The First Men in the Moon – Day 8 of 82

I entered the copse, dashing from one tree to another and clinging to them, and for a space I sought him in vain. Then amidst a heap of smashed branches and fencing that had banked itself against a portion of his garden wall I perceived something stir. I made a run for this, but before I reached it a brown object separated itself, rose on two muddy legs, and protruded two drooping, bleeding hands. Some tattered ends of garment fluttered out from its middle portion and streamed before the wind.

For a moment I did not recognise this earthy lump, and then I saw that it was Cavor, caked in the mud in which he had rolled. He leant forward against the wind, rubbing the dirt from his eyes and mouth.

He extended a muddy lump of hand, and staggered a pace towards me. His face worked with emotion, little lumps of mud kept falling from it. He looked as damaged and pitiful as any living creature I have ever seen, and his remark therefore amazed me exceedingly.

“Gratulate me,” he gasped; “gratulate me!”

“Congratulate you!” said I. “Good heavens! What for?”

“I’ve done it.”

“You have. What on earth caused that explosion?”

A gust of wind blew his words away. I understood him to say that it wasn’t an explosion at all. The wind hurled me into collision with him, and we stood clinging to one another.

“Try and get back–to my bungalow,” I bawled in his ear. He did not hear me, and shouted something about “three martyrs–science,” and also something about “not much good.” At the time he laboured under the impression that his three attendants had perished in the whirlwind. Happily this was incorrect. Directly he had left for my bungalow they had gone off to the public-house in Lympne to discuss the question of the furnaces over some trivial refreshment.

I repeated my suggestion of getting back to my bungalow, and this time he understood. We clung arm-in-arm and started, and managed at last to reach the shelter of as much roof as was left to me. For a space we sat in arm-chairs and panted. All the windows were broken, and the lighter articles of furniture were in great disorder, but no irrevocable damage was done. Happily the kitchen door had stood the pressure upon it, so that all my crockery and cooking materials had survived. The oil stove was still burning, and I put on the water to boil again for tea. And that prepared, I could turn on Cavor for his explanation.

“Quite correct,” he insisted; “quite correct. I’ve done it, and it’s all right.”

“But,” I protested. “All right! Why, there can’t be a rick standing, or a fence or a thatched roof undamaged for twenty miles round….”

“It’s all right–really. I didn’t, of course, foresee this little upset. My mind was preoccupied with another problem, and I’m apt to disregard these practical side issues. But it’s all right–“

“My dear sir,” I cried, “don’t you see you’ve done thousands of pounds’ worth of damage?”

“There, I throw myself on your discretion. I’m not a practical man, of course, but don’t you think they will regard it as a cyclone?”

“But the explosion–“

“It was not an explosion. It’s perfectly simple. Only, as I say, I’m apt to overlook these little things. Its that zuzzoo business on a larger scale. Inadvertently I made this substance of mine, this Cavorite, in a thin, wide sheet….”

He paused. “You are quite clear that the stuff is opaque to gravitation, that it cuts off things from gravitating towards each other?”

“Yes,” said I. “Yes.”

“Well, so soon as it reached a temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and the process of its manufacture was complete, the air above it, the portions of roof and ceiling and floor above it ceased to have weight. I suppose you know–everybody knows nowadays–that, as a usual thing, the air has weight, that it presses on everything at the surface of the earth, presses in all directions, with a pressure of fourteen and a half pounds to the square inch?”

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