The First Men in the Moon – Day 47 of 82

“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.”

“Go on.”

“On the other hand, here’s gold knocking about like cast iron at home. If only we can get some of it back, if only we can find our sphere again before they do, and get back, then–“

“Yes?”

“We might put the thing on a sounder footing. Come back in a bigger sphere with guns.”

“Good Lord!” cried Cavor, as though that was horrible.

I shied another luminous fungus down the cleft.

“Look here, Cavor,” I said, “I’ve half the voting power anyhow in this affair, and this is a case for a practical man. I’m a practical man, and you are not. I’m not going to trust to Selenites and geometrical diagrams if I can help it. That’s all. Get back. Drop all this secrecy–or most of it. And come again.”

He reflected. “When I came to the moon,” he said, “I ought to have come alone.”

“The question before the meeting,” I said, “is how to get back to the sphere.”

For a time we nursed our knees in silence. Then he seemed to decide for my reasons.

“I think,” he said, “one can get data. It is clear that while the sun is on this side of the moon the air will be blowing through this planet sponge from the dark side hither. On this side, at any rate, the air will be expanding and flowing out of the moon caverns into the craters…. Very well, there’s a draught here.”

“So there is.”

“And that means that this is not a dead end; somewhere behind us this cleft goes on and up. The draught is blowing up, and that is the way we have to go. If we try to get up any sort of chimney or gully there is, we shall not only get out of these passages where they are hunting for us–“

“But suppose the gully is too narrow?”

“We’ll come down again.”

“Ssh!” I said suddenly; “what’s that?”

We listened. At first it was an indistinct murmur, and then one picked out the clang of a gong. “They must think we are mooncalves,” said I, “to be frightened at that.”

“They’re coming along that passage,” said Cavor.

“They must be.”

“They’ll not think of the cleft. They’ll go past.”

I listened again for a space. “This time,” I whispered, “they’re likely to have some sort of weapon.”

Then suddenly I sprang to my feet. “Good heavens, Cavor!” I cried. “But they will! They’ll see the fungi I have been pitching down. They’ll–“

I didn’t finish my sentence. I turned about and made a leap over the fungus tops towards the upper end of the cavity. I saw that the space turned upward and became a draughty cleft again, ascending to impenetrable darkness. I was about to clamber up into this, and then with a happy inspiration turned back.

“What are you doing?” asked Cavor.

“Go on!” said I, and went back and got two of the shining fungi, and putting one into the breast pocket of my flannel jacket, so that it stuck out to light our climbing, went back with the other for Cavor. The noise of the Selenites was now so loud that it seemed they must be already beneath the cleft. But it might be they would have difficulty in clambering in to it, or might hesitate to ascend it against our possible resistance. At any rate, we had now the comforting knowledge of the enormous muscular superiority our birth in another planet gave us. In other minute I was clambering with gigantic vigour after Cavor’s blue-lit heels.

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