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Title: In Saturn's Realm
Author: George Griffith
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Language: English
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Date first posted: June 2006
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IN SATURN'S REALM
George Griffith



INTRODUCTION.

---For their honeymoon Rollo Lenox Smeaton Aubrey, Earl of Redgrave,
and his bride, Lilla Zaidie, leave the earth on a visit to the Moon
and the principal planets, their sole companion being Andrew
Murgatroyd, an old engineer who had superintended the building of the
Astronef, in which the journey is made. By means of the "R Force," or
Anti-Gravitational Force, of the secret of which Lord Redgrave is the
sole possessor, they are able to navigate with precision and safety
the limitless ocean of Space. Their adventures on the Moon, Mars,
Venus, and Jupiter have been described in the first four stories of
the series.

* * *

THE relative position of the two giants of the Solar System at the
moment when the Astronef left the surface of Ganymede, the third and
largest satellite of Jupiter, was such that she had to make a journey
of rather more than 340,000,000 miles before she passed within the
confines of the Saturnian System.

At first her speed, as shown by the observations which Redgrave took
by means of instruments designed for such a voyage by Professor
Rennick, was comparatively slow. This was due to the tremendous "pull"
or attraction of Jupiter and its four moons on the fabric of the Star
Navigator; but this backward drag rapidly decreased as the pull of
Saturn and his System began to overmaster that of Jupiter.

It so happened, too, that Uranus, the next outer planet of the Solar
System, revolving round the Sun at the tremendous distance of more
than 1,700,000,000 miles, was approaching its conjunction with Saturn,
and thus the pull of the two huge orbs and their systems of satellites
acted together on the tiny bulk of the Astronef, producing a constant
acceleration of speed.

Jupiter and his System dropped behind, sinking, as it seemed to the
wanderers, down into the bottomless gulf of Space, but still forming
by far the most brilliant and splendid object in the skies. The far
distant Sun which, seen from the Saturnian System, has only about a
ninetieth of the superficial extent which he presents to the Earth,
dwindled away rapidly until it began to look like a huge planet, with
the Earth, Venus, Mars, and Mercury as satellites. Beyond the orbit of
Saturn, Uranus, with his eight moons, was shining with the lustre of a
star of the first magnitude, and far above and beyond him again hung
the pale disc of Neptune, the outer guard of the Solar System,
separated from the Sun by a gulf of more than 2,750,000,000 miles.

When two-thirds of the distance between Jupiter and Saturn had been
traversed, Saturn lay beneath them like a vast globe surrounded by an
enormous circular ocean of many-coloured fire, divided, as it were, by
circular shores of shade and darkness. On the side opposite to them a
gigantic conical shadow extended beyond the confines of the ocean of
light. It was the shadow of half the globe of Saturn cast by the Sun
across his rings. Three little dark spots were also travelling across
the surface of the rings. They were the shadows of Mimas, Encealadus,
and Tethys, the three inner satellites. Japetus, the most distant,
which revolves at a distance ten times greater than that of the Moon
from the Earth, was rising to their left above the edge of the rings,
a pale, yellow, little disc shining feebly against the black
background of Space. The rest of the eight satellites were hidden
behind the enormous bulk of the planet, and the infinitely vaster area
of the rings.

Day after day Zaidie and her husband had been exhausting the
possibilities of the English language in attempting to describe to
each other the multiplying marvels of the wondrous scene which they
were approaching at a speed of more than a hundred miles a second, and
at length Zaidie, after nearly an hour's absolute silence, during
which they sat with eyes fastened to their telescopes, looked up and
said:

"It's no use, Lenox, all the fine words that we've been trying to
think of have just been wasted. The angels may have a language that
you could describe that in, but we haven't. If it wouldn't be
something like blasphemy I should drop down to the commonplace, and
call Saturn a celestial spinning-top, with bands of light and shadow
instead of colours all round it."

"Not at all a bad simile either," laughed Redgrave, as he got up from
his chair with a yawn and a stretch of his athletic limbs, "still,
it's as well that you said celestial, for, after all, that's about the
best word we've found yet. Certainly the ringed world is the most
nearly heavenly thing we've seen so far."

"But," he went on, "I think it's about time we were stopping this
headlong fall of ours. Do you see how the landscape is spreading out
round us? That means that we're dropping pretty fast. Whereabouts
would you like to land? At present we're heading straight for the
north pole."

"I think I'd rather see what the rings are like first," said Zaidie;
"couldn't we go across them?"

"Certainly we can," he replied, "only we'll have to be a bit careful."

"Careful, what of--collisions? I suppose you're thinking of Proctor's
explanation that the rings are formed of multitudes of tiny
satellites?"

"Yes, but I should go a little farther than that, I should say that
his rings and his eight satellites are to Saturn what the planets
generally and the ring of the Asteroides are to the Sun, and if that
is the case--I mean if we find the rings made up of myriads of tiny
bodies flying round with Saturn--it might get a bit risky.

"You see the outside ring is a bit over 160,000 miles across, and it
revolves in less than eleven hours. In other words we might find the
ring a sort of celestial maelstrom, and if we once got into the whirl,
and Saturn exerted his full pull on us, we might become a satellite,
too, and go on swinging round with the rest for a good bit of
eternity."

"Very well, then," she said, "of course we don't want to do anything
of that sort, but there's something else I think we could do," she
went on, taking up a copy of Proctor's "Saturn and its System," which
she had been reading just after breakfast. "You see those rings are,
all together, about 10,000 miles broad; there's a gap of about 1700
miles between the big dark one and the middle bright one, and it's
nearly 10,000 miles from the edge of the bright ring to the surface of
Saturn. Now why shouldn't we get in between the inner ring and the
planet? If Proctor was right and the rings are made of tiny satellites
and there are myriads of them, of course they'll pull up while Saturn
pulls down. In fact Flammarion says somewhere, that along Saturn's
equator there is no weight at all."

"Quite possible," said Redgrave, "and, if you like, we'll go and prove
it. Of course, if the Astronef weighs absolutely nothing between
Saturn and the rings, we can easily get away. The only thing that I
object to is getting into this 170,000 mile vortex, being whizzed
round with Saturn every ten and a half hours, and sauntering round the
Sun at 21,000 miles an hour."

"Don't," she said, "really it isn't good to think about these things,
situated as we are. Fancy, in a single year of Saturn there are nearly
25,000 days. Why, we should each of us be about thirty years older
when we got round, even if we lived, which, of course, we shouldn't.
By the way, how long could we live for, if the worst came to the
worst?"

"About two earth-years at the outside," he replied, "but, of course,
we shall be home long before that."

"If we don't become one of the satellites of Saturn," she replied, "or
get dragged away by something into the outer depths of Space."

Meanwhile the downward speed of the Astronef had been considerably
checked. The vast circle of the rings seemed to suddenly expand,
though it now covered the whole floor of the vault of Space.

As the Astronef dropped towards what might be called the limit of the
northern tropic of Saturn, the spectacle presented by the rings became
every minute more and more marvellous--purple and silver, black and
gold, dotted with myriads of brilliant points of many-coloured lights,
they stretched upwards like vast rainbows in the Saturnian sky as the
Astronef's position changed with regard to the horizon of the planet.
The nearer they approached the surface, the nearer the gigantic arch
of the many coloured rings approached the zenith. Sun and stars sank
down behind it, for now they were dropping through the fifteen-year-
long twilight that reigns over that portion of the globe of Saturn
which during half of his year of thirty terrestrial years is turned
away from the Sun.

The further they dropped towards the rings the more certain it became
that the theory of the great English astronomer was the correct one.
Seen through the telescopes at a distance of only thirty or forty
thousand miles, it became perfectly plain that the outer or darker
ring as seen from the Earth, was composed of myriads of tiny bodies so
far separated from each other that the rayless blackness of Space
could be seen through them.

"It's quite evident," said Redgrave, "that those are rings of what we
should call meteorites on earth, atoms of matter which Saturn threw
off into Space after the satellites were formed ."

"And I shouldn't wonder, if you will excuse my interrupting you," said
Zaidie, "if the moons themselves have been made up of a lot of these
things going together when they were only gas, or nebula or something
of that sort. In fact, when Saturn was a good deal younger than he is
now, he may have had a lot more rings and no moons, and now these
aerolites, or whatever they are, can't come together and make moons,
because they've got too solid."

Meanwhile the Astronef was dropping rapidly down towards the port on
of Saturn's surface which was illuminated by the rays of the Sun,
streaming under the lower arch of the inner ring.

As they passed under it the whole scene suddenly changed. The rings
vanished. Overhead was an arch of brilliant light a hundred miles
thick, spanning the whole of the visible heavens. Below lay the sunlit
surface of Saturn divided into light and dark bands of enormous
breadth.

The band immediately below them was of a brilliant silver-grey, very
much like the central zone of Jupiter. North of this on the one side
stretched the long shadow of the rings, and southward other bands of
alternating white and gold and deep purple succeeded each other till
they were lost in the curvature of the vast planet. The poles were of
course invisible since the Astronef was now too near to the surface;
but on their approach they had seen unmistakable evidence of snow and
ice.

As soon as they were exactly under the Ring-arch, Redgrave shut off
the R. Force, and, somewhat to their astonishment, the Astronef began
to revolve slowly on its axis, giving them the idea that the Saturnian
System was revolving round them. The arch seemed to sink beneath their
feet while the belts of the planet rose above them.

"What on earth is the matter?" said Zaidie. "Everything has gone
upside down."

"Which shows." replied Redgrave, "that as soon as the Astronef became
neutral the rings pulled harder than the planet, I suppose because
we're so near to them, and, instead of falling on to Saturn, we shall
have to push up at him."

"Oh yes, I see that," said Zaidie, "but after all it does look a
little bit bewildering, doesn't it, to be on your feet one minute and
on your head the next?"

"It is, rather; but you ought to be getting accustomed to that sort of
thing now. In a few minutes neither you, nor I, nor anything else will
have any weight. We shall be just between the attraction of the Rings
and Saturn, so you'd better go and sit down, for if you were to give a
bit of an extra spring in walking you might be knocking that pretty
head of yours against the roof," said Redgrave, as he went to turn the
R. Force on to the edge of the Rings.

A vast sea of silver cloud seemed now to descend upon them. Then they
entered it, and for nearly half-an-hour the Astronef was totally
enveloped in a sea of pearl-grey luminous mist.

"Atmosphere!" said Redgrave, as he went to the conning-tower and
signalled to Murgatroyd to start the propellers. They continued to
rise and the mist began to drift past them in patches, showing that
the propellers were driving them ahead.

They now rose swiftly towards the surface of the planet. The cloud
wrack got thinner and thinner, and presently they found themselves
floating in a clear atmosphere between two seas of cloud, the one
above them being much less dense than the one below.

"I believe we shall see Saturn on the other side of that," said
Zaidie, looking up at it. "Oh dear, there we are going round again."

"Reaching the point of neutral attraction," said Redgrave; "once more
you'd better sit down in case of accidents."

Instead of dropping into her deck chair as she would have done on
Earth, she took hold of the arms and pulled herself into it, saying:

"Really it seems rather absurd to have to do this sort of thing. Fancy
having to hold yourself into a chair. I suppose I hardly weigh
anything at all now."

"Not much," said Redgrave, stooping down and taking hold of the end of
the chair with both hands. Without any apparent effort he raised her
about five feet from the floor, and held her there while the Astronef
made another revolution. For a moment he let go, and she and the chair
floated between the roof and the floor of the deck-chamber. Then he
pulled the chair away from under her, and as the floor of the vessel
once more turned towards Saturn, he took hold of her hands and brought
her to her feet on deck again.

"I ought to have had a photograph of you like that!" he laughed. "I
wonder what they'd think of it at home?"

"If you had taken one I should certainly have broken the negative. The
very idea, a photograph of me standing on nothing! Besides, they'd
never believe it on Earth."

"We might have got old Andrew to make an affidavit to that effect," he
began.

"Don't talk nonsense, Lenox! Look! There's something much more
interesting. There's Saturn at last. Now I wonder if we shall find any
sort of life there--and shall we be able to breathe the air?"

"I hardly think so," he said, as the Astronef dropped slowly through
the thin cloud-veil. "You know spectrum analysis has proved that there
is a gas in Saturn's atmosphere which we know nothing about, and,
whatever it may be for the inhabitants' it's not very likely that it
would agree with us, so I think we'd better be content with our own.
Besides, the atmosphere is so enormously dense that even if we could
breathe it it might squash us up. You see we're only accustomed to
fifteen pounds on the square inch, and it may be hundreds of pounds
here."

"Well," said Zaidie, "I haven't got any particular desire to be
flattened out like that, or squeezed dry like an orange. It's not at
all a nice idea, is it? But, look, Lenox," she went on, pointing
downwards, "surely this isn't air at all, or at least it's something
between air and water. Aren't these things swimming about in it--
something like fish in the sea? They can't be clouds, and they aren't
either fish or birds. They don't fly or float. Well, this is certainly
more wonderful than anything else we've seen, though it doesn't look
very pleasant. They're not nice looking, are they? I wonder if they
are at all dangerous!"

While she was saying this Zaidie had gone to her telescope, and was
sweeping the surface of Saturn, which was now about 100 miles distant.
Her husband was doing the same. In fact, for the time being they were
all eyes, for they were looking on a stranger sight than human beings
had ever seen before.

Underneath the inner cloud-veil the atmosphere of Saturn appeared to
them somewhat as the lower depths of the ocean would appear to a
diver, granted that he was able to see for hundreds of miles about
him. Its colour was a pale greenish yellow. The outside thermometers
showed that the temperature was a hundred and seventy-five. In fact
the interior of the Astronef was getting uncomfortably like a Turkish
bath, and Redgrave took the opportunity of at once freshening and
cooling the air by releasing a little from the cylinders where it was
stored in liquid form.

From what they could see of the surface of Saturn it seemed to be a
dead level, greyish-brown in colour, and not divided into oceans and
continents. In fact there were no signs whatever of water within range
of their telescopes. There was nothing that looked like cities, or any
human habitations, but the ground, as they got nearer to it, seemed to
be covered with a very dense vegetable growth, not unlike gigantic
forms of seaweed, and of somewhat the same colour. In fact, as Zaidie
remarked, the surface of Saturn was not at all unlike what the floors
of the ocean of the Earth might be if they were laid bare.

It was evident that the life of this portion of Saturn was not what,
for want of a more exact word, might be called terrestrial. Its
inhabitants, however they were constituted, floated about in the
depths of this semi-gaseous ocean as the denizens of earthly seas did
in the terrestrial oceans. Already their telescopes enabled them to
make out enormous moving shapes, black and grey-brown and pale red,
swimming about, evidently by their own volition, rising and falling
and often sinking down on to the gigantic vegetation which covered the
surface, possibly for the purpose of feeding. But it was also evident
that they resembled the inhabitants of earthly oceans in another
respect since it was easy to see that they preyed upon each other.

"I don't like the look of those creatures at all," said Zaidie when
the Astronef had come to a stop and was floating about five miles
above the surface. "They're altogether too uncanny. They look to me
something like jelly-fish about the size of whales only they have eyes
and mouths. Did you ever see such awful looking eyes, bigger than
soup-plates and as bright as a cat's. I suppose that's because of the
dim light. And the nasty wormy sort of way they swim, or fly, or
whatever it is. Lenox, I don't know what the rest of Saturn may be
like, but I certainly don't like this part. It's quite too creepy and
unearthly for my taste. Look at the horrors fighting and eating each
other. That's the only bit of earthly character they've got about
them; the big ones eating the little ones. I hope they won't take the
Astronef for something nice to eat."

"They'd find her a pretty tough morsel if they did," laughed Redgrave,
"but still we may as well get some speed on her in case of accident."

In obedience to a signal to Murgatroyd, the propellers began to
revolve, beating the dense air and driving the Star Navigator about
twenty miles an hour through the depths of this strangely-peopled
ocean.

They approached nearer and nearer to the surface, and as they did so
the strange creatures about them grew more and more numerous. They
were certainly the most extraordinary living things that human eyes
had looked upon. Zaidie's comparison to the whale and the jelly fish
was by no means incorrect; only when they got near enough to them they
found, to their astonishment, that they were double-headed--that is to
say, they had a head furnished with mouth, nostrils, ear-holes, and
eyes at each end of their bodies.

The larger of the creatures appeared to have a certain amount of
respect for each other. Now and then they witnessed a battle-royal
between two of the monsters who were pursuing the same prey. Their
method of attack was as follows: the assailant would rise above his
opponent or prey, and then, dropping on to its back, envelope it and
begin tearing at its sides and under parts with huge beak-like jaws,
somewhat resembling those of the largest kind of the earthly octopus,
only very much larger. The substance composing their bodies appeared
to be not unlike that of a terrestrial jelly-fish, but much denser,
and having the tenacity of soft India rubber save at the double ends,
where it was much harder, in fact a good deal more like horn.

When one of them had overpowered an enemy or a victim the two sank
down into the vegetation, and the victor began to eat the vanquished.
Their means of locomotion consisted of huge fins, or rather half fins,
half wings, of which they had three laterally arranged behind each
head, and four much longer and narrower, above and below, which seemed
to be used mainly for steering purposes.

They moved with equal ease in either direction, and they appeared to
rise or fall by inflating or deflating the middle portions of their
bodies, somewhat as fish do with their swimming bladders.

The light in the lower regions of this strange ocean was dimmer than
earthly twilight, although the Astronef was steadily making her way
beneath the arch of the rings towards the sunlit hemisphere.

"I wonder what the effect of the searchlight would be on these
fellows!" said Redgrave. "Those huge eyes of theirs are evidently only
suited to dim light. Let's try and dazzle some of them."

"I hope it won't be a case of the moths and the candle!" said Zaidie.
"They don't seem to have taken much interest in us so far. Perhaps
they haven't been able to see properly, but suppose they were
attracted by the light and began crowding round us and fastening on to
us, as the horrible things do with each other. What should we do then?
They might drag us down and perhaps keep us there; but there's one
thing, they'd never eat us, because we could keep closed up and die
respectably together."

"Not much fear of that, little woman," he said, "we're too strong for
them. Hardened steel and toughened glass ought to be more than a match
for a lot of exaggerated jelly-fish like these," said Redgrave, as he
switched on the head search-light. "We've come here to see strange
things and we may as well see them. Ah, would you my friend. No, this
is not one of your sort, and it isn't meant to eat."

A huge, double-headed monster, apparently some four hundred feet long,
came floating towards them as the search-light flashed out, and others
began instantly to crowd about them, just as Zaidie had feared.

"Lenox, for Heaven's sake be careful!" cried Zaidie, shrinking up
beside him as the huge, hideous head, with its saucer eyes and
enormous beak-like jaws wide open, came towards them. "And look, there
are more coming. Can't we go up and get away from them?"

"Wait a minute, little woman," replied Redgrave, who was beginning to
feel the passion of adventure thrilling in his nerves "If we fought
the Martian air fleet and licked it I think we can manage these
things. Let's see how he likes the light."

As he spoke he flashed the full glare of the five thousand candle-
power lamp full on to the creature's great cat-like eyes. Instantly it
bent itself up into an arc. The two heads, each the exact image of the
other, came together. The four eyes glared half dazzled into the
conning-tower and the four huge jaws snapped viciously together.

"Lenox, Lenox, for goodness sake let us go up!" cried Zaidie shrinking
still closer to him. "That thing's too horrible to look at."

"It is a beast, isn't it?" he said, "but I think we can cut him in two
without much trouble."

He pressed one of the buttons on the signal board three times quickly
and once slowly. It was the signal for full speed on the propellers,
that is to say about a hundred earth-miles an hour. The Astronef ought
to have sprung forward and driven her ram through the huge, brick-red
body of the hideous creature which was now only a couple of hundred
yards from them; but instead of that a slow, jarring, grinding thrill
seemed to run through her, and she stopped. The next moment Murgatroyd
put his head up through the companion-way which led from the upper
deck to the conning-tower, and said in a tone whose calm indicated, as
usual, resignation to the worst that could happen:

"My lord, two of those beasts, fishes or live balloons, or whatever
they are, have come across the propellers. They're cut up a good bit,
but I've had to stop the engines, and they're clinging all round the
after part. We're going down, too. Shall I disconnect the propellers
and turn on the repulsion?"

"Yes, certainly, Andrew!" cried Zaidie, "and all of it, too. Look,
Lenox, that horrible thing is coming. Suppose it broke the glass, and
we couldn't breathe this atmosphere!"

As she spoke the enormous, double-headed body advanced until it
completely enveloped the forward part of the Astronef. The two hideous
heads came close to the sides of the conning-tower; the huge, palely
luminous eyes looked in upon them. Zaidie, in her terror, even thought
that she saw something like human curiosity in them.

Then, as Murgatroyd disappeared to obey the orders which Redgrave had
sanctioned with a quick nod, the heads approached still closer, and
she heard the ends of the pointed jaws, which she now saw were armed
with shark-like teeth, striking against the thick glass walls of the
conning-tower.

"Don't be frightened, dear!" he said, putting his arm round her, just
as he had done when they thought they were falling into the fiery seas
of Jupiter. "You'll see something happen to this gentleman soon. Big
and all as he is there won't be much left of him in a few minutes.
They are like those monsters they found in the lowest depths of our
own seas. They can only live under tremendous pressure. That's why we
didn't find any of them up above. This chap'll burst like a bubble
presently. Meanwhile, there's no use in stopping here. Suppose you go
below and brew some coffee and bring it up on deck with a drop of
brandy in it, while I go and see how things are looking aft. It
doesn't do you any good, you know, to be looking at monsters of this
sort. You can see what's left of them later on."

Zaidie was not at all sorry to obey him, for the horrible sight had
almost sickened her.

They were still under the arch of the rings, and so, when the full
strength of the R. Force was directed against the body of Saturn, the
vessel sprang upwards like a projectile fired from a cannon.

Redgrave went back into the conning-tower to see what happened to
their assailant. It was already trying vainly to detach itself and
sink back into a more congenial element. As the pressure of the
atmosphere decreased its huge body swelled up into still huger
proportions. The skin on the two heads puffed up as though air was
being pumped in under it. The great eyes protruded out of their
sockets; the jaws opened widely as though the creature were gasping
for breath.

Meanwhile Murgatroyd was seeing something very similar at the after
end, and wondering what was going to happen to his propellers, the
blades of which were deeply imbedded in the jelly-like flesh of the
monsters.

The Astronef leaped higher and higher, and the hideous bodies which
were clinging to her swelled out huger and huger, and Redgrave even
fancied that he heard something like the cries of pain from both heads
on either side of the conning-tower. They passed through the inner
cloud-veil, and then the Astronef began to turn on her axis, and, just
as the outer envelope came into view the enormously distended bulk of
the monsters collapsed, and their fragments, seeming now more like the
tatters of a burst balloon, dropped from the body of the Astronef and
floated away down into what had once been their native element.

"Difference of environment means a lot, after all," said Redgrave to
himself. "I should have called that either a lie or a miracle if I
hadn't seen it, and I'm jolly glad I sent Zaidie down below."

"Here's your coffee, Lenox," said Zaidie's voice from the upper deck,
"only it doesn't seem to want to stop in the cups, and the cups keep
getting off the saucers. I suppose we're turning upside down again."

Redgrave stepped somewhat gingerly on to the deck, for his body had so
little weight under the double attraction of Saturn and the Rings that
a very slight effort would have sent him flying up to the roof of the
deck-chamber.

"That's exactly as you please," he said, "just hold that table steady
a minute. We shall have our centre of gravity back soon. And now, as
to the main question, suppose we take a trip across the sunlit
hemisphere of Saturn to, what I suppose we should call, on Earth, the
South Pole. We can get resistance from the Rings, and as we are here
we may as well see what the rest of Saturn is like. You see, if our
theory is correct as to the Rings gathering up most of the atmosphere
of Saturn about its equator, we shall get to higher altitudes where
the air is thinner and more like our own, and therefore it is quite
possible that we shall find different forms of life in it too--or if
you've had enough of Saturn and would prefer a trip to Uranus?"

"No, thanks," said Zaidie quickly. "To tell you the truth, Lenox, I've
had almost enough star-wandering for one honeymoon, and though we've
seen nice things as well as horrible things--especially those ghastly,
slimy creatures down there--I'm beginning to feel a bit homesick for
good old mother Earth. You see, we're nearly a thousand million miles
from home, and, even with you, it makes one feel a bit lonely. I vote
we explore the rest of this hemisphere up to the pole, and then, as
they say at sea--I mean our sea--'bout ship, and see if we can find
our own old world again. After all, it's more homelike than any of
these, isn't it?"

"Just take your telescope and look at it," said Redgrave, pointing
towards the Sun, with its little cluster of attendant planets. "It
looks something like one of Jupiter's little moons down there, doesn't
it, only not quite as big?"

"Yes, it does, but that doesn't matter. The fact is that it's there,
and we know what it's like, and it's home, if it is a thousand million
miles away, and that's everything."

By this time they had passed through the outer band of clouds. The
huge, sunlit arch of the Rings towered up to the zenith, and
apparently overarched the whole heavens. Below and in front of them
lay the enormous semi-circle of the hemisphere which was turned
towards the Sun, shrouded by its many colored bands of clouds. The
Repulsive Force was directed strongly against the lower Ring, and the
Asfronef dropped rapidly in a slanting direction through the cloud-
bands towards the southern temperate zone of the planet.

They passed through the second, or dark, cloud-band at the rate of
about three thousand miles an hour, aided by the Repulsion against the
Rings and, the attraction of the planet, and soon after lunch, the
materials of which now consented to remain on the table, they passed
through the clouds and found themselves in a new world of wonders.

On a far vaster scale, it was the Earth during that period of its
development which is called the Reptilian Age. The atmosphere was
still dense and loaded with aqueous vapour, but the waters had already
been divided from the land.

They passed over vast, marshy continents and islands, and warm seas,
above which thin clouds of steam still hung. They passed through
these, and, as they swept southward with the propellers working at
their utmost speed, they caught glimpses of giant forms rising out of
the steamy waters near the land; of others crawling slowly over it,
dragging their huge bulk through a tremendous vegetation, which they
crushed down as they passed, as a sheep on earth might push its way
through a field of standing corn.

Yet other shapes, huge winged and ungainly, fluttered with a slow,
bat-like motion, through the lower strata of the atmosphere.

Every now and then during the voyage across the temperate zone the
propellers were slowed down to enable them to witness some Titanic
conflict between the gigantic denizens of land and sea and air. But
her ladyship had had enough of horrors on the Saturnian equator, and
so she was quite content to watch this phase of evolution (as it had
happened on the Earth many thousands of ages ago) from a convenient
distance, and so the Astronef sped on southward without approaching
the surface nearer than a couple of miles.

"It'll be all very nice to see and remember and dream about
afterwards," she said, "but really I don't think I can stand any more
monsters just now, at least not at close quarters, and I'm quite sure
if those things can live there we couldn't, any more than we could
have lived on Earth a million years or so ago. No, really I don't want
to land, Lenox, let's go on."

They went on at a speed of about a hundred miles an hour, and, as they
progressed southward, both the atmosphere and the landscape rapidly
changed. The air grew clearer and the clouds lighter. Lands and seas
were more sharply divided, and both teeming with life. The seas still
swarmed with serpentine monsters of the saurian type, and the firmer
lands were peopled by huge animals, mastodons, bears, giant tapirs,
nyledons, deinotheriums, and a score of other species too strange for
them to recognise by any earthly likeness, which roamed in great herds
through the vast twilit forests and over boundless plains covered with
grey-blue vegetation.

Here, too, they found mountains for the first time on Saturn;
mountains steep-sided, and many earth-miles high.

As the Astronef was skirting the side of one of these ranges Redgrave
allowed it to approach more closely than he had so far done to the
surface of Saturn.

"I shouldn't wonder if we found some of the higher forms of life up
here," he said. "If there is anything here that's going to develop
some clay into the human race of Saturn, it would naturally get up
here."

"Of course it would," said Zaidie, "as far as possible out of the
reach of those unutterable horrors on the equator. I should think that
would be one of the first signs they would show of superior
intelligence. Look, I believe there are some of them. Do you see those
holes in the mountain side there? And there they are, something like
gorillas, only twice as big, and up the trees, too--and what trees!
They must be seven or eight hundred feet high."

"Tree and cave-dwellers, and ancestors of the future royal race of
Saturn, I suppose!" said Redgrave. "They don't look very nice, do
they? Still, there's no doubt about their being far superior in
intelligence to what we left behind us. Evidently this atmosphere is
too thin for the two-headed jelly-fishes, and the saurians to breathe.
These creatures have found that out in a few hundreds of generations,
and so they have come to live up here out of the way. Vegetarians, I
suppose, or perhaps they live on smaller monkeys and other animals,
just as our ancestors did."

"Really, Lenox," said Zaidie, turning round and facing him, "I must
say that you have a most unpleasant way of alluding to one's
ancestors. They couldn't help what they were."

"Well, dear," he said, going towards her, "marvellous as the miracle
seems, I'm heretic enough to believe it possible that your ancestors
even, millions of years ago, perhaps, may have been something like
those; but then, of course, you know I'm a hopeless Darwinian."

"And, therefore, entirely horrid, as I've often said before when you
get on subjects like these. Not, of course, that I'm ashamed of my
poor relations; and then, after all, your Darwin was quite wrong when
he talked about the descent of man--and woman. We--especially the
women--have ascended from that sort of thing, if there's any truth in
the story at all; though, personally, I must say I prefer dear old
Mother Eve."

"Who never had a sweeter daughter!" he replied, drawing her towards
him.

"And, meanwhile, compliments being barred, I'll go and get dinner
ready," she said. "After all, it doesn't matter what world one's in,
one get's hungry all the same."

The dinner, which was eaten somewhere in the middle of the fifteen-
year-long day of Saturn, was a very pleasant one, because they were
now nearing the turning-point of their trip into the depths of Space,
and thoughts of home and friends were already beginning to fly back
across the thousand-million-mile gulf which lay between them and the
Earth which they had left only a little more than two months ago.

While they were at dinner the Astronef rose above the mountains and
resumed her southward course. Zaidie brought the coffee up on deck as
usual after dinner, and, while Redgrave smoked his cigar and Zaidie
her cigarette, they luxuriated in the magnificent spectacle of the
sunlit side of Rings towering up, rainbow built on rainbow, to the
zenith of their visible heavens.

"What a pity there aren't any words to describe it!" said Zaidie. "I
wonder if the descendants of the ancestors of the future human race on
Saturn will invent anything like a suitable language. I wonder how
they'll talk about those Rings millions of years hence."

"By that time there may not be any Rings," Lenox replied, blowing a
ring of smoke from his own lips. "Look at that--made in a moment and
gone in a moment--and yet on exactly the same principle, it gives one
a dim idea of the difference between time and eternity. After all it's
only another example of Kelvin's theory of vortices. Nebulae, and
asteroids, and planet-rings, and smoke-rings are really all made on
the same principle."

"My dear Lenox, if you're going to get as philosophical and as
commonplace as that I'm going to bed. Now that I come to think of it,
I've been about fifteen earth-hours out of bed, so it's about time I
went. It's your turn to make the coffee in the morning--our morning I
mean--and you'll wake me in time to see the South Pole of Saturn,
won't you? You're not coming yet, I suppose?"

"Not just yet, dear. I want to see a bit more of this, and then I must
go through the engines and see that they're all right for that
thousand million mile homeward voyage you're talking about. You can
have a good ten hours' sleep without missing much, I think, for there
doesn't seem to be anything more interesting than our own Arctic life
down there. So good-night, little woman, and don't have too many
nightmares."

"Good-night!" she said, "if you hear me shout you'll know that you've
to come and protect me from monsters. Weren't those two-headed brutes
just too horrid for words? Good-night, dear!"



THE END



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