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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A TRIP TO VENUS *** Produced by Steven desJardins and Distributed Proofreaders. A TRIP TO VENUS A NOVEL BY JOHN MUNRO Author of the "The Wire and the Wave," "The Story of Electricity," etc., etc.
Published in 1897 by Jarrold & Sons, London
CONTENTS. CHAPTER I.
A MESSAGE FROM MARS CHAPTER II.
HOW CAN WE GET TO THE OTHER PLANETS? CHAPTER III.
A NEW FORCE CHAPTER IV.
THE ELECTRIC ORRERY CHAPTER V.
LEAVING THE EARTH CHAPTER VI.
IN SPACE CHAPTER VII.
ARRIVING IN VENUS CHAPTER VIII.
THE CRATER LAND CHAPTER IX.
THE FLOWER OF THE SOUL CHAPTER X.
ALUMION CHAPTER XI.
THE FLYING APE CHAPTER XII.
SUNWARD HO! CHAPTER XIII.
HOME AGAIN

"The heaven that rolls around cries aloud to you while it displays its eternal harmony, and yet your eyes are fixed upon the earth alone."

DANTE.


"This truth within thy mind rehearse,
 That in a boúndless universe
 Is boundless better, boundless worse.
"Think you this mould of hopes and fears
 Could find no statelier than his peers
 In yonder hundred million spheres?"
TENNYSON.

A TRIP TO VENUS.
CHAPTER I. A MESSAGE FROM MARS.

While I was glancing at the Times newspaper in a morning train for London my eyes fell on the following item:—

A STRANGE LIGHT ON MARS.—On Monday afternoon, Dr. Krueger, who is in charge of the central bureau at Kiel, telegraphed to his correspondents:—

"Projection lumineuse dans région australe du terminateur de Mars observée par Javelle 28 courant, 16 heures.—Perrotin."

In plain English, at 4 a.m., a ray of light had been observed on the disc of the planet Mars in or near the "terminator"; that is to say, the zone of twilight separating day from night. The news was doubly interesting to me, because a singular dream of "Sunrise in the Moon" had quickened my imagination as to the wonders of the universe beyond our little globe, and because of a never-to-be-forgotten experience of mine with an aged astronomer several years ago.

This extraordinary man, living the life of a recluse in his own observatory, which was situated in a lonely part of the country, had, or at any rate, believed that he had, opened up a communication with the inhabitants of Mars, by means of powerful electric lights, flashing in the manner of a signal-lantern or heliograph. I had set him down as a monomaniac; but who knows? perhaps he was not so crazy after all.

When evening came I turned to the books, and gathered a great deal about the fiery planet, including the fact that a stout man, a Daniel Lambert, could jump his own height there with the greatest ease. Very likely; but I was seeking information on the strange light, and as I could not find any I resolved to walk over and consult my old friend, Professor Gazen, the well-known astronomer, who had made his mark by a series of splendid researches with the spectroscope into the constitution of the sun and other celestial bodies.

It was a fine clear night. The sky was cloudless and of a deep dark blue, which revealed the highest heavens and the silvery lustre of the Milky Way. The great belt of Orion shone conspicuously in the east, and Sirius blazed a living gem more to the south. I looked for Mars, and soon found him farther to the north, a large red star, amongst the white of the encircling constellations.

Professor Gazen was quite alone in his observatory when I arrived, and busily engaged in writing or computing at his desk.

"I hope I'm not disturbing you," said I, as we shook hands; "I know that you astronomers must work when the fine night cometh."

"Don't mention it," he replied cordially; "I'm observing one of the nebulas just now, but it won't be in sight for a long time yet."

"What about this mysterious light on Mars. Have you seen anything of it?"

Gazen laughed.

"I have not," said he, "though I did look the other night."

"You believe that something of the kind has been seen?"

"Oh, certainly. The Nice Observatory, of which Monsieur Perrotin is director, has one of the finest telescopes in existence, and Monsieur Javelle is well-known for his careful work."

"How do you account for it?"

"The light is not outside the disc," responded Gazen, "else I should ascribe it to a small comet. It may be due to an aurora in Mars as a writer in Nature has suggested, or to a range of snowy Alps, or even to a bright cloud, reflecting the sunrise. Possibly the Martians have seen the forest fires in America, and started a rival illumination."

"What strikes you as the likeliest of these notions?"

"Mountain peaks catching the sunshine."

"Might it not be the glare of a city, or a powerful search-light—in short, a signal?"

"Oh dear, no," exclaimed the astronomer, smiling incredulously. "The idea of signalling has got into people's heads through the outcry raised about it some time ago, when Mars was in 'opposition' and near the earth. I suppose you are thinking of the plan for raising and lowering the lights of London to attract the notice of the Martians?"

"No; I believe I told you of the singular experience I had some five or six years ago with an old astronomer, who thought he had established an optical telegraph to Mars?"

"Oh, yes, I remember now. Ah, that poor old chap was insane. Like the astronomer in Rasselas, he had brooded so long in solitude over his visionary idea that he had come to imagine it a reality."

"Might there not be some truth in his notion? Perhaps he was only a little before his time."

Gazen shook his head.

"You see," he replied, "Mars is a much older planet than ours. In winter the Arctic snows extend to within forty degrees of the equator, and the climate must be very cold. If human beings ever existed on it they must have died out long ago, or sunk to the condition of the Eskimo."

"May not the climate be softened by conditions of land and sea unknown to us? May not the science and civilisation of the Martians enable them to cope with the low temperature?"

"The atmosphere of Mars is as rare as ours at a height of six miles, and a warm-blooded creature like man would expire in it."

"Like man, yes," I answered; "but man was made for this world. We are too apt to measure things by our own experience. Why should we limit the potentiality of life by what we know of this planet?"

"In the next place," went on Gazen, ignoring my remark, "the old astronomer's plan of signalling by strong lights was quite impracticable. No artificial light is capable of reaching to Mars. Think of the immense distance and the two atmospheres to penetrate! The man was mad, as mad as a March hare! though why a March hare is mad I'm sure I don't know."

"I read the other day of an electric light in America which can be seen 150 miles through the lower atmosphere. Such a light, if properly directed, might be visible on Mars; and, for aught we know, the Martians may have discovered a still stronger beam."

"And if they have, the odds against their signalling just when we are alive to the possibility of it are simply tremendous."

"I see nothing incredible in the coincidence. Two heads often conceive the same idea about the same time, and why not two planets, if the hour be ripe? Surely there is one and the same inspiring Soul in all the universe. Besides, they may have been signalling for centuries, off and on, without our knowing it."

"Then, again," said Gazen, with a pawky twinkle in his eye, "our electric light may have woke them up."

"Perhaps they are signalling now," said I, "while we are wasting precious time. I wish you would look."

"Yes, if you like; but I don't think you'll see any 'luminous projections,' human or otherwise."

"I shall see the face of Mars, anyhow, and that will be a rare experience. It seems to me that a view of the heavenly bodies through a fine telescope, as well as a tour round the world, should form a part of a liberal education. How many run to and fro upon the earth, hunting for sights at great trouble and expense, but how few even think of that sublimer scenery of the sky which can be seen without stirring far from home! A peep at some distant orb has power to raise and purify our thoughts like a strain of sacred music, or a noble picture, or a passage from the grander poets. It always does one good."

Professor Gazen silently turned the great refracting telescope in the direction of Mars, and peered attentively through its mighty tube for several minutes.

"Is there any light?" I inquired.

"None," he replied, shaking his head. "Look for yourself."

I took his place at the eye-piece, and was almost startled to find the little coppery star, which I had seen half-an-hour before, apparently quite near, and transformed into a large globe. It resembled a gibbous moon, for a considerable part of its disc was illuminated by the sun.

A dazzling spot marked one of its poles, and the rest of its visible surface was mottled with ruddy and greenish tints which faded into white at the rim. Fascinated by the spectacle of that living world, seen at a glance, and pursuing its appointed course through the illimitable ether, I forgot my quest, and a religious awe came over me akin to that felt under the dome of a vast cathedral.

"Well, what do you make of it?"

The voice recalled me to myself, and I began to scrutinise the dim and shadowy border of the terminator for the feeblest ray of light, but all in vain.

"I can't see any 'luminous projection'; but what a magnificent object in the telescope!"

"It is indeed," rejoined the professor, "and though we have not many opportunities of seeing it, we know it better than the other planets, and almost as well as the moon. Its features have been carefully mapped like those of the moon, and christened after celebrated astronomers."

"Yourself included, I hope."

"No, sir; I have not that honour. It is true that a man I know, an enthusiastic amateur in astronomy, dubbed a lot of holes and corners in the moon after his private friends and acquaintances, myself amongst them: 'Snook's Crater,' 'Smith's Bottom,' 'Tiddler's Cove,' and so on; but I regret to say the authorities declined to sanction his nomenclature."

"I presume that bright spot on the Southern limb is one of the polar ice-caps," said I, still keeping my eye on the planet.

"Yes," replied the professor, "and they are seen to wax and wane in winter and summer. The reddish-yellow tracts are doubtless continents of an ochrey soil; and not, as some think, of a ruddy vegetation. The greenish-grey patches are probably seas and lakes. The land and water are better mixed on Mars than on the earth—a fact which tends to equalise the climate. There is a belt of continents round the equator: 'Copernicus,' 'Galileo,' 'Dawes,' and others, having long winding lakes and inlets. These are separated by narrow seas from other islands on the north or south, such as: 'Haze Land, 'Storm Land,' and so forth, which occupy what we should call the temperate zones, beneath the poles; but I suspect they are frigid enough. If you look closely you will see some narrow streaks crossing the continents like fractures. These are the famous 'Canals' of Schiaparelli, who discovered (and I wish I had his eyes) that many of them were 'doubled,' that is, had another canal alongside. Some of these are nearly 2,000 miles long, by fifty miles broad, and 300 miles apart."

"That beats the Suez Canal."

"I am afraid they are not artificial. The doubling is chiefly observed at the vernal equinox, our month of May, and is perhaps due to spring floods, or vegetation in valleys of the like trend, as we find in Siberia. The massing of clouds or mists will account for the peculiar whiteness at the edge of the limb, and an occasional veiling of the landscape."

While he spoke, my attention was suddenly arrested by a vivid point of light which appeared on the dark side of the terminator, and south of the equator.

"Hallo!" I exclaimed, involuntarily. "There's a light!"

"Really!" responded Gazen, in a tone of surprise, not unmingled with doubt. "Are you sure?"

"Quite. There is a distinct light on one of the continents."

"Let me see it, will you?" he rejoined, hastily; and I yielded up my place to him.

"Why, so there is," he declared, after a pause. "I suspect it has been hidden under a

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