"It is too long a story to narrate now," he replied, "for we have a duty to perform, and must not stay here. We must now show ourselves to the people outside, who have long waited to greet you! You shall hear more to-night; but, in the meantime, do not make known my identity to my old friend, John, until after I have left you. You may tell him then and prepare him for our meeting to-night."
I noticed when he was speaking that sometimes he lapsed into a phrase or two of the Martian language, and that his English was spoken as it would be by a foreigner not fully acquainted with our language.
Before we left the pavilion I asked him to tell me what office was held by the high personage who had occupied the dais on our arrival, and he explained that "he was Soranho, the present ruler of Mars!"
"Emperor or King?" I inquired.
"We have neither of those dignitaries here," he answered. "He is the Chief of the General Council of the entire world of Mars, elected to that office for a certain term by the whole body of the people. But now we must not keep the Chief waiting any longer."
So we passed out together to join the Chief of the Council on the dais, and, standing near it, we saw John and M'Allister, who were gazing around with intense interest upon the assembled multitude.
The Chief advanced to meet us, and greeted me with even more cordiality than at first, if that were possible; then he said a few words of congratulation to Merna, and conducted us to the front of the dais.
The people were now all massed together before the dais in long parallel lines, or ranks, and, as the Chief brought me forward, there came a tremendous shout of welcome from the multitude.
The Chief made a brief speech in the Martian language (which of course neither I nor my two companions understood), in which, as Mark afterwards explained to me, he gave a short account of how I had arrived there from the earth with my two colleagues--the first inhabitants of that world to set foot upon Mars! He told them that my coming was all owing to the devoted love and influence of Merna, who in a former life upon the earth had been my son.
What Mark did not tell me was that the Chief had spoken in terms of very high appreciation of the talents Mark had displayed, and of the success which had attended his great endeavour to exert his influence over that immense distance of space which separated the two worlds, and practically compel me to obey his wishes by undertaking a journey to Mars.
I learnt this afterwards from others, and found that a similar modesty and reticence was a general characteristic of the Martians.
The acclamations of the people at the conclusion of the Chief's speech were almost deafening, and I frequently distinguished the name of "Merna" amongst their ejaculations. Whatever was the purport of the Chief's statement, it undoubtedly afforded the most intense satisfaction to all those who heard it.
The assembly now began to disperse in the most orderly manner, many of the people gathering round the Areonal, and apparently discussing with interest its construction and equipment, but none pressed upon our little party. There was neither rude curiosity nor any embarrassing attentions bestowed upon us, such as would have been so unpleasantly in evidence in any similar circumstances upon the earth.
"Merna" asked me to be good enough to excuse him for the present as he had something to attend to urgently; then he took leave of us for the time, remarking that we need have no anxiety about the Areonal, for it would be perfectly safe and well looked after.
The Chief, and some of the officials to whom he now introduced us, then accompanied us to another pavilion, where we partook of a little light refreshment. The chief then took his leave, after promising that we should meet again to-morrow.
One of the officials informed me that a residence was in readiness for our occupation, and that it was situated within a very short distance from where we stood. He asked whether we would proceed there in an electric carriage, or whether we would prefer to walk; and, as we wished to get accustomed to walking on our new world, we decided to go on foot.
We saw around us in every direction large numbers of flying machines of all descriptions, also electric and other motors, which had conveyed the people to our landing-place. Most of the motors were very light and elegant in appearance, and those intended for conveying only a single person were but little larger than our motor tricycles. There was not the slightest noise from the machinery, nor any fumes emitted like those we had found so great a nuisance on the earth. The Martians had evidently overcome all such difficulties, if they had ever experienced them; and their methods were doubtless far in advance of the use of evil-smelling petrol.
We noticed that very many of the people were walking in a manner which suggested that they had a long journey before them; and, on mentioning this to the official in attendance, he told us that walking was so easy on Mars, both on account of the small gravitation and the generally level surface of the country, that most Martians preferred walking unless much pressed for time, or the distance to be traversed was very great.
Though the sun was shining brilliantly the heat was not at all oppressive. As we passed along we noticed that the buildings all stood separate from each other, open spaces or trees, flowers or shrubs being around each of them.
We saw no evidence of overcrowding of buildings on small areas of land like there was in the world we had left. Plenty of air and open space seemed to be the general rule, at least upon this part of Mars.
After a very short walk we arrived at our dwelling, an elegant little building of white stone, and only two storeys in height. There was such a general appearance of comfort and homeliness about it, both inside and out, that M'Allister exclaimed: "Professor, I never thought coming to Mars meant a reception like this. I rather expected to have had a fight when we landed!"
John, too, expressed his delight at the kind manner in which we had been received, then asked me, "Who was that splendid young fellow who came out of the pavilion with me, and stood by my side on the dais?"
"I'll tell you presently, John," I replied, "after we have had some solid refreshment, and are quite alone."
"One would think there was some mystery about him, Professor, by the way you speak," he answered.
"Perhaps there is a little more mystery in the whole affair than you dream of," I remarked.
"Anyhow," said John, "you seem very pleased over it, whatever it may be, Professor; for I never saw you so delighted in your life as you have appeared during the last hour."
"Yes, John, I am indeed pleased," I replied, "and so will you be when you know what I know."
"You quite arouse my curiosity," he said; "still, I suppose I must wait a little longer to be enlightened; but we came to Mars to find out secrets."
Just then we had to cease our conversation, for we were conducted into a room where we found a most tempting looking repast ready for our delectation, and the attendants showed us to our respective seats.
All the comestibles were fruits, nuts, or vegetables of various kinds, and I saw nothing there in the nature of flesh meat. Some of the fruits and nuts resembled the products of our own world, especially some of our eastern products; but most of them were entirely unknown to us, though they all looked tempting and good.
We certainly did full justice to them, and were particularly attracted by some large bunches of what were evidently Martian grapes, each grape being as large as one of our egg-plums. We tried some of these, and found them most delicious, as indeed were all the other eatables we consumed.
Though used to a meat diet, we found this meal most satisfying; the fruits being so refreshing that we had neither desire nor need for drink, though it stood there ready for us if we wished to take it. The attendants waited upon us assiduously, bringing us the various dishes in what was apparently their regular order of courses.
Both John and M'Allister appeared to enjoy their first Martian meal as much as I did, and when we adjourned to another room at its conclusion, were loud in their expressions of appreciation.
When this topic had died down, I thought the time had arrived to make the important disclosure of the first results of our visit to the red planet.
They listened to my story in amazement, and with many exclamations of surprise; whilst, as for John, he was almost beside himself with delight on learning that he would once more meet his long-lost friend, and he rose and shook hands with me, at the same time warmly congratulating me on my wonderful reunion with my son.
"Professor," said M'Allister, also rising and shaking my hand, "I'm as glad for your sake as if I had found a son of my own!"
I thanked them both very heartily for their kind congratulations. Then John said to me-- "Professor, it is, without exception, the most extraordinary thing I ever heard of in my life; but what strikes me as most singular about it is the strange coincidence connected with your son's name!"
I did not understand this allusion to Mark, so asked what was the strange coincidence to which he referred.
"Well, Professor," he said, "excuse me if I answer your question by asking another one. How was it you gave your son the name of Mark, and what was the particular reason for your doing so?"
"No particular reason, John, so far as I am aware," I replied, "except that it always seemed to me a good, plain, and honest sort of a name."
"Do you know the meaning of the name?" he then asked.
"Well, yes, I think so; for one thing, I believe it means 'polite,'" I said; "and another meaning I have read is a 'hammer.' But really, John, I had no thought of meanings at all when I chose that name for him."
"That only makes it all the more strange," John answered. "I have seen those meanings you mention as attached to the name; but you seem to have quite missed the most important one of all, for I can tell you, Professor, that the name 'Mark' means 'Son of Mars!' Now don't you see the coincidence, when you find that he really has become a son of Mars!"
"Really, John," I answered, "I assure you that I never heard of that before; the coincidence is, as you say, most singular and extraordinary; but, taking all things into consideration, I am inclined to think there must be something more than coincidence when they work out like this. You know your Shakespeare, John, and he says most truly: 'There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will.' I will not repeat the hackneyed phrase about 'more things in heaven and earth----'"
Just then Merna (as I suppose I must now call him, though he will always be "Mark" to me) arrived amongst us, and I at once introduced him to John and M'Allister.
The meeting between the two old friends was delightful to witness, for both seemed over-joyed; and they had so much to say to each other--so many questions to ask.
When the excitement had passed I asked Mark--you see I cannot help calling him by his old name--if he could now furnish me with the further information he had promised, for I was longing to hear all he had to tell.
"Yes," he replied, "I am quite ready, sir;" and then he proceeded to give us details of his life upon Mars. It is too long a story to tell exactly as he told it--and sometimes he was at a loss to express himself appropriately in English--but, shortly, it was as follows:-- His birth upon Mars, as we found from a comparison of dates, must have followed almost immediately after his passing from the earth; and he said he thought that his two previous seizures were probably abortive attempts of his spirit to depart earlier.
His Martian father was the brother of Soranho, the present Chief of the Council; both his father and mother, however, had died when Merna was quite a child, and the Chief had since brought him up like his own son, and was very much attached to him.
When Merna was still very young he was extremely fond of looking at the stars in the clear Martian skies, being especially attracted by the earth, which was a very brilliant star in those skies when the planet was in the most favourable position for viewing it. He used to watch the earth pass through its various phases, the same as we see Venus; and as time went on he had a strong feeling or intuition that, at some unknown period, he had been upon, or in some way connected with, the earth!
This feeling became more and more intense, so that his thoughts were constantly directed towards our world, and ultimately he became firmly convinced that he had once lived upon the earth.
He told us, amongst other things, that the Martians possess senses and powers which we do not possess, and know nothing of. For instance, he said that any Martian of ordinary intelligence always knew what was in the mind of any one with whom he was speaking; therefore any attempt to prevaricate or mislead was folly and useless. In some cases this power extended over a long distance, and the thoughts of others could be read as easily as when they were close at hand. So for this reason, and not only because it is considered wrong, prevarication is never practised on Mars.
Again, a Martian can transmit his thoughts over any distance upon the planet, and influence thereby any one whom he could influence in ordinary conversation.
Some, who had given especial attention to the training and development of this faculty, could even transmit their thoughts to other worlds; but the influence exercised in such cases depended entirely upon whether the inhabitants of other worlds had attained not only a sufficient degree of intelligence, but also the power to assimilate and make use of such outside influences, either consciously or unconsciously.
Having become convinced that he had once lived upon the earth, his interest in it was greatly intensified, and he felt a consuming desire to know more. He therefore used his utmost endeavours to train and develop his faculties, with a view to finding out something more definite. His uncle was informed of his desires in this respect, as well as of his reasons for them; and he placed Merna under the tuition of two Martians who had developed these special faculties to the highest degree then possible.
After pursuing this course of instruction and training for some time, Merna found that he was gradually becoming more and more acquainted with details of his former life, and was also gradually relearning the language he had spoken upon the earth.
Soon he was able to recall from his sub-consciousness the names of persons, and also of places and things, with which he had been acquainted in his previous life; and what he thus learnt he imparted to his uncle, his two teachers, and to a few other Martians.
The knowledge thus very slowly acquired and gradually built up led to a thirst for still further knowledge; so he then tried to transmit his thoughts to the earth, and, if possible, to influence me, his father, whom he felt certain was still living.
He paused in his statement, and then asked me to tell him "When I first thought of making a trip to Mars, and also whether I had not, long before then, constantly been in the habit of thinking about the planet?"
I told him the date when I first made the suggestion of our trip to John, and added that he was quite right in supposing I had long previously been occupied with thoughts about Mars.
"Yes," he replied, "the date you give is quite correct. I had for years been trying to influence you to take a deep interest in this planet, and after that to influence you to build a vessel which would bring you here; and, on the very day you mention, I felt quite certain I had succeeded."
"My two friends then joined me in transmitting further influences to enable you to conceive the proper kind of vessel and machinery, and how it should be constructed. These latter influences seem, from what you have told me, to have been assimilated by John to a larger extent than by yourself; and this, no doubt, was owing to his higher development of engineering and mechanical genius. The result, however, has been most satisfactory. You, whom I had so long yearned to see, were brought to embark upon this long voyage through space; I knew when you had done so, and also that John and another accompanied you. I also knew exactly when you would arrive here, for mentally I saw your chart and knew many of your thoughts."
"But," interposed John at this stage, "was it not rather a risky and dangerous experiment to influence inhabitants of another world to make what was practically an invasion of Mars? Even if it were possible, we should be afraid to do such a thing upon our earth, for fear of disastrous developments later on."
"There was no danger at all," he replied. "I think you found you could not land here just where you pleased!"
"Ah, that we did," said M'Allister; "and we were never so mystified in our lives."
"So, Mark," I said, laughing as I spoke, "that was your work, was it?"
"I certainly helped in doing it," he replied smilingly. "We have the means of electrifying a very large area of space anywhere, either upon our planet or at any required height above it, in such a manner as to neutralise the power of any vessel that could possibly come here, and thus stop its progress entirely when we so desired. We let you go on a short distance and then stopped you, again and again; and when we stopped you, we took care to arrange the forces so that you could not in any event fall to the planet even if the whole of your machinery failed to act. You were, as you know, compelled to descend exactly where we wished you to; and, in fact, exactly where we had previously decided you should land!"
"Well," exclaimed M'Allister excitedly, "if this doesn't beat all I ever experienced! To think now that all our movements and impulses have been engineered and controlled from Mars; not only just recently, but for months and years past. Mon, it's marvellous!"
"Marvellous to you, no doubt," said Merna, "but only a commonplace happening here. It is very satisfactory to us that our endeavours to influence you to come to this planet have proved successful in the main essentials. The influence does not, however, appear to have been quite effective as regards your steering to the landing-place we had decided upon. We had hoped there would have been no necessity for interfering with your movements by means of the electrical waves."
"Well, Merna," I answered, "you certainly succeeded in imbuing me with a desire to land at Sirapion, but my two companions were more attracted by the 'Gordian Knot'; and it was only because I subordinated my own inclinations to theirs that you were compelled to use force to make us proceed in the right direction. However, it has resulted in our having one of the most exciting and mystifying experiences of our lives; and, now all has ended happily, I do not think any one of us regrets that the incident occurred."
"Certainly I do not," John remarked.
"Neither do I," said M'Allister; "although I must confess I never felt so entirely beaten in my life."
"Well, now you understand that it had to be done," said Merna. "As I remarked, there was no danger to us in your coming here; for, if we had desired it, we could have utterly destroyed your vessel before it reached the planet, just as easily as we stopped your progress; or we could have destroyed it with equal ease and without any risk to ourselves after you had landed."
"My word," said M'Allister, "I'm right glad we did not come here as enemies!"
"Yes," replied Merna; "it was just as well you did not. We do not make war, but we have full means of protecting ourselves against attack if it should ever be necessary to do so. So you will understand that no invasion of Mars from outer space is possible."
I then turned to Merna and said, "There is one question I should like to ask you before we part this evening: Can you tell me the meaning of the word 'Tetarta,' which Soranho, your chief, told me was the name by which your world is known to its inhabitants?"
"Oh yes, sir," he answered; "'Tetarta' means 'the fourth world,' and thus indicates our position in the solar system. Sometimes, however, the name 'Tetartoecumene' is used; but this does not find general acceptance amongst us, as it means 'the fourth inhabited world,' and therefore assumes rather too much.
"We know the earth is inhabited, and have some reason to believe that Venus is also; but with regard to Mercury we have no knowledge at all upon this point. Mercury, as seen from Mars, is always too close to the sun for us to learn much about it by optical investigation; and we have never been certain that we have either received influences from there or been able to transmit influences to the planet."
"Thank you, Merna," I replied, "that clears up the matter; and it seems to me that your names are much more appropriate than the one by which your world is known to us on the earth; for, on account of its red colour, we have, as you are aware, named it 'Mars,' after our mythical god of war. I gather from what you have told us that war is now quite unknown upon your planet, so our name is quite inappropriate."
"Yes, that is so, sir," he answered; "and, later on, I hope you will learn much more concerning our social conditions, and that you will find we are a fairly developed and civilised people."
He then took leave of us, promising to see us again in the morning for the purpose of showing us about our new world.
It was now rather late, so, after discussing for a while the events of this most exciting day, we retired to rest. My thoughts, however, were so many and so tumultuous that it is scarcely a matter of wonder that a very long time elapsed before sleep came to me.
WE LEARN SOMETHING ABOUT THE POWERS OF THE MARTIANS.
The next morning Merna arrived early, and breakfasted with us; and, as soon as the meal was over, we started out. The air was bracing and exhilarating, and we felt so extremely light and buoyant that we almost seemed to want to run, skip, and jump, as we did in our early childhood's days.
We went first to have a look at the Areonal, but, on arriving at the open space where we had left it, were unable to see it! The dais had been cleared away, also the pavilions; whilst in the centre of the open space there was a large building.
We felt rather puzzled at this change, for we were sure no such building stood there yesterday. Merna, however, led us across to it, and touched a switch, which swung open a pair of large doors so that we could see into the interior of the building.
There we saw our own good ship, the Areonal, safely housed in a substantial-looking building, which had apparently sprung up in a single night.
We all looked at Merna inquiringly, and he smiled, saying, "Ah, you are not used to the Martian way of doing things! This seems to you very quick work, no doubt; but the erection of the building was not such a heavy and laborious task as it would have been upon the earth. Owing to the lesser gravitation here, and to the larger physical development of our people on Mars, one man can accomplish in the same time what it would require many men to achieve upon the earth. Besides, we have labour-saving machinery and apparatus which your scientific men have not yet even dreamt of.
"Thus, what seems to you an extraordinary piece of work to be finished in so short a time, is really nothing out of the common here, especially as the structure is only of a temporary character."
"Mon," said M'Allister, turning to John, "if our earth had been like Mars we wouldn't have taken so many months to build our vessel and its shed!"
John answered him, and turning to Merna, said, "There is something I am very anxious to ask you about, as it concerns myself and my relations with the inhabitants of this planet. I do not wish to infringe any of their regulations here, or to give any cause of offence, but----"
Then Merna held up his hand, and smiling, said, "You need not say any more, John; I know exactly what you wish to ask me; and, without it being said, can reply to you. You may smoke as much as you like when out-doors, without fear of offending any one here; but in public or private assemblies, notice what others do, and act accordingly. It is true only a small proportion of our population indulge in smoking, except in the colder regions; but please understand that amongst us Martians there are few restrictions as to conduct or custom, and, provided that nothing really dangerous or annoying to the community is done, every one can please himself.
"We leave all such things to the good sense of the individual, and a Martian can be trusted to regulate his habits and conduct without needing penalties to compel the observance of regulations or restrictions."
We looked at each other significantly, but without saying anything; for we all realised the truth of Merna's statement of the previous evening to the effect that the Martians were able to divine what might be in the mind of another without his having to speak. Not one of us had mentioned smoking before Merna, yet he knew exactly what John had upon his mind and was about to ask him.
I thought it was my turn now to obtain some information, so said to Merna, "There is also something which I am very anxious to ask you about."