(Written by John Yiewsley Claxton, Esq., of Norbury, in the County Borough of Croydon, Surrey) In accordance with the desire of my old friend, Wilfrid Poynders, I am now about to publish the book which was handed to me by Merna on the morning of our departure from Mars.
I knew that my dear old friend's thoughts and aspirations ever soared towards the skies; but, as his last testament shows, his sympathies embraced all humanity, and I am somewhat reluctant to add anything which must necessarily bring the subject down to a lower plane.
As a narrative of his own personal experiences in connection with our trip to Mars, the Professor's work is quite complete; still I thought his readers would wish to know how it fared with his colleagues after they left Mars, and have accordingly appended a few pages furnishing this information.
I am quite convinced that, in deciding to remain behind on the planet, the Professor, as M'Allister remarked, "did the right thing"; but after the many years we have spent together in the closest and truest friendship, I miss him--ah, more than I can say.
It was really a tremendous wrench, that parting with my two old friends, the Professor and Merna, and leaving them behind on Mars, although I fully appreciated the Professor's desire to end his days with his dear son, to whom he had been so strangely reunited.
We started that morning directly after our farewell, and found a large concourse of people assembled, who had come from all parts of the planet to see us off.
Soranho and many other high officers of state whom we knew were present, and, of course, the Professor, Merna, Eleeta, and Siloni, as well as many others whom we had come to regard as personal friends; and they did not allow us to depart empty-handed.
Merna handed me the packet which the Professor had referred to. We had no formal farewell with the Professor--that was all over; but he came forward at the last moment, and we parted from him with a loving hand-clasp.
After a most affectionate leave-taking with our other friends, with whom I took good care to include Siloni, we boarded the Areonal. M'Allister at once took charge of the machinery, switched on the power, and we immediately rose into the air, amidst shouts of farewell and repeated good wishes from the assembled multitude.
We rose rapidly; but, so long as we kept in view of the place, we could see the people still waving their adieus to us, and I frequently responded to their signals.
At last, when these lovable and hospitable Martians were lost to sight, I went into the Areonal, closing and bolting the outer door, which was never again to be opened until we reached our destination--our home in old England.
I have no doubt that, long after we lost sight of them, many of the Martians kept the Areonal in view with their telescopes, and followed its course far into space.
I then directed M'Allister to set our course for our own world; and when he had done so, he looked up at me and said, "Heh, mon, yon Martians are rare good folk, and I'm right sorry to leave them!"
"Yes, so am I, M'Allister," I answered. He again looked at me keenly, with a queer smile on his face; and remarked, "Mon, I'm thinking you are that, and that you have left something behind you!"
I knew he meant that I had left my heart behind me, for I was thinking the very same thing; but I turned away from him with a sigh, without answering. The matter was not one about which I cared to speak just then, for I felt very sad and heartsore.
Our journey passed off without any exciting incidents, everything on the Areonal working most satisfactorily. On the 4th February, 1910, we passed within forty-one million miles of the sun, and the heat at this stage of our journey was terrific, but we had a magnificent view of the sunspots, the corona, and other solar surroundings. In spite of all precautions for counteracting the tremendous pull of the sun, we were drawn considerably out of our direct course, so the journey occupied three days longer than we had anticipated. A large proportion of our time was spent in the air-chamber, in order to prepare us for breathing the atmosphere of our native world.
We passed across the orbit of Venus on two occasions, and had a near view of this splendid planet (and also of Mercury), for many days; but apart from its larger apparent size and intense brilliancy, we did not see anything more than we could from the earth with a good telescope. The dense atmosphere and its glowing light prevented us from seeing any definite details upon its surface.
Only three days late, we arrived at our home at Norbury on Monday the 21st March 1910, about an hour before daylight. We descended quite unobserved, and having stowed away our good ship Areonal in its shed and made all secure, we astonished Mrs. Challen by walking into the house very soon after she had risen.
She seemed truly delighted to see us back again after our long and unprecedented voyage through space, and as soon as our greetings were over she asked, "Where is Mr. Poynders?"
I said we would tell her all the news whilst we had breakfast, so she bustled about and got the meal ready very quickly. When we sat down she listened with intense interest to our long story, expressing great astonishment when I told her about our discovery of Merna upon Mars. I had tried to keep her from asking about Mr. Poynders, but at length she questioned me so directly that I was compelled to answer, though I dreaded the effect the news would have upon her.
So, as gently as I could, I explained that Mr. Poynders, having found his son a native of Mars, could not risk bringing him to such a climate as ours, and, as he was unable to leave him, had decided to remain on Mars.
Poor Mrs. Challen was so upset upon learning this that she threw up her hands, exclaiming, "Then I shall never see my dear old master again!" and putting her handkerchief to her streaming eyes, she hastened out of the room to conceal her emotion.
I felt very sorry for her, as I knew she had a great respect and liking for Mr. Poynders, with whom she had been so many years.
During the day I called upon the Professor's solicitors, in accordance with his instructions, and handed them the letter he had entrusted to me. They read it with many exclamations of surprise, for the news it contained was enough to startle even staid lawyers out of their equanimity.
One of them rang a bell, which was answered by the managing clerk, who was requested to bring in the sealed packet of papers left by Mr. Poynders before he went away. This was quickly brought, and, when opened, found to contain documents settling an annuity of 150 per annum upon Mrs. Challen, a deed of gift of the sum of 200 to M'Allister, and another deed settling all the residue of his estate upon his old friend John Yiewsley Claxton.
There was also a will to the same effect, in case he might die before the papers were claimed; everything being properly signed and in due order.
The solicitors both shook hands with me, congratulating me on this substantial addition to my estate; but I told them I already possessed sufficient for my wants, and would greatly prefer that Mr. Poynders should be here to enjoy his own.
I gave them some particulars of our adventures, and we had quite a long chat; then, taking a cordial leave of them, I returned to Norbury.
I at once acquainted Mrs. Challen with her good fortune, but she was not to be comforted, saying she would very much rather have her old master back again; and, as this was exactly my own feeling in the matter, I expressed agreement with her.
However, she calmed down after a while, and I then asked her to consider what she would desire to do in the future. If she liked to remain in the house and look after my welfare, I should be very glad to have her as my own housekeeper; but said it was entirely for her to decide the matter, and she could take her own time to do so.
She replied that she had neither relatives nor friends to trouble about, so there was no need to take any time over it, for she would only be too pleased to retain her old position, and would do her best to make me comfortable. I assured her that I had no doubt whatever upon that point; thus it was all settled there and then, and she has remained with me ever since.
My aunt was long since dead, but my two cousins, James and Timothy Snayleye, lived in London: so I thought I would go over to apprise them of my return home. They, however, received me so very coldly that, beyond saying I had been to Mars and back again, and giving a few details of what we had seen there, I did not tell them very much.
They asked a few questions now and then, but evinced very little interest in my affairs, though I noticed them frequently exchanging nods and winks with each other. I soon left, but after such a reception, was rather surprised when James Snayleye walked into my house the next day and asked to be allowed to call in a day or two and bring with him a couple of friends who were interested in Mars, and would like to hear anything I could tell them. I did not altogether care about discussing my adventures with entire strangers, but, as he was so very pressing, in the end I agreed to see them.
When they arrived I was greatly surprised to find that, instead of being persons of about the same age as my cousin, both were elderly men. One was introduced to me as Mr. Josias Googery, a Justice of the Peace, and the other as Dr. Loonem.
We had no sooner sat down than the doctor started the conversation by asking, in an unctuous tone of voice, several questions about my trip--"Whether, ah, it was really true that I had, ah, travelled all the way to Mars and back again in, ah, a vessel of our own construction?"
All the time he was speaking he was performing the operation known as "washing the hands with invisible soap," a trick which always has an irritating effect upon my nerves.
In answer to his question I said, "It was quite true that I had been to Mars," and mentioned a few particulars of our trip.
Mr. Googery then put a few questions to me, and, as I replied, he interjected after almost every sentence that I spoke, "Ah! h'm, yes, just so," James Snayleye sitting by all the time with a sneering grin upon his face which I found very aggravating.
When I had told them as much as I thought necessary, they both started cross-examining me in such an impertinent and sceptical manner that at length I became extremely irritated, and declined to answer any more questions. Whereupon Dr. Loonem proceeded to wash his hands again, saying in an oily manner, as though addressing a child, "Pray, ah, don't excite yourself, my dear sir; don't, ah, excite yourself! You know, ah, it's not good for you!"
This was too much for flesh and blood to bear, so I rose and said that as I had an important engagement to attend to, I could not spare any more time that day, at the same time ringing the bell for Mrs. Challen to show them out.
She did so, and returned in a state of indignation, saying, she did not like those people at all, they were so rude; and that as they were passing through the doorway she heard the doctor say, "It's a clear case enough; did you notice the gleam in his eyes? that alone is sufficient to settle it!" To this Mr. Googery had replied, "Ah, h'm, yes, just so!"
"Well, Mrs. Challen," I said, "please understand that if either of those people calls again, I am not at home."
"Certainly, sir," she answered with great alacrity, as she went out of the room.
It was no mere excuse, but perfectly correct, when I told those people I had an important engagement to attend to. An old friend of mine, Sir Lockesley Halley, was President of the Dedlingtonian Astronomical Society, and, after hearing my account of Mars, said he would be very glad if I could attend the meeting of his Society on the following evening and give a short address on the subject.
I was rather averse from this, as the Society was not a large one, though it had several clever men in it, and I knew that the professionals who controlled it, and also the majority of the members, prided themselves on being exponents of what they termed "sane and unsensational astronomy"; which in some cases amounted to saying that they were a long way behind the times.
It is an interesting fact that we owe a large proportion of our knowledge of planetary detail to the work of enthusiastic amateur observers. In this Society, indeed, nearly all the best observational work was done by the non-professional class; and when, as the result of their systematic and painstaking work, they noted on their planetary drawings some lines or markings which had not previously been recorded, one would have thought their original work would have been commended. It was, however, not unusual in such cases for a professional to rise and calmly declare that the new markings were only illusions, such as he had often predicted would be claimed as discoveries.
Thus the amateurs were kept in their proper places; but the professionals did not always prove to be correct in their strictures and pronouncements.
In these circumstances, I did not expect much credence to be given to anything fresh that might be stated in my address, and therefore I rather demurred to Sir Lockesley's proposal. He, however, made such a personal matter of it that, as he was an extremely able man and a good fellow, I at last consented to do as he wished.
M'Allister accompanied me to the meeting and sat among the audience. After a few introductory remarks from Sir Lockesley, I gave my address, which lasted about half-an-hour; but it was received even more chillingly than I had anticipated, and the few comments made by the members were nearly all indicative of scepticism of my statements and unbelief in my bona fides. A scientific audience is usually rather cold and unenthusiastic; but, in the present case, except for one or two isolated hand-claps, the vote of thanks was allowed to pass sub silentio. Sir Lockesley, of course, could not help this, and I saw that he was much annoyed at my reception.
The meeting then split up into groups, lingering here and there to discuss my statements as they moved toward the door; and M'Allister told me that, as he stood near a group, he heard one man exclaim, "It's all arrant nonsense! five minutes with my 12-1/16-inch reflector would convince any sane man that there are no fine lines to be seen on Mars, because none exist!" This brought a murmur of assent; then some one else said, "Well, I certainly see some of the lines with my 7-1/2-inch, but regard them as illusions"; and he also received some support.
Another man then spoke up, remarking, "My experience does not agree with yours, gentlemen, for when I used a 6-inch refractor I could see some of the lines, yet felt doubtful of their actuality; but since I have used a 12-inch reflector my opinion has entirely changed. The lines are visible whenever the atmospheric conditions are favourable, and are seen with so much certainty that I have long abandoned my doubts of their representing real markings!" "Hear, hear!" said several, "and in a clearer atmosphere you would see still more!"
This was the Martian controversy in a nut-shell: for so much depends upon individual eyesight, instrumental power, and good atmospheric conditions. Even the finest instruments fail when observational conditions are unfavourable!
Many other people to whom I spoke about my trip to Mars exhibited the same incredulity as those at the meeting. I showed two persons, whom I thought would be open to conviction, some photographic views in their natural colours, which I had brought home with me. One of them looked at the pictures, then handed them to his friend, with the remark: "Clever fakes, aren't they? you can do almost anything with the camera nowadays!"
Similar opinions were either expressed or implied by others who saw them, so now I keep all such things to myself.
Two days after the meeting Sir Lockesley called to have a chat with me, and, whilst we were conversing, Mrs. Challen announced that two men insisted upon seeing me, although she told them I was engaged.
"Well," I said, "show them into the next room and I will soon dispose of them"; then asking Sir Lockesley to excuse me a few minutes, I passed through the folding doors which separated the two rooms.
The men were perfect strangers to me, and clearly not of a class with which I should care to make acquaintance.
"To what do I owe this visit?" I inquired, as I entered the room.
"Beg pardon, sir," said one of the men, "but we wished to see you on urgent business, and ask you to come with us. There is a carriage at the door!"
"But who are you, and where do you wish me to go?" I inquired.
He hummed and haa-ed, then said, "A friend desired to see me at once, and it was only a short journey!"
"Well," I replied, "I am at present engaged with a gentleman, but I must certainly decline to accompany you at all without further and definite particulars as to why you wish me to do so."
Then the other man advanced, and said, "As you won't come quietly, there's no help for it; so just look at these papers and you will see you must come!"
He showed me several documents, and, on reading them, I was astounded to find one was an order for my removal to a private lunatic asylum, the papers being signed by Josias Googery, J.P., and Dr. Loonem; and others contained statements of the evidences of my insanity, signed by my two cousins.
Of course I was furious, and refused to go with them, whereupon they rushed forward to seize hold of me. I shouted for Sir Lockesley to come to my assistance, and he at once dashed into the room. The two men, however, immediately warned him not to interfere, as they were acting in a perfectly legal manner.
This he had to admit when the matter was fully explained to him; then he urged me to accept the situation and go quietly, and he would take immediate action to secure my release.
As it was clearly useless to resist a legalised process, I gave in, and thus was I, a perfectly sane man, incarcerated in a lunatic asylum! There I had to remain while Sir Lockesley saw my solicitors, communicated with the Commissioners in Lunacy and others, and after much correspondence and innumerable interviews, at last secured my release; but not until I had endured more than a week's confinement in that horrible place.
It was all a scheme concocted by my scapegrace cousins to have me declared insane, and thus secure control of my fortune, they being my only living relatives. But for Sir Lockesley's presence and influence their precious plot might have proved quite successful.
I do not attach much blame to the magistrate and doctor, although they might have exercised more care; but no doubt the Snayleyes had made such suggestions to them that they were prepared to find insanity in anything I did or said.
Mrs. Challen, who had been much affected and distressed at my being carried off in this fashion, was delighted when at last I returned home safe and sound after my release, and told her the trouble was all over.
M'Allister had intended going on to Glasgow during the previous week, but had remained at home at Norbury to assist in securing my release; doing yeoman's service in seeing various people and carrying messages. When things had quite settled down again he went to Scotland and stayed with his wife for three weeks.
Upon his return we discussed our future arrangements, and agreed to become partners for the purpose of securing and working patents for various machines which we had studied upon Mars; and this has proved a lucrative business for us, besides supplying our engineers and manufacturers with greatly improved machinery.
Ever since our return home we have eagerly read all the scientific news concerning Mars that has been published, for we were anxious to learn whether there had been any verification of the Professor's forecasts as to what was likely to be seen from the earth at the opposition of Mars in 1909. The result is very gratifying to us, not only as proving the correctness of the Professor's pronouncements, but also as testifying to the keen-sightedness of some of our astronomers and their carefulness and accuracy as observers; though, of course, there are still divergences of opinion as to the meaning of what has been seen.
[Illustration: Drawn by T.E.R. Phillips Plate XV MARS, AS SEEN THROUGH A 12-INCH TELESCOPE ON 16TH AUGUST, 1909.
The south polar snow-cap is seen at the top, and as it is early June on this part of Mars, the snow-cap has become small. The dark line across it is a wide rift, the ice having commenced to break up at this part; and the dark shading round it is water from the melting snow. The circular light area near the centre is "Hellas," and the dark wedge-shaped area is "Syrtis Major." The protuberance usually seen on the eastern side of Syrtis Major has this year almost disappeared, and but little detail is visible anywhere.]
For instance, M. Antoniadi, of Juvisy Observatory, near Paris, has published a very interesting account of his own observations with the fine Meudon refractor, which has an object glass 32.7 inches in diameter; and he has also furnished several beautifully executed drawings of what he has seen. The most noticeable new features observed were two large detached pieces of the south polar snow-cap, the altered shape of the Solis Lacus and other dark areas, numerous dark rounded spots on the dark areas, much detail along the lines of the canals, and the observation of scattered markings instead of lines.
M. Antoniadi lays great stress on the advantages of large telescopes; and, whilst making frank admission that the drawings of Professor Lowell show the outlines of the Martian details more accurately than the drawings of any other observer, he dissents entirely from his views respecting the actuality of the canal lines.
With regard to M. Antoniadi's observation of dark rounded spots, it has been suggested by another writer that these are volcanoes, and, moreover, that the canal lines are really cracks in the solid ice covering frozen oceans and seas. These contentions involve the supposition that Mars is still in the stage when volcanic action is prevalent, and also that what have hitherto been supposed to be desert lands are really fields of ice. Mars has passed far beyond the stage of volcanic activity; and the theory does not account for the ochre colour of the frozen oceans, which are exactly the same colour as our deserts appear when viewed from a great distance, for the sandstorms so frequently observed, nor for the general absence of any indications of frost over a large portion of the Martian surface. It is also very difficult to imagine the existence of a profuse growth of vegetation along cracks in solid ice; and I am afraid this theory, like many others, fails to fit in with the observed facts.
I may remind my readers that the Professor suggested that many more dark rounded spots would, under favourable conditions, be discovered on the dark areas of the planet, and he has stated what they are.
As a result of his recent observations, M. Antoniadi has boldly declared that the supposed canal lines are really separate spots and markings which, when seen with instruments of lesser power than the one he used, appear to be lines, the network of canal lines being an illusion. He contends that the markings he has seen are beyond the power of Professor Lowell's telescope to resolve, and that what he has seen forms an unanswerable objection to the canal theory and stops all discussion!
This argument has, however, been fully met in this book by anticipation; and, as will be seen later on, Professor Lowell completely refutes it and shows that M. Antoniadi is mistaken. It has also been pointed out that, if we could secure perfect seeing, the lines might really appear as separate markings, and that apparent breaks and irregularities are exactly what we might expect to find in connection with canals. I gather from a recent remark made by Professor Lowell that he also holds this view.
Moreover, a discreet silence is observed with regard to the progress of vegetation on Mars being from the poles towards the equator, instead of from the equator towards the poles, as is the case on our earth.
This mode of progression can only be accounted for by the flow of water from the poles, and such flow extending beyond the equator involves the artificial propulsion of the water, as the flow is contrary to gravitation.
Professor Lowell's statements as to this peculiar growth of the vegetation do not depend upon the results of a few casual observations, for he has given the matter most systematic and prolonged attention, and noted upon hundreds of charts the dates when the vegetation has first appeared in various places and latitudes after the passage of the water down the canals.
This is such a hard nut for the opponents of the canal theory to crack, that I am quite prepared to learn that all these careful observations are merely illusions.
Professor Hale, of Mount Wilson Observatory, in California, has taken some photographs of Mars which do not show any canal lines; and these have been eagerly seized upon as another proof that the canals have no existence.
Unfortunately, these photographs do not show many well authenticated details which are seen with comparative ease, nor the new details seen by M. Antoniadi. It is, therefore, no matter of wonder that they do not show the much fainter canal lines. If the absence of the canal lines from the photographs is proof that the canals do not exist, then the photographs must still more emphatically prove that these much more conspicuous details--which have been seen and drawn by M. Antoniadi and scores of other observers--are also illusions and have no objective existence. Those who seek the support of these photographs for their views must be left to extricate themselves as best they can from the dilemma in which they are now placed in regard to the observations and drawings of those highly skilled observers.
The photographs were taken with a sixty-inch telescope, and possibly this very large aperture was not stopped down sufficiently to secure on the photographic plates such very fine detail as the canal lines; on the other hand, the atmospheric conditions at the moments of exposure of the plates may have been unfavourable for good definition. However good the photographs may be, the deductions drawn from them are erroneous.
Against such purely negative evidence--which never affords good ground for argument--we must set the positive evidence of Professor Lowell's numerous photographs, which do show many of the canal lines and also confirm the drawings of observers.
Professor Schiaparelli, who has been appealed to on the subject, still maintains the objectivity of the canal lines which he was the first to discover, and repudiates the suggestion that the new photographs supply any evidence against them. He remarks that during the last thirty years many other astronomers, using more perfect telescopes than his, have observed and drawn these canal lines, and have taken photographs which reproduce an identical disposition of the lines. He adds that a collective illusion on the part of so many astronomers is impossible, and that the photographs which do show the canals cannot be illusions.
Professor Lowell controverts M. Antoniadi's claim to have proved that the lines are non-existent, and that the only markings are small separate shadings which are illusively seen as lines. He points out that what M. Antoniadi has seen is exactly what would be seen when using a very large telescope, and that it indicates poor seeing instead of good definition. He remarks that when using such large instruments, which are so much more affected by atmospheric conditions than smaller ones, the diffraction rings round a star (which should appear as complete concentric circles) begin to waver, then break up into fragments--a sort of mosaic--and finally end in an indiscriminate assemblance of points. In certain kinds of bad seeing the parts may seem quite steady, but the fact that the mosaic exists is proof positive of poor seeing. What happens to the rings in such circumstances must also happen to fine lines! the mosaic effect seen by M. Antoniadi is therefore "the exact theoretic effect that a large aperture should produce on continuous lines, such as the canals, and always does produce in the case of the rings in the image of a star!"
It has been stated that Professor Lowell had admitted the illusory nature of the canal lines. His reply, however, is emphatic: "I have never made any retractation as to the reality and geometricism of the canals; they are marvellous beyond conception, and are only doubted by those who never observed the planet itself sufficiently well."
Seeing an announcement that Professor Lowell had arrived in England for the purpose of lecturing on "Planetary Photography" at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, M'Allister and I made up our minds to be present at the lecture, a resolution which, I am glad to say, we carried into effect.
In the course of his lecture Professor Lowell gave an account of the methods of planetary photography initiated and carried on with such success at the Lowell Observatory; and then proceeded to give some interesting particulars of his observations of Mars at the opposition of 1909, which resulted in one of the most important discoveries ever recorded in connection with that planet.
He stated that on the 30th September, 1909, when the region of the desert to the east of Syrtis Major came into view, after its periodic six weeks' invisibility due to the unequal length of the days of the earth and Mars, some long new canals were plainly observed which had not been visible when the region was previously in view. A long and careful investigation of fifteen years' records proved absolutely that not only had these canals never been seen before, but that they could not have existed. They are on a region which is frequently very favourably situated for observation, and could not possibly have been overlooked, for they are now the most conspicuous objects on that part of the planet. It is beyond question that they are not only new to us but new to Mars!
The two main canals run in a south-easterly direction from Syrtis Major, and with them are associated two smaller ones and at least two new oases; while, from their inter-connection, they are all clearly parts of one and the same addition to the general canal system; for they now fit in with the system as though they had always formed part of it. These new canals were not only seen and drawn, but several photographs were taken at different times.
Consider what this great discovery really means! In a region which has never been anything but a desert during the whole period over which our observational knowledge of Mars has extended, there are now strips of land many hundreds of miles in length and miles wide that have become fertile almost under our very eyes; and this result has been brought about by the passage through them of water which has artificially been carried there for the purpose of irrigation! We know this is so, for what we see is the growth of vegetation; and the systematic way in which the new canals have been fitted into the existing canal scheme proves the artificiality of the whole system.
Some sensational statements in the Press have fostered in many minds the idea that all these hundreds of miles of new canals were constructed within the very short period of six weeks! This is altogether wrong. It is the vegetation that has grown in six weeks, in consequence of the turning on of the water to the irrigation works. We have good scientific reasons for believing that irrigation works on Mars could be accomplished much quicker than on the earth; but, as the telescope does not enable us to see the works, we do not know how long they may have taken to construct. It may have been months, or years. We only see the results of the works when actually in operation.
When we consider these works and their results, surely it becomes impossible to resist the evidence of intelligent design which they furnish; while if we also remember the very recent development of these canals, the existence of life upon Mars at the present time seems to be demonstrated beyond the possibility of reasonable doubt! In what physical form that life is enshrined even our science must fail to reveal. Professor Lowell, however, pointed out that the inhabitants of Mars are not necessarily human beings, but their work clearly proves that they are beings endowed with a very high degree of intelligence. A study of the canal system reveals a marvellous conception marvellously carried into effect.