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Across the Zodiac by Percy Greg

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ACROSS THE ZODIAC: The Story of a Wrecked Record



"Thoughts he sends to each planet,
Uranus, Venus, and Mars;
Soars to the Centre to span it,
Numbers the infinite Stars."

_Courthope's Paradise of Birds_

































Once only, in the occasional travelling of thirty years, did I lose
any important article of luggage; and that loss occurred, not under
the haphazard, devil-take-the-hindmost confusion of English, or the
elaborate misrule of Continental journeys, but through the absolute
perfection and democratic despotism of the American system. I had to
give up a visit to the scenery of Cooper's best Indian novels--no
slight sacrifice--and hasten at once to New York to repair the loss.
This incident brought me, on an evening near the middle of September
1874, on board a river steamboat starting from Albany, the capital of
the State, for the Empire City. The banks of the lower Hudson are as
well worth seeing as those of the Rhine itself, but even America has
not yet devised means of lighting them up at night, and consequently I
had no amusement but such as I could find in the conversation of my
fellow-travellers. With one of these, whose abstinence from personal
questions led me to take him for an Englishman, I spoke of my visit to
Niagara--the one wonder of the world that [***]--and to Montreal. As
[***] general Canadian feeling of [***] Crown and connection, a Yankee
bystander observed--

"Wal, stranger, I reckon we could take 'em if we wanted tu!"

"Yes," I replied, "if you think them worth the price. But if you do,
you rate them even more highly than they rate themselves; and English
colonists are not much behind the citizens of the model Republic in
honest self-esteem."

"Wal," he said, "how much du yew calc'late we shall hev to pay?"

"Not more, perhaps, than you can afford; only California, and every
Atlantic seaport from Portland to Galveston."

"Reckon yew may be about right, stranger," he said, falling back with
tolerable good-humour; and, to do them justice, the bystanders seemed
to think the retort no worse than the provocation deserved.

"I am sorry," said my friend, "you should have fallen in with so
unpleasant a specimen of the character your countrymen ascribe with
too much reason to Americans. I have been long in England, and never
met with such discourtesy from any one who recognised me as an

After this our conversation became less reserved; and I found that I
was conversing with one of the most renowned officers of irregular
cavalry in the late Confederate service--a service which, in the
efficiency, brilliancy, and daring of that especial arm, has never
been surpassed since Maharbal's African Light Horse were recognised by
friends and foes as the finest corps in the small splendid army of

Colonel A---- (the reader will learn why I give neither his name nor
real rank) spoke with some bitterness of the inquisitiveness which
rendered it impossible, he said, to trust an American with a secret,
and very difficult to keep one without lying. We were presently joined
by Major B----, who had been employed during the war in the conduct of
many critical communications, and had shown great ingenuity in
devising and unravelling ciphers. On this subject a somewhat
protracted discussion arose. I inclined to the doctrine of Poe, that
no cipher can be devised which cannot be detected by an experienced
hand; my friends indicated simple methods of defeating the processes
on which decipherers rely.

"Poe's theory," said the Major, "depends upon the frequent recurrence
of certain letters, syllables, and brief words in any given language;
for instance, of _e_'s and _t_'s, _tion_ and _ed_, _a_, _and_, and
_the_ in English. Now it is perfectly easy to introduce abbreviations
for each of the common short words and terminations, and equally easy
to baffle the decipherer's reliance thereon by inserting meaningless
symbols to separate the words; by employing two signs for a common
letter, or so arranging your cipher that no one shall without extreme
difficulty know which marks stand for single and which for several
combined letters, where one letter ends and another begins."

After some debate, Colonel A---- wrote down and handed me two lines in
a cipher whose character at once struck me as very remarkable.

"I grant," said I, "that these hieroglyphics might well puzzle a more
practised decipherer than myself. Still, I can point out even here a
clue which might help detection. There occur, even in these two lines,
three or four symbols which, from their size and complication, are
evidently abbreviations. Again, the distinct forms are very few, and
have obviously been made to serve for different letters by some slight
alterations devised upon a fixed rule. In a word, the cipher has been
constructed upon a general principle; and though it may take a long
time to find out what that principle is, it affords a clue which,
carefully followed out, will probably lead to detection."

"You have perceived," said Colonel A----, "a fact which it took me
very long to discover. I have not deciphered all the more difficult
passages of the manuscript from which I took this example; but I have
ascertained the meaning of all its simple characters, and your
inference is certainly correct."

Here he stopped abruptly, as if he thought he had said too much, and
the subject dropped.

We reached New York early in the morning and separated, having
arranged to visit that afternoon a celebrated "spiritual" medium who
was then giving _seances_ in the Empire City, and of whom my friend
had heard and repeated to me several more or less marvellous stories.
Our visit, however, was unsatisfactory; and as we came away Colonel
A---- said--

"Well, I suppose this experience confirms you in your disbelief?"

"No," said I. "My first visits have generally been failures, and I
have more than once been told that my own temperament is most
unfavourable to the success of a seance. Nevertheless, I have in some
cases witnessed marvels perfectly inexplicable by known natural laws;
and I have heard and read of others attested by evidence I certainly
cannot consider inferior to my own."

"Why," he said, "I thought from your conversation last night you were
a complete disbeliever."

"I believe," answered I, "in very little of what I have seen. But that
little is quite sufficient to dispose of the theory of pure imposture.
On the other hand, there is nothing spiritual and nothing very human
in the pranks played by or in the presence of the mediums. They remind
one more of the feats of traditionary goblins; mischievous, noisy,
untrustworthy; insensible to ridicule, apparently delighting to make
fools of men, and perfectly indifferent to having the tables turned
upon themselves."

"But do you believe in goblins?"

"No," I replied; "no more than in table-turning ghosts, and less than
in apparitions. I am not bound to find either sceptics or
spiritualists in plausible explanations. But when they insist on an
alternative to their respective theories, I suggest Puck as at least
equally credible with Satan, Shakespeare, or the parrot-cry of
imposture. It is the very extravagance of illogical temper to call on
me to furnish an explanation _because_ I say 'we know far too little
of the thing itself to guess at its causes;' but of the current
guesses, imposture seems inconsistent with the evidence, and
'spiritual agency' with the character of the phenomena."

"That," replied Colonel A----, "sounds common sense, and sounds even
more commonplace. And yet, no one seems really to draw a strong, clear
line between non-belief and disbelief. And you are the first and only
man I ever met who hesitates to affirm the impossibility of that which
seems to him wildly improbable, contrary at once to received opinion
and to his own experience, and contrary, moreover, to all known
natural laws, and all inferences hitherto drawn from them. Your men of
science dogmatise like divines, not only on things they have not seen,
but on things they refuse to see; and your divines are half of them
afraid of Satan, and the other half of science."

"The men of science have," I replied, "like every other class, their
especial bias, their peculiar professional temptation. The
anti-religious bigotry of Positivists is quite as bitter and
irrational as the theological bigotry of religious fanatics. At
present the two powers countervail and balance each other. But, as
three hundred years ago I should certainly have been burnt for a
heretic, so fifty or a hundred years hence, could I live so long, I
should be in equal apprehension of being burnt by some successor of
Mr. Congreve, Mr. Harrison, or Professor Huxley, for presuming to
believe in Providential government."

"The intolerance of incredulity," returned Colonel A----, "is a sore
subject with me. I once witnessed a phenomenon which was to me quite
as extraordinary as any of the 'spiritual' performances. I have at
this moment in my possession apparently irresistible evidence of the
reality of what then took place; and I am sure that there exists at a
point on the earth's surface, which unluckily I cannot define, strong
corroborative proof of my story. Nevertheless, the first persons who
heard it utterly ridiculed it, and were disposed to treat me either as
a madman, or at best as an audacious trespasser on that privilege of
lying which belonged to them as mariners. I told it afterwards to
three gentlemen of station, character, and intelligence, every one of
whom had known me as soldier, and I hope as gentleman, for years; and
in each case the result was a duel, which has silenced those who
imputed to me an unworthy and purposeless falsehood, but has left a
heavy burden on my conscience, and has prevented me ever since from
repeating what I know to be true and believe to be of greater
interest, and in some sense of greater importance, than any scientific
discovery of the last century. Since the last occasion on which I told
it seven years have elapsed, and I never have met any one but yourself
to whom I have thought it possible to disclose it."

"I have," I answered, "an intense interest in all occult phenomena;
believing in regard to alleged magic, as the scientists say of
practical science, that every one branch of such knowledge throws
light on others; and if there be nothing in your story which it is
personally painful to relate, you need not be silenced by any
apprehension of discourteous criticism on my part."

"I assure you," he said, "I have no such wish now to tell the story as
I had at first. It is now associated with the most painful incident of
my life, and I have lost altogether that natural desire for sympathy
and human interest in a matter deeply interesting to myself, which,
like every one else, I felt at first, and which is, I suppose, the
motive that prompts us all to relate often and early any occurrence
that has keenly affected us, in whatever manner. But I think that I
have no right to suppress so remarkable a fact, if by telling it I can
place it effectually on record for the benefit of men sensible enough
to believe that it may have occurred, especially since somewhere in
the world there must yet exist proof that it did occur. If you will
come to my rooms in ---- Street tomorrow, Number 999, I will not
promise, but I think that I shall have made up my mind to tell you
what I have to tell, and to place in your hands that portion of the
evidence which is still at my command--evidence that has a
significance of its own, to which my experience is merely episodical."

I spent that evening with the family of a friend, one of several
former officers of the Confederacy, whose friendship is the one
permanent and valuable result of my American tour. I mentioned the
Colonel's name, and my friend, the head of the family, having served
with him through the Virginian campaigns, expressed the highest
confidence in his character, the highest opinion of his honour and
veracity; but spoke with bitter regret and pain of the duels in which
he had been engaged, especially of one which had been fatal; remarking
that the motive in each instance remained unknown even to the seconds.
"I am sure," he said "that they were not, could not have been, fought
for the one cause that would justify them and explain the secrecy of
the quarrel--some question involving female honour or reputation. I
can hardly conceive that any one of his adversaries could have called
in question in any way the personal loyalty of Colonel A----; and, as
you remarked of General M----, it is too absurd for a man who had
faced over and over again the fire of a whole brigade, who had led
charges against fourfold numbers, to prove his personal courage with
sword or pistol, or to think that any one would have doubted either
his spirit or his nerve had he refused to fight, whatever the
provocation. Moreover, in each case he was the challenger."

"Then these duels have injured him in Southern opinion, and have
probably tended to isolate him from society?"

"No," he replied. "Deeply as they were regretted and disapproved, his
services during the war were so brilliant, and his personal character
stands so high, that nothing could have induced his fellow-soldiers to
put any social stigma upon him. To me he must know that he would be
most welcome. Yet, though we have lived in the same city for five
years, I have only encountered him three or four times in the street,
and then he has passed with the fewest possible words, and has neither
given me his address nor accepted my urgent invitations to visit us
here. I think that there is something in the story of those duels that
will never be known, certainly something that has never been guessed
yet. And I think that either the circumstances in which they must have
had their origin, or the duels themselves, have so weighed upon his
spirits, perhaps upon his conscience, that he has chosen to avoid his
former friends, most of them also the friends of his antagonists.
Though the war ruined him as utterly as any of the thousands of
Southern gentlemen whom it has reduced from wealth to absolute
poverty, he has refused every employment which would bring him before
the public eye."

"Is there," I asked, "any point of honour on which you could suppose
him to be so exceptionally sensitive that he would think it necessary
to take the life of a man who touched him on that point, though
afterwards his regret, if not repentance, might be keen enough to
crush his spirit or break his heart?"

The General paused for a moment, and his son then interposed--

"I have heard it said that Colonel A---- was in general the least
quarrelsome of Confederate officers; but that on more than one
occasion, where his statement upon some point of fact had been
challenged by a comrade, who did not intend to question his veracity
but simply the accuracy of his observation, their brother officers had
much trouble in preventing a serious difficulty."

The next day I called as agreed upon my new-found friend, and with
some reluctance he commenced his story.

"During the last campaign, in February 1865, I was sent by General Lee
with despatches for Kirby Smith, then commanding beyond the
Mississippi. I was unable to return before the surrender, and, for
reasons into which I need not enter, I believed myself to be marked
out by the Federal Government for vengeance. If I had remained within
their reach, I might have shared the fate of Wirz and other victims of
calumnies which, once put in circulation during the war, their
official authors dared not retract at its close. Now I and others,
who, if captured in 1865, might probably have been hanged, are neither
molested nor even suspected of any other offence than that of
fighting, as our opponents fought, for the State to which our
allegiance was due. However, I thought it necessary to escape before
the final surrender of our forces beyond the Mississippi. I made my
way to Mexico, and, like one or two Southern officers of greater
distinction than myself, entered the service of the Emperor
Maximilian, not as mere soldiers of fortune, but because, knowing
better than any but her Southern neighbours knew it the miserable
anarchy of Mexico under the Republic, we regarded conquest as the one
chance of regeneration for that country, and the Emperor Maximilian as
a hero who had devoted himself to a task heroic at once in its danger
and difficulty--the restoration of a people with whom his house had a
certain historical connection to a place among the nations of the
civilised world. After his fall, I should certainly have been shot had
I been caught by the Juarists in pursuit of me. I gained the Pacific
coast, and got on board an English vessel, whose captain--loading for
San Francisco--generously weighed anchor and sailed with but half a
cargo to give me a chance of safety. He transferred me a few days
afterwards to a Dutch vessel bound for Brisbane, for at that time I
thought of settling in Queensland. The crew was weak-handed, and
consisted chiefly of Lascars, Malays, and two or three European
desperadoes of all languages and of no country. Her master was barely
competent to the ordinary duties of his command; and it was no
surprise to me when the first storm that we encountered drove us
completely out of our course, nor was I much astonished that the
captain was for some days, partly from fright and partly from drink,
incapable of using his sextant to ascertain the position of the ship.
One night we were awakened by a tremendous shock; and, to spare you
the details of a shipwreck, which have nothing to do with my story, we
found ourselves when day broke fast on a coral reef, about a mile from
an island of no great size, and out of sight of all other land. The
sextant having been broken to pieces, I had no means of ascertaining
the position of this island, nor do I now know anything of it except
that it lay, in the month of August, within the region of the
southeast trade winds. We pulled on shore, but, after exploring the
island, it was found to yield nothing attractive to seamen except
cocoa-nuts, with which our crew had soon supplied themselves as
largely as they wished, and fish, which were abundant and easily
caught, and of which they were soon tired. The captain, therefore,
when he had recovered his sobriety and his courage, had no great
difficulty in inducing them to return to the ship, and endeavour
either to get her off or construct from her timbers a raft which,
following the course of the winds, might, it was thought, bring them
into the track of vessels. This would take some time, and I meanwhile
was allowed to remain (my own wish) on _terra firma_; the noise, dirt,
and foul smells of the vessel being, especially in that climate,

"About ten o'clock in the morning of the 25th August 1867, I was lying
towards the southern end of the island, on a little hillock tolerably
clear of trees, and facing a sort of glade or avenue, covered only
with brush and young trees, which allowed me to see the sky within
perhaps twenty degrees of the horizon. Suddenly, looking up, I saw
what appeared at first like a brilliant star considerably higher than
the sun. It increased in size with amazing rapidity, till, in a very
few seconds after its first appearance, it had a very perceptible
disc. For an instant it obscured the sun. In another moment a
tremendous shock temporarily deprived me of my senses, and I think
that more than an hour had elapsed before I recovered them. Sitting
up, somewhat confused, and looking around me, I became aware that some
strange accident had occurred. In every direction I saw such traces of
havoc as I had witnessed more than once when a Confederate force
holding an impenetrable woodland had been shelled at random for some
hours with the largest guns that the enemy could bring into the field.
Trees were torn and broken, branches scattered in all directions,
fragments of stone, earth, and coral rock flung all around.
Particularly I remember that a piece of metal of considerable size had
cut off the tops of two or three trees, and fixed itself at last on
what was now the summit of one about a third of whose length had been
broken off and lay on the ground. I soon perceived that this
miraculous bombardment had proceeded from a point to the
north-eastward, the direction in which at that season and hour the sun
was visible. Proceeding thitherward, the evidences of destruction
became every minute more marked, I might say more universal. Trees had
been thrown down, torn up by the roots, hurled against one another;
rocks broken and flung to great distances, some even thrown up in the
air, and so reversed in falling that, while again half buried in the
soil, they exposed what had been their undermost surface. In a word,
before I had gone two miles I saw that the island had sustained a
shock which might have been that of an earthquake, which certainly
equalled that of the most violent Central American earthquakes in
severity, but which had none of the special peculiarities of that kind
of natural convulsion. Presently I came upon fragments of a shining
pale yellow metal, generally small, but in one or two cases of
remarkable size and shape, apparently torn from some sheet of great
thickness. In one case I found embedded between two such jagged
fragments a piece of remarkably hard impenetrable cement. At last I
came to a point from which through the destruction of the trees the
sea was visible in the direction in which the ship had lain; but the
ship, as in a few moments I satisfied myself, had utterly disappeared.
Reaching the beach, I found that the shock had driven the sea far up
upon the land; fishes lying fifty yards inland, and everything
drenched in salt water. At last, guided by the signs of
ever-increasing devastation, I reached the point whence the mischief
had proceeded. I can give no idea in words of what I there found. The
earth had been torn open, rooted up as if by a gigantic explosion. In
some places sharp-pointed fragments of the coral rock, which at a
depth of several feet formed the bed of the island, were discernible
far below the actual surface. At others, the surface itself was raised
several feet by _debris_ of every kind. What I may call the
crater--though it was no actual hole, but rather a cavity torn and
then filled up by falling fragments--was two or three hundred feet in
circumference; and in this space I found considerable masses of the
same metallic substance, attached generally to pieces of the cement.
After examining and puzzling myself over this strange scene for some
time, my next care was to seek traces of the ship and of her crew; and
before long I saw just outside the coral reef what had been her
bowsprit, and presently, floating on the sea, one of her masts, with
the sail attached. There could be little doubt that the shock had
extended to her, had driven her off the reef where she had been fixed
into the deep water outside, where she must have sunk immediately, and
had broken her spars. No traces of her crew were to be seen. They had
probably been stunned at the same time that they were thrown into deep
water; and before I came in sight of the point where she had perished,
whatever animal bodies were to be found must have been devoured by the
sharks, which abounded in that neighbourhood. Dismay, perplexity, and
horror prevented my doing anything to solve my doubts or relieve my
astonishment before the sun went down; and during the night my sleep
was broken by snatches of horrible dreams and intervals of waking,
during which I marvelled over what I had seen, scarcely crediting my
memory or my senses. In the morning, I went back to the crater, and
with some tools that had been left on shore contrived to dig somewhat
deeply among the _debris_ with which it was filled. I found very
little that could enlighten me except pieces of glass, of various
metals, of wood, some of which seemed apparently to have been portions
of furniture; and one damaged but still entire relic, which I
preserved and brought away with me."

Here the Colonel removed a newspaper which had covered a portion of
his table, and showed me a metallic case beaten out of all shape, but
apparently of what had been a silvery colour, very little rusted,
though much soiled. This he opened, and I saw at once that it was of
enormous thickness and solidity, to which and to favouring
circumstances it owed its preservation in the general ruin he
described. That it had undergone some severe and violent shock there
could be no question. Beside the box lay a less damaged though still
seriously injured object, in which I recognised the resemblance of a
book of considerable thickness, and bound in metal like that of the
case. This I afterwards ascertained beyond doubt to be a metalloid
alloy whereof the principal ingredient was aluminium, or some
substance so closely resembling it as not to be distinguishable from
it by simple chemical tests. A friend to whom I submitted a small
portion broken off from the rest expressed no doubt that it was a kind
of aluminium bronze, but inclined to believe that it contained no
inconsiderable proportion of a metal with which chemists are as yet
imperfectly acquainted; perhaps, he said, silicon; certainly something
which had given to the alloy a hardness and tenacity unknown to any
familiar metallurgical compound.

"This," said my friend, opening the volume, "is a manuscript which was
contained in this case when I took it from among the debris of the
crater. I should have told you that I found there what I believed to
be fragments of human flesh and bone, but so crushed and mangled that
I could form no positive conclusion. My next care was to escape from
the island, which I felt sure lay far from the ordinary course of
merchant vessels. A boat which had brought me ashore--the smaller of
the two belonging to the ship--had fortunately been left on the end of
the island furthest from that on which the vessel had been driven, and
had, owing to its remoteness, though damaged, not been fatally injured
by the shock. I repaired this, made and fixed a mast, and with no
little difficulty contrived to manufacture a sort of sail from strips
of bark woven together. Knowing that, even if I could sustain life on
the island, life under such circumstances would not be worth having, I
was perfectly willing to embark upon a voyage in which I was well
aware the chances of death were at least as five to one. I caught and
contrived to smoke a quantity of fish sufficient to last me for a
fortnight, and filled a small cask with brackish but still drinkable
water. In this vessel, thus stored, I embarked about a fortnight after
the day of the mysterious shock. On the second evening of my voyage I
was caught by a gale which compelled me to lower the sail, and before
which I was driven for three days and nights, in what direction I can
hardly guess. On the fourth morning the wind had fallen, and by noon
it was a perfect calm. I need not describe what has been described by
so many shipwrecked sailors,--the sufferings of a solitary voyager in
an open boat under a tropical sun. The storm had supplied me with
water more than enough; so that I was spared that arch-torture of
thirst which seems, in the memory of such sufferers, to absorb all
others. Towards evening a slight breeze sprang up, and by morning I
came in sight of a vessel, which I contrived to board. Her crew,
however, and even her captain, utterly discredited such part of my
strange story as I told them. On that point, however, I will say no
more than this: I will place this manuscript in your hands. I will
give you the key to such of its ciphers as I have been able to make
out. The language, I believe, for I am no scholar, is Latin of a
mediaeval type; but there are words which, if I rightly decipher them,
are not Latin, and hardly seem to belong to any known language; most
of them, I fancy, quasi-scientific terms, invented to describe various
technical devices unknown to the world when the manuscript was
written. I only make it a condition that you shall not publish the
story during my life; that if you show the manuscript or mention the
tale in confidence to any one, you will strictly keep my secret; and
that if after my death, of which you shall be advised, you do publish
it, you will afford no clue by which the donor could be confidently

"I promise," said I. "But I should like to ask you one question. What
do you conceive to have been the cause of the extraordinary shock you
felt and of the havoc you witnessed? What, in short, the nature of the
occurrence and the origin of the manuscript you entrust to my care?"

"Why need you ask me?" he returned. "You are as capable as myself of
drawing a deduction from what I have told you, and I have told you
everything, I believe, that could assist you. The manuscript will tell
the rest."

"But," said I, "an actual eye-witness often receives from a number of
little facts which he cannot remember, which are perhaps too minute to
have been actually and individually noted by him, an impression which
is more likely to be correct than any that could be formed by a
stranger on the fullest cross-questioning, on the closest examination
of what remains in the witness's memory. I should like to hear, before
opening the manuscript, what you believe to have been its origin.

"I can only say," he answered, "that what must be inferred from the
manuscript is what I had inferred before I opened it. That same
explanation was the only one that ever occurred to me, even in the
first night. It then seemed to me utterly incredible, but it is still
the only conceivable explanation that my mind can suggest."

"Did you," asked I, "connect the shock and the relics, which I presume
you know were not on the island before the shock, with the meteor and
the strange obscuration of the sun?"

"I certainly did," he said. "Having done so, there could be but one
conclusion as to the quarter from which the shock was received."

The examination and transcription of the manuscript, with all the help
afforded me by my friend's previous efforts, was the work of several
years. There is, as the reader will see, more than one _hiatus valde
deflendus_, as the scholiasts have it, and there are passages in
which, whether from the illegibility of the manuscript or the
employment of technical terms unknown to me, I cannot be certain of
the correctness of my translation. Such, however, as it is, I give it
to the world, having fulfilled, I believe, every one of the conditions
imposed upon me by my late and deeply regretted friend.

The character of the manuscript is very curious, and its translation
was exceedingly difficult. The material on which it is written
resembles nothing used for such purposes on Earth. It is more like a
very fine linen or silken web, but it is far closer in texture, and
has never been woven in any kind of loom at all like those employed in
any manufacture known to history or archaeology. The letters, or more
properly symbols, are minute, but executed with extraordinary
clearness. I should fancy that something more like a pencil than a
pen, but with a finer point than that of the finest pencil, was
employed in the writing. Contractions and combinations are not merely
frequent, but almost universal. There is scarcely an instance in which
five consecutive letters are separately written, and there is no
single line in which half a dozen contractions, often including from
four to ten letters, do not occur. The pages are of the size of an
ordinary duodecimo, but contain some fifty lines per page, and perhaps
one hundred and fifty letters in each line. What were probably the
first half dozen pages have been utterly destroyed, and the next half
dozen are so mashed, tattered, and defaced, that only a few sentences
here and there are legible. I have contrived, however, to combine
these into what I believe to be a substantially correct representation
of the author's meaning. The Latin is of a monastic--sometimes almost
canine--quality, with many words which are not Latin at all. For the
rest, though here and there pages are illegible, and though some
symbols, especially those representing numbers or chemical compounds,
are absolutely undecipherable, it has been possible to effect what I
hope will be found a clear and coherent translation. I have condensed
the narrative but have not altered or suppressed a line for fear of
offending those who must be unreasonable, indeed, if they lay the
offence to my charge.

One word more. It is possible, if not likely, that some of those
friends of the narrator, for whom the account was evidently written,
may still be living, and that these pages may meet their eyes. If so,
they may be able to solve the few problems that have entirely baffled
me, and to explain, if they so choose, the secrets to which,
intentionally or through the destruction of its introductory portion,
the manuscript affords no clue.

I must add that these volumes contain only the first section of the
MS. record. The rest, relating the incidents of a second voyage and
describing another world, remains in my hands; and, should this part
of the work excite general attention, the conclusion will, by myself
or by my executors, be given to the public. Otherwise, on my death, it
will be placed in the library of some national or scientific


... For obvious reasons, those who possessed the secret of the
Apergy [1] had never dreamed of applying it in the manner I proposed.
It had seemed to them little more than a curious secret of nature,
perhaps hardly so much, since the existence of a repulsive force in
the atomic sphere had been long suspected and of late certainly
ascertained, and its preponderance is held to be the characteristic of
the gaseous as distinguished from the liquid or solid state of matter.
Till lately, no means of generating or collecting this force in large
quantity had been found. The progress of electrical science had solved
this difficulty; and when the secret was communicated to me, it
possessed a value which had never before belonged to it.

Ever since, in childhood, I learnt that the planets were worlds, a
visit to one or more of the nearest of them had been my favourite
day-dream. Treasuring every hint afforded by science or fancy that
bore upon the subject, I felt confident that such a voyage would be
one day achieved. Helped by one or two really ingenious romances on
this theme, I had dreamed out my dream, realised every difficulty,
ascertained every factor in the problem. I had satisfied myself that
only one thing needful was as yet wholly beyond the reach and even the
proximate hopes of science. Human invention could furnish as yet no
motive power that could fulfil the main requirement of the
problem--uniform or constantly increasing motion _in vacuo_--motion
through a region affording no resisting medium. This must be a
_repulsive_ energy capable of acting through an utter void. Man,
animals, birds, fishes move by repulsion applied at every moment. In
air or water, paddles, oars, sails, fins, wings act by repulsion
exerted on the fluid element in which they work. But in space there is
no such resisting element on which repulsion can operate. I needed a
repulsion which would act like gravitation through an indefinite
distance and in a void--act upon a remote fulcrum, such as might be
the Earth in a voyage to the Moon, or the Sun in a more distant
journey. As soon, then, as the character of the apergic force was made
known to me, its application to this purpose seized on my mind.
Experiment had proved it possible, by the method described at the
commencement of this record, to generate and collect it in amounts
practically unlimited. The other hindrances to a voyage through space
were trivial in comparison with that thus overcome; there were
difficulties to be surmounted, not absent or deficient powers in
nature to be discovered. The chief of these, of course, concerned the
conveyance of air sufficient for the needs of the traveller during the
period of his journey. The construction of an air-tight vessel was
easy enough; but however large the body of air conveyed, even though
its oxygen should not be exhausted, the carbonic acid given out by
breathing would very soon so contaminate the whole that life would be
impossible. To eliminate this element it would only be necessary to
carry a certain quantity of lime-water, easily calculated, and by
means of a fan or similar instrument to drive the whole of the air
periodically through the vessel containing it. The lime in solution
combining with the noxious gas would show by the turbid whiteness of
the water the absorption of the carbonic acid and formation of
carbonate of lime. But if the carbonic acid gas were merely to be
removed, it is obvious that the oxygen of the air, which forms a part
of that gas, would be constantly diminished and ultimately exhausted;
and the effect of highly oxygenated air upon the circulation is
notoriously too great to allow of any considerable increase at the
outset in the proportion of this element. I might carry a fresh supply
of oxygen, available at need, in some solid combination like chlorate
of potash; but the electricity employed for the generation of the
apergy might be also applied to the decomposition of carbonic acid and
the restoration of its oxygen to the atmosphere.

But the vessel had to be steered as well as propelled; and in order to
accomplish this it would be necessary to command the direction of the
apergy at pleasure. My means of doing this depended on two of the
best-established peculiarities of this strange force: its rectilinear
direction and its conductibility. We found that it acts through air or
in a vacuum in a single straight line, without deflection, and
seemingly without diminution. Most solids, and especially metals,
according to their electric condition, are more or less impervious to
it--antapergic. Its power of penetration diminishes under a very
obscure law, but so rapidly that no conceivable strength of current
would affect an object protected by an intervening sheet half an inch
in thickness. On the other hand, it prefers to all other lines the
axis of a conductive bar, such as may be formed of [undecipherable] in
an antapergic sheath. However such bar may be curved, bent, or
divided, the current will fill and follow it, and pursue indefinitely,
without divergence, diffusion, or loss, the direction in which it
emerges. Therefore, by collecting the current from the generator in a
vessel cased with antapergic material, and leaving no other aperture,
its entire volume might be sent into a conductor. By cutting across
this conductor, and causing the further part to rotate upon the
nearer, I could divert the current through any required angle. Thus I
could turn the repulsion upon the resistant body (sun or planet), and
so propel the vessel in any direction I pleased.

I had determined that my first attempt should be a visit to Mars. The
Moon is a far less interesting body, since, on the hemisphere turned
towards the Earth, the absence of an atmosphere and of water ensures
the absence of any such life as is known to us--probably of any life
that could be discerned by our senses--and would prevent landing;
while nearly all the soundest astronomers agree in believing, on
apparently sufficient grounds, that even the opposite hemisphere [of
which small portions are from time to time rendered visible by the
libration, though greatly foreshortened and consequently somewhat
imperfectly seen] is equally devoid of the two primary necessaries of
animal and vegetable life. That Mars has seas, clouds, and an
atmosphere was generally admitted, and I held it to be beyond
question. Of Venus, owing to her extraordinary brilliancy, to the fact
that when nearest to the Earth a very small portion of her lighted
surface is visible to us, and above all to her dense cloud-envelope,
very little was known; and though I cherished the intention to visit
her even more earnestly than my resolve to reach the probably less
attractive planet Mars, I determined to begin with that voyage of
which the conditions and the probable result were most obvious and
certain. I preferred, moreover, in the first instance, to employ the
apergy as a propelling rather than as a resisting force. Now, after
passing beyond the immediate sphere of the Earth's attraction, it is
plain that in going towards Mars I should be departing from the Sun,
relying upon the apergy to overcome his attraction; whereas in seeking
to attain Venus I should be approaching the Sun, relying for my main
motive power upon that tremendous attraction, and employing the apergy
only to moderate the rate of movement and control its direction. The
latter appeared to me the more delicate, difficult, and perhaps
dangerous task of the two; and I resolved to defer it until after I
had acquired some practical experience and dexterity in the control of
my machinery.

It was expedient, of course, to make my vessel as light as possible,
and, at the same time, as large as considerations of weight would
admit. But it was of paramount importance to have walls of great
thickness, in order to prevent the penetration of the outer cold of
space, or rather the outward passage into that intense cold of the
heat generated within the vessel itself, as well as to resist the
tremendous outward pressure of the air inside. Partly for these
reasons, and partly because its electric character makes it especially
capable of being rendered at will pervious or impervious to the
apergic current, I resolved to make the outer and inner walls of an
alloy of ..., while the space between should be filled up with a mass
of concrete or cement, in its nature less penetrable to heat than any
other substance which Nature has furnished or the wit of man
constructed from her materials. The materials of this cement and their
proportions were as follows. [2]

* * * * *

Briefly, having determined to take advantage of the approaching
opposition of Mars in MDCCCXX ... [3], I had my vessel constructed with
walls three feet thick, of which the outer six and the inner three
inches were formed of the metalloid. In shape my Astronaut somewhat
resembled the form of an antique Dutch East-Indiaman, being widest and
longest in a plane equidistant from floor and ceiling, the sides and
ends sloping outwards from the floor and again inwards towards the
roof. The deck and keel, however, were absolutely flat, and each one
hundred feet in length and fifty in breadth, the height of the vessel
being about twenty feet. In the centre of the floor and in that of the
roof respectively I placed a large lens of crystal, intended to act as
a window in the first instance, the lower to admit the rays of the
Sun, while through the upper I should discern the star towards which I
was steering. The floor, being much heavier than the rest of the
vessel, would naturally be turned downwards; that is, during the
greater part of the voyage towards the Sun. I placed a similar lens in
the centre of each of the four sides, with two plane windows of the
same material, one in the upper, the other in the lower half of the
wall, to enable me to discern any object in whatever direction. The
crystal in question consisted of ..., which, as those who manufactured
it for me are aware, admits of being cast with a perfection and
equality of structure throughout unattainable with ordinary glass, and
wrought to a certainty and accuracy of curvature which the most
patient and laborious polishing can hardly give to the lenses even of
moderate-sized telescopes, whether made of glass or metal, and is
singularly impervious to heat. I had so calculated the curvature that
several eye-pieces of different magnifying powers which I carried with
me might be adapted equally to any of the window lenses, and throw a
perfect image, magnified by 100, 1000, or 5000, upon mirrors properly

I carpeted the floor with several alternate layers of cork and cloth.
At one end I placed my couch, table, bookshelves, and other necessary
furniture, with all the stores needed for my voyage, and with a
further weight sufficient to preserve equilibrium. At the other I made
a garden with soil three feet deep and five feet in width, divided
into two parts so as to permit access to the windows. I filled each
garden closely with shrubs and flowering plants of the greatest
possible variety, partly to absorb animal waste, partly in the hope of
naturalising them elsewhere. Covering both with wire netting extending
from the roof to the floor, I filled the cages thus formed with a
variety of birds. In the centre of the vessel was the machinery,
occupying altogether a space of about thirty feet by twenty. The
larger portion of this area was, of course, taken up by the generator,
above which was the receptacle of the apergy. From this descended
right through the floor a conducting bar in an antapergic sheath, so
divided that without separating it from the upper portion the lower
might revolve in any direction through an angle of twenty minutes
(20'). This, of course, was intended to direct the stream of the
repulsive force against the Sun. The angle might have been extended to
thirty minutes, but that I deemed it inexpedient to rely upon a force,
directed against the outer portions of the Sun's disc, believing that
these are occupied by matter of density so small that it might afford
no sufficient base, so to speak, for the repulsive action. It was
obviously necessary also to repel or counteract the attraction of any
body which might come near me during the voyage. Again, in getting
free from the Earth's influence, I must be able to steer in any
direction and at any angle to the surface. For this purpose I placed
five smaller bars, passing through the roof and four sides, connected,
like the main conductor, with the receptacle or apergion, but so that
they could revolve through a much larger angle, and could at any
moment be detached and insulated. My steering apparatus consisted of a
table in which were three large circles. The midmost and left hand of
these were occupied by accurately polished plane mirrors. The central
circle, or metacompass, was divided by three hundred and sixty fine
lines, radiating from the centre to the circumference, marking as many
different directions, each deviating by one degree of arc from the
next. This mirror was to receive through the lens in the roof the
image of the star towards which I was steering. While this remained
stationary in the centre all was well. When it moved along any one of
the lines, the vessel was obviously deviating from her course in the
opposite direction; and, to recover the right course, the repellent
force must be caused to drive her in the direction in which the image
had moved. To accomplish this, a helm was attached to the lower
division of the main conductor, by which the latter could be made to
move at will in any direction within the limit of its rotation.
Controlling this helm was, in the open or steering circle on the right
hand, a small knob to be moved exactly parallel to the deviation of
the star in the mirror of the metacompass. The left-hand circle, or
discometer, was divided by nineteen hundred and twenty concentric
circles, equidistant from each other. The outermost, about twice as
far from the centre as from the external edge of the mirror, was
exactly equal to the Sun's circumference when presenting the largest
disc he ever shows to an observer on Earth. Each inner circle
corresponded to a diameter reduced by one second. By means of a
vernier or eye-piece, the diameter of the Sun could be read off the
discometer, and from his diameter my distance could be accurately
calculated. On the further side of the machinery was a chamber for the
decomposition of the carbonic acid, through which the air was driven
by a fan. This fan itself was worked by a horizontal wheel with two
projecting squares of antapergic metal, against each of which, as it
reached a certain point, a very small stream of repulsive force was
directed from the apergion, keeping the wheel in constant and rapid
motion. I had, of course, supplied myself with an ample store of
compressed vegetables, preserved meats, milk, tea, coffee, &c., and a
supply of water sufficient to last for double the period which the
voyage was expected to occupy; also a well-furnished tool-chest (with
wires, tubes, &c.). One of the lower windows was made just large
enough to admit my person, and after entering I had to close it and
fix it in its place firmly with cement, which, when I wished to quit
the vessel, would have again to be removed.

Of course some months were occupied in the manufacture of the
different portions of the vessel and her machinery, and sometime more
in their combination; so that when, at the end of July, I was ready to
start, the opposition was rapidly approaching. In the course of some
fifty days the Earth, moving in her orbit at a rate of about eleven
hundred miles [4] per minute, would overtake Mars; that is to say,
would pass between him and the Sun. In starting from the Earth I
should share this motion; I too should go eleven hundred miles a
minute in the same direction; but as I should travel along an orbit
constantly widening, the Earth would leave me behind. The apergy had
to make up for this, as well as to carry me some forty millions of
miles in a direction at right angles to the former--right outward
towards the orbit of Mars. Again, I should share the motion of that
particular spot of the Earth's surface from which I rose around her
axis, a motion varying with the latitude, greatest at the equator,
nothing at the pole. This would whirl me round and round the Earth at
the rate of a thousand miles an hour; of this I must, of course, get
rid as soon as possible. And when I should be rid of it, I meant to
start at first right upward; that is, straight away from the Sun and
in the plane of the ecliptic, which is not very different from that in
which Mars also moves. Therefore I should begin my effective ascent
from a point of the Earth as far as possible from the Sun; that is, on
the midnight meridian.

For the same reason which led me to start so long before the date of
the opposition, I resolved, having regard to the action of the Earth's
rotation on her axis, to start some hours before midnight. Taking
leave, then, of the two friends who had thus far assisted me, I
entered the Astronaut on the 1st August, about 4.30 P.M. After sealing
up the entrance-window, and ascertaining carefully that everything was
in order--a task which occupied me about an hour--I set the generator
to work; and when I had ascertained that the apergion was full, and
that the force was supplied at the required rate, I directed the whole
at first into the main conductor. After doing this I turned towards
the lower window on the west--or, as it was then, the right-hand
side--and was in time to catch sight of the trees on the hills, some
half mile off and about two hundred feet above the level of my
starting-point. I should have said that I had considerably compressed
my atmosphere and increased the proportion of oxygen by about ten per
cent., and also carried with me the means of reproducing the whole
amount of the latter in case of need. Among my instruments was a
pressure-gauge, so minutely divided that, with a movable vernier of
the same power as the fixed ones employed to read the glass circles, I
could discover the slightest escape of air in a very few seconds. The
pressure-gauge, however, remained immovable. Going close to the window
and looking out, I saw the Earth falling from me so fast that, within
five minutes after my departure, objects like trees and even houses
had become almost indistinguishable to the naked eye. I had half
expected to hear the whistling of the air as the vessel rushed upward,
but nothing of the kind was perceptible through her dense walls. It
was strange to observe the rapid rise of the sun from the westward.
Still more remarkable, on turning to the upper window, was the rapidly
blackening aspect of the sky. Suddenly everything disappeared except a
brilliant rainbow at some little distance--or perhaps I should rather
have said a halo of more than ordinary rainbow brilliancy, since it
occupied, not like the rainbows seen from below, something less than
half, but nearly two-thirds of a circle. I was, of course, aware that
I was passing through a cloud, and one of very unusual thickness. In a
few seconds, however, I was looking down upon its upper surface,
reflecting from a thousand broken masses of vapour at different
levels, from cavities and hillocks of mist, the light of the sun;
white beams mixed with innumerable rays of all colours in a confusion,
of indescribable brilliancy. I presume that the total obscuration of
everything outside the cloud during my passage through it was due to
its extent and not to its density, since at that height it could not
have been otherwise than exceedingly light and diffuse. Looking upward
through the eastern window, I could now discern a number of brighter
stars, and at nearly every moment fresh ones came into view on a
constantly darkening background. Looking downward to the west, where
alone the entire landscape lay in daylight, I presently discerned the
outline of shore and sea extending over a semicircle whose radius much
exceeded five hundred miles, implying that I was about thirty-five
miles from the sea-level. Even at this height the extent of my survey
was so great in comparison to my elevation, that a line drawn from the
vessel to the horizon was, though very roughly, almost parallel to the
surface; and the horizon therefore seemed to be not very far from my
own level, while the point below me, of course, appeared at a vast
distance. The appearance of the surface, therefore, was as if the
horizon had been, say, some thirty miles higher than the centre of the
semicircle bounding my view, and the area included in my prospect had
the form of a saucer or shallow bowl. But since the diameter of the
visible surface increases only as the square root of the height, this
appearance became less and less perceptible as I rose higher. It had
taken me twenty minutes to attain the elevation of thirty-five miles;
but my speed was, of course, constantly increasing, very much as the
speed of an object falling to the Earth from a great height increases;
and before ten more minutes had elapsed, I found myself surrounded by
a blackness nearly absolute, except in the direction of the
Sun,--which was still well above the sea--and immediately round the
terrestrial horizon, on which rested a ring of sunlit azure sky,
broken here and there by clouds. In every other direction I seemed to
be looking not merely upon a black or almost black sky, but into close
surrounding darkness. Amid this darkness, however, were visible
innumerable points of light, more or less brilliant--the stars--which
no longer seemed to be spangled over the surface of a distant vault,
but rather scattered immediately about me, nearer or farther to the
instinctive apprehension of the eye as they were brighter or fainter.
Scintillation there was none, except in the immediate vicinity of the
eastern horizon, where I still saw them through a dense atmosphere. In
short, before thirty minutes had elapsed since the start, I was
satisfied that I had passed entirely out of the atmosphere, and had
entered into the vacancy of space--if such a thing as vacant space
there be.

At this point I had to cut off the greater part of the apergy and
check my speed, for reasons that will be presently apparent. I had
started in daylight in order that during the first hundred miles of my
ascent I might have a clear view of the Earth's surface. Not only did
I wish to enjoy the spectacle, but as I had to direct my course by
terrestrial landmarks, it was necessary that I should be able to see
these so as to determine the rate and direction of the Astronaut's
motion, and discern the first symptoms of any possible danger. But
obviously, since my course lay generally in the plane of the ecliptic,
and for the present at least nearly in the line joining the centres of
the Earth and Sun, it was desirable that my real journey into space
should commence in the plane of the midnight meridian; that is, from
above the part of the Earth's surface immediately opposite the Sun. I
had to reach this line, and having reached it, to remain for some time
above it. To do both, I must attain it, if possible, at the same
moment at which I secured a westward impulse just sufficient to
counterbalance the eastward impulse derived from the rotation of the
Earth;--that is, in the latitude from which I started, a thousand
miles an hour. I had calculated that while directing through the main
bar a current of apergy sufficient to keep the Astronaut at a fixed
elevation, I could easily spare for the eastward conductor sufficient
force to create in the space of one hour the impulse required, but
that in the course of that hour the gradually increasing apergic force
would drive me 500 miles westward. Now in six hours the Earth's
rotation would carry an object close to its surface through an angle
of 90 deg.; that is, from the sunset to the midnight meridian. But the
greater the elevation of the object the wider its orbit round the
Earth's centre, and the longer each degree; so that moving eastward
only a thousand miles an hour, I should constantly lag behind a point
on the Earth's surface, and should not reach the midnight meridian
till somewhat later. I had, moreover, to lose 500 miles of the
eastward drift during the last hour in which I should be subject to
it, through the action of the apergic force above-mentioned. Now, an
elevation of 330 miles would give the Astronaut an orbit on which 90 deg.
would represent 6500 miles. In seven hours I should be carried along
that orbit 7000 miles eastward by the impulse my Astronaut had
received from the Earth, and driven back 500 miles by the apergy; so
that at 1 A.M. by my chronometer I should be exactly in the plane of
the midnight meridian, or 6500 miles east of my starting-point in
space, provided that I put the eastward apergic current in action
exactly at 12 P.M. by the chronometer. At 1 A.M. also I should have
generated a westward impulse of 1000 miles an hour. This, once
created, would continue to exist though the force that created it were
cut off, and would exactly counterbalance the opposite rotation
impulse derived from the Earth; so that thenceforward I should be
entirely free from the influence of the latter, though still sharing
that motion of the Earth through space at the rate of nearly nineteen
miles per second, which would carry me towards the line joining at the
moment of opposition her centre with that of Mars.

All went as I had calculated. I contrived to arrest the Astronaut's
motion at the required elevation just about the moment of sunset on
the region of the Earth immediately underneath. At 12 P.M., or 24h by
the chronometer, I directed a current of the requisite strength into
the eastward conductor, which I had previously pointed to the Earth's
surface, but a little short of the extreme terrestrial horizon, as I
calculated it. At 1 A.M. I found myself, judging by the stars, exactly
where I wished to be, and nearly stationary as regarded the Earth. I
instantly arrested the eastward current, detaching that conductor from
the apergion; and, directing the whole force of the current into the
downward conductor, I had the pleasure of seeing that, after a very
little adjustment of the helm, the stars remained stationary in the
mirror of the metacompass, showing that I had escaped from the
influence of the Earth's rotation. It was of course impossible to
measure the distance traversed during the invisibility of the Earth,
but I reckoned that I had made above 500 miles between 1h. and 2h.
A.M., and that at 4h. I was not less than 4800 miles from the surface.
With this inference the indication of my barycrite substantially
agreed. The latter instrument consisted of a spring whose deflection
by a given weight upon the equator had been very carefully tested.
Gravity diminishing as the square of the distance from the centre, it
was obvious that at about 8000 miles--or 4000 above the Earth's
surface--this spring would be deflected only one quarter as much by a
given weight as on Earth: at 16,000 miles from the surface, or 20,000
from the centre, one-twenty-fifth as much, and so on. I had graduated
the scale accordingly, and it indicated at present a distance somewhat
less than 9000 miles from the centre. Having adjusted the helm and set
the alarum to wake me in six hours, I lay down upon my bed.

The anxiety and peril of my position had disturbed me very little
whilst I was actively engaged either in steering and manipulating my
machinery, or in looking upon the marvellous and novel spectacles
presented to my eyes; but it now oppressed me in my sleep, and caused
me frequently to wake from dreams of a hideous character. Two or three
times, on such awaking, I went to examine the metacompass, and on one
occasion found it necessary slightly to readjust the helm; the stars
by which I steered having moved some second or two to the right of
their proper position.

On rising, I completed the circuit which filled my vessel with
brilliant light emitted from an electric lamp at the upper part of the
stern, and reflected by the polished metallic walls. I then proceeded
to get my breakfast, for which, as I had tasted nothing since some
hours before the start, I had a hearty appetite. I had anticipated
some trouble from the diminished action of gravity, doubting whether
the boiling-point at this immense height above the Earth might not be
affected; but I found that this depends upon the pressure of the
atmosphere alone, and that this pressure was in nowise affected by the
absence of gravity. My atmosphere being somewhat denser than that of
the Earth, the boiling-point was not 100 deg., but 101 deg. Cent. The
temperature of the interior of the vessel, taken at a point
equidistant from the stove and from the walls, was about 5 deg. C.;
unpleasantly cool, but still, with the help of a greatcoat, not
inconveniently so. I found it absolutely impossible to measure by
means of the thermometers I had placed outside the windows the cold of
space; but that it falls far short of the extreme supposed by some
writers, I confidently believe. It is, however, cold enough to freeze
mercury, and to reduce every other substance employed as a test of
atmospheric or laboratory temperatures to a solidity which admits of
no further contraction. I had filled one outside thermometer with
spirit, but this was broken before I looked at it; and in another,
whose bulb unfortunately was blackened, and which was filled with
carbonic acid gas, an apparent vacuum had been created. Was it that
the gas had been frozen, and had sunk into the lower part of the bulb,
where it would, of course, be invisible? When I had completed my meal
and smoked the very small cigar which alone a prudent consideration
for the state of the atmosphere would allow me, the chronometer showed
10 A.M. It was not surprising that by this time weight had become
almost non-existent. My twelve stone had dwindled to the weight of a
small fowl, and hooking my little finger into the loop of a string
hung from a peg fixed near the top of the stern wall, I found myself
able thus to support my weight without any sense of fatigue for a
quarter of an hour or more; in fact, I felt during that time
absolutely no sense of muscular weariness. This state of things
entailed only one inconvenience. Nothing had any stability; so that
the slightest push or jerk would upset everything that was not fixed.
However, I had so far anticipated this that nothing of any material
consequence was unfixed, and except that a touch with my spoon upset
the egg-cup and egg on which I was about to breakfast, and that this,
falling against a breakfast cup full of coffee, overturned that, I was
not incommoded. I managed to save the greater part of the beverage,
since, the atmospheric pressure being the same though the weight was
so changed, lead, and still more china or liquid, fell in the
Astronaut as slowly as feathers in the immediate vicinity of the
Earth. Still it was a novel experience to find myself able to lean in
any direction, and rest in almost any posture, with but the slightest
support for the body's centre of gravity; and further to find on
experiment that it was possible to remain for a couple of hours with
my heels above my head, in the favourite position of a Yankee's lower
limbs, without any perceptible congestion of blood or confusion of

I was occupied all day with abstract calculations; and knowing that
for some time I could see nothing of the Earth--her dark side being
opposite me and wholly obscuring the Sun, while I was as yet far from
having entered within the sphere where any novel celestial phenomena
might be expected--I only gave an occasional glance at the discometer
and metacompass, suppressing of course the electric glare within my
vessel, till I awoke from a short siesta about 19h. (7 P.M.) The Earth
at this time occupied on the sphere of view a space--defined at first
only by the absence of stars--about thirty times greater than the disc
of the Moon as seen through a tube; but, being dark, scarcely seemed
larger to the eye than the full Moon when on the horizon. But a new
method of defining its disc was presently afforded me. I was, in fact,
when looking through the lower window, in the same position as regards
the Earth as would be an inhabitant of the lunar hemisphere turned
towards her, having no external atmosphere interposed between us, but
being at about two-thirds of the lunar distance. And as, during an
eclipse, the Lunarian would see round the Earth a halo created by the
refraction of the Sun's rays in the terrestrial atmosphere--a halo
bright enough on most occasions so to illuminate the Moon as to render
her visible to us--so to my eyes the Earth was surrounded by a halo
somewhat resembling the solar corona as seen in eclipses, if not
nearly so brilliant, but, unlike the solar corona, coloured, with a
preponderance of red so decided as fully to account for the peculiar
hue of the eclipsed Moon. To paint this, unless means of painting
light--the one great deficiency which is still the opprobrium of human
art--were discovered, would task to the uttermost the powers of the
ablest artist, and at best he could give but a very imperfect notion
of it. To describe it so that its beauty, brilliancy, and wondrous
nature shall be in the slightest degree appreciated by my readers
would require a command of words such as no poet since Homer--nay, not
Homer himself--possessed. What was strange, and can perhaps be
rendered intelligible, was the variation, or, to use a phrase more
suggestive and more natural, if not more accurate, the extreme
mobility of the hues of this earthly corona. There were none of the
efflorescences, if one may so term them, which are so generally
visible at four cardinal points of its solar prototype. The outer
portion of the band faded very rapidly into the darkness of space; but
the edge, though absolutely undefined, was perfectly even. But on the
generally rainbow-tinted ground suffused with red--which perhaps might
best be described by calling it a rainbow seen on a background of
brilliant crimson--there were here and there blotches of black or of
lighter or darker grey, caused apparently by vast expanses of cloud,
more or less dense. Round the edges of each of these were little
irregular rainbow-coloured halos of their own interrupting and
variegating the continuous bands of the corona; while throughout all
was discernible a perpetual variability, like the flashing or shooting
of colour in the opal, the mother-of-pearl, or similarly tinted
translucent substances when exposed to the irregular play of bright
light--only that in this case the tints were incomparably more
brilliant, the change more striking, if not more rapid. I could not
say that at any particular moment any point or part of the surface
presented this or that definite hue; and yet the general character of
the rainbow, suffused with or backed by crimson, was constant and
unmistakable. The light sent through the window was too dim and too
imperfectly diffused within my vessel to be serviceable, but for some
time I put out the electric lamp in order that its diffused light
should not impair my view of this exquisite spectacle. As thrown,
after several reflections, upon the mirror destined afterwards to
measure the image of the solar disc, the apparition of the halo was of
course much less bright, and its outer boundary ill defined for
accurate measurement. The inner edge, where the light was bounded by
the black disc of the Earth, shaded off much more quickly from dark
reddish purple into absolute blackness.

And now a surprise, the first I had encountered, awaited me. I
registered the gravity as shown by the barycrite; and, extinguishing
the electric lamp, measured repeatedly the semi-diameter of the Earth
and of the halo around her upon the discometer, the inner edge of the
latter affording the measurement of the black disc, which of itself,
of course, cast no reflection. I saw at once that there was a signal
difference in the two indications, and proceeded carefully to revise
the earth-measurements. On the average of thirteen measures the halo
was about 87", or nearly 1-1/2' in breadth, the disc, allowing for the
twilight round its edge or limb, about 2 deg. 50'. If the refracting
atmosphere were some 65 miles in depth, these proportions were
correct. Relighting the lamp, I worked out severally on paper the
results indicated by the two instruments. The discometer gave a
distance, roughly speaking, of 40 terrestrial radii, or 160,000 miles.
The barycrite should have shown a gravity, due to the Earth's
attraction, not 40 but 1600 times less than that prevailing on the
Earth's surface; or, to put it in a less accurate form, a weight of
100 lbs. should have weighed an ounce. It did weigh two ounces, the
gravity being not one 1600th but one 800th of terrestrial gravity, or
just double what, I expected. I puzzled myself over this matter
longer, probably, than the intelligent reader will do: the explanation
being obvious, like that of many puzzles that bewilder our minds
intensely, only to humiliate us proportionately when the solution is
found--a solution as simple as that of Columbus's egg-riddle. At
length, finding that the lunar angle--the apparent position of the
Moon--confirmed the reading of the discometer, giving the same apogaic
distance or elevation, I supposed that the barycrite must be out of
order or subject to some unsuspected law of which future observations
might afford evidence and explanation, and turned to other subjects of

Looking through the upper window on the left, I was struck by the
rapid enlargement of a star which, when I first noticed it, might be
of the third magnitude, but which in less than a minute attained the
first, and in a minute more was as large as the planet Jupiter when
seen with a magnifying power of one hundred diameters.

Its disc, however, had no continuous outline; and as it approached I
perceived that it was an irregular mass of whose size I could form not
even a conjectural estimate, since its distance must be absolutely
uncertain. Its brilliancy grew fainter in proportion to the
enlargement as it approached, proving that its light was reflected;
and as it passed me, apparently in the direction of the earth, I had a
sufficiently distinct view of it to know that it was a mainly metallic
mass, certainly of some size, perhaps four, perhaps twenty feet in
diameter, and apparently composed chiefly of iron; showing a more or
less blistered surface, but with angles sharper and faces more
regularly defined than most of those which have been found upon the
earth's surface--as if the shape of the latter might be due in part to
the conflagration they undergo in passing at such tremendous speed
through the atmosphere, or, in an opposite sense, to the fractures
caused by the shock of their falling. Though I made no attempt to
count the innumerable stars in the midst of which I appeared to float,
I was convinced that their number was infinitely greater than that
visible to the naked eye on the brightest night. I remembered how
greatly the inexperienced eye exaggerates the number of stars visible
from the Earth, since poets, and even olden observers, liken their
number to that of the sands on the seashore; whereas the patient work
of map and catalogue makers has shown that there are but a few
thousands visible in the whole heavens to the keenest unaided sight. I
suppose that I saw a hundred times that number. In one word, the
sphere of darkness in which I floated seemed to be filled with points
of light, while the absolute blackness that surrounded them, the
absence of the slightest radiation, or illumination of space at large,
was strange beyond expression to an eye accustomed to that diffusion
of light which is produced by the atmosphere. I may mention here that
the recognition of the constellations was at first exceedingly
difficult. On Earth we see so few stars in any given portion of the
heavens, that one recognises without an effort the figure marked out
by a small number of the brightest amongst them; while in my position
the multitude was so great that only patient and repeated effort
enabled me to separate from the rest those peculiarly brilliant
luminaries by which we are accustomed to define such constellations as
Orion or the Bear, to say nothing of those minor or more arbitrarily
drawn figures which contain few stars of the second magnitude. The eye
had no instinctive sense of distance; any star might have been within
a stone's throw. I need hardly observe that, while on one hand the
motion of the vessel was absolutely imperceptible, there was, on the
other, no change of position among the stars which could enable me to
verify the fact that I was moving, much less suggest it to the senses.
The direction of every recognisable star was the same as on Earth, as
it appears the same from the two extremities of the Earth's orbit, 19
millions of miles apart. Looking from any one window, I could see no
greater space of the heavens than in looking through a similar
aperture on Earth. What was novel and interesting in my stellar
prospect was, not merely that I could see those stars north and south
which are never visible from the same point on Earth, except in the
immediate neighbourhood of the Equator; but that, save on the small
space concealed by the Earth's disc, I could, by moving from window to
window, survey the entire heavens, looking at one minute upon the
stars surrounding the vernal, and at another, by changing my position,
upon those in the neighbourhood of the autumnal equinox. By little
more than a turn of my head I could see in one direction Polaris
(_alpha_ Ursae Minoris) with the Great Bear, and in another the
Southern Cross, the Ship, and the Centaur.

About 23h. 30m., near the close of the first day, I again inspected
the barycrite. It showed 1/1100 of terrestrial gravity, an incredibly
small change from the 1/800 recorded at 19h., since it implied a
progress proportionate only to the square root of the difference. The
observation indicated, if the instrument could be trusted, an advance
of only 18,000 miles. It was impossible that the Astronaut had not by
this time attained a very much greater speed than 4000 miles an hour,
and a greater distance from the Earth than 33 terrestrial radii, or
132,000 miles. Moreover, the barycrite itself had given at 19h. a
distance of 28-1/2 radii, and a speed far greater than that which upon
its showing had since been maintained. Extinguishing the lamp, I found
that the Earth's diameter on the discometer measured 2 deg. 3' 52" (?).
This represented a gain of some 90,000 miles; much more approximate to
that which, judging by calculation, I ought to have accomplished
during the last four hours and a half, if my speed approached to that
I had estimated. I inspected the cratometer, which indicated a force
as great as that with which I had started,--a force which should by
this time have given me a speed of at least 22,000 miles an hour. At
last the solution of the problem flashed upon me, suggested by the
very extravagance of the contradictions. Not only did the barycrite
contradict the discometer and the reckoning but it contradicted
itself; since it was impossible that under one continuous impulsation
I should have traversed 28-1/2 radii of the Earth in the first
eighteen hours and no more than 4-1/2 in the next four and a half
hours. In truth, the barycrite was effected by two separate
attractions,--that of the Earth and that of the Sun, as yet operating
almost exactly in the same direction. At first the attraction of the
former was so great that that of the Sun was no more perceived than
upon the Earth's surface. But as I rose, and the Earth's attraction
diminished in proportion to the square of the distance from her
centre--which was doubled at 8000 miles, quadrupled at 16,000, and so
on--the Sun's attraction, which was not perceptibly affected by
differences so small in proportion to his vast distance of 95,000,000
miles, became a more and more important element in the total gravity.
If, as I calculated, I had by 19h. attained a distance from the earth
of 160,000 miles, the attractions of Earth and Sun were by that time
pretty nearly equal; and hence the phenomenon which had so puzzled me,
that the gravitation, as indicated by the barycrite, was exactly
double that which, bearing in mind the Earth's attraction alone, I had
calculated. From this point forward the Sun's attraction was the
factor which mainly caused such weight as still existed; a change of
position which, doubling my distance from the Earth, reduced her
influence to one-fourth, not perceptibly affecting that of a body four
hundred times more remote. A short calculation showed that, this fact
borne in mind, the indication of the barycrite substantially agreed
with that of the discometer, and that I was in fact very nearly where
I supposed, that is, a little farther than the Moon's farthest
distance from the Earth. It did not follow that I had crossed the
orbit of the Moon; and if I had, she was at that time too far off to
exercise a serious influence on my course. I adjusted the helm and
betook myself to rest, the second day of my journey having already


Rising at 5h., I observed a drooping in the leaves of my garden, and
especially of the larger shrubs and plants, for which I was not wholly
unprepared, but which might entail some inconvenience if, failing
altogether, they should cease to absorb the gases generated from
buried waste, to consume which they had been planted. Besides this, I
should, of course, lose the opportunity of transplanting them to Mars,
though I had more hope of acclimatising seedlings raised from the seed
I carried with me than plants which had actually begun their life on
the surface of the Earth. The failure I ascribed naturally to the
known connection between the action of gravity and the circulation of
the sap; though, as I had experienced no analogous inconvenience in my
own person, I had hoped that this would not seriously affect
vegetation. I was afraid to try the effect of more liberal watering,
the more so that already the congelation of moisture upon the glasses
from the internal air, dry as the latter had been kept, was a sensible
annoyance--an annoyance which would have become an insuperable trouble
had I not taken so much pains, by directing the thermic currents upon
the walls, to keep the internal temperature, in so far as comfort
would permit--it had now fallen to 4 deg. C.--as near as possible to that
of the inner surface of the walls and windows. A careful use of the
thermometer indicated that the metallic surface of the former was now
nearly zero C., or 32 deg. F. The inner surface of the windows was somewhat
colder, showing that the crystal was more pervious to heat than the
walls, with their greater thickness, their outer and inner lining of
metal, and massive interior of concrete. I directed a current from the
thermogene upon either division of the garden, hoping thus to protect
the plants from whatever injury they might receive from the cold.
Somewhat later, perceiving that the drooping still continued, I
resolved upon another experiment, and arranging an apparatus of copper
wire beneath the soil, so as to bring the extremities in immediate
contact with their roots, I directed through these wires a prolonged
feeble current of electricity; by which, as I had hoped rather than
expected, the plants were after a time materially benefited, and to
which I believe I owed it that they had not all perished long before
the termination of my voyage.

It would be mere waste of space and time were I to attempt anything
like a journal of the weeks I spent in the solitude of this artificial
planet. As matter of course, the monotony of a voyage through space is
in general greater than that of a voyage across an ocean like the
Atlantic, where no islands and few ships are to be encountered. It was
necessary to be very frequently, if not constantly, on the look-out
for possible incidents of interest in a journey so utterly novel
through regions which the telescope can but imperfectly explore. It
was difficult, therefore, to sit down to a book, or even to pursue any
necessary occupation unconnected with the actual conduct of the
vessel, with uninterrupted attention. My eyes, the only sense organs I
could employ, were constantly on the alert; but, of course, by far the
greater portion of my time passed without a single new object or
occasion of remark. That a journey so utterly without precedent or
parallel, in which so little could be anticipated or provided for,
through regions absolutely untraversed and very nearly unknown, should
be monotonous, may seem strange. But in truth the novelties of the
situation, such as they were, though intensely striking and
interesting, were each in turn speedily examined, realised, and, so to
speak, exhausted; and this once done, there was no greater occupation
to the mind in the continuance of strange than in that of familiar
scenery. The infinitude of surrounding blackness, filled as it were
with points of light more or less brilliant, when once its effects had
been scrutinised, and when nothing more remained to be noted, afforded
certainly a more agreeable, but scarcely a more interesting or
absorbing, outlook than the dead grey circle of sea, the dead grey
hemisphere of cloud, which form the prospect from the deck of a packet
in mid-Atlantic; while of change without or incident in the vessel
herself there was, of course, infinitely less than is afforded in an
ocean voyage by the variations of weather, not to mention the solace
of human society. Everything around me, except in the one direction in
which the Earth's disc still obscured the Sun, remained unchanged for
hours and days; and the management of my machinery required no more
than an occasional observation of my instruments and a change in the
position of the helm, which occupied but a few minutes some half-dozen
times in the twenty-four hours. There was not even the change of night
and day, of sun and stars, of cloud or clear sky. Were I to describe
the manner in which each day's leisure was spent, I should bore my
readers even more than--they will perhaps be surprised by the
confession--I was bored myself.

My sleep was of necessity more or less broken. I wished to have eight
hours of rest, since, though seven of continuous sleep might well have
sufficed me, even if my brain had been less quiet and unexcited during
the rest of the twenty-four, it was impossible for me to enjoy that
term of unbroken slumber. I therefore decided to divide my sleep into
two portions of rather more than four hours each, to be taken as a
rule after noon and after midnight; or rather, since noon and midnight
had no meaning for me, from 12h. to 16h. and from 24h. to 4.h. But of
course sleep and everything else, except the necessary management of
the machine, must give way to the chances of observation; it would be
better to remain awake for forty-eight hours at a stretch than to miss
any important phenomenon the period of whose occurrence could be even
remotely calculated.

At 8h., I employed for the first time the apparatus which I may call
my window telescope, to observe, from a position free from the
difficulties inflicted on terrestrial astronomers by the atmosphere,
all the celestial objects within my survey. As I had anticipated, the
absence of atmospheric disturbance and diffusion of light was of
extreme advantage. In the first place, I ascertained by the barycrite
and the discometer my distance from the Earth, which appeared to be
about 120 terrestrial radii. The light of the halo was of course very
much narrower than when I first observed it, and its scintillations or
coruscations no longer distinctly visible. The Moon presented an
exquisitely fine thread of light, but no new object of interest on the
very small portion of her daylight hemisphere turned towards me. Mars
was somewhat difficult to observe, being too near what may be called
my zenith. But the markings were far more distinct than they appear,
with greater magnifying powers than I employed, upon the Earth. In
truth, I should say that the various disadvantages due to the
atmosphere deprive the astronomer of at least one-half of the
available light-collecting power of his telescope, and consequently of
the defining power of the eye-piece; that with a 200 glass he sees
less than a power of 100 reveals to an eye situated in space; though,
from the nature of the lens through which I looked, I cannot speak
with certainty upon this point. With a magnifying power of 300 the
polar spots of Mars were distinctly visible and perfectly defined.
They were, I thought, less white than they appeared from the Earth,
but their colour was notably different from that of the planet's
general surface, differing almost as widely from the orange hue of
what I supposed to be land as from the greyish blue of the water. The
orange was, I thought, deeper than it appears through a telescope of
similar power on Earth. The seas were distinctly grey rather than
blue, especially when, by covering the greater part of the field, I
contrived for a moment to observe a sea alone, thus eliminating the
effect of contrast. The bands of Jupiter in their turn were more
notably distinct; their variety of colour as well as the contrast of
light and shade much more definite, and their irregularities more
unmistakable. A satellite was approaching the disc, and this afforded
me an opportunity of realising with especial clearness the difference
between observation through seventy or a hundred miles of terrestrial
atmosphere outside the object glass and observation in space. The two
discs were perfectly rounded and separately discernible until they
touched. Moreover, I was able to distinguish upon one of the darker
bands the disc of the satellite itself, while upon a lighter band its
round black shadow was at the same time perfectly defined. This
wonderfully clear presentation of one of the most interesting of
astronomical phenomena so absorbed my attention that I watched the
satellite and shadow during their whole course, though the former,
passing after a time on to a light band, became comparatively
indistinct. The moment, however, that the outer edge passed off the
disc of Jupiter, its outline became perfectly visible against the
black background of sky. What was still more novel was the occultation
for some little time of a star, apparently of the tenth magnitude, not
by the planet but by the satellite, almost immediately after it passed
off the disc of the former. Whether the star actually disappeared at
once, as if instantaneously extinguished, or whether, as I thought at
the moment, it remained for some tenth of a second partially visible,
as if refracted by an atmosphere belonging to the satellite, I will
not venture to say. The bands and rings of Saturn, the division
between the two latter, and the seven satellites, were also perfectly
visible, with a distinctness that a much greater magnifying power
would hardly have attained under terrestrial conditions. I was
perplexed by two peculiarities, not, so far as I know, hitherto [5]
mentioned by astronomers. The circumference did not appear to present
an even curvature.

I mean that, apart from the polar compression, the shape seemed as if
the spheroid were irregularly squeezed; so that though not broken by
projection or indentation, the limb did not present the regular
quasi-circular curvature exhibited in the focus of our telescopes.
Also, between the inner ring and the planet, with a power of 500, I
discerned what appeared to be a dark purplish ring, semi-transparent,
so that through it the bright surface of Saturn might be discerned as
through a veil. Mercury shone brightly several degrees outside the
halo surrounding the Earth's black disc; and Venus was also visible;
but in neither case did my observations allow me to ascertain anything
that has not been already noted by astronomers. The dim form of Uranus
was better defined than I had previously seen it, but no marking of
any kind was perceptible.

Rising from my second, or, so to speak, midday rest, and having busied
myself for some little time with what I may call my household and
garden duties, I observed the discometer at 1h. (or 5 P.M.). It
indicated about two hundred terrestrial radii of elevation. I had, of
course, from the first been falling slightly behind the Earth in her
orbital motion, and was no longer exactly in opposition; that is to
say, a line drawn from the Astronaut to the Earth's centre was no
longer a prolongation of that joining the centres of the Earth and
Sun. The effect of this divergence was now perceptible. The earthly
corona was unequal in width, and to the westward was very distinctly
brightened, while on the other side it was narrow and comparatively
faint. While watching this phenomenon through the lower lens, I
thought that I could perceive behind or through the widest portion of
the halo a white light, which at first I mistook for one of those
scintillations that had of late become scarcely discernible. But after
a time it extended visibly beyond the boundary of the halo itself, and
I perceived that the edge of the Sun's disc had come at last into
view. It was but a minute and narrow crescent, but was well worth
watching. The brightening and broadening of the halo at this point I
perceived to be due, not to the Sun's effect upon the atmosphere that
produced it, but chiefly to the twilight now brightening on that limb
of the Earth's disc; or rather to the fact that a small portion of
that part of the Earth's surface, where, if the Sun were not visible,
he was but a very little below the horizon, had been turned towards
me. I saw through the telescope first a tiny solar crescent of intense
brightness, then the halo proper, now exceedingly narrow, and then
what looked like a silver terrestrial crescent, but a mere thread,
finer and shorter than any that the Moon ever displays even to
telescopic observers on Earth; since, when such a minute portion of
her illuminated surface is turned towards the Earth, it is utterly
extinguished to our eyes by the immediate vicinity of the Sun, as was
soon the case with the terrestrial crescent in question. I watched
long and with intense interest the gradual change, but I was called
away from it by a consideration of no little practical moment. I must
now be moving at a rate of nearly, if not quite, 40,000 miles an hour,
or about a million miles per diem. It was not my intention, for
reasons I shall presently explain, ever greatly to exceed this rate;
and if I meant to limit myself to a fixed rate of speed, it was time
to diminish the force of the apergic current, as otherwise before its
reduction could take effect I should have attained an impulse greater
than I desired, and which could not be conveniently or easily
diminished when once reached. Quitting, therefore, though reluctantly,
my observation of the phenomena below me, I turned to the apergion,
and was occupied for some two or three hours in gradually reducing the
force as measured by the cratometer attached to the downward
conductor, and measuring with extreme care the very minute effect
produced upon the barycrite and the discometer. Even the difference
between 200 and 201 radii of elevation or apogaic distance was not
easily perceptible on either. It took, of course, much more minute
observation and a much longer time to test the effect produced by the
regulation of the movement, since whether I traveller forty,
forty-five, or forty-two thousand miles in the course of one hour made
scarcely any difference in the diameter of the Earth's disc, still
less, for reasons above given, in the gravity. By midnight, however, I
was satisfied that I had not attained quite 1,000,000 miles, or 275
terrestrial radii; also that my speed was not greater than 45,000
miles (11-1\4 radii) per hour, and was not, I thought, increasing. Of
this last point, however, I could better satisfy myself at the end of
my four hours' rest, to which I now betook myself.

I woke about 4h. 30m., and on a scrutiny of the instruments, felt
satisfied that I was not far out in my calculations. A later hour,
however, would afford a more absolute certainty. I was about to turn
again to the interesting work of observation through the lens in the
floor, when my attention was diverted by the sight of something like a
whitish cloud visible through the upper window on my left hand.
Examined by the telescope, its widest diameter might be at most ten
degrees. It was faintly luminous, presenting an appearance very
closely resembling that of a star cluster or nebula just beyond the
power of resolution. As in many nebulae, there was a visible
concentration in one part; but this did not occupy the centre, but a
position more resembling that of the nucleus of a small tailless
comet. The cloudlet might be a distant comet, it might be a less
distant body of meteors clustering densely in some particular part of
their orbit; and, unfortunately, I was not likely to solve the
problem. Gradually the nebula changed its position, but not its form,
seeming to move downwards and towards the stern of my vessel, as if I
were passing it without approaching nearer. By the time that I was
satisfied of this, hunger and even faintness warned me that I must not
delay preparing my breakfast. When I had finished this meal and
fulfilled some necessary tasks, practical and arithmetical, the hand
of the chronometer indicated the eighth hour of my third day. I turned
again somewhat eagerly to the discometer, which showed an apparent
distance of 360 terrestrial radii, and consequently a movement which
had not materially varied from the rate of 11-1/4 radii per hour. By
this time the diameter of the Earth was not larger in appearance than
about 19', less than two-thirds that of the Sun; and she consequently
appeared as a black disc covering somewhat more than one-third of his
entire surface, but by no means concentrical. The halo had of course
completely disappeared; but with the vernier it was possible to
discern a narrow band or line of hazy grey around the black limb of
the planet. She was moving, as seen from the Astronaut, very slightly
to the north, and more decidedly, though very slowly, to the eastward;
the one motion due to my deliberately chosen direction in space, the
other to the fact that as my orbit enlarged I was falling, though as
yet slowly, behind her. The sun now shone through, the various
windows, and, reflected from the walls, maintained a continuous
daylight within the Astronaut, as well diffused as by the atmosphere
of Earth, strangely contrasting the star-spangled darkness outside.

At the beginning as at the end of my voyage, I steered a distinct
course, governed by considerations quite different from those which
controlled the main direction of my voyage. Thus far I had simply
risen straight from the Earth in a direction somewhat to the
southward, but on the whole "in opposition," or right away from the
Sun. So, at the conclusion of my journey, I should have to devote some
days to a gradual descent upon Mars, exactly reversing the process of
my ascent from the Earth. But between these two periods I had
comparatively little to do with either planet, my course being
governed by the Sun, and its direction and rate being uniform. I
wished to reach Mars at the moment of opposition, and during the whole
of the journey to keep the Earth between myself and the Sun, for a
reason which may not at first be obvious. The moment of opposition is
not necessarily that at which Mars is nearest to the Earth, but is
sufficiently so for practical calculation. At that moment, according
to the received measurement of planetary distances, the two would be
more than 40 millions of miles apart. In the meantime the Earth,
travelling on an interior or smaller orbit, and also at a greater
absolute speed, was gaining on Mars. The Astronaut, moving at the
Earth's rate under an impulse derived from the Earth's revolution
round the Sun (that due to her rotation on her own axis having been
got rid of, as aforesaid), traveller in an orbit constantly widening,
so that, while gaining on Mars, I gained on him less than did the
Earth, and was falling behind her. Had I used the apergy only to drive
me directly outward from the Sun, I should move under the impulse
derived from the Earth about 1,600,000 miles a day, or 72 millions of
miles in forty-five days, in the direction common to the two planets.
The effect of the constantly widening orbit would be much as if the
whole motion took place on one midway between those of the Earth and
Mars, say 120 millions of miles from the Sun. The arc described on
this orbit would be equivalent to 86 millions of miles on that of
Mars. The entire arc of his orbit between the point opposite to that
occupied by the Earth when I started and the point of opposition--the
entire distance I had to gain as measured along his path--was about
116 millions of miles; so that, trusting to the terrestrial impulse
alone, I should be some 30 millions behindhand at the critical moment.
The apergic force must make up for this loss of ground, while driving
me in a direction, so to speak, at right angles with that of the
orbit, or along its radius, straight outward from the Sun, forty odd
millions of miles in the same time. If I succeeded in this, I should
reach the orbit of Mars at the point and at the moment of opposition,
and should attain Mars himself. But in this I might fail, and I should
then find myself under the sole influence of the Sun's attraction;
able indeed to resist it, able gradually to steer in any direction
away from it, but hardly able to overtake a planet that should lie far
out of my line of advance or retreat, while moving at full speed away
from me. In order to secure a chance of retreat, it was desirable as
long as possible to keep the Earth between the Astronaut and the Sun;
while steering for that point in space where Mars would lie at the
moment when, as seen from the centre of the Earth, he would be most
nearly opposite the Sun,--would cross the meridian at midnight. It was
by these considerations that the course I henceforward steered was
determined. By a very simple calculation, based on the familiar
principle of the parallelogram of forces, I gave to the apergic
current a force and direction equivalent to a daily motion of about
750,000 miles in the orbital, and rather more than a million in the
radial line. I need hardly observe that it would not be to the apergic
current alone, but to a combination of that current with the orbital
impulse received at first from the Earth, that my progress and course
would be due. The latter was the stronger influence; the former only
was under my control, but it would suffice to determine, as I might
from time to time desire, the resultant of the combination. The only
obvious risk of failure lay in the chance that, my calculations
failing or being upset, I might reach the desired point too soon or
too late. In either case, I should be dangerously far from Mars,
beyond his orbit or within it, at the time when I should come into a
line with him and the Sun; or, again, putting the same mischance in
another form, behind him or before him when I attained his orbit. But
I trusted to daily observation of his position, and verification of my
"dead reckoning" thereby, to find out any such danger in time to avert

The displacement of the Earth on the Sun's face proved it to be
necessary that the apergic current should be directed against the
latter in order to govern my course as I desired, and to recover the
ground I had lost in respect to the orbital motion. I hoped for a
moment that this change in the action of the force would settle a
problem we had never been able to determine. Our experiments proved
that apergy acts in a straight line when once collected in and
directed along a conductor, and does not radiate, like other forces,
from a centre in all directions. It is of course this radiation--
diffusing the effect of light, heat, or gravity over the surface of a
sphere, which surface is proportionate to the square of the
radius--that causes these forces to operate with an energy inversely
proportionate, not to the distance, but to its square. We had no
reason to think that apergy, exempt as it is from this law, would be
at all diminished by distance; and this view the rate of acceleration
as I rose from the Earth had confirmed, and my entire experience has
satisfied me that it is correct. None of our experiments, however, had
indicated, or could well indicate, at what rate this force can travel
through space; nor had I yet obtained any light upon this point. From
the very first the current had been continuous, the only interruption
taking place when I was not five hundred miles from the Earth's
surface. Over so small a distance as that, the force would move so
instantaneously that no trace of the interruption would be perceptible
in the motion of the Astronaut. Even now the total interruption of the
action of apergy for a considerable time would not affect the rate at
which I was already moving. It was possible, however, that if the
current had been hitherto wholly intercepted by the Earth, it might
take so long a time in reaching the Sun that the interval between the
movement of the helm and the response of the Astronaut's course
thereto might afford some indication of the time occupied by the
current in traversing the 96-1/2 millions of miles which parted me
from the Sun. My hope, however, was wholly disappointed. I could
neither be sure that the action was instantaneous, nor that it was

At the close of the third day I had gained, as was indicated by the
instruments, something more than two millions of miles in a direct
line from the Sun; and for the future I might, and did, reckon on a
steady progress of about one and a quarter million miles daily under
the apergic force alone--a gain in a line directly outward from the
Sun of about one million. Henceforward I shall not record my
observations, except where they implied an unexpected or altered

On the sixth day, I perceived another nebula, and on this occasion in
a more promising direction. It appeared, from its gradual movement, to
lie almost exactly in my course, so that if it were what I suspected,
and were not at any great distance from me, I must pass either near or
through it, and it would surely explain what had perplexed and baffled
me in the case of the former nebula. At this distance the nature of
the cloudlet was imperceptible to the naked eye. The window telescope
was not adjustable to an object which I could not bring conveniently
within the field of view of the lenses. In a few hours the nebula so
changed its form and position, that, being immediately over the
portion of the roof between the front or bow lens and that in the
centre of the roof, its central section was invisible; but the
extremities of that part which I had seen in the first instance
through the upper plane window of the bow were now clearly visible
from the upper windows of either side. What had at first been a mere
greatly elongated oval, with a species of rapidly diminishing tail at
each extremity, had now become an arc spanning no inconsiderable part
of the space above me, narrowing rapidly as it extended downwards and
sternwards. Presently it came in view through the upper lens, but did
not obscure in the least the image of the stars which were then
visible in the metacompass. I very soon ascertained that the cloudlet
consisted, as I had supposed in the former case, of a multitude of
points of light less brilliant than the stars, the distance between
which became constantly wider, but which for some time were separately
so small as to present no disc that any magnifying power at my command
could render measurable. In the meantime, the extremities visible
through the other windows were constantly widening out till lost in
the spangled darkness. By and by, it became impossible with the naked
eye to distinguish the individual points from the smaller stars; and
shortly after this the nearest began to present discs of appreciable
size but somewhat irregular shape. I had now no doubt that I was about
to pass through one of those meteoric rings which our most advanced
astronomers believe to exist in immense numbers throughout space, and
to the Earth's contact with or approach to which they ascribe the
showers of falling, stars visible in August and November. Ere long,
one after another of these bodies passed rapidly before my sight, at
distances varying probably from five yards to five thousand miles.
Where to test the distance was impossible, anything like accurate
measurement was equally out of the question; but my opinion is, that
the diameters of the nearest ranged from ten inches to two hundred
feet. One only passed so near that its absolute size could be judged
by the marks upon its face. This was a rock-like mass, presenting at
many places on the surface distinct traces of metallic veins or
blotches, rudely ovoid in form, but with a number of broken surfaces,
one or two of which reflected the light much more brilliantly than
others. The weight of this one meteoroid was too insignificant as
compared with that of the Astronaut seriously to disturb my course.
Fortunately for me, I passed so nearly through the centre of the
aggregation that its attraction as a whole was nearly inoperative. So
far as I could judge, the meteors in that part of the ring through
which I passed were pretty evenly distributed; and as from the
appearance of the first which passed my window to the disappearance of
the last four hours elapsed, I conceived that the diameter of the
congeries, measured in the direction of my path, which seemed to be
nearly in the diameter of their orbit, was about 180,000 miles, and
probably the perpendicular depth was about the same.

I may mention here, though somewhat out of place, to avoid
interrupting the narrative of my descent upon Mars, the only
interesting incident that occurred during the latter days of my
journey--the gradual passage of the Earth off the face of the Sun. For
some little time after this the Earth was entirely invisible; but
later, looking through the telescope adjusted to the lens on that
side, I discerned two very minute and bright crescents, which, from
their direction and position, were certainly those of the Earth and
Moon, indeed could hardly be anything else.

Towards the thirtieth day of my voyage I was disturbed by the
conflicting indications obtained from different instruments and
separate observations. The general result came to this, that the
discometer, where it should have indicated a distance of 333, actually
gave 347. But if my speed had increased, or I had overestimated the
loss by changes of direction, Mars should have been larger in equal
proportion. This, however, was not the case. Supposing my reckoning to
be right, and I had no reason to think it otherwise, except the
indication of the discometer, the Sun's disc ought to have diminished
in the proportion of 95 to 15, whereas the diminution was in the
proportion of 9 to 1. So far as the barycrite could be trusted, its
very minute indications confirmed those of the discometer; and the
only conclusion I could draw, after much thought and many intricate
calculations, was that the distance of 95 millions of miles between
the Earth and the Sun, accepted, though not very confidently, by all
terrestrial astronomers, is an over-estimate; and that, consequently,
all the other distances of the solar system have been equally
overrated. Mars consequently would be smaller, but also his distance
considerably less, than I had supposed. I finally concluded that the
solar distance of the Earth was less than 9 millions of miles, instead
of more than 95. This would involve, of course, a proportionate
diminution in the distance I had to traverse, while it did not imply
an equal error in the reckoning of my speed, which had at first been
calculated from the Earth's disc, and not from that of the Sun. Hence,
continuing my course unchanged, I should arrive at the orbit of Mars
some days earlier than intended, and at a point behind that occupied
by the planet, and yet farther behind the one I aimed at. Prolonged
observation and careful calculation had so fully satisfied me of the
necessity of the corrections in question, that I did not hesitate to
alter my course accordingly, and to prepare for a descent on the
thirty-ninth instead of the forty-first day. I had, of course, to
prepare for the descent very long before I should come within the
direct influence of the attraction of Mars. This would not prevail
over the Sun's attraction till I had come within a little more than
100,000 miles of the surface, and this distance would not allow for
material reduction of my speed, even were I at once to direct the
whole force of the apergic current against the planet. I estimated
that arriving within some two millions of miles of him, with a speed
of 45,000 miles per hour, and then directing the whole force of the
current in his direction, I should arrive at his surface at a speed
nearly equal to that at which I had ascended from the Earth. I knew
that I could spare force enough to make up for any miscalculation
possible, or at least probable. Of course any serious error might be
fatal. I was exposed to two dangers; perhaps to three: but to none
which I had not fully estimated before even preparing for my voyage.
If I should fail to come near enough to the goal of my journey, and
yet should go on into space, or if, on the other hand, I should stop
short, the Astronaut might become an independent planet, pursuing an
orbit nearly parallel to that of the Earth; in which case I should
perish of starvation. It was conceivable that I might, in attempting
to avert this fate, fall upon the Sun, though this seemed exceedingly
improbable, requiring a combination of accidents very unlikely to
occur. On the other hand, I might by possibility attain my point, and
yet, failing properly to calculate the rate of descent, be dashed to
pieces upon the surface of Mars. Of this, however, I had very little
fear, the tremendous power of the apergy having been so fully proved
that I believed that nothing but some disabling accident to
myself--such as was hardly to be feared in the absence of gravitation,
and with the extreme simplicity of the machinery I employed--could
prevent my being able, when I became aware of the danger, to employ in
time a sufficient force to avert it. The first of these perils, then,
was the graver one, perhaps the only grave one, and certainly to my
imagination it was much the most terrible. The idea of perishing of
want in the infinite solitude of space, and being whirled round for
ever the dead denizen of a planet one hundred feet in diameter, had in
it something even more awful than grotesque.

On the thirty-ninth morning of my voyage, so far as I could calculate
by the respective direction and size of the Sun and of Mars, I was
within about 1,900,000 miles from the latter. I proceeded without
hesitation to direct the whole force of the current permitted to
emerge from the apergion directly against the centre of the planet.
His diameter increased with great rapidity, till at the end of the
first day I found myself within one million of miles of his surface.
His diameter subtended about 15', and his disc appeared about
one-fourth the size of the Moon. Examined through the telescope, it
presented a very different appearance from that either of the Earth or
of her satellite. It resembled the former in having unmistakably air
and water. But, unlike the Earth, the greater portion of its surface
seemed to be land; and, instead of continents surrounded by water, it
presented a number of separate seas, nearly all of them land-locked.
Around the snow-cap of each pole was a belt of water; around this,
again, a broader belt of continuous land; and outside this, forming
the northern and southern boundary between the arctic and temperate
zones, was another broader band of water, connected apparently in one
or two places with the central, or, if one may so call it, equatorial
sea. South of the latter is the one great Martial ocean. The most
striking feature of this new world, as seen from this point, was the
existence of three enormous gulfs, from three to five thousand miles
in length, and apparently varying in breadth from one hundred to seven
hundred miles. In the midst of the principal ocean, but somewhat to
the southward, is an island of unique appearance. It is roughly
circular, and, as I perceived in descending, stands very high, its
table-like summit being some 4000 feet, as I subsequently ascertained,
above the sea-level. Its surface, however, was perfectly
white--scarcely less brilliant, consequently, than an equal area of
the polar icefields. The globe, of course, revolved in some 4-1/ hours
of earthly time, and, as I descended, presented successively every
part of its surface to my view. I speak of descent, but, of course, I
was as yet ascending just as truly as ever, the Sun being visible
through the lens in the floor, and reflected upon the mirror of the
discometer, while Mars was now seen through the upper lens, and his
image received in the mirror of the metacompass. A noteworthy feature
in the meteorology of the planet became apparent during the second day
of the descent. As magnified by the telescope adjusted to the upper
lens, the distinctions of sea and land disappeared from the eastern
and western limbs of the planet; indeed, within 15 deg. or an hour of time
from either. It was plain, therefore, that those regions in which it
was late evening or early morning were hidden from view; and,
independently of the whitish light reflected from them, there could be
little doubt that the obscuration was due to clouds or mists. Had the
whitish light covered the land alone, it might have been attributed to
a snowfall, or, perhaps, even to a very severe hoar frost congealing a
dense moisture. But this last seemed highly improbable; and that mist
or cloud was the true explanation became more and more apparent as,
with a nearer approach, it became possible to discern dimly a broad
expanse of water contrasting the orange tinge of the land through this
annular veil. At 4h. on the second day of the descent, I was about
500,000 miles from Mars, the micrometer verifying, by the increased
angle subtended by the diameter, my calculated rate of approach. On
the next day I was able to sleep in security, and to devote my
attention to the observation of the planet's surface, for at its close
I should be still 15,000 miles from Mars, and consequently beyond the
distance at which his attraction would predominate over that of the
Sun. To my great surprise, in the course of this day I discerned two
small discs, one on each side of the planet, moving at a rate which
rendered measurement impossible, but evidently very much smaller than
any satellite with which astronomers are acquainted, and so small that
their non-discovery by terrestrial telescopes was not extraordinary.
They were evidently very minute, whether ten, twenty, or fifty miles
in diameter I could not say; neither of them being likely, so far as I
could calculate, to come at any part of my descent very near the
Astronaut, and the rapidity of their movement carrying them across the
field, even with the lowest power of my telescopes, too fast for
measurement. That they were Martial moons, however, there could be no

About 10h. on the last day of the descent, the effect of Mars'
attraction, which had for some time so disturbed the position of the
Astronaut as to take his disc completely out of the field of the
meta-compass, became decidedly predominant over that of the Sun. I had
to change the direction of the apergic current first to the left-hand
conductor, and afterwards, as the greater weight of the floor turned
the Astronaut completely over, bringing the planet immediately below
it, to the downward one. I was, of course, approaching Mars on the
daylight side, and nearly in the centre. This, however, did not
exactly suit me. During the whole of this day it was impossible that I
should sleep for a minute; since if at any point I should find that I
had miscalculated my rate of descent, or if any other unforeseen
accident should occur, immediate action would be necessary to prevent
a shipwreck, which must without doubt be fatal. It was very likely
that I should be equally unable to sleep during the first twenty-four
hours of my sojourn upon Mars, more especially should he be inhabited,
and should my descent be observed. It was, therefore, my policy to
land at some point where the Sun was setting, and to enjoy rest during
such part of the twelve hours of the Martial night as should not be
employed in setting my vessel in order and preparing to evacuate it. I
should have to ascertain exactly the pressure of the Martial
atmosphere, so as not to step too suddenly from a dense into what was
probably a very light one. If possible, I intended to land upon the
summit of a mountain, so high as to be untenanted and of difficult
access. At the same time it would not do to choose the highest point
of a very lofty range, since both the cold and the thinness of the air
might in such a place be fatal. I wished, of course, to leave the
Astronaut secure, and, if not out of reach, yet not within easy reach;
otherwise it would have been a simple matter to watch my opportunity
and descend in the dark from my first landing-place by the same means
by which I had made the rest of my voyage.

At 18h. I was within 8000 miles of the surface, and could observe Mars
distinctly as a world, and no longer as a star. The colour, so
remarkable a feature in his celestial appearance, was almost equally
perceptible at this moderate elevation. The seas are not so much blue
as grey. Masses of land reflected a light between yellow and orange,
indicating, as I thought, that orange must be as much the predominant
colour of vegetation as green upon Earth. As I came still lower, and
only parts of the disc were visible at once, and these through the
side and end windows, this conviction was more and more strongly
impressed upon my mind. What, however, was beyond denial was, that if
the polar ice and snow were not so purely and distinctly white as they
appear at a distance upon Earth, they were yet to a great extent
devoid of the yellow tinge that preponderated everywhere else. The
most that could be said was, that whereas on Earth the snow is of that
white which we consider absolute, and call, as such, snow-white, but
which really has in it a very slight preponderance of blue, upon Mars
the polar caps are rather cream-white, or of that white, so common in
our flowers, which has in it an equally slight tinge of yellow. On the
shore, or about twenty miles from the shore of the principal sea to
the southward of the equator, and but a few degrees from the equator
itself, I perceived at last a point which appeared peculiarly suitable
for my descent. A very long range of mountains, apparently having an
average height of about 14,000 feet, with some peaks of probably twice
or three times that altitude, stretched for several hundred miles
along the coast, leaving, however, between it and the actual
shore-line an alluvial plain of some twenty to fifty miles across. At
the extremity of this range, and quite detached from it, stood an
isolated mountain of peculiar form, which, as I examined it through
the telescope, appeared to present a surface sufficiently broken and
sloped to permit of descent; while, at the same time, its height and

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