The First Men in the Moon – Day 46 of 82

“Here we are burrowing in this beastly world that isn’t a world, with its inky ocean hidden in some abominable blackness below, and outside that torrid day and that death stillness of night. And all these things that are chasing us now, beastly men of leather–insect men, that come out of a nightmare! After all, they’re right! What business have we here smashing them and disturbing their world! For all we know the whole planet is up and after us already. In a minute we may hear them whimpering, and their gongs going. What are we to do? Where are we to go? Here we are as comfortable as snakes from Jamrach’s loose in a Surbiton villa!”

“It was your fault,” said Cavor.

“My fault!” I shouted. “Good Lord!”

“I had an idea!”

“Curse your ideas!”

“If we had refused to budge–“

“Under those goads?”

“Yes. They would have carried us!”

“Over that bridge?”

“Yes. They must have carried us from outside.”

“I’d rather be carried by a fly across a ceiling.”

“Good Heavens!”

I resumed my destruction of the fungi. Then suddenly I saw something that struck me even then. “Cavor,” I said, “these chains are of gold!”

He was thinking intently, with his hands gripping his cheeks. He turned his head slowly and stared at me, and when I had repeated my words, at the twisted chain about his right hand. “So they are,” he said, “so they are.” His face lost its transitory interest even as he looked. He hesitated for a moment, then went on with his interrupted meditation. I sat for a space puzzling over the fact that I had only just observed this, until I considered the blue light in which we had been, and which had taken all the colour out of the metal. And from that discovery I also started upon a train of thought that carried me wide and far. I forgot that I had just been asking what business we had in the moon. Gold….

It was Cavor who spoke first. “It seems to me that there are two courses open to us.”


“Either we can attempt to make our way–fight our way if necessary–out to the exterior again, and then hunt for our sphere until we find it, or the cold of the night comes to kill us, or else–“

He paused. “Yes?” I said, though I knew what was coming.

“We might attempt once more to establish some sort of understanding with the minds of the people in the moon.”

“So far as I’m concerned–it’s the first.”

“I doubt.”

“I don’t.”

“You see,” said Cavor, “I do not think we can judge the Selenites by what we have seen of them. Their central world, their civilised world will be far below in the profounder caverns about their sea. This region of the crust in which we are is an outlying district, a pastoral region. At any rate, that is my interpretation. These Selenites we have seen may be only the equivalent of cowboys and engine-tenders. Their use of goads–in all probability mooncalf goads–the lack of imagination they show in expecting us to be able to do just what they can do, their indisputable brutality, all seem to point to something of that sort. But if we endured–“

“Neither of us could endure a six-inch plank across the bottomless pit for very long.”

“No,” said Cavor; “but then–“

“I won’t,” I said.

He discovered a new line of possibilities. “Well, suppose we got ourselves into some corner, where we could defend ourselves against these hinds and labourers. If, for example, we could hold out for a week or so, it is probable that the news of our appearance would filter down to the more intelligent and populous parts–“

“If they exist.”

“They must exist, or whence came those tremendous machines?”

“That’s possible, but it’s the worst of the two chances.”

“We might write up inscriptions on walls–“

“How do we know their eyes would see the sort of marks we made?”

“If we cut them–“

“That’s possible, of course.”

I took up a new thread of thought. “After all,” I said, “I suppose you don’t think these Selenites so infinitely wiser than men.”

“They must know a lot more–or at least a lot of different things.”

“Yes, but–” I hesitated.

“I think you’ll quite admit, Cavor, that you’re rather an exceptional man.”


“Well, you–you’re a rather lonely man–have been, that is. You haven’t married.”

“Never wanted to. But why–“

“And you never grew richer than you happened to be?”

“Never wanted that either.”

“You’ve just rooted after knowledge?”

“Well, a certain curiosity is natural–“

“You think so. That’s just it. You think every other mind wants to know. I remember once, when I asked you why you conducted all these researches, you said you wanted your F.R.S., and to have the stuff called Cavorite, and things like that. You know perfectly well you didn’t do it for that; but at the time my question took you by surprise, and you felt you ought to have something to look like a motive. Really you conducted researches because you had to. It’s your twist.”

“Perhaps it is–“

“It isn’t one man in a million has that twist. Most men want–well, various things, but very few want knowledge for its own sake. I don’t, I know perfectly well. Now, these Selenites seem to be a driving, busy sort of being, but how do you know that even the most intelligent will take an interest in us or our world? I don’t believe they’ll even know we have a world. They never come out at night–they’d freeze if they did. They’ve probably never seen any heavenly body at all except the blazing sun. How are they to know there is another world? What does it matter to them if they do? Well, even if they have had a glimpse of a few stars, or even of the earth crescent, what of that? Why should people living inside a planet trouble to observe that sort of thing? Men wouldn’t have done it except for the seasons and sailing; why should the moon people?…

“Well, suppose there are a few philosophers like yourself. They are just the very Selenites who’ll never have heard of our existence. Suppose a Selenite had dropped on the earth when you were at Lympne, you’d have been the last man in the world to hear he had come. You never read a newspaper! You see the chances against you. Well, it’s for these chances we’re sitting here doing nothing while precious time is flying. I tell you we’ve got into a fix. We’ve come unarmed, we’ve lost our sphere, we’ve got no food, we’ve shown ourselves to the Selenites, and made them think we’re strange, strong, dangerous animals; and unless these Selenites are perfect fools, they’ll set about now and hunt us till they find us, and when they find us they’ll try to take us if they can, and kill us if they can’t, and that’s the end of the matter. If they take us, they’ll probably kill us, through some misunderstanding. After we’re done for, they may discuss us perhaps, but we shan’t get much fun out of that.”


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