The First Men in the Moon – Day 70 of 82

Chapter 23: An Abstract of the Six Messages First Received from Mr. Cavor

The two earlier messages of Mr. Cavor may very well be reserved for that larger volume. They simply tell, with greater brevity and with a difference in several details that is interesting, but not of any vital importance, the bare facts of the making of the sphere and our departure from the world. Throughout, Cavor speaks of me as a man who is dead, but with a curious change of temper as he approaches our landing on the moon. “Poor Bedford,” he says of me, and “this poor young man,” and he blames himself for inducing a young man, “by no means well equipped for such adventures,” to leave a planet “on which he was indisputably fitted to succeed” on so precarious a mission. I think he underrates the part my energy and practical capacity played in bringing about the realisation of his theoretical sphere. “We arrived,” he says, with no more account of our passage through space than if we had made a journey of common occurrence in a railway train.

And then he becomes increasingly unfair to me. Unfair, indeed, to an extent I should not have expected in a man trained in the search for truth. Looking back over my previously written account of these things, I must insist that I have been altogether juster to Cavor than he has been to me. I have extenuated little and suppressed nothing. But his account is:–

“It speedily became apparent that the entire strangeness of our circumstances and surroundings–great loss of weight, attenuated but highly oxygenated air, consequent exaggeration of the results of muscular effort, rapid development of weird plants from obscure spores, lurid sky–was exciting my companion unduly. On the moon his character seemed to deteriorate. He became impulsive, rash, and quarrelsome. In a little while his folly in devouring some gigantic vesicles and his consequent intoxication led to our capture by the Selenites–before we had had the slightest opportunity of properly observing their ways….”

(He says, you observe, nothing of his own concession to these same “vesicles.”)

And he goes on from that point to say that “We came to a difficult passage with them, and Bedford mistaking certain gestures of theirs”–pretty gestures they were!–“gave way to a panic violence. He ran amuck, killed three, and perforce I had to flee with him after the outrage. Subsequently we fought with a number who endeavoured to bar our way, and slew seven or eight more. It says much for the tolerance of these beings that on my recapture I was not instantly slain. We made our way to the exterior and separated in the crater of our arrival, to increase our chances of recovering our sphere. But presently I came upon a body of Selenites, led by two who were curiously different, even in form, from any of these we had seen hitherto, with larger heads and smaller bodies, and much more elaborately wrapped about. And after evading them for some time I fell into a crevasse, cut my head rather badly, and displaced my patella, and, finding crawling very painful, decided to surrender–if they would still permit me to do so. This they did, and, perceiving my helpless condition, carried me with them again into the moon. And of Bedford I have heard or seen nothing more, nor, so far as I can gather, any Selenite. Either the night overtook him in the crater, or else, which is more probable, he found the sphere, and, desiring to steal a march upon me, made off with it–only, I fear, to find it uncontrollable, and to meet a more lingering fate in outer space.”

And with that Cavor dismisses me and goes on to more interesting topics. I dislike the idea of seeming to use my position as his editor to deflect his story in my own interest, but I am obliged to protest here against the turn he gives these occurrences. He said nothing about that gasping message on the blood-stained paper in which he told, or attempted to tell, a very different story. The dignified self-surrender is an altogether new view of the affair that has come to him, I must insist, since he began to feel secure among the lunar people; and as for the “stealing a march” conception, I am quite willing to let the reader decide between us on what he has before him. I know I am not a model man–I have made no pretence to be. But am I that?

However, that is the sum of my wrongs. From this point I can edit Cavor with an untroubled mind, for he mentions me no more.

It would seem the Selenites who had come upon him carried him to some point in the interior down “a great shaft” by means of what he describes as “a sort of balloon.” We gather from the rather confused passage in which he describes this, and from a number of chance allusions and hints in other and subsequent messages, that this “great shaft” is one of an enormous system of artificial shafts that run, each from what is called a lunar “crater,” downwards for very nearly a hundred miles towards the central portion of our satellite. These shafts communicate by transverse tunnels, they throw out abysmal caverns and expand into great globular places; the whole of the moon’s substance for a hundred miles inward, indeed, is a mere sponge of rock. “Partly,” says Cavor, “this sponginess is natural, but very largely it is due to the enormous industry of the Selenites in the past. The enormous circular mounds of the excavated rock and earth it is that form these great circles about the tunnels known to earthly astronomers (misled by a false analogy) as volcanoes.”

It was down this shaft they took him, in this “sort of balloon” he speaks of, at first into an inky blackness and then into a region of continually increasing phosphorescence. Cavor’s despatches show him to be curiously regardless of detail for a scientific man, but we gather that this light was due to the streams and cascades of water–“no doubt containing some phosphorescent organism”–that flowed ever more abundantly downward towards the Central Sea. And as he descended, he says, “The Selenites also became luminous.” And at last far below him he saw, as it were, a lake of heatless fire, the waters of the Central Sea, glowing and eddying in strange perturbation, “like luminous blue milk that is just on the boil.”

“This Lunar Sea,” says Cavor, in a later passage “is not a stagnant ocean; a solar tide sends it in a perpetual flow around the lunar axis, and strange storms and boilings and rushings of its waters occur, and at times cold winds and thunderings that ascend out of it into the busy ways of the great ant-hill above. It is only when the water is in motion that it gives out light; in its rare seasons of calm it is black. Commonly, when one sees it, its waters rise and fall in an oily swell, and flakes and big rafts of shining, bubbly foam drift with the sluggish, faintly glowing current. The Selenites navigate its cavernous straits and lagoons in little shallow boats of a canoe-like shape; and even before my journey to the galleries about the Grand Lunar, who is Master of the Moon, I was permitted to make a brief excursion on its waters.

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