws
nearer their base. But at last I came under a huge archway and beheld the
summit of these steps, and upon it the Grand Lunar exalted on his throne.

" He was seated in what was relatively a blaze of incandescent blue. This,
and the darkness about him gave him an effect of floating in a blue-black
void. He seemed a small, self-luminous cloud at first, brooding on his
sombre throne; his brain case must have measured many yards in diameter.
For some reason that I cannot fathom a number of blue search-lights
radiated from behind the throne on which he sat, and immediately
encircling him was a halo. About him, and little and indistinct in this
glow, a number of body-servants sustained and supported him, and
overshadowed and standing in a huge semicircle beneath him were his
intellectual subordinates, his remembrancers and computators and searchers
and servants, and all the distinguished insects of the court of the moon.
Still lower stood ushers and messengers, and then all down the countless
steps of the throne were guards, and at the base, enormous, various,
indistinct, vanishing at last into an absolute black, a vast swaying
multitude of the minor dignitaries of the moon. Their feet made a
perpetual scraping whisper on the rocky floor, as their limbs moved with a
rustling murmur.

"As I entered the penultimate hall the music rose and expanded into an
imperial magnificence of sound, and the shrieks of the news-bearers died
away. ...

"I entered the last and greatest hall....

"My procession opened out like a fan. My ushers and guards went right and
left, and the three litters bearing myself and Phi-oo and Tsi-puff marched
across a shiny darkness of floor to the foot of the giant stairs. Then
began a vast throbbing hum, that mingled with the music. The two Selenites
dismounted, but I was bidden remain seated - I imagine as a special
honour. The music ceased, but not that humming, arid by a simultaneous
movement of ten thousand respectful heads my attention was directed to the
enhaloed supreme intelligence that hovered above me.

"At first as I peered into the radiating glow this quintessential brain
looked very much like an opaque, featureless bladder with dim, undulating
ghosts of convolutions writhing visibly within. Then beneath its enormity
and just above the edge of the throne one saw with a start minute elfin
eyes peering out of the glow. No face, but eyes, as if they peered through
holes. At first I could see no more than these two staring little eyes,
and then below I distinguished the little dwarfed body and its
insect-jointed limbs shrivelled and white. The eyes stared down at me with
a strange intensity, and the lower part of the swollen globe was wrinkled.
Ineffectual-looking little hand-tentacles steadied this shape on the
throne. ...

"It was great. It was pitiful. One forgot the hall and the crowd.

"I ascended the staircase by jerks. It seemed to me that this darkly
glowing brain case above us spread over me, and took more and more of the
whole effect into itself as I drew nearer. The tiers of attendants and
helpers grouped about their master seemed to dwindle and fade into the
night. I saw that shadowy attendants were busy spraying that great brain
with a cooling spray, and patting and sustaining it. For my own part, I
sat gripping my swaying litter and staring at the Grand Lunar, unable to
turn my gaze aside. And at last, as I reached a little landing that was
separated only by ten steps or so from the supreme seat, the woven
splendour of the music reached a climax and ceased, and I was left naked,
as it were, in that vastness, beneath the still scrutiny of the Grand
Lunar's eyes.

"He was scrutinising the first man he had ever seen. ...

"My eyes dropped at last from his greatness to the ant figures in the blue
mist about him, and then down the steps to the massed Selenites, still and
expectant in their thousands, packed on the floor below. Once again an
unreasonable horror reached out towards me. ... And passed.

"After the pause came the salutation. I was assisted from my litter, and
stood awkwardly while a number of curious and no doubt deeply symbolical
gestures were vicariously performed for me by two slender officials. The
encyclopaedic galaxy of the learned that had accompanied me to the
entrance of the last hall appeared two steps above me and left and right
of me, in readiness for the Grand Lunar's need, and Phi-oo's pale brain
placed itself about half-way up to the throne in such a position as to
communicate easily between us without turning his back on either the Grand
Lunar or myself. Tsi-puff took up position behind him. Dexterous ushers
sidled sideways towards me, keeping a full face to the Presence. I seated
myself Turkish fashion, and Phi-oo and Tsi-puff also knelt down above me.
There came a pause. The eyes of the nearer court went from me to the Grand
Lunar and came back to me, and a hissing and piping of expectation passed
across the hidden multitudes below and ceased.

"That humming ceased.

"For the first and last time in my experience the moon was silent.

"I became aware of a faint wheezy noise. The Grand Lunar was addressing
me. It was like the rubbing of a finger upon a pane of glass.

"I watched him attentively for a time, and then glanced at the alert
Phi-oo. I felt amidst these slender beings ridiculously thick and fleshy
and solid; my head all jaw and black hair. My eyes went back to the Grand
Lunar. He had ceased; his attendants were busy, and his shining superfices
was glistening and running with cooling spray.

"Phi-oo meditated through an interval. He consulted Tsi-puff. Then he
began piping his recognisable English - at first a little nervously, so
that he was not very clear.

"'M'm - the Grand Lunar - wishes to say - wishes to say - he gathers you
are - m'm - men - that you are a man from the planet earth. He wishes to
say that he welcomes you - welcomes you - and wishes to learn - learn, if
I may use the word - the state of your world, and the reason why you came
to this.'

"He paused. I was about to reply when he resumed. He proceeded to remarks
of which the drift was not very clear, though I am inclined to think they
were intended to be complimentary. He told me that the earth was to the
moon what the sun is to the earth, and that the Selenites desired very
greatly to learn about the earth and men. He then told me no doubt in
compliment also, the relative magnitude and diameter of earth and moon,
and the perpetual wonder and speculation with which the Selenites had
regarded our planet. I meditated with downcast eyes, and decided to reply
that men too had wondered what might lie in the moon, and had judged it
dead, little recking of such magnificence as I had seen that day. The
Grand Lunar, in token of recognition, caused his long blue rays to rotate
in a very confusing manner, and all about the great hall ran the pipings
and whisperings and rustlings of the report of what I had said. He then
proceeded to put to Phi-oo a number of inquiries which were easier to
answer.

"He understood, he explained, that we lived on the surface of the earth,
that our air and sea were outside the globe; the latter part, indeed, he
already knew from his astronomical specialists. He was very anxious to
have more detailed information of what he called this extraordinary state
of affairs, for from the solidity of the earth there had always been a
disposition regard it as uninhabitable. He endeavoured first to ascertain
the extremes of temperature to which we earth beings were exposed, and he
was deeply interested by my descriptive treatment of clouds and rain. His
imagination was assisted by the fact that the lunar atmosphere in the
outer galleries of the night side is not infrequently very foggy. He
seemed inclined to marvel that we did not find the sunlight too intense
for our eyes, and was interested in my attempt to explain that the sky was
tempered to a bluish colour through the refraction of the air, though I
doubt if he clearly understood that. I explained how the iris of the human
eyes can contract the pupil and save the delicate internal structure from
the excess of sunlight, and was allowed to approach within a few feet of
the Presence in order that this structure might be seen. This led to a
comparison of the lunar and terrestrial eyes. The former is not only
excessively sensitive to such light as men can see, but it can also see
heat, and every difference in temperature within the moon renders objects
visible to it.

"The iris was quite a new organ to the Grand Lunar. For a time he amused
himself by flashing his rays into my face and watching my pupils contract.
As a consequence, I was dazzled and blinded for some little time. ...

"But in spite of that discomfort I found something reassuring by
insensible degrees in the rationality of this business of question and
answer. I could shut my eyes, think of my answer, and almost forget that
the the Grand Lunar has no face. ...

"When I had descended again to my proper place the Grand Lunar asked how
we sheltered ourselves from heat and storms, and I expounded to him the
arts of building and furnishing. Here we wandered into misunderstandings
and cross-purposes, due largely, I must admit, to the looseness of my
expressions. For a long time I had great difficulty in making him
understand the nature of a house. To him and his attendant Selenites it
seemed, no doubt, the most whimsical thing in the world that men should
build houses when they might descend into excavations, and an additional
complication was introduced by the attempt I made to explain that men had
originally begun their homes in caves, and that they were now taking their
railways and many establishments beneath the surface. Here I think a
desire for intellectual completeness betrayed me. There was also a
considerable tangle due to an equally unwise attempt on my part to explain
about mines. Dismissing this topic at last in an incomplete state, the
Grand Lunar inquired what we did with the interior of our globe.

"A tide of twittering and piping swept into the remotest corners of that
great assembly then it was last made clear that we men know absolutely
nothing of the contents of the world upon which the immemorial generations
of our ancestors had been evolved. Three times had I to repeat that of all
the 4000 miles of distance between the earth and its centre men knew only
to the depth of a mile, and that very vaguely. I understood the Grand
Lunar to ask why had I come to the moon seeing we had scarcely touched our
own planet yet, but he did not trouble me at that time to proceed to an
explanation, being too anxious to pursue the details of this mad inversion
of all his ideas.

"He reverted to the question of weather, and I tried to describe the
perpetually changing sky, and snow, and frost and hurricanes. 'But when
the night comes,' he ed, 'is it not cold?'

"I told him it was colder than by day. "'And does not your atmosphere
freeze?'

"I told him not; that it was never cold enough for that, because our
nights were so short.

"'Not even liquefy?'

"I was about to say 'No,' but then it occurred to me that one part at
least of our atmosphere, the water vapour of it, does sometimes liquefy
and form dew, and sometimes freeze and form frost - a process perfectly
analogous to the freezing of all the external atmosphere of the moon
during its longer night. I made myself clear on this point, and from that
the Grand Lunar went on to speak with me of sleep. For the need of sleep
that comes so regularly every twenty-four hours to all things is part also
of our earthly inheritance. On the moon they rest only at rare intervals,
and after exceptional exertions. Then I tried to describe to him the soft
splendours of a summer night, and from that I passed to a description of
those animals that prowl by night and sleep by day. I told him of lions
and tigers, and here it seemed as though we had come to a deadlock. For,
save in their waters, there are no creatures in the moon not absolutely
domestic and subject to his will, and so it has been for immemorial years.
They have monstrous water creatures, but no evil beasts, and the idea of
anything strong and large existing 'outside' in the night is very
difficult for them. ...

The record is here too broken to transcribe for the space of perhaps
twenty words or more.

"He talked with his attendants, as I suppose, upon the strange
superficiality and unreasonableness of (man) who lives on the mere surface
of a world, a creature of waves and winds, and all the chances of space,
who cannot even unite to overcome the beasts that prey upon his kind, and
yet who dares to invade another planet. During this aside I sat thinking,
and then at his desire I told him of the different sorts of men. He
searched me with questions. "And for all sorts of work you have the same
sort of men. But who thinks? Who governs?'

"I gave him an outline of the democratic method.

"When I had done he ordered cooling sprays upon his brow, and then
requested me to repeat my explanation conceiving something had miscarried.

"'Do they not do different things, then?' said Phi-oo.

"Some, I admitted, were thinkers and some officials; some hunted, some
were mechanics, some artists, some toilers. 'But all rule,' I said.

"'And have they not different shapes to fit them to their different
duties?'

"'None that you can see,' I said, 'except perhaps, for clothes. Their
minds perhaps differ a little,' I reflected.

"'Their minds must differ a great deal,' said the Grand Lunar, 'or they
would all want to do the same things.'

"In order to bring myself into a closer harmony with his preconceptions, I
said that his surmise was right 'It was all hidden in the brain,' I said;
'but the difference was there. Perhaps if one could see the minds and
souls of men they would be as varied and unequal as the Selenites. There
were great men and small men, men who could reach out far and wide, men
who could go swiftly; noisy, trumpet-minded men, and men who could
remember without thinking. ... The record is indistinct for three words.

He interrupted me to recall me to my previous statements. 'But you said
all men rule?' he pressed.

"To a certain extent," I said, and made, I fear, a denser fog with my
explanation.

"He reached out to a salient fact. "Do you mean," asked, 'that there is
no Grand Earthly?'

I thought of several people, but assured him finally there was none. I
explained that such autocrats and emperors as we had tried upon earth had
usually ended in drink, or vice, or violence, and that the large and
influential section of the people of the earth to which I belonged, the
Anglo-Saxons, did not mean to try that sort of thing again. At which the
Grand Lunar was even more amazed.

"But how do you keep even such wisdom as you have?" he asked; and I
explained to him the way we helped our limited [a word omitted here,
probably "brains"] with libraries of books. I explained to him how our
science was growing by the united labours of innumerable little men, and
on that he made no comment save that it was evident we had mastered much
in spite of our social savagery, or we could not have come to the moon.
Yet the contrast was very marked. With knowledge the Selenites grew and
changed; mankind stored their knowledge about them and remained brutes -
equipped. He said this... [Here there is a short piece of the record
indistinct.]

"He then caused me to describe how we went about this earth of ours, and I
described to him our railways and ships. For a time he could not
understand that we had had the use of steam only one hundred years, but
when he did he was clearly amazed. (I may mention as a singular thing,
that the Selenites use years to count by, just as we do on earth, though I
can make nothing of their numeral system. That, however, does not matter,
because Phi-oo understands ours.) From that I went on to tell him that
mankind had dwelt in cities only for nine or ten thousand years, and that
we were still not united in one brotherhood, but under many different
forms of government. This astonished the Grand Lunar very much, when it
was made clear to him. At first he thought we referred merely to
administrative areas.

"'Our States and Empires are still the rawest sketches of what order will
some day be,' I said, and so I came to tell him. ... [At this point a
length of record that probably represents thirty or forty words is totally
illegible.]

"The Grand Lunar was greatly impressed by the folly of men in clinging to
the inconvenience of diverse tongues. 'They want to communicate, and yet
not to communicate,' he said, and then for a long time he questioned me
closely concerning war.

"He was at first perplexed and incredulous. 'You mean to say,' he asked,
seeking confirmation, 'that you run about over the surface of your world -
this world, whose riches you have scarcely begun to scrape - killing one
another for beasts to eat?'

"I told him that was perfectly correct.

"He asked for particulars to assist his imagination.

"'But do not ships and your poor little cities get injured? ' he asked,
and I found the waste of property and conveniences seemed to impress him
almost as much as the killing. 'Tell me more,' said the Grand Lunar; 'make
me see pictures. I cannot conceive these things.'

"And so, for a space, though something loath, I told him the story of
earthly War.

"I told him of the first orders and ceremonies of war, of warnings and
ultimatums, and the marshalling and marching of troops. I gave him an idea
of manoeuvres and positions and battle joined. I told him of sieges and
assaults, of starvation and hardship in trenches, and of sentinels
freezing in the snow. I told him of routs and surprises, and desperate
last stands and faint hopes, and the pitiless pursuit of fugitives and the
dead upon the field. I told, too, of the past, of invasions and massacres,
of the Huns and Tartars, and the wars of Mahomet and the Caliphs, and of
the Crusades. And as I went on, and Phi-oo translated, and the Selenites
cooed and murmured in a steadily intensified emotion.

"I told them an ironclad could fire a shot of a ton twelve miles, and go
through 20 ft. of iron - and how we could steer torpedoes under water. I
went on to describe a Maxim gun in action, and what I could imagine of the
Battle of Colenso. The Grand Lunar was so incredulous that he interrupted
the translation of what I had said in order to have my verification of my
account. They particularly doubted my description of the men cheering and
rejoicing as they went into (? battle).

"'But surely they do not like it!' translated Phi-oo.

"I assured them men of my race considered battle the most glorious
experience of life, at which the whole assembly was stricken with
amazement.

"'But what good is this war?' asked the Grand Lunar, sticking to his
theme.

"'Oh! as for good!' said I; 'it thins the population!'

"'But why should there be a need - ?' ..

"There came a pause, the cooling sprays impigned upon his brow, and then
he spoke again."

[At this point a series of undulations that have been apparent as a
perplexing complication as far back as Cavor's description of the silence
that fell before the first speaking of the Grand Lunar become confusingly
predominant in the record. These undulations are evidently the result of
radiations proceeding from a lunar source, and their persistent
approximation to the alternating signals of Cavor is curiously suggestive
of some operator deliberately seeking to mix them in with his message and
render it illegible. At first they are small and regular, so that with a
little care and the loss of very few words we have been able to
disentangle Cavor's message; then they become broad and larger, then
suddenly they are irregular, with an irregularity that gives the effect at
last of some one scribbling through a line of writing. For a long time
nothing can be made of this madly zigzagging trace; then quite abruptly
the interruption ceases, leaves a few words clear, and then resumes and
continues for the rest of the message, completely obliterating whatever
Cavor was attempting to transmit. Why, if this is indeed a deliberate
intervention, the Selenites should have preferred to let Cavor go on
transmitting his message in happy ignorance of their obliteration of its
record, when it was clearly quite in their power and much more easy and
convenient for them to stop his proceedings at any time, is a problem to
which I can contribute nothing. The thing seems to have happened so, and
that is all I can say. This last rag of his description of the Grand Lunar
begins in mid-sentence.]

"...interrogated me very closely upon my secret. I was able in a little
while to get to an understanding with them, and at last to elucidate what
has been a puzzle to me ever since I realised the vastness of there
science, namely, how it is they themselves have never discovered
'Cavorite.' I find they know of it as a theoretical substance, but they
have always regarded it as a practical impossibility, because for some
reason there is no helium in the moon, and helium..."

[Across the last letters of helium slashes the resumption of that
obliterating trace. Note that word "secret," for that, and that alone, I
base my interpretation of the message that follows, the last message, as
both Mr. Wendigee and myself now believe it to be, that he is ever likely
to send us.]

Chapter 26

The Last Message Cavor sent to the Earth

ON this unsatisfactory manner the penultimate message of Cavor dies out.
One seems to see him away there in the blue obscurity amidst his apparatus
intently signalling us to the last, all unaware of the curtain of
confusion that drops between us; all unaware, too, of the final dangers
that even then must have been creeping upon him. His disastrous want of
vulgar common sense had utterly betrayed him. He had talked of war, he had
talked of all the strength and irrational violence of men, of their
insatiable aggressions, their tireless futility of conflict. He had filled
the whole moon world with this impression of our race, and then I think it
is plain that he made the most fatal admission that upon himself alone
hung the possibility - at least for a long time - of any further men
reaching the moon. The line the cold, inhuman reason of the moon would
take seems plain enough to me, and a suspicion of it, and then perhaps
some sudden sharp realisation of it, must have come to him. One imagines
him about the moon with the remorse of this fatal indiscretion growing in
his mind. During a certain time I am inclined to guess the Grand Lunar was
deliberating the new situation, and for all that time Cavor may have gone
as free as ever he had gone. But obstacles of some sort prevented his
getting to his electromagnetic apparatus again after that message I have
just given. For some days we received nothing. Perhaps he was having fresh
audiences, and trying to evade his previous admissions. Who can hope to
guess?

And then suddenly, like a cry in the night, like a cry that is followed by
a stillness, came the last message. It is the briefest fragment, the
broken beginnings of two sentences.

The first was: "I was mad to let the Grand Lunar know."

There was an interval of perhaps a minute. One imagines some interruption
from without. A departure from the instrument - a dreadful hesitation
among the looming masses of apparatus in that dim, blue-lit cavern - a
sudden rush back to it, full of a resolve that came too late. Then, as if
it were hastily transmitted came: "Cavorite made as follows: take-"

There followed one word, a quite unmeaning word as it stands: "uless."

And that is all.

It may be he made a hasty attempt to spell "useless" when his fate was
close upon him. Whatever it was that was happening about that apparatus we
cannot tell. Whatever it was we shall never, I know, receive another
message from the moon. For my own part a vivid dream has come to my help,
and I see, almost as plainly as though I had seen it in actual fact, a
blue-lit shadowy dishevelled Cavor struggling in the grip of these insect
Selenites, struggling ever more desperately and hopelessly as they press
upon him, shouting, expostulating, perhaps even at last fighting, and
being forced backwards step by step out of all speech or sign of his
fellows, for evermore into the Unknown - into the dark, into that silence
that has no end. ...

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