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Title: The World of the War God
Author: George Griffith
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Language: English
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THE WORLD OF THE WAR GOD
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 Antigravitational 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 were described
in the first story of the series.

* * *

THE earth and the moon were more than a hundred million miles behind
in the depths of Space, and the Astronef had crossed this immense gap
in eleven days and a few hours; but this apparently inconceivable
speed was not altogether due to the powers of the Navigator of the
Stars, for Lord Redgrave had taken advantage of the passage of the
planet along its orbit towards that of the earth; therefore, while the
Astronef was approaching Mars with ever-increasing speed, Mars was
travelling towards the Astronef at the rate of sixteen miles a second.
The great silver disc of the earth had diminished until it looked only
a little larger than Venus appears from the earth. In fact the planet
Terra is to the inhabitants of Mars what Venus is to us, the star of
the morning and evening.

Breakfast on the morning of the twelfth day, or, since there is
neither day nor night in Space, it would be more correct to say the
twelfth period of twenty-four earth-hours as measured by the
chronometers, was just over, and the commander of the Astronef was
standing with his bride in the forward end of the glass-covered deck
looking downwards at a vast crescent of rosy light which stretched out
over an arc of more than ninety degrees. Two tiny black spots were
travelling towards each other across it. "Ah!" said her ladyship,
going towards one of the telescopes, "there are the moons. I was
reading my Gulliver last night. I wonder what the old Dean would have
given to be here, and see how true his guess was. Have you made up
your mind to land on them?"

"I don't see why we shouldn't," said her husband. "I think they'd make
rather convenient stopping-places; besides, we want to know whether
they have atmospheres and inhabitants."

"What, people living on those wee things?" she laughed, "why, they're
only about thirty or forty miles round, aren't they?"

"That's about it," he said, "but that's just one of the points I want
to solve, and as for life, it doesn't always mean people, you know. We
are only a few hundred miles away from Deimos, the outer one, and he
is twelve thousand five hundred miles from Mars. I vote we drop on him
first and let him carry us towards his brother Phobos. Then when we've
examined him, we'll drop down to Phobos and take a trip round Mars on
him. He does the journey in about seven hours and a half, and as he's
only three thousand seven hundred miles above the surface we ought to
get a very good view of our next stopping-place."

"That ought to be quite a delightful trip!" said her ladyship, "but
how commonplace you are getting, Lenox. That's so like you Englishmen.
We are doing what has only been dreamt of before, and here you are
talking about moons and planets as if they were railway stations."

"Well, if your ladyship prefers it, we will call them undiscovered
islands and continents in the Ocean of Space. That does sound a
little bit better, doesn't it? Now I must go down and see to my
engines."

When he had gone, Zaidie sat down to the telescope again and kept it
on one of the little black spots travelling across the crescent of
Mars. Both it and the other spot rapidly grew larger, and the features
of the planet itself became more distinct. She could make out the seas
and continents and the mysterious canals quite plainly through the
clear rosy atmosphere, and, with the aid of the telescope, she could
even make out the glimmer which the inner moon threw upon the
unlighted portion of the disc.

Deimos grew bigger and bigger, and in about half-an-hour the Astronef
grounded gently on what looked to her like a dimly-lighted circular
plain, but which, when her eyes became accustomed to the light, was
more like the summit of a conical mountain. Redgrave raised the keel a
little from the surface again and propelled her towards a thin circle
of light on the tiny horizon. As they crossed into the sunlit portion
it became quite plain that Deimos at any rate was as airless and
lifeless as the moon. The surface was composed of brown rock and red
sand broken up into miniature hills and valleys. There were a few
traces of byegone volcanic action, but it was evident that the
internal fires of this tiny world must have burnt themselves out very
quickly.

"Not much to be seen here," said Redgrave, "and I don't think it would
be safe to go out. The attraction is so weak here that we might find
ourselves falling off with very little exertion. You might take a
couple of photographs of the surface, and then we'll be off to
Phobos."

A few minutes later Zaidie got a couple of good photographs of the
satellite. The attraction of Mars now began to make itself strongly
felt, and the Astronef dropped rapidly through the eight thousand
miles which separate the inner and outer moons of Mars. As they
approached Phobos they saw that half the little disc was brilliantly
lighted by the same rays of the sun which were glowing on the rapidly
increasing crescent of Mars beneath them. By careful manipulation of
his engines Lord Redgrave managed to meet the approaching satellite
with a hardly perceptible shock about the centre of its lighted
portion, that is to say the side turned towards the planet.

Mars now appeared as a gigantic rosy moon filling the whole vault of
the heavens above them. Their telescopes brought the three thousand
seven hundred and fifty miles down to about fifty. The rapid motion of
the tiny satellite afforded them a spectacle which might be compared
to the rising of a moon glowing with rosy light and hundreds of times
larger than the earth. The speed of the vehicle of which they had
taken possession, something like four thousand two hundred miles an
hour, caused the surface of the planet to apparently sweep away from
below them from west to east, just as the earth appears to slip away
from under the car of a balloon.

Neither of them left the telescopes for more than a few minutes during
this aerial circumnavigation. Murgatroyd, outwardly impassive, but
inwardly filled with solemn fears for the fate of this impiously
daring voyage, brought them wine and sandwiches and later on tea and
toast and more sandwiches; but they hardly touched even these, so
absorbed were they in the wonderful spectacle which was passing
swiftly under their eyes. Their telescopes were excellent ones, and at
that distance Mars gave up all his secrets.

Phobos revolves from west to east almost along the plane of the
planet's equator. To left and right they saw the huge ice-caps of the
South and North Poles gleaming through the red atmosphere with a pale
sunset glimmer. Then came the great stretches of sea, often obscured
by vast banks of clouds, which, as the sunlight fell upon them, looked
strangely like the earth-clouds at sunset. Then, almost immediately
underneath them spread out the great land areas of the equatorial
region. The three continents of Halle, Gallileo, and Tycholand; then
Huygens--which is to Mars what Europe, Asia, and Africa are to the
earth. Then Herschell and Copernicus. Nearly all of these land masses
were split up into semi-regular divisions by the famous canals which
have so long puzzled terrestrial observers.

"Well, there is one problem solved at any rate," said Redgrave, when
after a journey of nearly four hours they had crossed the western
hemisphere. "Mars is getting, very old, her seas are diminishing, and
her continents are increasing, and those canals are the remains of
gulfs and isthmuses which have been widened and deepened and
lengthened by human, or we'll say Martian, labour, partly, I've no
doubt, for purposes of navigation, and partly to keep the inhabitants
of the interior of the continent within measurable distance of the
sea. There's not the slightest doubt about that. Then, you see, we've
seen scarcely any mountains to speak of so far, only ranges of low
hills."

"And that means, I suppose," said Zaidie, "that they've all been worn
down as the mountains of the earth are worn away. I was reading
Flammarion's 'End of the World' last night, and he, you know, painted
the earth at the end as an enormous plain of land, no hills or
mountains, no seas, and only sluggish rivers draining into marshes. I
suppose that's what they're coming to down yonder. Now, I wonder what
sort of civilisation we shall find. Perhaps we shan't find any at all.
Suppose all their civilisations have worn out, and they are
degenerating into the same struggle for sheer existence those poor
creatures in the moon must have had."

"Or suppose," said his lordship seriously, "we find that they have
passed the zenith of civilisation, and are dropping back into
savagery, but still have the use of weapons and means of destruction
which we, perhaps, have no notion of, and are inclined to use them.
We'd better be careful, dear."

"What do you mean, Lenox?" she said. "They wouldn't try to do us any
harm, would they? Why should they?"

"I don't say they would," he replied, "but still you never know. You
see, their ideas of right and wrong and hospitality and all that sort
of thing might quite different to what we have on the earth. In fact,
they may not be men at all, but just a sort of monster with a 
semihuman intellect, perhaps a superhuman one with ideas that we have no
notion of. Then there's another thing: suppose they fancied a trip
through Space, and thought that they had quite as good a right to the
Astronef as we have? I dare say they've seen us if they've got
telescopes, as no doubt they have, perhaps a good deal more powerful
than ours, and they may be getting ready to receive us now. I think
I'll get the guns up before we go down, in case our reception may not
be a friendly one."

The defensive armament of the Astronef consisted of four pneumatic
guns, which could be mounted on swivels, two ahead and two astern, and
which carried a shell containing either one of two kinds of explosives
invented by her creator. One was a solid, and burst on impact with an
explosive force equal to about twenty pounds of dynamite. The other
consisted of two liquids separated in the shell, and these, when mixed
by the breaking of the partition, nurse into a volume of flame which
could not be extinguished by any known human means. It would burn even
in a vacuum, since it supplied its own elements of combustion. The
guns would throw these shells to a distance of about seven terrestrial
miles. On the upper deck there were also stands for a couple of light
machine guns, capable of discharging seven hundred bullets a minute.

The small arms consisted of a couple of heavy, ten-bore, elephant guns
carrying explosive bullets, a dozen rifles and fowling pieces of
different makes of which three, a single and a double-barrelled rifle
and a double-barrelled shot-gun, belonged to her ladyship, as well as
a dainty brace of revolvers, one of half-a-dozen brace of various
calibres which completed the minor armament of the Astronef.

These guns were got up and mounted while the attraction of the planet
was comparatively feeble, and the guns themselves were, therefore, of
very little weight. On the surface of the earth a score of men could
not have done the work, but on board the Astronef, suspended in space,
his lordship and Murgatroyd found the work easy, and Zaidie herself
picked up a Maxim and carried it about as though it were a toy sewing-
machine.

"Now I think we can go down," said Redgrave, when everything had been
put in position as far as possible. "I wonder whether we shall find
the atmosphere of Mars suitable for terrestrial lungs. It will be
rather awkward if it isn't."

A very slight exertion of repulsive force was sufficient to detach the
Astronef from the body of Phobos. She dropped rapidly towards the
surface of the planet, and within three hours they saw the sunlight
for the first time since they had left the earth shining through an
unmistakable atmosphere, an atmosphere of a pale, rosy hue, instead of
the azure of the earthly skies, and an angular observation showed that
they were within fifty miles of the surface of the undiscovered world.

"Well, there's air here of some sort, there's no doubt. We'll drop a
bit further and then Andrew shall start the propellers. They'll very
soon give us an idea of the density. Do you notice the change in the
temperature? That's the diffused rays instead of the direct ones.
Twenty miles, I think that will do. I'll stop her now and we'll prospect
for a landing-place."

He went down to apply the repulsive force directly to the surface of
Mars, so as to check the descent, and then he put on his breathing-
dress, went into the exit chamber, closed one door behind him, opened
the other and allowed it to fill with Martian air; then he shut it
again, opened his visor and took a cautious breath.

It may, perhaps, have been the idea that he, the first of all the sons
of earth, was breathing the air of another world, or it might have
been some peculiar property from the Martian atmosphere, but he
immediately experienced a sensation such as usually follows drinking a
glass of champagne. He took another breath, and another. Then he
opened the inner door and went on to the lower deck, saying to
himself:

"Well, the air's all right if it is a bit champagney, rich in oxygen,
I suppose, with perhaps a trace of nitrous-oxide in it. Still, it's
certainly breathable and that's the principal thing.

"It's all right, dear," he said as he reached the upper deck where
Zaidie was walking about round the sides of the glass dome gazing with
all her eyes at the strange scene of mingled cloud and sea, and land,
which spread for an immense distance on all sides of them. "I have
breathed the air of Mars, and even at this height it is distinctly
wholesome, though of course it's rather thin, and I had it mixed with
some of our own atmosphere. Still I think it will agree all right with
us lower down."

"Well, then," said Zaidie, "suppose we get down below those clouds and
see what there really is to be seen."

"Your ladyship has but to speak and be obeyed," he replied, and
disappeared into the lower regions of the vessel.

In a couple of minutes she saw the cloud belt below them rising
rapidly. When her husband returned, the Astronef plunged into a sea of
rosy mist.

"The clouds of Mars," she exclaimed, "fancy a world with pink clouds!
I wonder what there is on the other side." The next moment they saw.

Just below them, at a distance of about five earth miles, lay an
irregularly triangular island, a detached portion of the Continent of
Huygens almost equally divided by the Martian equator, and lying with
another almost similarly shaped island between the fortieth and
fiftieth meridians of west longitude. The two islands were divided by
a broad straight stretch of water about the width of the English
Channel between Folkestone and Boulogne. Instead of the bright blue
green of terrestrial seas, this connecting link between the great
Northern and Southern Martian oceans had an orange tinge.

The land immediately beneath them was of a gently undulating
character, something like the downs of south-eastern England. No
mountains were visible in any direction. The lower portions,
particularly along the borders of the canals and the sea, were thickly
dotted with towns and cities, apparently of enormous extent. To the
north of the island continent there was a peninsula, covered with a
vast collection of buildings, which, with the broad streets and
spacious squares which divided them, must have covered an area of
something like two hundred square miles.

"There's the London of Mars!" said Redgrave, pointing down towards it;
"where the London of Earth will be in a few thousand years, close to
the equator. And you see all those other towns and cities crowded
round the canals! I dare say when we go across the northern and
southern temperate zones we shall find them in about the state that
Siberia or Patagonia are in."

"I dare say we shall," replied Zaidie, "Martian civilisation is
crowding towards the equator, though I should call that place down
there the greater New York of Mars, and see there's Brooklyn just
across the canal. I wonder what they're thinking about us down there."

"Hullo, what's that!" exclaimed Redgrave, interrupting her and
pointing towards the great city whose roofs, apparently of glass, were
flashing with a thousand tints in the pale crimson sunlight. "That's
either an air-ship or another Astronef, and it's evidently coming up to
interview us. So they've solved the problem, have they? Well, dear, I
think it quite possible that we're in for a pretty exciting time on
Mars."

While he was speaking a little dark shape, at first not much bigger
than a bird, had risen from the glittering roofs of the city. It
rapidly increased in size until in a few minutes Zaidie got a glimpse
of it through one of the telescopes and said:

"It's a great big thing something like the Astronef, only it has wings
and, I think, masts; yes, there are three masts and there's something
glittering on the tops of them."

"Revolving helices, I suppose. He's screwing himself up into the air.
That shows that they must either have stronger and lighter machinery
here than we have, or, as the astronomers have thought, this
atmosphere is denser than ours and therefore easier to fly in. Then,
of course, things are only half their earthly weight here. Well, I
suppose we may as well let them come and reconnoitre; then we shall
see what kind of creatures they are. Ah! there are a lot more of them,
some coming from Brooklyn, too, as you call it. Come up into the
wheelhouse and I'll relieve Murgatroyd so that he can go and look
after his engines. We shall have to give these gentlemen a lesson in
flying. Meanwhile, in case of accidents, we may as well make ourselves
as invulnerable as possible."

A few minutes later they were in the little steel conning-tower
forward, watching the approach of the Martian fleet through the thick
windows of toughened glass which enabled them to look in every
direction except straight down. The steel coverings had been drawn
down over the glass dome of the main deck, and Murgatroyd had gone
down to the engine-room, which was connected with the conning-tower by
telephone and electric signal, as well as by speaking tubes. Fifty
feet ahead of them stretched out a long shining spur, the forward end
of the Astronef of which ten feet were solid steel, a ram which no
floating structure built by human hands could have resisted.

Redgrave was at the wheel, standing with his hands on the steering-
wheel, looking more serious than he had done so far during the voyage.
Zaidie stood beside him with a powerful binocular telescope watching,
with cheeks a little paler than usual, the movements of the Martian
air-ships. She counted twenty-five vessels rising round them in a wide
circle.

"I don't like the idea of a whole fleet coming up," said Redgrave, as
he watched them rising, and the ring narrowing round the still
motionless Astronef. "If they only wanted to know who and what we are,
or to leave their cards on us, as it were, and bid us welcome to the
world, one ship could have done that just as well as fifty. This lot
coming up looks as if they wanted to get round and capture us."

"It does look like it!" said Zaidie, with her glasses fixed on the
nearest of the vessels; "and now I can see they've guns, too,
something like ours, and, perhaps, as you said just now, they may have
explosives that we don't know anything about. Oh, dear, suppose they
were able to smash us up with a single shot!"

"You needn't be afraid of that, dear!" said Redgrave, laying his hand
on her shoulder; "but, of course, it's perfectly natural that they
should look upon us with a certain amount of suspicion, dropping like
this on them from the stars. Can you see anything like men on board
them yet?"

"No, they're all closed in," she replied, "just as we are; but they've
got conning-towers like this, and something like windows along the
sides; that's where the guns are, and the guns are moving, they're
pointing them at us. Lenox, I'm afraid they're going to shoot."

"Then we may as well spoil their aim," he said, pressing an electric
button three times, and then once more after a little interval. In
obedience to the signal Murgatroyd turned on the repulsive force to
half power, and the Astronef leapt up vertically a couple of thousand
feet; then Redgrave pressed the button once and stopped. Another
signal set the propellers in motion, and as she sprang forward across
the circle formed by the Martian air-ships, they looked down and saw
that the place which they had just left was occupied by a thick,
greenish-yellow cloud.

"Look, Lenox, what on earth is that?" exclaimed Zaidie, pointing down
to it.

"What on Mars would be nearer the point, dear," he said, with what she
thought a somewhat vicious laugh. "That I'm afraid means anything but
a friendly reception for us. That cloud is one of two things. It's
either made by the explosion of twenty or thirty shells, or else it's
made of gases intended to either poison us or make us insensible, so
that they can take possession of the ship. In either case I should say
that the Martians are not what we should call gentlemen."

"I should think not," she said angrily. "They might at least have
taken us for friends till they had proved us enemies, which they
wouldn't have done. Nice sort of hospitality that, considering how far
we've come, and we can't shoot back because we haven't got the ports
open."

"And a very good thing too!" laughed Redgrave. "If we had had them
open, and that volley had caught us unawares, the Astronef would
probably have been full of poisonous gases by this time, and your
honeymoon, dear, would have come to a somewhat untimely end. Ah,
they're trying to follow us! Well, now we'll see how high they can
fly."

He sent another signal to Murgatroyd, and the Astronef, still beating
the Martian air with the fans of her propellers, and travelling
forward at about fifty miles an hour, rose in a slanting direction
through a dense bank of rosy-tinted clouds, which hung over the bigger
of the two cities--New York, as Zaidie had named it. When they reached
the golden red sunlight above it, the Astronef stopped her ascent, and
with half a turn of the wheel her commander sent her sweeping round in
a wide circle. A few minutes later they saw the Martian fleet rise
almost simultaneously through the clouds. They seemed to hesitate a
moment, and then the prow of every vessel was directed towards the
swiftly moving Astronef.

"Well, gentlemen." said Redgrave, "you evidently don't know anything
about Professor Rennick and his R. Force; and yet you ought to know
that we couldn't have come through space without being able to get
beyond this little atmosphere of yours. Now let us see how fast you
can fly."

Another signal went down to Murgatroyd, and the whirling propellers
became two intersecting circles of light. The speed of the Astronef
increased to a hundred miles an hour, and the Martian fleet began to
drop behind and trail out into a triangle like a flock of huge birds.

"That's lovely; we're leaving them!" exclaimed Zaidie leaning forward
with the glasses to her eyes and tapping the floor of the conning-tower
with her toe as if she wanted to dance, "and their wings are
working faster than ever. They don't seem to have any screws."

"Probably because they've solved the problem of the bird's flight,"
said Redgrave, "They're not gaining on us, are they?"

"No, they're at about the same distance."

"Then we'll see how they can soar."

Another signal went over the wire, the Astronef's propellers slowed
down and stopped, and the vessel began to rise swiftly towards the
Zenith, which the Sun was now approaching. The Martian fleet continued
the impossible chase until the limits of the navigable atmosphere.
about eight earth-miles above the surface, was reached. Here the air
was evidently too rarefied for their wings to act. They came to a
standstill arranged in an irregular circle, their occupants no doubt
looking up with envious eyes upon the shining body of the Astronef
glittering like a tiny star in the sunlight ten thousand feet above
them.

"Now, gentlemen," said Redgrave, "I think we have shown you that we
can fly faster and soar higher than you can. Perhaps you'll be a bit
more civil now. And, if you're not, well, we shall have to teach you
manners."

"But you're not going to fight them all dear, are you? Don't let us be
the first to bring war and bloodshed with us into another world."

"Don't trouble about that, little woman, it's here already," said her
husband. "People don't have air-ships and guns, which fire shells or
whatever they were, without knowing what war is. From what I've seen,
I should say these Martians have civilised themselves out of all the
emotions, and, I daresay, have fought pitilessly for the possession of
the last habitable lands of the planet. They've preyed upon each other
till only the fittest are left, and those, I suppose, were the ones
who invented the air-ships and finally got possession of all that
existed. Of course that would give them the command of the planet,
land, and sea. In fact, if we were able to make the personal
acquaintance of the Martians, we should probably find them a set of
over-civilised savages."

"That's a rather striking paradox, isn't it, dear?" said Zaidie,
slipping her hand through his arm: "but still it's not at all bad. You
mean, of course, that they've civilised themselves out of all the
emotions until they're just a set of cold, calculating, scientific
animals. After all they must be. We should not have done anything like
that on earth if we'd had a visitor from Mars. We shouldn't have got
out cannons, and shot at him before we'd even made his acquaintance.

"Now, if he or they had dropped in America as we were going down
there, we should have received them with deputations, given them
banquets, which they might not have been able to eat, and speeches,
which they would not understand, photographed them, filled the
newspapers with everything that we could imagine about them, put them
in a palace car and hustled them round the country for everybody to
look at."

"And meanwhile," laughed Redgrave, "some of your smart engineers, I
suppose, would have gone over the vessel they had come in, found out
how she was worked, and taken out a dozen patents for her machinery."

"Very likely," replied Zaidie, with a saucy little toss of her chin;
"and why not? We like to learn things down there--and anyhow that
would be better than shooting at them."

While this little conversation was going on, the Astronef was dropping
rapidly into the midst of the Martian fleet, which had again arranged
itself in a circle. Zaidie soon made out through the glasses that the
guns were pointed upwards.

"Oh, that's your little game, is it!" said Redgrave, when she told him
of this. "Well, if you want a fight, you can have it."

As he said this, his jaws came together, and Zaidie saw a look in his
eyes that she had never seen there before. He signalled rapidly two or
three times to Murgatroyd. The propellers began to whirl at their
utmost speed, and the Astronef, making a spiral downward course,
swooped down on to the Martian fleet with terrific velocity. Her last
curve coincided almost exactly with the circle occupied by the fleet.
Half-a-dozen spouts of greenish flame came from the nearest vessel,
and for a moment the Astronef was enveloped in a yellow mist.

"Evidently they don't know that we are air-tight, and they don't use
shot or shell. They've got past that. Their projectiles kill by poison
or suffocation. I daresay a volley like that would kill a regiment.
Now give that fellow a lesson which he won't live to remember."

They swept through the poison mist. Redgrave swung the wheel round.
The Astronef dropped to the level of the ring of Martian vessels which
had now got up speed again. Her steel ram was directed straight at the
vessel which had fired the last shot. Propelled at a speed of more
than a hundred miles an hour, it took the strange-winged craft
amidships. As the shock came, Redgrave put his arm round Zaidie's
waist and held her close to him, otherwise she would have been flung
against the forward wall of the conning-tower.

The Martian vessel stopped and bent up. They saw human figures, more
than half as large again as men, inside her, staring at them through
the windows in the sides. There were others at the breeches of the
guns in the act of turning the muzzles on the Astronef; but this was
only a momentary glimpse, for in a second or two after the Astronef's
spur had pierced her, the Martian air-ship broke in twain, and her two
halves plunged downwards through the rosy clouds.

"Keep her at full speed, Andrew," said Redgrave down the speaking-
tube, "and stand by to jump if we want to."

"Ready, my lord!" came back up the tube.

The old Yorkshireman during the last few minutes had undergone a
transformation which he himself hardly understood. He recognised that
there was a fight going on, that it was a case of "burn, sink and
destroy," and the thousand-year-old savage awoke in him just, as a
matter of fact, it had done in his lordship.

"Well, they can pick up the pieces down there," said Redgrave, still
holding Zaidie tight to his side with one hand and working the wheel
with the other. "Now we'll teach them another lesson."

"What are you going to do, dear?" she said, looking up at him with
somewhat frightened eyes.

"You'll see in a moment," he said, between his shut teeth. "I don't
care whether these Martians are degenerate human beings or only
animals; but from my point of view the reception that they have given
us justifies any kind of retaliation. If we'd had a single port hole
open during the first volley you and I would have been dead by this
time, and I'm not going to stand anything like that without reprisals.
They've declared war on us, and killing in war isn't murder."

"Well, no, I suppose not," she said; "but it's the first fight I've
been in, and I don't like it. Still, they did receive us pretty
meanly, didn't they?"

"Meanly? If there was anything like a code of interplanetary morals,
one might call it absolutely caddish."

He sent another message to Murgatroyd. The Astronef sprang a thousand
feet towards the zenith; another signal, and she stopped exactly over
the biggest of the Martian air-ships; another, and she dropped on to
it like a stone and smashed it to fragments. Then she stopped and
mounted again above the broken circle of the fleet, while the pieces
of the air-ship and what was left of her crew plunged downwards
through the crimson clouds in a fall of nearly thirty thousand feet.

Within the next few moments the rest of the Martian fleet had followed
it, sinking rapidly down through the clouds and scattering in all
directions. "They seem to have had enough of it," laughed Redgrave, as
the Astronef, in obedience to another signal, began to drop towards
the surface of Mars. "Now we'll go down and see if they're in a more
reasonable frame of mind. At any rate we've won our first scrimmage,
dear."

"But it was rather brutal, Lenox, wasn't it?"

"When you are dealing with brutes, Zaidie, it is sometimes necessary
to be brutal."

"And you look a wee bit brutal now," she replied, looking up at him
with something like a look of fear in her eyes. "I suppose that is
because you have just killed somebody--or some things--whichever they
are."

"Do I, really?"

The hard-set jaw relaxed and his lips melted into a smile under his
moustache, and he bent down and kissed her. And then he said:

"Well, what do you suppose I should have thought of them if you had
had a whiff of that poison?"

"Yes, dear," she said; "I see now."

When the Astronef dropped through the clouds, they saw that the fleet
had not only scattered, but was apparently getting as far out of reach
as possible. One vessel had dropped into the principal square in the
centre of the city which her ladyship had called New York.

"That fellow has gone to report, evidently," said Redgrave. "We'll
follow him, but I don't think we'd better open the ports even then.
There's no telling when they might give us a whiff of that poison-
mist, or whatever it is."

"But how are you going to talk to them, then, if they can talk?--I
mean, if they know any language that we do?"

"They're something like men, and so I suppose they understand the
language of signs, at any rate. Still, if you don't fancy it, we'll go
somewhere else."

"No thanks," she said. "That's not my father's daughter. I haven't
come a hundred million miles from home to go away before the first
act's finished. We'll go down to see if we can make them understand."

By this time the Astronef was hanging suspended over an enormous
square about half the size of Hyde Park. It was laid out just as a
terrestrial park would be in grassland, flower beds, and avenues, and
patches of trees, only the grass was a reddish yellow, the leaves of
the trees were like those of a beech in autumn, and the flowers were
nearly all a deep violet, or a bright emerald green.

As they descended they saw that the square, or Central Park, as her
ladyship at once christened it, was flanked by enormous blocks of
buildings, palaces built of a dazzlingly white stone, and topped by
domed roofs, and lofty cupolas of glass.

"Isn't that just lovely!" she said, swinging her binoculars in every
direction. "Talk about Fifth Avenue and the houses in Central Park;
why, it's the Chicago Exposition, and the Paris one, and your Crystal
Palace, multiplied by about ten thousand, and all spread out just
round this one place. If we don't find these people nice, I guess we'd
better go back and build a fleet like this, and come and take it."

"There spoke the new American imperialism," laughed Redgrave. "Well,
we'll go and see what they're like first, shall we?"

The Astronef dropped a little more slowly than the air-ship had done,
and remained suspended a hundred feet or so above her after she had
reached the ground. Swarms of human figures, but of more than human
statures clad in tunics and trousers or knickerbockers, came out of
the glass-domed palaces from all sides into the park. They were nearly
all of the same stature and there appeared to be no difference
whatever between the sexes. Their dress was absolutely plain; there
was no attempt at ornament or decoration of any kind.

"If there are any of the Martian women among those people," said her
ladyship, "they've taken to rationals and they've grown about as big
as the men. And look; there's someone who seems to want to communicate
with us. Why, they're all bald! They haven't got a hair among them--
and what a size their heads are!"

"That's brains--too much brains, I expect! Those people have lived too
long. I expect they've ceased to be animals--civilised themselves out
of everything in the way of passions and emotions, and are just purely
intellectual beings, with as much human nature about them as a limited
company has."

The orderly swarms of figures, which were rapidly filling the park,
divided as he was speaking, making a broad lane from one of its
entrances to where the Astronef was hanging above the air-ship. A
light four-wheeled vehicle, whose framework and wheels glittered like
burnished gold, sped towards them, driven by some invisible agency.
Its only occupant was a huge man, dressed in the universal costume,
saving only a scarlet sash in place of the cord-girdle which the
others wore round their waists. The vehicle stopped near the air-ship,
over which the Astronef was hanging, and, as the figure dismounted, a
door opened in the side of the vessel and three other figures, similar
both in stature and attire, came out and entered into conversation
with him.

"The Admiral of the Fleet is evidently making his report," said
Redgrave. "Meanwhile, the crowd seems to be taking a considerable
amount of interest in us."

"And very naturally, too!" replied Zaidie. "Don't you think we might
go down now and see if we can make ourselves understood in any way?
You can have the guns ready in case of accidents, but I don't think
they'll try and hurt us now. Look, the gentleman with the red sash is
making signs."

"I think we can go down now all right," replied Redgrave, "because
it's quite certain they can't use the poison guns on us without
killing themselves as well. Still, we may as well have our own ready.
Andrew, load up and get that port Maxim ready. I hope we shan't want
it, but we may. I don't quite like the look of these people."

"They're very ugly, aren't they?" said Zaidie; "and really you can't
tell which are men and which are women. I suppose they've civilised
themselves out of everything that's nice, and are just scientific and
utilitarian and everything that's horrid."

"I shouldn't wonder. They look to me as if they've just got common
sense as we call it, and hadn't any other sense; but, at any rate, if
they don't behave themselves, we shall be able to teach them manners
of a sort, though I dare say we've done that to some extent already."

As he said this Redgrave went into the conning-tower, and the Astronef
moved from above the air-ship, and dropped gently into the crimson
grass about a hundred feet from her. Then the ports were opened, the
guns, which Murgatroyd had loaded, were swung into position, and they
armed themselves with a brace of revolvers each, in case of accident.

"What delicious air this is!" said her ladyship, as the ports were
opened, and she took her first breath of the Martian atmosphere. "It's
ever so much nicer than ours; it's just like breathing champagne."

Redgrave looked at her with an admiration which was tempered by a
sudden apprehension. Even in his eyes she had never seemed so lovely
before. Her cheeks were glowing and her eyes were gleaming with a
brightness that was almost feverish, and he was himself sensible of a
strange feeling of exultation, both mental and physical, as his lungs
filled with the Martian air.

"Oxygen," he said shortly, "and too much of it! Or, I shouldn't wonder
if it was something like nitrous-oxide--you know, laughing gas."

"Don't!" she laughed, "it may be very nice to breathe, but it reminds
one of other things which aren't a bit nice. Still, if it is anything
of that sort it might account for these people having lived so fast. I
know I feel just now as if I were living at the rate of thirty-six
hours a day and so, I suppose, the fewer hours we stop here the
better."

"Exactly!' said Redgrave, with another glance of apprehension at her.
Now, there's his Royal Highness, or whatever he is, coming. How are we
going to talk to him? Are you all ready, Andrew?"

"Yes, my lord, all ready," replied the old Yorkshireman, dropping his
huge, hairy hand on the breech of the Maxim.

"Very well, then, shoot the moment you see them doing anything
suspicious, and don't let anyone except his Royal Highness come nearer
than a hundred yards."

As he said this, Redgrave, revolver in hand, went to the door, from
which the gangway steps had been lowered, and, in reply to a
singularly expressive gesture from the huge Martian, who seemed to
stand nearly nine feet high, he beckoned to him to come up on to the
deck.

As he mounted the steps the crowd closed round the Astronef and the
Martian air-ship; but, as though in obedience to orders which had
already been given, they kept at a respectful distance of a little
over a hundred yards away from the strange vessel, which had wrought
such havoc with their fleet. When the Martian reached the deck
Redgrave held out his hand and the giant recoiled, as a man on earth
might have done if, instead of the open palm, he had seen a clenched
hand gripping a knife.

"Take care, Lenox," exclaimed Zaidie, taking a couple of steps towards
him, with her right hand on the butt of one of her revolvers. The
movement brought her close to the open door, and in full view of the
crowd outside.

If a seraph had come on earth and presented itself thus before a
throng of human beings, there might have happened some such miracle as
was wrought when the swarm of Martians beheld the strange beauty of
this radiant daughter of the earth. As it seemed to them, when they
discussed it afterwards, ages of purely mechanical and utilitarian
civilisation had brought all conditions of Martian life up--or down--
to the same level. There was no apparent difference between the males
and females in stature; their faces were all the same, with features
of mathematical regularity, pale skin, bloodless cheeks, and all
expression, if such it could be called, utterly devoid of emotion.

But still these creatures were human, or at least their forefathers
had been. Hearts beat in their breasts, blood flowed through their
veins, and so the magic of this marvellous vision instantly awoke the
long-slumbering elementary instincts of a bye-gone age. A low murmur
ran through the vast throng, a murmur, half-human, half-brutish, which
swiftly rose to a hoarse, screaming roar.

"Look out, my lord! Quick! Shut the door, they're coming! It's her
ladyship they want; she must look like an angel from Heaven to them.
Shall I fire?"

"Yes," said Redgrave, gripping the lever, and bringing the door down.
"Zaidie, if this fellow moves, put a bullet through him. I'm going to
talk to that air-ship before he gets his poison guns to work."

As the last word left his lips, Murgatroyd put his thumb on the spring
on the Maxim. A roar such as Martian ears had never heard before
resounded through the vast square, and was flung back with a thousand
echoes from the walls of the huge palaces on every side. A stream of
smoke and flame poured out of the little port-hole, and then the
onward-swarming throng seemed to stop, and the front ranks of it began
to sink down silently in long rows.

Then through the roaring rattle of the Maxim, sounded the deep, sharp
bang of Redgrave's gun, as he sent twenty pounds' weight of an
explosive, invented by Zaidie's father, which was nearly four times as
powerful as Lyddite, into the Martian air-ship. Then came an
explosion, which shook the air for miles around. A blaze of greenish
flame, and a huge cloud of steamy smoke, showed that the projectile
had done its work, and, when the smoke drifted away, the spot on which
the air-ship had lain was only a deep, red, jagged gash in the ground.
There was not even a fragment of the ship to be seen.

Then Redgrave left the gun and turned the starboard Maxim on to
another swarm which was approaching the Astronef from that side. When
he had got the range, he swung the gun slowly from side to side. The
moving throng stopped, as the other one had done, and sank down to the
red grass, now dyed with a deeper red.

Meanwhile, Zaidie had been holding the Martian at something more than
arm's length with her revolver. He seemed to understand perfectly that
if she pulled the trigger, the revolver would do something like what
the Maxims had done. He appeared to take no notice whatever either of
the destruction of the air-ship or of the slaughter that was going on
around the Astronef. His big pale blue eyes were fixed upon her face.
They seemed to be devouring a loveliness such as they had never seen
before. A dim, pinky flush stole for the first time into his sallow
cheeks, and something like a light of human passion came into his
eyes.

Then he spoke. The words were slowly uttered, passionless, and very
distinct. As words they were unintelligible but there was no mistaking
their meaning or that of the gestures which accompanied them. He bent
forward, towering over her with outstretched arms, huge, hideous, and
half human.

Zaidie took a step backwards and, just as Redgrave whipped out one of
his revolvers, she pulled the trigger of hers. The bullet cut a clean
hole through the smooth, hairless skull of the Martian, and he dropped
to the deck without a sound other than what was made by his falling
body.

"That's the first man I've ever killed," she faltered, as her hand
fell to her side, and the revolver dropped from it. "Still, do you
think it really was a man?"

"That a man!" said Redgrave through his clenched teeth. "Not much!
Here, Andrew, open that door again and help me to heave this thing
overboard, and then we'd better be off or we shall be having the rest
of the fleet with their poison guns around us. Hurry up! Zaidie, I
think you'd better go below for the present, little woman, and keep
the door of your room tight shut. There's no telling what these
animals may do if they get a chance at us."

Although she would rather have remained on deck to see what was to
happen, she saw that he was in earnest, and so she at once obeyed.

The dead body of the Martian was tumbled out, Murgatroyd closed all
the air-tight doors of the upper deck chamber, while Redgrave set the
engines in motion and, with hardly a moment's delay, the Astronef
sprang up into the crimson sky from her first and last battle-field in
the well-named world of the War God.



THE END




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