The First Men in the Moon – Day 82 of 82

[Here there is a short piece of the record indistinct.]

“He then caused me to describe how we went about this earth of ours, and I described to him our railways and ships. For a time he could not understand that we had had the use of steam only one hundred years, but when he did he was clearly amazed. (I may mention as a singular thing, that the Selenites use years to count by, just as we do on earth, though I can make nothing of their numeral system. That, however, does not matter, because Phi-oo understands ours.) From that I went on to tell him that mankind had dwelt in cities only for nine or ten thousand years, and that we were still not united in one brotherhood, but under many different forms of government. This astonished the Grand Lunar very much, when it was made clear to him. At first he thought we referred merely to administrative areas.

“‘Our States and Empires are still the rawest sketches of what order will some day be,’ I said, and so I came to tell him….”

[At this point a length of record that probably represents thirty or forty words is totally illegible.]

“The Grand Lunar was greatly impressed by the folly of men in clinging to the inconvenience of diverse tongues. ‘They want to communicate, and yet not to communicate,’ he said, and then for a long time he questioned me closely concerning war.

“He was at first perplexed and incredulous. ‘You mean to say,’ he asked, seeking confirmation, ‘that you run about over the surface of your world–this world, whose riches you have scarcely begun to scrape–killing one another for beasts to eat?’

“I told him that was perfectly correct.

“He asked for particulars to assist his imagination.

“‘But do not ships and your poor little cities get injured?’ he asked, and I found the waste of property and conveniences seemed to impress him almost as much as the killing. ‘Tell me more,’ said the Grand Lunar; ‘make me see pictures. I cannot conceive these things.’

“And so, for a space, though something loath, I told him the story of earthly War.

“I told him of the first orders and ceremonies of war, of warnings and ultimatums, and the marshalling and marching of troops. I gave him an idea of manoeuvres and positions and battle joined. I told him of sieges and assaults, of starvation and hardship in trenches, and of sentinels freezing in the snow. I told him of routs and surprises, and desperate last stands and faint hopes, and the pitiless pursuit of fugitives and the dead upon the field. I told, too, of the past, of invasions and massacres, of the Huns and Tartars, and the wars of Mahomet and the Caliphs, and of the Crusades. And as I went on, and Phi-oo translated, and the Selenites cooed and murmured in a steadily intensified emotion.

“I told them an ironclad could fire a shot of a ton twelve miles, and go through 20 feet of iron–and how we could steer torpedoes under water. I went on to describe a Maxim gun in action, and what I could imagine of the Battle of Colenso. The Grand Lunar was so incredulous that he interrupted the translation of what I had said in order to have my verification of my account. They particularly doubted my description of the men cheering and rejoicing as they went into battle.

“‘But surely they do not like it!’ translated Phi-oo.

“I assured them men of my race considered battle the most glorious experience of life, at which the whole assembly was stricken with amazement.

“‘But what good is this war?’ asked the Grand Lunar, sticking to his theme.

“‘Oh! as for good!’ said I; ‘it thins the population!’

“‘But why should there be a need–?’

“There came a pause, the cooling sprays impinged upon his brow, and then he spoke again.”

[At this point a series of undulations that have been apparent as a perplexing complication as far back as Cavor’s description of the silence that fell before the first speaking of the Grand Lunar become confusingly predominant in the record. These undulations are evidently the result of radiations proceeding from a lunar source, and their persistent approximation to the alternating signals of Cavor is curiously suggestive of some operator deliberately seeking to mix them in with his message and render it illegible. At first they are small and regular, so that with a little care and the loss of very few words we have been able to disentangle Cavor’s message; then they become broad and larger, then suddenly they are irregular, with an irregularity that gives the effect at last of some one scribbling through a line of writing. For a long time nothing can be made of this madly zigzagging trace; then quite abruptly the interruption ceases, leaves a few words clear, and then resumes and continues for the rest of the message, completely obliterating whatever Cavor was attempting to transmit. Why, if this is indeed a deliberate intervention, the Selenites should have preferred to let Cavor go on transmitting his message in happy ignorance of their obliteration of its record, when it was clearly quite in their power and much more easy and convenient for them to stop his proceedings at any time, is a problem to which I can contribute nothing. The thing seems to have happened so, and that is all I can say. This last rag of his description of the Grand Lunar begins in mid-sentence.]

“…interrogated me very closely upon my secret. I was able in a little while to get to an understanding with them, and at last to elucidate what has been a puzzle to me ever since I realised the vastness of their science, namely, how it is they themselves have never discovered ‘Cavorite.’ I find they know of it as a theoretical substance, but they have always regarded it as a practical impossibility, because for some reason there is no helium in the moon, and helium…”

[Across the last letters of helium slashes the resumption of that obliterating trace. Note that word “secret,” for that, and that alone, I base my interpretation of the message that follows, the last message, as both Mr. Wendigee and myself now believe it to be, that he is ever likely to send us.]

Chapter 26: The Last Message Cavor sent to the Earth

On this unsatisfactory manner the penultimate message of Cavor dies out. One seems to see him away there in the blue obscurity amidst his apparatus intently signalling us to the last, all unaware of the curtain of confusion that drops between us; all unaware, too, of the final dangers that even then must have been creeping upon him. His disastrous want of vulgar common sense had utterly betrayed him. He had talked of war, he had talked of all the strength and irrational violence of men, of their insatiable aggressions, their tireless futility of conflict. He had filled the whole moon world with this impression of our race, and then I think it is plain that he made the most fatal admission that upon himself alone hung the possibility–at least for a long time–of any further men reaching the moon. The line the cold, inhuman reason of the moon would take seems plain enough to me, and a suspicion of it, and then perhaps some sudden sharp realisation of it, must have come to him. One imagines him about the moon with the remorse of this fatal indiscretion growing in his mind. During a certain time I am inclined to guess the Grand Lunar was deliberating the new situation, and for all that time Cavor may have gone as free as ever he had gone. But obstacles of some sort prevented his getting to his electromagnetic apparatus again after that message I have just given. For some days we received nothing. Perhaps he was having fresh audiences, and trying to evade his previous admissions. Who can hope to guess?

And then suddenly, like a cry in the night, like a cry that is followed by a stillness, came the last message. It is the briefest fragment, the broken beginnings of two sentences.

The first was: “I was mad to let the Grand Lunar know–“

There was an interval of perhaps a minute. One imagines some interruption from without. A departure from the instrument–a dreadful hesitation among the looming masses of apparatus in that dim, blue-lit cavern–a sudden rush back to it, full of a resolve that came too late. Then, as if it were hastily transmitted came: “Cavorite made as follows: take–“

There followed one word, a quite unmeaning word as it stands: “uless.”

And that is all.

It may be he made a hasty attempt to spell “useless” when his fate was close upon him. Whatever it was that was happening about that apparatus we cannot tell. Whatever it was we shall never, I know, receive another message from the moon. For my own part a vivid dream has come to my help, and I see, almost as plainly as though I had seen it in actual fact, a blue-lit shadowy dishevelled Cavor struggling in the grip of these insect Selenites, struggling ever more desperately and hopelessly as they press upon him, shouting, expostulating, perhaps even at last fighting, and being forced backwards step by step out of all speech or sign of his fellows, for evermore into the Unknown–into the dark, into that silence that has no end….


  1. ScottS-M Identiconcomment_author_IP, $comment->comment_author); }else{echo $gravatar_link;}}*/ ?>

    ScottS-M wrote:

    being forced backwards step by step out of all speech or sign of his fellows, for evermore into the Unknown–into the dark, into that silence that has no end….

    That’s quite an ending.

    I thought it was a pretty enjoyable book once they finally got to the moon. The stuff about the moon ecosystem and Selenite biology and society was the most interesting for me. It seems like this book has aged pretty well (with the exception of being set on the moon).

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