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Title: A Honeymoon In Space
Author: George Griffith
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Language: English
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A Honeymoon In Space
George Griffith



PROLOGUE

ABOUT eight o'clock on the morning of the 5th of November, 1900, those
of the passengers and crew of the American liner St. Louis who
happened, whether from causes of duty or of their own pleasure, to be
on deck, had a very strange--in fact a quite unprecedented experience.

The big ship was ploughing her way through the long, smooth rollers at
her average twenty-one knots towards the rising sun, when the officer
in charge of the navigating bridge happened to turn his glasses
straight ahead. He took them down from his eyes, rubbed the two
object-glasses with the cuff of his coat, and looked again. The sun
was shining through a haze which so far dimmed the solar disc that it
was possible to look straight at it without inconvenience to the eyes.

The officer took another long squint, put his glasses down, rubbed his
eyes and took another, and murmured, "Well I'm damned!"

Just then the Fourth Officer came up on to the bridge to relieve his
senior while he went down for a cup of coffee and a biscuit. The
Second took him away to the other end of the bridge, out of hearing of
the helmsman and the quartermaster standing by, and said almost in a
whisper:

"Say, Norton, there's something ahead there that I can't make out.
Just as the sun got clear above the horizon I saw a black spot go
straight across it, right through the upper and lower limbs. "I looked
again, and it was plumb in the middle of the disc. "Look, he went on,
speaking louder in his growing excitement, there it is again! I can
see it without the glasses now. See?"

The Fourth did not reply at once. He had the glasses close to his
eyes, and was moving them slowly about as though he were following
some shifting object in the sky. Then he handed them back, and said:

"If I didn't believe the thing was impossible I should say that's an
air-ship; but, for the present, I guess I'd rather wait till it gets a
bit nearer, if it's coming. Still, there is something. Seems to be
getting bigger pretty fast, too. Perhaps it would be as well to notify
the old man. What do you think?"

"Guess we'd better," said the Second. "S'pose you go down. Don't say
anything except to him. We don't want any more excitement among the
people than we can help."

The Fourth nodded and went down the steps, and the Second began
walking up and down the bridge, every now and then taking another
squint ahead. Again and again the mysterious shape crossed the disc of
the sun, always vertically as though, whatever it might be, it was
steering a direct course from the sun to the ship, its apparent rising
and falling being due really to the dipping of her bows into the
swells.

"Well, Mr. Charteris, what's the trouble?" said the Skipper as he
reached the bridge. "Nothing wrong, I hope? Have you sighted a
derelict, or what? Ay, what in hell's that!"

His hands went up to his eyes and he stared for a few moments at the
pale yellow oblate shape of the sun.

At this moment the St. Louis' head dipped again, and the Captain saw
something like a black line swiftly drawn across the sun from bottom
to top.

"That's what I wanted to call your attention to, sir," said the Second
in a low tone. "I first noticed it crossing the sun as it rose through
the mist. I thought it was a spot of dirt on my glasses, but it has
crossed the sun several times since then, and for some minutes seemed
to remain dead in the middle of it. Later on it got quite a lot
larger, and whatever it is it's approaching us pretty rapidly. You see
it's quite plain to the naked eye now."

By this time several of the crew and of the early loungers on deck had
also caught sight of the strange thing which seemed to be hanging and
swinging between the sky and the sea. People dived below for their
glasses, knocked at their friends' state-room doors and told them to
get up because something was flying towards the ship through the air;
and in a very few minutes there were hundreds of passengers on deck in
all varieties of early morning costume, and scores of glasses, held to
anxious eyes, were being directed ahead.

The glasses, however, soon became unnecessary, for the passengers had
scarcely got up on deck before the mysterious object to the eastward
at length took definite shape, and as it did so mouths were opened as
well as eyes, for the owners of the eyes and mouths beheld just then
the strangest sight that travellers by sea or land had ever seen.

Within the distance of about a mile it swung round at right angles to
the steamer's course with a rapidity which plainly showed that it was
entirely obedient to the control of a guiding intelligence, and
hundreds of eager eyes on board the liner saw, sweeping down from the
grey-blue of the early morning sky, a vessel whose hull seemed to be
constructed of some metal which shone with a pale, steely lustre.

It was pointed at both ends, the forward end being shaped something
like a spur or ram. At the after end were two flickering, interlacing
circles of a glittering greenish-yellow colour, apparently formed by
two intersecting propellers driven at an enormous velocity. Behind
these was a vertical fan of triangular shape. The craft appeared to be
flat-bottomed, and for about a third of her length amidships the upper
half of her hull was covered with a curving, dome-like roof of glass.

"She's an air-ship of some sort, there's no doubt about that," said
the Captain, "so I guess the great problem has got solved at last. And
yet it ain't a balloon, because it's coming against the wind, and it's
nothing of the aeroplane sort neither, because it hasn't planes or
kites or any fixings of that kind. Still it's made of something like
metal and glass, and it must take a lot of keeping up. It's travelling
at a pretty healthy speed too. Getting on for a hundred miles an hour,
I should guess. Ah! he's going to speak us! Hope he's honest."

Everybody on board the St. Louis was up on deck by this time, and the
excitement rose to fever-heat as the strange vessel swept down towards
them from the middle sky, passed them like a flash of light, swung
round the stern, and ranged up alongside to starboard some twenty feet
from the bridge rail.

She was about a hundred and twenty feet long, with some twenty feet of
depth and thirty of beam, and the Captain and many of his officers and
passengers were very much relieved to find that, as far as could be
seen, she carried no weapons of offence.

As she ranged up alongside, a sliding door opened in the glass-domed
roof amidships, just opposite to the end of the St. Louis' bridge. A
tall, fair-haired, clean-featured man, of about thirty, in grey
flannels, tipped up his golf cap with his thumb, and said:

"Good morning, Captain! You remember me, I suppose? Had a fine
passage, so far? I thought I should meet you somewhere about here."

The Captain of the St. Louis, in common with every one else on board,
had already had his credulity stretched about as far as it would go,
and he was beginning to wonder whether he was really awake; but when
he heard the hail and recognised the speaker he stared at him in blank
and, for the moment, speechless bewilderment. Then he got hold of his
voice again and said, keeping as steady as he could:

"Good morning, my lord! Guess I never expected to meet even you like
this in the middle of the Atlantic! So the newspaper men were right
for once in a way, and you have got an air-ship that will fly?"

"And a good deal more than that, Captain, if she wants to. I am just
taking a trial trip across the Atlantic before I start on a run round
the Solar System. Sounds like a lie, doesn't it? But it's coming off.
Oh, good morning, Miss Rennick! Captain, may I come on board?"

"By all means, my lord, only I'm afraid I daren't stop Uncle Sam's
mails, even for you."

"There's no need for that, Captain, on a smooth sea like this," was
the reply. "Just keep on as you are going and I'll come alongside."

He put his head inside the door and called something up a speaking-
tube which led to a glass walled chamber in the forward part of the
roof, where a motionless figure stood before a little steering-wheel.

The craft immediately began to edge nearer and nearer to the liner's
rail, keeping speed so exactly with her that the threshold of the door
touched the end of the bridge without a perceptible jar. Then the
flannel-clad figure jumped on to the bridge and held out his hand to
the Captain.

As they shook hands he said in a low tone, "I want a word or two in
private with you, as soon as possible."

The commander saw a very serious meaning in his eyes. Besides, even if
he had not made his appearance under such extraordinary circumstances,
it was quite impossible that one of his social position and his wealth
and influence could have made such a request without good reason for
it, so he replied:

"Certainly, my lord. Will you come down to my room?"

Hundreds of anxious, curious eyes looked upon the tall athletic figure
and the regular-featured, bronzed, honest English face as Rollo Lenox
Smeaton Aubrey, Earl of Redgrave, Baron Smeaton in the Peerage of
England, and Viscount Aubrey in the Peerage of Ireland, followed the
Captain to his room through the parting crowd of passengers. He nodded
to one or two familiar faces in the crowd, for he was an old Atlantic
ferryman, and had crossed five times with Captain Hawkins in the St.
Louis.

Then he caught sight of a well and fondly remembered face which he had
not seen for over two years. It was a face which possessed at once the
fair Anglo-Saxon skin, the firm and yet delicate Anglo-Saxon features,
and the wavy wealth of the old Saxon gold-brown hair; but a pair of
big, soft, pansy eyes, fringed with long, curling, black lashes,
looked out from under dark and perhaps just a trifle heavy eye-brows.
Moreover, there was that indescribable expression in the curve of her
lips and the pose of her head; to say nothing of a lissome, vivacious
grace in her whole carriage which proclaimed her a daughter of the
younger branch of the Race that Rules.

Their eyes met for an instant, and Lord Redgrave as startled and even
a trifle angered to see that she flushed up quickly, and that the
momentary smile with which she greeted him died away as she turned her
head aside. Still, he was a man accustomed to do what he wanted and
what he wanted to do just then was to shake hands with Lilla Zaidie
Rennick, and so he went straight towards her, raised his cap, and held
out his hand saying, first with a glance into her eyes, and then with
one upward at the Astronef:

"Good morning again, Miss Rennick! You see it is done."

"Good morning, Lord Redgrave!" she replied, he thought, a little
awkwardly. "Yes, I see you have kept your promise. What a pity it is
too late! But I hope you will be able to stop long enough to tell us
all about it. This is Mrs. Van Stuyler, who has taken me under her
protection on my journey to Europe."

His lordship returned the bow of a tall, somewhat hard-featured matron
who looked dignified even in the somewhat nondescript costume which
most of the ladies were wearing. But her eyes were kindly, and he
said:

"Very pleased to meet, Mrs. Van Stuyler. I heard you were coming, and
I was in hopes of catching you on the other side before you left. And
now, if you will excuse me, I must go and have a chat with the
Skipper. He raised his cap again and presently vanished from the
curious eyes of the excited crowd, through the door of the Captain's
apartment."

Captain Hawkins closed the door of his sitting-room as he entered, and
said:

"Now, my lord, I'm not going to ask you any questions to begin with,
because if I once began I should never stop; and besides, perhaps
you'd like to have your own say right away."

"Perhaps that will be the shortest way," said his lordship. "The fact
is, we've not only the remains of this Boer business on our hands, but
we've had what is practically a declaration of war from France and
Russia. Briefly it's this way. A few weeks ago, while the Allies
thought they were fighting the Boxers, it came to the knowledge of my
brother, the Foreign Secretary, that the Tsung-Li-Yamen had concluded
a secret treaty with Russia which practically annulled all our rights
over the Yang-tse Valley, and gave Russia the right to bring her
Northern Railway right down through China.

"As you know, we've stood a lot too much in that part of the world
already, but we couldn't stand this; so about ten days ago an
ultimatum was sent declaring that the British government would
consider any encroachment on the Yang-tse Valley as an unfriendly act.

"Meanwhile France chipped in with a notification that she was going to
occupy Morocco as a compensation for Fashoda, and added a few nasty
things about Egypt and other places. Of course we couldn't stand that
either, so there was another ultimatum, and the upshot of it all was
that I got a wire late last night from my brother telling me that war
would almost certainly be declared to-day, and asking me for the use
of this craft of mine as a sort of dispatch-boat if she was ready.
She is intended for something very much better than fighting purposes,
so he couldn't ask me to use her as a war-ship; besides, I am under a
solemn obligation to her inventor--her creator, in fact, for I've only
built her--to blow her to pieces rather than allow her to be used as a
fighting machine except, of course, in sheer personal self-defence.

"There is the telegram from my brother, so you can see there's no
mistake, and just after it came a messenger asking me, if the machine
was a success, to bring this with me across the Atlantic as fast as I
could come. It is the duplicate of an offensive and defensive alliance
between Great Britain and the United States, of which the details had
been arranged just as this complication arose. Another is coming
across by a fast cruiser, and, of course, the news will have got to
Washington by cable by this time.

"By the time you get to the entrance of the Channel you will probably
find it swarming with French cruisers and torpedo-destroyers, so if
you'll be advised by me, you'll leave Queenstown out and get as far
north as possible.

"Lord Redgrave," said the Captain, putting out his hand, "I'm
responsible for a good bit right here, and I don't know how to thank
you enough. I guess that treaty's been given away back to France by
some of our Irish statesmen by now, and it'd be mighty unhealthy for
the St. Louis to fall in with a French or Russian cruiser--"

"That's all right, Captain," said Lord Redgrave, taking his hand. "I
should have warned any other British or American ship. At the same
time, I must confess that my motives in warning you were not entirely
unselfish. The fact is, there's some one on board the St. Louis whom I
should decidedly object to see taken off to France as a prisoner of
war."

"And may I ask who that is?" said Captain Hawkins.

"Why not?" replied his lordship. "It's the young lady I spoke to on
deck just now, Miss Rennick. Her father was the inventor of that craft
of mine. No one would believe his theories. He was refused patents
both in England and America the ground of lack of practical utility. I
met him about two years ago, that is to say rather more than a year
before his death, when I was stopping at Banff up in the Canadian
Rockies. We made a travellers' acquaintance, and he told me about this
idea of his. I was very much interested, but I'm afraid I must confess
that I might not have taken it practically if the Professor hadn't
happened to possess an exceedingly beautiful daughter. However, of
course I'm pretty glad now that I did do though the experiments cost
nearly five thousand pounds and the craft herself close on a quarter
of a million. Still, she is worth every penny of it, and I was
bringing her over to offer to Miss Rennick as a wedding present, that
is to say if she'd have it--and me."

Captain Hawkins looked up and said rather seriously:

"Then, my lord, I presume you don't know--"

"Don't know what?"

"That Miss Rennick is crossing in the care of Mrs. Van Stuyler, to be
married in London next month."

"The devil she is! And to whom, may I ask?" exclaimed his lordship,
pulling himself up very straight.

"To the Marquis of Byfleet, son of the Duke of Duncaster. I wonder you
didn't hear of it. The match was arranged last fall. From what people
say she's not very desperately in love with him, but--well, I fancy
it's like rather too many of these Anglo-American matches. A couple of
million dollars on one side, a title on the other, and mighty little
real love between them."

"But," said Redgrave between his teeth, "I didn't understand that Miss
Rennick ever had a fortune; in fact I'm quite certain that if her
father had been a rich man he'd have worked out his invention
himself."

"Oh, the dollars aren't his. In fact they won't be hers till she
marries," replied the Captain. "They belong to her uncle, old Russell
Rennick. He got in on the ground floor of the New York and Chicago ice
trusts, and made millions. He's going to spend some of them on making
his niece a Marchioness. That's about all there is to it."

"Oh, indeed!" said Redgrave, still between his teeth. "Well,
considering that Byfleet is about as big a wastrel as ever disgraced
the English aristocracy, I don't think either Miss Rennick or her
uncle will make a very good bargain. However, of course that's no
affair of mine now. I remember that this Russell Rennick refused to
finance his brother when he really wanted the money. He made a
particularly bad bargain, too, then, though he didn't know it; for a
dozen crafts like that, properly armed, would imply smash up the
navies of the world, and make sea-power a private trust. After all,
I'm not particularly sorry, because then it wouldn't have belonged to
me. Well now, Captain, I'm going to ask you to give me a bit of
breakfast when it's ready, then I must be off. I want to be in
Washington to-night."

"To-night! What, twenty-one hundred miles!"

"Why not?" said Redgrave; "I can do about a hundred and fifty an hour
through the atmosphere, and then, you see, if that isn't fast enough I
can rise outside the earth's attraction, let it spin round, and then
come down where I want to."

"Great Scott!" remarked Captain Hawkins inadequately, but with
emphasis. "Well, my lord, I guess we'll go down to breakfast."

But breakfast was not quite ready, and so Lord Redgrave rejoined Miss
Rennick and her chaperon on deck. All eyes and a good many glasses
were still turned on the Astronef, which had now moved a few feet away
from the liner's side, and was running along, exactly keeping pace
with her.

"It's so wonderful, that even seeing doesn't seem believing," said the
girl, when they had renewed their acquaintance of two years before.

"Well," he replied, "it would be very easy to convince you. She shall
come alongside again, and if you and Mrs. Van Stuyler will honour her
by your presence for half an hour while breakfast is getting ready, I
think I shall be able to convince you that she is not the airy fabric
of a vision, but simply the realisation in metal and glass and other
things of visions which your father saw some years ago."

There was no resisting an invitation put in such a way. Besides, the
prospect of becoming the wonder and envy of every other woman on board
was altogether too dazzling for words.

Mrs. Van Stuyler looked a little aghast at the idea at first, but she
too had something of the same feeling as Zaidie, and besides, there
could hardly be any impropriety in accepting the invitation of one of
the wealthiest and most distinguished noblemen in the British Peerage.
So, after a little demur and a slight manifestation of nervousness,
she consented.

Redgrave signalled to the man at the steering-wheel. The Astronef
slackened pace a little, dropped a yard or so, and slid up quite close
to the bridge rail again. Lord Redgrave got in first and ran a light
gangway down on to the bridge. Zaidie and Mrs. Van Stuyler were
carefully handed up. The next moment the gangway was drawn up again,
the sliding glass doors clashed to, the Astronef leapt a couple of
thousand feet into the air, swept round to the westward in a
magnificent curve, and vanished into the gloom of the upper mists.



Chapter I

THE situation was one which was absolutely without parallel in all the
history of courtship from the days of Mother Eve to those of Miss
Lilla Zaidie Rennick. The nearest approach to it would have been the
old-fashioned Tartar custom which made it lawful for a man to steal
his best girl, if he could get her first, fling her across his horse's
crupper and ride away with her to his tent.

But to the shocked senses of Mrs. Van Stuyler the present adventure
appeared a great deal more terrible than that. Both Zaidie and herself
had sprung to their feet as soon as the upward rush of the Astronef
had slackened and they were released from their seats. They looked
down through the glass walls of what may be called the hurricane deck-
chamber of the Astronef, and saw below them a snowy sea of clouds just
crimsoned by the rising sun.

In this cloud-sea, which spread like a wide-meshed veil between them
and the earth, there were great irregular rifts which looked as big as
continents on a map. These had a blue-grey background, or it might be
more correct to say under-ground, and in the midst of one of these
they saw a little black speck which after a moment or two took the
shape of a little toy ship, and presently they recognised it as the
eleven-thousand-ton liner which a few moments ago had been their ocean
home.

Mrs. Van Stuyler was shaking in every muscle, afflicted by a sort of
St. Vitus' dance induced by physical fear and outraged propriety.
Quite apart from these, however, she experienced a third sensation
which made for a nameless inquietude. She was a woman of the world,
well versed in most of its ways, and she fully recognised that that
single bound from the bridge rail of the St. Louis to the other side
of the clouds had already carried her and her charge beyond the pale
of human law.

The same thought, mingled with other feelings, half of wonder and half
of re-awakened tenderness, was just then uppermost in Miss Zaidie's
mind. It was quite obvious that the man who could create and control
such a marvellous vehicle as this could, morally as well as
physically, lift himself beyond the reach of the conventions which
civilised society had instituted for its own protection and
government.

He could do with them exactly as he pleased. They were utterly at his
mercy. He might carry them away to some unexplored spot on one of the
continents, or to some unknown island in the midst of the wide
Pacific. He might even transport them into the midst of the awful
solitudes which surround the Poles. He could give them the choice
between doing as he wished, submitting unconditionally to his will, or
committing suicide by starvation.

They had not even the option of jumping out, for they did not know how
to open the sliding doors; and even if they had done, what feminine
nerves could have faced a leap into that awful gulf which lay below
them, a two-thousand-foot dive through the clouds into the waters of
the wintry Atlantic?

They looked at each other in speechless, dazed amazement. Far away
below them on the other side of the clouds the St. Louis was steaming
eastward, and with her were going the last hopes of the coronet which
was to be the matrimonial equivalent of Miss Zaidie's beauty and
Russell Rennick's millions.

They were no longer of the world. Its laws could no longer protect
them. Anything might happen, and that anything depended absolutely on
the will of the lord and master of the extraordinary vessel which, for
the present, was their only world.

"My dearest Zaidie!" Mrs. Van Stuyler gasped, when she at length
recovered the power of articulate speech, "what an entirely too awful
thing this is! Why, it's abduction and nothing less. Indeed it's
worse, for he's taken us clean off the earth, and there's no more
chance of rescue than if he took us to one of those planets he said he
could go to. If I didn't feel a great responsibility for you, dear, I
believe I should faint."

By this time Miss Zaidie had recovered a good deal of her usual
composure. The excitement of the upward rush, and what was left of the
momentary physical fear, had flushed her cheeks and lighted her eyes.
Even Mrs. Van Stuyler thought her looking, if possible, more beautiful
than she had done under the most favourable of terrestrial
circumstances. There was a something else too, which she didn't
altogether like to see, a sort of resignation to her fate which, in a
young lady situated as she was then, Mrs. Van Stuyler considered to be
distinctly improper.

"It is rather startling, isn't it?" she said, with hardly a trace of
emotion in her voice; "But I have no doubt that everything will be all
right in the end."

"Everything all right, my dear Zaidie! What on earth, or I might say
under Heaven, do you mean?"

"I mean," replied Zaidie even more composedly than before, and also
with a little tightening of her lips, "that Lord Redgrave is the owner
of this vessel, and that therefore it is quite impossible that
anything out of the way could happen to us--I mean anything more out
of the way than this wonderful jump from the sea to the sky has been,
unless, of course, Lord Redgrave is going to take us for a voyage
among the stars."

"Zaidie Rennick!" said Mrs. Van Stuyler, bridling up into her most
frigid dignity, "I am more than surprised to hear you talk in such a
strain. Perfectly safe, indeed! Has it not struck you that we are
absolutely at this man's--this Lord Redgrave's, mercy, that he can
take us where he likes, and treat us just as he pleases?"

"My dear Mrs. Van," replied Zaidie, dropping back into her familiar
form of address, but speaking even more frigidly than her chaperon had
done, "you seem to forget that, however extraordinary our situation
may be just now, we are in the care of an English gentleman. Lord
Redgrave was a friend of my father's, the only man who believed in his
ideals, the only man who realised them, the only man--"

"That you were ever in love with, eh?" said Mrs. Van Stuyler with a
snap in her voice. "Is that so? Ah, I begin to see something now."

"And I think, if you possess your soul in patience, you will see
something more before long," snapped Miss Zaidie in reply. Then she
stopped abruptly and the flush on her cheek deepened, for at that
moment Lord Redgrave came up the companion way from the lower deck
carrying a big silver tray with a coffee pot, three cups and saucers,
a rack of toast, and a couple of plates of bread and butter and cake.

Just then a sort of social miracle happened. The fact was that Mrs.
Van Stuyler had never before had her early coffee brought to her by a
peer of the British Realm. She thought it a little humiliating
afterwards, but for the moment all sorts of conventional barriers
seemed to melt away. After all she was a woman, and some years ago she
had been a young one. Lord Redgrave was an almost perfect specimen of
English manhood in its early prime. He was one of the richest peers in
England, and he was bringing her her coffee. As she said afterwards,
she wilted, and she couldn't help it.

"I'm afraid I have kept you waiting a long time for your coffee,
ladies," said Redgrave, as he balanced the tray on one hand and drew a
wicker table towards them with the other. "You see there are only two
of us on board this craft, and as my engineer is navigating the ship,
I have to attend to the domestic arrangements."

Mrs. Van Stuyler looked at him in the silence of mental paralysis.
Miss Zaidie frowned, smiled, and then began to laugh.

"Well, of all the cold-blooded English ways of putting things--" she
began.

"I beg your pardon?" said Lord Redgrave as he put the tray down on the
table.

"What Miss Rennick means, Lord Redgrave," interrupted Mrs. Van
Stuyler, struggling out of her paralytic condition, "and what I, too,
should like to say, is that under the circumstances--"

"You think that I am not as penitent as I ought to be. Is that so?"
said Redgrave, with a glance and a smile mostly directed towards Miss
Zaidie.

"Well, to tell you the truth," he went on, "I am not a bit penitent.
On the contrary, I am very glad to have been able to assist the Fates
as far as I have done."

"Assist the Fates!" gasped Mrs. Van Stuyler, helping herself shakingly
to sugar, while Miss Zaidie folded a gossamer slice of bread and
butter and began to eat it; "I think, Lord Redgrave, that if you knew
all the circumstances, you would say that you were working against
them."

"My dear Mrs. Van Stuyler," he replied, as he filled his own coffee
cup, "I quite agree with you as to certain fates, but the Fates which
I mean are the ones which, with good or bad reason, I think are
working on my side. Besides, I do know all the circumstances, or at
least the most important of them. That knowledge is, in fact, my
principal excuse for bringing you so unceremoniously above the
clouds."

As he said this he took a sideways glance at Miss Zaidie. She dropped
her eyelids and went on eating her bread and butter; but there was a
little deepening of the flush on her cheeks which was to him as the
first flush of sunrise to a benighted wanderer.

There was a rather awkward silence after this. Miss Zaidie stirred the
coffee in her cup with a dainty Queen Anne spoon, and seemed to
concentrate the whole of her attention upon the operation. Then Mrs.
Van Stuyler took a sip out of her cup and said:

"But really, Lord Redgrave, I feel that I must ask you whether you
think that what you have done during the last few minutes (which
already, I assure you, seem hours to me) is--well, quite in accordance
with the--what shall I say--ah, the rules that we have been accustomed
to live under?"

Lord Redgrave looked at Miss Zaidie again. She didn't even raise her
eyelids, only a very slight tremor of her hand as she raised her cup
to her lips told that she was even listening. He took courage from
this sign, and replied:

"My dear Mrs. Van Stuyler, the only answer that I can make to that
just now is to remind you that, by the sanction of ages, everything is
supposed to be fair under two sets of circumstances, and, whatever is
happening on the earth down yonder, we, I think, are not at war."

The next moment Miss Zaidie's eyelids lifted a little. There was a
tremor about her lips almost too faint to be perceptible, and the
slightest possible tinge of colour crept upwards towards her eyes. She
put her cup down and got up, walked towards the glass walls of the
deck-chamber, and looked out over the cloud-scape.

The shortness of her steamer skirt made it possible for Lord Redgrave
and Mrs. Van Stuyler to see that the sole of her right boot was
swinging up and down on the heel ever so slightly. They came
simultaneously to the conclusion that if she had been alone she would
have stamped, and stamped pretty hard. Possibly also she would have
said things to herself and the surrounding silence. This seemed
probable from the almost equally imperceptible motion of her shapely
shoulders.

Mrs. Van Stuyler recognised in a moment that her charge was getting
angry. She knew by experience that Miss Zaidie possessed a very proper
spirit of her own, and that it was just as well not to push matters
too far. She further recognised that the circumstances were
extraordinary, not to say equivocal, and that she herself occupied a
distinctly peculiar position.

She had accepted the charge of Miss Zaidie from her Uncle Russell for
a consideration counted partly by social advantages and partly by
dollars. In the most perfect innocence she had permitted not only her
charge but herself to be abducted--for, after all, that was what it
came to--from the deck of an American liner, and carried, not only
beyond the clouds, but also beyond the reach of human law, both
criminal and conventional.

Inwardly she was simply fuming with rage. As she said afterwards, she
felt just like a bottled volcano which would like to go off and
daren't.

About two minutes of somewhat surcharged silence passed. Mrs. Van
Stuyler sipped her coffee in ostentatiously small sips. Lord Redgrave
took his in slower and longer ones, and helped himself to bread and
butter. Miss Zaidie appeared perfectly contented with her
contemplation of the clouds.



Chapter II

AT length Mrs. Van Stuyler, being a woman of large experience and some
social deftness, recognised that a change of subject was the easiest
way of retreat out of a rather difficult situation. So she put her cup
down, leant back in her chair, and, looking straight into Lord
Redgrave's eyes, she said with purely feminine irrelevance:

"I suppose you know, Lord Redgrave, that, when we left, the machine
which we call in America Manhood Suffrage--which, of course, simply
means the selection of a government by counting noses which may or may
not have brains above them--was what some of our orators would call in
full blast. If you are going to New York after Washington, as you said
on the boat, we might find it a rather inconvenient time to arrive.
The whole place will be chaos, you know; because when the citizen of
the United States begins electioneering, New York is not a very nice
place to stop in except for people who want excitement, and so if you
will excuse me putting the question so directly, I should like to know
what you just do mean to do--"

Lord Redgrave saw that she was going to add "With us," but before he
had time to say anything, Miss Zaidie turned round, walked
deliberately towards her chair, sat down, poured herself out a fresh
cup of coffee, added the milk and sugar with deliberation, and then
after a preliminary sip said, with her cup poised half way between her
dainty lips and the table:

"Mrs. Van, I've got an idea. I suppose it's inherited, for dear old
Pop had plenty. Anyhow we may as well get back to common-sense
subjects. Now look here," she went on, switching an absolutely
convincing glance straight into her host's eyes, "My father may have
been a dreamer, but still he was a Sound Money man. He believed in
honest dealings. He didn't believe in borrowing a hundred dollars gold
and paying back in fifty dollars silver. What's your opinion, Lord
Redgrave; you don't do that sort of thing in England, do you? Uncle
Russell is a Sound Money man too. He's got too much gold locked up to
want silver for it."

"My dear Zaidie," said Mrs. Van Stuyler, "what have democratic and
republican politics and bimetallism got to do with--"

"With a trip in this wonderful vessel which Pop told me years ago
could go up to the stars if it ever was made? Why just this, Lord
Redgrave is an Englishman and too rich to believe in anything but
sound money, so is Uncle Russell, and there you have it, or should
have."

"I think I see what you mean, Miss Rennick," said their host, leaning
back in his chair and folding his hands behind his head, as steamboat
travellers are wont to do when seas are smooth and skies are blue.
"The Astronef might come down like a vision from the clouds and preach
the Gospel of Gold in electric rays of silver through the commonplace
medium of the Morse Code. How's that for poetry and practice?"

"I quite agree with his lordship as regards the practice," said Mrs.
Van Stuyler, talking somewhat rudely across him to Zaidie. "It would
be an excellent use to put this wonderful invention to. And then, I am
sure his lordship would land us in Central Park, so that we could go
to your uncle's house right away."

"No, no, I'm afraid I must ask you to excuse me there, Mrs. Van
Stuyler," said Redgrave, with a change of tone which Miss Zaidie
appreciated with a swiftly veiled glance. "You see, I have placed
myself beyond the law. I have, as you have been good enough to
intimate, abducted--to put it brutally--two ladies from the deck of an
Atlantic liner. Further, in doing so I have selfishly spoiled the
prospects of one of the ladies. But, seriously, I really must go to
Washington first--"

"I think, Lord Redgrave," interrupted Mrs. Van Stuyler, ignoring the
last unfinished sentence and assuming her best Knickerbocker dignity,
"if you will forgive me saying so, that that is scarcely a subject for
discussion here."

"And if that's so," interrupted Miss Zaidie, “the less we say about it
the better. What I wanted to say was this. We all want the Republicans
in, at least all of us that have much to lose. Now, if Lord Redgrave
was to use this wonderful air-ship of his on the right side--why there
wouldn't be any standing against it.”

"I must say that until just now I had hardly contemplated turning the
Astronef into an electioneering machine. Still, I admit that she might
be made use of in a good cause, only I hope--"

"That we shan't want you to paste her over with election bills, eh?--
or start handbill-snowstorms from the deck--or kidnap Croker and Bryan
just as you did us, for instance?"

"If I could, I'm quite sure that I shouldn't have as pleasant guests
as I have now on board the Astronef. What do you think, Mrs. Van
Stuyler?"

"My dear Lord Redgrave," she replied, "that would be quite impossible.
The idea of being shut up in a ship like this which can soar not only
from earth, but beyond the clouds, with people who would find out your
best secrets and then perhaps shoot you so as to be the only
possessors of them--well, that would  be foolishness indeed."

"Why, certainly it would," said Zaidie; "The only use you could have
for people like that would be to take them up above the clouds and
drop them out. But suppose we--I mean Lord Redgrave--took the Astronef
down over New York and signalled messages from the sky at night with a
searchlight--"

"Good," said their host, getting up from his deck-chair and stretching
himself up straight, looking the while at Miss Zaidie's averted
profile. "That's gorgeously good! We might even turn the election. I'm
for sound money all the time, if I may be permitted to speak
American."

"English is quite good enough for us, Lord Redgrave," said Miss Zaidie
a little stiffly. "We may have improved on the old language a bit,
still we understand it, and--well, we can forgive its short-comings.
But that isn't quite to the point."

"It seems to me," said Mrs. Van Stuyler, "that we are getting nearly
as far from the original subject as we are from the St. Louis. May I
ask, Zaidie, what you really propose to do?"

"Do is not for us to say," said Miss Zaidie, looking straight up to
the glass roof of the deck-chamber. "You see, Mrs. Van, we're not free
agents. We are not even first-class passengers who have paid their
fares on a contract ticket which is supposed to get them there."

"If you'll pardon my saying so," said Lord Redgrave, stopping his walk
up and down the deck, "that is not quite the case. To put it in the
most brutally material form, it is quite true that I have kidnapped
you two ladies and taken you beyond the reach of earthly law. But
there is another law, one which would bind a gentleman even if he were
beyond the limits of the Solar System, and so if you wish to be landed
either in Washington or New York it shall be done. You shall be put
down within a carriage drive of your own residence, or of Mr. Russell
Rennick's. I will myself see you to his door, and there we may say
goodbye, and I will take my trip through the Solar System alone."

There was another pause after this, a pause pregnant with the fate of
two lives. They looked at each other--Mrs. Van Stuyler at Zaidie,
Zaidie at Lord Redgrave, and he at Mrs. Van Stuyler again. It was a
kind of three-cornered duel of eyes, and the eyes said a good deal
more than common human speech could have done.

Then Lord Redgrave, in answer to the last glance from Zaidie's eyes,
said slowly and deliberately:

"I don't want to take any undue advantage, but I think I am justified
in making one condition. Of course I can take you beyond the limits of
the world that we know, and to other worlds that we know little or
nothing of. At least I could do so if I were not bound by law as
strong as gravitation itself; but now, as I said before, I just ask
whether or not my guests or, if you think it suits the circumstances
better, my prisoners, shall be released unconditionally wherever they
choose to be landed."

He paused for a moment and then, looking straight into Zaidie's eyes,
he added:

"The one condition I make is that the vote shall be unanimous."

"Under the circumstances, Lord Redgrave," said Mrs. Van Stuyler,
rising from her seat and walking towards him with all the dignity that
would have been hers in her own drawing-room, "there can only be one
answer to that. Your guests or your prisoners, as you choose to call
them, must be released unconditionally."

Lord Redgrave heard these words as a man might hear words in a dream.
Zaidie had risen too. They were looking into each other's eyes, and
many unspoken words were passing between them. There was a little
silence, and then, to Mrs. Van Stuyler's unutterable horror, Zaidie
said, with just the suspicion of a gasp in her voice:

"There's one dissentient. We are prisoners, and I guess I'd better
surrender at discretion."

The next moment her captor's arm was round her waist, and Mrs. Van
Stuyler, with her twitching fingers linked behind her back, and her
nose at an angle of sixty degrees, was staring away through the blue
immensity, dumbly wondering what on earth or under Heaven was going to
happen next.



Chapter III

AFTER a couple of minutes of silence which could be felt, Mrs. Van
Stuyler turned round and said angrily:

"Zaidie, you will excuse me, perhaps, if I say that your conduct is
not--I mean has not been what I should have expected--what I did,
indeed, expect from your uncle's niece when I undertook to take you to
Europe. I must say--"

"If I were you, Mrs. Van, I don't think I'd say much more about that,
because, you see, it's fixed and done. Of course, Lord Redgrave's only
an earl, and the other is a marquis, but, you see, he's a man, and I
don't quite think the other one is--and that's about all there is to
it."

Their host had just left the deck-saloon, taking the early coffee
apparatus with him, and Miss Zaidie, in the first flush of her pride
and re-found happiness, was taking a promenade of about twelve strides
each way, while Mrs. Van Stuyler, after partially relieving her
feelings as above, had seated herself stiffly in her wicker chair, and
was following her with eyes which were critical and, if they had been
twenty years younger, might also have been envious.

"Well, at least I suppose I must congratulate you on your ability to
accommodate yourself to most extraordinary circumstances. I must say
that as far as that goes I quite envy you. I feel as though I ought to
choke or take poison, or something of that sort."

"Sakes, Mrs. Van, please don't talk like that!" said Zaidie, stopping
in her walk just in front of her chaperon's chair. "Can't you see that
there's nothing extraordinary about the circumstances except this
wonderful ship? I have told you how Pop and I met Lord Redgrave in our
tour through the Canadian Rockies two or three years ago. No, it's two
years and nine months next June; and how he took an interest in Pop's
theories and ideas about this same ship that we are on now--"

"Oh yes," said Mrs. Van Stuyler rather acidly, "and not only in the
abstract ideas, but apparently in a certain concrete reality."

"Mrs. Van," laughed Zaidie, with a cunning twist on her heel, "I know
you don't mean to be rude, but--well, now did any one ever call you a
concrete reality? Of course it's correct just as a scientific
definition, perhaps--still, anyhow, I guess it's not much good going
on about that. The facts are just this way. I consented to marry that
Byfleet marquis just out of sheer spite and blank ignorance. Lord
Redgrave never actually asked me to marry him when we were in the
Rockies, but he did say when he went back to England that as soon as
he had realised my father's ideal he would come over and try and
realise one of his own. He was looking at me when he said it, and he
looked a good deal more than he said. Then he went away, and poor Pop
died. Of course I couldn't write and tell him, and I suppose he was
too proud to write before he'd done what he undertook to do, and I,
like most girl-fools in the same place would have done, thought that
he'd given the whole thing up and just looked upon the trip as a sort
of interlude in globe-trotting, and thought no more about Pop's ideas
and inventions than he did about his daughter."

"Very natural, of course," said Mrs. Van Stuyler, somewhat mollified
by the subdued passion which Zaidie had managed to put into her
commonplace words; "And so as you thought he had forgotten you and was
finding a wife in his own country, and a possible husband came over
from that same country with a coronet--"

"That'll do, Mrs. Van, thank you," interrupted Miss Zaidie, bringing
her daintily-shod foot down on the deck this time with an unmistakable
stamp. "We'll consider that incident closed if you please. It was a
miserable, mean, sordid business altogether; I am utterly, hopelessly
ashamed of it and myself too. Just to think that I could ever--"

Mrs. Van Stuyler cut short her indignant flow of words by a sudden
uplifting of her eyelids and a swift turn of her head towards the
companion-way. Zaidie stamped again, this time more softly, and walked
away to have another look at the clouds.

"Why, what on earth is the matter?" she exclaimed, shrinking back from
the glass wall. "There's nothing--we're not anywhere!"

"Pardon me, Miss Rennick, you are on board the Astronef," said Lord
Redgrave, as he reached the top of the companion-way, "and the
Astronef is at present travelling at about a hundred and fifty miles
an hour above the clouds towards Washington. That is why you don't see
the clouds and sea as you did after we left the St. Louis. At a speed
like this they simply make a sort of grey-green blur. We shall be in
Washington this evening, I hope."

"To-night, sir--I beg your pardon, my lord!" gasped Mrs. Van Stuyler.
"A hundred and fifty miles an hour! Surely that's impossible."

"My dear Mrs. Van Stuyler," said Redgrave, with a side-look at Zaidie,
"nowadays 'impossible' is hardly an English or even an American word.
In fact, since I have had the honour of realising some of Professor
Rennick's ideas it has been relegated to the domain of mathematics.
Not even he could make two and two more or less than four, but--well,
would you like to come into the conning-tower and see for yourselves?
I can show you a few experiments that will, at any rate, help to pass
the time between here and Washington."

"Lord Redgrave," said Mrs. Van Stuyler, dropping gracefully back into
her wicker armchair, "if I may say so, I have seen quite enough
impossibilities, and--er, well--other things since we left the deck of
the St. Louis to keep me quite satisfied until, with your lordship's
permission, I set foot on solid ground again, and I should also like
to remind you that we have left everything behind us on the St. Louis,
everything except what we stand up in, and---and--"

"And therefore it will be a point of honour with me to see that you
want for nothing while you are on board the Astronef, and that you
shall be released from your durance--"

"Now don't say vile, Lenox---I mean--"

"It is perfectly plain what you mean, Zaidie," said Mrs. Van Stuyler,
in a tone which seemed to send a chill through the deck-chamber.
"Really, the American girl---"

"Just wants to tell the truth," laughed Zaidie, going towards
Redgrave. "Lord Redgrave, if you like it better, says he wants to
marry me, and, peer or peasant, I want to marry him, and that's all
there is to it. You don't suppose I'd have--"

"My dear girl, there's no need to go into details," interrupted Mrs.
Van Stuyler, inspired by fond memories of her own youth; "we will take
that for granted, and as we are beyond the social region in which
chaperons are supposed to be necessary, I think I will have a nap."

"And we'll go to the conning-tower, eh?"

"Breakfast will be ready in about half-an-hour," said Redgrave, as he
took Zaidie by the arm and led her towards the forward end of the
deck-chamber. "Meanwhile, au revoir! If you want anything, touch the
button at your right hand, just as you would on board the St. Louis."

"I thank your lordship," said Mrs. Van Stuyler, half melting and half
icy still. "I shall be quite content to wait until you come back.
Really I feel quite sleepy."

"That's the effect of the elevation on the dear old lady's nerves,"
Redgrave whispered to Zaidie as he helped her up the narrow stairway
which led to the glass domed conning-tower, in which in days to come
she was destined to pass some of the most delightful and the most
terrible moments of her life.

"Then why doesn't it affect me that way?" said Zaidie, as she took her
place in the little chamber, steel-walled and glass-roofed, and half
filled with instruments of which she, Vassar girl and all as she was,
could only guess the use.

"Well, to begin with, you are younger, which is an absolutely
unnecessary observation; and in the second place, perhaps you were
thinking about something else."

"By which I suppose you mean your lordship's noble self."

This was said in such a tone and with such an indescribable smile that
there immediately ensued a gap in the conversation, and a silence
which was a great deal more eloquent than any words could have made
it.

When Miss Zaidie had got free again she put her hands up to her hair,
and while she was patting it into something like shape again she said:

"But I thought you brought me here to show me some experiments, and
not to--"

"Not to take advantage of the first real opportunity of tasting some
of the dearest delights that mortal man ever stole from earth or sea?
Do you remember that day when we were coming down from the big
glacier--when your foot slipped and I just caught you and saved a
sprained ankle?"

"Yes, you wretch, and went away next day and left something like a
broken heart behind you! Why didn't you--Oh what idiots you men can be
when you put your minds to it!"

"It wasn't quite that, Zaidie. You see, I'd promised your father the
day before--of course I was only a younger son then--that I wouldn't
say anything about realising my ideal until I had realised his, and
so--"

"And so I might have gone to Europe with Uncle Russell's millions to
buy that man Byfleet's coronet, and pay the price--”

"Don't, Zaidie, don't! That is quite too horrible to think of, and as
for the coronet, well, I think I can give you one about as good as
his, and one that doesn't want re-gilding. Good Lord, fancy you
married to a thing like that! What could have made you think of it?"

"I didn't think," she said angrily; "I didn't think and I didn't feel.
Of course I thought that I'd dropped right out of your life, and after
that I didn't care. I was mad right through, and I'd made up my mind
to do what others did--take a title and a big position, and have the
outside as bright as I could get it, whatever the inside might be
like. I'd made up my mind to be a society queen abroad, and a
miserable woman at home---and, Lenox, thank God and you, that I
wasn't!"

Then there was another interlude, and at the end of it Redgrave said:

"Wait till we've finished our honeymoon in space, and come back to
earth. You won't want any coronets then, although you'll have one, for
all the lands of earth won't hold another woman like yourself--your
own sweet self! Of course it doesn't now, but there, you know what I
mean. You'll have been to other worlds, you'll have made the round
trip of the Solar System, so to say, and--"

"And I think, dear, that is about promise of wonders enough, and of
other things too--no, you're really quite too exacting. I thought you
brought me here to show me some of the wonders that this marvellous
ship of yours can work."

"Then just one more and I'll show you. Now you stand up there on that
step so that you can see all round, and watch with all your eyes,
because you are going to see something that no woman ever saw before."



Chapter IV

ABOVE a tiny little writing-desk fixed to the wall of the conning-
tower there was a square mahogany board with six white buttons in
pairs. On one side of the board hung a telephone and on the other a
speaking-tube. To the right hand opposite where Zaidie stood were two
nickel-plated wheels and behind each of them a white disc, one marked
off into 360 degrees, and the other into 100 with subdivisions of
tens. Overhead hung an ordinary tell-tale compass, and compactly
placed on other parts of the wall were barometers, thermometers,
barographs, and, in fact, practically every instrument that the most
exacting of aeronauts or space-explorers could have asked for.

"You see, Zaidie, this is what one might call the cerebral chamber of
the Astronef and, granted that my engines worked all right, I could
make her do anything I wanted without moving out of here, but as a
rule, of course, Murgatroyd is in the engine-room. If he wasn't the
most whole-souled Wesleyan that Yorkshire ever produced, I believe
he'd become an idolater and worship the Astronef's engines."

"And who is Murgatroyd, please?"

"In the first place he is what I might call an hereditary retainer of
the House of Redgrave. His ancestors have served mine for the last
seven hundred years. When my ancestors were burglar-barons, his were
men-at-arms. When we went on the Crusades they went too; when we
raised a regiment for the King against the Parliament they were
naturally the first to enlist in it; and as we gradually settled down
into peaceful respectability they did the same. Lastly, when we went
into trade as ironmasters and engineers they went in too. This
Murgatroyd, for instance, was master-foreman of my works at Smeaton,
and he was the only man I dared trust with the secrets of the
Astronef, and the only one I would trust myself on board her with, and
that's why we're a crew of two. You see the command of a vessel like
this is a fairly big business, and if it got into the wrong sort of
hands--"

"Yes, I see," said Zaidie with a little nod. "It would be just too
awful to think about. Why you might keep the world in terror with it;
but I know you wouldn't do that, because, for one thing, I wouldn't
let you."

"Gently, gently, Ma'm'selle; permit me most humbly to remind you that
you are still my prisoner, and that I am still Commander of the
Astronef."

"Oh, very well then," said Zaidie, interrupting him with a pretty
little gesture of impatience, "and now suppose you let me see what the
Astronef's commander can do with her."

"Certainly," replied Redgrave, "and with the greatest pleasure--but,
by the way, that reminds me you haven't paid your footing yet."

When due payment had been given and taken, or perhaps it would be more
correct to say taken and given, Redgrave put his finger on one of the
buttons.

Immediately Zaidie heard the swish of the air past the smooth wall of
the conning-tower grow fainter and fainter. Then there came a little
check which nearly upset her balance, and presently the clouds beneath
them began to take shape and great white continents of them with grey
oceans in between went sweeping silently and swiftly away behind them.

Redgrave turned the wheel in front of the 100-degree disc a little to
the left. The next instant the clouds rose up. For a moment Zaidie
could see nothing but white mist on all sides. Then the atmosphere
cleared again, and she saw far below her what looked like a vast
expanse of ocean that had been suddenly frozen solid.

There were the long Atlantic rollers tipped with snowy foam. Here and
there at wide intervals were little black dots, some of them with
brown trails behind them, others with little patches of white which
showed up distinctly against the dark grey-blue of the sea. Every
moment they grew bigger. Then the white-crested waves began to move,
and the big ocean steamers and full-rigged sailing ships looked less
and less like toys. Just under them there was a very big one with four
funnels pouring out dense volumes of black smoke. Redgrave took up a
pair of glasses, looked at her for a moment and said:

"That's the Deutschland, the new Hamburg-American record-breaker.
Suppose we go down and have a lark with her. I wonder if she's taking
news of the war. We're in with Germany, and they may know something
about it."

"That would be just too lovely!" said Zaidie. "Let's go and show them
how we can break records. I suppose they've seen us by this time and
are just wondering with all their wits what we are. I guess they'll
feel pretty tired about poor Count Zeppelin's balloon when they see
us."

Redgrave noted the "we" and the "us" with much secret satisfaction.

"All right," he said, "we'll go and give them a bit of a startler."

In front of the conning-tower there was a steel flagstaff about ten
feet high, with halliards rove through a sheer in the top. He took a
little roll of bunting out of a locker under the desk, opened a glass
slide, brought in the halliards and bent the flag on.

Meanwhile the long shape of the great liner was getting bigger and
bigger. Her decks were black with people staring up at this strange
apparition which was dropping upon them from the clouds. Another
minute and the Astronef had dropped to within five hundred feet of the
water, and about half a mile astern of the Deutschland. Redgrave
turned the wheel back two or three inches and touched a second button.

The Astronef stopped her descent instantly, and then she shot forward.
The new greyhound was making her twenty-two and a half knots, hurling
a broad white torrent of foam away from under her counters. But in
half a minute the Astronef was alongside her.

Redgrave ran the roll of bunting up to the top of the flagstaff,
pulled one of the halliards, and the White Ensign of England floated
out. Almost at the same moment the German flag went up to the staff at
the stern of the Deutschland, and they heard a roar of cheers, mingled
with cries of wonder, come up from her swarming decks.

Each flag was dipped thrice in due course. Redgrave took off his cap
and bowed to the Captain on the bridge. Zaidie nodded and fluttered
her handkerchief in reply to hundreds of others that were waving on
the decks. Mrs. Van Stuyler woke up in wonder and waved hers
instinctively, half longing to change crafts. In fact, if it hadn't
been for her absolute devotion to the proprieties she would have
obeyed her first impulse and asked Lord Redgrave to put her on board
the steamer.

While the officers and crew and passengers of the Deutschland were
staring wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the graceful glittering shape of
the Astronef, Redgrave touched the first button in the second row
once, moved the 100-degree wheel on a few degrees, and then gave the
other a quarter turn. Then he closed the window slide, and the next
moment Zaidie saw the great liner sink down beneath them in a curious
twisting sort of way. She seemed to stop still and then spin round on
her centre, getting smaller and smaller every moment.

"What's the matter, Lenox?" she said, with a little gasp. "What's the
Deutschland doing? She seems to be spinning round on her own axis like
a top."

"That's only the point of view, dear. She's just plugging along
straight on her way to New York, and we've been making rings round her
and going up all the time. But of course you don't notice the motion
here any more than you would if you were in a balloon."

"But I thought you were going to speak to them. Surely you don't mean
to say that you intended that just as a little bit of showing off?"

"That's about what it comes to, I suppose, but you must not think it
was altogether vanity. You see the German Government has bought Count
Zeppelin's air-ship or steerable balloon, as it ought to be called,
always supposing that they can steer it in a wind, and of course their
idea is to make a fighting machine of it. Now Germany is engaged to
stand by us in this trouble that's coming, and by way of cementing the
alliance I thought it was just as well to let the wily Teuton know
that there's something flying the British flag which could make very
small mincemeat of their gas-bags."

"And what about Old Glory?" said Miss Zaidie. "The Astronef was built
with English money and English skill, but--"

"She is the creature of American genius. Of course she is. In fact she
is the first concrete symbol of the Anglo-American Alliance, and when
the daughter of her creator has gone into partnership with the man who
made her we'll have two flagstaffs, and the Jack and Old Glory will
float side by side."

"And meanwhile where are we going?" Asked Zaidie, after a moment's
interval. "Ah, there we are through the clouds again. What makes us
rise? Is that the force that Pop told me he discovered?"

"I'll answer the last question first," said Redgrave. "That was the
greatest of your father's discoveries. He got at the secret of
gravitation, and was able to analyse it into two separate forces just
as Volta did with electricity--positive and negative, or, to put it
better, attractive and repulsive.

"Three out of the five sets of engines in the Astronef develop the ‘R.
Force,’ as I call it for short. This wheel with the hundred degrees
marked behind it regulates the development. The further I turn it this
way to the right, the more the ‘R. Force’ overcomes the attractive force
of the earth or any other planet that we may visit. Turn it back, and
gravitation asserts itself. If I put this arrow-head on the wheel
opposite zero the weight of the Astronef is about a hundred and fifty
tons, and of course she would go down like a stone, and a very big one
at that. At ten she weighs nothing; that is to say the ‘R. Force’ exactly
counteracts gravitation. At eleven she begins to rise. At a hundred
she would be hurled away from the earth like a shell from a twelve-
inch gun, or even faster. Now, watch."

He took up the speaking-tube. "Is she all tight everywhere, Andrew?"

"Yes, my lord," came gurgling through the tube.

Then Redgrave slowly turned the wheel till the indicator pointed to
twenty-five. Zaidie, all eyes and wonder, saw a vast sea of glittering
white spread out beneath them, an ocean of snow with grey-blue patches
here and there. It sank away from under them till the patches became
spots and the sunlit clouds a vast, luminous blur. The air about them
grew marvellously clear and limpid. The sun blazed down on them with a
tenfold intensity of light, but Zaidie was astonished to find that
very little heat penetrated the glass walls and roof of the conning-
tower.

"What an awful height!" she exclaimed, looking round at him with
something like fear in her eyes. "How high are we, Lenox?"

"You'll find afterwards that the Astronef doesn't take any account of
high or low or up or down," he replied, looking at the dial of an
aneroid barometer by the side of him. "Roughly speaking, we're rather
over 60,000 feet--say ten miles--from the surface of the Atlantic.
That's why I asked Andrew whether everything was tight. You see we
couldn't breathe the air there is outside there--too thin and cold--
and so the Astronef makes her own atmosphere as we go along. But I
won't spoil what you're going to see by any more of this. So if you
please, we'll go down now and get along to Washington. Anyhow, I hope
I've convinced you so far that I've kept my promise."

"Yes, dear, you have, and splendidly! I've only one regret. If he was
only here now, what a happy man he'd be! Still, I daresay he knows all
about it and is just as happy. In fact he must be. I feel certain he
must. The very soul of his intellect was in the dream of this ship,
and now that it's a reality he must be here still. Isn't it part of
himself? Isn't it his mind that's working in these wonderful engines
of yours, and isn't it his strength that lifts us up from the earth
and takes us down again just as you please to turn that wheel?"

"There's little doubt about that, Zaidie," said Redgrave quietly, but
earnestly. "You know we Northcountry folk all have our traditions and
our ghosts; and what more likely than that the spirit of a dead man or
a man gone to other worlds should watch over the realisation of his
greatest work on earth? Why shouldn't we believe that, we who are
going away from this world to other ones?"

"Why not?" Interrupted Zaidie, "why, of course we will. And now
suppose we come down in more ways than one and go and give poor Mrs.
Van Stuyler something to eat and drink. The dear old girl must be
frightened half out of her wits by this time."

"Very well," replied Redgrave; "But we'll come down literally first,
so that we can get the propellers to work."

He turned the wheel back till the indicator pointed to five. The
cloud-sea came up with a rush. They passed through it, and stopped
about a thousand feet above the sea. Redgrave touched the first button
twice, and then the next one twice. The air began to hiss past the
walls of the conning-tower. The crest-crowned waves of the Atlantic
seemed to sweep in a hurrying torrent behind them, and then Redgrave,
having made sure that Murgatroyd was at the after-wheel, gave him the
course for Washington, and then went down to induct his bride-elect
into the art and mystery of cooking by electricity as it was done in
the kitchen of the Astronef.



Chapter V

As this narrative is the story of the personal adventures of Lord
Redgrave and his bride, and not an account of events at which all the
world has already wondered, there is no necessity to describe in any
detail the extraordinary sequence of circumstances which began when
the Astronef dropped without warning from the clouds in front of the
White House at Washington, and his lordship, after paying his respects
to the President, proceeded to the British Embassy and placed the copy
of the Anglo-American agreement in Lord Pauncefote's hands.

Mrs. Van Stuyler's spirits had risen as the Astronef descended towards
the lights of Washington, and when the President and Lord Pauncefote
paid a visit to the wonderful craft, the joint product of American
genius and English capital and constructive skill, she immediately
assumed, at Redgrave's request, the position of lady of the house pro
tem, and described the "change of plans," as she called it, which led
to their transfer from the St. Louis to the Astronef with an
imaginative fluency which would have done credit to the most
enterprising of American interviewers.

"You see, my dear," she said to Zaidie afterwards, "as everything
turned out so very happily, and as Lord Redgrave behaved in such a
splendid way, I thought it was my duty to make everything appear as
pleasant to the President and Lord Pauncefote as I could."

"It was real good of you, Mrs. Van," said Zaidie. "If I hadn't been
paralysed with admiration, I believe I should have laughed. Now if
you'll just come with us on our trip, and write a book about it
afterwards just as you told--I mean as you described what happened
between the St. Louis and Washington, to the President and Lord
Pauncefote, you'd make a million dollars out of it. Say now, won't you
come?"

"My dear Zaidie," Mrs. Van Stuyler replied, "you know that I am very
fond of you. If I'd only had a daughter I should have wanted her to be
just like you, and I should have wanted her to marry a man just like
Lord Redgrave. But there's a limit to everything. You say that you are
going to the moon and the stars, and to see what the other planets are
like. Well, that's your affair. I hope God will forgive you for your
presumption, and let you come back safe, but I--No. Ten--twenty
millions wouldn't pay me to tempt Providence like that."

The Astronef had landed in front of the White House, as everybody
knows, on the eve of the Presidential election. After dinner in the
deck-saloon, as the Space Navigator lay in the midst of a square of
troops, outside which a huge crowd surged and struggled to get a look
at the latest miracle of constructive science, the President and the
British Ambassador said goodbye, and as soon as the gangway ladder
was drawn in the Astronef, moved by no visible agency, rose from the
ground amidst a roar of cheers coming from a hundred thousand throats.
She stopped at a height of about a thousand feet, and then her forward
searchlight flashed out, swept the horizon, and vanished. Then it
flashed out again intermittently in the longs and shorts of the Morse
Code, and these, when translated, read:

"Vote for sound men and sound money!"

In five minutes the wires of the United States were alive with the
terse, pregnant message, and under the ocean in the dark depths of the
Atlantic ooze, vivid narratives of the coming of the miracle went
flashing to a hundred newspaper offices in England and on the
Continent. The New York correspondent of the London Daily Express
added the following paragraph to his account of the strange
occurrence:

"The secret of this amazing vessel, which has proved itself capable of
traversing the Atlantic in a day, and of soaring beyond the limits of
the atmosphere at will, is possessed by one man only, and that man is
an English nobleman. The air is full of rumours of universal war. One
vessel such as this could scatter terror over a continent in a few
days, demoralise armies and fleets, reduce Society to chaos, and
establish a one-man despotism on the ruins of all the Governments of
the world. The man who could build one ship like this could build
fifty, and, if his country asked him to do it, no doubt he would.
Those who, as we are almost forced to believe, are even now
contemplating a serious attempt to dethrone England from her supreme
place among the nations of Europe, will do well to take this latest
potential factor in the warfare of the immediate future into their
most serious consideration."

This paragraph was not perhaps as absolutely correct as a proposition
in Euclid, but it stopped the war. The Deutschland came in the next
day, and again the press was flooded, this time with personal
narratives, and brilliantly imaginative descriptions of the vision
which had descended from the clouds, made rings round the great liner
going at her best speed, and then vanished in an instant beyond the
range of field-glasses and telescopes.

Thus did the creature of Professor Rennick's inventive genius play its
first part as the peacemaker of the world.

When the Astronef's message had been duly given and recorded, her
propellers began to revolve, and her head swung round to the north-
east. So began, as all the world now knows, the most extraordinary
electioneering trip that ever was known. First Baltimore, then
Philadelphia, and then New York saw the flashes in the sky. There were
illuminations, torchlight processions, and all the machinery of
American electioneering going at full blast. But when people saw, far
away up in the starlit night, those swiftly-changing beams glittering
down, as it were, out of infinite Space, and when the telegraph
operators caught on to the fact that they were signals, a sort of awe
seemed to come over both Republicans and Democrats alike. Even
Tammany's thoughts began to lift above the sordid level of boodle. It
was almost like a message from another world. There was something
supernatural about it, and when it was translated and rushed out in
extra editions of the evening papers: "Vote for sound men and sound
money" became the watchword of millions.

From New York to Boston, Boston to Albany, and then across country to
Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago, Omaha--then westward to St. Paul and
Minneapolis, and northward to Portland and Seattle, southward to San
Francisco and Monterey, then eastward again to Salt Lake City, and
then, after a leap across the Rockies which frightened Mrs. Van Stuyler
almost to fainting point and made Zaidie gasp for breath, away
southward to Santa Fe and New Orleans.

Then northward again up the Mississippi Valley to St. Louis, and
thence eastward across the Alleghanies back to Washington--such was
the famous night voyage of the Astronef, and so by means of that long
silver tongue of light did she spread the message of common-sense and
commercial honesty throughout the length and breadth of the Great
Republic. The world knows how America received and interpreted it the
next day.

Meanwhile Mr. Russell Rennick had taken train to Washington, and the
day after the election he willingly took back all that he had intended
with regard to the Marquis of Byfleet, accepted Lord Redgrave in his
stead, and bestowed his avuncular blessing at the wedding breakfast
held in the deck-chamber of the Astronef poised in mid-air, five
hundred feet above the dome of the Capitol, a week later. To this he
added a cheque for a million dollars--payable to the Countess of
Redgrave on her return from her wedding trip.

Breakfast over, the wedding party made an inspection of the wonderful
vessel under the guidance of her Commander. After this, while they
were drinking their coffee and liqueurs, and the men were smoking
their cigars in the deck-chamber, a score of the most distinguished
men and women in the United States experienced the novel sensation of
sitting quietly in deck-chairs while they were being hurled at the
rate of a hundred and fifty miles an hour through the atmosphere.

They ran up to Niagara, dropped to within a few feet of the surface of
the Falls, passed over them, fell to the Rapids, and drifted down them
within a couple of yards of the raging waters. Then in an instant they
leapt up into the clouds, dropped again, and took a slanting course
for Washington at a speed incredible, but to them quite imperceptible,
save for the blurred rush of the half-visible earth behind them.

That night the Astronef rested again in front of the steps of the
White House, and Lord and Lady Redgrave were the guests at a semi-
official banquet given by the newly re-elected President. The speech
of the evening was made by the President himself in proposing the
health of the bride and bridegroom, and this is the way he ended:

"There is something more in the ceremony which we have been privileged
to witness than the union of a man and a woman in the bonds of holy
matrimony. Lord Redgrave, as you know, is the descendant of one of the
noblest and most ancient families in the Motherland of New Nations.
Lady Redgrave is the daughter of the oldest and, I hope I may be
allowed to say without offence, the greatest of those nations. It is,
perhaps, early days to talk about a formal federation of the Anglo-
Saxon people, but I think I am only voicing the sentiments of every
good American when I say that, if the rumours which have drifted over
and under the Atlantic, rumours of a determined attempt on the part of
certain European powers to assault and, if possible, destroy that
magnificent fortress of individual liberty and collective equity which
we call the British Empire should unhappily prove to be true, then it
may be that the rest of the world will find that America does not
speak English for nothing.

"But I must also remind you that a few yards from the doors of the
White House there lies the greatest marvel, I had almost said the
greatest miracle, that has ever been accomplished by human genius and
human industry. That wonderful vessel in which some of us have been
privileged to take the most marvellous journey in the history of
mechanical locomotion was thought out by an American man of science,
the man whose daughter sits on my right hand tonight. In her concrete
material form this vessel, destined to navigate the shoreless Ocean of
Space, is English. But she is also the result of the belief and the
faith of an Englishman in an American ideal.... So when she leaves
this earth, as she will do in an hour or so, to enter the confines of
other worlds than this--and, it may be, to make the acquaintance of
peoples other than those who inhabit the earth--she will have done
infinitely more than she has already done, incredible as that seems.
She will not only have convinced this world that the greatest triumph
of human genius is of Anglo-Saxon origin, but she will carry to other
worlds than this the truth which this world will have learnt before
the nineteenth century ends.

"England in the person of Lord Redgrave, and America in the person of
his Countess, leave this world to-night to tell the other worlds of
our system, if haply they may find some intelligible means of
communication, what this world, good and bad, is like. And it is
within the bounds of possibility that in doing so they may inaugurate
a wider fellowship of created beings than the limits of this world
permit; a fellowship, a friendship, and, as the Astronef entitles us
to believe, even a physical communication of world with world which,
in the dawn of the twentieth century, may transcend in sober fact the
wildest dreams of all the philanthropists and the philosophers who
have sought to educate humanity from Socrates to Herbert Spencer."



Chapter VI

AFTER the Astronef's forward searchlight had flashed its farewells to
the thronging, cheering crowds of Washington, her propellers began to
whirl, and she swung round northward on her way to say goodbye to the
Empire City.

A little before midnight her two lights flashed down over New York and
Brooklyn, and were almost instantly answered by hundreds of electric
beams streaming up from different parts of the Twin Cities, and from
several men-of-war lying in the bay and the river.

"Goodbye for the present! Have you any messages for Mars?" Flickered
out from above the Astronef's conning-tower.

What Uncle Sam's message was, if he had one, was never deciphered, for
fifty beams began dotting and dashing at once, and the result was that
nothing but a blur of many mingled rays reached the conning-tower from
which Lord Redgrave and his bride were taking their last look at human
habitations.

"You might have known that they would all answer at once," said
Zaidie. "I suppose the newspapers, of course, want interviews with
the leading Martians, and the others want to know what there is to be
done in the way of trade. Anyhow, it would be a feather in Uncle Sam's
cap if he made the first Reciprocity Treaty with another world."

"And then proceeded to corner the commerce of the Solar System,"
laughed Redgrave. "Well, we'll see what can be done. Although I think,
as an Englishman, I ought to look after the Open Door."

"So that the Germans could get in before you, eh? That's just like you
dear, good-natured English. But look," she went on, pointing
downwards, "they're signalling again, all at once this time."

Half a dozen beams shone out together from the principal newspaper
offices of New York. Then simultaneously they began the dotting and
dashing again. Redgrave took them down in pencil, and when the
signalling had stopped he read off:

"No war. Dual Alliance climbs down. Don't like idea of Astronef.
Cables just received. Goodbye, and good luck! Come back soon, and
safe!"

"What? We have stopped the war!" exclaimed Zaidie, clasping his arm.
"Well, thank God for that. How could we begin our voyage better? You
remember what we were saying the other day, Lenox. If that's only
true, my father somewhere knows now what a blessing he has given his
brother men! We've stopped a war which might have deluged the world in
blood. We've saved perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives, and kept
sorrow from thousands of homes. Lenox, when we get back, you and the
States and the British Government will have to build a fleet of these
ships, and then the Anglo-Saxon race must say to the rest of the
world---"

"The millennium has come and its presiding goddess is Zaidie Redgrave.
If you don't stop fighting, disband your armies and turn your fleets
into liners and cargo boats, she'll proceed to sink your ships and
decimate your armies until you learn sense. Is that what you mean,
dear?" laughed Redgrave, as he slipped his left hand round her waist
and laid his right on the searchlight-switch to reply to the message.

"Don't be ridiculous, Lenox. Still, I suppose that is something like
it. They wouldn't deserve anything else if they were fools enough to
go on fighting after they knew we could wipe them out.”

"Exactly. I perfectly agree with your ladyship, but still sufficient
unto the day is the Armageddon thereof. Now I suppose we'd better say
goodbye and be off."

"And what a goodbye," whispered Zaidie, with an upward glance into the
starlit ocean of Space which lay above and around them. "Goodbye to
the world itself! Well, say it, Lenox, and let us go; I want to see
what the others are like."

"Very well then; goodbye it is," he said, beginning to jerk the switch
backwards and forwards with irregular motions, sending short flashes
and longer beams down towards the earth.

The Empire City read the farewell message.

"Thank God for the peace. Goodbye for the present. We shall convey the
joint compliments of John Bull and Uncle Sam to the peoples of the
planets when we find them. Au revoir!"

The message was answered by the blaze of the concentrated searchlights
from land and sea all directed on the Astronef. For a moment her
shining shape glittered like a speck of diamond in the midst of the
luminous haze far up in the sky, and then it vanished for many an
anxious day from mortal sight.

A few moments later Zaidie pointed over the stern and said:

"Look, there's the moon! Just fancy--our first stopping place! Well,
it doesn't look so very far off at present."

Redgrave turned and saw the pale yellow crescent of the new moon
swimming high above the eastern edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

"It almost looks as if we could steer straight to it right over the
water--only, of course, it wouldn't wait there for us," she went on.

"Oh, it'll be there when we want it, never fear," he laughed, "and,
after all, it's only a mere matter of about two hundred and forty
thousand miles away, and what's that in a trip that will cover
hundreds of millions? It will just be a sort of jumping-off place into
Space for us."

"Still, I shouldn't like to miss seeing it," she said. "I want to see
what there is on that other side which nobody has ever seen yet, and
settle that question about air and water. Won't it just be heavenly to
be able to come back and tell them all about it at home? But just
fancy me talking stuff like this when we are going, perhaps, to solve
some of the hidden mysteries of Creation, and, may be, look upon
things that human eyes were never meant to see," she went on, with a
sudden change in her voice.

He felt a little shiver in the arm that was resting upon his, and his
hand went down and caught hers.

"Well, we shall see a good many marvels, and, perhaps, miracles,
before we come back, but why should there be anything in Creation that
the eyes of created beings should not look upon? Anyhow, there's one
thing we shall do I hope, we shall solve once and for all the great
problem of the worlds.

"Look, for instance," he went on, turning round and pointing to the
west, there is Venus following the sun. In a few days I hope you and I
will be standing on her surface, perhaps trying to talk by signs with
her inhabitants, and taking photographs of her scenery. There's Mars
too, that little red one up yonder. Before we come back we shall have
settled a good many problems about him, too. We shall have navigated
the rings of Saturn, and perhaps graphed them from his surface. We
shall have crossed the bands of Jupiter, and found out whether they
are clouds or not; perhaps we shall have landed on one of his moons
and taken a voyage round him.

"Still, that's not the question just now, and if you are in a hurry to
circumnavigate the moon we'd better begin to get a wriggle on us as
they say down yonder; so come below and we'll shut up. A bit later
I'll show you something that no human eyes have ever seen."

"What's that?" she asked as they turned away towards the companion
ladder.

"I won't spoil it by telling you," he said, stopping at the top of the
stairs and taking her by the shoulders. "By the way," he went on, "I
may remind your ladyship that you are just now drawing the last
breaths of earthly air which you will taste for some time, in fact
until we get back. And you may as well take your last look at earth as
earth, for the next time you see it it will be a planet."

She turned to the open window and looked over into the enormous void
beneath, for all this time the Astronef had been mounting swiftly
towards the zenith.

She could see, by the growing moonlight, vast, vague shapes of land
and sea. The myriad lights of New York and Brooklyn were mingled in a
tiny patch of dimly luminous haze. The air about her had suddenly
grown bitterly cold, and she saw that the stars and planets were
shining with a brilliancy she had never seen before. Redgrave came
back to her, and laying his arm across her shoulder, said:

"Well, have you said goodbye to your native world? It is a bit solemn,
isn't it, saying goodbye to a world that you have been born on; which
contains everything that has made up your life, everything that is
dear to you?"

"Not quite everything," she said, looking up at him--"At least I don't
think so."

He lost no time in making the only reply which was appropriate under
the circumstances; and then he said, drawing her close to him:

"Nor I, as you know, darling. This is our world, a world travelling
among worlds, and since I have been able to bring the most delightful
of the daughters of Terra with me, I, at any rate, am perfectly happy.
Now, I think it's getting on to supper time, so if your ladyship will
go to your household duties, I'll have a look at my engines and make
everything snug for the voyage."

The first thing he did when he left the conning-tower was to
hermetically close every external opening in the ship. Then he went
and carefully inspected the apparatus for purifying the air and
supplying it with fresh oxygen from the tanks in which it was stored
in liquid form. Lastly he descended into the lower hold and turned on
the energy of repulsion to its fullest extent, at the same time
stopping the engines which had been working the propellers.

It was now no longer necessary or even possible to steer the Astronef.
She was directed solely by the repulsive force which would carry her
with ever increasing swiftness, as the attraction of the earth
diminished, towards that neutral point at which the attraction of the
earth is exactly balanced by the moon. Her momentum would carry her
past this point, and then the "R. Force" would be gradually brought
into play in order to avert the unpleasant consequences of a fall of
some forty odd thousand miles.

Andrew Murgatroyd, relieved from his duties in the wheel-house, made a
careful inspection of the auxiliary machinery, which was under his
special charge, and then retired to his quarters in the after end of
the vessel to prepare his own evening meal.

Meanwhile, her ladyship with the help of the ingenious contrivances
with which the kitchen of the Astronef was stocked, had prepared a
dainty little souper a deux. Her husband opened a bottle of the finest
champagne that the cellars of Smeaton could supply, to drink to the
prosperity of the voyage, and the health of his beautiful fellow-
voyager. When he had filled the two tall glasses the wine began to run
over the side which was toward the stern of the vessel. They took no
notice of this at first, but when Zaidie put her glass down she stared
at it for a moment, and said, in a half-frightened voice "why, what's
the matter, Lenox? Look at the wine! It won't keep straight, and yet
the table's perfectly level--and see! the water in the jug looks as
though it were going to run up the side."

Redgrave took up the glass and held it balanced in his hand. When he
had got the surface of the wine level the glass was no longer
perpendicular to the table.

"Ah, I see what it is," he said, taking another sip and putting the
glass down. "You notice that, although the wine isn't lying straight
in the glass, it isn't moving about. It's just as still as it would be
on earth. That means that our centre of gravity is not exactly in line
with the centre of the earth. We haven't quite swung into our proper
position, and that reminds me, dear. You will have to be prepared for
some rather curious experiences in that way. For instance, just see if
that jug of water is as heavy as it ought to be."

She took hold of the handle, and exerting, as she thought, just enough
force to lift the jug a few inches, was astonished to find herself
holding it out at arm's length with scarcely any effort. She put it
down again very carefully as though she were afraid it would go
floating off the table, and said, looking rather scared:

"That's very strange, but I suppose it's all perfectly natural?"

"Perfectly; it merely means that we have left Mother Earth a good long
way behind us."

"How far?" she asked.

"I can't tell you exactly," he replied, "until I go to the instrument-
room and take the angles, but I should say roughly about seventy
thousand miles. When we've finished we'll go and have coffee on the
upper deck, and then we shall see something of the glories of Space as
no human eyes have ever seen them before."

"Seventy thousand miles away from home already, and we only started a
couple of hours ago!" Zaidie found the idea a trifle terrifying, and
finished her meal almost in silence. When she got up she was not a
little disconcerted when the effort she made not only took her off her
chair but off her feet as well. She rose into the air nearly to the
surface of the table.

"Sakes!" she said, "this is getting quite a little embarrassing; I
shall be hitting my head against the roof next."

"Oh, you'll soon get used to it," he laughed, pulling her down on to
her feet by the skirt of her dress; "Always remember to exert very
little strength in everything you do, and don't forget to do
everything very slowly."

When the coffee was made he carried the apparatus up into the deck-
chamber. Then he came back and said:

"You'd better wrap yourself up warmly. It's a good deal colder up
there than it is here."

When she reached the deck and took a first glance about her, Zaidie
seemed suddenly to lapse into a state of somnambulism.

The whole heavens above and around were strewn with thick clusters of
stars which she had never seen before. The stars she remembered seeing
from the earth were only pin-points in the darkness compared with the
myriads of blazing orbs which were now shooting their rays across the
black void of Space.

So many millions of new ones had come into view, that she looked in
vain for the familiar constellations. She saw only vast clusters of
living gems of every colour crowding the heavens on every side of her.

She walked slowly round the deck, gazing to right and left and above,
incapable for the moment either of thought or speech, but only of dumb
wonder, mingled with a dim sense of overwhelming awe. Presently she
craned her neck backwards and looked straight up to the zenith. A huge
silver crescent, supporting, as it were, a dim greenish-coloured body
in its arms, stretched overhead across nearly a sixth of the heavens.

Then Redgrave came to her side, took her in his arms, lifted her as if
she had been a little child, and laid her in a long, low deck-chair,
so that she could look at it without inconvenience.

The splendid crescent seemed to be growing visibly bigger, and as she
lay there in a trance of wonder and admiration she saw point after
point of dazzling white light flash out in the dark portions, and then
begin to send out rays as though they were gigantic volcanoes in full
eruption, and were pouring torrents of living fire from their blazing
craters.

"Sunrise on the moon!" said Redgrave, who had stretched himself on
another chair beside her. "A glorious sight, isn't it? But nothing to
what we shall see tomorrow morning--only there doesn't happen to be
any morning just about here."

"Yes," she said dreamily, "glorious, isn't it? That and all the
stars--but I can't think anything yet, Lenox, it's all too mighty and
too marvellous. It doesn't seem as though human eyes were meant to
look upon things like this. But where's the earth? We must be able to
see that still."

"Not from here," he said, "because it's underneath us. Come below now,
and you shall see what I promised you."

They went down into the lower part of the vessel and to the after end
behind the engine-room. Redgrave switched on a couple of electric
lights, and then pulled a lever attached to one of the side-walls. A
part of the flooring about six feet square slid noiselessly away; then
he pulled another lever on the opposite side and a similar piece
disappeared, leaving a large space covered only by a thick plate of
absolutely transparent glass. He switched off the lights again and led
her to the edge of it, and said:

"There is your native world, dear. That is your Mother Earth."

Wonderful as the moon had seemed, the gorgeous spectacle which lay
seemingly at her feet was infinitely more magnificent. A vast disc of
silver grey, streaked and dotted with lines and points of dazzling
lights, and more than half covered with vast, glimmering, greyish-
green expanses, seemed to form the floor of the tremendous gulf
beneath them. They were not yet too far away to make out the general
features of the continents and oceans, and fortunately the hemisphere
presented to them happened to be singularly free from clouds.

To the right spread out the majestic outlines of the continents of
North and South America, and to the left Asia, the Malay Archipelago,
and Australia. At the top was a vast, roughly circular area of
dazzling whiteness, and Redgrave, pointing to this, said:

"There, look up a little further north than the middle of that white
patch, and you'll see what eyes but yours and mine have ever seen--the
North Pole! When we come back we shall see the South Pole, because we
shall approach the earth from the other end, as it were.

"I suppose you recognise a good deal of the picture. All that bright
part up to the north, with the black spots on it, is Canada. The black
spots are forests. That long white line to the left is the Rockies.
You see they're all bright at the north, and as you go south you only
see a few bright dots. Those are the snow-peaks.

"Those long thin white lines in South America are the tops of the
Andes, and the big, dark patches to the right of them are the forests
and plains of Brazil and the Argentine. Not a bad way of studying
geography, is it? If we stopped here long enough we should see the
whole earth spin right round under us, but we haven't time for that.
We shall be in the moon before it's morning in New York, but we shall
probably get a glimpse of Europe to-morrow."

Zaidie stood gazing for nearly an hour at this marvellous vision of
the home-world which she had left so far behind her before she could
tear herself away and allow her husband to shut the slides again. The
greatly diminished weight of her body destroyed the fatigue of
standing almost entirely. In fact, on board the Astronef just then it
was almost as easy to stand as it was to lie down.

There was of course very little sleep for the travellers on this first
night of their wonderful voyage, but towards the sixth hour after
leaving the earth, Zaidie, overcome as much by the emotions which had
been awakened within her as by physical fatigue, went to bed, after
making her husband promise that he would wake her in good time to see
the descent upon the moon. Two hours later she was awake and drinking
the coffee which he had prepared for her. Then she went on to the
upper deck.

To her astonishment she found, on one hand, day more brilliant than
she had ever seen it before, and on the other hand darkness blacker
than the blackest earthly night. On the right was an intensely
brilliant orb, about half as large again as the full moon seen from
the earth, shining with inconceivable brightness out of a sky black as
midnight and thronged with stars. It was the sun; the sun shining in
the midst of airless Space.

The tiny atmosphere enclosed in the glass-domed deck-space was lighted
brilliantly, but it was not perceptibly warmer, though Redgrave warned
her not to touch anything upon which the sun's rays fell directly, as
she might find it uncomfortably hot. On the other side was the same
black immensity which she had seen the night before, an ocean of
darkness clustered with islands of light. High above in the zenith
floated the great silver-grey disc of earth, a good deal smaller now.
But there was another object beneath them which was at present of far
more interest to her.

Looking down to the left, she saw a vast semi-luminous area in which
not a star was to be seen. It was the earth-lit portion of the long
familiar and yet mysterious orb which was to be their resting place
for the next few hours.

"The sun hasn't risen over there yet," said Redgrave, as she was
peering down into the void. "It's earth-light still. Now look at the
other side."

She crossed the deck, and saw the strangest scene she had yet beheld.
Apparently only a few miles below her was a huge crescent-shaped plain
arching away for hundreds of miles on either side. The outer edge had
a ragged look, and little excrescences, which soon took the shape of
flat-topped mountains, projected from it and stood out bright and
sharp against the black void beneath, out of which the stars shone up,
as it seemed, a few feet beyond the edge of the disc.

The plain itself was a scene of awful and utter desolation. Huge
mountain-walls, towering to immense heights and enclosing great
circular and oval plains, one side of them blazing with intolerable
light, and the other side black with impenetrable obscurity; enormous
valleys reaching down from brilliant day into rayless night--perhaps
down into the very bowels of the dead world itself; vast grey-white
plains lying round the mountains, crossed by little ridges and by long
black lines, which could only be immense fissures with perpendicular
sides--but all hard, grey-white and black, all intolerable brightness
or inky gloom; not a sign of life anywhere; no shady forests, no green
fields, no broad, glittering oceans; only a ghastly wilderness of dead
mountains and dead plains.

"What an awful place," Zaidie whispered. "Surely we can't land there.
How far are we from it?"

"About fifteen hundred miles," replied Redgrave, who was sweeping the
scene below him with one of the two powerful telescopes which stood on
the deck. "No, it doesn't look very cheerful, does it? But it's a
marvellous sight for all that, and one that a good many people on
earth would give one of their eyes to see from here. I'm letting her
drop pretty fast, and we shall probably land in a couple of hours or
so. Meanwhile you may as well get out your moon atlas, and study your
lunography. I'm going to turn the power a bit astern so that we shall
go down obliquely, and see more of the lighted disc. We started at new
moon so that you should have a look at the full earth, and also so
that we could get round to the invisible side while it is lighted up."
They both went below, he to deflect the repulsive force so that one
set of engines should give them a somewhat oblique direction, while
the other, acting directly on the surface of the moon, simply retarded
their fall; and she to get out her maps.

When they got back the Astronef had changed her apparent position,
and, instead of falling directly on to the moon, was descending
towards it in a slanting direction. The result of this was that the
sunlit crescent rapidly grew in breadth. Peak after peak and range
after range rose up swiftly out of the black gulf beyond. The sun
climbed quickly up through the star-strewn, mid-day heavens, and the
full earth sank more swiftly still behind them.

Another hour of silent, entranced wonder and admiration followed, and
then Redgrave said:

"Don't you think it's about time we were beginning to think of
breakfast, dear--or do you think you can wait till we land?"

"Breakfast on the moon!" she exclaimed. "That would be just too lovely
for words--of course we'll wait!"

"Very well," he said; "you see that big black ring nearly below us?---
that, as I suppose you know, is the celebrated Mount Tycho. I'll try
and find a convenient spot on the top of the ring to drop on, and then
you will be able to survey the scenery from seventeen or eighteen
thousand feet above the plains."

About two hours later a slight, jarring tremor ran through the frame
of the vessel, and the first stage of the voyage was ended. After a
passage of less than twelve hours the Astronef had crossed a gulf of
nearly two hundred and fifty thousand miles, and rested on the
untrodden surface of the lunar world.



Chapter VII

"WELL, Madame, we've arrived. This is the moon and there is the earth.
To put it into plain figures, you are now two hundred and forty
thousand odd miles away from home. I think you said you would like
breakfast on the surface of the World that Has Been, and so, as it's
about eleven o'clock earth-time, we'll call it a dejeuner, and then
we'll go and see what this poor old skeleton of a world is like."

"Oh, then we shan't actually have breakfast on the moon?"

"My dear child, of course you will. Isn't the Astronef resting now--
right now as they say in some parts of the States on the top of the
crater wall of Tycho? Aren't we really and actually on the surface of
the moon? Just look at this frightful black and white, god-forsaken
landscape! Isn't it like everything that you've ever learnt about the
moon? Nothing but light and shade, black and white, peaks of mountains
blazing in sunlight, and valleys underneath them as black as the
hinges of" "--Tophet," said Zaidie, interrupting him quickly. "Yes, I
see what you mean. So we'll have our dejeuner here, breathing our own
nice atmosphere, and eating and drinking what was grown on the soil of
dear old Mother Earth. It's a wee bit paralysing to think of, isn't
it, dear? Two hundred and forty thousand miles across the gulf of
Space--and we sitting here at our breakfast table just as comfortable
as though we were in the Cecil in London, or the Waldorf-Astoria in
New York!"

"There's nothing much in that, I mean as regards distance. You see,
before we've finished we shall probably, at least I hope we shall, be
eating a breakfast or a dinner together a thousand million miles or
more from New York or London. Your ladyship must remember that this is
only the first stage on the journey, the jumping-off place as you
called it. You see the distance from Washington to New York is--well,
it isn't even a hop, skip and a jump in comparison with--"

"Oh yes, I see what you mean of course, and so I suppose I had better
cut off or short-circuit such sympathies with Mother Earth as are not
connected with your noble self, and get breakfast ready. How's that?"

"Well," said Lord Redgrave, looking at her as she rose from the table,
“I think our honeymoon in Space is young enough yet to make it possible
for me to say that your ladyship's opinion is exactly right.”

"That's a hopeless commonplace! Really, Lenox, I thought you were
capable of something better than that."

"My dear Zaidie, it has been my fate to have many friends who have had
honeymoons on earth, and some of their experience seems to be that the
man who contradicts his wife during the first six weeks of matrimony
simply makes an ass of himself. He offends her and makes himself
unhappy, and it sometimes takes six months or more to get back to
bearings."

"What a lot of silly men and women you must have known, Lenox. Is that
the way Englishmen start marriage in England? If it is, I don't wonder
at Englishmen coming across the Atlantic in liners and air-ships and
so on to get American wives. I guess you can't understand your own
womenfolk."

"Or perhaps they don't understand us; but anyhow, I don't think I've
made any great mistake."

"No, I don't think you have. Of course if I thought so I wouldn't be
here now. But this is very well for a breakfast talk; all the same, I
should like to know how we are going to take the promenade you
promised me on the surface of the moon?"

"Your ladyship has only to finish her breakfast, and then everything
shall be made plain to her, even the deepest craters of the mountains
of the moon."

"Very well, then, I will eat swiftly and in obedience; and meanwhile,
as your lordship seems to have finished, perhaps--"

"Yes, I will go and see to the mechanical necessities," said Redgrave,
swallowing his last cup of coffee, and getting up. "If you'll come
down to the lower deck when you've finished, I'll have your breathing 
suit ready for you, and then we'll go into the air-chamber."

"Thanks, dear, yes," she said, putting out her hand to him as he left
the table, the ante-chamber to other worlds. "Isn't it just lovely?
Fancy me being able to leave one world and land on another, and have
you to say just those few words which make it all possible. I wonder
what all the girls of all the civilised countries of earth would give
just to be me right now."

"They could none of them give what you gave me, Zaidie, because you
see from my point of view there's only one Zaidie in the world--or as
perhaps I ought to say just now, in the Solar System."

"Very prettily said, sir!" she laughed, when she had given him his due
reward for his courtly speech. "I am too dazed with all these wonders
about me to--"

"To reply to it? You've given me the most convincing reply possible.
Now finish your breakfast, and I'll tell you when the breathing-
dresses and the air-chamber are ready. By the way, don't forget your
cameras. It's quite possible we may find something worth taking
pictures of, and you needn't trouble much about the weight. You know,
you and I and all that we carry will only weigh about a sixth of what
we did on the earth."

"Very well, then, I'll take the whole-plate apparatus as well as the
Kodak and the panorama camera. When I'm ready, Murgatroyd will tell
you to come down."

"But isn't he coming with us too?"

"My dear girl, if I were to ask Murgatroyd to leave the Astronef
there'd be a mutiny on board--a mutiny of one against one. No, he's
left his native world; but he says he's done it in a ship that's made
with British steel out of English iron mines, smelted, forged and
fashioned in English works, and so to him it's a bit of England,
however far away from Mother Earth it may be; and if you ever see
Andrew Murgatroyd's big head and good, ungainly body outside the
Astronef in any of the worlds, dead or alive, that we're going to
visit--well, when we get back to Mother Earth you may ask me--"

"I don't think I'll have to ask you for anything, Lenox. I believe if
I wanted anything you'd know before I did, so go away and get those
breathing-dresses ready. I didn't come to the moon to talk
commonplaces with a husband I've been married to for nearly three
days."

"Is it really as long as that?"

"Oh, don't be ridiculous, even if you are beyond the limits of earthly
conventionalities. Anyhow, I've been married long enough to want my
own way, and just now I want a promenade on the moon."

"The will of her ladyship is a law unto her servant, and that which
she hath said shall be done! If you come down on to the lower deck in
ten minutes everything shall be ready."

With this he disappeared down the companion-way.

About five minutes afterwards Andrew Murgatroyd showed his grizzled,
long-bearded face with its high forehead, heavy brows, and broad-set
eyes, long nose and shaven upper lip, just above the stairway and
said, for all the world as though he might have been giving out the
number of the hymn in his beloved Ebenezer at Smeaton:

"If it pleases yer ladyship, his lordship is ready, and if you'll
please come down I'll show you the way."

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Murgatroyd!" said Zaidie, getting up and going
towards the companion-way; "But I'm afraid you don't think that--I
mean you don't seem to take very much interest--"

"If your ladyship will pardon me," said the old man, standing aside to
let her go down, "it is not my business to think on board his
lordship's vessel. I am his servant, and my fathers have been his
fathers' servants for more years than I'd like to count. If it wasn't
that way I wouldn't be here. Will your ladyship please to come down?"

Zaidie bowed her beautiful head in recognition of this ages-old
devotion, and said as she passed him, more sweetly than he had ever
heard human lips speak:

"Thank you, Mr. Murgatroyd. You've taught me something in those few
words that we have no knowledge of in the States. Good service is as
honourable as good mastership. Thank you."

Murgatroyd put up his lower lip and half smiled with his upper, for he
was not yet quite sure of this radiant beauty, who, according to his
ideas, should have been English and wasn't. Then, with a rather clumsy
and yet eloquent gesture, he showed her the way down to the air-
chamber.

She nodded to him with a smile as she passed in through the airtight
door, and when she heard the levers swing to and the bolts shoot into
their places she felt as though, for the time being, she had said
goodbye to a friend.

Her husband was waiting for her almost fully clad in his breathing-
dress. He had hers all ready to put on, and when the necessary changes
and investments had been made, Zaidie found herself clad in a costume
which was not by any means unlike the diving-dresses of common use,
save that they were very much lighter in construction.

The helmets were smaller, and not having to withstand outside pressure
they were made of welded aluminium, lined thickly with asbestos, not
to keep the cold out, but the heat in. On the back of the dress there
was a square case, looking like a knap-sack, containing the expanding
apparatus, which would furnish breathable air for an almost unlimited
time as long as the liquefied air from a cylinder hung below it passed
through the cells in which the breathed air had been deprived of its
carbonic acid gas and other noxious ingredients.

The pressure of air inside the helmet automatically regulated the
supply, which was not permitted to circulate through the other
portions of the dress, The reasons for this precaution were very
simple. Granted the absence of atmosphere on the moon, any air in the
dress, which was woven of a cunning compound of silk and asbestos,
would instantly expand with irresistible force, burst the covering,
and expose the limbs of the explorers to a cold which would be
infinitely more destructive than the hottest of earthly fires. It
would wither them to nothing in a moment.

A human hand or foot--we won't say anything about faces exposed to the
summer or winter temperature of the moon--that is to say, to its
sunlight and its darkness--would be shrivelled into dry bone in a
moment, and therefore Lord Redgrave, foreseeing this, had provided the
breathing-dresses. Lastly, the two helmets were connected, for
purposes of conversation by a light wire, the two ends of which were
connected with a little telephonic receiver and transmitter inside
each of the head-dresses.

"Well, now I think we're ready," said Redgrave, putting his hand on
the lever which opened the outer door.

His voice sounded a little queer and squeaky over the wire, and for
the matter of that so did Zaidie's as she replied:

"Yes, I'm ready, I think. I hope these things will work all right."

"You may be quite sure that I shouldn't have put you into one of them
if I hadn't tested them pretty thoroughly," he replied, swinging the
door open and throwing out a light folding iron ladder which was
hinged to the floor.

They were in the shade cast by the hull of the Astronef. For about ten
yards in front of her Zaidie saw a dense black shadow, and beyond it a
stretch of grey-white sand lit up by a glare of sunlight which would
have been intolerable if it had not been for the smoke-coloured slips
of glass which had been fitted behind the glass visors of the helmets.

Over it were thickly scattered boulders and pieces of rock bleached
and desiccated, and each throwing a black shadow, fantastically shaped
and yet clearly defined on the grey-white sand behind it. There was no
soil, and all the softer kind of rock and stone had crumbled away ages
ago. Every particle of moisture had long since evaporated; even
chemical combinations had been dissolved by the alternations of heat
and cold known only on earth to the chemist in his laboratory.

Only the hardest rocks, such as granites and basalts, remained.
Everything else had been reduced to the universal grey-white
impalpable powder into which Zaidie's shoes sank when she, holding her
husband's hand, went down the ladder and stood at the foot of it--
first of the earth-dwellers to set foot on another world.

Redgrave followed her with a little spring from the centre of the
ladder which landed him with strange gentleness beside her. He took
both her gloved hands and pressed them hard in his. He would have
kissed his welcome to the World that Had Been if he could, but that of
course was out of the question, and so he had to be content with
telling her that he wanted to.

Then, hand in hand, they crossed the little plateau towards the edge
of the tremendous gulf, fifty-four miles across and nearly twenty
thousand feet deep, which forms the crater of Tycho. In the middle of
it rose a conical mountain about five thousand feet high, the summit
of which was just beginning to catch the solar rays. Half of the vast
plain was already brilliantly illuminated, but round the central cone
was a semicircle of shadow of impenetrable blackness.

"Day and night in this same valley, actually side by side!" said
Zaidie. Then she stopped and pointed down into the brightly lit
distance, and went on hurriedly, "Look, Lenox; look at the foot of the
mountain there! Doesn't that seem like the ruins of a city?"

"It does," he said, "and there's no reason why it shouldn't be. I've
always thought that, as the air and water disappeared from the upper
parts of the moon, the inhabitants, whoever they were, must have been
driven down into the deeper parts. Shall we go down and see?"

"But how?" she said.

He pointed towards the Astronef. She nodded her helmeted head, and
they went back towards the vessel.

A few minutes later the Space-Navigator had risen from her resting-
place with an impetus which rapidly carried her over half of the vast
crater, and then she began to drop slowly into the depths. She
grounded gently, and presently they were standing on the ground about
a mile from the central cone. This time, however, Redgrave had taken
the precaution to bring a magazine rifle and a couple of revolvers
with him in case any strange monsters, relics of the vanished fauna of
the moon, might still be taking refuge in these mysterious depths.
Zaidie, although like a good many American girls she could shoot
excellently well, carried no weapon more offensive than the
photographic apparatus aforesaid.

The first thing that Redgrave did when they stepped out on to the
sandy surface of the plain was to stoop down and strike a wax match.
There was a tiny glimmer of light, which was immediately extinguished.

"No air here," he said, "so we shall find no living beings--at any
rate, none like ourselves."

They found the walking exceedingly easy, although their boots were
purposely weighted in order to counteract, to some extent, the great
difference in gravity. A few minutes brought them to the outskirts of
the city. It had no walls and exhibited no signs of any devices for
defence. Its streets were broad and well-paved, and the houses, built
of great blocks of grey stone joined together with white cement,
looked as fresh and unworn as though they had only been built a few
months, whereas they had probably stood for hundreds of thousands of
years. They were flat-roofed, all of one storey and practically of one
type.

There were very few public buildings, and absolutely no attempt at
ornamentation was visible. Round some of the houses were spaces which
might once have been gardens. In the midst of the city, which appeared
to cover an area of about four square miles, was an enormous square
paved with flag-stones, which were covered to the depth of a couple of
inches with a light grey dust, which, as they walked across it,
remained perfectly still save for the disturbance caused by their
footsteps. There was no air to support it, otherwise it might have
risen in clouds about them.

From the centre of this square rose a huge pyramid nearly a thousand
feet in height, the sole building of the great silent city which
appeared to have been raised most probably as a temple by the hands of
its long-dead inhabitants.

When they got nearer they saw a white fringe round the steps by which
it was approached, and they soon found that this fringe was composed
of millions of white-bleached bones and skulls, shaped very much like
those of terrestrial men, save that they were very much larger, and
that the ribs were out of all proportion to the rest of the skeleton.
They stopped awe-stricken before this strange spectacle. Redgrave
stooped down and took hold of one of the bones, a huge femur. It broke
in two as he tried to lift it, and the piece which remained in his
hand crumbled instantly to white powder.

"Whoever they were," he said, "they were giants. When air and water
failed above, they came down here by some means and built this city.
You see what enormous chests they must have had. That would be
Nature's last struggle to enable them to breathe the diminishing
atmosphere. These, of course, were the last descendants of the fittest
to breathe it; this was their temple, I suppose, and here they came to
die--I wonder how many thousand years ago--perishing of heat, and
cold, and hunger, and thirst; the last tragedy of a race, which, after
all, must have been something like ourselves."

"It's just too awful for words," said Zaidie. "Shall we go into the
temple? That seems one of the entrances up there, only I don't like
walking over all those bones."

"I don't suppose they'll mind if we do," replied Redgrave, "only we
mustn't go far in. It may be full of cross passages and mazes, and we
might never get out. Our lamps won't be much use in there, you know,
for there's no air. They'll just be points of light, and we shan't see
anything but them. It's very aggravating, but I'm afraid there's no
help for it. Come along."

They ascended the steps, crushing the bones and skulls to powder
beneath their feet, and entered the huge, square doorway, which looked
like a rectangle of blackness against the grey-white of the wall. Even
through their asbestos-woven clothing they felt a sudden shock of icy
cold. In those few steps they had passed from a temperature of tenfold
summer heat into one below that of the coldest spots on earth They
turned on the electric lamps which were fitted to the breastplates of
their dresses, but they could see nothing save the thin thread of
light straight in front of them. It did not even spread. It was like a
polished needle on a background of black velvet.

All about them was darkness impenetrable, and so they reluctantly
turned back to the doorway, leaving all the mysteries which that vast
temple of a long-vanished people might contain to remain mysteries to
the end of time.

They passed down the steps again and crossed the square, and for the
next half-hour Zaidie was busy taking photographs of the pyramid with
its ghastly surroundings, and a few general views of this strange City
of the Dead.



Chapter VIII

WHEN they got back they found Murgatroyd pacing up and down the floor
of the deck-chamber, looking about him with serious eyes, but
betraying no other visible sign of anxiety. The Astronef was at once
his home and his idol, and, as Redgrave had said, even his own direct
orders would hardly have induced him to leave her even in a world in
which there was not a living human being to dispute possession of her.

When they had resumed their ordinary clothing the Astronef rose from
the surface of the plain, crossed the encircling wall at the height of
a few hundred feet, and made her way at a speed of about fifty miles
an hour towards the regions of the South Pole.

Behind them to the north-west they could see from their elevation of
nearly thirty thousand feet the vast expanse of the Sea of Clouds.
Dotted here and there were the shining points and ridges of light
marking the peaks and crater-walls which the rays of the rising sun
had already touched. Before them and to the right and left rose a vast
maze of ragged, splintery peaks and huge ramparts of mountain-walls
enclosing plains so far below their summits that the light of neither
sun nor earth ever reached them.

By directing the force exerted by what might now be called the
propelling part of the engines against the mountain masses which they
crossed to right and left and behind, Redgrave was able to take a
zigzag course that carried them over many of the walled plains which
were wholly or partially lit up by the sun, and in nearly all of the
deepest their telescopes revealed something like what they had found
within the crater of Tycho. At length, pointing to a gigantic circle
of white light fringing an abyss of utter darkness, he said: "There is
Newton, the greatest mystery of the moon. Those inner walls are
twenty-four thousand feet high; that means that the bottom, which has
never been seen by human eyes, is about five thousand feet below the
surface of the moon. What do you say, dear--shall we go down and see
if the searchlight will show us anything? You know there may be
something like breathable air down there, and perhaps living creatures
who call breathe it."

"Certainly!" replied Zaidie decisively; "Haven't we come to see things
that nobody else has ever seen?"

Redgrave went down to the engine-room, and presently the Astronef
changed her course, and in a few minutes was hanging with her polished
hull bathed in sunlight, like a star suspended over the unfathomable
gulf of darkness below.

As they sank below the level of the sun-rays, Murgatroyd turned on
both the searchlights. They dropped down ever slowly and more slowly
until gradually the two long, thin streams of light began to spread
themselves out; the lower they went the more the beams spread out, and
by the time the Astronef came gently to a rest they were swinging
round her in broad fans of diffused light over a dark, marshy surface,
with scattered patches of grey moss and reeds, with dull gleams of
stagnant water showing between them.

"Air and water at last! I thought so," said Redgrave, as he rejoined
her on the upper deck; "Air and water and eternal darkness! Well, we
shall find life on the moon here if anywhere."

"I suppose we had better put on our breathing-dresses, hadn't we?"
Asked Zaidie.

"Certainly," he replied, "because, although there is some sort of air,
we don't know yet whether we shall be able to breathe it. It may be
half carbon dioxide for all we know; but a few matches will soon tell
us that."

Within a quarter of an hour they were again standing on the surface.
Murgatroyd had orders to follow them as far as possible with the head
searchlight, which, in the comparatively rarefied atmosphere, appeared
to have a range of several miles. Redgrave struck a match, and held it
up level with his head; it burnt with a clear, steady, yellow flame.

"Where a match will burn a man should be able to breathe," he said.
"I'm going to see what lunar air is like."

"For Heaven's sake be careful, dear," came the reply in pleading tones
across the wire.

"All right; but don't open your helmet until I tell you."

He then raised the hermetically closed slide of glass, which formed
the front of the helmets, half an inch or so. Instantly he felt a
sensation like the drawing of a red-hot iron across his skin. He
snapped the visor down and clasped it in its place. For a moment or
two he gasped for breath, and then he said rather faintly:

"It's no good, it's too cold. It would freeze the blood of a
salamander. I think we'd better go back and explore this place under
cover. We can't do anything in the dark, and we can see just as well
from the upper deck with the searchlights. Besides, as there's air and
water here, there's no telling but there may be inhabitants of sorts
such as we shouldn't care to meet."

He took her hand, and to Murgatroyd's great relief they went back to
the vessel.

Redgrave then raised the Astronef a couple of hundred feet and, by
directing the repulsive force against the mountain walls, developed
just sufficient energy to keep them moving at about twelve miles an
hour.

They began to cross the plain with their searchlights flashing out in
all directions. They had scarcely gone a mile before the head-light
fell upon a moving form half walking, half crawling among some stunted
brown-leaved bushes by the side of a broad, stagnant stream.

"Look!" said Zaidie, clasping his arm, "is that a gorilla, or--no, it
can't be a man."

The light was turned full upon the object. If it had been covered with
hair it might have passed for some strange type of the ape tribe, hut
its skin was smooth and of a livid grey. Its lower limbs were
evidently more powerful than its upper; its chest was enormously
developed, but the stomach was small. The head was big and round and
smooth. As they came nearer they saw that in place of fingernails it
had long white feelers which it kept extended and constantly waving
about as it groped its way towards the water. As the intense light
flashed full on it, it turned its head towards them. It had a nose and
a mouth--the nose, long and thick, with huge mobile nostrils; the
mouth forming an angle something like a fish's lips. Teeth there
seemed none. At either side of the upper part of the nose there were
two little sunken holes--in which this thing's ancestors of countless
thousands of years ago had once had eyes.

As she looked upon this awful parody of what had once perhaps been a
human face, Zaidie covered hers with her hands and uttered a little
moan of horror.

"Horrible, isn't it?" said Redgrave. "I suppose that's what the last
remnants of the Lunarians have come to. Evidently once men and women,
something like ourselves. I daresay the ancestors of that thing have
lived here in coldness and darkness for hundreds of generations. It
shows how tremendously tenacious Nature is of life.

"Ages ago, no doubt, that brute's ancestors lived up yonder when there
were seas and rivers, fields and forests, just as we have them on
earth, among men and women who could see and breathe and enjoy
everything in life and had built up civilisations like ours!

"Look, it's going to fish or something. Now we shall see what it feeds
on. I wander why the water isn't frozen. I suppose there must be some
internal heat left still. A few patches with lakes of lava under them.
Perhaps this valley is just over one, and that's why these creatures
have managed to survive.

"Ah! there's another of them, smaller, not so strongly formed. That
thing's mate, I suppose-female of the species. Ugh! I wonder how many
hundred of thousands of years it will take for our descendants to come
to that."

"I hope our dear old earth will hit something else and be smashed to
atoms before that happens!" exclaimed Zaidie, whose curiosity had now
partly overcome her horror. "Look, it's trying to catch something!"

The larger of the two creatures had groped its way to the edge of the
sluggish, oily water and dropped, or rather rolled, quietly into it.
It was evidently cold-blooded, or nearly so, for no warm-blooded
animal would have taken to such water so naturally. Presently the
other dropped in too, and both disappeared for some moments. Then, in
the midst of a violent commotion in the water a few yards away, they
rose to the surface of the water, the larger with a wriggling, eel-
like fish between its jaws.

They both groped their way towards the edge, and had just reached it
and were pulling themselves out when a hideous shape rose out of the
water behind them. It was like the head of an octopus joined to the
body of a boa-constrictor, but head and neck were both of the same
ghastly, livid grey as the other two creatures. It was evidently
blind, too, for it took no notice of the brilliant glare of the
searchlight, but it moved rapidly towards the two scrambling forms,
its long white feelers trembling out in all directions. Then one of
them touched the smaller of the two shapes. Instantly the rest shot
out and closed round it, and with scarcely a struggle it was dragged
beneath the water and vanished.

Zaidie uttered a little low scream and covered her face again, and
Redgrave said:

"The same old brutal law you see, life preying upon life even on a
dying world, a world that is more than half dead itself. Well, I think
we've seen enough of this place. I suppose those arc about the only
types of life we should meet anywhere, and I don't want to know much
more about them. I vote we go and see what the invisible hemisphere is
like."

"I have had all I want of this side," said Zaidie, looking away from
the scene of the hideous tragedy, "so the sooner we go, the better I
shall like it."

A few minutes later the Astronef was again rising towards the stars
with her searchlights still flashing down into the Valley of Expiring
Life, which had seemed to them even worse than the Valley of Death. As
he followed the rays with a pair of powerful field glasses, Redgrave
fancied that he saw huge, dim shapes moving about the stunted
shrubbery and through the slimy pools of the stagnant rivers, and once
or twice he got a glimpse of what might well have been the ruins of
towns and cities, but the gloom soon became too deep and dense for the
searchlights to pierce and he was glad when the Astronef soared up
into the brilliant sunlight once more. Even the ghastly wilderness of
the lunar landscape was welcome after the nameless horrors of that
hideous abyss.

After a couple of hours' rapid travelling, Redgrave pointed down to a
comparatively small, deep crater, and said:

"There, this is Malapert. It is almost exactly at the south pole of
the moon, and there," he went on, pointing ahead, "is the horizon of
the hemisphere which no earthborn eyes have ever seen."

"Except ours," said Zaidie somewhat inconsequently, "and I wonder what
we shall see."

"Probably something very like what we have seen on this side," replied
Redgrave, and as the event proved, he was right.

Contrary to many ingenious speculations which have been indulged in by
both scientist and romancer, they found that the hemisphere, which for
countless ages had never been turned towards the earth, was almost an
exact replica of the visible one. Fully three-fourths of it was
brilliantly illuminated by the sun, and what they saw through their
glasses was practically the same as what they had beheld on the
earthward side; huge groups of enormous craters and ringed mountains,
long, irregular chains crowned with sharp, splintery peaks, and
between these vast, deeply depressed areas, ranging in colour from
dazzling white to grey-brown, marking the beds of the vanished lunar
seas.

As they crossed one of these, Redgrave allowed the Astronef to sink to
within a few thousand feet of the surface, and then he and Zaidie
swept it with their telescopes. Their chance search was rewarded by
something they had not seen in the sea-beds of the other hemisphere.

These depressions were far deeper than the others, evidently many
thousands of feet below the average surface, but the sun's rays were
blazing full into this one, and, dotted round its slopes at varying
elevations, they made out little patches which seemed to differ from
the general surface.

"I wonder if those are the remains of cities," said Zaidie. "Isn't it
possible that the old peoples of the moon might have built their
cities along the seas just as we do, and that their descendants may
have followed the waters as they retreated, I mean as they either
dried up or disappeared into the centre?"

"Very probable indeed, dearest of philosophers," he said, picking her
up with one arm and kissing the smiling lips which had just uttered
this most reasonable deduction. "Now we'll go down and see."

He diminished the vertically repulsive force a little, and the
Astronef dropped slantingly towards the bed of what might once have
been the Pacific of the moon.

When they were within about a couple of thousand feet of the surface
it became perfectly plain that Zaidie was correct in her hypothesis.
The vast sea floor was thickly strewn with the ruins of countless
cities and towns, which had been inhabited by an equally countless
series of generations of men and women, who had perhaps lived and
loved in the days when our own world was a glowing mass of molten
rock, surrounded by the envelope of vapours which has since condensed
to form our oceans.

They dropped still lower and ran diagonally across the ocean-bed, and
as they did so Zaidie's proposition was more and more completely
confirmed, for they saw that the towns and cities which stood highest
were the most dilapidated, and that the buildings had evidently been
torn and crumbled away by the action of wind and water, snow and ice.

The nearer they approached to the central and deepest depression, the
better preserved and the simpler the buildings became, until down in
the lowest depths they found a collection of low-built square edifies,
scarcely better than huts, which had clustered round the little lake
into which, ages before, the ocean had dwindled. But where the lake
had been there was now only a shallow depression covered with grey
sand and brown rock.

Into this they descended and touched the lunar surface for the last
time. A couple of hours' excursion among the houses proved that they
had been the last refuge of the last descendants of a dying race, a
race which had socially degenerated just as the succession of cities
had done architecturally, age by age, as the long-drawn struggle for
mere existence had become keener and keener until the two last
essentials, air and water, had failed--and then the end had come.

The streets, like the square of the great Temple of Tycho, were strewn
with myriads and myriads of bones, and there were myriads more
scattered round what had once been the shores of the dwindling lake.
Here, as elsewhere, there was not a sign or a record of any kind--
carving or sculpture. If there were any such on the surface of the
moon they had not discovered them. The buildings which they had seen
evidently belonged to the decadent period during which the dwindling
remnants of the Selenites asked only to eat and drink and breathe.

Inside the great Pyramid of the City of Tycho they might, perhaps,
have found something--some stone or tablet which bore the mark of the
artist's hand; elsewhere, perhaps, they might have found cities reared
by older races, which might have rivalled the creations of Egypt and
Babylon, but they had neither time nor inclination to look for these.

All that they had seen of the Dead World had only sickened and
saddened them. The untravelled regions of Space peopled by living
worlds more akin to their own were before them. The red disc of Mars
was glowing in the zenith among the diamond-white clusters which
gemmed the black sky behind him.

More than a hundred millions of miles had to be traversed before they
would be able to set foot on his surface, and so, after one last look
round the Valley of Death about them, Redgrave turned on the full
energy of the repulsive force in a vertical direction, and the
Astronef leapt upwards in a straight line for her new destination. The
Unknown Hemisphere spread out in a vast plain beneath them, the
blazing sun rose on their left, and the brilliant silver orb of the
earth on their right, and so, full of wonder and yet without regret,
they bade farewell to the World that Had Been.



Chapter IX

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 Redgrave was standing with his bride
in the forward end of the deck-chamber 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!" she said, 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. Are
we going to land on them?"

"I don't see why we shouldn't," he said. "I think we might find them
convenient stopping-places; besides, you know that this isn't only a
pleasure-trip. We have to add as much as we can to the sum of human
knowledge, and so of course we shall have to find out whether the
moons of Mars 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?"

"About," 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 Phobos. And then when we've examined him
we'll pay a visit to his brother and take a trip round Mars on him.
Phobos 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 delightful," said Zaidie, "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
focussed 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. Soon even with
her unaided eyes 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
glimmering twilight which the inner moon threw upon the unlighted
portion of the planet's disc.

Deimos grew bigger and bigger, and in about half an hour the Astronef
grounded gently on what looked to Zaidie 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 steered 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 as he came up the companion
way, "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. Still, you may as well take a couple of photographs of the
surface, and then we'll be off to Phobos."

Zaidie got her apparatus to work, and when she had taken her slides
down to the dark-room, Redgrave turned the R. Force on very slightly
and Phobos began to sink away beneath them. 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
satellites.

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, 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 took no moment's heed of these, so
absorbed were they in the wonderful spectacle which was swiftly
passing under their eyes.

The main armament of the Astronef consisted of four pneumatic guns,
which could be mounted on swivels, two ahead and two astern, which
carried a shell containing either one of two kinds of explosives
invented by her creator.

One of these was a solid, and burst on impact with an explosive force
equal to about twenty pounds of lyddite. The other consisted of two
liquids separated by a partition in the shell, and these, when mixed
by the breaking of the partition, burst 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 explosive bullets a
minute.

Professor Rennick, although a man of peace, had little sympathy with
the laws of "civilised" warfare which permit men to be blown into rags
of flesh and splinters of bone by explosive shells of a pound weight
and upwards, and only allow projectiles of less weight to be used
against "savages". He believed that when war was necessary it had to
be war--and the sooner it was over the better for everybody concerned.

The small arms consisted of a couple of heavy ten-bore elephant guns
carrying three-ounce melinite shells; 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.

The guns were got up and mounted while the attraction of the planet
was comparatively feeble, and the guns themselves 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, her
crew of three found the work easy. 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. An angular observation showed that
they were within fifty miles of the surface of the undiscovered world.

"Well, we shall find 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! 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 property peculiar to the Martian atmosphere, but he
immediately experienced a sensation such as usually follows the
drinking of a glass of champagne. He took another breath, and another,
then he opened the inner door and went back 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."

"As there's a fairly big problem to be solved shortly I'll see to the
descent myself," he replied, going towards the stair-way.

In a couple of minutes she saw the cloud belt below them rising
rapidly. When Redgrave returned the Astronef was plunging 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, which was 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 daresay 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."

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. Those canals are the remains of gulfs
and straits which have been widened and deepened and lengthened by
human, or I should 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, there are
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 being. I was reading
Flammarion's 'End of the World' last night, and he, you know,
describes the earth at the last as just one big 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 rather 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 perhaps a
superhuman intellect, with all sorts of extra-human ideas in it."

"Then there's another thing," he went on. "Suppose they fancied a trip
through Space, and thought that they had as good a right to the
Astronef as we have? I daresay they've seen us by this time 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 in place before we go down, in case their
moral ideas, as dear old Hans Breitmann called them, are not quite the
same as ours."



Chapter X

The words were hardly out of his mouth before Zaidie, who still had
her glasses to her eyes, and was looking down towards the great city
whose glazed roofs were flashing with a thousand tints in the pale
crimson sunlight, said with a little tremor in her voice:

"Look, Lenox, down there--don't you see something coming up? That
little black thing. Just look how fast it's coming up; it's quite
distinct already. It's a sort of flying-ship, only it has wings and, I
think, masts too. Yes, I can see three masts, and there's something
glittering on the tops of them. I wonder if they're coming to pay us a
polite morning call, or whether they're going to treat us like
trespassers in their atmosphere."

"There's no telling, but those things on top of the masts look like
revolving helices," replied Redgrave, after a brief look through his
telescope. "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, whether it's peace or war, 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 conning-tower 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 conning-tower again, 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 deck-chamber, and Murgatroyd had gone down to the engine-room.
Fifty feet ahead of them stretched out the long shining spur, of which
ten feet were solid steel, a ram which no floating structure built by
human hands could have resisted.

Redgrave was standing with his hand on the steering-wheel, looking
more serious than he had done so far in 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 a fleet. 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, Lenox, suppose they
were able to smash us up with a single shot!"

"You needn't be afraid of that, dear!" He said, putting his arm round
her shoulders; "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 just as we are," she replied; "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 she 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
the smoke of 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 then, with half a turn of the steering-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, the whirling propellers became
two intersecting circles of light. The speed of the Astronef increased
to a hundred-and-fifty 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 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 down the tube. 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, looking like the links of a broken chain, 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.

"Well, gentlemen," said Redgrave after a swift glance round. "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. If you're not 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," he
replied, a trifle savagely. "People don't have air-ships and guns,
which fire shells or poison bombs, 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 was worth having. Of course that would give
them the command of the planet, land and sea. In fact, if we are able
to make the personal acquaintance of the Martians, we shall 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 may have civilised themselves out of all
the emotions until they're just a set of cold, calculating, scientific
animals. After all they must be something of the sort, for I'm quite
sure we would 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, and photographed them, and filled the
newspapers with everything that we could imagine about them, and then
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 much more really civilised than shooting at them."

While this little conversation was going on, the Asfronef was dropping
rapidly into the midst of the Martian fleet, which had again arranged
itself in a circle. Zaidie soon made out through her 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 ships.
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 I'll 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
nearly two 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 breaches of the guns in
the act of turning the muzzles on the Astronef; but this was only a
momentary glimpse, for in a second 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."

"All 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.

"They can pick up the pieces down there, what there is left of them,"
said Redgrave, still holding Zaidie tight to his side with one hand
and working the wheel with the other, "and 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. I don't believe even Stead
himself could stand that--unless, of course, he wasn't here."

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, little woman, 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 somethings--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.

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

"Yes, dear," she whispered in between the kisses, "I see now."



Chapter XI

The Astronef dropped swiftly down through the crimson-tinged clouds,
and a few minutes later they saw that the fleet had scattered in units
in all directions, apparently with the intention of getting as far as
possible out of reach of that terrible ram. Only one of them, the
largest, which carried what looked like a flag of woven gold at the
top of its centre mast, remained in sight after a few minutes. It was
almost immediately below them when they had passed through the clouds,
and they could see it sinking straight down towards the centre of what
appeared to be the principal square of the bigger of the two cities
which Zaidie had named New York and Brooklyn.

"That fellow has gone to report, evidently," said Redgrave. "We'll
follow him just to see what he's up to, 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 Zaidie
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 your Park Lane and the houses round 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
stature, 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."

"That's exactly what's happening on earth, you know, dear. I don't
mean about the rationals, but the women growing up, especially in
America. I come of a pretty long family--but look!"

"Well, I only come to your ear," she said.

"And our descendants of ten thousand years hence--"

"Oh, don't bother about them!" she said. "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, in fact! These people have lived too
long. I daresay 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 Russian
diplomacy or those things we saw at the bottom of Newton crater. I
don't like the look of them."

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, 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 we may possibly have 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 breach 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 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 the space-voyagers, when they discussed it afterwards,
ages of purely 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 an 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 of a sort still flowed
through their veins, and so the magic of this marvellous vision
instantly awoke the long-slumbering elementary instincts of a byegone
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
Rennickite, as he had christened it, into the Martian air-ship. There
was the roar of 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.

This done, Redgrave went 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 airship 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 waxy cheeks, and something like a light of human passion came into
his eyes.

Then, to the utter astonishment of both Redgrave and Zaidie, he said
slowly and deliberately, and with only just enough tinge of emotion in
his voice to make Redgrave want to shoot him:

"Beautiful. Perfect. More perfect than ours. I want it. Give Palace
and Garden of Eternal Summer for it. Two thousand work-slaves and
fifty--"

"And I'll see you damned first, sir, whoever you are!" said Redgrave,
clapping his hand on to the butt of the revolver, and forgetting for
the moment that he was speaking in another world than his own. "What
the devil do you mean, sir, by insulting my wife--?"

"Insulting. Wife. What is that? We have no words like those."

"But you speak English," exclaimed Zaidie, going a little nearer to
him, but still keeping the muzzle of her revolver pointing up to his
hairless head. "No, Lenox, don't be afraid about me, and don't get
angry. Can't you see that this person hasn't got any temper? I suppose
it was civilised out of his ancestors ages ago. He doesn't know what a
wife or an insult is. He just looks upon me as a desirable piece of
property to be bought, and I daresay he offered you a very handsome
price. Now, don't look so savage, because you know bargains like that
have been made even on our dear old virtuous Mother earth. For
instance, if you hadn't met us in the middle of the Atlantic--"

"That'll do, Zaidie," Redgrave interrupted almost roughly. "That's not
exactly the question, but I see what you mean, and it was a bit silly
of me to get angry."

"Silly? Angry? What do those words mean?" said the Martian in his
slow, passionless, mechanical voice "Who are you? Whence come you?"

"I'll answer the last part first," said Redgrave.

"We come from the earth, the planet which you see after sunset and
before sunrise."

"Yes, the Silver Star," said the Martian without any note of wonder or
surprise in his voice. "Are all the dwellers there like the gods and
angels our children read about in the old legends?"

"Gods and angels!" laughed Zaidie. "There, Lenox, there's a compliment
for you. I really think we ought to be as civil to his Royal Highness
after that as possible." Then she went on, addressing the Martian,
"No, we are not all gods and angels on earth. There are no gods and
very few angels. In fact there are none except those which exist in
the fancy of certain prejudiced persons. But that doesn't matter, at
least not just now," she continued with American directness. "What we
want to know just now is, why you speak English, and what sort of a
world this Mars is?"

The Martian evidently only understood the most direct essentials of
her speech. He saw that she asked two questions, and he answered them.

"Speak English?" He replied, with a little shake of his huge head. "We
know not English, but there is no other speech. There is only ours.
Cycles ago there were other speeches here, but those who spoke them
were killed. It was inconvenient. One speech for a world is best."

"I see what he means," said Redgrave, looking towards Zaidie. "The
Martian people have developed along practically the same lines as we
are doing, but they have done it faster and got a long way ahead of
us. We are finding out that the speech we call English is the shortest
and most convenient. The Martians found it out long ago and killed
everybody who spoke anything else. After all, what we call speech is
only the translation of thoughts into sounds. These people have been
thinking for ages with the same sort of brains as ours, and they've
translated their thoughts into the same sounds. What we call English
they, I daresay, call Martian, and that's all there is in it that I
can see."

"Of course," laughed Zaidie. "Wonderful until you know how, eh? Like
most things. Still I must say that our friend here speaks English
something like a phonograph, and if he'll excuse me saying so, which
of course he will, he doesn't seem to have much more human nature
about him."

"I'm not quite so sure on that point," said Redgrave, "but--"

"Oh, never mind about that now!" she interrupted, and then, turning
towards the Martian, who had been listening intently as though he was
trying to make sense out of what they had been saying, she went on
speaking slowly and very plainly--

"Tell me, sir, if you please, do you know what 'angry' means? Are you
not angry with us for destroying your air-ships up there in the
clouds, and the one that came down, and for shooting all those people
of yours?"

The Martian looked at her with a little light in his big blue eyes,
and two faint little spots of red just under them, and said: "Anger!
Yes, I remember, that is what we called brain-heat. Our teachers found
it to be madness and it was abolished. It was not convenient. The air-
ships were not convenient to you, so you abolished them. The folk,
too, that you abolished with those things," pointing to the guns,
"they were not convenient. If you hadn't done that, they would have
abolished you. There is no more to say."

"What brutes," said Zaidie, turning away from him, her head thrown
back and her lips curling in unutterable disgust. "Well, if these
people have civilised themselves along the same lines that we are
doing, thinking the same things and speaking something like the same
speech, thank God we shall be dead before our civilisation reaches a
stage like this. That's not a man. It's only a machine of flesh and
bone and nerves, and I suppose it has blood of some sort."

A beautiful woman always looks most beautiful when she is just a
little angry. Redgrave had never seen Zaidie look quite so lovely as
she did just then. The Martian, whose ancestors had for generations
forgotten what human emotion was like, only saw in her anger a miracle
which made her a thousand times more beautiful than before, and as he
looked upon her glowing cheeks and gleaming eyes some instinct
insensibly transmitted through many generations awoke to sudden life
in some unused corner of his brain.

His pale clear eyes lit up with something like a glow of human
passion. The pink spots under his eyes spread downwards over his
cheeks. Some half-articulate sounds came from between his thin lips.
Then they were drawn back and showed his smooth, toothless gums. He
took a couple of long, swift strides towards her, and then bent
forward, towering over her with long, outstretched arms, huge,
hideous, and half-human.

Zaidie sprang backwards as he came towards her, her right hand went
up, and, just as Redgrave levelled his revolver, and Murgatroyd, true
to the old Berserk instinct, took a rifle by the barrel and swung the
stock above his head, Zaidie pulled her trigger. The bullet cut a
clean hole through the smooth, hairless skull of the Martian. A dark,
red spot came just between his eyes, his huge frame shrank together
and collapsed in a heap on the deck.

"Oh, I've killed him! God forgive me, killed a man!" she whispered, as
her hand fell to her side, and the revolver dropped from her fingers.
"But, Lenox, do you really think it was a man?"

"That thing a man!" He replied between his clenched teeth. "He wanted
you, and spoke English of a sort, so there was something human about
him, but anyhow he's better dead. Here, Andrew, open that door again
and help me to heave this thing overboard. Then I think we'd better be
off before we have the rest of the fleet with their poison guns round
us. Zaidie, I think you'd better go to your room for the present. Take
a nip of cognac and then lie down, and mind you keep the door tight
shut. There's no telling what these animals might do if they had a
chance, and just now it's my business and Andrew's to see that they
don't."

Though she would much rather have remained on deck to see anything
more that might happen, she saw that he was really in earnest, and so
like a wise wife who commands by obeying, she obeyed, and went below.

Then the dead body of the Martian was tumbled out of the side door.
The windows through which the guns had been fired were hermetically
closed, and a few minutes later the Astronef vanished from the surface
of Mars, to remain a memory and a marvel to the dwindling generations
of the worn-out world which is as this may be in the far-off days that
are to come.



Chapter XII

"How very different Venus looks now to what it does from the earth,"
said Zaidie, a couple of mornings later, by earth-time, as she took
her eye away from the telescope through which she had been examining
an enormous golden crescent which spanned the dark vault of space
ahead of and slightly below the Astronef.

"Yes," replied Redgrave, "she looks--"

"How do you know that she is a she?" said Zaidie, getting up and
laying a hand on his shoulder as he sat at his own telescope. "Of
course I know what you mean, that according to our own ideas on earth,
it is the planet or the world which has been supposed for ages to, as
it were, shine on the lovers of earth with the light reflected from
the--the--well, I suppose you know what I mean."

"Seeing that you are the most perfect terrestrial incarnation of the
said goddess that I have seen yet," he replied, slipping his arm round
her waist and pulling her down onto his knees, "I don't think that
this is quite the view you ought to take. Surely if Venus ever had a
daughter--"

"Oh, nonsense! After we've travelled all these millions of miles
together do you really expect me to believe stuff like that?"

"My dear girl-graduate," he said, tightening his grip round her waist
a little, "you know perfectly well that if we had travelled beyond the
limits of the Solar System, if we had outsailed old Halley's Comet
itself, and dived into the uttermost depths of Space outside the Milky
Way, you and I would still be a man and a woman, and, being, as may be
presumed, more or less in love with each other--"

"Less indeed!" said Zaidie; "You're speaking for yourself, I hope."

And then when she had partially disengaged herself and sat up
straight, she said between her laughs--

"Really, Lenox, you're quite absurd for a person who has been married
as long as you have, I don't mean in time, but in Space. Was it a
thousand years or a couple of hundred million miles ago that we were
married? Really I am getting my ideas of time and Space quite mixed
up.

"But never mind that! What I was going to say is that, according to
all the authorities which your girl-graduate has been reading since we
left Mars, Venus---oh, doesn't she look just gorgeous, and our old
friend the sun behind there blazing out of darkness like one of the
furnaces at Pittsburg--I beg your pardon, Lenox, I'm afraid I'm
getting quite provincial. I suppose we're considerably more than a
hundred million miles away?"

"Yes, dear; we're about a hundred and fifty millions, and at that
distance, if you'll excuse me saying so, even the United States would
seem almost like a province, wouldn't they?"

"Well, yes; that's just where distance doesn't lend enchantment to the
view, I suppose."

"But what was it you were going to say before that--"

"The interlude, eh? Well, before the interlude you were accusing me of
being a graduate as well as a girl. Of course I can't help that, but
what I was going to say was--"

"If you are going to talk science, dear, perhaps we'd better sit on
different chairs. I may have been married for a hundred and fifty
million miles, but the honeymoon isn't half way through yet, you
know."

Then there was another interlude of a few seconds' duration. When
Zaidie was seated beside her own telescope again, she said, after
another glance at the splendid crescent which, as the Astronef
approached at a speed of over forty miles a second, increased in size
and distinctness every moment:

"What I mean is this. All the authorities are agreed that on Venus,
her axis of revolution being so very much inclined to the plane of her
orbit, the seasons are so severe that half the year its temperate zone
and its tropics have a summer about twice as hot as ours tropics and
the other half they have a winter twice as cold as our coldest. I'm
afraid, after all, we shall find the Love-Star a world of salamanders
and seals; things that can live in a furnace and bask on an iceberg;
and when we get back home it will be our painful duty, as the first
explorers of the fields of space, to dispel another dearly-cherished
popular delusion."

"I'm not so very sure about that," said Lenox, glancing from the
rapidly growing crescent, to the sweet smiling face beside him. "Don't
you see something very different there to what we saw either on the
moon or Mars? Now just go back to your telescope and let us take an
observation."

"Well," said Zaidie, rising, "as our trip is partly, at least, in the
interest of science, I will." And then, when she had got her own
telescope into focus again--for the distance between the Astronef and
the new world they were about to visit was rapidly lessening--she took
a long look through it, and said:

"Yes, I think I see what you mean. The outer edge of the crescent is
bright, but it gets greyer and dimmer towards the inside of the curve.
Of course Venus has an atmosphere. So had Mars; but this must be very
dense. There's a sort of halo all round it. Just fancy that splendid
thing being the little black spot we saw going across the face of the
sun a few days ago! It makes one feel rather small, doesn't it?"

"That is one of the things which a woman says when she doesn't want to
be answered; but, apart from that, you were saying--"

"What a very unpleasant person you can be when you like! I was going
to say that on the moon we saw nothing but black and white, light and
darkness. There was no atmosphere, except in those awful places I
don't want to think about. Then, as we got near Mars, we saw a pinky
atmosphere, but not very dense; but this, you see, is a sort of pearl-
grey white shading from silver to black. But look--what are those tiny
bright spots? There are hundreds of them."

"Do you remember as we were leaving the earth, how bright the mountain
ranges looked; how plainly we could see the Rockies and the Andes?"

"Oh, yes, I see; they're mountains; thirty-seven miles high some of
them, they say; and the rest of the silver-grey will be clouds, I
suppose. Fancy living under clouds like those."

"Only another case of the adaptation of life to natural conditions, I
expect. When we get there, I daresay we shall find that these clouds
are just what make it possible for the inhabitants of Venus to stand
the extremes of heat and cold. Given elevations, three or four times
as high as the Himalayas, it would be quite possible for them to
choose their temperature by shifting their altitude.

"But I think it's about time to drop theory and see to the practice,"
he continued, getting up from his chair and going to the signal board
to the conning-tower. "Whatever the planet Venus may be like, we don't
want to charge it at the rate of sixty miles a second. That's about
the speed now, considering how fast she's travelling towards us."

"And considering that, whether it is a nice world or not, it's nearly
as big as the earth, I guess we should get rather the worst of the
charge," laughed Zaidie, as she went back to her telescope.

Redgrave sent a signal down to Murgatroyd to reverse engines, as it
were, or, in other words, to direct the "R. Force" against the planet,
from which they were now only a couple of hundred thousand miles
distant. The next moment the sun and stars seemed to halt in their
courses. The great golden-grey crescent which had been increasing in
size every moment, appeared to remain stationary, and then, when he
was satisfied that the engines were developing the Force properly, he
sent another signal down, and the Astronef began to descend.

The half-disc of Venus seemed to fall below them, and in a few minutes
they could see it from the upper deck spreading out like a huge semi-
circular plain of light ahead and on both sides of them. The Astronef
was falling upon it at the rate of about a thousand miles a minute
towards the centre of the half crescent, and every moment the
brilliant spots above the cloud-surface grew in size and brightness.

"I believe the theory about the enormous height of the mountains of
Venus must be correct after all," said Redgrave, tearing himself with
an evident wrench away from his telescope. "Those white patches can't
be anything else but the summits of snow-capped mountains. You know
how brilliantly white a snow-peak looks on earth against the whitest
of clouds."

"Oh, yes," said Zaidie, "I've often seen that in the Rockies. But it's
lunch time, and I must go down and see how my things in the kitchen
are getting on. I suppose you'll try and land somewhere where it's
morning, so that we can have a good day before us. Really, it's very
convenient to be able to make your own morning or night as you like,
isn't it? I hope it won't make us too conceited when we get back,
being able to choose our mornings and our evenings; in fact, our
sunrises and sunsets on any world we like to visit in a casual way
like this."

"Well," laughed Redgrave, as she moved away towards the companion
stairs, "after all, if you find the United States, or even the planet
Terra, too small for you, we've always got the fields of Space open to
us. We might take a trip across the Zodiac or down the Milky Way."

"And meanwhile," she replied, stopping at the top of the stairs and
looking round, "I'll go down and get lunch. You and I may be king and
queen of the realms of Space, and all that sort of thing, but we've
got to eat and drink, after all."

"And that reminds me," said Redgrave, getting up and following her,
"we must celebrate our arrival on a new world as usual. I'll go down
and get out the wine. I shouldn't be surprised if we found the people
of the Love-World living on nectar and ambrosia, and as fizz is our
nearest approach to nectar--"

"I suppose," said Zaidie, as she gathered up her skirts and stepped
daintily down the companion stairs, "if you find anything human or at
least human enough to eat and drink, you'll have a party and give them
champagne. I wonder what those wretches on Mars would have thought of
it if we'd only made friends with them?"

Lunch on board the Astronef was about the pleasantest meal of the day.
Of course there was neither day nor night, in the ordinary sense of
the word, except as the hours were measured off by the chronometers.
Whichever side or end of the vessel received the direct rays of the
sun, was bathed in blazing heat and dazzling light. Elsewhere there
was black darkness, and the more than icy cold of space; but lunch was
a convenient division of the waking hours, which began with a stroll
on the upper deck and a view of the ever-varying splendours about
them, and ended after dinner in the same place with coffee and
cigarettes and speculations as to the next day's happenings.

This lunch hour passed even more pleasantly and rapidly than others
had done, for the discussion as to the possibilities of Venus was
continued in a quite delightful mixture of scientific disquisition and
that converse which is common to most human beings on their honeymoon.

As there was nothing more to be done or seen for an hour or two, the
afternoon was spent in a pleasant siesta in the luxurious deck-saloon;
because evening to them would be morning on that portion of Venus to
which they were directing their course, and, as Zaidie said, when she
subsided into her hammock:

It would be breakfast-time before they could get dinner.

As the Astronef fell with ever-increasing velocity towards the cloud-
covered surface of Venus, the remainder of her disc, lit up by the
radiance of her sister-worlds, Mercury, Mars, and the earth, and also
by the pale radiance of an enormous comet, which had suddenly shot
into view from behind its southern limb, became more or less visible.

Towards six o'clock it became necessary to exert the full strength of
her engines to check the velocity of her fall. By eight she had
entered the atmosphere of Venus, and was dropping slowly towards a
vast sea of sunlit cloud, out of which, on all sides, towered
thousands of snow-clad peaks, rounded summits, and widespread
stretches of upland above which the clouds swept and surged like the
silent billows of some vast ocean in Ghostland.

"I thought so!" said Redgrave, when the propellers had begun to
revolve and Murgatroyd had taken his place in the conning-tower. "A
very dense atmosphere loaded with clouds. There's the sun just rising,
so your ladyship's wishes are duly obeyed."

"And doesn't it seem nice and homelike to see him rising through an
atmosphere above the clouds again? It doesn't look a bit like the same
sort of dear old sun just blazing like a red-hot moon among a lot of
white hot stars and planets. Look, aren't those peaks lovely, and that
cloud-sea?--Why, for all the world we might be in a balloon above the
Rockies or the Alps. And see," she continued, pointing to one of the
thermometers fixed outside the glass dome which covered the upper
deck, "it's only sixty-five even here. I wonder if we can breathe this
air, and oh, I do wonder what we shall see on the other side of those
clouds."

"You shall have both questions answered in a few minutes," replied
Redgrave, going towards the conning-tower. "To begin with, I think
we'll land on that big snow-dome yonder, and do a little exploring.
Where there are snow and clouds there is moisture, and where there is
moisture a man ought to be able to breathe."

The Astronef, still falling, but now easily under the command of the
helmsman, shot forwards and downwards towards a vast dome of snow
which, rising some two thousand feet above the cloud-sea, shone with
dazzling brilliance in the light of the rising sun. She landed just
above the edge of the clouds. Meanwhile they had put on their
breathing-suits, and Redgrave had seen that the air chamber through
which they had to pass from their own little world into the new ones
that they visited was in working order. When the outer door was opened
and the ladder lowered he stood aside, as he had done on the moon, and
Zaidie's was the first human foot which made an imprint on the virgin
snows of Venus.

The first thing Lenox did was to raise the visor of his helmet and
taste the air of the new world. It was cool, and fresh, and sweet, and
the first draught of it sent the blood tingling and dancing through
his veins. Perfect as the arrangements of the Astronef were in this
respect, the air of Venus tasted like clear running spring water would
have done to a man who had been drinking filtered water for several
days. He threw the visor right up and motioned to Zaidie to do the
same. She obeyed, and, after drawing a long breath, she said:

"That's glorious! It's like wine after water, and rather stagnant
water too. But what a world, snow-peaks and cloud-sea, islands of ice
and snow in an ocean of mist! Just look at them! Did you ever see
anything so lovely and unearthly in your life? I wonder how high this
mountain is, and what there is on the other side of the clouds. Isn't
the air delicious! Not a bit too cold after all--but, still, I think
we may as well go back and put on something more becoming. I shouldn't
quite like the ladies of Venus to see me dressed like a diver."

"Come along then," laughed Lenox, as he turned back towards the
vessel. "That's just like a woman. You're about a hundred and fifty
million miles away from Broadway or Regent Street. You are standing on
the top of a snow mountain above the clouds of Venus, and the moment
that you find the air is fit to breathe you begin thinking about
dress. How do you know that the inhabitants of Venus, if there are
any, dress at all?"

"What nonsense! Of course they do--at least, if they are anything like
us."

As soon as they got back on board the Astronef and had taken their
breathing-dresses off, Redgrave and the old engineer, who appeared to
take no visible interest in their new surroundings, threw open all the
sliding doors on the upper and lower decks so that the vessel might be
thoroughly ventilated by the fresh sweet air. Then a gentle repulsion
was applied to the huge snow mass on which the Astronef rested. She
rose a couple of hundred feet, her propellers began to whirl round,
and Redgrave steered her out towards the centre of the vast cloud-sea
which was almost surrounded by a thousand glittering peaks of ice and
domes of snow.

"I think we may as well put off dinner, or breakfast as it will be
now, until we see what the world below is like," he said to Zaidie,
who was standing beside him on the conning-tower.

"Oh, never mind about eating just now, this is altogether too
wonderful to be missed for the sake of ordinary meat and drink. Let's
go down and see what there is on the other side."

He sent a message down the speaking tube to Murgatroyd, who was below
among his beloved engines, and the next moment sun and clouds and ice-
peaks had disappeared, and nothing was visible save the all-enveloping
silver-grey mist.

For several minutes they remained silent, watching and wondering what
they would find beneath the veil which hid the surface of Venus from
their view. Then the mist thinned out and broke up into patches which
drifted past them as they descended on their downward slanting course.

Below them they saw vast, ghostly shapes of mountains and valleys,
lakes and rivers, continents, islands, and seas. Every moment these
became more and more distinct, and soon they were in full view of the
most marvellous landscape that human eyes had ever beheld. The
distances were tremendous. Mountains, compared with which the Alps or
even the Andes would have seemed mere hillocks, towered up out of the
vast depths beneath them.

Up to the lower edge of the all-covering cloud-sea they were clad with
a golden-yellow vegetation, fields and forests, open, smiling valleys,
and deep, dark ravines through which a thousand torrents thundered
down from the eternal snows beyond, to spread themselves out in rivers
and lakes in the valleys and plains which lay many thousands of feet
below.

"What a lovely world!" said Zaidie, as she at last found her voice
after what was almost a stupor of speechless wonder and admiration.
"And the light! Did you ever see anything like it? It's neither
moonlight nor sunlight. See, there are no shadows down there, it's
just all lovely silvery twilight. Lenox, if Venus is as nice as she
looks from here I don't think I shall want to go back. It reminds me
of Tennyson's Lotus Eaters, 'The land where it is always afternoon.'

"I think you are right after all. We are thirty million miles nearer
to the sun than we were on the earth, and the light and heat have to
filter through those clouds. They are not at all like earth-clouds
from this side. It's the other way about. The silver lining is on this
side. Look, there isn't a black or a brown one, or even a grey one,
within sight. They are just like a thin mist, lighted by millions of
electric lamps. It's a delicious world, and if it isn't inhabited by
angels it ought to be."



Chapter XIII

While they were talking, the Astronef was sweeping swiftly down
towards the surface of Venus, through scenery of whose almost
inconceivable magnificence no human words could convey any adequate
idea. Underneath the cloud-veil the air was absolutely clear and
transparent; clearer, indeed, than terrestrial air at the highest
elevations, and, moreover, it seemed to be endowed with a strange
luminous quality, which made objects, no matter how distant, stand out
with almost startling distinctness.

The rivers and lakes and seas which spread out beneath them, seemed
never to have been ruffled by the blast of a storm or breath of wind,
and their surfaces shone with a soft silvery light, which seemed to
come from below rather than from above.

"If this isn't heaven it must be the half-way house," said Redgrave,
with what was, perhaps, under the circumstances, a pardonable
irreverence. "Still, after all, we don't know what the inhabitants may
be like, so I think we'd better close the doors, and drop on the top
of that mountain spur running out between the two rivers into the bay.
Do you notice how curious the water looks after the earth-seas; bright
silver, instead of blue and green?"

"Oh, it's just lovely," said Zaidie. "Let's go down and have a walk.
There's nothing to be afraid of. You'll never make me believe that a
world like this can be inhabited by anything dangerous.

"Perhaps, but we mustn't forget what happened on Mars, Madonna Mia.
still, there's one thing, we haven't been tackled by any aerial fleets
yet."

"I don't think the people here want air-ships. They can fly
themselves. Look! there are a lot of them coming to meet us. That was
a rather wicked remark of yours about the half-way house to Heaven;
but those certainly look something like angels."

As Zaidie said this, after a somewhat lengthy pause, during which the
Astronef had descended to within a few hundred feet of the mountain-
spur, she handed a pair of field-glasses to her husband, and pointed
downward towards an island which lay a couple of miles or so off the
end of the spur.

Redgrave put the glasses to his eyes, and took a long look through
them. Moving them slowly up and down, and from side to side, he saw
hundreds of winged figures rising from the island and soaring towards
them.

"You were right, dear," he said, without taking the glass from his
eyes, "and so was I. If those aren't angels, they're certainly
something like men, and, I suppose, women too who can fly. We may as
well stop here and wait for them. I wonder what sort of an animal they
take the Astronef for."

He sent a message down the tube to Murgatroyd, and gave a turn and a
half to the steering wheel. The propellers slowed down and the
Astronef dropped with a hardly perceptible shock in the midst of a
little plateau covered with a thick, soft moss of a pale yellowish
green, and fringed by a belt of trees which seemed to be over three
hundred feet high, and whose foliage was a deep golden bronze.

They had scarcely landed before the flying figures reappeared over the
tree-tops and swept downwards in long spiral curves towards the
Astronef.

"If they're not angels, they're very like them," said Zaidie, putting
down her glasses.

"There's one thing," replied her husband; "they fly a lot better than
the old masters' angels or Dore's could have done, because they have
tails--or at least something that seems to serve the same purpose, and
yet they haven't got feathers."

"Yes, they have, at least round the edges of their wings or whatever
they are, and they've got clothes, too, silk tunics or something of
that sort--and there are men and women."

"You're quite right. Those fringes down their legs are feathers, and
that's how they fly. They seem to have four arms."

The flying figures which came hovering near to the Astronef, without
evincing any apparent sign of fear, were certainly the strangest that
human eyes had looked upon. In some respects they had a sufficient
resemblance to human form for them to be taken for winged men and
women, while in another they bore a decided resemblance to birds.
Their bodies and limbs were almost human in shape, but of slenderer
and lighter build; and from the shoulder-blades and muscles of the
back there sprang a pair of wings arching up above their heads.
Between these and the lower arms, and continued from them down the
sides to the ankles, there appeared to be a flexible membrane covered
with a light feathery down, pure white on the inside, but on the back
a brilliant golden yellow, deepening to bronze towards the edges,
round which ran a deep feathery fringe.

The body was covered in front and down the back between the wings with
a sort of divided tunic of a light, silken-looking material, which
must have been clothing, since there were many different colours all
more or less of different hue among them. Below this and attached to
the inner sides of the leg from the knee downward, was another
membrane which reached down to the heels, and it was this which
Redgrave somewhat flippantly alluded to as a tail. Its obvious purpose
was to maintain the longitudinal balance when flying.

In stature these inhabitants of the Love-Star varied from about five
feet six to five feet, but both the taller and the shorter of them
were all of nearly the same size, from which it was easy to conclude
that this difference in stature was on Venus, as well as on the earth,
one of the broad distinctions between the sexes.

They flew once or twice completely round the Astronef with an
exquisite ease and grace which made Zaidie exclaim:

"Now, why weren't we made like that on earth!"

To which Redgrave, after a look at the barometer, replied:

"Partly, I suppose, because we weren't built that way, and partly
because we don't live in an atmosphere about two and a half times as
dense as ours."

Then several of the winged figures alighted on the mossy covering of
the plain and walked towards the vessel.

"Why, they walk just like us, only much more prettily!" said Zaidie.
"And look what funny little faces they've got! Half bird, half human,
and soft, downy feathers instead of hair. I wonder whether they talk
or sing. I wish you'd open the doors again, Lenox. I'm sure they can't
possibly mean us any harm; they are far too pretty for that. What
lovely soft eyes they have, and what a thousand pities it is we shan't
be able to understand them."

They had left the conning-tower and both his lordship and Murgatroyd
were throwing open the sliding doors and, to Zaidie's considerable
displeasure, getting the deck Maxims ready for action in case they
should be required. As soon as the doors were open Zaidie's judgement
of the inhabitants of Venus was entirely justified.

Without the slightest sign of fear, but with very evident astonishment
in their round golden-yellow eyes, they came walking close up to the
sides of the Astronef. Some of them stroked her smooth, shining sides
with their little hands, which Zaidie now found had only three fingers
and a thumb. Many ages before they might have been bird's claws, but
now they were soft and pink and plump, utterly strange to work as
manual work is understood upon earth.

"Just fancy getting Maxim guns ready to shoot those delightful
things," said Zaidie, almost indignantly, as she went towards the
doorway from which the gangway ladder ran down to the soft, mossy
turf. "Why, not one of them has got a weapon of any sort; and just
listen," she went on, stopping in the opening of the doorway, "have
you ever heard music like that on earth? I haven't. I suppose it's the
way they talk. I'd give a good deal to be able to understand them. But
still, it's very lovely, isn't it?"

"Ay, like the voices of syrens," said Murgatroyd, speaking for the
first time since the Astronef had landed; for this big, grizzled,
taciturn Yorkshireman, who looked upon the whole cruise through Space
as a mad and almost impious adventure, which nothing but his
hereditary loyalty to his master's name and family could have
persuaded him to share in, had grown more and more silent as the
millions of miles between the Astronef and his native Yorkshire
village had multiplied day by day.

"Syrens--and why not, Andrew?" laughed Redgrave. "At any rate, I don't
think they look likely to lure us and the Astronef to destruction."
Then he went on. "Yes, Zaidie, I never heard anything like that
before. Unearthly, of course it is; but then we're not on earth. Now,
Zaidie, they seem to talk in song-language. You did pretty well on
Mars with your sign-language, suppose we go out and show them that you
can speak the song-language, too."

"What do you mean?" she said; "sing them something?"

"Yes," he replied, "they'll try to talk to you in song, and you won't
be able to understand them; at least, not as far as words and
sentences go. But music is the universal language on earth, and
there's no reason why it shouldn't be the same through the solar
system. Come along, tune up, little woman!"

They went together down the gangway stairs, he dressed in an ordinary
suit of grey English tweed, with a golf cap on the back of his head,
and she in the last and daintiest of costumes which the art of Paris
and London and New York had produced before the Astronef soared up
from far-off Washington.

The moment that she set foot on the golden-yellow sward she was
surrounded by a swarm of the winged, and yet strangely human
creatures. Those nearest to her came and touched her hands and face,
and stroked the folds of her dress. Others looked into her violet-blue
eyes, and others put out their queer little hands and stroked her
hair.

This and her clothing seemed to be the most wonderful experience for
them, saving always the fact that she had two arms and no wings.
Redgrave kept close beside her until he was satisfied that these
exquisite inhabitants of the new-found fairyland were innocent of any
intention of harm, and when he saw two of the winged daughters of the
Love-Star put up their hands and touch the thick coils of her hair, he
said:

"Take those pins and things out and let it down. They seem to think
that your hair's part of your head. It's the first chance you've had
to work a miracle, so you may as well do it. Show them the most
beautiful thing they've ever seen."

"What babies you men can be when you get sentimental!" laughed Zaidie,
as she put her hands up to her head. "How do you know that this may
not be ugly in their eyes?"

"Quite impossible!" He replied. "They're a great deal too pretty
themselves to think you ugly. Let it down!"

While he was speaking Zaidie had taken off a Spanish mantilla which
she had thrown over her head as she came out, and which the ladies of
Venus seemed to think was part of her hair. Then she took out the comb
and one or two hairpins which kept the coils in position, deftly
caught the ends, and then, after a few rapid movements of her fingers,
she shook her head, and the wondering crowd about her saw, what seemed
to them a shimmering veil, half gold, half silver, in the strange,
reflected light from the cloud-veil, fall down from her head over her
shoulders.

They crowded still more closely round her, but so quietly and so
gently that she felt nothing more than the touch of wondering hands on
her arms, and dress, and hair. As Redgrave said afterwards, he was
"absolutely out of it." They seemed to imagine him to be a kind of
uncouth monster, possibly the slave of this radiant being which had
come so strangely from somewhere beyond the cloud-veil. They looked at
him with their golden-yellow eyes wide open, and some of them came up
rather timidly and touched his clothes, which they seemed to think
were his skin.

Then one or two, more daring, put their little hands up to his face
and touched his moustache, and all of them, while both examinations
were going on, kept up a running conversation of cooing and singing
which evidently conveyed their ideas from one to the other on the
subject of this most marvellous visit of these two strange beings with
neither wings nor feathers, but who, most undoubtedly, had other means
of flying, since it was quite certain that they had come from another
world.

Their ordinary speech was a low crooning note, like the language in
which doves converse, mingled with a twittering current of undertone.
But every moment it rose into higher notes, evidently expressing
wonder or admiration, or both.

"You were right about the universal language," said Redgrave, when he
had submitted to the stroking process for a few moments. "These people
talk in music, and, as far as I can see or hear, their opinion of us,
or, at least, of you, is distinctly flattering. I don't know what they
take me for, and I don't care, but, as we'd better make friends with
them, suppose you sing them 'Home, Sweet Home,' or 'The Swanee River.'
I shouldn't wonder if they consider our talking voices most horrible
discords, so you might as well give them something different."

While he was speaking the sounds about them suddenly hushed, and, as
Redgrave said afterwards, it was something like the silence that
follows a cannon shot. Then, in the midst of the hush, Zaidie put her
hands behind her, looked up towards the luminous silver surface which
formed the only visible sky of Venus, and began to sing "The Swanee
River."

The clear, sweet notes rang up through the midst of a sudden silence.
The sons and daughters of the Love-Star instantly ceased their own
soft musical conversation, and Zaidie sang the old plantation song
through for the first time that a human voice had sung it to ears
other than human.

As the last note thrilled sweetly from her lips she looked round at
the crowd of queer half-human figures about her, and something in
their unlikeness to her own kind brought back to her mind the familiar
scenes which lay so far away, so many millions of miles across the
dark and silent Ocean of Space.

Other winged figures, attracted by the sound of her singing, had
crossed the trees, and these, during the silence which came after the
singing of the song, were swiftly followed by others, until there were
nearly a thousand of them gathered about the side of the Astronef.

There was no crowding or jostling among them. Each one treated every
other with the most perfect gentleness and courtesy. No such thing as
enmity or ill-feeling seemed to exist among them, and, in perfect
silence, they waited for Zaidie to continue what they thought was her
long speech of greeting. The temper of the throng somehow coincided
exactly with the mood which her own memories had brought to her, and
the next moment she sent the first line of "Home Sweet Home" soaring
up to the cloud-veiled sky.

As the notes rang up into the still, soft air a deeper hush fell on
the listening throng. Heads were bowed with a gesture almost of
adoration, and many of those standing nearest to her bent their bodies
forward, and expanded their wings, bringing them together over their
breasts with a motion which, as they afterwards learnt, was intended
to convey the idea of wonder and admiration, mingled with something
like a sentiment of worship.

Zaidie sang the sweet old song through from end to end, forgetting for
the time being everything but the home she had left behind her on the
banks of the Hudson. As the last notes left her lips, she turned round
to Redgrave and looked at him with eyes dim with the first tears that
had filled them since her father's death, and said, as he caught hold
of her outstretched hand:

"I believe they've understood every word of it."

"Or, at any rate, every note. You may be quite certain of that," he
replied. "If you had done that on Mars it might have been even more
effective than the Maxims."

"For goodness sake don't talk about things like that in a heaven like
this! Oh, listen! They've got the tune already!"

It was true! The dwellers of the Love-Star, whose speech was song, had
instantly recognised the sweetness of the sweetest of all earthly
songs. They had, of course, no idea of the meaning of the words; but
the music spoke to them and told them that this fair visitant from
another world could speak the same speech as theirs. Every note and
cadence was repeated with absolute fidelity, and so the speech, common
to the two far-distant worlds, became a link connecting this wandering
son and daughter of the earth with the sons and daughters of the Love-
Star.

The throng fell back a little and two figures; apparently male and
female, came to Zaidie and held out their right hands and began
addressing her in perfectly harmonised song, which, though utterly
unintelligible to her in the sense of speech, expressed sentiments
which could not possibly be mistaken, as there was a faint suggestion
of the old English song running through the little song-speech that
they made, and both Zaidie and her husband rightly concluded that it
was intended to convey a welcome to the strangers from beyond the
cloud-veil.

And then the strangest of all possible conversations began. Redgrave,
who had no more notion of music than a walrus, perforce kept silence.
In fact, he noticed with a certain displeasure which vanished speedily
with a musical and half-malicious little laugh from Zaidie, that when
he spoke the Bird-Folk drew back a little and looked in something like
astonishment at him; but Zaidie was already in touch with them, and
half by song and half by signs she very soon gave them an idea of what
they were and where they had come from. Her husband afterwards told
her that it was the best piece of operatic acting he had ever seen,
and, considering all the circumstances, this was very possibly true.

In the end the two, who had come to give her what seemed to be the
formal greeting, were invited into the Astronef. They went on board
without the slightest sign of mistrust, and with only an expression of
mild wonder on their beautiful and strangely childlike faces.

Then, while the other doors were being closed, Zaidie stood at the
open one above the gangway and made signs showing that they were going
up beyond the clouds and then down into the valley, and as she made
the signs she sang through the scale, her voice rising and falling in
harmony with her gestures. The Bird-Folk understood her instantly, and
as the door closed and the Astronef rose from the ground, a thousand
wings were outspread and presently hundreds of beautiful soaring forms
were circling about the Navigator of the Stars.

"Don't they look lovely!" said Zaidie. "I wonder what they would think
if they could see us flying above New York or London or Paris with an
escort like this. I suppose they're going to show us the way. Perhaps
they have a city down there. Suppose you were to go and get a bottle
of champagne and see if Master Cupid and Miss Venus would like a
drink. We'll see then if our nectar is anything like theirs."

Redgrave went below. Meanwhile, for lack of other possible
conversation, Zaidie began to sing the last verse of "Never Again."
The melody almost exactly described the upward motion of the Astronef,
and she could see that it was instantly understood, for when she had
finished, their two voices joined in an almost exact imitation of it.

When Redgrave brought up the wine and the glasses they looked at them
without any sign of surprise. The pop of the cork did not even make
them look round.

"Evidently a semi-angelic people, living on nectar and ambrosia, with
nectar very like our own," he said, as he filled the glasses. "Perhaps
you'd better give it to them. They seem to understand you better than
they do me--you being, of course, a good bit nearer to the angels than
I am."

"Thanks!" she said, as she took a couple of glasses up, wondering a
little what their visitors would do with them. Somewhat to her
surprise, they took them with a little bow and a smile and sipped at
the wine, first with a swift glint of wonder in their eyes, and then
with smiles which are unmistakable evidence of perfect appreciation.

"I thought so," said Redgrave, as he raised his own glass, and bowed
gravely towards them. "This is our nearest approach to nectar, and
they seem to recognise it."

"And don't they just look like the sort of people who live on it, and,
of course, other things?" Added Zaidie, as she too lifted her glass,
and looked with laughing eyes across the brim at her two guests.

But meanwhile Murgatroyd had been applying the repulsive force a
little too strongly. The Astronef shot up with a rapidity which soon
left her winged escort far below. She entered the cloud-veil and
passed beyond it. The instant that the unclouded sun-rays struck the
glass-roofing of the upper deck, their two guests, who had been moving
about examining everything with a childlike curiosity, closed their
eyes and clasped their hands over them, uttering little cries, tuneful
and musical, but still with a note of strange discord in them.

"Lenox, we must go down again," exclaimed Zaidie. "Don't you see they
can't stand the light; it hurts them. Perhaps, poor dears, it's the
first time they've ever been hurt in their lives. I don't believe they
have any of our ideas of pain or sorrow or anything of that sort. Take
us back under the clouds--quick, or we may blind them."

Before she had finished speaking, Redgrave had sent a signal down to
Murgatroyd, and the Astronef began to drop back again towards the
surface of the cloud-sea. Zaidie had, meanwhile, gone to her lady
guest and dropped the black lace mantilla over her head, and, as she
did so, she caught herself saying:

"There, dear, we shall soon be back in your own light. I hope it
hasn't hurt you. It was very stupid of us to do a thing like that."

The answer came in a little cooing murmur, which said, "Thank you!"
quite as effectively as any earthly words could have done, and then
the Astronef dropped through the cloud-sea. The soaring forms of her
lost escort came into view again and clustered about her; and,
surrounded by them, she dropped, in obedience to their signs, down
between the tremendous mountains and towards the island, thick with
golden foliage, which lay two or three earth-miles out in a bay, where
four converging rivers spread out into the sea.

As Lady Redgrave said afterwards to Mrs. Van Stuyler, she could have
filled a whole volume with a description of the purely Arcadian
delights with which the hours of the next ten days and nights were
filled. Possibly if she had been able to do justice to them, even her
account might have been received with qualified credence; but still
some idea of them may be gathered from this extract of a conversation
which took place in the saloon of the Astronef on the eleventh
evening.

"But look here, Zaidie," said his lordship, "as we've found a world
which is certainly much more delightful than our own, why shouldn't we
stop here a bit? The air suits us and the people are simply
enchanting. I think they like us, and I'm sure you're in love with
every one of them, male and female. Of course, it's rather a pity that
we can't fly unless we do it in the Astronef. But that's only a
detail. You're enjoying yourself thoroughly, and I never saw you
looking better or, if possible, more beautiful; and why on earth---or
Venus--do you want to go?"

She looked at him steadily for a few moments, and with an expression
which he had never seen on her face or in her eyes before, and then
she said slowly and very sweetly, although there was something like a
note of solemnity running through her tone:

"I altogether agree with you, dear; but there is something which you
don't seem to have noticed. As you say, we have had a perfectly
delightful time. It's a delicious world, and just everything that one
would think it to be; but if we were to stop here we should be
committing one of the greatest crimes, perhaps the greatest, that ever
was committed within the limits of the Solar System."

"My dear Zaidie, what in the name of what we used to call morals on
the earth, do you mean?"

"Just this," she replied, leaning a little towards him in her deck-
chair. "These people, half angels, and half men and women, welcomed us
after we dropped through their cloud-veil, as friends; we were a
little strange to them, certainly, but still they welcomed us as
friends. They had no suspicions of us; they didn't try to poison us or
blow us up as those wretches on Mars did. They're just like a lot of
grown-up children with wings on. In fact they're about as nearly
angels as anything we can think of. They've taken us into their
palaces, they've given us, as one might say, the whole planet.
Everything was ours that we liked to take. You know we have two or
three hundredweight of precious stones on board now, which they would
make me take just because they saw my rings.

"We've been living with them ten days now, and neither you nor I, nor
even Murgatroyd, who, like the old Puritan that he is, seems to see
sin or wrong in everything that looks nice, has seen a single sign
among them that they know anything about what we call sin or wrong on
earth. There's no jealousy, no selfishness. In short, no envy, hatred,
malice, and all uncharitableness; no vice, or meanness, or cheating,
or any of the abominations of the planet Terra, and we come from that
planet. Do you see what I mean now?"

"I think I understand what you're driving at," said Redgrave. "You
mean, I suppose, that this world is something like Eden before the
fall, and that you and I--oh--but that's all rubbish you know. I've
got my own share of original sin, of course, but here it doesn't seem
to come in; and as for you, the very idea of you imagining yourself a
feminine edition of the Serpent in Eden. Nonsense!"

She got up out of her chair and, leaning over his, put her arm round
his shoulder. Then she said very softly:

"I see you understand what I mean, Lenox. That's just it--original
sin. It doesn't matter how good you think me or I think you, but we
have it. You're an earth-born man and I'm an earth-born woman, and, as
I'm your wife, I can say it plainly. We may think a good bit of each
other, but that's no reason why we shouldn't be a couple of plague-
spots in a sinless world like this. Surely you see what I mean, I
needn't put it plainer, need I?"

Their eyes met, and he read her meaning in hers. He put his arm up
over her shoulder and drew her down towards him. Their lips met, and
then he got up and went down to the engine-room.

A couple of minutes later the Astronef sprang upwards from the midst
of the delightful valley in which she was resting. No lights were
shown. In five minutes she had passed through the cloud-veil, and the
next morning when their new friends came to visit them and found that
they had vanished back into Space, there was sorrow for the first time
among the sons and daughters of the Love-Star.



Chapter XIV

"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 worldless 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. Three of its four
satellites, 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.
Calisto was above the horizon hanging like a tiny flicker of
yellowish-red light above the rounded edge of Jupiter, and Io was
invisible behind the planet.

"Five hundred million miles!" said Zaidie, with a little shiver, "that
seems an awful long way from home--I mean America--doesn't it? 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.
And now what is the program as regards His Majesty King Jove? We shall
visit the satellites of course?"

"Certainly," replied Redgrave; "in fact, I shouldn't be surprised if
our visit was confined to them."

"What! Do you mean to say we shan't land on Jupiter after coming
nearly six hundred million miles to see him? That would be
disappointing. But why not? don't you think he's ready to be visited
yet?"

"I can't say that, but you must remember that no one has the remotest
notion of what there is behind the clouds or whatever they are which
form those bands. All we really know about Jupiter is his enormous
size, for instance, he's over twelve hundred times bigger than the
earth and that his density isn't much greater than that of water--and
my humble opinion is that if we're able to go through the clouds
without getting the Astronef red-hot we shall find that Jupiter is in
the same state as the earth was a good many million years ago."

"I see," said Zaidie, "you mean just a mass of blazing, boiling rock
and metal which will make islands and continents some day; and that
what we call the cloud bands are the vapours which will one day make
its seas. Well, if we can get through these clouds we ought to see
something worth seeing. Just fancy a whole world as big as that all
ablaze like molten iron! Do you think we shall be able to see it,
Lenox?"

"I'm not so sure about that, little woman. We shall have to go to work
rather cautiously. You see Jupiter is far bigger than any world we've
visited yet, and if we get too close to him the Astronef's engines
might not be powerful enough to drive us away again. Then we should
either stop there till the R. Force was exhausted or be drawn towards
him and perhaps drop into an ocean of molten rock and metal."

"Thanks!" said Zaidie, with a shrug of her shapely shoulders. "That
would be an ignominious end to a journey like this, to say nothing of
the boiling oil part of it; so I suppose you'll make stopping-places
of the satellites and use their attraction to help you resist His
Majesty's."

"Your Ladyship's reasoning is perfect. I propose to visit them in
turn, beginning with Calisto. I shouldn't be at all surprised if we
found something interesting on them. You know they're quite little
worlds of themselves. They're all bigger than our moon, except Europa.
Ganymede, in fact, is two-thirds bigger than Mercury, and if old
Jupiter is still in a state of fiery incandescence there's no reason
why we shouldn't find on Ganymede or one of the others the same state
of things that existed on our moon when the earth was blazing hot."

"I shouldn't wonder," said Zaidie; "I've often heard my father say
that that was probably what happened. It's all very marvellous, isn't
it? death in one place, life in another, all beginnings and endings,
and yet no actual beginning or end of anything anywhere. That's
eternity, I suppose."

"It's just about as near as the finite intellect can get to it, I
should say," replied Redgrave. "But I don't think metaphysics are much
in our line. If you've finished we may as well go and have a look at
the realities."

"Which the metaphysicians," laughed Zaidie as she rose, "would tell
you are not realities at all, or only realities so far as you can
think about them. 'Thinks,' in short, instead of real things. But
meanwhile I've got the breakfast things to put away, so you can go up
on deck and put the telescopes in order."

When she joined him a few minutes later in the deck-chamber the three-
quarter disc of Jupiter was rapidly approaching the full.

Its phases are invisible from the earth owing to the enormous
distance; but from the deck of the Astronef they had been plainly
visible for some days, and, since the huge planet turns on its axis in
less than ten hours, or with more than twice the speed of the earth's
rotation, the phases followed each other very rapidly.

Thus at twelve o'clock noon by Astronef time they might have seen a
gigantic rim of silver-blue over-arching the whole vault of heaven in
front of them. By five o'clock it would be a hemisphere, and by five
minutes to ten the vast sphere would be once more shining full-orbed
upon them. By eight o'clock next morning they would find Jupiter "new"
again.

They were now falling very rapidly towards the huge planet, and, since
there is no up or down in Space, the nearer they got to it the more it
appeared to sink below them and become, as it were, the floor of the
Celestial Sphere. 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 Galileo, and gradually it became plain that Redgrave was
correct in the hypothesis which he had derived from Flammarion and one
or two others of the more advanced astronomers.

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

"Those belts are made of clouds or vapour in some stage or other. The
highest--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 should 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--at least not at home,"
corrected Zaidie, "but on Jupiter they must 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 his attraction strongly, and Redgrave went to the
levers and turned on about a fifth of the R. Force to avoid too sudden
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 everything would be either black or white as it was on the
moon. We may as well land, however, and get a specimen of the rocks
and soil to add to the museum, though I don't expect there will be
very much to see in the way of life."

In another hour or so the Astronef had dropped gently on to the
surface of Calisto at the foot of a range of mountains crowded with
jagged and splintery peaks, and a mile or two from the edge of a sea
of snow and ice which stretched away in a vast expanse of rugged
frozen billows beyond the horizon. Redgrave, as usual, went into the
air-chamber and tried the atmosphere. A second's experience of it was
enough for him. It was unbreathably thin and unbearably cold,
although, when mixed with the air of the Astronef, it distinctly
freshened it up. This proved that its composition was, or had been,
fit for human respiration.

"There's only one fault about it," he said, when he rejoined Zaidie in
the sitting-room. "You know what the schoolboy said when he started
kissing his first sweetheart, 'It takes too long to get enough of
it.'"

"You seem to be very fond of referring to that particular subject,
Lenox."

"Well, yes; to tell you the truth I am," and then he referred to it
again in another form.

After this they went and put on their breathing-dresses and went for a
welcome stroll along the arid shores of the frozen sea after their
lengthy confinement to the decks of the Astronef. The sun was still
powerful enough to keep them comfortably warm in their dresses, and
there was enough atmosphere to make this warmth diffused instead of
direct. So they were able to step out briskly, and every now and then
open their visors a little and take in a breath or two of the thin,
sharp air, which they found quite exhilarating when mixed with the air
supplied by their own oxygen apparatus.

The attraction of the satellite being only a little more than that of
the moon--or, say, about a fifth of that of the earth--they were able
to get along with a series of hops, skips, and jumps which might have
looked rather ridiculous to terrestrial eyes, but which they found a
very pleasant mode of locomotion. They were also able to climb the
steepest mountainsides with no more trouble than they would have had
in walking along a terrestrial plain.

On the heights they found no sign either of animal or vegetable life--
only rocks and gravel and sand of a brownish red, apparently uniform
in composition. They took a few lumps of rock and a canvas bag full of
sand back with them from the mountain-side. In the valley sloping
towards the ice sea they found what had once been watercourses opening
out into rivers towards the sea; and in the lowest parts there was a
kind of lichen-growth clinging to the rocks under the snow. On the
surface of the snow they saw traces of what might have been the tracks
of animals, but, as there was no breath of wind in the attenuated
atmosphere, it was quite possible that these might have been frozen
into permanent shape hundreds or thousands of years before. It was
also possible that if they had explored long enough they might have
found some low forms of animal life, but as they had landed almost on
the equator of the satellite, under the full rays of the sun, and seen
nothing, this was hardly likely.

"I don't think it is worth while stopping here any longer," said
Zaidie, who was getting a little bit blase with her interplanetary
experiences. "We've got lots to see further on, so if you don't mind I
think I'll just take two or three photographs, then we can get back to
the ship and have dinner and go on and see what Ganymede is like. He's
bigger than Mercury, and nearly as big as Mars, so we ought to find
something interesting there. This is only a sort of combination of the
moon and the polar regions and I don't think very much of it. Suppose
we go back."

"Just as your Ladyship pleases," laughed Redgrave over the wire which
connected their helmets, as, with joined hands, they turned back and
danced along the snow-covered ocean shore towards the Astronef.

Zaidie took a couple of photographs of the mountain range and the ice-
sea and another one of the general landscape of Calisto as they rose
from the surface. Then, while she went to get lunch ready, Redgrave
took the pieces of rock and the bag of dust into the laboratory which
opened out of the main engine-room and analysed them. When he came out
about an hour later he saw Murgatroyd going through his beloved
engines with an oil-can and a piece of common cotton-waste which had
come from a far away Yorkshire mill.

"Andrew," he said, "should you be surprised if I told you that that
moon we've just left seems to be mostly made of a spongy sort of alloy
of gold and silver?"

"My lord," said the old engineer, straightening himself up and looking
at him with eyes in which this announcement had not seemed to kindle a
spark of interest, "after what I have seen so far there's nothing
that'll surprise me unless it be that the grace of God allows us to
get back safely."

"Amen, Andrew, that's well said," replied Redgrave, and then he went
back to the saloon and Murgatroyd went on with his oiling.

When he told her ladyship of his discovery she just looked up from the
table she was laying and said:

"Oh, indeed! Well, I'm very glad that it's five or six hundred million
miles from the earth. A dead world bigger than the moon, and made of
gold and silver sponge, wouldn't be a nice thing to have too near the
earth. There's trouble enough about that sort of thing at home as it
is. Still, it'll be a nice addition to the museum, and if you'll put
it away and go and wash your hands lunch will be ready."

When they got back to the deck-chamber 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 overarched
its western edge.

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

"It might be," replied Redgrave, turning his own telescope towards the
northern pole of Ganymede, "though I never heard of a satellite having
an aurora. Perhaps it's the sun shining on the ice."

As the Astronef fell towards the surface of Ganymede she crossed his
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
the 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 him:

"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 slowly 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 rather 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.



Chapter XV

The wondering visitors from far-off Terra had hardly halted before the
magnificent portal when 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 hut 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 to what seemed to be 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. The general level of the roof seemed to be about three
hundred feet above the ground, and the summits of the domes some fifty
feet higher.

The houses, which were all square, were as a rule about forty feet
high. The roofs were covered with gardens and shrubberies, from which
creepers, bearing brilliantly coloured leaves and flowers, hung down
about the windows in carefully arranged festoons. The walls were
composed of the opaque mica-like glass, relieved by pillars and arched
doorways and windows. The windows, of French form, were of clear glass
and mostly stood open. A sweet cool zephyr of hardly perceptible
strength appeared to be blowing along the street and over the house-
tops and in the vast airy space above the roof.

Brightly plumaged birds were flitting about among the branches of
giant trees, and keeping up a perpetual chorus of song.

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 colours of their garments were quieter, and there
was little attempt at personal adornment, though many wore bands of an
intensely bright, sky-blue metal round their arms above the elbow, and
others wore belts and necklaces of links composed of this and two
other metals resembling gold and aluminium, but of an exceedingly high
lustre.

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. There was one more
difference which they quickly noticed. The men's hair, like their
host's, was nearly always wavy, but that of the women, especially the
younger, was a mass of either natural or artificial curls, short and
crisp about the head, and flowing down in glistening ringlets to their
waists.

"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 the life of their race 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 facings. 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 which we have no idea of."

"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 into which the door opened.

"And I'm sure that I am quite a dowdy in comparison with these lovely
creatures," added Zaidie, "although this dress was made in Paris.
Lenox, if things are for sale here you'll have to buy me one of those
costumes, and we'll take it back and get one made like it. I wonder
what they'd think of me dressed in one of those costumes at a ball at
the Wardolf-Astoria."

Before he could make a suitable reply, a door at the end of the
vestibule opened and they were ushered into a large hall which was
evidently a council-chamber. At the further end of it were three
semicircular 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 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.



Chapter XVI

The period of Ganymede's revolution round its gigantic primary is
seven days, three hours, and forty-three minutes, practically a
terrestrial week, and on their return to their native world both the
daring navigators of Space describe this as the most interesting and
delightful week in their lives, excepting always the period which they
spent in the Eden of the Morning Star. Yet in one sense it was even
more interesting.

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 which falls 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 fast-failing 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 to drive the machinery which
propelled it through the streets and squares. All work was done by
electric energy 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 their own lives and the exquisitely refined
civilisation to which they had attained to the latest possible date.
They were, indeed, 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.

But there was another development of the science of the Crystal Cities
which interested them far more than this--for after all they could not
only see the Worlds of Space for themselves, but circumnavigate them
if they chose.

During their stay they were shown on these same screens the pictorial
history of the world whose guests they were. These pictures, which
they recognised as an immeasurable development of what is called the
cinematographic process on earth, extended through the whole gamut of
the satellite's life. They formed, in fact, the means by which the
children of Ganymede were taught the history of their world.

It was, of course, inevitable that the Astronef should prove an object
of intense interest to their hosts. They had solved the problem of the
Resolution of Forces, as Professor Rennick had done, 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.
And then he pulled her close to him again, and together they looked
down into the storm-tossed hell towards which they were falling at the
rate of nearly a hundred miles a minute.

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 back 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
suns 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. They
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.



Chapter XVII

THE relative position of the two giants of the Solar System at the
moment when the Astronef left the surface of Ganymede, 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 Saturnine 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
of Jupiter and its four moons on the fabric of the vessel. The
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, 1,700,000,000 miles away from the sun, was approaching its
conjunction with Saturn, and so assisted in producing a constant
acceleration of speed.

Jupiter and his satellites 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, Ringed Orb 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 Saturn's
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?"

"Given water, about one earth-year 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, and
soon it 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 into 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 rapidly approaching that portion 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,
however good it may be for the Saturnians, 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 a hundred 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 man
or woman 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 oxygen from the cylinders.

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 steering way on her in case of
accident."



Chapter XVIII

A FEW moments later he sent a signal to Murgatroyd in the engine-room.
The propellers began to revolve slowly, beating the dense air and
driving the Star Navigator at a speed of 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 ever 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, envelop 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 infinitely more formidable. The substance composing their bodies
appeared to be not unlike that of a terrestrial jelly-fish, but much
denser. It seemed from their motions to have the tenacity of soft
India rubber save at the headed ends, where it was much harder. The
necks were protected for about fifty feet by huge scales of a dull,
greenish hue.

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."

An enormous 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 signalled for full speed. 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, 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. You might bring the cognac decanter up too."

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 leapt 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 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 than portions of a once-living creature,
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 her voice from the upper deck the
next moment, "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
vast, sunlit arch of the Rings towered up to the zenith, apparently
spanning the whole visible 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 coloured bands of clouds. The R. 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, 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.

Other and even stranger shapes, broad-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
Zaidie had had enough of horrors on the Saturnian equator, and so she
was quite content to watch this phase of evolution working itself out
(as it had happened on the earth many thousands of ages ago) from a
convenient distance. Wherefore 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,
myledons, 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."

"I should hope so," said Zaidie, "and just as far as possible out of
the reach of those unutterable horrors on the equator. 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 than--!" He replied, drawing her
towards him.

"Very prettily put, my Lord," she laughed, releasing herself with a
gentle twirl; "and now I'll go and get dinner ready," she said. "After
all, it doesn't matter what world one's in, one gets 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 and ready 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, 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!"



Chapter XIX

A LITTLE before six (earth time) on the fourth morning after they had
cleared the confines of the Saturnian System, Redgrave went as usual
into the conning-tower to examine the instruments and to see that
everything was in order. To his intense surprise he found, on looking
at the gravitational compass, which was to the Astronef what the
ordinary compass is to a ship at sea, that the vessel was a long way
out of her course.

Such a thing had never yet occurred. Up to now the Astronef had obeyed
the laws of gravitation and repulsion with absolute exactness. He made
another examination of the instruments; but no, all were in perfect
order.

"I wonder what the deuce is the matter," he said, after he had looked
for a few moments with frowning eyes at the Heavens before him. "By
Jove, we're swinging more. This is getting serious."

He went back to the compass. The long, slender needle was slowly
swinging farther and farther out of the middle line of the vessel.

"There can only be two explanations of that," he went on, thrusting
his hands deep into his trouser pockets; "either the engines are not
working properly, or some enormous and invisible body is pulling us
towards it out of our course. Let's have a look at the engines first."

When he reached the engine-room he said to Murgatroyd, who was
indulging in his usual pastime of cleaning and polishing his beloved
charges:

"Have you noticed anything wrong during the last hour or so,
Murgatroyd?"

"No, my lord; at least not so far as concerns the engines. They're all
right. Hark now, they're not making more noise than a lady's sewing
machine," replied the old Yorkshireman with a note of resentment in
his voice. The suspicion that anything could be wrong with his shining
darlings was almost a personal offence to him. "But is anything the
matter, my Lord, if I might ask?"

"We're a long way off our course, and for the life of me I can't
understand it," replied Redgrave. "There's nothing about here to pull
us out of our line. Of course the stars--good Lord, I never thought of
that! Look here, Murgatroyd, not a word about this to her ladyship.
and stand by to raise the power by degrees, as I signal to you."

"Ay, my lord. I hope it's nothing bad."

Redgrave went back to the conning-tower without replying. The only
possible solution of the mystery of the deviation had suddenly dawned
upon him, and a very serious solution it was. He remembered that there
were such things as dead suns---the derelicts of the Ocean of Space---
vast, invisible orbs, lightless and lifeless, too distant from any
living sun to be illumined by its rays, and yet exercising the only
force left to them---the force of attraction. Might not one of these
have wandered near enough to the confines of the Solar system to exert
this force, a force of absolutely unknown magnitude, upon the
Astronef?

He went to a little desk beside the instrument-table and plunged into
a maze of mathematics, of masses and weights, angles and distances.
Half-an-hour later he stood looking at the last symbol on the last
sheet of paper with something like fear. It was the fatal x which
remained to satisfy the last equation, the unknown quantity which
represented the unseen force that was dragging the Astronef into the
outer wilderness of interstellar space, into far-off regions from
which, with the remaining force at his disposal, no return would be
possible.

He signalled to Murgatroyd to increase the development of the R. Force
from a tenth to a half. Then he went to the lower saloon, where Zaidie
was busy with her usual morning tidy-up. Now that the mystery was
explained there was no reason to keep her in the dark. Indeed, he had
given her his word that he would conceal from her no danger, however
great, that might threaten them when he had once assured himself of
its existence.

She listened to him in silence and without a sign of fear beyond a
little lifting of the eyelids and a little fading of the colour in her
cheeks.

"And if we can't resist this force," she said, when he had finished,
"it will drag us millions--perhaps millions of millions--of miles away
from our own system into outer space, and we shall either fall on the
surface of this dead sun and be reduced to a puff of lighted gas in an
instant, or some other body will pull us away from it, and then
another away from that, and so on, and we shall wander among the stars
for ever and ever until the end of time!"

"If the first happens, darling, we shall die--together--without
knowing it. It's the second that I'm most afraid of. The Astronef may
go on wandering among the stars for ever--but we have only water
enough for three weeks more. Now come into the conning-tower and we'll
sec how things are going."

As they bent their heads over the instrument-table Redgrave saw that
the remorseless needle had moved two degrees more to the right. The
keel of the Astronef, under the impulse of the R. Force, was
continually turning. The pull of the invisible orb was dragging the
vessel slowly but irresistibly out of her line.

"There's nothing for it but this," said Redgrave, putting out his hand
to the signal-board, and signalling to Murgatroyd to put the engines
to their highest power. "You see, dear, our greatest danger is this;
we have had to exert such a tremendous lot of power that we haven't
any too much to spare, and if we have to spend it in counteracting the
pull of this dead sun, or whatever it is, we may not have enough of
what I call the R. fluid left to get home with."

"I see," she said, staring with wide-open eyes at the needle. "You
mean that we may not have enough to keep us from falling into one of
the planets or perhaps into the sun itself. Well, supposing the
dangers are equal, this one is the nearest, and so I guess we've got
to fight it first."

"Spoken like a good American!" He said, putting his arm across her
shoulders and looking at once with infinite pride and infinite regret
at the calm, proud face which the glory of resignation had adorned
with a new beauty.

She bowed her head and then looked away again so that he should not
see that there were tears in her eyes. He took his hand from her
shoulder and stared in silence down at the needle. It was stationary
again.

"We've stopped!" He said, after a pause of several moments. "Now, if
the body that's taken us out of our course is moving away from us we
win, if it's coming towards us we lose. At any rate, we've done all we
can. Come along, Zaidie, let's go and have a walk on deck."

They had scarcely reached the upper deck when something happened which
dwarfed all the other experiences of their marvellous voyage into
utter insignificance.

Above and around them the constellations blazed with a splendour
inconceivable to an observer on earth, but ahead of them gaped the
vast, black void which sailors call "the coal-hole," and in which the
most powerful telescopes have only discovered a few faintly luminous
bodies. Suddenly, out of the midst of this infinity of darkness, there
blazed a glare of almost intolerably brilliant radiance. Instantly the
forward end of the Astronef was bathed in light and heat--the light
and heat of a re-created sun, whose elements had been dark and cold
for uncounted ages.

Hundreds of tiny points of light, unknown worlds which had been dark
for myriads of years, twinkled out of the blackness. Then the fierce
glare grew dimmer. A vast mantle of luminous mist spread out with
inconceivable rapidity, and in the midst of this blazed the central
nucleus--the sun which in far-off ages to come would be the giver of
light and heat, of life and beauty to worlds unborn, to planets which
were now only little eddies of atoms whirling in that ocean of
nebulous flame.

For more than an hour the two voyagers stood motionless and silent,
gazing on the indescribable splendours of a spectacle such as no human
eyes but theirs had ever beheld. Every earthly thought seemed burnt
out of their souls by the glory and the wonder of it. It was almost as
though they were standing in the very presence of God, for were they
not witnessing the supreme act of omnipotence, a new creation? Their
peril, a peril such as had never threatened mortals before, was
utterly forgotten. They had even forgotten each other's presence. For
the time being they existed only to look and to wonder.

They were called at length out of their trance by the matter-of-fact
voice of Murgatroyd saying: "My lord, she's back to her course. Will I
keep the power on full?"

"My lord, she's back to her course. Will I keep the power on full?"

"Eh! What's that?" exclaimed Redgrave, as they both turned quickly
round. "Oh, it's you, Murgatroyd. The power? Yes, keep it on full till
I have taken the bearings."

"Ay, my lord, very good." replied the engineer.

As he left the deck Redgrave put his arm round Zaidie and drew her
gently towards him and said: "Zaidie, truly you are favoured among
women! You have seen the beginning of a new creation. You will
certainly be saved somehow after that."

"Yes, and you too, dear," she murmured, as though still half-dreaming.
"It is very glorious and wonderful; but what is it all--I mean, what
is the explanation of it?"

"The merely scientific explanation, dear, is very simple. I see it all
now. The force that was dragging us out of our course was the united
pull of two dead stars approaching each other in the same orbit. They
may have been doing that for millions of years. The shock of their
meeting has transformed their motion into light and heat. They have
united to form a single sun and a nebula, which will some day condense
into a system of planets like ours. To-night the astronomers on earth
will discover a new star--a variable star as they'll call it--for it
will grow dimmer as it moves away from our system. It has often
happened before."

Then they turned back to the conning-tower. The needle had swung to
its old position. The new star, henceforth to be known in the annals
of astronomy as Lilla-Zaidie, had already set for them to the right of
the Astronef and risen on the left, and, at a distance of over nine
hundred million miles from the earth, the corner was turned, and the
homeward voyage began.



Chapter XX

A week later they crossed the path of Jupiter, but the giant was
invisible, far away on the other side of the sun. Redgrave laid his
course so as to avail himself to the utmost of the "pull" of the
planets without going near enough to them to be compelled to exert too
much of the priceless R. Force, which the indicators showed to be
running perilously low.

Between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars they made a decided economy by
landing on Ceres, one of the largest of the asteroids, and travelling
about fifty million miles on her towards the orbit of the earth
without any expenditure of force whatever. They found the tiny world
possessed of a breathable atmosphere and a fluid resembling water but
nearly as dense as mercury. A couple of flasks of it form the greatest
treasures of the British Museum and the National Museum at Washington.
The vegetable world was represented by coarse grass, lichens, and
dwarf shrubs, and the animal by different species of worms, lizards
and flies, and small burrowing animals of the rodent type.

As the orbit of Ceres, like that of the other asteroids, is
considerably inclined to that of the earth, the Astronef rose from its
surface when the plane of the earth's revolution was reached, and the
glittering swarm of miniature planets plunged away into space beneath
them.

"Where to now?" said Zaidie, as her husband came down on deck from the
conning-tower.

"I am going to try to steer a middle course between the orbits of
Mercury and Venus," he replied. "They just happen to be so placed now
that we ought to be able to get the advantage of the pull of both of
them as we pass, and that will save us a lot of power. The only thing
I'm afraid of is the pull of the sun, equal to goodness knows how many
times the attraction of all the planets put together. You see, little
woman, it's like this," he went on, taking out a pencil and going down
on one knee on the deck: "Here's the Astronef; there's Venus; there's
Mercury; there's the sun; and there, away on the other side of him, is
Mother earth: If we can turn that corner safely and without expending
too much power we should be all right."

"And if we can't, what will happen?"

"It will be a choice between morphine and cremation in the atmosphere
of the sun, dear, or rather gradually roasting as we fall towards it."

"Then, of course, it will be morphine," she said quite quietly, as she
turned away from his diagram and looked at the now fast increasing
disc of the sun. A well-balanced mind speedily becomes accustomed even
to the most terrible perils, and Zaidie had now looked this one so
long and so steadily in the face that for her it had already become
merely the choice between two forms of death with just a chance of
escape hidden in the closed hand of Fate.

Thirty-six earth-hours later the glorious golden disc of Venus lay
broad and bright beneath them. Above was the blazing orb of the sun,
nearly half as big again as it appears from the earth, with Mercury, a
round black spot, travelling slowly across it.

"My dear Bird-Folk!" said Zaidie, looking down at the lovely world
below them. "If home wasn't home-"

"We can be back among them in a few hours with absolute safety,"
interrupted her husband, catching at the suggestion. "I've told you
the truth about getting back to the earth. It's only a chance at best,
and even if we pass the sun we may not have force enough left to
prevent the Astronef from being smashed to dust or burnt up in the
atmosphere. After all we might do worse--"

"What would you do if you were alone, Lenox?" she said, interrupting
him in turn.

"I should take my chance and go on. After all home's home and worth a
struggle. But you, dear--"

"I'm you, and so I take the same chances as you do. Besides, we're not
perfect enough for a world where there isn't any sin. We should
probably get quite miserable there. No, home's home, as you say."

"Then home it is, dear!" He replied.

The vast, resplendent hemisphere of the Love-Star sunk swiftly down
into the vault of space, growing swiftly smaller and dimmer as the
Astronef sped towards the little black spot on the face of the sun,
which to them was like a buoy marking a place of utter and hopeless
shipwreck in the ocean of immensity.

The chronometer, still set to earth time, had now begun to mark the
last hours of the Astronef's voyage. She was not only travelling at a
speed of which figures could give no comprehensible idea, but the sun,
Mercury, and the earth were rushing towards her with a compound
velocity, composed of the movement of the Solar System through space
and of the movement of the two planets round the sun.

Murgatroyd was at his post in the engine-room. Redgrave and Zaidie had
gone into the conning-tower, perhaps for the last time. For good
fortune or evil, for life or death, they would see the end of the
voyage together.

"How far yet, dear?" she said, as Venus began to slip away behind
them, rising like a splendid moon in their wake.

"Only sixty million miles or so, a matter of a few hours, more or
less---it all depends," he replied, without taking his eyes off the
compass.

"Sixty millions! Why I feel almost at home again."

"But we have to turn the corner of the street yet, dear, and after
that there's a fall of more than twenty-five million miles on to the
more or less kindly breast of Mother earth."

"A fall! It does sound rather awful when you put it that way; but I am
not going to let you frighten me. I believe Mother earth will receive
her wandering children quite as kindly as they deserve."

The moon-like disc of Venus grew swiftly smaller, and the black spot
on the face of the sun larger and larger as the Astronef rushed
silently and imperceptibly, and yet with almost inconceivable
velocity, towards doom or fortune. Neither Zaidie nor Redgrave spoke
again for nearly three hours--hours which to them seemed to pass like
so many minutes. Their eyes were fixed on the black disc of Mercury,
which, as they approached it, expanded with magical rapidity till it
completely eclipsed the blazing orb behind it. Their thoughts were far
away on the still invisible earth and all the splendid possibilities
that it held for two young lives like theirs.

As the sunlight vanished they looked at each other in the golden
moonlight of Venus, and Zaidie let her head rest for a moment on her
husband's shoulder. Then a swiftly broadening gleam of light shot out
from behind the black circle of Mercury. The first crisis had come.
Redgrave put out his hand to the signal-board and rang for full power.
The planet seemed to swing round as the Astronef rushed into the
blaze. In a few minutes it passed through the phases from "new" to
"full." Venus became eclipsed in turn as they swung between Mercury
and the sun, and then Redgrave, after a rapid glance to either side,
said:

"If we can only keep the two pulls balanced we shall do it. That will
keep us in a straight line, and our own momentum ought to carry us
into the earth's attraction."

Zaidie did not reply. She was shading her eyes with her hand from the
almost intolerable brilliance of the sun's rays, and looking straight
ahead to catch the first glimpse of the silver-grey orb. Her husband
read her thoughts and respected them. But a few minutes later he
startled her out of her dream of home by exclaiming:

"Good God, we're turning!"

"What do you say, dear? Turning what?"

"On our own centre. Look! I'm afraid only a miracle can save us now,
darling."

She looked to the left-hand side where he was pointing. The sun, no
longer now a sun, but a vast ocean of flame filling, nearly a third of
the vault of space, was sinking beneath them, on the right Mercury was
rising. Zaidie knew only too well what this meant. It meant that the
keel of the Astronef was being dragged out of the straight line which
would cut the earth's orbit some forty million miles away. It meant
that, in spite of the exertion of the full power that the engines
could develop, they had begun to fall into the sun.

Redgrave laid his hand on his wife's, and their eyes met. There was no
need for words. Perhaps speech just then would have been impossible.
In that mute glance each looked into the other's soul and was content.
Then he left the conning-tower, and Zaidie dropped on to her knees
before the instrument-table and laid her forehead upon her clasped
hands.

Her husband went to the saloon, unlocked a little cupboard in the wall
and took out a blue bottle of corrugated glass labeled "Morphine,
Poison." He took another empty bottle of white glass and measured
fifty drops into it. Then he went to the engine-room and said
abruptly:

"Murgatroyd, I'm afraid it's all up with us. We're falling into the
sun, and you know what that means. In a few hours the Astronef will be
red-hot. So it's roasting alive--or this. I recommend this."

"And what might that be, my lord?" said the old engineer, looking at
the bottle which his master held out towards him.

"That's morphine---poison. Fill that up with water, drink it, and in
half-an-hour you'll be dead without knowing it. Of course, you won't
take it until there's absolutely no hope; but, granted that, you'll
find this a better death than roasting or baking alive." Then his
voice changed suddenly as he went on: "Of course, I need not say,
Murgatroyd, how deeply I regret now that I asked you to come in the
Astronef."

"My lord, my people have served yours for seven hundred years, and,
whether on earth or among the stars, where you go it is my duty to go
also. But don't ask me to take the poison. It is not for me to say
that a journey like this is tempting Providence, but, by my lights, if
I am to die it will be the death that Providence in its wisdom sends."

"I daresay you're right in one way, Murgatroyd, but it's no time to
argue about beliefs now. There's the bottle. Do as you think right.
And now, in case the miracle doesn't happen, good-bye."

"Good-bye, my lord, if it be so," replied the old Yorkshireman, taking
the hand which Redgrave held out to him. "I'll keep the power on to
the last, I suppose?"

"Yes, you may as well. If it doesn't keep us away from the sun it
won't be much use to us in two or three hours."

He left the engine-room and went back to the conning-tower. Zaidie was
still on her knees. Beneath and around them the awful gulf of flame
was broadening and deepening. Mercury was rising higher and growing
smaller. He put the bottle down on the table and waited. Then Zaidie
looked up. Her eyes were clear, and her face was perfectly calm. She
rose and put her arm through his, and said:

"Well, is there any hope, dear? There can't be now, can there? Is that
the morphine?"

"Yes," he replied, slipping his arm beneath hers and round her waist.
"I'm afraid there's not much hope now, little woman. We're using up
the last of the power, and you see--"

As he said this he looked at the thermometer. The mercury had risen
from 65 degrees Fahrenheit, the normal temperature of the interior of
the Astronef, to 93 degrees, and during the half-minute that he
watched it rose another degree. There was no mistaking such a warning
as that. He had brought two little liqueur glasses in his pocket from
the saloon. He divided the morphine between them, and filled them up
with water.

"Not until the last moment, dear," said Zaidie, as he set one of them
before her. "We have no right to do it until then."

"Very well. When the mercury reaches a hundred and fifty. After that
it will go up ten and fifteen degrees at a jump, and we--"

"Yes, at a hundred and fifty," she replied, cutting short a speech she
dared not hear the end of. "I understand. It will be impossible to
hope any more."

Now, side by side, they stood and watched the thermometer.

Ninety-five--ninety-eight--a hundred and three--a hundred and ten--
eighteen--twenty-four--thirty-two--forty-one.

The silent minutes passed, and with each the silver thread--for them
the thread of life--grew, with strange contradiction, longer and
longer, and with every minute it grew more quickly.

A hundred and forty-six.

With his right arm Redgrave drew Zaidie still closer to him. He put
out his left hand and took up the little glass. She did the same.

"Good-bye, dear, till we have slept and wake again!"

"Good-bye, darling, God grant that we may!" But the agony of that last
farewell was more than Zaidie could hear. She looked away at the
little glass in her hand, a hand which even now did not tremble. Then
she raised her eyes again to take one last look at the glory of the
stars, and at the Fate incarnate in flame which lay beneath them.

"The earth, the earth--thank God, the earth!"

With the hand that held the draught of Lethe--which in another moment
would have passed her lips--she caught at her husband's hand, pulled
the glass out of it, and then with a little sigh she dropped senseless
on the floor of the conning-tower. Redgrave looked for a moment in the
direction that her eyes had taken. A pale, silver-grey crescent, with
a little white spot near it, was rising out of the blackness beyond
the edge of the solar ocean of flame. Home was in sight at last, but
would they reach it--and how?

He picked her up and carried her to their room and laid her on the
bed. Then he went to the medicine chest again, this time for a very
different purpose.

An hour later, they were on the upper deck with their telescopes
turned on to the rapidly-growing crescent of the home-world, which, in
its eternal march through space, had come into the line of direct
attraction just in time to turn the scale in which the lives of the
star-voyagers were trembling. The higher it rose, the bigger and
broader and brighter it grew, and, at last, Zaidie--forgetting in her
transport of joy all the perils that were yet to come--sprang to her
feet and clapped her hands, and cried:

"There's America!"

Then she dropped back into her long deck-chair and began a good,
hearty, healthy cry.



EPILOGUE

THERE is little now to be told that all the world does not already
know as well as it knows the circumstances of Lord and Lady Redgrave's
departure from the earth, at the beginning of that marvellous voyage,
that desperate plunge into the unknown immensities of Space which
began so happily, and yet with so many grave misgivings in the hearts
of their friends, and which, after passing many perils, the
adventurous voyagers finished even more happily than they had begun.

As I said at the beginning of this narrative the sole purpose of
writing it has been to place before the reading public an account of
the adventures experienced by Lord Redgrave and his beautiful Countess
from the time of their departure from the earth to the hour of their
return to it. Therefore there is no need to re-tell a tale already
told, and one that has been read and re-read a thousand times. Every
one who has read his or her newspaper from Chamskatska to Cape Horn,
and from Alaska to South Australia, knows how the Commander of the
Astronef so nursed the remains which were left to him of the R. Force
after overcoming the attraction of the sun, that he was able to steer
an oblique course between the moon and the earth, and to counteract
what Zaidie called the all too-loving attraction of the Mother Planet,
and, after sixty hours of agonising suspense, at last re-entered their
native atmosphere.

The expenditure of the last few units of the R. Force enabled them to
just clear the summits of the Bolivian Andes, to cross the foothills
and western slopes of Peru, and finally to let the Astronef drop
quietly on to the bosom of the broad Pacific about twenty miles
westward of the Port of Mollendo.

All this time thousands of anxious eyes had been peering through
telescopes every night in quest of the wanderers who must now be
returning if ever they were to return, and a reward of ten thousand
dollars, offered conjointly by the British and United States
Governments for the first authentic tidings of the Astronef, was won
by a smart young Californian, who was Assistant Astronomer at the
Harvard University Observatory at Arequipa.

One night when he was on duty watching a lunar occultation, he saw
something sweep across the disc of the full moon just as the captain
and officers of the St. Louis had seen that same something sweep
across the disc of the rising sun. What else could it be if not the
Astronef. He rang for another assistant to go on with the occultation,
and wired down to the coast requesting the British Consul at Mollendo
to look out for an arrival from the skies.

Three hours later the gleam of an electric searchlight flickered down
over the huge black cone of the Misti, and by dawn the next morning
one of Her Majesty's cruisers--most appropriately named Astroea--
attached to the Pacific Squadron then en route from Lima to
Valparaiso, steamed out westward from Mollendo and found the long,
shining hull of the Astronef waiting quietly on the unrippled rollers
of the Pacific, and Lord and Lady Redgrave having breakfast in the
deck-chamber.

Compliments and congratulations having been duly exchanged, she was
taken in tow by the cruiser, and so reached Valparaiso. Here she lay
for a few days while the wires of the world were being kept hot with
telegraphic accounts of her return to earth, and while her Commander,
with the assistance of the officers of the National Laboratory, was
replenishing his stock of the R. Fluid from the chemicals which they
had placed at his disposal.

It would, of course, have been quite possible for him and Zaidie to
have taken steamer northward to Panama, crossed the Isthmus, and
returned to New York and Washington via Jamaica. The British Admiral
even offered to place his fastest cruiser at their disposal for a run
to San Francisco, whence the Overland Limited would have landed them
in New York in four days and a half, but Zaidie vetoed this as quickly
as she had done the other proposition. If she had her way the Astronef
should go back to Washington as she had left it, by means of her own
motive force, and so, of course, it came to pass.

Even Murgatroyd's grim and homely features seemed irradiated by a glow
of what he afterwards thought unholy pride when he once more stood by
his levers and heard the familiar signal coming from the conning-
tower.

"A tenth."

And then--"Stand by steering-gear."

The next moment there was another tinkle in the engine-room.

Redgrave, standing with Zaidie in the conning-tower, moved the power-
wheel through ten degrees, and then to the amazement of tens of
thousands of spectators, the hull of the Astronef rose perpendicularly
from the waters of the Bay. The British Squadron and a detachment of
the Chilian fleet thundered out a salute which was answered a few
moments later by the shore batteries, Redgrave went down into the
deck-chamber and fired twenty-one shots from one of the Maxim-
Nordenfelts--the same with which he had mown down the crowds of
Martians in the square of their great city a hundred and thirty
million miles away, and while he was doing this Zaidie in the conning-
tower ran the White Ensign up to the top of the flagstaff.

Then the glass doors were closed again, the propellers began to
revolve at their utmost speed, and the Space-Navigator with one
tremendous leap cleared the double chain of the Andes and vanished to
the north-eastward.

To describe the reception of Lord and Lady Redgrave when the Astronef
dropped a few hours later, on to the very spot in front of the steps
of the Capitol at Washington from which she had risen just four months
before, would only be to repeat what has already been told in the
Press of the world, and especially of the United States, with a far
more luxuriant wealth of detail than could possibly be emulated here.
Suffice it to say that the first human form that Zaidie embraced after
her long wanderings was that of Mrs. Van Stuyler, whom the President
of the United States had escorted to the gangway.

The most marvellous of human adventures become commonplace by
repetition, and Mrs. Van Stuyler had already spent nearly a fortnight
devouring every item, whether of fact or fancy, with which the
American Press had embroidered the adventures of the Astronef and her
crew. And so when the first embracings and emotions were over, all she
could find to say was:

"Well, Zaidie dear, and how did you enjoy it, after all?"

"It was just gorgeous, Mrs. Van, and if there was a more gorgeous word
than that in the American language I'd use it," replied Zaidie, with
another hug, "Why didn't you come? You'd have been--well no, perhaps
I'd better not say what you would have been. But just think of it, or
try to--A honeymoon trip of over two thousand million miles, and
back--safe--thank God!"

As she said this, Zaidie threw her arm over Mrs. Van Stuyler's
shoulder, and drew her away towards the forward end of the deck-
chamber. At the same moment the President's hand met Lord Redgrave's
in a long, strong grip. They didn't say anything just then. Men seldom
do under such circumstances.



THE END




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