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Title: The World of the Crystal Cities
Author: George Griffith
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Language: English
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THE WORLD OF THE CRYSTAL CITIES
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, and
Venus have been described in the first three stories of the series.

* * *

"FIVE HUNDRED MILLION miles from the earth and forty-seven million
miles from Jupiter," said his lordship, as he came into breakfast on
the morning of the twenty-eighth day after leaving Venus.

During this brief period the Astronef had recrossed the orbits of the
Earth and Mars and passed through that marvellous region of the Solar
System, the Belt of the Asteroides. Nearly a hundred million miles of
their journey had lain through this zone, in which hundreds and
possibly thousands of tiny planets revolve in vast orbits round the
Sun.

Then had come a desert void of over three hundred million miles,
through which the Astronef voyaged alone, surrounded by the ever-
constant splendours of the Heavens, but visited only now and then by
one of those Spectres of Space, which we call comets.

Astern, the disc of the Sun steadily diminished, and ahead, the grey-
blue shape of Jupiter, the Giant of the Solar System, had grown larger
and larger until now they could see it as it had never been seen
before--a gigantic three-quarter moon filling up the whole Heavens in
front of them almost from Zenith to Nadir.

Its four satellites, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Calisto were distinctly
visible to the naked eye, and Europa and Ganymede happened to be in
such a position with regard to the Astronef that her crew could see
not only the bright sides turned towards the sun, but also the black
shadow-spots which they cast on the cloud-veiled face of the huge
planet.

"Five hundred million miles!" said Zaidie, with a little shiver, "that
seems an awful long way from home, doesn't it? Though, of course,
we've brought our home with us to a certain extent. Still I often
wonder what they are thinking about us on the dear old earth. I don't
suppose anyone ever expects to see us again. However, it's no good
getting homesick in the middle of a journey when you're outward
bound."

They were now falling very rapidly towards the huge planet, and, as
the crescent approached the full they were able to examine the
mysterious bands as human observers had never examined them before.
For hours they sat almost silent at their telescopes, trying to probe
the mystery which has baffled human science since the days of
Gallileo.

"I believe I was right, or, in other words, the people I got the idea
from are," said Redgrave eventually, as they approached the orbit of
Calisto, which revolves at a distance of about eleven hundred thousand
miles from the surface of the planet.

"Those belts are made of clouds or vapour in some stage or other. The
lightest--the ones along the equator and what we should call the
Temperate Zones--are the highest, and therefore coolest and whitest.
The dark ones are the lowest and hottest. I daresay they are more like
what we call volcanic clouds. Do you see how they keep changing?
That's what's bothered our astronomers. Look at that big one yonder a
bit to the north, going from brown to red. I suppose that's something
like the famous red spot which they have been puzzling about. What do
you make of it?"

"Well," said Zaidie, looking up from her telescope, "it's quite
certain that the glare must come from underneath. It can't be
sunlight, because the poor old sun doesn't seem to have strength
enough to make a decent sunset or sunrise here, and look how it's
running along to the westward! What does that mean, do you think?"

"I should say it means that some half-formed Jovian Continent has been
flung sky high by a big burst-up underneath, and that's the blaze of
the incandescent stuff running along. Just fancy a continent, say ten
times the size of Asia, being split up and sent flying in a few
moments like that. Look, there's another one to the north. On the
whole, dear, I don't think we should find the climate on the other
side of those clouds very salubrious. Still, as they say the
atmosphere of Jupiter is about ten thousand miles thick, we may be
able to get near enough to see something of what's going on.

"Meanwhile, here comes Calisto. Look at his shadow flying across the
clouds. And there's Ganymede coming up after him, and Europa behind
him. Talk about eclipses, they must be about as common here as
thunderstorms are with us."

"We don't have a thunderstorm every day," corrected Zaidie, "but on
Jupiter they have two or three eclipses every day. Meanwhile, there
goes Jupiter himself. What a difference distance makes! This little
thing is only a trifle larger than our moon, and it's hiding
everything else."

As she was speaking, the full-orbed disc of Calisto, measuring nearly
three thousand miles across, swept between them and the planet. It
shone with a clear, somewhat reddish light like that of Mars. The
Astronef was feeling its attraction strongly, and Redgrave went to the
levers and turned on about a fifth of the R. Force to avoid contact
with it.

"Another dead world," said Redgrave, as the surface of Calisto
revolved swiftly beneath them, "or, at any rate, a dying one. There
must be an atmosphere of some sort, or else that snow and ice wouldn't
be there, and the land would be either black or white as it was on the
Moon. It's not worth while landing there. Ganymede will be much more
interesting."

Zaidie took half-a-dozen photographs of the surface of Calisto while
they were passing it at a distance of about a hundred miles, and then
went to get lunch ready.

When they got on to the upper deck again Calisto was already a half-
moon in the upper sky nearly five hundred thousand miles away and the
full orb of Ganymede, shining with a pale golden light, lay outspread
beneath them. A thin, bluish-grey arc of the giant planet over-arched
its western edge.

"I think we shall find something like a world here," said Zaidie, when
she had taken her first look through her telescope. "There's an
atmosphere and what looks like thin clouds. Continents, and oceans,
too! And what is that light shining up between the breaks? Isn't it
something like our Aurora?"

As the Astronef fell towards the surface of Ganymede she crossed its
northern pole, and the nearer they got the plainer it became that a
light very like the terrestrial Aurora was playing about it,
illuminating the thin, yellow clouds with a bluish-violet light, which
made magnificent contrasts of colouring amongst them.

"Let us go down there and see what it's like," said Zaidie. "There
must be something nice under all those lovely colours."

Redgrave checked the R. Force and the Astronef fell obliquely across
the pole towards the equator. As they approached the luminous clouds
Redgrave turned it on again, and they sank slowly through a glowing
mist of innumerable colours, until the surface of Ganymede came into
plain view about ten miles below them.

What they saw then was the strangest sight they had beheld since they
had left the Earth. As far as their eyes could reach, the surface of
Ganymede was covered with vast orderly patches, mostly rectangular, of
what they at first took for ice, but which they soon found to be a
something that was self-illuminating.

"Glorified hot houses, as I'm alive," exclaimed Redgrave. "Whole
cities under glass, fields, too, and lit by electricity or something
very like it. Zaidie, we shall find human beings down there."

"Well, if we do I hope they won't be like the half-human things we
found on Mars! But isn't it all just lovely! Only there doesn't seem
to be anything outside the cities, at least nothing but bare, flat
ground with a few rugged mountains here and there. See, there's a nice
level plain near the big glass city, or whatever it is. Suppose we go
down there."

Redgrave checked the after-engine which was driving them obliquely
over the surface of the satellite, and the Astronef fell vertically
towards a bare flat plain of what looked like deep yellow sand, which
spread for miles alongside one of the glittering cities of glass.

"Oh, look, they've seen us!" exclaimed Zaidie. "I do hope they're
going to be as friendly as those dear people on Venus were."

"I hope so," replied Redgrave, "but if they're not, we've got the guns
ready."

As he said this about twenty streams of an intense bluish light
suddenly shot up all round them, concentrating themselves upon the
hull of the Astronef, which was now about a mile and a half from the
surface. The light was so intense that the rays of the sun were lost
in it. They looked at each other, and found that their faces were
almost perfectly white in it. The plain and the city below had
vanished.

To look downwards was like staring straight into the focus of a ten
thousand candlepower electric arc lamp. It was so intolerable that
Redgrave closed the lower shutters, and meanwhile he found that the
Astronef had ceased to descend. He shut off more of the R. Force, but
it produced no effect. The Astronef remained stationary. Then he
ordered Murgatroyd to set the propellers in motion. The engineer
pulled the starting levers, and then came up out of the engine-room
and said to Lord Redgrave:

"It's no good, my lord; I don't know what devil's world we've got into
now, but they won't work. If I thought that engines could be
bewitched--"

"Oh, nonsense, Andrew!" said his lordship rather testily. "It's
perfectly simple; those people down there, whoever they are, have got
some way of demagnetising us, or else they've got the R. Force too,
and they're applying it against us to stop us going down. Apparently
they don't want us. No, that's just to show us that they can stop us
if they want to. The light's going down. Begin dropping a bit. Don't
start the propellers, but just go and see that the guns are all right
in case of accidents."

The old engineer nodded and went back to his engines, looking
considerably scared. As he spoke the brilliancy of the light faded
rapidly and the Astronef began to sink towards the surface.

As a precaution against their being allowed to drop with force enough
to cause a disaster, Redgrave turned the R. Force on again and they
dropped slowly towards the plain, through what seemed like a halo of
perfectly white light. When she was within a couple of hundred yards
of the ground a winged car of exquisitely graceful shape, rose from
the roof of one of the huge glass buildings nearest to them, flew
swiftly towards them, and after circling once round the dome of the
upper deck, ran close alongside.

The car was occupied by two figures of distinctly human form but
rather more than human stature. Both were dressed in long, close-
fitting garments of what seemed like a golden brown fleece. Their
heads were covered with a close hood and their hands with thin, close-
fitting gloves.

"What an exceedingly handsome man!" said Zaidie, as one of them stood
up. "I never saw such a noble-looking face in my life; it's half
philosopher, half saint. Of course, you won't be jealous."

"Oh, nonsense!" he laughed. "It would be quite impossible to imagine
you in love with either. But he is handsome, and evidently friendly--
there's no mistaking that. Answer him, Zaidie; you can do it better
than I can." The car had now come close alongside. The standing figure
stretched its hands out, palms upward, smiled a smile which Zaidie
thought was very sweetly solemn, next the head was bowed, and the
gloved hands brought back and crossed over his breast. Zaidie imitated
the movements exactly. Then, as the figure raised its head, she raised
hers, and she found herself looking into a pair of large luminous
eyes, such as she could have imagined under the brows of an angel. As
they met hers, a look of unmistakable wonder and admiration came into
them. Redgrave was standing just behind her; she took him by the hand
and drew him beside her, saying with a little laugh:

"Now, please look as pleasant as you can; I am sure they are very
friendly. A man with a face like that couldn't mean any harm."

The figure repeated the motions to Redgrave, who returned them,
perhaps a trifle awkwardly. Then the car began to descend, and the
figure beckoned to them to follow.

"You'd better go and wrap up, dear. From the gentleman's dress it
seems pretty cold outside, though the air is evidently quite
breathable," said Redgrave, as the Astronef began to drop in company
with the car. "At any rate, I'll try it first, and, if it isn't, we
can put on our breathing-dresses."

When Zaidie had made her winter toilet, and Redgrave had found the air
to be quite respirable, but of Arctic cold, they went down the gangway
ladder about twenty minutes later.

The figure had got out of the car which was lying a few yards from
them on the sandy plain, and came forward to meet them with both hands
outstretched.

Zaidie unhesitatingly held out hers, and a strange thrill ran through
her as she felt them for the first time clasped gently by other than
earthly hands, for the Venus folk had only been able to pat and stroke
with their gentle little paws, somewhat as a kitten might do. The
figure bowed its head again and said something in a low, melodious
voice, which was, of course, quite unintelligible save for the evident
friendliness of its tone. Then, releasing her hands, he took
Redgrave's in the same fashion, and then led the way towards a vast,
domed building of semi-opaque glass, or a substance which seemed to be
something like a mixture of glass and mica, which appeared to be one
of the entrance gates of the city.

When they reached it a huge sheet of frosted glass rose silently from
the ground. They passed through, and it fell behind them. They found
themselves in a great oval antechamber along each side of which stood
triple rows of strangely shaped trees whose leaves gave off a subtle
and most agreeable scent. The temperature here was several degrees
higher, in fact about that of an English spring day, and Zaidie
immediately threw open her big fur cloak saying:

"These good people seem to live in Winter Gardens, don't they? I don't
think I shall want these things much while we're inside. I wonder what
dear old Andrew would have thought of this if we could have persuaded
him to leave the ship."

They followed their host through the antechamber towards a magnificent
pointed arch, raised on clusters of small pillars each of a different
coloured, highly polished stone which shone brilliantly in a light
which seemed to come from nowhere. Another door, this time of pale,
transparent, blue glass, rose as they approached; they passed under it
and, as it fell behind them, half-a-dozen figures, considerably
shorter and slighter than their host, came forward to meet them. He
took off his gloves and cape and thick outer covering, and they were
glad to follow his example for the atmosphere was now that of a warm
June day.

The attendants, as they evidently were, took their wraps from them,
looking at the furs and stroking them with evident wonder; but with
nothing like the wonder which came into their wild, soft grey eyes
when they looked at Zaidie, who, as usual when she arrived on a new
world, was arrayed in one of her daintiest costumes.

Their host was now dressed in a tunic of a light blue material, which
glistened with a lustre greater than that of the finest silk. It
reached a little below his knees, and was confined at the waist by a
sash of the same colour but of somewhat deeper hue. His feet and legs
were covered with stockings of the same material and colour, and his
feet, which were small for his stature and exquisitely shaped, were
shod with thin sandals of a material which looked like soft felt, and
which made no noise as he walked over the delicately coloured mosaic
pavement of the street--for such it actually was--which ran past the
gate.

When he removed his cap they expected to find that he was bald like
the Martians, but they were mistaken. His well-shaped head was covered
with long, thick hair of a colour something between bronze and grey. A
broad band of metal, looking like light gold, passed round the upper
part of his forehead, and from under this the hair fell in gentle
waves to below his shoulders.

For a few moments Zaidie and Redgrave stared about them in frank and
silent wonder. They were standing in a broad street running in a
straight line, apparently several miles, along the edge of a city of
crystal. It was lined with double rows of trees with beds of
brilliantly coloured flowers between them. From this street others
went off at right angles and at regular intervals. The roof of the
city appeared to be composed of an infinity of domes of enormous
extent, supported by tall clusters of slender pillars standing at the
street corners.

Presently their host touched Redgrave on the shoulder and pointed to a
four-wheeled car of light framework and exquisite design, containing
seats for four besides the driver, or guide, who sat behind. He held
out his hand to Zaidie, and handed her to one of the front seats just
as an earth-born gentleman might have done. Then he motioned to
Redgrave to sit beside her, and mounted behind them.

The car immediately began to move silently, but with considerable
speed, along the left-hand side of the outer street, which, like all
the others, was divided by narrow strips of russet-coloured grass and
flowering shrubs.

In a few minutes it swung round to the right, crossed the road, and
entered a magnificent avenue, which, after a run of some four miles,
ended in a vast, park-like square, measuring at least a mile each way.

The two sides of the avenue were busy with cars like their own, some
carrying six people, and others only the driver. Those on each side of
the road all went in the same direction. Those nearest to the broad
side-walks between the houses and the first row of trees went at a
moderate speed of five or six miles an hour, but along the inner
sides, near the central line of trees, they seemed to be running as
high as thirty miles an hour. Their occupants were nearly all dressed
in clothes made of the same glistening, silky fabric as their host
wore, but the colourings were of infinite variety. It was quite easy
to distinguish between the sexes, although in stature they were almost
equal.

The men were nearly all clothed as their host was. The women were
dressed in flowing garments something after the Greek style, but they
were of brighter hues, and much more lavishly embroidered than the
men's tunics were. They also wore much more jewellery. Indeed, some of
the younger ones glittered from head to foot with polished metal and
gleaming stones.

"Could anyone ever have dreamt of such a lovely place?" said Zaidie,
after their wondering eyes had become accustomed to the marvels about
them, "and yet--oh dear, now I know what it reminds me of!
Flammarion's book, 'The End Of The World,' where he describes the
remnants of the human race dying of cold and hunger on the Equator in
places something like this. I suppose the life of poor Ganymede is
giving out, and that's why they've got to live in glorified Crystal
Palaces like this, poor things."

"Poor things!" laughed Redgrave, "I'm afraid I can't agree with you
there, dear. I never saw a jollier looking lot of people in my life. I
daresay you're quite right, but they certainly seem to view their
approaching end with considerable equanimity."

"Don't be horrid, Lenox! Fancy talking in that cold-blooded way about
such delightful-looking people as these, why, they are even nicer than
our dear bird-folk on Venus, and, of course, they are a great deal
more like ourselves."

"Wherefore it stands to reason that they must be a great deal nicer!"
he replied, with a glance which brought a brighter flush to her
cheeks. Then he went on: "Ah, now I see the difference."

"What difference? Between what?"

"Between the daughter of Earth and the daughters of Ganymede," he
replied. "You can blush, and I don't think they can. Haven't you
noticed that, although they have the most exquisite skins and
beautiful eyes and hair and all that sort of thing, not a man or woman
of them has any colouring. I suppose that's the result of living for
generations in a hothouse."

"Very likely," she said; "but has it struck you also that all the
girls and women are either beautiful or handsome, and all the men,
except the ones who seem to be servants or slaves, are something like
Greek gods, or, at least, the sort of men you see on the Greek
sculptures?"

"Survival of the fittest, I presume. These will be the descendants of
the highest races of Ganymede,--the people who conceived the idea of
prolonging human life like this and were able to carry it out. The
inferior races would either perish of starvation or become their
servants. That's what will happen on Earth, and there is no reason why
it shouldn't have happened here."

As he said this the car swung out round a broad curve into the centre
of the great square, and a little cry of amazement broke from Zaidie's
lips as her glance roamed over the multiplying splendours about her.

In the centre of the square, in the midst of smooth lawns and flower
beds of every conceivable shape and colour, and groves of flowering
trees, stood a great, domed building, which they approached through an
avenue of overarching trees interlaced with flowering creepers.

The car stopped at the foot of a triple flight of stairs of dazzling
whiteness which led up to a broad, arched doorway. Several groups of
people were sprinkled about the avenue and steps and the wide terrace
which ran along the front of the building. They looked with keen, but
perfectly well-mannered surprise at their strange visitors, and seemed
to be discussing their appearance; but not a step was taken towards
them nor was there the slightest sign of anything like vulgar
curiosity.

"What perfect manners these dear people have!" said Zaidie, as they
dismounted at the foot of the staircase. "I wonder what would happen
if a couple of them were to be landed from a motor car in front of the
Capitol at Washington. I suppose this is their Capitol, and we've been
brought here to be put through our paces. What a pity we can't talk
to them. I wonder if they'd believe our story if we could tell it."

"I've no doubt they know something of it already," replied Redgrave;"
they're evidently people of immense intelligence. Intellectually, I
daresay, we're mere children compared with them, and it's quite
possible that they have developed senses of which we have no idea."

"And perhaps," added Zaidie, "all the time that we are talking to each
other our friend here is quietly reading everything that is going on
in our minds."

Whether this was so or not their host gave no sign of comprehension.
He led them up the steps and through the great doorway where he was
met by three splendidly dressed men even taller than himself.

"I feel beastly shabby among all these gorgeously attired personages,"
said Redgrave, looking down at his plain tweed suit, as they were
conducted with every manifestation of politeness along the magnificent
vestibule beyond.

At the end of the vestibule another door opened, and they were ushered
into a large hall which was evidently a council-chamber. At the
further end of it were three semi-circular rows of seats made of the
polished silvery metal, and in the centre and raised slightly above
them another under a canopy of sky-blue silk. This seat and six others
were occupied by men of most venerable aspect, in spite of the fact
that their hair was just as long and thick and glossy as their host's
or even as Zaidie's own.

The ceremony of introduction was exceedingly simple. Though they could
not, of course, understand a word he said, it was evident from his
eloquent gestures that their host described the way in which they had
come from Space, and landed on the surface of the World of the Crystal
Cities, as Zaidie subsequently rechristened Ganymede.

The President of the Senate or Council spoke a few sentences in a deep
musical tone. Then their host, taking their hands, led them up to his
seat, and the President rose and took them by both hands in turn.
Then, with a grave smile of greeting, he bent his head and resumed his
seat. They joined hands in turn with each of the six senators present,
bowed their farewells in silence, and then went back with their host
to the car.

They ran down the avenue, made a curving sweep round to the left--for
all the paths in the great square were laid in curves, apparently to
form a contrast to the straight streets--and presently stopped before
the porch of one of the hundred palaces which surrounded it. This was
their host's house, and their home during the rest of their sojourn on
Ganymede.

It is, as I have already said, greatly to be regretted that the narrow
limits of these brief narratives make it impossible for me to describe
in detail all the experiences of Lord Redgrave and his bride during
their Honeymoon in Space. Hereafter I hope to have an opportunity of
doing so with the more ample assistance of her ladyship's diary; but
for the present I must content myself with the outlines of the picture
which she may some day consent to fill in.

The period of Ganymede's revolution round its gigantic primary is
seven days, three hours, and forty-three minutes, practically a
terrestrial week, and both of the daring navigators of Space describe
this as the most interesting and delightful week in their lives, not
even excepting the period which they spent in the Eden of the Morning
Star.

There the inhabitants had never learnt to sin; here they had learnt
the lesson that sin is mere foolishness, and that no really sensible
or properly educated man or woman thinks crime worth committing.

The life of the Crystal Cities, of which they visited four in
different parts of the satellite, using the Astronef as their vehicle,
was one of peaceful industry and calm innocent enjoyment. It was quite
plain that their first impressions of this aged world were correct.
Outside the cities spread a universal desert on which life was
impossible. There was hardly any moisture in the thin atmosphere. The
rivers had dwindled into rivulets and the seas into vast, shallow
marshes. The heat received from the Sun was only about a twenty-fifth
of that received on the surface of the Earth, and this was drawn to
the cities and collected and preserved under their glass domes by a
number of devices which displayed superhuman intelligence.

The dwindling supplies of water were hoarded in vast subterranean
reservoirs and by means of a perfect system of redistillation the
priceless fluid was used over and over again both for human purposes
and for irrigating the land within the cities.

Still the total quantity was steadily diminishing, for it was not only
evaporating from the surface, but, as the orb cooled more and more
rapidly towards its centre, it descended deeper and deeper below the
surface, and could now only be reached by means of marvellously
constructed borings and pumping machinery which extended down several
miles into the ground.

The dwindling store of heat in the centre of the little world, which
had now cooled through more than half its bulk, was utilised for
warming the air of the cities, and also to drive the machinery which
propelled it through the streets and squares. All work was done by
electricity developed directly from this source, which also actuated
the repulsive engines which had prevented the Astronef from
descending.

In short, the inhabitants of Ganymede were engaged in a steady,
ceaseless struggle to utilise the expiring natural forces of their
world to prolong to the latest possible date their own lives and the
exquisitely refined civilisation to which they had attained. They
were, in fact, in exactly the same position in which the distant
descendants of the human race may one day be expected to find
themselves.

Their domestic life, as Zaidie and Lenox saw it while they were the
guests of their host, was the perfection of simplicity and comfort,
and their public life was characterised by a quiet but intense
intellectuality which, as Zaidie had said, made them feel very much
like children who had only just learnt to speak.

As they possessed magnificent telescopes, far surpassing any on earth,
the wanderers were able to survey, not only the Solar System, but the
other systems far beyond its limits as no other of their kind had ever
been able to do before. They did not look through or into the
telescopes. The lens was turned upon the object, which was thrown,
enormously magnified, upon screens of what looked something like
ground glass some fifty feet square. It was thus that they saw, not
only the whole visible surface of Jupiter as he revolved above them
and they about him, but also their native earth, sometimes a pale
silver disc or crescent close to the edge of the Sun, visible only in
the morning and the evening of Jupiter, and at other times like a
little black spot crossing the glowing surface.

It was, of course, inevitable that the Astronef--which Murgatroyd
could not be persuaded to leave once during their stay--should prove
an object of intense interest to their hosts. They had solved the
problem of the Resolution of Forces, and, as they were shown
pictorially, a vessel had been made which embodied the principles of
attraction and repulsion. It had risen from the surface of Ganymede,
and then, possibly because its engines could not develop sufficient
repulsive force, the tremendous pull of the giant planet had dragged
it away. It had vanished through the cloud-belts towards the flaming
surface beneath--and the experiment had never been repeated.

Here, however, was a vessel which had actually, as Redgrave had
convinced his hosts by means of celestial maps and drawings of his
own, left a planet close to the Sun, and safely crossed the tremendous
gulf of six hundred and fifty million miles which separated Jupiter
from the centre of the system. Moreover he had twice proved her powers
by taking his host and two of his newly-made friends, the chief
astronomers of Ganymede, on a short trip across space to Calisto and
Europa, the second satellite of Jupiter, which, to their very grave
interest they found had already passed the stage in which Ganymede
was, and had lapsed into the icy silence of death.

It was these two journeys which led to the last adventure of the
Astronef in the Jovian System. Both Redgrave and Zaidie had
determined, at whatever risk, to pass through the cloud-belts of
Jupiter, and catch a glimpse, if only a glimpse, of a world in the
making. Their host and the two astronomers, after a certain amount of
quiet discussion, accepted their invitation to accompany them, and on
the morning of the eighth day after their landing on Ganymede, the
Astronef rose from the plain outside the Crystal City, and directed
her course towards the centre of the vast disc of Jupiter.

She was followed by the telescopes of all the observatories until she
vanished through the brilliant cloud-band, eighty-five thousand miles
long and some five thousand miles broad, which stretched from east to
west of the planet. At the same moment the voyagers lost sight of
Ganymede and his sister satellites.

The temperature of the interior of the Astronef began to rise as soon
as the upper cloud-belt was passed. Under this, spread out a vast
field of brown-red cloud, rent here and there into holes and gaps like
those storm-cavities in the atmosphere of the Sun, which are commonly
known as sun-spots. This lower stratum of cloud appeared to be the
scene of terrific storms, compared with which the fiercest earthly
tempests were mere zephyrs.

After falling some five hundred miles further they found themselves
surrounded by what seemed an ocean of fire, but still the internal
temperature had only risen from seventy to ninety-five. The engines
were well under control. Only about a fourth of the total R. Force was
being developed, and the Astronef was dropping swiftly, but steadily.

Redgrave, who was in the conning-tower controlling the engines,
beckoned to Zaidie and said:

"Shall we go on?"

"Yes," she said. "Now we've got as far as this I want to see what
Jupiter is like, and where you are not afraid to go, I'll go."

"If I'm afraid at all it's only because you are with me, Zaidie," he
replied, "but I've only got a fourth of the power turned on yet, so
there's plenty of margin."

The Astronef, therefore, continued to sink through what seemed to be a
fathomless ocean of whirling, blazing clouds, and the internal
temperature went on rising slowly but steadily. Their guests, without
showing the slightest sign of any emotion, walked about the upper deck
now singly and now together, apparently absorbed by the strange scene
about them.

At length, after they had been dropping for some five hours by
Astronef time, one of them, uttering a sharp exclamation, pointed to
an enormous rift about fifty miles away. A dull, red glare was
streaming up out of it. The next moment the brown cloud-floor beneath
them seemed to split up into enormous wreaths of vapour, which whirled
up on all sides of them, and a few minutes later they caught their
first glimpse of the true surface of Jupiter.

It lay as nearly as they could judge, some two thousand miles beneath
them, a distance which the telescopes reduced to less than twenty; and
they saw for a few moments the world that was in the making. Through
floating seas of misty steam they beheld what seemed to them to be
vast continents shape themselves and melt away into oceans of flames.
Whole mountain ranges of glowing lava were hurled up miles high to
take shape for an instant and then fall away again, leaving fathomless
gulfs of fiery mist in their place.

Then waves of molten matter rose up again out of the gulfs, tens of
miles high and hundreds of miles long, surged forward, and met with a
concussion like that of millions of earthly thunder-clouds. Minute
after minute they remained writhing and struggling with each other.
flinging up spurts of flaming matter far above their crests. Other
waves followed them, climbing up their bases as a sea-surge runs up
the side of a smooth, slanting rock. Then from the midst of them a jet
of living fire leapt up hundreds of miles into the lurid atmosphere
above, and then, with a crash and a roar which shook the vast Jovian
firmament, the battling lava-waves would split apart and sink down
into the all-surrounding fire-ocean, like two grappling giants who had
strangled each other in their final struggle.

"It's just Hell let loose!" said Murgatroyd to himself as he looked
down upon the terrific scene through one of the portholes of the
engine-room; "and, with all respect to my lord and her ladyship, those
that come this near almost deserve to stop in it."

Meanwhile, Redgrave and Zaidie and their three guests were so absorbed
in the tremendous spectacle, that for a few moments no one noticed
that they were dropping faster and faster towards the world which
Murgatroyd, according to his lights, had not inaptly described. As for
Zaidie, all her fears were for the time being lost in wonder, until
she saw her husband take a swift glance round upwards and downwards,
and then go up into the conning-tower. She followed him quickly, and
said:

"What is the matter, Lenox, are we falling too quickly?"

"Much faster than we should," he replied, sending a signal to
Murgatroyd to increase the force by three-tenths.

The answering signal came back, but still the Astronef continued to
fall with terrific rapidity, and the awful landscape beneath them--a
landscape of fire and chaos--broadened out and became more and more
distinct.

He sent two more signals down in quick succession. Three-fourths of
the whole repulsive power of the engines was now being exerted, a
force which would have been sufficient to hurl the Astronef up from
the surface of the Earth like a feather in a whirlwind. Her downward
course became a little slower, but still she did not stop. Zaidie,
white to the lips, looked down upon the hideous scene beneath and
slipped her hand through Redgrave's arm. He looked at her for an
instant and then turned his head away with a jerk, and sent down the
last signal.

The whole energy of the engines was now directing the maximum of the
R. Force against the surface of Jupiter, but still, as every moment
passed in a speechless agony of apprehension, it grew nearer and
nearer. The fire-waves mounted higher and higher, the roar of the
fiery surges grew louder and louder. Then, in a momentary lull, he put
his arm round her, drew her close up to him, and kissed her and said:

"That's all we can do, dear. We've come too close and he's too strong
for us."

She returned his kiss and said quite steadily:

"Well, at any rate, I'm with you, and it won't last long, will it?"

"Not very long now, I'm afraid," he said between his clenched teeth.

Almost the next moment they felt a little jerk beneath their feet--a
jerk upwards; and Redgrave shook himself out of the half stupor into
which he was falling and said:

"Hallo, what's that! I believe we're stopping--yes, we are--and we're
beginning to rise, too. Look, dear, the clouds are coming down upon
us--fast too! I wonder what sort of miracle that is. Ay, what's the
matter, little woman?"

Zaidie's head had dropped heavily on his shoulder. A glance showed him
that she had fainted. He could do nothing more in the conning-tower,
so he picked her up and carried her towards the companion-way, past
his three guests, who were standing in the middle of the upper deck
round a table on which lay a large sheet of paper.

He took her below and laid her on her bed, and in a few minutes he had
brought her to and told her that it was all right. Then he gave her a
drink of brandy and water, and went hack on to the upper deck. As he
reached the top of the stairway one of the astronomers came towards
him with the sheet of paper in his hand, smiling gravely, and pointing
to a sketch upon it.

He took the paper under one of the electric lights and looked at it.
The sketch was a plan of the Jovian System. There were some signs
written along one side, which he did not understand, but he divined
that they were calculations. Still, there was no mistaking the
diagram. There was a circle representing the huge bulk of Jupiter;
there were four smaller circles at varying distances in a nearly
straight line from it, and between the nearest of these and the planet
was the figure of the Astronef, with an arrow pointing upwards.

"Ah, I see!" he said, forgetting for a moment that the other did not
understand him, "That was the miracle! The four satellites came into
line with us just as the pull of Jupiter was getting too much for our
engines, and their combined pull just turned the scale. Well, thank
God for that, sir, for in a few minutes more we should have been
cinders!"

The astronomer smiled again as he took the paper back. Meanwhile the
Astronef was rushing upward like a meteor through the clouds. In ten
minutes the limits of the Jovian atmosphere were passed. Stars and
gems and planets blazed out of the black vault of Space, and the great
disc of the World that Is to Be once more covered the floor of Space
beneath them--an ocean of cloud, covering continents of lava and seas
of flame.

They passed Io and Europa, which changed from new to full moons as
they sped by towards the Sun, and then the golden yellow crescent of
Ganymede also began to fill out to the half and full disc, and by the
tenth hour of earth-time after they had risen from its surface, the
Astronef was once more lying beside the gate of the Crystal City.

At midnight on the second night after their return, the ringed shape
of Saturn, attended by his eight satellites, hung in the zenith
magnificently inviting. The Astronef's engines had been replenished
after the exhaustion of their struggle with the might of Jupiter.
Zaidie and Lenox said farewell to their friends of the dying world.
The doors of the air chamber closed. The signal tinkled in the engine-
room, and a few moments later a blur of white lights on the brown
background of the surrounding desert was all they could distinguish of
the Crystal City under whose domes they had seen and learnt so much.



THE END



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