We were fully aware that this was the case, for we were received with kindness and welcome wherever we went.
Merna's affection for me seemed unbounded, and his love was shown in every action. Yet, like all the other Martians, he was never obtrusively demonstrative, everything being done in a quiet and natural manner. When on the earth his disposition had been very pleasing, but now his Martian nature seemed to have endowed him with a capacity for loving far transcending that of his human nature.
He was the same towards John, and we often spoke about it in Merna's absence, whilst M'Allister had become as much attached to him as we were.
Just before sunset Merna rejoined us, and we passed out of the city into the open country to a spot not far from the place where we had landed from the Areonal. Here we found a large concourse of people assembled, and their numbers were being added to by fresh arrivals every minute. On looking upwards we saw air-ships speeding towards us from every quarter. Some brought passengers and landed them, but it was evident that most of the air-ships were about to take part in the display, as they remained up in the air instead of coming down to the ground.
We met many Martians whom we knew, and were introduced to others, so the time passed quickly in interesting conversation.
As soon as darkness fell Merna informed us that the display was about to commence, adding that he had purposely refrained from giving us any inkling of its nature, as he thought the unexpected would afford us greater pleasure.
We were gazing upwards at the vast assemblage of air-ships, which were lit up by the ordinary lamps used when travelling at night, when suddenly the whole sky became brilliant with the glow of countless thousands of coloured lights, and the air-ships began to move into their allotted positions.
Every ship--and there was a very large number of them--was covered all over with electric lamps. Some of the ships had all red lights, others all blue, others yellow, and so on through the whole range of tints known to us, besides many tints which we had never seen before.
The evolutions began with the formation of simple geometrical designs, starting with a complete circle of immense diameter. Then, inside this circle of many-coloured lights other ships took up their position, and, before we were prepared for anything, a triangle of lights had been formed. It was clear that even in their amusements the Martians were scientific; for here outlined in glowing colours was the familiar geometrical figure of an equilateral triangle inscribed within a circle, perfectly worked out on a most gigantic scale, and very pretty it was. Quickly, another triangle was formed across the first one, the result being a six-pointed star; and so on with several other more elaborate geometrical figures. The rapidity and certainty with which these air-ships took up the requisite positions and showed their coloured lights in the appropriate places was marvellous to see.
After about a dozen geometrical figures had been formed there ensued a rapid and bewildering movement of the ships towards the southern vault of the sky. Coloured lights flashed and whirled about in what, for a few minutes, seemed chaotic confusion, then suddenly the chaos was transformed into order. The vessels formed up in long rows one below the other, each row having one distinctive colour: a little movement of the ships from the centre to each end, in a downward direction, and the straight rows were transformed into complete semicircles concentric with each other, their bases seeming to reach the ground. Then they closed together, and lo! right across the sky shone a perfect representation of a rainbow (an extremely rare phenomenon upon Mars) glowing in brilliant light, with every tint and nuance accurate, and a thousand times brighter than any rainbow we had ever seen. It was magnificent!
Further rapid movements followed: the semicircles were broken up; the large vessels now being arranged in a long straight line across the sky, with the smaller vessels in another line just below and in front of them. The electric lamps were then instantaneously extinguished, and all was darkness. But only for a moment; then from the top of every vessel numerous immense pillars of coloured lights shot upwards into the sky.
We gazed at this in some perplexity, wondering what it all meant, as the design gradually developed to its completion. Then John touched my arm, excitedly exclaiming, "Look, Professor; it is the spectrum of the sun!" Yes, that it was, and never had we gazed upon such an immense and glorious spectrum. We pointed out to each other the lines of hydrogen, sodium, strontium, and many others, all of which were truly depicted, both in colour and position. These lines were formed by the lights of the smaller vessels shown against the background of the lights on the large vessels, and we noticed that all the Martians around us quickly recognised what the lights represented.
Next we had a representation of the spectrum of Sirius, then that of Aldebaran, and after that a spectrum which we were unable to identify. Merna explained that it was the spectrum of their south polar star. A few others were shown, then the line arrangement of the ships was again broken up, the search-lights extinguished, and the coloured lamps once more shone out.
Many of the ships now rushed across the sky over our heads in all directions, and, after a few evolutions, the whole were seen arranged so as to form four immense concentric circles, with a considerable space between each ship.
The ships in the two inner circles then began to move slowly, and passed in two wavy lines alternately in front of one ship and behind the next ship in the outer circles, the serpentine movement gradually becoming more and more rapid; and most wonderful changes of colour were produced by the passage of the vessels past those lighted with lamps of another colour. Swifter and swifter became the speed until it seemed utterly impossible that these intricate movements could go on without resulting in a series of collisions and disasters. Yet, with all this bewildering whirling, twisting, and intertwining, the ships were guided on their courses with consummate skill and with an unerring accuracy which was marvellous to behold.
Another shake of the aerial kaleidoscope and the vessels were seen drawn up in three parallel lines on the east and three on the west. Then the search-lights again flashed out, filling the whole intermediate area of the sky with beams of brilliant coloured light, which were caused to oscillate sideways and overlap, producing a most gorgeous intermingling of glowing colours. The Martians certainly had a complete understanding of all the peculiarities connected with mixtures of coloured lights.
Up to this time silence had reigned, for no sound came to us from this vast aerial fleet; but now there burst forth from both ranks of vessels strains of music of such ravishing sweetness that I and my two colleagues were quite overwhelmed. It seemed as though our mortal bodies were completely etherealised by the thrilling melodies which floated down to us from the upper air.
This was not all. When on the earth we had read of attempts to connect musical tones and chords with the chromatic scale of colour, it being suggested that each musical sound had its own distinctive tone-colouring. Now we saw it practically demonstrated, for each chord of music was accompanied by changes in the colours of the search-light beams; and on comparing notes afterwards John and I found ourselves agreeing that the colours shown appeared exactly to interpret what our inner consciousness seemed to evolve, but which we could not have expressed in words. It was like a scene of enchantment as we watched those immense bands of glowing colours changing so rapidly and synchronising with the chords of music. Merna informed us that the lights of each vessel were electrically controlled from the keyboard of one of the musical instruments on the ship.
This was followed by a piece resembling a grand chorale: then an intricate fugue was performed, the several movements being taken up in succession by the ranks on each side alternately, and apparently flung to and fro from one side to the other of that vast area in magnificent sequences and variations until it seemed that our human nature was so uplifted, and we were so filled with ecstasy, that we could bear no more.
Many of the instruments were quite different from anything we had known upon the earth, and when some of these were unaccompanied the music sounded exactly like a grand choir of Martians singing in the heavens. It really seemed to us quite impossible that this concord of sweet sounds could be instrumental music, so perfect was the vocal effect.
Several other pieces were played, each having its own distinctive character; then, after a short interval, the search-lights were suddenly flashed on to the city of Sirapion; the beautiful buildings with their domes, towers, and minarets looking exquisitely ethereal as they were bathed in the beams of the glowing and ever-changing prismatic light. The beams were next directed downwards upon the assembly, and we gained a truer appreciation of the immense numbers that were gathered together.
After this short interlude we were entranced by the opening bars of a very grand and majestic composition. As the first strains reached us I noticed that all the Martians who were seated at once rose erect; every Martian bared his head, raised his right hand, and, with an expression of rapt intensity and reverence, gazed towards the heavens. I and my companions immediately adopted a similar attitude, for Merna explained that this piece was the Martian Hymn of Praise to the Great Ruler of the Universe; and that its performance was regarded as one of their most solemn acts of public worship.
The grandeur and majesty of this music, its melodious themes and thrilling harmonies, are utterly beyond my powers of description; the air and sky seemed filled and pulsating with prayer and praise, then resounding with grand crescendoes of triumphant shouts; each succeeding movement of the music carrying it higher and ever higher in the scale, until at last it seemed to soar and pierce the infinite, the final cadences dying away in melodious strains of celestial beauty and ineffable sweetness.
Finally the air-ships all circled round the sky, then took their departure--darting off in all directions--the sound of their sweet music becoming fainter and fainter in the distance until at last all was solemn silence; then the great assembly slowly and quietly dispersed.
For some minutes none of us spoke, for each was in deep thought, so impressive and exalting had been the effect of that wonderful and majestic hymn. When at length Merna turned to us and asked if we were pleased with what we had seen and heard, we found it very difficult to give adequate expression to our feelings.
Then M'Allister said, "Mon, it was beautiful, most beautiful! and I never felt so nigh to heaven as I have this night!"
I remarked to John that "I had never expected to hear any music that would equal, much more excel, the incomparable 'Hallelujah Chorus' in Handel's 'Messiah.' It had always seemed to me impossible that any music could ever be composed which would even approach it in majesty and power; but what we had heard that night certainly surpassed it."
On looking at my watch I found that the musical portion of this feast of tone and colour had occupied nearly three hours; yet, as I remarked, it had seemed to me only a few minutes!
"Yes," John replied, "to me it has been an experience like that of the monk Felix in Longfellow's 'Golden Legend.' The monk went out into the woods one day, where he saw a snow-white bird, and listened to its sweet singing until the sound of the convent bell warned him that it was time to return. When he reached the convent he was amazed to find the faces of the monks were all strange to him; he knew no one, and no one knew him, or had ever even heard of him. At last one very old monk, who had been there over a hundred years, said he remembered seeing a monk Felix when he first entered the convent. The records were searched, and it was found that Brother Felix had left the convent a hundred years before, and as he had never returned he had been entered in the list of the dead. So then 'They knew, at last, That such had been the power Of that celestial and immortal song, A hundred years had passed, And had not seemed so long As a single hour.'
"That has really been something like my own experience to-night," continued John; "for I have scarcely been conscious of the passage of time, and hours have seemed only minutes! I trust, Merna, that you will convey to your friends our most grateful thanks for all the pleasure we have derived from this magnificent display of Martian attainments."
M'Allister and I joined in this request, and Merna promised to comply with our wishes. He seemed very pleased at our appreciation; and he told John that his quotation had recalled to his memory the beautiful poem by Longfellow, which had been a favourite with him during his earthly school-days, but had lain entirely dormant in his mind until now.
We all agreed that, however long we might live, the memory of that evening's events--the magnificent display of aerial skill, the glorious harmonies of colour, and, above all, the majestic and incomparable music--could never be effaced from our minds. We wondered whether aerial flight would ever be brought so completely under control as to permit of a similar display in the skies of our own world.
Merna replied that he was sure it would be quite possible some day, but it must be remembered that what we had been witnessing was the result of centuries of Martian experience in aerial navigation.
Merna then gave us an account of the progress of Martian discovery in regard to aeronautics, from which we gathered that the earlier experiences of the Martians had been somewhat similar to those of our own people. They began with bags of various shapes inflated with gas lighter than air, similar to our balloons, then experimented with aeroplanes of various designs, also bird-like wings, on a very large scale, actuated by electric and other motors. As time went on, however, their atmosphere became thinner and thinner, until at last all such forms of apparatus became nearly, if not quite, useless as a means of artificial flight.
After this they made use of numerous vertical screws of a spiral form, which were caused to revolve with extreme rapidity by the aid of electrical machinery; and a few of the vessels thus equipped are still in use. But the discovery of natural forces emanating from the sun and from their own planet soon led to the devising of means for utilising this natural power, and this has practically superseded everything else. Now all their air-ships and many of their machines are actuated by this power, and are under the most perfect control. Air-ships are used for all purposes of passenger traffic and freight carrying. So are vessels on the canals and motor vehicles on the roads; and railways are, therefore, unnecessary.
A FAREWELL BANQUET AND A PAINFUL PARTING.
The time was nigh at hand when we must think about our arrangements for returning to the earth, and, as it drew nearer and nearer, I became much troubled. I felt that it would be endangering Merna's dear life to take him to England, for our terrestrial microbes would probably prove fatal to a Martian, so it was impossible to suggest it to him; at the same time I felt that I could not again part with my newly-found son, who was now all in all to me.
Pondering over the matter, I wondered whether the Martians would allow me to stay with them and end my days on Mars with my beloved son.
Just then Soranho came to see me, and we sat awhile talking together. Presently he said, quietly, "Mr. Poynders, you would I know desire to stay here with your son, but are doubtful about mentioning the matter to me. Doubt no longer, my dear sir! We shall be proud and happy to have you with us; and I am quite sure that I am fulfilling the wishes of our people when I now cordially invite you, in their name, to make your home with us!"
Thus the Martian intuition had solved my difficulty; and, fervently thanking Soranho, I told him I gratefully accepted his kind invitation and would remain upon Mars, although parting with my two old friends would be a hard task for me.
It had been decided that we should leave on the 1st of December, that being the latest possible date, as the earth was moving so rapidly away from Mars that each day's delay would mean a longer journey. As it was, we should have about 215,000,000 miles to travel before we could reach our destination; and, as that would require at least 108 days, we could not arrive in England before the 18th of March 1910; probably it would be a day or two later, as our course would take us so near the sun.
When John and M'Allister came in I went to the receptacle where my chart was kept and brought it out. Placing it on the table, I carefully explained what would be required, and gave them full instructions for setting and keeping their proper course, so as to head off the earth on its journey. These instructions I had also written out in readiness, so that each might know and be able to act in an emergency.
Then came the most difficult part of my task, and, in hesitating words and rather disjointed sentences, I announced to them my decision to remain on the planet. John and M'Allister were very much moved; but, as they saw the matter was really settled, they soon desisted from their attempts to dissuade me.
During the day we received from Soranho an invitation, in the name of the whole people of Mars, to attend a banquet on the day before our departure to enable them to bid us adieu.
This we, of course, accepted; and when we arrived at the place indicated we found that it was the largest hall in Sirapion, the immense building being crowded with Martians from all parts of the planet.
After the banquet Soranho rose and announced that their friends from the earth would be leaving next day, and he trusted that all who could do so would attend at our point of departure to give us a hearty send-off.
He then dwelt upon the pleasure which our visit and company had afforded them, and said the good wishes of the whole people would go with us; adding that we might feel assured that anything which the Martian nation could do, by means of transmitted influences, to aid in the advancement of our world would be most cheerfully and willingly done.
Then he went on to make the announcement that, finding I had a strong desire to stay with them and with my newly-found son, he had invited me, in their name, to do so.
This announcement was received with tremendous enthusiasm: the whole company spontaneously rising to their feet, with repeated acclamations and expressions of satisfaction.
I then rose to express my heartfelt thanks for their kindness, saying that for many years of my life upon the earth I had loved to study their planet; and now that I had spent some time upon it and been the recipient of so much kindness and goodwill from all whom I had met, I loved both their world and their people; and in deciding to accept the invitation so cordially given in their name I trusted they would always find me a good citizen of Tetarta.
Merna translated this speech to them, and there ensued another scene of indescribable enthusiasm.
John followed with a very feeling expression of his gratitude for the welcome and kindness he had received as a stranger from another world.
Then came M'Allister's turn, and his speech was a characteristic one.
Turning to Soranho, he said: "Mon!--no, I should say 'Chief!'--I thank you and all the people for the delightful time we have had upon Mars, and can only say I'm very sorry to leave you. But I have an old wife of my own in the world far across space over yonder, and away up in bonnie Scotland. She will be looking for my return home; so, much as I should like to stay longer with you, I cannot keep from going to her. Thank you all, and God bless you!"
I do not know how Merna managed to translate this speech, but it evidently gave the audience as much satisfaction as the others had done.
So, with many hearty handshakes and expressions of goodwill, we left the hall at the conclusion of the proceedings and returned to our home, where John and M'Allister were to sleep for the last time.
The next morning we sat discussing the final arrangements for their departure, as they would start on their return journey in two hours' time.
John and M'Allister were both much affected at my decision to stay upon Mars (or Tetarta, as it will be to me in future), for they did not like the idea of leaving me behind, and made some further attempt to induce me to change my mind on the subject. I felt, however, that they were really convinced I was doing the best thing possible in the circumstances, and had no hope that I would accede to their request.
I told them my decision was unalterable, and that, as we all felt the poignancy of the parting, it would be better to take leave of each other now, rather than in public when they boarded the Areonal.
As they rose to say farewell I said, "John, my dear fellow, I have kept a record of all our doings since we left old England, thinking that, if published, it might prove of some interest to my countrymen.
"I have a few words to add to it, and also a letter to enclose for you to take to my solicitors; but Merna will hand the packet to you when you actually start. I know you will carry out my wishes and see the book through the press, although I have mentioned the tobacco and laughing-gas incident!"
John smiled and promised to do as I wished; then rising, I said, "So now, dear friends, a last and long good-bye to each other. We have been close friends for many years and have many pleasant memories of the times we have spent together; but, remember, our thoughts may still unite us, though sundered by many million miles of space, and dwelling upon different worlds!
"When I was on the earth I was living upon a star of the heavens; here, upon Tetarta, I am still upon a star of the heavens, but also along with the only living being to whom I have been united by ties of blood and loving kinship.
"It is, as Merna once said, only a change of dwelling-places, and our kindly Martian friends are delighted to keep me here. It is hard to part from you, but do not wonder if I say--'Here I will live! here I will die!'"
Then with many, many a lingering handshake and words of mutual love and affection, we old friends bade each other an eternal adieu.
As he reached the doorway M'Allister--as truehearted a Scot as ever his country produced--turned towards me, and with upraised hand, glistening eyes, and lips quivering, exclaimed, "Mon, you are doing the right thing, but I never thought I would feel a parting with an old friend so much as I do this! God bless you, Professor!"
LAST WORDS TO MY READERS.
As I have decided to stay here upon Mars, and have just taken leave of my two dear old friends, I will now address a few last words to those who may read this record of our trip to Mars, and then seal up the packet ready for John to take with him.
In the course of my conversations with Merna's tutors, I learnt much about the past history of the Martian people; and they told me that it dates back to such a remote antiquity that, as compared with theirs, ours is only the history of an infancy!
Mars, being a much smaller globe than the earth, cooled down and became habitable aeons before the earth reached that stage; and at the time when the earlier inhabitants of our world were living in woods and caves--slowly and painfully fashioning for themselves weapons and tools out of chipped flint-stones--there existed upon Mars a people who had then arrived at a full and vigorous civilisation.
What wonder then that, with all these past ages of development and the incentive which the present physical condition of the planet supplies them, the Martians of the present day are in all respects, whether physically, morally, or intellectually, far in advance of the inhabitants of our much younger, and therefore less developed, world!
The lessons to be learned from this, and from the physical conditions now prevailing on the planet, are very similar.
Mars, gradually, but inevitably, becoming a vast desert, and with the end of all things certain to arrive in a comparatively near future, pictures to us what must as inevitably be the fate of our own world ages hence, unless it come to an untimely end by some catastrophe.
As Professor Lowell has pointed out, we know we have an abundant supply of water at the present time, but we also know that, ages ago, the area of our world covered with water was immensely greater than it is now. From the very beginning of our world's existence the process of diminution of the water area has always gone on, and it will still go on--slowly, surely, and continually.
As an inevitable result of this decrease of water, and other natural conditions, vast areas of land on both sides of our tropical zones have become deserts; and it is a scientific certainty that this process of desertism will, and must continue, until it covers the whole world.
But, I think, the end will long be delayed, for the loss by desertism will, as it seems to me, for ages be compensated by the new and habitable land arising from areas now covered by water. The old sea-beds upon Mars are now the most fertile areas upon that planet.
As the desertism increases conditions similar to those of Mars will arise; the earth will become more level, polar glaciation will cease, the atmosphere become thinner, and water vapour, instead of falling as rain, will be carried by circulatory currents to the poles, and there be deposited as snow. What the Martians have accomplished has shown us how to stave off the water difficulty, and also how a highly civilised and intelligent people can bravely and calmly face the end which they clearly foresee!
This is the lesson from the present physical condition of Mars.
On the other hand, the continual progress of civilisation upon Mars, and the very high development attained there, coupled with what we know of our own progress during the ages past, give certainty to the hope that our own civilisation will continue to develop, slowly indeed, but surely; and also to the belief that, compared to what it will be in the future, our present stage of civilisation is merely savagery.
Development will lead to progress in everything which tends to increase the intelligence, wisdom, and happiness of the whole human race.
Our world has seen the rise and fall of many civilisations, but fresh ones have risen, phoenix-like, from the ashes of those which have departed and been forgotten. "The individual withers," but "the world is more and more." As it was in the past, so will it be in the future--ever-changing, ever-passing, but ever-renewing, until the final stage is reached.
Since the earliest dawn of our creation the watchword of humanity has been "Onward!" and it is still "Onward!" but also "Upward!!" The possibilities of the development of the human race in the ages yet to come are so vast as to be beyond our conception; for, as Sir Oliver Lodge has remarked, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man to conceive what the future has in store for humanity!" Then: "Forward, forward, let us range, Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change!"
This, then, is the great lesson which Martian civilisation teaches us. Surely it affords no reason for the depression and pessimism in which some upon the earth are so prone to indulge; but rather should it stir them to a more earnest endeavour, by gradually removing the obstacles which now bar their progress, to improve the social conditions of the people; so that they in their turn may improve their intellectual conditions, and lend their aid to the general advancement of the world they live in.
Gloom, depression, and pessimism, of which we have had more than enough of late years, never yet helped any one. They have, however, proved disastrous to many.
Remember our world is young yet! so set before yourselves the great ideal of the brotherhood of humanity! Our religion teaches it; strive to help in attaining it; and in so doing each may, and will, achieve something to help forward the gradual evolution of a brighter and happier world for the generations that are to come. In that brighter and happier world I have faith, for: "I hold it truth with him who sings, To one clear harp in divers tones, That men may rise on stepping-stones Of their dead selves to higher things."
And: "I doubt not through the ages one increasing purpose runs, And the thoughts of men are widen'd with the process of the suns."
[End of the Narrative written by Wilfrid Poynders, Esq.]
WHAT HAPPENED UPON OUR RETURN HOME--RESULTS OF THE MOST RECENT OBSERVATIONS OF MARS--PROFESSOR LOWELL'S IMPORTANT DISCOVERY.