"Go on," I said at last; "I am all attention."
The Gravity Projectile Hermann Anderwelt had probably suffered many disappointments and waited long for a hearing. Now he seemed to feel that his opportunity had come, for he continued with growing enthusiasm:-- "Hitherto all attempts at space travelling have been too timid or puerile. We have experimented at aerial navigation, as if the brief span of air were a step in the mighty distance which separates us from our sister planets. As well might steamboats have been invented to cross narrow streams, and never have ventured on the mighty ocean! We have tried to imitate the bird, the kite, and the balloon, and our experiments have failed, and always must, so long as we do not look farther and think deeper. Every Icarus who attempts to overcome the force of gravity, which conquers planets, and propel himself through the air by any sort of apparatus, will always finish the trip with a wiser but badly bruised head."
"Still, it has been freely predicted," I ventured, "that this century will not close without the invention of a successful air-travelling machine."
"And I alone have hit upon the right plan, because I have not attempted to struggle against gravity, but have made use of it only for propelling my projectile!" exclaimed the doctor triumphantly.
"But wait!" I interposed. "Gravity acts only in one direction, and that is exactly opposite to the one you propose to travel."
"That brings me to the very important discovery I made in physics two years ago, upon which the whole success of the projectile rests. You will remember that, according to the text-books, very little is known about gravity except the laws of its action. What it is, and how it can be controlled or modified, have never been known. Electricity was as much a mystery fifty years ago, but we know all its attributes. We can make it, store it, control it, and use it for almost every necessity of life. The era of electricity is in full bloom, but the era of gravitational force is just budding."
"Can it be that we have as much to learn from gravity as electricity has taught us in the last half-century?" I exclaimed, as my eyes began to open.
"I believe it will teach us far more wonderful things, because it will take us to unknown worlds, while electricity has been confined to Earth. Its realm is the wide universe. It will show us what life there is on the planets. It will make us at home with the stars.
"What!" he continued in a sort of ecstasy. "Do you think all great discoveries are over, all wonderful inventions made? As well might a trembling child, elated with the success of its first feeble steps alone, suppose it had exhausted all the possibilities of life. We are but spelling over the big letters on the title page of the primary book of knowledge. There be other pages and grander chapters further on. There be greater volumes, and sweeter, more expressive tongues which man may learn some day.
"Has a reasoning Divinity created the heavens and peopled the myriad stars with thinking, capable beings, who must be perpetually isolated? Or may they not know each other some time? But shall we attempt to sail the vast heavens with a paper kite, or try to fly God's distances with the wings of fluttering birds? Nay; we must use God's engine for such a task. Has He tied the planets to the sun, and knitted the suns and their systems into one great universe obedient to a single law, with no possibility that we may use that law for intercommunication? With what wings do the planets fly around the sun, and the suns move through the heavens? With the wings of gravity! The same force for minute satellite or mighty sun. It is God's omnipotence applied to matter. Let us fly with that!"
"But will you permit me to suggest that we are soaring before the projectile is built?" I put in.
"Quite right. Let us come back to Earth, and return to facts. My studies in physics led me to believe that all natural forces--gravity, centrifugal force, and even capillary attraction--are, like electricity and magnetism, both positive and negative in their action. If they do not normally alternate between a positive and negative current, as electricity does, they can be made to do so. Gravity and capillary attraction, as we know them, always act positively; that is, they always attract. On the other hand, centrifugal force always acts negatively; that is, it always repels. But each of these forces, I believe, can temporarily be made to act opposite to its usual manner. I know this to be the case with gravity, for I have caused its positive and negative currents to alternate; that is, I have made it repel and then attract, and so on, at will, by changing the polarity of the body which it acts upon."
"Now that I remember it," I added, "our original ideas of magnetism were that it simply attracted. We knew the lodestone drew the steel, but only on better acquaintance did we learn of its alternating currents, attractive and repellant."
"I have positively demonstrated with my working model that I can reverse the force of gravity acting upon the model, and make it sail away into space. I will show you this whenever you like. It is so arranged that the polarizing action ceases in three minutes, after which the positive current controls, and the model falls to the Earth again."
"But have you ever attempted a trip yet?" I inquired.
"Oh, no. The model was not built to carry me, but it has demonstrated all the important facts, and I now need ten thousand dollars to build one large enough to carry several persons, and to equip it with everything necessary to make a trip to one of the planets. With a man inside to control the currents, it will be far more easily managed than the experimental model has been."
"Suppose you had the projectile built, and everything was ready for a start," I said, "what would be the method of working it?"
"I should enter the forward compartment," began the doctor.
"But would you make the trial trip yourself?"
"I certainly would not trust the secret of operating the currents to any one else," he remarked, with emphasis. "And will you accompany me in the rear compartment?"
"No, indeed; unless you will promise to return in time for the following day's market," I replied.
"Then I shall engage some adventurous fellow as assistant. First, we must set the rudder, which is both horizontal and vertical, so that the projectile can be steered up, down, or to either side. Having fixed it so as to be directed a little upward, I begin with the currents. Suppose the projectile weighs a ton, I gradually neutralize the positive current, which we are acquainted with as gravity. When it is exactly neutralized, the projectile weighs nothing, and the pressure of the air is enough to make it rise more rapidly than a balloon. When I have created a negative current, the projectile acquires a buoyancy equal to its previous weight. That is, it will now fall up as rapidly as it would previously have fallen down. It will not do to put on the full negative current at once, for we should acquire a velocity that would simply burn us up by friction with the atmosphere. However, the air is soon passed; if in the ether beyond there is very little friction, or none at all, we shall go at full speed, which will be the constantly increasing velocity of a falling body.
"Somewhere between the Earth and the nearest planet," he continued, "there is a place where the attraction of one is just equal to the attraction of the other; and if a body is stopped in that fatal spot it will be anchored there for ever, by the equally matched forces tugging in opposite directions. There is such a dead line between all the planets, and our principal danger lies in falling into one of these, for we should remain there a twinkling star throughout eternity! We must trust to our momentum to carry us past this point, and into space where the gravitational attraction of the other planet is paramount. Then we must promptly change our current from negative to positive, so that the other planet will attract us to her. Otherwise, she would repel us back to the dead line.
"With a positive current we are now literally falling into the new planet. We need not land unless we wish, for as soon as we enter a resisting atmosphere we can steer a course lacking barely a quarter of being directly away from the planet, just as you can sail a boat three quarters against the wind."
"But suppose you experiment at making a landing on this new planet?" I suggested.
"Very well. Of course, as soon as we enter an atmosphere, it behoves us to travel slowly to avoid overheating. We can still safely travel several hundred miles an hour, however. We continue falling until rather near the planet; then, turning the rudder gently down, we can sail around and around the planet until we choose our landing place. Gently reversing currents, a mild negative one soon overcomes our momentum. Tempering our currents experimentally to the pressure of the air, we can, if we desire, float like a feather and be wafted with every breeze. Just a suspicion of a positive current brings us gently to the surface, and, when we have cooled, we unscrew the rear port-hole and crawl out to explore a new world."
I had mentally made the trip, and was not only intensely interested, but infinitely pleased. I was lost for some time with my imagination on the new sphere, but presently my mind returned to the practical side of the question, and I inquired,-- "Are you quite sure that ten thousand dollars will be sufficient to build and fully equip the projectile?"
"Yes, quite certain," he answered with decision. "It will be ample for that and for the expenses of forming a corporation to own my patents and exploit the invention. It is easy to see the projectile will be cheap of construction. No machinery is necessary; no strong building to withstand enormous shocks or anything of that kind. The principal expenditures will be for stores of food and for scientific and astronomical instruments. Of course, I wish to show you my working model and my plans for the practical projectile, and to explain to you many further details."
It was growing dark. I arose, turned on the electric light, and rang my bell. The office boy entered.
"Teddy, tell all the boys they may go, except Flynn. Ask him to wait, please."
I was quite used to making ten thousand dollar bargains in a few seconds of time and without the scratch of a pen. I had risked more money than that on the fact that Slater looked worried and Bawker was very cross when at his office, and it had won immensely. But here, what a prospect, what a far-reaching, all-encircling prospect it was! No time was to be lost; besides, there was pleasure to me in driving a good bargain and driving it quickly.
"And if I give you the ten thousand dollars, what do I get in return?" I asked, mentally placing my part at fifty-five per cent. of the shares at the lowest, so that I might control the company.
"You may organize the corporation yourself. The projectile must bear my name, and I must have the credit for all discoveries and inventions. Then you may give me such a part of the shares of the company as you think right," he replied.
On hearing this, I mentally advanced my portion to seventy-five per cent. Then I said,-- "When the projectile is built and proves successful, who is to manage the affairs of the company? Who is to finance it and raise further funds for exploiting its business?"
"I have no capacity for business," he declared. "I have no ambition to be a Pullman or an Edison. I would rather see myself a Franklin or a Fulton. You shall manage all the business affairs."
"Then I will undertake the whole matter, and give you my cheque for ten thousand dollars to-night, provided you allow me--ninety-five per cent. of the company's shares!" I said, simulating a burst of generosity.
Doctor Anderwelt ploughed his hair and harrowed his beard. He knew this was giving too much, but to have the projectile built, to sail away, to make all those grand new discoveries, to write books, and have future generations pronounce his name reverently along with Kepler and Newton! I did not believe he would have the courage to say no. While he meditated, my bell summoned Flynn.
"Please draw a cheque for ten thousand dollars to the order of Hermann Anderwelt," I said, watching the doctor as I spoke. There was indecision in his face.
"Suppose I allow you, say, ninety per cent.?" he said at last.
I was signing the cheque Flynn had brought me. "Done!" I cried, handing it over. He scanned it carefully, and after a long time said,-- "Mars is nearest to the Earth on the third day of next August. Fortunately Chicago is a good place to do things in a hurry. The projectile must be ready to start early in June, but its construction and its first trip must be kept a profound secret."
The doctor must have been hungry since noon. He began munching a chicken sandwich. The cold planked whitefish tasted quite as good as smoked herrings, perhaps, and strawberry short-cake in March was a luxury which he evidently appreciated.
Structure of the Projectile A few weeks later I received a letter from Dr. Anderwelt asking me to call at his rooms on the West Side that afternoon, as soon as the market had closed. He desired to exhibit and explain the drawings of the new projectile and talk over the preparations for the trip. I had been so engrossed with every sort of worry that I had thought but little of the doctor and his grand schemes of late. But now I was anxious to know what progress he was making. Sometimes I felt that I had been foolish to put any money into the thing; but the doctor's idea of reversing gravity was so simple and so elemental, that I marvelled it had never occurred to scientists before.
After the market I hunted up the street and number the doctor had given me, and found a little, dingy boarding-house, lost among machine shops and implement factories, near the west side of the river. In a third-floor back room, with one small window looking out on dark, sooty buildings and belching chimneys, Dr. Anderwelt was thinking out all the incidental problems, and preparing for all the emergencies that might arise on a trip of some forty million miles, through unknown space, to a strange planet whose composition was unguessed.
The walls of the room were soiled and bare, except for blue-prints of drawings from which the projectile was being built in neighbouring foundries. There were but two plain, hard chairs in the room. The doctor sat on one with a pillow doubled up under him for a cushion. He was bending over a draughting board, which was propped up on the bed during the day and went under it at night.
Three flights of steep stairs had taken my breath, and I dropped into the other hard chair and exclaimed,-- "I say, Doctor, why didn't you take an office in the twelfth heaven of a modern office building over in town, where they have elevators? I have really forgotten how to climb stairs. Didn't I furnish you money enough to do this thing right?"
"Don't you think this is a good place?" he inquired in some surprise. "The rent is cheap, and it is convenient to the work. But speaking of elevators, we are going to revolutionize all that. No more hoisting or hydraulic lifts after we apply our ideas to the lifting of these elevator cages!"
"I am afraid this idea of negative gravity is apt to revolutionize everything, and generally upset the entire universe," I replied. "I have been wondering what would happen if you were to apply a negative current to this Earth of ours and send it whirling out of its orbit, an ostracised Pariah, repelled by all the celestial bodies!"
"Not the slightest danger of any such calamity," he answered. "The reversal of polarity can only be accomplished with comparatively small and insignificant masses. It would be impossible to impart a negative condition even to the smallest satellite. Our projectile will weigh but a few thousand pounds, compared to the millions of tons of the smallest celestial bodies. The Creator has looked out for the stability of the universe, never fear for that! And He has also given us a few hints of negative currents and repellant gravities in the form of meteorites and falling stars, which cannot be so well explained by any other theory. But what I want to talk to you about is the vital importance of providing against every possible emergency before starting on this trip through space. A trifling oversight in the preparations may mean death in the end, and things we put no value on here we might be willing to give a fortune for on Mars!"
"Well, let's hear how this thing is built," I said, rising and facing the larger blue-print. "So that's the shape of it, is it? Looks like a cigar!"
"Yes, the design resembles that of a torpedo considerably," replied the doctor, and referring to the sectional blue-print he began explaining the construction.
"This outer covering is a crust of graphite or black lead, inside which is a two-inch layer of asbestos. Both of these resist enormous heats, and they will prevent our burning by friction with atmospheres, and protect us against extremes of cold. Also, when we are ready, they will enable us to visit planets about whose cooled condition we are not certain. We might touch safely for a short time on a molten planet with this covering.
"Next comes the general outer framework of steel, just within which, and completely surrounding the living compartments, are the chambers for the storage of condensed air for use on the trip. These chambers are lined inside with another layer of asbestos. Now, air being a comparatively poor conductor of heat, and asbestos one of the best non-conductors we know of, this insures a stable temperature of the living compartments, regardless of the condition without, whether of extreme heat or extreme cold. Afterward comes the inner framework of steel, and lastly a wainscotting of hard wood to give the compartments a finish."
"How large are these living rooms?" I inquired.
"The rear one is four feet high and eight feet long. The forward one, designed for my own use, is longer, and must contain a good-size telescope and all my scientific instruments. The apparatus with which I produce the currents is built into the left wall, and it acts on the steel work of the projectile only. The rear compartment has a sideboard for preparing meals, which will have to be wholly of bread, biscuits, and various tinned vegetables and meats. We shall not attempt any cooking."
"But are there no windows for looking out?" I queried.
"Certainly, there are two of them, made of thick mica. One is directly in the front end, through which my telescope will look. The other is in the port-hole in the rear end. Each window is provided with an outer shutter of asbestos, which can be closed in case of great heat or cold. You will notice the two compartments can be separated by an air-tight plunger, fitting into the aperture between them. It will be necessary for both of us to occupy the same compartment while the air is being changed in the other. The foul air will be forced outside by a powerful pump until a partial vacuum is created. Then a certain measure of condensed air is emptied in, and expands until the barometer in that compartment indicates a proper pressure."
"The air will be made to order while you wait, then?" I put in.
"That is exactly what will be done in a more literal manner than you may suppose!" exclaimed the doctor. "This air problem is a most interesting one, for we must educate ourselves on the trip to use the sort of atmosphere we expect to find when we land. For instance, going to Mars we must use an atmosphere more and more rarefied each day, until gradually we become used to the thin air we expect to find there. Of course, there is an especially designed barometer and thermometer, capable of being read in the rear compartment, but exposed outside near the rudder. The barometer will give us the pressure of the earthly atmosphere as it becomes more and more rare with our ascent. It will show us what pressure there is of the ether, which may vary considerably, depending on our nearness to heavenly bodies. It will also immediately indicate to us when we are entering any new atmosphere. When we have arrived at Mars, we shall observe the exact pressure of the Martian air, and then manufacture one of the same pressure inside, and try breathing it before we venture out. The thermometer will give us the temperature of the ether, will indicate the loss of heat as we leave the sun, and will show us the Martian temperature before we venture into it."
"But you have said the condensed air will be used to resist the outer heat. This will certainly make it so hot it will be unfit to breathe," I interposed.
"Ah, but you forget that the quick expansion of a gaslike air produces cold. We shall regulate our temperature in that way. If it is becoming too warm inside, the new measure of condensed air will be quickly introduced into the partial vacuum, and its sudden expansion will produce great cold, and freeze ice for us if we wish it. On the other hand, if the compartments are already cold, we shall allow the condensed air to enter very gradually, and its slow expansion will produce but little cold. The question of heating the projectile is the most difficult one I have found. We cannot have any fires, for there is no way for the smoke to escape, and we cannot carry oxygen enough to keep them burning. I have decided that we must depend on the heat arising from outer friction and from absorption of the Sun's rays by our black surface. When we are in ether where friction is very little, the velocity will be all the greater, and I believe we shall always be warm enough. You must remember, we shall not have the slightest suspicion of a draught, and we must necessarily take along the warmest clothing for use on Mars. Even then we probably cannot safely visit any but his equatorial districts."
"This is the rudder, I suppose; but haven't you put it in wrong end first?" I asked. "It is just the opposite of a fish's tail. You have the widened end near the projectile and the narrow end extending."
"Yes, and with good reason. You will note that the rudder slides into the rear end of the projectile so that none of it extends out. This is a variable steering apparatus, adapted to every sort of atmosphere. Naturally, a rudder that would steer in the water, might not steer the same craft in the air. There is probably a vaster difference between air and ether than between water and air. It is necessary, therefore, to have a small rudder with but little extending surface in thick atmosphere; but when it becomes thinner the rudder must be pushed out, so that a greater surface will offer resistance. When we start, the smallest portion of this rudder moved but the sixteenth of an inch, up, down, or to either side, will quickly change our course correspondingly. When we have reached the ether, the full surface of the rudder pushed out and exposed broadside may not have much effect in changing our course. This is one of the things that we cannot possibly know till we try. However, if ether is anything at all but a name, if it is the thinnest, lightest conceivable gas, and we are rushing through it at a speed of a thousand miles a minute, our rudder certainly should have some effect."
"But suppose you cannot steer at all in the ether, what then?" I interposed, hunting all the trouble possible.
"Even that will not be so very dreadful, provided we have taken a true course for Mars while coming through the Earth's atmosphere. There is no other planet or star nearer to us than Mars when in opposition. Therefore there will be nothing to attract us out of our correct course; and if we can manage to come anywhere near the true course, the gravitational attraction of Mars will draw us to him in a straight line. The Moon might give us some trouble, and we shall be obliged, either to avoid her entirely by starting so as to cross her orbit when she is on the opposite side of the Earth, or else go directly to the Moon, land there, and make a new start. But if the ether which surrounds the Moon (for she has no atmosphere so far as we know) has no resisting power whatever, we might have rather a difficult time there. The only thing we could do would be to land on the side toward the Earth, then disembark and carry the projectile on our shoulders around the Moon to the opposite side, making a new start from there!"
"What on earth do you mean?" I exclaimed, interrupting. "Land on a satellite which has no atmosphere, and carry this projectile, weighing over a ton, half-way around the globe?"
"But the point is, it isn't on the Earth, but on the Moon! Think it over a little, and see how easily we could do it now. In the first place, we shall always carry divers' suits and helmets, to use in going ashore on planets having no atmosphere. Air will be furnished through tubes from inside the compartments. In the second place, the projectile in its natural state will hardly weigh two hundred pounds on the Moon, since the mass of that satellite is so much less than the Earth's, and weight therefore proportionately less. But you must remember I can make the projectile weigh nothing at all, so one of us could run ahead and tow it, as a child would play with its toy balloon."
"I perceive you have already made this trip several times, and are quite familiar with everything. But in case the Moon's surface is not suitable for foot passengers, what then? I understand it to be rough, jagged, mountainous, and even crossed by immense, yawning, unbridged fissures."
"That is most likely true, and for that reason we must carry a jointed punt-pole, and take turns standing on the back, landing and punting along through space just above the surface. Do you remember how far you can send a slightly shrunk toy balloon with one light blow? And how it finally stops with the resistance of the air? Without any resisting atmosphere, how far and how easily could it be sent along?"
"I can quite imagine you, astride the rudder of this thing, with a punt-pole as long as a ship's mast and as light as a broom-straw, bumping and skipping along in the utter darkness on the other side of the Moon; scaling mountains, bridging yawning chasms, and skimming over sombre sea-beds!" I laughed, for it aroused my active sense of the ridiculous.
"And the Moon may be well worth the exploration," exclaimed the always serious doctor. "Who knows what treasure of gold and silver, or other metals, rare and precious here, may not be found there? Why was the Moon ever created without an atmosphere, and therefore probably without the possibility of ever being inhabited? Is it put there only to illume our nights? Remember, we do the same service for her fourteen times as well; and if she has inhabitants they may think the Earth exists only for that purpose. Is it not more reasonable to suppose that some vast treasures are there, which the Earth will some day be in pressing need of? That it is a great warehouse of earthly necessities, which will be discovered just as they are being exhausted here? And who knows but we may be the discoverers ourselves? If the satellite is uninhabited, it will belong to the first explorers. Its treasures may be ours! We shall at least have a monopoly on the only known method of getting there and bringing them away."
"Ah! now you tempt me to go with you," I said, in a mild excitement. "Now I see myself, erect on the rudder, a new Count of Monte Cristo, waving the long punt-pole majestically, and exclaiming, 'The Moon is mine!'"
What is on Mars?
"I only wish you would come along with me," replied the doctor. "I have no idea what intelligent, educated person I can persuade to accompany me, unless he is given an interest in the discoveries. You are the person most interested in the enterprise, and you should go. If it is money-making that detains you here, you may rest assured that we shall find fortunes for both of us somewhere."
"I am a slave to the excitement of my business," I answered. "I could not possibly spend two or three months in a lonely cell, flying through space, without a ticker or a quotation of the market. Besides, there are people on the earth I should not care to leave, unless I was certain of getting back soon."
"You may be sure of excitement enough, and of a continuously novel kind. Besides, of what interest are the people of this earth, who are all alike, and whom we have known all our lives, compared with the rapture of finding a new and different race, of investigating another civilization, and exploring an entire new world?"
"I shall have to warn my friends about you and have myself watched, lest you persuade me and run away with me when the time comes. If your adventures are half as exciting and varied as your theories, I should hate to miss them. But tell me why you have chosen Mars for a first visit."
"Because of all the planets he is the one which most resembles the Earth in all the essential conditions of life. He is the Earth's little brother, situated next farther out in the path from the Sun. He has the same seasons, day and night of the same length, and zones of about the same extent. He possesses air, water, and sufficient heat to make habitation by us quite possible. Moreover, his gravity problem will not put earthly visitors at a disadvantage, as it would on the very large planets, but rather at a distinct advantage over the Martians."
"What do you expect to find on Mars?" I queried.
"That is a very comprehensive question, and any answer is the merest guess-work, guided by a few known facts," replied the doctor. "The principal controlling fact is the reduced gravitational attraction of Mars, which will make things weigh about one-third as much as on the Earth. The air will be far less dense than here. In the mineral kingdom the dense metals will be very rare. I doubt if platinum will be found at all; gold and silver very little; iron, lead, and copper will be comparatively scarce, while aluminium may be the common and useful metal. Gases should abound, and doubtless many entirely new to us will be there. It is not unlikely that many of these will serve as foods for the animals and intelligent beings. It is also quite possible that the heavier gases may run in channels, like rivers, and be alive with winged fish and chameleons."
"How about vegetation?" I suggested.
"The vegetable kingdom will certainly not be rank and luxurious, because there is not enough sunlight or heat for that; nor will it be gnarled and tough, but more likely spongy and cactus-like. The weak gravity will oppose but a mild resistance to the activity and climbing propensities of vegetable sap, however, which is likely to result in very tall, slender trees. The forces that lie hidden in an acorn should be able to build a most grandly towering oak on Mars. Among the animals the species of upright, two-legged things is apt to abound. There is no reason for four legs when the body weighs but little. On the Earth an extremely strong development of the lower limbs is necessary for upright things, as is shown in the cases of kangaroos and men. In order that a cow might go comfortably on two legs, she would have to be furnished with the hind-legs of an elephant; but not so on Mars. Creeping things would be very few, and it is possible that fish may fly in the water with a short pair of wings. What four-legged animals there are will very likely be large and monstrous; for an enormous animal could exist comfortably and move about easily without clumsiness. For instance, an earthly elephant transferred to Mars would weigh only one-third as much, and so there might well be elephants three times as large as ours, perfectly able to handle themselves with ease."
"By the same reasoning then, I suppose the intelligent beings, or what we call men, will be great giants twenty-five feet high?" I put in.
"Some have thought so, but I do not at all agree with them," replied the doctor. "I stick to the theory of small men for small planets, and large men for large planets. There is no possible reason for a large man on Mars, where muscular development is uncalled for and useless, and where the inhabitable space is small. If there are men on Jupiter, they must of necessity be enormously strong to hold themselves up and resist gravitation. If they walk upright (which I think unlikely), their legs must be very large and as solid as iron. The Martian legs are likely to be small and puny, and I believe the upper limbs will be much more strongly developed. In fact, on Mars the Creator had His one great opportunity of making a flying man, and I do not think He has overlooked it. With a rather small, tightly-knit frame, and the upper limbs developed into wings as long as the body, flying against the weak Martian gravitation would be perfectly easy, and a vast advantage over walking."
"Ah! then perhaps they will fly out to meet you!" I ejaculated.
"If they do, they will be stricken with fear to see that we fly without wings and so much more rapidly," he answered, and continued: "If a flying race has been created there, we shall probably find the atmosphere deeper and relatively (though not actually) denser than the Earth's. This would serve to add buoyancy and still further diminish weight, thus making flying quite natural and simple. I certainly do not believe that the Martians are subjected to the tedium of walking. If they do not fly, they will at least make long, swift, graceful hops or jumps of some ten or fifteen feet each. This would require a more hinged development of the lower limbs, like a bird's. It is also possible that the lower limbs may have the prehensile function, and do all the handling and working."
"But how about intelligence and intellectual development? That is the main thing, after all," said I.
"To answer that takes one into the realm of pure speculation. There are but few facts to guide one's guesses. But the trip yonder is worth making, if only to learn that. I do not incline to the opinion that their civilization is vastly older and more developed than ours. Granting the nebular theory of the origin of the universe (which is, after all, only a guess), it is not even then certain that Mars was thrown off the central sun before the Earth. It is much smaller, and may have been thrown off later and travelled farther for this reason. Another good reason for believing in a less advanced civilization is the length of the Martian year and consequent sluggishness of the seasons. He requires 687 of our days to complete his sun revolution, making his years nearly twice as long as ours. I believe his whole development is at a correspondingly slow rate of speed."
"Which do you think is the most advanced and enlightened planet, then?" I ventured.