Save 50% buying all Angel Hamilton stories in one collection! Racy science fiction fantasy. A detective every client wants to seduce.
The Complete Angel Hamilton
Angel Hamilton is a detective who just can't keep out of trouble, or stay in money. Between girlfriends who are bloodsucking vampires, and unicorns that he has to fend off, he spends the rest of his time battling supernatural creatures called the Hellbound, whose sole mission in life is to destroy him and all humanity.
This is a collection of all six tales that have been written in the Angel Hamilton series.
Follow Angel from when he was used as an experiment that opened his mind and eyes to the supernatural that exists among us
Experience the challenges he faces when he has to help supernatural clients who are in trouble with the Hellbound who don't want to be noticed as they set about destroying human lives and will do anything to stop Angel from helping the innocent.
Had you bought all these stories individually, it would have cost you almost twice as much! But now you can get all of them in one bundle.
Sherlock Holmes: Beast of the North York Moors is coming to Amazon before the day is out! Only 99 cents.
Science Fiction short. "Duel on Syrtis" by Poul Anderson. Science Fiction Classic from Planet Stories and Project Guttenberg.
DUEL ON SYRTIS BY POUL ANDERSON
Bold and ruthless, he was famed throughout the System as a
big-game hunter. From the firedrakes of Mercury to the ice-crawlers of
Pluto, he'd slain them all. But his trophy-room lacked one item; and
now Riordan swore he'd bag the forbidden game that roamed the red
deserts ... a Martian!
* * * * *
The night whispered the message. Over the many miles of loneliness it
was borne, carried on the wind, rustled by the half-sentient lichens
and the dwarfed trees, murmured from one to another of the little
creatures that huddled under crags, in caves, by shadowy dunes. In no
words, but in a dim pulsing of dread which echoed through Kreega's
brain, the warning ran--
_They are hunting again._
Kreega shuddered in a sudden blast of wind. The night was enormous
around him, above him, from the iron bitterness of the hills to the
wheeling, glittering constellations light-years over his head. He
reached out with his trembling perceptions, tuning himself to the
brush and the wind and the small burrowing things underfoot, letting
the night speak to him.
Alone, alone. There was not another Martian for a hundred miles of
emptiness. There were only the tiny animals and the shivering brush
and the thin, sad blowing of the wind.
The voiceless scream of dying traveled through the brush, from plant
to plant, echoed by the fear-pulses of the animals and the ringingly
reflecting cliffs. They were curling, shriveling and blackening as the
rocket poured the glowing death down on them, and the withering veins
and nerves cried to the stars.
Kreega huddled against a tall gaunt crag. His eyes were like yellow
moons in the darkness, cold with terror and hate and a slowly
gathering resolution. Grimly, he estimated that the death was being
sprayed in a circle some ten miles across. And he was trapped in it,
and soon the hunter would come after him.
He looked up to the indifferent glitter of stars, and a shudder went
along his body. Then he sat down and began to think.
* * * * *
It had started a few days before, in the private office of the trader
"I came to Mars," said Riordan, "to get me an owlie."
Wisby had learned the value of a poker face. He peered across the rim
of his glass at the other man, estimating him.
Even in God-forsaken holes like Port Armstrong one had heard of
Riordan. Heir to a million-dollar shipping firm which he himself had
pyramided into a System-wide monster, he was equally well known as a
big game hunter. From the firedrakes of Mercury to the ice crawlers of
Pluto, he'd bagged them all. Except, of course, a Martian. That
particular game was forbidden now.
He sprawled in his chair, big and strong and ruthless, still a young
man. He dwarfed the unkempt room with his size and the hard-held
dynamo strength in him, and his cold green gaze dominated the trader.
"It's illegal, you know," said Wisby. "It's a twenty-year sentence if
you're caught at it."
"Bah! The Martian Commissioner is at Ares, halfway round the planet.
If we go at it right, who's ever to know?" Riordan gulped at his
drink. "I'm well aware that in another year or so they'll have
tightened up enough to make it impossible. This is the last chance for
any man to get an owlie. That's why I'm here."
Wisby hesitated, looking out the window. Port Armstrong was no more
than a dusty huddle of domes, interconnected by tunnels, in a red
waste of sand stretching to the near horizon. An Earthman in airsuit
and transparent helmet was walking down the street and a couple of
Martians were lounging against a wall. Otherwise nothing--a silent,
deadly monotony brooding under the shrunken sun. Life on Mars was not
especially pleasant for a human.
"You're not falling into this owlie-loving that's corrupted all
Earth?" demanded Riordan contemptuously.
"Oh, no," said Wisby. "I keep them in their place around my post. But
times are changing. It can't be helped."
"There was a time when they were slaves," said Riordan. "Now those old
women on Earth want to give 'em the vote." He snorted.
"Well, times are changing," repeated Wisby mildly. "When the first
humans landed on Mars a hundred years ago, Earth had just gone through
the Hemispheric Wars. The worst wars man had ever known. They damned
near wrecked the old ideas of liberty and equality. People were
suspicious and tough--they'd had to be, to survive. They weren't able
to--to empathize the Martians, or whatever you call it. Not able to
think of them as anything but intelligent animals. And Martians made
such useful slaves--they need so little food or heat or oxygen, they
can even live fifteen minutes or so without breathing at all. And the
wild Martians made fine sport--intelligent game, that could get away
as often as not, or even manage to kill the hunter."
"I know," said Riordan. "That's why I want to hunt one. It's no fun if
the game doesn't have a chance."
"It's different now," went on Wisby. "Earth has been at peace for a
long time. The liberals have gotten the upper hand. Naturally, one of
their first reforms was to end Martian slavery."
Riordan swore. The forced repatriation of Martians working on his
spaceships had cost him plenty. "I haven't time for your
philosophizing," he said. "If you can arrange for me to get a Martian,
I'll make it worth your while."
"How much worth it?" asked Wisby.
* * * * *
They haggled for a while before settling on a figure. Riordan had
brought guns and a small rocketboat, but Wisby would have to supply
radioactive material, a "hawk," and a rockhound. Then he had to be
paid for the risk of legal action, though that was small. The final
price came high.
"Now, where do I get my Martian?" inquired Riordan. He gestured at the
two in the street. "Catch one of them and release him in the desert?"
It was Wisby's turn to be contemptuous. "One of them? Hah! Town
loungers! A city dweller from Earth would give you a better fight."
The Martians didn't look impressive. They stood only some four feet
high on skinny, claw-footed legs, and the arms, ending in bony
four-fingered hands, were stringy. The chests were broad and deep, but
the waists were ridiculously narrow. They were viviparous,
warm-blooded, and suckled their young, but gray feathers covered their
hides. The round, hook-beaked heads, with huge amber eyes and tufted
feather ears, showed the origin of the name "owlie." They wore only
pouched belts and carried sheath knives; even the liberals of Earth
weren't ready to allow the natives modern tools and weapons. There
were too many old grudges.
"The Martians always were good fighters," said Riordan. "They wiped
out quite a few Earth settlements in the old days."
"The wild ones," agreed Wisby. "But not these. They're just stupid
laborers, as dependent on our civilization as we are. You want a real
old timer, and I know where one's to be found."
He spread a map on the desk. "See, here in the Hraefnian Hills, about
a hundred miles from here. These Martians live a long time, maybe two
centuries, and this fellow Kreega has been around since the first
Earthmen came. He led a lot of Martian raids in the early days, but
since the general amnesty and peace he's lived all alone up there, in
one of the old ruined towers. A real old-time warrior who hates
Earthmen's guts. He comes here once in a while with furs and minerals
to trade, so I know a little about him." Wisby's eyes gleamed
savagely. "You'll be doing us all a favor by shooting the arrogant
bastard. He struts around here as if the place belonged to him. And
he'll give you a run for your money."
Riordan's massive dark head nodded in satisfaction.
* * * * *
The man had a bird and a rockhound. That was bad. Without them, Kreega
could lose himself in the labyrinth of caves and canyons and scrubby
thickets--but the hound could follow his scent and the bird could spot
him from above.
To make matters worse, the man had landed near Kreega's tower. The
weapons were all there--now he was cut off, unarmed and alone save for
what feeble help the desert life could give. Unless he could double
back to the place somehow--but meanwhile he had to survive.
He sat in a cave, looking down past a tortured wilderness of sand and
bush and wind-carved rock, miles in the thin clear air to the glitter
of metal where the rocket lay. The man was a tiny speck in the huge
barren landscape, a lonely insect crawling under the deep-blue sky.
Even by day, the stars glistened in the tenuous atmosphere. Weak
pallid sunlight spilled over rocks tawny and ocherous and rust-red,
over the low dusty thorn-bushes and the gnarled little trees and the
sand that blew faintly between them. Equatorial Mars!
Lonely or not, the man had a gun that could spang death clear to the
horizon, and he had his beasts, and there would be a radio in the
rocketboat for calling his fellows. And the glowing death ringed them
in, a charmed circle which Kreega could not cross without bringing a
worse death on himself than the rifle would give--
Or was there a worse death than that--to be shot by a monster and have
his stuffed hide carried back as a trophy for fools to gape at? The
old iron pride of his race rose in Kreega, hard and bitter and
unrelenting. He didn't ask much of life these days--solitude in his
tower to think the long thoughts of a Martian and create the small
exquisite artworks which he loved; the company of his kind at the
Gathering Season, grave ancient ceremony and acrid merriment and the
chance to beget and rear sons; an occasional trip to the Earthling
settling for the metal goods and the wine which were the only valuable
things they had brought to Mars; a vague dream of raising his folk to
a place where they could stand as equals before all the universe. No
more. And now they would take even this from him!
He rasped a curse on the human and resumed his patient work, chipping
a spearhead for what puny help it could give him. The brush rustled
dryly in alarm, tiny hidden animals squeaked their terror, the desert
shouted to him of the monster that strode toward his cave. But he
didn't have to flee right away.
* * * * *
Riordan sprayed the heavy-metal isotope in a ten-mile circle around
the old tower. He did that by night, just in case patrol craft might
be snooping around. But once he had landed, he was safe--he could
always claim to be peacefully exploring, hunting leapers or some such
The radioactive had a half-life of about four days, which meant that
it would be unsafe to approach for some three weeks--two at the
minimum. That was time enough, when the Martian was boxed in so small
There was no danger that he would try to cross it. The owlies had
learned what radioactivity meant, back when they fought the humans.
And their vision, extending well into the ultra-violet, made it
directly visible to them through its fluorescence--to say nothing of
the wholly unhuman extra senses they had. No, Kreega would try to
hide, and perhaps to fight, and eventually he'd be cornered.
Still, there was no use taking chances. Riordan set a timer on the
boat's radio. If he didn't come back within two weeks to turn it off,
it would emit a signal which Wisby would hear, and he'd be rescued.
He checked his other equipment. He had an airsuit designed for Martian
conditions, with a small pump operated by a power-beam from the boat
to compress the atmosphere sufficiently for him to breathe it. The
same unit recovered enough water from his breath so that the weight of
supplies for several days was, in Martian gravity, not too great for
him to bear. He had a .45 rifle built to shoot in Martian air, that
was heavy enough for his purposes. And, of course, compass and
binoculars and sleeping bag. Pretty light equipment, but he preferred
a minimum anyway.
For ultimate emergencies there was the little tank of suspensine. By
turning a valve, he could release it into his air system. The gas
didn't exactly induce suspended animation, but it paralyzed efferent
nerves and slowed the overall metabolism to a point where a man could
live for weeks on one lungful of air. It was useful in surgery, and
had saved the life of more than one interplanetary explorer whose
oxygen system went awry. But Riordan didn't expect to have to use it.
He certainly hoped he wouldn't. It would be tedious to lie fully
conscious for days waiting for the automatic signal to call Wisby.
He stepped out of the boat and locked it. No danger that the owlie
would break in if he should double back; it would take tordenite to
crack that hull.
He whistled to his animals. They were native beasts, long ago
domesticated by the Martians and later by man. The rockhound was like
a gaunt wolf, but huge-breasted and feathered, a tracker as good as
any Terrestrial bloodhound. The "hawk" had less resemblance to its
counterpart of Earth: it was a bird of prey, but in the tenuous
atmosphere it needed a six-foot wingspread to lift its small body.
Riordan was pleased with their training.
The hound bayed, a low quavering note which would have been muffled
almost to inaudibility by the thin air and the man's plastic helmet
had the suit not included microphones and amplifiers. It circled,
sniffing, while the hawk rose into the alien sky.
Riordan did not look closely at the tower. It was a crumbling stump
atop a rusty hill, unhuman and grotesque. Once, perhaps ten thousand
years ago, the Martians had had a civilization of sorts, cities and
agriculture and a neolithic technology. But according to their own
traditions they had achieved a union or symbiosis with the wild life
of the planet and had abandoned such mechanical aids as unnecessary.
The hound bayed again. The noise seemed to hang eerily in the still,
cold air; to shiver from cliff and crag and die reluctantly under the
enormous silence. But it was a bugle call, a haughty challenge to a
world grown old--stand aside, make way, here comes the conqueror!
The animal suddenly loped forward. He had a scent. Riordan swung into
a long, easy low-gravity stride. His eyes gleamed like green ice. The
hunt was begun!
* * * * *
Breath sobbed in Kreega's lungs, hard and quick and raw. His legs felt
weak and heavy, and the thudding of his heart seemed to shake his
Still he ran, while the frightful clamor rose behind him and the
padding of feet grew ever nearer. Leaping, twisting, bounding from
crag to crag, sliding down shaly ravines and slipping through clumps
of trees, Kreega fled.
The hound was behind him and the hawk soaring overhead. In a day and a
night they had driven him to this, running like a crazed leaper with
death baying at his heels--he had not imagined a human could move so
fast or with such endurance.
The desert fought for him; the plants with their queer blind life that
no Earthling would ever understand were on his side. Their thorny
branches twisted away as he darted through and then came back to rake
the flanks of the hound, slow him--but they could not stop his brutal
rush. He ripped past their strengthless clutching fingers and yammered
on the trail of the Martian.
The human was toiling a good mile behind, but showed no sign of
tiring. Still Kreega ran. He had to reach the cliff edge before the
hunter saw him through his rifle sights--had to, had to, and the hound
was snarling a yard behind now.
Up the long slope he went. The hawk fluttered, striking at him,
seeking to lay beak and talons in his head. He batted at the creature
with his spear and dodged around a tree. The tree snaked out a branch
from which the hound rebounded, yelling till the rocks rang.
The Martian burst onto the edge of the cliff. It fell sheer to the
canyon floor, five hundred feet of iron-streaked rock tumbling into
windy depths. Beyond, the lowering sun glared in his eyes. He paused
only an instant, etched black against the sky, a perfect shot if the
human should come into view, and then he sprang over the edge.
He had hoped the rockhound would go shooting past, but the animal
braked itself barely in time. Kreega went down the cliff face, clawing
into every tiny crevice, shuddering as the age-worn rock crumbled
under his fingers. The hawk swept close, hacking at him and screaming
for its master. He couldn't fight it, not with every finger and toe
needed to hang against shattering death, but--
He slid along the face of the precipice into a gray-green clump of
vines, and his nerves thrilled forth the appeal of the ancient
symbiosis. The hawk swooped again and he lay unmoving, rigid as if
dead, until it cried in shrill triumph and settled on his shoulder to
pluck out his eyes.
Then the vines stirred. They weren't strong, but their thorns sank
into the flesh and it couldn't pull loose. Kreega toiled on down into
the canyon while the vines pulled the hawk apart.
Riordan loomed hugely against the darkening sky. He fired, once,
twice, the bullets humming wickedly close, but as shadows swept up
from the depths the Martian was covered.
The man turned up his speech amplifier and his voice rolled and boomed
monstrously through the gathering night, thunder such as dry Mars had
not heard for millennia: "Score one for you! But it isn't enough! I'll
The sun slipped below the horizon and night came down like a falling
curtain. Through the darkness Kreega heard the man laughing. The old
rocks trembled with his laughter.
* * * * *
Riordan was tired with the long chase and the niggling insufficiency
of his oxygen supply. He wanted a smoke and hot food, and neither was
to be had. Oh, well, he'd appreciate the luxuries of life all the more
when he got home--with the Martian's skin.
He grinned as he made camp. The little fellow was a worthwhile quarry,
that was for damn sure. He'd held out for two days now, in a little
ten-mile circle of ground, and he'd even killed the hawk. But Riordan
was close enough to him now so that the hound could follow his spoor,
for Mars had no watercourses to break a trail. So it didn't matter.
He lay watching the splendid night of stars. It would get cold before
long, unmercifully cold, but his sleeping bag was a good-enough
insulator to keep him warm with the help of solar energy stored during
the day by its Gergen cells. Mars was dark at night, its moons of
little help--Phobos a hurtling speck, Deimos merely a bright star.
Dark and cold and empty. The rockhound had burrowed into the loose
sand nearby, but it would raise the alarm if the Martian should come
sneaking near the camp. Not that that was likely--he'd have to find
shelter somewhere too, if he didn't want to freeze.
_The bushes and the trees and the little furtive animals whispered a
word he could not hear, chattered and gossiped on the wind about the
Martian who kept himself warm with work. But he didn't understand that
language which was no language._
Drowsily, Riordan thought of past hunts. The big game of Earth, lion
and tiger and elephant and buffalo and sheep on the high sun-blazing
peaks of the Rockies. Rain forests of Venus and the coughing roar of a
many-legged swamp monster crashing through the trees to the place
where he stood waiting. Primitive throb of drums in a hot wet night,
chant of beaters dancing around a fire--scramble along the hell-plains
of Mercury with a swollen sun licking against his puny insulating
suit--the grandeur and desolation of Neptune's liquid-gas swamps and
the huge blind thing that screamed and blundered after him--
But this was the loneliest and strangest and perhaps most dangerous
hunt of all, and on that account the best. He had no malice toward the
Martian; he respected the little being's courage as he respected the
bravery of the other animals he had fought. Whatever trophy he brought
home from this chase would be well earned.
The fact that his success would have to be treated discreetly didn't
matter. He hunted less for the glory of it--though he had to admit he
didn't mind the publicity--than for love. His ancestors had fought
under one name or another--viking, Crusader, mercenary, rebel,
patriot, whatever was fashionable at the moment. Struggle was in his
blood, and in these degenerate days there was little to struggle
against save what he hunted.
Well--tomorrow--he drifted off to sleep.
* * * * *
He woke in the short gray dawn, made a quick breakfast, and whistled
his hound to heel. His nostrils dilated with excitement, a high keen
drunkenness that sang wonderfully within him. Today--maybe today!
They had to take a roundabout way down into the canyon and the hound
cast about for an hour before he picked up the scent. Then the
deep-voiced cry rose again and they were off--more slowly now, for it
was a cruel stony trail.
The sun climbed high as they worked along the ancient river-bed. Its
pale chill light washed needle-sharp crags and fantastically painted
cliffs, shale and sand and the wreck of geological ages. The low harsh
brush crunched under the man's feet, writhing and crackling its
impotent protest. Otherwise it was still, a deep and taut and somehow
The hound shattered the quiet with an eager yelp and plunged forward.
Hot scent! Riordan dashed after him, trampling through dense bush,
panting and swearing and grinning with excitement.
Suddenly the brush opened underfoot. With a howl of dismay, the hound
slid down the sloping wall of the pit it had covered. Riordan flung
himself forward with tigerish swiftness, flat down on his belly with
one hand barely catching the animal's tail. The shock almost pulled
him into the hole too. He wrapped one arm around a bush that clawed at
his helmet and pulled the hound back.
Shaking, he peered into the trap. It had been well made--about twenty
feet deep, with walls as straight and narrow as the sand would allow,
and skillfully covered with brush. Planted in the bottom were three
wicked-looking flint spears. Had he been a shade less quick in his
reactions, he would have lost the hound and perhaps himself.
He skinned his teeth in a wolf-grin and looked around. The owlie must
have worked all night on it. Then he couldn't be far away--and he'd be
As if to answer his thoughts, a boulder crashed down from the nearer
cliff wall. It was a monster, but a falling object on Mars has less
than half the acceleration it does on Earth. Riordan scrambled aside
as it boomed onto the place where he had been lying.
"Come on!" he yelled, and plunged toward the cliff.
For an instant a gray form loomed over the edge, hurled a spear at
him. Riordan snapped a shot at it, and it vanished. The spear glanced
off the tough fabric of his suit and he scrambled up a narrow ledge to
the top of the precipice.
The Martian was nowhere in sight, but a faint red trail led into the
rugged hill country. _Winged him, by God!_ The hound was slower in
negotiating the shale-covered trail; his own feet were bleeding when
he came up. Riordan cursed him and they set out again.
They followed the trail for a mile or two and then it ended. Riordan
looked around the wilderness of trees and needles which blocked view
in any direction. Obviously the owlie had backtracked and climbed up
one of those rocks, from which he could take a flying leap to some
other point. But which one?
Sweat which he couldn't wipe off ran down the man's face and body. He
itched intolerably, and his lungs were raw from gasping at his dole of
air. But still he laughed in gusty delight. What a chase! What a
* * * * *
Kreega lay in the shadow of a tall rock and shuddered with weariness.
Beyond the shade, the sunlight danced in what to him was a blinding,
intolerable dazzle, hot and cruel and life-hungry, hard and bright as
the metal of the conquerors.
It had been a mistake to spend priceless hours when he might have been
resting working on that trap. It hadn't worked, and he might have
known that it wouldn't. And now he was hungry, and thirst was like a
wild beast in his mouth and throat, and still they followed him.
They weren't far behind now. All this day they had been dogging him;
he had never been more than half an hour ahead. No rest, no rest, a
devil's hunt through a tormented wilderness of stone and sand, and now
he could only wait for the battle with an iron burden of exhaustion
laid on him.
The wound in his side burned. It wasn't deep, but it had cost him
blood and pain and the few minutes of catnapping he might have
For a moment, the warrior Kreega was gone and a lonely, frightened
infant sobbed in the desert silence. _Why can't they let me alone?_
A low, dusty-green bush rustled. A sandrunner piped in one of the
ravines. They were getting close.
Wearily, Kreega scrambled up on top of the rock and crouched low. He
had backtracked to it; they should by rights go past him toward his
He could see it from here, a low yellow ruin worn by the winds of
millennia. There had only been time to dart in, snatch a bow and a few
arrows and an axe. Pitiful weapons--the arrows could not penetrate
the Earthman's suit when there was only a Martian's thin grasp to draw
the bow, and even with a steel head the axe was a small and feeble
thing. But it was all he had, he and his few little allies of a desert
which fought only to keep its solitude.
Repatriated slaves had told him of the Earthlings' power. Their
roaring machines filled the silence of their own deserts, gouged the
quiet face of their own moon, shook the planets with a senseless fury
of meaningless energy. They were the conquerors, and it never occurred
to them that an ancient peace and stillness could be worth preserving.
Well--he fitted an arrow to the string and crouched in the silent,
flimmering sunlight, waiting.
The hound came first, yelping and howling. Kreega drew the bow as far
as he could. But the human had to come near first--
There he came, running and bounding over the rocks, rifle in hand and
restless eyes shining with taut green light, closing in for the death.
Kreega swung softly around. The beast was beyond the rock now, the
Earthman almost below it.
The bow twanged. With a savage thrill, Kreega saw the arrow go through
the hound, saw the creature leap in the air and then roll over and
over, howling and biting at the thing in its breast.
Like a gray thunderbolt, the Martian launched himself off the rock,
down at the human. If his axe could shatter that helmet--
He struck the man and they went down together. Wildly, the Martian
hewed. The axe glanced off the plastic--he hadn't had room for a
swing. Riordan roared and lashed out with a fist. Retching, Kreega
Riordan snapped a shot at him. Kreega turned and fled. The man got to
one knee, sighting carefully on the gray form that streaked up the
A little sandsnake darted up the man's leg and wrapped about his
wrist. Its small strength was just enough to pull the gun aside. The
bullet screamed past Kreega's ear as he vanished into a cleft.
He felt the thin death-agony of the snake as the man pulled it loose
and crushed it underfoot. Somewhat later, he heard a dull boom echoing
between the hills. The man had gotten explosives from his boat and
blown up the tower.
He had lost axe and bow. Now he was utterly weaponless, without even a
place to retire for a last stand. And the hunter would not give up.
Even without his animals, he would follow, more slowly but as
relentlessly as before.
Kreega collapsed on a shelf of rock. Dry sobbing racked his thin body,
and the sunset wind cried with him.
Presently he looked up, across a red and yellow immensity to the low
sun. Long shadows were creeping over the land, peace and stillness for
a brief moment before the iron cold of night closed down. Somewhere
the soft trill of a sandrunner echoed between low wind-worn cliffs,
and the brush began to speak, whispering back and forth in its ancient
The desert, the planet and its wind and sand under the high cold
stars, the clean open land of silence and loneliness and a destiny
which was not man's, spoke to him. The enormous oneness of life on
Mars, drawn together against the cruel environment, stirred in his
blood. As the sun went down and the stars blossomed forth in awesome
frosty glory, Kreega began to think again.
He did not hate his persecutor, but the grimness of Mars was in him.
He fought the war of all which was old and primitive and lost in its
own dreams against the alien and the desecrator. It was as ancient and
pitiless as life, that war, and each battle won or lost meant
something even if no one ever heard of it.
_You do not fight alone_, whispered the desert. _You fight for all
Mars, and we are with you._
Something moved in the darkness, a tiny warm form running across his
hand, a little feathered mouse-like thing that burrowed under the sand
and lived its small fugitive life and was glad in its own way of
living. But it was a part of a world, and Mars has no pity in its
Still, a tenderness was within Kreega's heart, and he whispered gently
in the language that was not a language, _You will do this for us? You
will do it, little brother?_
* * * * *
Riordan was too tired to sleep well. He had lain awake for a long
time, thinking, and that is not good for a man alone in the Martian
So now the rockhound was dead too. It didn't matter, the owlie
wouldn't escape. But somehow the incident brought home to him the
immensity and the age and the loneliness of the desert.
It whispered to him. The brush rustled and something wailed in
darkness and the wind blew with a wild mournful sound over faintly
starlit cliffs, and it was as if they all somehow had voice, as if the
whole world muttered and threatened him in the night. Dimly, he
wondered if man would ever subdue Mars, if the human race had not
finally run across something bigger than itself.
But that was nonsense. Mars was old and worn-out and barren, dreaming
itself into slow death. The tramp of human feet, shouts of men and
roar of sky-storming rockets, were waking it, but to a new destiny, to
man's. When Ares lifted its hard spires above the hills of Syrtis,
where then were the ancient gods of Mars?
It was cold, and the cold deepened as the night wore on. The stars
were fire and ice, glittering diamonds in the deep crystal dark. Now
and then he could hear a faint snapping borne through the earth as
rock or tree split open. The wind laid itself to rest, sound froze to
death, there was only the hard clear starlight falling through space
to shatter on the ground.
Once something stirred. He woke from a restless sleep and saw a small
thing skittering toward him. He groped for the rifle beside his
sleeping bag, then laughed harshly. It was only a sandmouse. But it
proved that the Martian had no chance of sneaking up on him while he
He didn't laugh again. The sound had echoed too hollowly in his
With the clear bitter dawn he was up. He wanted to get the hunt over
with. He was dirty and unshaven inside the unit, sick of iron rations
pushed through the airlock, stiff and sore with exertion. Lacking the
hound, which he'd had to shoot, tracking would be slow, but he didn't
want to go back to Port Armstrong for another. No, hell take that
Martian, he'd have the devil's skin soon!
Breakfast and a little moving made him feel better. He looked with a
practiced eye for the Martian's trail. There was sand and brush over
everything, even the rocks had a thin coating of their own erosion.
The owlie couldn't cover his tracks perfectly--if he tried, it would
slow him too much. Riordan fell into a steady jog.
Noon found him on higher ground, rough hills with gaunt needles of
rock reaching yards into the sky. He kept going, confident of his own
ability to wear down the quarry. He'd run deer to earth back home, day
after day until the animal's heart broke and it waited quivering for
him to come.
The trail looked clear and fresh now. He tensed with the knowledge
that the Martian couldn't be far away.
Too clear! Could this be bait for another trap? He hefted the rifle
and proceeded more warily. But no, there wouldn't have been time--
He mounted a high ridge and looked over the grim, fantastic landscape.
Near the horizon he saw a blackened strip, the border of his
radioactive barrier. The Martian couldn't go further, and if he
doubled back Riordan would have an excellent chance of spotting him.
He tuned up his speaker and let his voice roar into the stillness:
"Come out, owlie! I'm going to get you, you might as well come out now
and be done with it!"
The echoes took it up, flying back and forth between the naked crags,
trembling and shivering under the brassy arch of sky. _Come out, come
out, come out--_
The Martian seemed to appear from thin air, a gray ghost rising out of
the jumbled stones and standing poised not twenty feet away. For an
instant, the shock of it was too much; Riordan gaped in disbelief.
Kreega waited, quivering ever so faintly as if he were a mirage.
Then the man shouted and lifted his rifle. Still the Martian stood
there as if carved in gray stone, and with a shock of disappointment
Riordan thought that he had, after all, decided to give himself to an
Well, it had been a good hunt. "So long," whispered Riordan, and
squeezed the trigger.
Since the sandmouse had crawled into the barrel, the gun exploded.
* * * * *
Riordan heard the roar and saw the barrel peel open like a rotten
banana. He wasn't hurt, but as he staggered back from the shock Kreega
lunged at him.
The Martian was four feet tall, and skinny and weaponless, but he hit
the Earthling like a small tornado. His legs wrapped around the man's
waist and his hands got to work on the airhose.
Riordan went down under the impact. He snarled, tigerishly, and
fastened his hands on the Martian's narrow throat. Kreega snapped
futilely at him with his beak. They rolled over in a cloud of dust.
The brush began to chatter excitedly.
Riordan tried to break Kreega's neck--the Martian twisted away, bored
With a shock of horror, the man heard the hiss of escaping air as
Kreega's beak and fingers finally worried the airhose loose. An
automatic valve clamped shut, but there was no connection with the
Riordan cursed, and got his hands about the Martian's throat again.
Then he simply lay there, squeezing, and not all Kreega's writhing and
twistings could break that grip.
Riordan smiled sleepily and held his hands in place. After five
minutes or so Kreega was still. Riordan kept right on throttling him
for another five minutes, just to make sure. Then he let go and
fumbled at his back, trying to reach the pump.
The air in his suit was hot and foul. He couldn't quite reach around
to connect the hose to the pump--
_Poor design_, he thought vaguely. _But then, these airsuits weren't
meant for battle armor._
He looked at the slight, silent form of the Martian. A faint breeze
ruffled the gray feathers. What a fighter the little guy had been!
He'd be the pride of the trophy room, back on Earth.
Let's see now--He unrolled his sleeping bag and spread it carefully
out. He'd never make it to the rocket with what air he had, so it was
necessary to let the suspensine into his suit. But he'd have to get
inside the bag, lest the nights freeze his blood solid.
He crawled in, fastening the flaps carefully, and opened the valve on
the suspensine tank. Lucky he had it--but then, a good hunter thinks
of everything. He'd get awfully bored, lying here till Wisby caught
the signal in ten days or so and came to find him, but he'd last. It
would be an experience to remember. In this dry air, the Martian's
skin would keep perfectly well.
He felt the paralysis creep up on him, the waning of heartbeat and
lung action. His senses and mind were still alive, and he grew aware
that complete relaxation has its unpleasant aspects. Oh, well--he'd
won. He'd killed the wiliest game with his own hands.
Presently Kreega sat up. He felt himself gingerly. There seemed to be
a rib broken--well, that could be fixed. He was still alive. He'd been
choked for a good ten minutes, but a Martian can last fifteen without
He opened the sleeping bag and got Riordan's keys. Then he limped
slowly back to the rocket. A day or two of experimentation taught him
how to fly it. He'd go to his kinsmen near Syrtis. Now that they had
an Earthly machine, and Earthly weapons to copy--
But there was other business first. He didn't hate Riordan, but Mars
is a hard world. He went back and dragged the Earthling into a cave
and hid him beyond all possibility of human search parties finding
For a while he looked into the man's eyes. Horror stared dumbly back
at him. He spoke slowly, in halting English: "For those you killed,
and for being a stranger on a world that does not want you, and
against the day when Mars is free, I leave you."
Before departing, he got several oxygen tanks from the boat and hooked
them into the man's air supply. That was quite a bit of air for one in
suspended animation. Enough to keep him alive for a thousand years.
Coming Soon. Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Hall of Darkness. They met their death when they decided to deceive themselves.
Just a tentative cover for the new story.
But the story is complete.
Will publish before the week is over.
Working now on a second Sherlock Holmes tale as well.
Let you know what the title is once I have the story where I want it to be.
Also, in the editing phase of an exciting series of novelettes/novels about a team of scientists that have devised a way to travel to different points in time and space, but accidentally discover that all the points in time and space are not necessarily as real as they would like them to be.
For those who prefer their text on the screen. Here is the written version of the classic story.
Happy Holidays everyone!
The buying of orchids always has in it a certain speculative flavour. You have before you the brown shrivelled lump of tissue, and for the rest you must trust your judgment, or the auctioneer, or your good-luck, as your taste may incline. The plant may be moribund or dead, or it may be just a respectable purchase, fair value for your money, or perhaps - for the thing has happened again and again - there slowly unfolds before the delighted eyes of the happy purchaser, day after day, some new variety, some novel richness, a strange twist of the labellum, or some subtler coloration or unexpected mimicry.
Pride, beauty, and profit blossom together on one delicate green spike, and it may be, even immortality. For the new miracle of Nature may stand in need of a new specific name, and what so convenient as that of its discoverer? "Johnsmithia!" There have been worse names.
It was perhaps the hope of some such happy discovery that made Winter-Wedderburn such a frequent attendant at these sales - that hope, and also, maybe, the fact that he had nothing else of the slightest interest to do in the world. He was a shy, lonely, rather ineffectual man, provided with just enough income to keep off the spur of necessity, and not enough nervous energy to make him seek any exacting employments. He might have collected stamps or coins, or translated Horace, or bound books, or invented new species of diatoms. But, as it happened, he grew orchids, and had one ambitious little hothouse.
"I have a fancy," he said over his coffee, "that something is going to happen to me today."
He spoke - as he moved and thought - slowly.
"Oh, don't say THAT!" said his housekeeper, who was also his remote cousin. For "something happening" was a euphemism that meant only one thing to her.
"You misunderstand me. I mean nothing unpleasant...though what I do mean I scarcely know."
"Today," he continued, after a pause, "Peters' are going to sell a batch of plants from the Andamans and the Indies. I shall go up and see what they have. It may be I shall buy something good, unawares. That may be it."
He passed his cup for his second cupful of coffee.
"Are these the things collected by that poor young fellow you told me of the other day?" asked his cousin as she filled his cup.
"Yes," he said, and became meditative over a piece of toast.
"Nothing ever does happen to me," he remarked presently, beginning to think aloud. "I wonder why? Things enough happen to other people. There is Harvey. Only the other week, on Monday he picked up sixpence, on Wednesday his chicks all had the staggers, on Friday his cousin came home from Australia, and on Saturday he broke his ankle. What a whirl of excitement - compared to me."
"I think I would rather be without so much excitement," said his housekeeper. "It can't be good for you."
"I suppose it's troublesome. Still...you see, nothing ever happens to me. When I was a little boy I never had accidents. I never fell in love as I grew up. Never married...I wonder how it feels to have something happen to you, something really remarkable."
"That orchid-collector was only thirty-six-twenty years younger than myself when he died. And he had been married twice, and divorced once; he had had malarial fever four times, and once he broke his thigh. He killed a Malay once, and once he was wounded by a poisoned dart. And in the end he was killed by jungle-leeches. It must have all been very troublesome, but then it must have been very interesting, you know, except, perhaps, the leeches."
"I am sure it was not good for him," said the lady, with conviction.
"Perhaps not." And then Wedderburn looked at his watch. "Twenty-three minutes past eight. I am going up by the quarter to twelve train, so that there is plenty of time. I think I shall wear my alpaca jacket - it is quite warm enough - and my grey felt hat and brown shoes. I suppose---"
He glanced out of the window at the serene sky and sunlit garden, and then nervously at his cousin's face.
"I think you had better take an umbrella if you are going to London," she said, in a voice that admitted of no denial. "There's all between here and the station coming back."
When he returned he was in a state of mild excitement. He had made a purchase. It was rarely that he could make up his mind quickly enough to buy, but this time he had done so.
"There are Vandas," he said, "and a Dendrobe and some Palaeonophis." He surveyed his purchases lovingly as he consumed his soup. They were laid out on the spotless tablecloth before him, and he was telling his cousin all about them as he slowly meandered through his dinner. It was his custom to live all his visits to London over again in the evening for her and his own entertainment.
"I knew something would happen today. And I have bought all these. Some of them - some of them - I feel sure, do you know, that some of them will be remarkable. I don't know how it is, but I feel just as sure as if someone had told me that some of these will turn out remarkable."
"That one" - he pointed to a shrivelled rhizome - "was not identified. It may be a Palaeonophis - or it may not. It may be a new species, or even a new genus. And it was the last that poor Batten ever collected."
"I don't like the look of it," said his housekeeper. "It`s such an ugly shape."
"To me it scarcely seems to have a shape."
"I don't like those things that stick out," said his housekeeper.
"It shall be put away in a pot tomorrow."
"It looks," said the housekeeper, "like a spider shamming dead."
Wedderburn smiled and surveyed the root with his head on one side. "It is certainly not a pretty lump of stuff. But you can never judge of these things from their dry appearance. It may turn out to be a very beautiful orchid indeed. How busy I shall be tomorrow! I must see tonight just exactly what to do with these things, and tomorrow I shall set to work.
They found poor Batten lying dead, or dying, in a mangrove swamp - I forget which," he began again presently, "with one of these very orchids crushed up under his body. He had been unwell for some days with some kind of native fever, and I suppose he fainted. These mangrove swamps are very unwholesome. Every drop of blood, they say, was taken out of him by the jungle-leeches. It may be that very plant that cost him his life to obtain."
"I think none the better of it for that."
"Men must work though women may weep," said Wedderburn, with profound gravity.
"Fancy dying away from every comfort in a nasty swamp! Fancy being ill of fever with nothing to take but chlorodyne and quinine - if men were left to themselves they would live on chlorodyne and quinine - and no one round you but horrible natives! They say the Andaman islanders are most disgusting wretches - and, anyhow, they can scarcely make good nurses, not having the necessary training. And just for people in England to have orchids!"
"I don't suppose it was comfortable, but some men seem to enjoy that kind of thing," said Wedderburn. "Anyhow, the natives of his party were sufficiently civilized to take care of all his collection until his colleague, who was an ornithologist, came back again from the interior; though they could not tell the species of the orchid and had let it wither. And it makes these things more interesting."
"It makes them disgusting. I should be afraid of some of the malaria clinging to them. And just think, there has been a dead body lying across that ugly thing! I never thought of that before. There! I declare I cannot eat another mouthful of dinner!"
"I will take them off the table if you like, and put them in the windowseat. I can see them just as well there."
The next few days he was indeed singularly busy in his steamy little hot-house, fussing about with charcoal, lumps of teak, moss, and all the other mysteries of the orchid cultivator. He considered he was having a wonderfully eventful time. In the evening he would talk about these new orchids to his friends, and over and over again he reverted to his expectation of something strange.
Several of the Vandas and the Dendrobium died under his care, but presently the strange orchid began to show signs of life. He was delighted and took his housekeeper right away from jam-making to see it at once, directly he made the discovery.
"That is a bud," he said, "and presently there will be a lot of leaves there, and those little things coming out here are aerial rootlets."
"They look to me like little white fingers poking out of the brown," said his housekeeper. "I don't like them."
"I don't know. They look like fingers trying to get at you. I can't help my likes and dislikes."
"I don't know for certain, but I don't THINK there are any orchids I know that have aerial rootlets quite like that. It may be my fancy, of course. You see they are a little flattened at the ends."
"I don't like 'em," said his housekeeper, suddenly shivering and turning away. "I know it's very silly of me - and I'm very sorry, particularly as you like the thing so much. But I can't help thinking of that corpse."
"But it may not be that particular plant. That was merely a guess of mine."
His housekeeper shrugged her shoulders. "Anyhow I don't like it," she said.
Wedderburn felt a little hurt at her dislike to the plant. But that did not prevent his talking to her about orchids generally, and this orchid in particular, whenever he felt inclined.
"There are such queer things about orchids," he said one day; "such possibilities of surprises. You know, Darwin studied their fertilisation, and showed that the whole structure of an ordinary orchid flower was contrived in order that moths might carry the pollen from plant to plant. Well, it seems that there are lots of orchids known the flower of which cannot possibly be used for fertilisation in that way. Some of the Cypripediums, for instance; there are no insects known that can possibly fertilise them, and some of them have never been found with seed."
"But how do they form new plants?"
"By runners and tubers, and that kind of outgrowth. That is easily explained. The puzzle is, what are the flowers for?"
"Very likely," he added, "MY orchid may be something extraordinary in that way. If so, I shall study it. I have often thought of making researches as Darwin did. But hitherto I have not found the time, or something else has happened to prevent it. The leaves are beginning to unfold now. I do wish you would come and see them!"
But she said that the orchid-house was so hot it gave her the headache. She had seen the plant once again, and the aerial rootlets, which were now some of them more than a foot long, had unfortunately reminded her of tentacles reaching out after something; and they got into her dreams, growing after her with incredible rapidity. So that she had settled to her entire satisfaction that she would not see that plant again, and Wedderburn had to admire its leaves alone. They were of the ordinary broad form, and deep, glossy green, with splashes and dots of deep red towards the base. He knew of no other leaves quite like them.
The plant was placed on a low bench near the thermometer, and close by was a simple arrangement by which a tap dripped on the hot-water pipes and kept the air steamy. And he spent his afternoons now with some regularity meditating on the approaching flowering of this strange plant.
And at last the great thing happened. Directly he entered the little glass house he knew that the spike had burst out, although his great Palaeonophis Lowii hid the corner where his new darling stood There was a new odour in the air - a rich, intensely sweet scent, that overpowered every other in that crowded, steaming little greenhouse.
Directly he noticed this he hurried down to the strange orchid. And, behold! the trailing green spikes bore now three great splashes of blossom, from which this overpowering sweetness proceeded. He stopped before them in an ecstasy of admiration.
The flowers were white, with streaks of golden orange upon the petals; the heavy labellum was coiled into an intricate projection, and a wonderful bluish purple mingled there with the gold. He could see at once that the genus was altogether a new one. And the insufferable scent! How hot the place was! The blossoms swam before his eyes.
He would see if the temperature was right. He made a step towards the thermometer. Suddenly everything appeared unsteady. The bricks on the floor were dancing up and down. Then the white blossoms, the green leaves behind them, the whole green house, seemed to sweep sideways, and then in a curve upward.
* * * * * * * * * * *
At half-past four his cousin made the tea, according to their invariable custom But Wedderburn did not come in for his tea.
"He is worshipping that horrid orchid," she told herself, and waited ten minutes. "His watch must have stopped. I will go and call him."
She went straight to the hothouse, and, opening the door, called his name. There was no reply. She noticed that the air was very close, and loaded with an intense perfume. Then she saw something lying on the bricks between the hotwater pipes.
For a minute, perhaps, she stood motionless.
He was lying, face upward, at the foot of the strange orchid. The tentacle-like aerial rootlets no longer swayed freely in the air, but were crowded together, a tangle of grey ropes, and stretched tight, with their ends closely applied to his chin and neck and hands.
She did not understand. Then she saw from one of the exultant tentacles upon his cheek there trickled a little thread of blood.
With an inarticulate cry she ran towards him, and tried to pull him away from the leech-like suckers. She snapped two of these tentacles, and their sap dripped red.
Then the overpowering scent of the blossom began to make her head reel. How they clung to him! She tore at the tough ropes, and he and the white inflorescence swam about her. She felt she was fainting, knew she must not. She left him and hastily opened the nearest door, and, after she had panted for a moment in the fresh air, she had a brilliant inspiration. She caught up a flower-pot and smashed in the windows at the end of the greenhouse. Then she re-entered. She tugged now with renewed strength at Wedderburn's motionless body, and brought the strange orchid crashing to the floor. It still clung with the grimmest tenacity to its victim. In a frenzy, she lugged it and him into the open air.
Then she thought of tearing through the sucker rootlets one by one, and in another minute she had released him and was dragging him away from the horror.
He was white and bleeding from a dozen circular patches.
The odd-job man was coming up the garden, amazed at the smashing of glass, and saw her emerge, hauling the inanimate body with red-stained hands. For a moment he thought impossible things.
"Bring some water!" she cried, and her voice dispelled his fancies. When, with unnatural alacrity, he returned with the water, he found her weeping with excitement, and with Wedderburn's head upon her knee, wiping the blood from his face.
"What's the matter?" said Wedderburn, opening his eyes feebly, and closing them again at once.
"Go and tell Annie to come out here to me, and then go for Dr. Haddon at once," she said to the odd-job man so soon as he had brought the water, and added, seeing he hesitated: "I will tell you all about it when you come back."
Presently, Wedderburn opened his eyes again, and, seeing that he was troubled by the puzzle of his position, she explained to him: "You fainted in the hothouse."
"And the orchid?"
"I will see to that," she said.
Wedderburn had lost a good deal of blood, but beyond that he had suffered no very great injury. They gave him brandy mixed with some pink extract of meat, and carried him upstairs to bed. His housekeeper told her incredible story in fragments to Dr. Haddon. "Come to the orchid-house and see," she said.
The cold outer air was blowing in through the open door, and the sickly perfume was almost dispelled. Most of the torn aerial rootlets lay already withered amidst a number of dark stains upon the bricks. The stem of the inflorescence was broken by the fall of the plant, and the flowers were growing limp and brown at the edges of the petals. The doctor stooped towards it, then saw that one of the aerial rootlets still stirred feebly, and hesitated.
The next morning the strange orchid still lay there, black now and putrescent. The door banged intermittently in the morning breeze, and all the array of Wedderburn's orchids
Sherlock Holmes and the Cliffhanger. Part 3: The Turning. A Baker Street Adventure. They're among us!
The monster let out a roar that sounded like water mixed with the sound of a lion, and closed in rapidly on Sherlock and James.
The monster staggered in its charge a brief moment, and then renewed its plunge towards them, its claws dripping acid this time, which caused burning sizzles on the rich and plush carpet on the floor. James kicked the chair nearest him into the creature, slowing it down further, while discharging the rest of his bullets into its head. Putrid matter splattered over the Queen’s shiny desktop and the documents, then oozed in slimy pellets of murky blood red towards the floor, where it began moving of its own will back to the creature, who had staggered to a halt once more.
“Catch!” Sherlock cried out.
James turned to catch old of a tapestry that Sherlock had ripped from the back wall and together they ran forwards towards the creature, catching its thick body in the midst of the tapestry. They staggered for a moment from the impact, and then recovered as the creature struggled to make sense of what they had done, and began pulling it towards the massive window that the Queen had fallen from.
The creature began slashing at the tapestry, causing it to slowly tear. It was a thickly embroidered material, but not so thick as to stop the hard nails of the creature, who tore at the cloth with its nails, while striving to catch Sherlock or James with its gaping mouth of razor sharp teeth it had sprouted.
“NOW!” Sherlock hollered.
He and James gave it all they had and the creature lost its balance and hurtled backwards along with the tapestry and then tilted over the edge of the window and plunged roaring with anger from sight. They fell backwards from the release and staggered on their feet, retrieving their balance to rush for the window opening as the last sounds of the creature vanished.
They leaned out and the Queen was just below the window, glaring angrily up at them.
“What does a lady have to do to get rescued these days?”
Doctor Watson’s thick sideburns bounced heartily as he laughed beside an embarrassed James Moriarity, who sat near the fireplace, warming his hands. Sherlock sat in his favorite chair, tamping his pipe tobacco firm, watching with the hint of amusement upon his lips.
“I dare say it could not have gotten any worse.” James despaired.
Watson stopped laughing, and sat down on the sofa near his friend. “James, you were the fox caught in the glare of the Tesla lamp. Not much you could have done better.”
Sherlock nodded. “James is such a loss when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex.”
James glared at him. “And where is your opposite sex, Holmes?”
Watson laughed again.
“Not likely.” He spurted out.
Sherlock took the teases with good spirits as he usually did these days.
“Gentlemen, there has only been and will ever be one woman in my life. And she has sadly been deported from my world and this.”
James sobered up, his anger fading. Watson looked distressed.
“Oh, come, come dear Watson, it’s not as if we ever really had anything going. Her being an imposter, a traitor, a thief and an ill-mannered and arrogant sport of a woman.”
Having said that Sherlock sighed, his pipe momentarily forgotten. “What God hath wrought, she put asunder, and sadly, her life as well.”
A knock on the flat’s door brought Sherlock from his melancholy and he set his pipe down on the side table next to him, rose and went down the stairs to see to the door, leaving Watson and James alone in a thick sort of silence.
Finally, James spoke up. “I have distressed our friend dearly.”
Watson nodded. “Yes and no. Yes, you reminded him of his loss, but no, he has lost something no man can ever, ever retrieve…the illusion of happiness.”
“Are you saying he never loved this woman he speaks of so infrequently?”
“No. Only that…” Watson’s eyes grew distant as he remembered his own lost love in the Chinas. “Only that sometimes there’s what we have, what we want to have, what we thought we had, and what is really happening with our lives.”
The conversation died when Inspector Bloodstone, Constable Evans and Sherlock came up the stairs. The Inspector eyed the teapot on the table.
“Help yourself, Inspector.” Watson greeted him. “I made enough for all of us.”
“Don’t mind if I do, Doctor.” The Inspector replied, helping himself to a fine china tea cup, a silver spoon, sugar, a dash of honey, and hot steaming tea.
Constable Evans sat down next to James. “Been a long day.”
James smiled. “Is there ever a time when it is not anymore?”
Sherlock sat on his chair again, finished tamping the tobacco into his pipe, struck a long wooden match, lit it, and then took several long drags, before executing a few puffs of hollow smoke that resembled doughnuts.
“You’re getting better with the holes, I must say.” The Inspector said amiably, as he took a chair at the table and sat down to sip at his own tea.
Sherlock acknowledged the compliment with a nod, but his eyes were growing distant.
“I hear the Queen was a bit out of sorts before you left the Tower.” The Inspector said.
James blushed in embarrassment again, and looked away as the Inspector eyed him
“I wouldn’t know.” James said, pretending ignorance.
“Oh come now, James.” Sherlock finally spoke up. “Your strong arm is the one that pulled her from a certain fall, not mine!” Sherlock exclaimed.
“But still, a chivalrous man is not meant to look down a ladies’…” He couldn’t even speak of the torn blouse that had exposed her breasts from the drop she had made and which had so dangerously precipitated her nearly to her death.
“Plus.” Watson joked. “Not many are ever allowed such an intimate view and live to talk about it afterwards. She must like you somewhat, James.”
James blushed an even more deep red at the implications of Watson’s words.
“I’m an honorable man. I would never engage in such actions, or even fantasies thereof.”
Sherlock stood up and motioned for the two to stop. “We must address the problem we face. James has enough on his mind, as do I, without referring to the gentlemanly habits or lack thereof we each purvey to the world.”
“Very well.” The Inspector said. “I shall go first then. I have it quite clear now that we are dealing with the same manner of creature that invaded London some time back. That much is for certain. But what is not certain is how we shall deal with the matter this time.”
He gave Watson a concerned look as Watson squirmed uneasily from the mention of before. But he managed to retrieve his dignity and said. “This time it shall have none of us to lure to a trap or diminish our abilities.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure.” Sherlock cut in, his eyes as cold as ice as he spoke.
Watson gave him a distressed look. “Surely, surely you do not think I…”
Sherlock’s glance softened. “Watson, I could never accuse you of such villainy, even were you one of them. There is too much that has passed between us for that.”
“I agree.” James said, rising to go to the widow and look out. He saw his past times with Watson before his eyes, as well as the long and trying adventure he was kidnapped into, but from which he emerged physically scarred, but not emotionally, and with the woman of his life. Not a bad bargain for a few pounds of flesh, he thought to himself.
“Jules believes that these new ones are not from the original excursion from Mars, but are instead descendants there from.”
Sherlock’s eyes narrowed. “But if there could be two…”
“There could be more.” Constable Evans spoke up, stretching and yawning at the same time. “Anymore tea left, father.”
The Inspector glared at him a moment, then nodded. He didn't like being called father in front of others; he was a very old fashioned man when it came to mixing work and family. Feeling they should be separate.
Constable Evans rose, poured himself a cup and drank it down hot and black. He sighed with relief. “I needed that. May I have another?”
His father, the Inspector, started to pour some more, but the pot was empty.
Watson rose. “I’ll take it and refill it. Be just a moment.”
“Don’t bother yourself, Doctor.” The Constable cut in.
“No bother at all. Besides, it’ll give me a chance to smell all the sweet odors left behind by Mrs. Hudson while she is gone.”
He vanished down the stairs, leaving four deeply amused men.
The Inspector watched where Watson had vanished. “He is like a rabbit caught in a snare.”
“Would that I was so lucky.” Constable Evans quipped.
They all laughed, and then James continued his line of logic. “Logically, if there were descendants…”
“Then they would also have a place of birth.”
“London?” The Inspector asked.
“I think not.” Sherlock said, shaking his head.
“And why do you think that?” The Inspector inquired, obviously expecting some kind of revelation from the detective.
“First, we know that these creatures can hibernate very, very long periods of time.”
“The museum mummy.” James pointed out.
“Yes.” The Inspector agreed. “Go on.”
“Second.” Sherlock continued. “We know that they can imitate any living being.”
“Agreed.” Constable Evans spoke up. “But how does that explain where these new ones have originated from? It could as easily be Paris or even the new colonies as here.”
“I agree.” James joined in. “It does lead to a rather large gap in our knowledge here.”
“Not at all.” Sherlock said, rising from his chair.
He took a map, which had been lying on a bench near the fire and laid it out on the table. The others rose to glance at it as Sherlock stuck a long, artistic finger on the map. “The museum.”
“Where it was first discovered.” The Inspector said.
“Not discovered, Inspector, revealed! Need I remind you that the mummy, or creature that was hibernating, had been brought to the museum from another locale.”
Constable Evans perked up. “Outside of the Britains!”
“Exactly.” Sherlock agreed.
He touched a new spot on the map. “And here is where we must go to nip this in the bud.”
The other men leaned forward to look more closely where Sherlock’s finger gestured.
Watson came up the stairs with a new tray, filled with a fresh teapot and small sandwiches. He froze at the look upon the faces of those about Sherlock.
“Why do I think I’m not going to like this?”
“When does Mrs. Hudson return?” Sherlock asked in a monotone voice.
Watson’s throat tightened. “I am truly not going to like this.”
And then Sherlock told him where they were going.
Before Camelot, before King Arthur. Before it all became the golden age of mankind, he was a child, who played with thunder, and magical creatures of legend.
Available now at Amazon for 99 cents.
The Merlin of Camelot is the iceberg we see, but the Young Merlin is the part of the iceberg never seen, a brave young man with a mission he was born to fulfill and a sense of magic and humor unequaled by anyone else.
And you can purchase this magical story now at Amazon for only 99 cents!
Short Story. Jules Verne. In the Year 2889. A take on the future which seems close to present predictions.
IN THE YEAR 2889
[Redactor's note: _In the Year 2889_ was first published in the
_Forum_, February, 1889; p. 262. It was published in France the next
year. Although published under the name of Jules Verne, it is now
believed to be chiefly if not entirely the work of Jules' son, Michel
Verne. In any event, many of the topics in the article echo Verne's
IN THE YEAR 2889.
Little though they seem to think of it, the people of this twenty-ninth
century live continually in fairyland. Surfeited as they are with
marvels, they are indifferent in presence of each new marvel. To them
all seems natural. Could they but duly appreciate the refinements of
civilization in our day; could they but compare the present with the
past, and so better comprehend the advance we have made! How much fairer
they would find our modern towns, with populations amounting sometimes
to 10,000,000 souls; their streets 300 feet wide, their houses 1000 feet
in height; with a temperature the same in all seasons; with their lines
of aerial locomotion crossing the sky in every direction! If they would
but picture to themselves the state of things that once existed, when
through muddy streets rumbling boxes on wheels, drawn by horses--yes, by
horses!--were the only means of conveyance. Think of the railroads of
the olden time, and you will be able to appreciate the pneumatic tubes
through which to-day one travels at the rate of 1000 miles an hour.
Would not our contemporaries prize the telephone and the telephote more
highly if they had not forgotten the telegraph?
Singularly enough, all these transformations rest upon principles which
were perfectly familiar to our remote ancestors, but which they
disregarded. Heat, for instance, is as ancient as man himself;
electricity was known 3000 years ago, and steam 1100 years ago. Nay, so
early as ten centuries ago it was known that the differences between the
several chemical and physical forces depend on the mode of vibration of
the etheric particles, which is for each specifically different. When at
last the kinship of all these forces was discovered, it is simply
astounding that 500 years should still have to elapse before men could
analyze and describe the several modes of vibration that constitute
these differences. Above all, it is singular that the mode of
reproducing these forces directly from one another, and of reproducing
one without the others, should have remained undiscovered till less than
a hundred years ago. Nevertheless, such was the course of events, for it
was not till the year 2792 that the famous Oswald Nier made this great
Truly was he a great benefactor of the human race. His admirable
discovery led to many another. Hence is sprung a pleiad of inventors,
its brightest star being our great Joseph Jackson. To Jackson we are
indebted for those wonderful instruments the new accumulators. Some of
these absorb and condense the living force contained in the sun's rays;
others, the electricity stored in our globe; others again, the energy
coming from whatever source, as a waterfall, a stream, the winds, etc.
He, too, it was that invented the transformer, a more wonderful
contrivance still, which takes the living force from the accumulator,
and, on the simple pressure of a button, gives it back to space in
whatever form may be desired, whether as heat, light, electricity, or
mechanical force, after having first obtained from it the work required.
From the day when these two instruments were contrived is to be dated
the era of true progress. They have put into the hands of man a power
that is almost infinite. As for their applications, they are numberless.
Mitigating the rigors of winter, by giving back to the atmosphere the
surplus heat stored up during the summer, they have revolutionized
agriculture. By supplying motive power for aerial navigation, they have
given to commerce a mighty impetus. To them we are indebted for the
continuous production of electricity without batteries or dynamos, of
light without combustion or incandescence, and for an unfailing supply
of mechanical energy for all the needs of industry.
Yes, all these wonders have been wrought by the accumulator and the
transformer. And can we not to them also trace, indirectly, this latest
wonder of all, the great "Earth Chronicle" building in 253d Avenue,
which was dedicated the other day? If George Washington Smith, the
founder of the Manhattan "Chronicle", should come back to life to-day,
what would he think were he to be told that this palace of marble and
gold belongs to his remote descendant, Fritz Napoleon Smith, who, after
thirty generations have come and gone, is owner of the same newspaper
which his ancestor established!
For George Washington Smith's newspaper has lived generation after
generation, now passing out of the family, anon coming back to it. When,
200 years ago, the political center of the United States was transferred
from Washington to Centropolis, the newspaper followed the government
and assumed the name of Earth Chronicle. Unfortunately, it was unable to
maintain itself at the high level of its name. Pressed on all sides by
rival journals of a more modern type, it was continually in danger of
collapse. Twenty years ago its subscription list contained but a few
hundred thousand names, and then Mr. Fritz Napoleon Smith bought it for
a mere trifle, and originated telephonic journalism.
Every one is familiar with Fritz Napoleon Smith's system--a system made
possible by the enormous development of telephony during the last
hundred years. Instead of being printed, the Earth Chronicle is every
morning spoken to subscribers, who, in interesting conversations with
reporters, statesmen, and scientists, learn the news of the day.
Furthermore, each subscriber owns a phonograph, and to this instrument
he leaves the task of gathering the news whenever he happens not to be
in a mood to listen directly himself. As for purchasers of single
copies, they can at a very trifling cost learn all that is in the paper
of the day at any of the innumerable phonographs set up nearly
Fritz Napoleon Smith's innovation galvanized the old newspaper. In the
course of a few years the number of subscribers grew to be 80,000,000,
and Smith's wealth went on growing, till now it reaches the almost
unimaginable figure of $10,000,000,000. This lucky hit has enabled him
to erect his new building, a vast edifice with four _facades_ each 3,250
feet in length, over which proudly floats the hundred-starred flag of
the Union. Thanks to the same lucky hit, he is to-day king of
newspaperdom; indeed, he would be king of all the Americans, too, if
Americans could ever accept a king. You do not believe it? Well, then,
look at the plenipotentiaries of all nations and our own ministers
themselves crowding about his door, entreating his counsels, begging for
his approbation, imploring the aid of his all-powerful organ. Reckon up
the number of scientists and artists that he supports, of inventors that
he has under his pay.
Yes, a king is he. And in truth his is a royalty full of burdens. His
labors are incessant, and there is no doubt at all that in earlier times
any man would have succumbed under the overpowering stress of the toil
which Mr. Smith has to perform. Very fortunately for him, thanks to the
progress of hygiene, which, abating all the old sources of
unhealthfulness, has lifted the mean of human life from 37 up to 52
years, men have stronger constitutions now than heretofore. The
discovery of nutritive air is still in the future, but in the meantime
men today consume food that is compounded and prepared according to
scientific principles, and they breathe an atmosphere freed from the
micro-organisms that formerly used to swarm in it; hence they live
longer than their forefathers and know nothing of the innumerable
diseases of olden times.
Nevertheless, and notwithstanding these considerations, Fritz Napoleon
Smith's mode of life may well astonish one. His iron constitution is
taxed to the utmost by the heavy strain that is put upon it. Vain the
attempt to estimate the amount of labor he undergoes; an example alone
can give an idea of it. Let us then go about with him for one day as he
attends to his multifarious concernments. What day? That matters little;
it is the same every day. Let us then take at random September 25th of
this present year 2889.
This morning Mr. Fritz Napoleon Smith awoke in very bad humor. His wife
having left for France eight days ago, he was feeling disconsolate.
Incredible though it seems, in all the ten years since their marriage,
this is the first time that Mrs. Edith Smith, the professional beauty,
has been so long absent from home; two or three days usually suffice for
her frequent trips to Europe. The first thing that Mr. Smith does is to
connect his phonotelephote, the wires of which communicate with his
Paris mansion. The telephote! Here is another of the great triumphs of
science in our time. The transmission of speech is an old story; the
transmission of images by means of sensitive mirrors connected by wires
is a thing but of yesterday. A valuable invention indeed, and Mr. Smith
this morning was not niggard of blessings for the inventor, when by its
aid he was able distinctly to see his wife notwithstanding the distance
that separated him from her. Mrs. Smith, weary after the ball or the
visit to the theater the preceding night, is still abed, though it is
near noontide at Paris. She is asleep, her head sunk in the lace-covered
pillows. What? She stirs? Her lips move. She is dreaming perhaps? Yes,
dreaming. She is talking, pronouncing a name his name--Fritz! The
delightful vision gave a happier turn to Mr. Smith's thoughts. And now,
at the call of imperative duty, light-hearted he springs from his bed
and enters his mechanical dresser.
Two minutes later the machine deposited him all dressed at the threshold
of his office. The round of journalistic work was now begun. First he
enters the hall of the novel-writers, a vast apartment crowned with an
enormous transparent cupola. In one corner is a telephone, through which
a hundred Earth Chronicle _litterateurs_ in turn recount to the public
in daily installments a hundred novels. Addressing one of these authors
who was waiting his turn, "Capital! Capital! my dear fellow," said he,
"your last story. The scene where the village maid discusses interesting
philosophical problems with her lover shows your very acute power of
observation. Never have the ways of country folk been better portrayed.
Keep on, my dear Archibald, keep on! Since yesterday, thanks to you,
there is a gain of 5000 subscribers."
"Mr. John Last," he began again, turning to a new arrival, "I am not so
well pleased with your work. Your story is not a picture of life; it
lacks the elements of truth. And why? Simply because you run straight on
to the end; because you do not analyze. Your heroes do this thing or
that from this or that motive, which you assign without ever a thought
of dissecting their mental and moral natures. Our feelings, you must
remember, are far more complex than all that. In real life every act is
the resultant of a hundred thoughts that come and go, and these you must
study, each by itself, if you would create a living character. 'But,'
you will say, 'in order to note these fleeting thoughts one must know
them, must be able to follow them in their capricious meanderings.' Why,
any child can do that, as you know. You have simply to make use of
hypnotism, electrical or human, which gives one a two-fold being,
setting free the witness-personality so that it may see, understand, and
remember the reasons which determine the personality that acts. Just
study yourself as you live from day to day, my dear Last. Imitate your
associate whom I was complimenting a moment ago. Let yourself be
hypnotized. What's that? You have tried it already? Not sufficiently,
then, not sufficiently!"
Mr. Smith continues his round and enters the reporters' hall. Here 1500
reporters, in their respective places, facing an equal number of
telephones, are communicating to the subscribers the news of the world
as gathered during the night. The organization of this matchless service
has often been described. Besides his telephone, each reporter, as the
reader is aware, has in front of him a set of commutators, which enable
him to communicate with any desired telephotic line. Thus the
subscribers not only hear the news but see the occurrences. When an
incident is described that is already past, photographs of its main
features are transmitted with the narrative. And there is no confusion
withal. The reporters' items, just like the different stories and all
the other component parts of the journal, are classified automatically
according to an ingenious system, and reach the hearer in due
succession. Furthermore, the hearers are free to listen only to what
specially concerns them. They may at pleasure give attention to one
editor and refuse it to another.
Mr. Smith next addresses one of the ten reporters in the astronomical
department--a department still in the embryonic stage, but which will
yet play an important part in journalism.
"Well, Cash, what's the news?"
"We have phototelegrams from Mercury, Venus, and Mars."
"Are those from Mars of any interest?"
"Yes, indeed. There is a revolution in the Central Empire."
"And what of Jupiter?" asked Mr. Smith.
"Nothing as yet. We cannot quite understand their signals. Perhaps ours
do not reach them."
"That's bad," exclaimed Mr. Smith, as he hurried away, not in the best
of humor, toward the hall of the scientific editors.
With their heads bent down over their electric computers, thirty
scientific men were absorbed in transcendental calculations. The coming
of Mr. Smith was like the falling of a bomb among them.
"Well, gentlemen, what is this I hear? No answer from Jupiter? Is it
always to be thus? Come, Cooley, you have been at work now twenty years
on this problem, and yet--"
"True enough," replied the man addressed. "Our science of optics is
still very defective, and though our mile-and-three-quarter telescopes."
"Listen to that, Peer," broke in Mr. Smith, turning to a second
scientist. "Optical science defective! Optical science is your
specialty. But," he continued, again addressing William Cooley, "failing
with Jupiter, are we getting any results from the moon?"
"The case is no better there."
"This time you do not lay the blame on the science of optics. The moon
is immeasurably less distant than Mars, yet with Mars our communication
is fully established. I presume you will not say that you lack
"Telescopes? O no, the trouble here is about inhabitants!"
"That's it," added Peer.
"So, then, the moon is positively uninhabited?" asked Mr. Smith.
"At least," answered Cooley, "on the face which she presents to us. As
for the opposite side, who knows?"
"Ah, the opposite side! You think, then," remarked Mr. Smith, musingly,
"that if one could but--"
"Why, turn the moon about-face."
"Ah, there's something in that," cried the two men at once. And indeed,
so confident was their air, they seemed to have no doubt as to the
possibility of success in such an undertaking.
"Meanwhile," asked Mr. Smith, after a moment's silence, "have you no
news of interest to-day?"
"Indeed we have," answered Cooley. "The elements of Olympus are
definitively settled. That great planet gravitates beyond Neptune at the
mean distance of 11,400,799,642 miles from the sun, and to traverse its
vast orbit takes 1311 years, 294 days, 12 hours, 43 minutes, 9 seconds."
"Why didn't you tell me that sooner?" cried Mr. Smith. "Now inform the
reporters of this straightaway. You know how eager is the curiosity of
the public with regard to these astronomical questions. That news must
go into to-day's issue."
Then, the two men bowing to him, Mr. Smith passed into the next hall, an
enormous gallery upward of 3200 feet in length, devoted to atmospheric
advertising. Every one has noticed those enormous advertisements
reflected from the clouds, so large that they may be seen by the
populations of whole cities or even of entire countries. This, too, is
one of Mr. Fritz Napoleon Smith's ideas, and in the Earth Chronicle
building a thousand projectors are constantly engaged in displaying upon
the clouds these mammoth advertisements.
When Mr. Smith to-day entered the sky-advertising department, he found
the operators sitting with folded arms at their motionless projectors,
and inquired as to the cause of their inaction. In response, the man
addressed simply pointed to the sky, which was of a pure blue. "Yes,"
muttered Mr. Smith, "a cloudless sky! That's too bad, but what's to be
done? Shall we produce rain? That we might do, but is it of any use?
What we need is clouds, not rain. Go," said he, addressing the head
engineer, "go see Mr. Samuel Mark, of the meteorological division of the
scientific department, and tell him for me to go to work in earnest on
the question of artificial clouds. It will never do for us to be always
thus at the mercy of cloudless skies!"
Mr. Smith's daily tour through the several departments of his newspaper
is now finished. Next, from the advertisement hall he passes to the
reception chamber, where the ambassadors accredited to the American
government are awaiting him, desirous of having a word of counsel or
advice from the all-powerful editor. A discussion was going on when he
entered. "Your Excellency will pardon me," the French Ambassador was
saying to the Russian, "but I see nothing in the map of Europe that
requires change. 'The North for the Slavs?' Why, yes, of course; but the
South for the Matins. Our common frontier, the Rhine, it seems to me,
serves very well. Besides, my government, as you must know, will firmly
oppose every movement, not only against Paris, our capital, or our two
great prefectures, Rome and Madrid, but also against the kingdom of
Jerusalem, the dominion of Saint Peter, of which France means to be the
"Well said!" exclaimed Mr. Smith. "How is it," he asked, turning to the
Russian ambassador, "that you Russians are not content with your vast
empire, the most extensive in the world, stretching from the banks of
the Rhine to the Celestial Mountains and the Kara-Korum, whose shores
are washed by the Frozen Ocean, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the
Indian Ocean? Then, what is the use of threats? Is war possible in view
of modern inventions-asphyxiating shells capable of being projected a
distance of 60 miles, an electric spark of 90 miles, that can at one
stroke annihilate a battalion; to say nothing of the plague, the
cholera, the yellow fever, that the belligerents might spread among
their antagonists mutually, and which would in a few days destroy the
"True," answered the Russian; "but can we do all that we wish? As for us
Russians, pressed on our eastern frontier by the Chinese, we must at any
cost put forth our strength for an effort toward the west."
"O, is that all? In that case," said Mr. Smith, "the thing can be
arranged. I will speak to the Secretary of State about it. The attention
of the Chinese government shall be called to the matter. This is not the
first time that the Chinese have bothered us."
"Under these conditions, of course--" And the Russian ambassador
declared himself satisfied.
"Ah, Sir John, what can I do for you?" asked Mr. Smith as he turned to
the representative of the people of Great Britain, who till now had
"A great deal," was the reply. "If the Earth Chronicle would but open a
campaign on our behalf--"
"And for what object?"
"Simply for the annulment of the Act of Congress annexing to the United
States the British islands."
Though, by a just turn-about of things here below, Great Britain has
become a colony of the United States, the English are not yet reconciled
to the situation. At regular intervals they are ever addressing to the
American government vain complaints.
"A campaign against the annexation that has been an accomplished fact
for 150 years!" exclaimed Mr. Smith. "How can your people suppose that
I would do anything so unpatriotic?"
"We at home think that your people must now be sated. The Monroe
doctrine is fully applied; the whole of America belongs to the
Americans. What more do you want? Besides, we will pay for what we ask."
"Indeed!" answered Mr. Smith, without manifesting the slightest
irritation. "Well, you English will ever be the same. No, no, Sir John,
do not count on me for help. Give up our fairest province, Britain? Why
not ask France generously to renounce possession of Africa, that
magnificent colony the complete conquest of which cost her the labor of
800 years? You will be well received!"
"You decline! All is over then!" murmured the British agent sadly. "The
United Kingdom falls to the share of the Americans; the Indies to that
"The Russians," said Mr. Smith, completing the sentence.
"Has an independent government."
"Then nothing at all remains for us!" sighed Sir John, downcast.
"Nothing?" asked Mr. Smith, laughing. "Well, now, there's Gibraltar!"
With this sally, the audience ended. The clock was striking twelve, the
hour of breakfast. Mr. Smith returns to his chamber. Where the bed stood
in the morning a table all spread comes up through the floor. For Mr.
Smith, being above all a practical man; has reduced the problem of
existence to its simplest terms. For him, instead of the endless suites
of apartments of the olden time, one room fitted with ingenious
mechanical contrivances is enough. Here he sleeps, takes his meals, in
He seats himself. In the mirror of the phonotelephote is seen the same
chamber at Paris which appeared in it this morning. A table furnished
forth is likewise in readiness here, for notwithstanding the difference
of hours, Mr. Smith and his wife have arranged to take their meals
simultaneously. It is delightful thus to take breakfast _tete-a-tete_
with one who is 3000 miles or so away. Just now, Mrs. Smith's chamber
has no occupant.
"She is late! Woman's punctuality! Progress everywhere except there!"
muttered Mr. Smith as he turned the tap for the first dish. For like all
wealthy folk in our day, Mr. Smith has done away with the domestic
kitchen and is a subscriber to the Grand Alimentation Company, which
sends through a great network of tubes to subscribers' residences all
sorts of dishes, as a varied assortment is always in readiness. A
subscription costs money, to be sure, but the _cuisine_ is of the best,
and the system has this advantage, that it, does away with the pestering
race of the _cordons-bleus_. Mr. Smith received and ate, all alone, the
_hors-d'oeuvre, entrees, roti_ and _legumes_ that constituted the
repast. He was just finishing the dessert when Mrs. Smith appeared in
the mirror of the telephote.
"Why, where have you been?" asked Mr. Smith through the telephone.
"What! You are already at the dessert? Then I am late," she exclaimed,
with a winsome _naivete_. "Where have I been, you ask? Why, at my
dress-maker's. The hats are just lovely this season! I suppose I forgot
to note the time, and so am a little late."
"Yes, a little," growled Mr. Smith; "so little that I have already
quite finished breakfast. Excuse me if I leave you now, but I must be
"O certainly, my dear; good-by till evening."
Smith stepped into his air-coach, which was in waiting for him at a
window. "Where do you wish to go, sir?" inquired the coachman.
"Let me see; I have three hours," Mr. Smith mused. "Jack, take me to my
accumulator works at Niagara."
For Mr. Smith has obtained a lease of the great falls of Niagara. For
ages the energy developed by the falls went unutilized. Smith, applying
Jackson's invention, now collects this energy, and lets or sells it. His
visit to the works took more time than he had anticipated. It was four
o'clock when he returned home, just in time for the daily audience which
he grants to callers.
One readily understands how a man situated as Smith is must be beset
with requests of all kinds. Now it is an inventor needing capital; again
it is some visionary who comes to advocate a brilliant scheme which must
surely yield millions of profit. A choice has to be made between these
projects, rejecting the worthless, examining the questionable ones,
accepting the meritorious. To this work Mr. Smith devotes every day two
The callers were fewer to-day than usual--only twelve of them. Of these,
eight had only impracticable schemes to propose. In fact, one of them
wanted to revive painting, an art fallen into desuetude owing to the
progress made in color-photography. Another, a physician, boasted that
he had discovered a cure for nasal catarrh! These impracticables were
dismissed in short order. Of the four projects favorably received, the
first was that of a young man whose broad forehead betokened his
"Sir, I am a chemist," he began, "and as such I come to you."
"Once the elementary bodies," said the young chemist, "were held to be
sixty-two in number; a hundred years ago they were reduced to ten; now
only three remain irresolvable, as you are aware."
"Well, sir, these also I will show to be composite. In a few months, a
few weeks, I shall have succeeded in solving the problem. Indeed, it may
take only a few days."
"Then, sir, I shall simply have determined the absolute. All I want is
money enough to carry my research to a successful issue."
"Very well," said Mr. Smith. "And what will be the practical outcome of
"The practical outcome? Why, that we shall be able to produce easily all
bodies whatever--stone, wood, metal, fibers--"
"And flesh and blood?" queried Mr. Smith, interrupting him. "Do you
pretend that you expect to manufacture a human being out and out?"
Mr. Smith advanced $100,000 to the young chemist, and engaged his
services for the Earth Chronicle laboratory.
The second of the four successful applicants, starting from experiments
made so long ago as the nineteenth century and again and again repeated,
had conceived the idea of removing an entire city all at once from one
place to another. His special project had to do with the city of
Granton, situated, as everybody knows, some fifteen miles inland. He
proposes to transport the city on rails and to change it into a
watering-place. The profit, of course, would be enormous. Mr. Smith,
captivated by the scheme, bought a half-interest in it.
"As you are aware, sir," began applicant No. 3, "by the aid of our solar
and terrestrial accumulators and transformers, we are able to make all
the seasons the same. I propose to do something better still. Transform
into heat a portion of the surplus energy at our disposal; send this
heat to the poles; then the polar regions, relieved of their snow-cap,
will become a vast territory available for man's use. What think you of
"Leave your plans with me, and come back in a week. I will have them
examined in the meantime."
Finally, the fourth announced the early solution of a weighty scientific
problem. Every one will remember the bold experiment made a hundred
years ago by Dr. Nathaniel Faithburn. The doctor, being a firm believer
in human hibernation--in other words, in the possibility of our
suspending our vital functions and of calling them into action again
after a time--resolved to subject the theory to a practical test. To
this end, having first made his last will and pointed out the proper
method of awakening him; having also directed that his sleep was to
continue a hundred years to a day from the date of his apparent death,
he unhesitatingly put the theory to the proof in his own person.
Reduced to the condition of a mummy, Dr. Faithburn was coffined and laid
in a tomb. Time went on. September 25th, 2889, being the day set for his
resurrection, it was proposed to Mr. Smith that he should permit the
second part of the experiment to be performed at his residence this
"Agreed. Be here at ten o'clock," answered Mr. Smith; and with that the
day's audience was closed.
Left to himself, feeling tired, he lay down on an extension chair. Then,
touching a knob, he established communication with the Central Concert
Hall, whence our greatest _maestros_ send out to subscribers their
delightful successions of accords determined by recondite algebraic
formulas. Night was approaching. Entranced by the harmony, forgetful of
the hour, Smith did not notice that it was growing dark. It was quite
dark when he was aroused by the sound of a door opening. "Who is there?"
he asked, touching a commutator.
Suddenly, in consequence of the vibrations produced, the air became
"Ah! you, Doctor?"
"Yes," was the reply. "How are you?"
"I am feeling well."
"Good! Let me see your tongue. All right! Your pulse. Regular! And your
"Only passably good."
"Yes, the stomach. There's the rub. You are over-worked. If your stomach
is out of repair, it must be mended. That requires study. We must think
"In the meantime," said Mr. Smith, "you will dine with me."
As in the morning, the table rose out of the floor. Again, as in the
morning, the _potage, roti, ragouts_, and _legumes_ were supplied
through the food-pipes. Toward the close of the meal, phonotelephotic
communication was made with Paris. Smith saw his wife, seated alone at
the dinner-table, looking anything but pleased at her loneliness.
"Pardon me, my dear, for having left you alone," he said through the
telephone. "I was with Dr. Wilkins."
"Ah, the good doctor!" remarked Mrs. Smith, her countenance lighting up.
"Yes. But, pray, when are you coming home?"
"Very well. Do you come by tube or by air-train?"
"Oh, by tube."
"Yes; and at what hour will you arrive?"
"About eleven, I suppose."
"Eleven by Centropolis time, you mean?"
"Good-by, then, for a little while," said Mr. Smith as he severed
communication with Paris.
Dinner over, Dr. Wilkins wished to depart. "I shall expect you at ten,"
said Mr Smith. "To-day, it seems, is the day for the return to life of
the famous Dr. Faithburn. You did not think of it, I suppose. The
awakening is to take place here in my house. You must come and see. I
shall depend on your being here."
"I will come back," answered Dr. Wilkins.
Left alone, Mr. Smith busied himself with examining his accounts--a task
of vast magnitude, having to do with transactions which involve a daily
expenditure of upward of $800,000. Fortunately, indeed, the stupendous
progress of mechanic art in modern times makes it comparatively easy.
Thanks to the Piano Electro-Reckoner, the most complex calculations can
be made in a few seconds. In two hours Mr. Smith completed his task.
Just in time. Scarcely had he turned over the last page when Dr. Wilkins
arrived. After him came the body of Dr. Faithburn, escorted by a
numerous company of men of science. They commenced work at once. The
casket being laid down in the middle of the room, the telephote was got
in readiness. The outer world, already notified, was anxiously
expectant, for the whole world could be eye-witnesses of the
performance, a reporter meanwhile, like the chorus in the ancient drama,
explaining it all _viva voce_ through the telephone.
"They are opening the casket," he explained. "Now they are taking
Faithburn out of it--a veritable mummy, yellow, hard, and dry. Strike
the body and it resounds like a block of wood. They are now applying
heat; now electricity. No result. These experiments are suspended for a
moment while Dr. Wilkins makes an examination of the body. Dr. Wilkins,
rising, declares the man to be dead. 'Dead!' exclaims every one present.
'Yes,' answers Dr. Wilkins, 'dead!' 'And how long has he been dead?' Dr.
Wilkins makes another examination. 'A hundred years,' he replies."
The case stood just as the reporter said. Faithburn was dead, quite
certainly dead! "Here is a method that needs improvement," remarked Mr.
Smith to Dr. Wilkins, as the scientific committee on hibernation bore
the casket out. "So much for that experiment. But if poor Faithburn is
dead, at least he is sleeping," he continued. "I wish I could get some
sleep. I am tired out, Doctor, quite tired out! Do you not think that a
bath would refresh me?"
"Certainly. But you must wrap yourself up well before you go out into
the hall-way. You must not expose yourself to cold."
"Hall-way? Why, Doctor, as you well know, everything is done by
machinery here. It is not for me to go to the bath; the bath will come
to me. Just look!" and he pressed a button. After a few seconds a faint
rumbling was heard, which grew louder and louder. Suddenly the door
opened, and the tub appeared.
Such, for this year of grace 2889, is the history of one day in the life
of the editor of the Earth Chronicle. And the history of that one day
is the history of 365 days every year, except leap-years, and then of
366 days--for as yet no means has been found of increasing the length of
the terrestrial year.
Jules Verne's short story: In The Year 2889
The Star - H.G. WellsH.G. WellsIt was on the first day of the New Year that the announcement was made, almost simultaneously from three observatories, that the motion of the planet Neptune, the outermost of all the planets that wheel about the sun, had become very erratic. Ogilvy had already called attention to a suspected retardation in its velocity in December. Such a piece of news was scarcely calculated to interest a world the greater portion of whose inhabitants were unaware of the existence of the planet Neptune, nor outside the astronomical profession did the subsequent discovery of a faint remote speck of light in the region of the perturbed planet cause any very great excitement. Scientific people, however, found the intelligence remarkable enough, even before it became known that the new body was rapidly growing larger and brighter, that its motion was quite different from the orderly progress of the planets, and that the deflection of Neptune and its satellite was becoming now of an unprecedented kind.
Few people without a training in science can realise the huge isolation of the solar system. The sun with its specks of planets, its dust of planetoids, and its impalpable comets, swims in a vacant immensity that almost defeats the imagination. Beyond the orbit of Neptune there is space, vacant so far as human observation has penetrated, without warmth or light or sound, blank emptiness, for twenty million times a million miles. That is the smallest estimate of the distance to be traversed before the very nearest of the stars is attained. And, saving a few comets more unsubstantial than the thinnest flame, no matter had ever to human knowledge crossed this gulf of space, until early in the twentieth century this strange wanderer appeared. A vast mass of matter it was, bulky, heavy, rushing without warning out of the black mystery of the sky into the radiance of the sun. By the second day it was clearly visible to any decent instrument, as a speck with a barely sensible diameter, in the constellation Leo near Regulus. In a little while an opera glass could attain it.
On the third day of the new year the newspaper readers of two hemispheres were made aware for the first time of the real importance of this unusual apparition in the heavens. 'A Planetary Collision,' one London paper headed the news, and proclaimed Duchaine's opinion that this strange new planet would probably collide with Neptune. The leader writers enlarged upon the topic; so that in most of the capitals of the world, on January 3rd, there was an expectation, however vague of some imminent phenomenon in the sky; and as the night followed the sunset round the globe, thousands of men turned their eyes skyward to see--the old familiar stars just as they had always been.
Until it was dawn in London and Pollux setting and the stars overhead grown pale. The Winter's dawn it was, a sickly filtering accumulation of daylight, and the light of gas and candles shone yellow in the windows to show where people were astir. But the yawning policeman saw the thing, the busy crowds in the markets stopped agape, workmen going to their work betimes, milkmen, the drivers of news-carts, dissipation going home jaded and pale, homeless wanderers, sentinels on their beats, and in the country, labourers trudging afield, poachers slinking home, all over the dusky quickening country it could be seen--and out at sea by seamen watching for the day--a great white star, come suddenly into the westward sky!
Brighter it was than any star in our skies; brighter than the evening star at its brightest. It still glowed out white and large, no mere twinkling spot of light, but a small round clear shining disc, an hour after the day had come. And where science has not reached, men stared and feared, telling one another of the wars and pestilences that are foreshadowed by these fiery signs in the Heavens. Sturdy Boers, dusky Hottentots, Gold Coast Negroes, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Portuguese, stood in the warmth of the sunrise watching the setting of this strange new star.
And in a hundred observatories there had been suppressed excitement, rising almost to shouting pitch, as the two remote bodies had rushed together; and a hurrying to and fro, to gather photographic apparatus and spectroscope, and this appliance and that, to record this novel astonishing sight, the destruction of a world. For it was a world, a sister planet of our earth, far greater than our earth indeed, that had so suddenly flashed into flaming death. Neptune it was, had been struck, fairly and squarely, by the strange planet from outer space and the heat of the concussion had incontinently turned two solid globes into one vast mass of incandescence. Round the world that day, two hours before the dawn, went the pallid great white star, fading only as it sank westward and the sun mounted above it. Everywhere men marvelled at it, but of all those who saw it none could have marvelled more than those sailors, habitual watchers of the stars, who far away at sea had heard nothing of its advent and saw it now rise like a pigmy moon and climb zenithward and hang overhead and sink westward with the passing of the night.
And when next it rose over Europe everywhere were crowds of watchers on hilly slopes, on house-roofs, in open spaces, staring eastward for the rising of the great new star. It rose with a white glow in front of it, like the glare of a white fire, and those who had seen it come into existence the night before cried out at the sight of it. "It is larger," they cried. "It is brighter!" And, indeed the moon a quarter full and sinking in the west was in its apparent size beyond comparison, but scarcely in all its breadth had it as much brightness now as the little circle of the strange new star.
'It is brighter!' cried the people clustering in the streets. But in the dim observatories the watchers held their breath and peered at one another. '_It is nearer_,' they said. '_Nearer!_'
And voice after voice repeated, 'It is nearer,' and the clicking telegraph took that up, and it trembled along telephone wires, and in a thousand cities grimy compositors fingered the type. 'It is nearer.' Men writing in offices, struck with a strange realisation, flung down their pens, men talking in a thousand places suddenly came upon a grotesque possibility in those words, 'It is nearer.' It hurried along wakening streets, it was shouted down the frost-stilled ways of quiet villages; men who had read these things from the throbbing tape stood in yellow-lit doorways shouting the news to the passersby. 'It is nearer.' Pretty women, flushed and glittering, heard the news told jestingly between the dances, and feigned an intelligent interest they did not feel. 'Nearer! Indeed. How curious! How very, very clever people must be to find out things like that!'
Lonely tramps faring through the wintry night murmured those words to comfort themselves--looking skyward. 'It has need to be nearer, for the night's as cold as charity. Don't seem much warmth from it if it _is_ nearer, all the same.'
'What is a new star to me?' cried the weeping woman kneeling beside her dead.
The schoolboy, rising early for his examination work, puzzled it out for himself--with the great white star shining broad and bright through the frost-flowers of his window. 'Centrifugal, centripetal,' he said, with his chin on his fist. 'Stop a planet in its flight, rob it of its centrifugal force, what then? Centripetal has it, and down it falls into the sun! And this--!
'Do _we_ come in the way? I wonder--'
The light of that day went the way of its brethren, and with the later watches of the frosty darkness rose the strange star again. And it was now so bright that the waxing moon seemed but a pale yellow ghost of itself, hanging huge in the sunset. In a South African City a great man had married, and the streets were alight to welcome his return with his bride. 'Even the skies have illuminated,' said the flatterer. Under Capricorn, two negro lovers, daring the wild beasts and evil spirits, for love of one another, crouched together in a cane brake where the fire-flies hovered. 'That is our star,' they whispered, and felt strangely comforted by the sweet brilliance of its light.
The master mathematician sat in his private room and pushed the papers from him. His calculations were already finished. In a small white phial there still remained a little of the drug that had kept him awake and active for four long nights. Each day, serene, explicit, patient as ever, he had given his lecture to his students, and then had come back at once to this momentous calculation. His face was grave, a little drawn and hectic from his drugged activity. For some time he seemed lost in thought. Then he went to the window, and the blind went up with a click. Half way up the sky, over the clustering roofs, chimneys and steeples of the city, hung the star.
He looked at it as one might look into the eyes of a brave enemy. 'You may kill me,' he said after a silence. 'But I can hold you--and all the universe for that matter--in the grip of this little brain. I would not change. Even now.'
He looked at the little phial. 'There will be no need of sleep again,' he said. The next day at noon--punctual to the minute, he entered his lecture theatre, put his hat on the end of the table as his habit was, and carefully selected a large piece of chalk. It was a joke among his students that he could not lecture without that piece of chalk to fumble in his fingers, and once he had been stricken to impotence by their hiding his supply. He came and looked under his grey eyebrows at the rising tiers of young fresh faces, and spoke with his accustomed studied commonness of phrasing. 'Circumstances have arisen--circumstances beyond my control,' he said and paused, 'which will debar me from completing the course I had designed. It would seem, gentlemen, if I may put the thing clearly and briefly, that--Man has lived in vain.'
The students glanced at one another. Had they heard aright? Mad? Raised eyebrows and grinning lips there were, but one or two faces remained intent upon his calm grey-fringed face. 'It will be interesting,' he was saying, 'to devote this morning to an exposition, so far as I can make it clear to you, of the calculations that have led me to this conclusion. Let us assume--'
He turned towards the blackboard, meditating a diagram in the way that was usual to him. 'What was that about 'lived in vain?' whispered one student to another. 'Listen,' said the other, nodding towards the lecturer.
And presently they began to understand.
That night the star rose later, for its proper eastward motion had carried it some way across Leo towards Virgo, and its brightness was so great that the sky became a luminous blue as it rose, and every star was hidden in its turn, save only Jupiter near the zenith, Capella, Aldebaran, Sirius and the pointers of the Bear. It was very white and beautiful. In many parts of the world that night a pallid halo encircled it about. It was perceptibly larger; in the clear refractive sky of the tropics it seemed as if it were nearly a quarter the size of the moon. The frost was still on the ground in England, but the world was as brightly lit as if it were midsummer moonlight. One could see to read quite ordinary print by that cold clear light, and in the cities the lamps burnt yellow and wan.
And everywhere the world was awake that night, and throughout Christendom a sombre murmur hung in the keen air over the country side like the belling of bees in the heather, and this murmurous tumult grew to a clangour in the cities. It was the tolling of the bells in a million belfry towers and steeples, summoning the people to sleep no more, to sin no more, but to gather in their churches and pray. And overhead, growing larger and brighter as the earth rolled on its way and the night passed, rose the dazzling star.
And the streets and houses were alight in all the cities, the shipyards glared, and whatever roads led to high country were lit and crowded all night long. And in all the seas about the civilised lands, ships with throbbing engines, and ships with bellying sails, crowded with men and living creatures, were standing out to ocean and the north. For already the warning of the master mathematician had been telegraphed all over the world, and translated into a hundred tongues. The new planet and Neptune, locked in a fiery embrace, were whirling headlong, ever faster and faster towards the sun. Already every second this blazing mass flew a hundred miles, and every second its terrific velocity increased. As it flew now, indeed, it must pass a hundred million of miles wide of the earth and scarcely affect it. But near its destined path, as yet only slightly perturbed, spun the mighty planet Jupiter and his moons sweeping splendid round the sun. Every moment now the attraction between the fiery star and the greatest of the planets grew stronger. And the result of that attraction? Inevitably Jupiter would be deflected from its orbit into an elliptical path, and the burning star, swung by his attraction wide of its sunward rush, would 'describe a curved path' and perhaps collide with, and certainly pass very close to, our earth. 'Earthquakes, volcanic outbreaks, cyclones, sea wa ves, floods, and a steady rise in temperature to I know not what limit'--so prophesied the master mathematician.
And overhead, to carry out his words, lonely and cold and livid, blazed the star of the coming doom.
To many who stared at it that night until their eyes ached, it seemed that it was visibly approaching. And that night, too, the weather changed, and the frost that had gripped all Central Europe and France and England softened towards a thaw.
But you must not imagine because I have spoken of people praying through the night and people going aboard ships and people fleeing toward mountainous country that the whole world was already in a terror because of the star. As a matter of fact, use and wont still ruled the world, and save for the talk of idle moments and the splendour of the night, nine human beings out of ten were still busy at their common occupations. In all the cities the shops, save one here and there, opened and closed at their proper hours, the doctor and the undertaker plied their trades, the workers gathered in the factories, soldiers drilled, scholars studied, lovers sought one another, thieves lurked and fled, politicians planned their schemes. The presses of the newspapers roared through the night, and many a priest of this church and that would not open his holy building to further what he considered a foolish panic. The newspapers insisted on the lesson of the year 1000; for then, too, people had anticipated the end. The star was no star--mere gas--a comet; and were it a star it could not possibly strike the earth. There was no precedent for such a thing. Common sense was sturdy everywhere, scornful, jesting, a little inclined to persecute the obdurate fearful. That night, at seven-fifteen by Greenwich time, the star would be at its nearest to Jupiter. Then the world would see the turn things would take. The master mathematician's grim warnings were treated by many as so much mere elaborate self-advertisement. Common sense at last, a little heated by argument, signified its unalterable convictions by going to bed. So, too, barbarism and savagery, already tired of the novelty, went about their nightly business, and save for a howling dog here and there, the beast world left the star unheeded.
And yet, when at last the watchers in the European States saw the star rise, an hour later it is true, but no larger than it had been the night before, there were still plenty awake to laugh at the master mathematician--to take the danger as if it had passed.
But hereafter the laughter ceased. The star grew--it grew with a terrible steadiness hour after hour, a little larger each hour, a little nearer the midnight zenith, and brighter and brighter, until it had turned night into a second day. Had it come straight to the earth instead of in a curved path, had it lost no velocity to Jupiter, it must have leapt the intervening gulf in a day, but as it was it took five days altogether to come by our planet. The next night it had become a third the size of the moon before it set to English eyes, and the thaw was assured. It rose over America near the size of the moon, but blinding white to look at, and _hot_; and a breath of hot wind blew now with its rising and gathering strength, and in Virginia, and Brazil, and down the St. Lawrence valley, it shone intermittently through a driving reek of thunder-clouds, flickering violet lightning, and hail unprecedented. In Manitoba was a thaw and devastating floods. And upon all the mountains of the earth the snow and ice began to melt that night, and all the rivers coming out of high country flowed thick and turbid, and soon--in their upper reaches--with swirling trees and the bodies of beasts and men. They rose steadily, steadily in the ghostly brilliance, and came trickling over their banks at last, behind the flying population of their valleys.
And along the coast of Argentina and up the South Atlantic the tides were higher than had ever been in the memory of man, and the storms drove the waters in many cases scores of miles inland, drowning whole cities. And so great grew the heat during the night that the rising of the sun was like the coming of a shadow. The earthquakes began and grew until all down America from the Arctic Circle to Cape Horn, hillsides were sliding, fissures were opening, and houses and walls crumbling to destruction. The whole side of Cotopaxi slipped out in one vast convulsion, and a tumult of lava poured out so high and broad and swift and liquid that in one day it reached the sea.
So the star, with the wan moon in its wake, marched across the Pacific, trailed the thunderstorms like the hem of a robe, and the growing tidal wave that toiled behind it, frothing and eager, poured over island and island and swept them clear of men. Until that wave came at last--in a blinding light and with the breath of a furnace, swift and terrible it came--a wall of water, fifty feet high, roaring hungrily, upon the long coasts of Asia, and swept inland across the plains of China. For a space the star, hotter now and larger and brighter than the sun in its strength, showed with pitiless brilliance the wide and populous country; towns and villages with their pagodas and trees, roads, wide cultivated fields, millions of sleepless people staring in helpless terror at the incandescent sky; and then, low and growing, came the murmur of the flood. And thus it was with millions of men that night; a flight nowhither, with limbs heavy with heat and breath fierce and scant, and the flood like a wall swift and white behind. And then death.
China was lit glowing white, but over Japan and Java and all the islands of Eastern Asia the great star was a ball of dull red fire because of the steam and smoke and ashes the volcanoes were spouting forth to salute its coming. Above was the lava, hot gases and ash, and below the seething floods, and the whole earth swayed and rumbled with the earthquake shocks. Soon the immemorial snows of Thibet and the Himalaya were melting and pouring down by ten million deepening converging channels upon the plains of Burmah and Hindostan. The tangled summits of the Indian jungles were aflame in a thousand places, and below the hurrying waters around the stems were dark objects that still struggled feebly and reflected the blood-red tongues of fire. And in a rudderless confusion a multitude of men and women fled down the broad river-ways to that one last hope of men--the open sea.
Larger grew the star, and larger, hotter, and brighter with a terrible swiftness now. The tropical ocean had lost its phosphorescence, and the whirling steam rose in ghostly wreaths from the black waves that plunged incessantly, speckled with storm-tossed ships.
And then came a wonder. It seemed to those who in Europe watched for the rising of the star that the world must have ceased its rotation. In a thousand open spaces of down and upland the people who had fled thither from the floods and the falling houses and sliding slopes of hill watched for that rising in vain. Hour followed hour through a terrible suspense, and the star rose not. Once again men set their eyes upon the old constellations they had counted lost to them forever. In England it was hot and clear overhead, though the ground quivered perpetually, but in the tropics, Sirius and Capella and Aldebaran showed through a veil of steam. And when at last the great star rose near ten hours late, the sun rose close upon it, and in the centre of its white heart was a disc of black.
Over Asia it was the star had begun to fall behind the movement of the sky, and then suddenly, as it hung over India, its light had been veiled. All the plain of India from the mouth of the Indus to the mouths of the Ganges was a shallow waste of shining water that night, out of which rose temples and palaces, mounds and hills, black with people. Every minaret was a clustering mass of people, who fell one by one into the turbid waters, as heat and terror overcame them. The whole land seemed a-wailing and suddenly there swept a shadow across that furnace of despair, and a breath of cold wind, and a gathering of clouds, out of the cooling air. Men looking up, near blinded, at the star, saw that a black disc was creeping across the light. It was the moon, coming between the star and the earth. And even as men cried to God at this respite, out of the East with a strange inexplicable swiftness sprang the sun. And then star, sun and moon rushed together across the heavens.
So it was that presently, to the European watchers, star and sun rose close upon each other, drove headlong for a space and then slower, and at last came to rest, star and sun merged into one glare of flame at the zenith of the sky. The moon no longer eclipsed the star but was lost to sight in the brilliance of the sky. And though those who were still alive regarded it for the most part with that dull stupidity that hunger, fatigue, heat and despair engender, there were still men who could perceive the meaning of these signs. Star and earth had been at their nearest, had swung about one another, and the star had passed. Already it was receding, swifter and swifter, in the last stage of its headlong journey downward into the sun.
And then the clouds gathered, blotting out the vision of the sky, the thunder and lightning wove a garment round the world; all over the earth was such a downpour of rain as men had never before seen, and where the volcanoes flared red against the cloud canopy there descended torrents of mud. Everywhere the waters were pouring off the land, leaving mud-silted ruins, and the earth littered like a storm-worn beach with all that had floated, and the dead bodies of the men and brutes, its children. For days the water streamed off the land, sweeping away soil and trees and houses in the way, and piling huge dykes and scooping out Titanic gullies over the country side. Those were the days of darkness that followed the star and the heat. All through them, and for many weeks and months, the earthquakes continued.
But the star had passed, and men, hunger-driven and gathering courage only slowly, might creep back to their ruined cities, buried granaries, and sodden fields. Such few ships as had escaped the storms of that time came stunned and shattered and sounding their way cautiously through the new marks and shoals of once familiar ports. And as the storms subsided men perceived that everywhere the days were hotter than of yore, and the sun larger, and the moon, shrunk to a third of its former size, took now fourscore days between its new and new.
But of the new brotherhood that grew presently among men, of the saving of laws and books and machines, of the strange change that had come over Iceland and Greenland and the shores of Baffin's Bay, so that the sailors coming there presently found them green and gracious, and could scarce believe their eyes, this story does not tell. Nor of the movement of mankind now that the earth was hotter, northward and southward towards the poles of the earth. It concerns itself only with the coming and the passing of the Star.
The Martian astronomers--for there are astronomers on Mars, although they are very different beings from men--were naturally profoundly interested by these things. They saw them from their own standpoint of course. 'Considering the mass and temperature of the missile that was flung through our solar system into the sun,' one wrote, 'it is astonishing what a little damage the earth, which it missed so narrowly, has sustained. All the familiar continental markings and the masses of the seas remain intact, and indeed the only difference seems to be a shrinkage of the white discoloration (supposed to be frozen water) round either pole.' Which only shows how small the vastest of human catastrophes may seem, at a distance of a few million miles.