The First Men in the Moon – Day 36 of 82

Chapter 13: Mr. Cavor Makes Some Suggestions

For a time neither of us spoke. To focus together all the things we had brought upon ourselves seemed beyond my mental powers.

“They’ve got us,” I said at last.

“It was that fungus.”

“Well–if I hadn’t taken it we should have fainted and starved.”

“We might have found the sphere.”

I lost my temper at his persistence, and swore to myself. For a time we hated one another in silence. I drummed with my fingers on the floor between my knees, and gritted the links of my fetters together. Presently I was forced to talk again.

“What do you make of it, anyhow?” I asked humbly.

“They are reasonable creatures–they can make things and do things. Those lights we saw…”

He stopped. It was clear he could make nothing of it.

When he spoke again it was to confess, “After all, they are more human than we had a right to expect. I suppose–“

He stopped irritatingly.


“I suppose, anyhow–on any planet where there is an intelligent animal–it will carry its brain case upward, and have hands, and walk erect.”

Presently he broke away in another direction.

“We are some way in,” he said. “I mean–perhaps a couple of thousand feet or more.”


“It’s cooler. And our voices are so much louder. That faded quality–it has altogether gone. And the feeling in one’s ears and throat.”

I had not noted that, but I did now.

“The air is denser. We must be some depths–a mile even, we may be–inside the moon.”

“We never thought of a world inside the moon.”


“How could we?”

“We might have done. Only one gets into habits of mind.”

He thought for a time.

“Now,” he said, “it seems such an obvious thing.”

“Of course! The moon must be enormously cavernous, with an atmosphere within, and at the centre of its caverns a sea.

“One knew that the moon had a lower specific gravity than the earth, one knew that it had little air or water outside, one knew, too, that it was sister planet to the earth, and that it was unaccountable that it should be different in composition. The inference that it was hollowed out was as clear as day. And yet one never saw it as a fact. Kepler, of course–“

His voice had the interest now of a man who has discerned a pretty sequence of reasoning.

“Yes,” he said, “Kepler with his sub-volvani was right after all.”

“I wish you had taken the trouble to find that out before we came,” I said.

He answered nothing, buzzing to himself softly, as he pursued his thoughts. My temper was going.

“What do you think has become of the sphere, anyhow?” I asked.

“Lost,” he said, like a man who answers an uninteresting question.

“Among those plants?”

“Unless they find it.”

“And then?”

“How can I tell?”

“Cavor,” I said, with a sort of hysterical bitterness, “things look bright for my Company…”

He made no answer.

“Good Lord!” I exclaimed. “Just think of all the trouble we took to get into this pickle! What did we come for? What are we after? What was the moon to us or we to the moon? We wanted too much, we tried too much. We ought to have started the little things first. It was you proposed the moon! Those Cavorite spring blinds! I am certain we could have worked them for terrestrial purposes. Certain! Did you really understand what I proposed? A steel cylinder–“

“Rubbish!” said Cavor.

We ceased to converse.

For a time Cavor kept up a broken monologue without much help from me.

“If they find it,” he began, “if they find it … what will they do with it? Well, that’s a question. It may be that’s the question. They won’t understand it, anyhow. If they understood that sort of thing they would have come long since to the earth. Would they? Why shouldn’t they? But they would have sent something–they couldn’t keep their hands off such a possibility. No! But they will examine it. Clearly they are intelligent and inquisitive. They will examine it–get inside it–trifle with the studs. Off! … That would mean the moon for us for all the rest of our lives. Strange creatures, strange knowledge….”

“As for strange knowledge–” said I, and language failed me.

“Look here, Bedford,” said Cavor, “you came on this expedition of your own free will.”

“You said to me, ‘Call it prospecting’.”

“There’s always risks in prospecting.”

“Especially when you do it unarmed and without thinking out every possibility.”

“I was so taken up with the sphere. The thing rushed on us, and carried us away.”

“Rushed on me, you mean.”

“Rushed on me just as much. How was I to know when I set to work on molecular physics that the business would bring me here–of all places?”

“It’s this accursed science,” I cried. “It’s the very Devil. The medieval priests and persecutors were right and the Moderns are all wrong. You tamper with it–and it offers you gifts. And directly you take them it knocks you to pieces in some unexpected way. Old passions and new weapons–now it upsets your religion, now it upsets your social ideas, now it whirls you off to desolation and misery!”

“Anyhow, it’s no use your quarrelling with me now. These creatures–these Selenites, or whatever we choose to call them–have got us tied hand and foot. Whatever temper you choose to go through with it in, you will have to go through with it…. We have experiences before us that will need all our coolness.”

He paused as if he required my assent. But I sat sulking. “Confound your science!” I said.

“The problem is communication. Gestures, I fear, will be different. Pointing, for example. No creatures but men and monkeys point.”

That was too obviously wrong for me. “Pretty nearly every animal,” I cried, “points with its eyes or nose.”

Cavor meditated over that. “Yes,” he said at last, “and we don’t. There’s such differences–such differences!”

“One might…. But how can I tell? There is speech. The sounds they make, a sort of fluting and piping. I don’t see how we are to imitate that. Is it their speech, that sort of thing? They may have different senses, different means of communication. Of course they are minds and we are minds; there must be something in common. Who knows how far we may not get to an understanding?”

“The things are outside us,” I said. “They’re more different from us than the strangest animals on earth. They are a different clay. What is the good of talking like this?”

Cavor thought. “I don’t see that. Where there are minds they will have something similar–even though they have been evolved on different planets. Of course if it was a question of instincts, if we or they are no more than animals–“

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