In the course of my experience as an occasional lecturer during the past twelve years, I have been much impressed by the keen interest evinced, even by the most unlettered persons, when astronomical subjects are dealt with in plain untechnical language which they can really grasp and understand.
The pertinent questions which have been addressed to me privately by members of my audiences have clearly indicated that there is ample scope for writers in satisfying a widespread desire for fuller and clearer information upon such subjects. I have observed that particular interest is taken in the planet Mars and also in the moon, but ordinary persons usually find astronomical text-books too technical and too difficult to master; whilst, as regards Mars, the information they contain is generally meagre and sometimes not up-to-date.
Scientific readers are already provided for: and it occurred to me that it would be much more useful and appeal to a more numerous class if, instead of writing a book on the usual lines, I wrote a narrative of events which might be supposed to occur in the course of an actual voyage to Mars; and describing what might be seen on the planet during a short visit.
This is the genesis of the story; and, in carrying out my programme, I have endeavoured to convey by means of natural incidents and conversations between the characters portrayed, the most recent and reliable scientific information respecting the moon and Mars; together with other astronomical information: stating it in an interesting form, and in concise, clear, and understandable language.
Every endeavour has been made to ensure that this scientific information shall be thoroughly accurate, so that in this respect the book may be referred to with as much confidence as any ordinary textbook.
Apart from my own studies and work, all these facts have been carefully verified by reference, as regards the moon, to the works of such well-known authorities as Neison, Elger, Proctor, Sir Robert Ball, &c., whilst, with respect to Mars, the works of Professor Lowell, Flammarion, Professor Langley, and other writers, as well as practical papers by other actual observers of the planet, have been studied.
The personal opinions expressed are entirely my own, and the technical writers above mentioned are in no way responsible for them. I do not, however, expect my readers to accept all my views, as they relate to matters in which there is ample room for differences of opinion.
The reader will, of course, understand that whilst the astronomical information is, in all cases, scientific fact according to our present knowledge, the story itself--as well as the attempt to describe the physical and social conditions on Mars--is purely imaginative. It is not, however, merely random imagining. In a narrative such as this some matters--as, for instance, the "air-ship," and the possibility of a voyage through space--must be taken for granted; but the other ideas are mainly logical deductions from known facts and scientific data, or legitimate inferences.
Many years' careful study of the various theories which have been evolved has convinced me that the weight of evidence is in favour of Professor Lowell's conceptions, as being not only the most reasonable but the most scientific; and that they fit the observed facts with a completeness attaching to no other theory. These conceptions I have endeavoured to present fully and clearly; together with my own views as an entirely independent writer.
In dealing with the conditions on a distant and inaccessible world the farthest flight of imagination might fall short of the reality, but I have preferred to treat these matters somewhat restrainedly. Whilst no one can say positively that the intelligent inhabitants of Mars do not possess bodies resembling our own, it is very probable that they differ from us entirely; and may possess forms which would appear to us strange and weird. I have, however, thought it desirable to endow the Martians with bodies resembling ours, but glorified in form and features. The powers ascribed to the Martians are really only extensions of powers which some amongst us claim to possess, and they fall short of what more than one modern scientific writer has predicated as being within the possibilities of science at a not very distant future.
During the past few years I have been greatly indebted to Professor Lowell for his kindness and ready courtesy in furnishing me with information on obscure matters connected with Mars; and my thanks are also due to the Rev. Theodore E.R. Phillips, of Ashstead, who was good enough to read the manuscript of this book, and whose great observational experience enabled him to make valuable suggestions in regard to the scientific matters dealt with therein.
Truly "a labour of love," this little book--which Professor Lowell has most kindly permitted me to dedicate to him--is now submitted to the public, in the sincere hope that its perusal may serve not only to while away a leisure hour, but tend to nurture a love of the sublime science of astronomy, and at the same time provide some food for thought.
A few maps, plates, and charts have been added to give completeness to the work, and it is hoped that they will aid the reader in understanding the several matters dealt with.
(Narrative written by Wilfrid Poynders, Esquire, late of Norbury, in the County Borough of Croydon, Surrey)
WE START ON A VERY LONG VOYAGE.
"Well, I suppose it is about time to get ready for starting?"
The speaker was a smart, well-set-up man about forty-three years of age, whose keen and alert expression, clear eyes and well-cut features were a true index to the intellectuality and integrity of his character; whilst his closely compressed lips and the deep vertical line down the centre of his forehead betokened a dogged perseverance in carrying into effect anything he might undertake.
John Yiewsley Claxton, for that was his name, was my very intimate friend of at least twenty-five years' standing; and during the greater portion of that time he had been my constant companion. We had passed through many trials and troubles together, but a better friend and companion no man could have desired.
We were just finishing a last quiet smoke and chat in my snuggery at Norbury, near Croydon, preparatory to starting off on a very long journey for which all arrangements had been completed, and we had risen early that morning in order to have everything in readiness.
John took his pipe from his lips as he spoke, then, rising, stretched out his arms and braced himself up like one ready and eager for any emergency; the next minute he was smoking in his usual calm and thoughtful manner. I rose when he did, then giving a few final instructions to Mrs. Challen, my housekeeper, we bade her "good-bye" and stepped out on to the lawn, thence crossing over to a gate at the far end of the garden, we passed into an extensive field and walked toward a large shed that stood near its centre.
It was a most beautiful evening near the beginning of August 1909, clear and calm. The sun had only just passed below the horizon, the sky immediately above it being a rippled glory of gold, merging higher up into gold flecked with crimson, then into a placid sea of pale apple-green. Above this were fleecy clouds of delicate rose-pink, which reflected their splendours upon the higher parts of the surrounding hills, the latter standing out clear and sharp, and glowing with roseate hues, whilst their bases were seen dimly as through a thin veiling of purple mist.
Surely nothing could be better for the commencement of our long-planned trip. The moon would not rise until about a quarter-past nine, and darkness would have descended by the time we were ready to start. This was exactly what we required, because we did not wish either our preparations or our departure to be observed.
Just as we arrived within hail of the shed the door opened, and a rugged-featured man with sandy hair stepped out. This was Kenneth M'Allister, our engineer and general factotum in all mechanical matters--a typical specimen of a Scotch engineer. He had followed his profession in its different phases on tramp-steamers, on ocean liners, naval gunboats, and even on battle-ships, besides having served for several years in the workshops of a great firm of electrical engineers.
Whether repairing a broken propeller-shaft two or three scores of tons in weight, the most intricate machinery, or the most delicate electric mechanism, he was equally at home and sure in his work; in fact nothing seemed to come amiss to him. His machinery was always the object of his most anxious care, and, providing that all worked satisfactorily, nothing else troubled him much.
"Well, M'Allister," I called to him, "is everything ready for our trip to-night?"
"Heh, mon," he replied, "everything is all ready; will you look in and take a turn round the ship?"
"Certainly we will," I answered; so we all went into the shed, where we gazed with equal pride and satisfaction upon the splendid shining object which was housed therein. Here, in perfect readiness for its destined service, was our air-ship--if it could be so called--upon which we three had expended years of thought, experiment, and work.
Outwardly it was shaped somewhat like a fish, being constructed of a special metal--our joint invention--which we had named "martalium." The metal was composed of aluminium and two other rarer metals which, when combined together, produced a substance almost as light as aluminium, yet many times harder and tougher than case-hardened steel; whilst its surface shone like burnished silver and could never in any circumstances become tarnished or affected by rust.
The ship was ninety-five feet in length, and its diameter twenty feet in the broadest part, tapering off to a point at either end.
With the exception of the steering and balancing fans, there was no machinery whatever visible on the exterior of the vessel. Several windows along each side, together with a few at the top and bottom of the vessel, gave light to the interior, and would allow for observations being made in any direction. These windows were all constructed of a special toughened glass obtained from Vienna, very thick and warranted to withstand the hardest blows. Along each side of the vessel there was an observation platform or gallery on to which the exterior doors opened, and each gallery was provided with a protecting railing.
The interior of the ship was divided into five separate compartments, the rear one being the general living and sleeping room, having observation windows so arranged as to command an outlook in all directions. The next compartment was mainly a store-room, but, like all the others, could be used for observation purposes; next to that was a small compartment intended for a special purpose which will hereafter be apparent; then another containing water storage, apparatus for compressing or rarefying air, as well as machinery for producing the latter chemically.
Lastly, right in the forepart of the vessel was M'Allister's special sanctum, containing the driving, lighting, warming, and steering machinery, but electric buttons and switches were also provided for controlling these in every compartment, so that whichever one we happened to be in we were prepared for all emergencies. Periscopes capable of being turned in all directions also communicated with every compartment, thus we could always see what might be around us.
All the machinery was either electric or magnetic, some of it being very simple; other portions were extremely intricate, but nearly all was the outcome of our joint inventions. Such parts as could not profitably be made by ourselves had been carefully distributed between several firms of founders and engineers, in order that none could have any means of discovering the use to which they were intended to be put. The whole of the shell of the vessel was double, with a packed space between the two skins; and each door opened into a small lobby, having another door on the farther side, to ensure that every part might be kept perfectly air-tight when required.
By the time we had completed a thorough inspection of the vessel and its machinery, and overhauled the stores to make sure that everything requisite was on board, it had become nearly dark, so, moving a switch, M'Allister swung open the great doors at the end of the shed. The vessel was standing upon a low trolley having many wheels running on rails, with a small electric motor beneath it, and, upon M'Allister moving the trolley switch, the whole affair glided smoothly out into the open field. I may as well confess that we owed this trolley and the mode of its working to ideas gained during an inspection of the construction and working of the conduit trams belonging to the London County Council.
When the vessel was out in the open we congratulated ourselves upon its splendid proportions and business-like appearance.
I asked M'Allister whether "he was satisfied with the result of our labours?"
"Mon," he replied, "she's grand, and it's fine to have the handling of such machinery; everything works as slick as grease!" It was a pleasure to hear him talk about his machines, for he was always so enthusiastic where they were concerned.
"Now," I suggested, "before we start we'll give our good ship her name."
"Bravo!" said John Claxton, "and we'll drink to her success, a good voyage and a safe return"; and he was so struck by the brilliancy of his idea that he actually took his pipe from his lips, and, holding it in his hand, regarded it with thoughtful contemplation for quite three minutes.
I accordingly went to the store-room and brought out two bottles of champagne. Directly M'Allister saw them he entered a vigorous and emphatic protest, saying, "Heh, Professor! you're surely not going to celebrate this most auspicious event with such poor fizzy stuff as champagne? Let's have a wee drop of good old Scotch whisky, and do the thing properly!"
John Claxton here interposed: "Let M'Allister have his whisky if he prefers it, and we'll have the 'fizz'!" So I went laughing to the store again and returned with a bottle of special Scotch, whereat M'Allister's eye gleamed as he smiled approval.
Then, taking up a bottle of the champagne, I broke it over the prow of the vessel, and we solemnly christened her the Areonal in honour of the planet for which we were bound.
Raising high our glasses we gave the toast of "The Areonal; may she and her passengers have a good voyage and a safe return home!" M'Allister peered over the rim of his glass, and, with upturned eyes, remarked that "his old wife in Glasgow would be looking for his safe return in a few months' time"; then his glass slowly tipped up, and the old Scotch whisky disappeared.
Claxton and I at once stepped on board the vessel, and having just set the machinery slowly moving so as to raise the vessel a few feet, I put on the neutral power so that the ship remained poised in the air. M'Allister ran the trolley back into the shed, closed the doors, and switched off the electric current; then climbed the extending ladder, and came on board, John steadying the vessel by an anchor rope in the meantime.
M'Allister took over the command of the machinery, and, setting it in motion, the Areonal at once rose slowly and gracefully straight up into the air.
John and I were standing outside on the platform, from whence, looking toward the house, we could plainly see Mrs. Challen at the open door of our sitting-room waving farewell to us--her figure silhouetted against the bright light of the room. We waved back to her in response, but I am very doubtful if she could see our signal, as she was looking into the darkness.
We now rose rapidly as M'Allister switched on more power, and far away to the northward we could see over the whole extent of the vast metropolis, with its countless miles of lighted streets. On turning towards the east the Crystal Palace, which was lighted up, was a very conspicuous object against the skyline over the Sydenham hills.
John, when he saw it, remarked that "it would have been an appropriate tribute to our enterprise if the Palace Company had provided one of their grand firework displays as a send-off for us"; "but," he added, "these companies will never do what is expected of them!" On the westward side the lights all along the hill where Sutton lies were clearly visible; farther off was Epsom, and, with the aid of a glass, we could even faintly see the lights of Guildford in the far distance.
Nearly south of us Croydon seemed from our altitude to lie almost beneath our vessel. We directed our course towards the south-east, passing over the railway-station at Thornton Heath, with Croydon to the right of us, just as the clock of the Croydon Town Hall was striking nine. The long lines of lighted streets made a fine panorama, and we could trace the lights of the moving tram-cars out to Anerley, South Norwood, Purley, Wallington, and Mitcham.
Although we were fully 5000 feet, or nearly a mile, above the earth it was surprising how clearly we could hear the sounds from below--the rumble of the electric tram-cars, the clang of their gongs, the toot-toot of the motor-horns, and, louder still, the whistles of the locomotives on the London and Brighton Railway were borne to us with almost startling distinctness through the still night air.
Our electric lights were now switched on at their full power, their bright beams shining out through the windows all around the vessel. Whilst we were on the ground we only used just sufficient light to see by, as we did not wish to draw attention to our proceedings; but now we were well up and on our way it mattered not who saw us.
With increased speed we passed over South Norwood and the village of Shirley, rising higher and higher as we proceeded on our way. The moon, which was just past the full, had not risen above the horizon of those upon the earth below us; but we had now attained such an altitude that it became visible to us, low down on the horizon and far ahead on our left hand. Owing to our height above the earth it soon became impossible for us to see the places over which we passed, and as we were moving over an open part of Kent there were very few lights which we could have seen in any case. As there was nothing of particular interest to attract our attention which we had not already seen on our trial trips, we entered our general room and sat down to supper.
The machinery had been set to maintain a speed of 150 miles an hour until we passed beyond the limits of the earth's atmosphere; for though, no doubt, we might safely have travelled faster, we did not intend taking any risk of overheating our vessel by the friction of the atmosphere.
Notwithstanding the speed at which we were travelling we were quite unconscious of any movement in our vessel. The impression we received was not that we were rushing away from the earth, but that the earth was rapidly falling away from our position in space.
It may, perhaps, be desirable that I should now give a little information respecting myself and my friends, together with some explanation of our reasons for embarking upon such a very long voyage.
PERSONAL REMINISCENCES--WHY WE DECIDED ON THE VOYAGE.
My name is Wilfrid Poynders, and during the greater part of my lifetime of more than sixty-three years astronomy has been my favourite study. For the last thirty years the planet Mars has been an object of special interest to me, and I have devoted much time to observation of the planet and have endeavoured to make myself fully acquainted with all that has been discovered or surmised respecting it.
My dear wife had died when I was thirty-six years of age, leaving me with one child, my son Mark, then about fifteen years old. In my intense sorrow at my bereavement I should probably have become almost a hermit had it not been for my boy who, having been carefully educated, was a bright and intelligent lad. I now took him under my special care and made it my constant endeavour to impart to him such of my own knowledge as seemed likely to be useful or interesting, hoping to keep him with me for many years as a companion. He soon became imbued with my love of mechanical pursuits and also with my passion for astronomy and allied sciences, developing an interest in Mars equal to if not surpassing my own.
His most intimate schoolfellow was John Claxton, and, as there was a very strong friendship between them, we were so much together that I came to regard him almost as a second son.
When my boy was in his twentieth year I noticed that a great change came over him, for instead of being cheerful and high-spirited he became very quiet and self-absorbed, and there was often a faraway look in his eyes which puzzled me very much. One morning I went to call him at his usual time for rising and found him in a deep sleep from which I was unable to rouse him. After trying some time without effect his stupor so alarmed me that I immediately sent off for a doctor, who advised that it would be best to let him lie and he would probably awaken naturally in a few hours' time. This indeed proved to be the case; and, as soon as he awoke, the doctor carefully examined him, but could find nothing wrong to account for what had happened. A month later he had a similar seizure, with the same result, but this time his sleep lasted nearly thirty hours. On the doctor's advice I then took him to the seaside for several weeks' stay, and there he soon regained his usual buoyancy of spirits.
Shortly after our return home, however, he had a third seizure from which he never awoke, but, to my profound sorrow, passed quietly away. Just before the end came I noticed his lips move slightly as though he were trying to speak, and on bending down to listen I thought I caught faintly what sounded like the words, "I am coming," but whether this really were so I could not be sure.
I will not dwell upon the pain and sorrow of that dark and dreary portion of my life when I was left quite alone, without a single relative to cheer me, but merely say that my grief at his loss was so overwhelming that it was long before my former mode of living could be resumed. John Claxton was almost as deeply affected as myself, for poor Mark was a most affectionate lad, and had greatly endeared himself to both of us. John also had his own troubles, having lost his father during the previous year, and was then living with an aunt and two cousins, but had never been comfortable with them, as both the boys were rather wild, and of anything but good dispositions. He had inherited a substantial income from his father, but this piece of good fortune only aroused the jealousy and envy of his cousins, who only seemed to tolerate his presence in their home because of what they could obtain from him by their sponging propensities.
Although I was not rich, my income was amply sufficient to render me quite independent of work, and as I felt most lonely and desolate since Mark's death, I at length begged John to come and live with me. He joyfully agreed, and from that time our relations have practically been those of father and son. As our dispositions and likings are very similar, we are as happy together as past sorrows will permit.
John always had a great fancy for engineering and electrical work, in which, after some years of training, he became an expert. Being well endowed with the faculty of invention, he devised and constructed many new kinds of electric and magnetic machines, and as my tastes also run in the direction of mechanical work, I have also done a great deal in connection with such matters.
About six years ago, when the problem of aerial navigation began to be studied in earnest, John became greatly interested in the matter, devoting all his time and energies to designing and constructing working models of air-ships, aeroplanes, and other flying machines.
At that period I was very keen on Martian matters, to such an extent indeed that my mind was always occupied with the various problems they presented. One day, in the course of conversation, I suggested that it would be a splendid thing if we could construct a vessel which would enable us to visit Mars and see it for ourselves, and thus settle all our doubts and speculations on the various controversial points which were so much discussed.
The idea soon had him in its grip, and he then immediately commenced a series of experiments with a view to designing machinery capable of carrying a vessel through space. After many failures he thought out a plan for utilising the earth's gravitation and magnetism as a means of obtaining the requisite power and storing it up for future use. This scheme was thoroughly tested and proved to have solved the problem, for the machinery could transform the power from either positive or negative to neutral.
The task of making the vessel and machinery was of course too great for two pairs of hands to undertake, and we were therefore under the necessity of obtaining a third man to help us. John had known M'Allister when he was studying electrical work, and suggested that, if available, he would be just the man to suit us. We at once communicated with him, making a liberal offer for his assistance in our scheme, and as it was a question of dealing with an entirely new kind of machinery it appealed to his professional pride, so, being out of an engagement, he gladly accepted our offer. He came over to my house and has lived with us ever since, apparently quite in his element. M'Allister was about fifty years of age when he joined us, married, but without children. His wife's home was at Glasgow, and owing to his so often being away at sea for long periods, she had become so accustomed to the separation that she declined our offer to find a home for herself and her husband near us. She paid him a visit occasionally, or he went to spend a few days with her, but as a permanent arrangement she preferred staying with her relatives in Glasgow. It was not exactly my ideal of married life, but as the couple always seemed happy enough when together, and the arrangement appeared to suit them both, it was not my place to make any comment.
My house on the outskirts of Norbury was well situated for securing the privacy we required in carrying on our work and experiments, lying as it did in the valley on the westward side of a small eminence known as Pollard's Hill, which effectually screened us from observation by the inhabitants of the houses in the London Road. Thus we enjoyed complete seclusion, although not more than a quarter of a mile from that busy thoroughfare.
Notwithstanding that Pollard's Hill is only a small elevation, and its rise scarcely noticed when approached from the London Road, when its summit is gained one is astonished by the extensive and splendid view it commands over hills and valleys, town and country; and it breaks upon one almost as a startling surprise when its beauties are seen for the first time. It is, indeed, so very unexpected to come upon such a fine and far-spreading view so suddenly and so close to bricks and mortar. Alas! the latter are fast encroaching upon this delightful but somewhat neglected spot, and unless the Croydonians are wise enough to secure the acquirement of the summit of the hill as a public open space, this splendid view will be entirely lost to future generations.
A further advantage of our situation was its nearness to Croydon and Wallington, where there were engineering and electrical machinery works; besides which we also had convenient and easy means of reaching the metropolis, from whence we could travel to any other town to purchase or order anything we might require.
Once we had fairly set to work our progress was rapid and our vessel had practically been complete nearly a year, since when we have undertaken many voyages at night in order to test its powers and to ascertain where improvements were needed.
We were much amused to find in the newspapers of this period, especially in the London Press, numerous letters from various parts of England describing the appearance of a strange and very brilliant star in the sky, either at night or in the morning hours before sunrise. Some described the star as moving in one direction, others stated that it passed in quite another direction; though it does not appear to have occurred to any one that stars do not move in this eccentric fashion, nor at the rapid rate at which this peculiar star was stated to travel. No one guessed that it was the light of our air-ship which they saw as we flitted about the country in the dark hours, and often at extremely high altitudes.
Three extensive fields were occupied by me in connection with my residence, and these afforded plenty of room for our large shed and workshops; whilst as north, south, and west of us there was a large stretch of open country, extending in some directions for miles, there was little risk of our operations attracting attention. Moreover, we were always careful not to prepare for any ascent until it was fairly dark.
Our establishment was a small one, Mrs. Challen being our only indoor servant. She came to me as a young widow after my wife's death, and has proved an excellent manager and a most trustworthy servant. I have therefore left my house in her charge with a feeling of entire certainty that it will be well looked after in my absence. My solicitors have a sealed packet containing full instructions as to what is to be done in the event of my not returning home or communicating with them within fifteen months from the date of our departure.
Altogether, our little party of three has been a very agreeable one up to the present. John Claxton is a splendid fellow--a good talker when in the humour, and an excellent listener when either myself or M'Allister are in the vein for airing our own particular views. He is rather fond of chaffing M'Allister, who has a quiet humour of his own, and takes it all in good part. John has only one weakness--he has become a most inveterate smoker, and we have learned by experience that in this matter his wishes must never be opposed. Both M'Allister and myself are also smokers, though to a much less extent; the former, indeed, more often prefers to chew navy plug-tobacco--a habit which I am glad to say I never acquired, but it is a pretty general one amongst those who have been employed on sea-going vessels. In these matters it is an understood thing that each is to do as he pleases, without let or hindrance.
One more point and then I will finish this rather long but very necessary digression. In conversation I am generally addressed by my colleagues as "Professor." Not that I ever occupied a Professorial Chair at a university or elsewhere, but it arose in this way: When John first came to live with me he felt a diffidence, owing to the disparity between our ages, in addressing me by my Christian name; on the other hand, to call me by my surname seemed to him far too cold and formal. So on one occasion, when I had been holding forth on my favourite science, he remarked, "I think, sir, if you will allow me, I shall call you 'Professor' in future; the title seems most appropriate for one who has the power of conveying information on scientific subjects in so clear and interesting a manner."
I was much amused at this proposal, but fully appreciating the difficulty he felt in the matter, replied, "John, you really flatter me too much; but as you seem to think the title fits, you may call me by it if you like." So from that time forth John always addressed me as "Professor," and from hearing him constantly using the term, M'Allister soon acquired the same habit. I am afraid they both credited me with rather more erudition than I really possessed; but although I should never attempt to talk at large on matters with which I was not fully acquainted, I have lived long enough to know that it is not always wise to go very far in disillusioning others of the favourable opinions they may have formed respecting one's own abilities. It is, perhaps, one of those matters in which "a still tongue makes a wise head"; and, if dealt with in a tactful way, may be of real advantage to both persons. The one will continue to be receptive of the ideas of the person whom he esteems as well qualified to impart sound and reliable information, whilst the other will honestly endeavour to live up to his reputation, and be most scrupulously careful to make sure of the accuracy of the information which he desires to impart.
WE APPROACH THE MOON--A MAGNIFICENT SPECTACLE.
When we had finished our supper John remarked, "Professor, I am a little mystified in regard to our present position. We have started on a voyage to Mars, but up to the present I have not seen even a glimpse of the planet to-night. How is that?"
"Hear, hear," chimed in M'Allister. "Mon, I've been bothering over the very same thing ever since we started, and wondering where yon little red star has gone to!"
"The question is very soon answered," I replied: "it is a case of 'the Spanish fleet you cannot see because it's not in sight.' Mars does not rise above our late horizon until about a quarter-past ten, and was therefore hidden by the earth whilst we were out on the platform; so we could not expect to see it then, but if we look out now no doubt we shall see it."
We went over to a window, and I pointed out the planet, remarking, "There it is; that little red star is the world which we hope to land upon in a few weeks' time. You will notice that it does not lie quite in the direction in which we are moving, for I must tell you that we are not on our course to Mars at present. I thought we should all be glad to have a look at the moon from a close point of view now we have the chance, and M'Allister will remember that I gave him instructions just before supper to direct our course so as to head off the moon in its journey."
"Quite right, Professor, so you did," said M'Allister; "but I did not fully understand the reason of your instructions."
"But," interrupted John, "are we not going rather out of our way?"
"Yes, that is so, John," I replied, "but a few thousand miles more or less will make very little difference to us at the rate we shall travel, especially if you allow for the fact that the earth and moon are both moving nearly in the direction we wish to go. Besides, I hope to approach sufficiently near the moon to enable us to add a little more power to our store, so it will not all be lost time; and we can also use the moon to give us a fresh start. But for the fact that it would be best for us to reach the moon before it has waned to any large extent we might have delayed our start for many days, and, whilst considerably shortening our journey, still arrived at Mars on the date we have fixed."
Our chronometer was housed in a substantial non-magnetic cubicle, with a very thick glass window, in order to protect it from the magnetism and electricity which pervaded our vessel. On looking at the chronometer I found the time was nearly eleven o'clock. We had, therefore, been nearly two hours on our journey and had travelled some three hundred miles, mostly in an upward direction from the earth; so if there were any of the earth's atmosphere around our vessel it must be of the most extreme tenuity, and we might safely increase our speed.