View Full Version : First Men in the Moon, The - Herbert George Wells

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06-02-2007, 12:00 AM
Chapter 25 - The Grand Lunar

THE penultimate message describes, with occasionally elaborate detail, the
encounter between Cavor and the Grand Lunar, who is the ruler or master of
the moon. Cavor seems to have sent most of it without interference, but to
have been interrupted in the concluding portion. The second came after an
interval of a week.

The first message begins: "At last I am able to resume this" it then
becomes illegible for a space, and after a time resumed in mid-sentence.

The missing words of the following sentence are probably "the crowd."
There follows quite clearly: "grew ever denser as we drew near the palace
of the Grand Lunar - if I may call a series of excavations a palace.
Everywhere faces stared at me - blank, chitinous gapes and masks, eyes
peering over tremendous olfactory developments, eyes beneath monstrous
forehead plates; and undergrowth of smaller creatures dodged and yelped,
and helmet faces poised on sinuous, long-jointed necks appeared craning
over shoulders and beneath armpits. Keeping a welcome space about me
marched a cordon of stolid, scuttle-headed guards, who had joined us on
our leaving the boat in which we had come along the channels of the
Central Sea. The quick-eyed artist with the little brain joined us also,
and a thick bunch of lean porter-insects swayed and struggled under the
multitude of conveniences that were considered essential to my state. I
was carried in a litter during the final stage of our journey. This litter
was made of some very ductile metal that looked dark to me, meshed and
woven, and with bars of paler metal, and about me as I advanced there
grouped itself a long and complicated procession.

"In front, after the manner of heralds, marched four trumpet-faced
creatures making a devastating bray; and then came squat, resolute-moving
ushers before and behind, and on either hand a galaxy of learned heads, a
sort of animated encyclopedia, who were, Phi-oo explained, to stand about
the Grand Lunar for purposes of reference. (Not a thing in lunar science,
not a point of view or method of thinking, that these wonderful beings did
not carry in their heads!) Followed guards and porters, and then Phi-oo's
shivering brain borne also on a litter. Then came Tsi-puff in a slightly
less important litter; then myself on a litter of greater elegance than
any other, and surrounded by my food and drink attendants. More trumpeters
came next, splitting the ear with vehement outcries, and then several big
brains, special correspondents one might well call them, or
historiographers, charged with the task of observing and remembering every
detail of this epoch-making interview. A company of attendants, bearing
and dragging banners and masses of scented fungus and curious symbols,
vanished in the darkness behind. The way was lined by ushers and officers
in caparisons that gleamed like steel, and beyond their line, so far as my
eyes could pierce the gloom, the heads of that enormous crowd extended.

"I will own that I am still by no means indurated. to the peculiar effect
of the Selenite appearance, and to find myself, as it were, adrift on this
broad sea of excited entomology was by no means agreeable. Just for a
space I had something very like what I should imagine people mean when
they speak of the 'horrors.' It had come to me before in these lunar
caverns, when on occasion I have found myself weaponless and with an
undefended back, amidst a crowd of these Selenites, but never quite so
vividly. It is, of course, as absolutely irrational a feeling as one could
well have, and I hope gradually to subdue it. But just for a moment, as I
swept forward into the welter of the vast crowd, it was only by gripping
my litter tightly and summoning all my will-power that I succeeded in
avoiding an outcry or some such manifestation. It lasted perhaps three I
minutes; then I had myself in hand again.

"We ascended the spiral of a vertical way for some time, and then passed
through a series of huge halls dome-roofed and elaborately decorated. The
approach to the Grand Lunar was certainly contrived to give one a vivid
impression of his greatness. Each cavern one entered seemed greater and
more boldly arched than its predecessor. This effect of progressive size
was enhanced by a thin haze of faintly phosphorescent blue incense that
thickened as one advanced, and robbed even the nearer figures of
clearness. I seemed to advance continually to something larger, dimmer,
and less material.

"I must confess that all this multitude made me feel extremely shabby and
unworthy. I was unshaven and unkempt; I had brought no razor; I had a
coarse beard over my mouth. On earth I have always been inclined to
despise any attention to my person beyond a proper care for cleanliness;
but under the exceptional circumstances in which I found myself,
representing, as I did, my planet and my kind, and depending very largely
upon the attractiveness of my appearance for a proper reception, I could
have given much for something a little more artistic and dignified than
the husks I wore. I had been so serene in the belief that the moon was
uninhabited as to overlook such precautions altogether. As it was I was
dressed in a flannel jacket, knickerbockers, and golfing stockings,
stained with every sort of dirt the moon offered, slippers (of which the
left heel was wanting), and a blanket, through a hole in which I thrust my
head. (These clothes, indeed, I still wear.) Sharp bristles are anything
but an improvement to my cast of features, and there was an unmended tear
at the knee of my knickerbockers that showed conspicuously as I squatted
in my litter; my right stocking, too persisted in getting about my ankle.
I am fully alive to the injustice my appearance did humanity, and if by
any expedient I could have improvised something a little out of the way
and imposing I would have done so. But I could hit upon nothing. I did
what I could with my blanket - folding it somewhat after the fashion of a
toga, and for the rest I sat as upright as the swaying of my litter

"Imagine the largest hall you have ever been in, imperfectly lit with blue
light and obscured by a gray-blue fog, surging with metallic or livid-gray
creatures of such a mad diversity as I have hinted. Imagine this hall to
end in an open archway beyond which is a still larger hall, and beyond
this yet another and still larger one, and so on. At the end of the vista,
dimly seen, a flight of steps, like the steps of Ara Coeli at Rome, ascend
out of sight. Higher and higher these steps appear to go as one draws
nearer their base. But at last I came under a huge archway and beheld the
summit of these steps, and upon it the Grand Lunar exalted on his throne.

" He was seated in what was relatively a blaze of incandescent blue. This,
and the darkness about him gave him an effect of floating in a blue-black
void. He seemed a small, self-luminous cloud at first, brooding on his
sombre throne; his brain case must have measured many yards in diameter.
For some reason that I cannot fathom a number of blue search-lights
radiated from behind the throne on which he sat, and immediately
encircling him was a halo. About him, and little and indistinct in this
glow, a number of body-servants sustained and supported him, and
overshadowed and standing in a huge semicircle beneath him were his
intellectual subordinates, his remembrancers and computators and searchers
and servants, and all the distinguished insects of the court of the moon.
Still lower stood ushers and messengers, and then all down the countless
steps of the throne were guards, and at the base, enormous, various,
indistinct, vanishing at last into an absolute black, a vast swaying
multitude of the minor dignitaries of the moon. Their feet made a
perpetual scraping whisper on the rocky floor, as their limbs moved with a
rustling murmur.

"As I entered the penultimate hall the music rose and expanded into an
imperial magnificence of sound, and the shrieks of the news-bearers died

"I entered the last and greatest hall....

"My procession opened out like a fan. My ushers and guards went right and
left, and the three litters bearing myself and Phi-oo and Tsi-puff marched
across a shiny darkness of floor to the foot of the giant stairs. Then
began a vast throbbing hum, that mingled with the music. The two Selenites
dismounted, but I was bidden remain seated - I imagine as a special
honour. The music ceased, but not that humming, arid by a simultaneous
movement of ten thousand respectful heads my attention was directed to the
enhaloed supreme intelligence that hovered above me.

"At first as I peered into the radiating glow this quintessential brain
looked very much like an opaque, featureless bladder with dim, undulating
ghosts of convolutions writhing visibly within. Then beneath its enormity
and just above the edge of the throne one saw with a start minute elfin
eyes peering out of the glow. No face, but eyes, as if they peered through
holes. At first I could see no more than these two staring little eyes,
and then below I distinguished the little dwarfed body and its
insect-jointed limbs shrivelled and white. The eyes stared down at me with
a strange intensity, and the lower part of the swollen globe was wrinkled.
Ineffectual-looking little hand-tentacles steadied this shape on the

"It was great. It was pitiful. One forgot the hall and the crowd.

"I ascended the staircase by jerks. It seemed to me that this darkly
glowing brain case above us spread over me, and took more and more of the
whole effect into itself as I drew nearer. The tiers of attendants and
helpers grouped about their master seemed to dwindle and fade into the
night. I saw that shadowy attendants were busy spraying that great brain
with a cooling spray, and patting and sustaining it. For my own part, I
sat gripping my swaying litter and staring at the Grand Lunar, unable to
turn my gaze aside. And at last, as I reached a little landing that was
separated only by ten steps or so from the supreme seat, the woven
splendour of the music reached a climax and ceased, and I was left naked,
as it were, in that vastness, beneath the still scrutiny of the Grand
Lunar's eyes.

"He was scrutinising the first man he had ever seen....

"My eyes dropped at last from his greatness to the ant figures in the blue
mist about him, and then down the steps to the massed Selenites, still and
expectant in their thousands, packed on the floor below. Once again an
unreasonable horror reached out towards me.... And passed.

"After the pause came the salutation. I was assisted from my litter, and
stood awkwardly while a number of curious and no doubt deeply symbolical
gestures were vicariously performed for me by two slender officials. The
encyclopaedic galaxy of the learned that had accompanied me to the
entrance of the last hall appeared two steps above me and left and right
of me, in readiness for the Grand Lunar's need, and Phi-oo's pale brain
placed itself about half-way up to the throne in such a position as to
communicate easily between us without turning his back on either the Grand
Lunar or myself. Tsi-puff took up position behind him. Dexterous ushers
sidled sideways towards me, keeping a full face to the Presence. I seated
myself Turkish fashion, and Phi-oo and Tsi-puff also knelt down above me.
There came a pause. The eyes of the nearer court went from me to the Grand
Lunar and came back to me, and a hissing and piping of expectation passed
across the hidden multitudes below and ceased.

"That humming ceased.

"For the first and last time in my experience the moon was silent.

"I became aware of a faint wheezy noise. The Grand Lunar was addressing
me. It was like the rubbing of a finger upon a pane of glass.

"I watched him attentively for a time, and then glanced at the alert
Phi-oo. I felt amidst these slender beings ridiculously thick and fleshy
and solid; my head all jaw and black hair. My eyes went back to the Grand
Lunar. He had ceased; his attendants were busy, and his shining superfices
was glistening and running with cooling spray.

"Phi-oo meditated through an interval. He consulted Tsi-puff. Then he
began piping his recognisable English - at first a little nervously, so
that he was not very clear.

"'M'm - the Grand Lunar - wishes to say - wishes to say - he gathers you
are - m'm - men - that you are a man from the planet earth. He wishes to
say that he welcomes you - welcomes you - and wishes to learn - learn, if
I may use the word - the state of your world, and the reason why you came
to this.'

"He paused. I was about to reply when he resumed. He proceeded to remarks
of which the drift was not very clear, though I am inclined to think they
were intended to be complimentary. He told me that the earth was to the
moon what the sun is to the earth, and that the Selenites desired very
greatly to learn about the earth and men. He then told me no doubt in
compliment also, the relative magnitude and diameter of earth and moon,
and the perpetual wonder and speculation with which the Selenites had
regarded our planet. I meditated with downcast eyes, and decided to reply
that men too had wondered what might lie in the moon, and had judged it
dead, little recking of such magnificence as I had seen that day. The
Grand Lunar, in token of recognition, caused his long blue rays to rotate
in a very confusing manner, and all about the great hall ran the pipings
and whisperings and rustlings of the report of what I had said. He then
proceeded to put to Phi-oo a number of inquiries which were easier to

"He understood, he explained, that we lived on the surface of the earth,
that our air and sea were outside the globe; the latter part, indeed, he
already knew from his astronomical specialists. He was very anxious to
have more detailed information of what he called this extraordinary state
of affairs, for from the solidity of the earth there had always been a
disposition regard it as uninhabitable. He endeavoured first to ascertain
the extremes of temperature to which we earth beings were exposed, and he
was deeply interested by my descriptive treatment of clouds and rain. His
imagination was assisted by the fact that the lunar atmosphere in the
outer galleries of the night side is not infrequently very foggy. He
seemed inclined to marvel that we did not find the sunlight too intense
for our eyes, and was interested in my attempt to explain that the sky was
tempered to a bluish colour through the refraction of the air, though I
doubt if he clearly understood that. I explained how the iris of the human
eyes can contract the pupil and save the delicate internal structure from
the excess of sunlight, and was allowed to approach within a few feet of
the Presence in order that this structure might be seen. This led to a
comparison of the lunar and terrestrial eyes. The former is not only
excessively sensitive to such light as men can see, but it can also see
heat, and every difference in temperature within the moon renders objects
visible to it.

"The iris was quite a new organ to the Grand Lunar. For a time he amused
himself by flashing his rays into my face and watching my pupils contract.
As a consequence, I was dazzled and blinded for some little time....

"But in spite of that discomfort I found something reassuring by
insensible degrees in the rationality of this business of question and
answer. I could shut my eyes, think of my answer, and almost forget that
the the Grand Lunar has no face....

"When I had descended again to my proper place the Grand Lunar asked how
we sheltered ourselves from heat and storms, and I expounded to him the
arts of building and furnishing. Here we wandered into misunderstandings
and cross-purposes, due largely, I must admit, to the looseness of my
expressions. For a long time I had great difficulty in making him
understand the nature of a house. To him and his attendant Selenites it
seemed, no doubt, the most whimsical thing in the world that men should
build houses when they might descend into excavations, and an additional
complication was introduced by the attempt I made to explain that men had
originally begun their homes in caves, and that they were now taking their
railways and many establishments beneath the surface. Here I think a
desire for intellectual completeness betrayed me. There was also a
considerable tangle due to an equally unwise attempt on my part to explain
about mines. Dismissing this topic at last in an incomplete state, the
Grand Lunar inquired what we did with the interior of our globe.

"A tide of twittering and piping swept into the remotest corners of that
great assembly then it was last made clear that we men know absolutely
nothing of the contents of the world upon which the immemorial generations
of our ancestors had been evolved. Three times had I to repeat that of all
the 4000 miles of distance between the earth and its centre men knew only
to the depth of a mile, and that very vaguely. I understood the Grand
Lunar to ask why had I come to the moon seeing we had scarcely touched our
own planet yet, but he did not trouble me at that time to proceed to an
explanation, being too anxious to pursue the details of this mad inversion
of all his ideas.

"He reverted to the question of weather, and I tried to describe the
perpetually changing sky, and snow, and frost and hurricanes. 'But when
the night comes,' he ed, 'is it not cold?'

"I told him it was colder than by day. "'And does not your atmosphere

"I told him not; that it was never cold enough for that, because our
nights were so short.

"'Not even liquefy?'

"I was about to say 'No,' but then it occurred to me that one part at
least of our atmosphere, the water vapour of it, does sometimes liquefy
and form dew, and sometimes freeze and form frost - a process perfectly
analogous to the freezing of all the external atmosphere of the moon
during its longer night. I made myself clear on this point, and from that
the Grand Lunar went on to speak with me of sleep. For the need of sleep
that comes so regularly every twenty-four hours to all things is part also
of our earthly inheritance. On the moon they rest only at rare intervals,
and after exceptional exertions. Then I tried to describe to him the soft
splendours of a summer night, and from that I passed to a description of
those animals that prowl by night and sleep by day. I told him of lions
and tigers, and here it seemed as though we had come to a deadlock. For,
save in their waters, there are no creatures in the moon not absolutely
domestic and subject to his will, and so it has been for immemorial years.
They have monstrous water creatures, but no evil beasts, and the idea of
anything strong and large existing 'outside' in the night is very
difficult for them....

The record is here too broken to transcribe for the space of perhaps
twenty words or more.

"He talked with his attendants, as I suppose, upon the strange
superficiality and unreasonableness of (man) who lives on the mere surface
of a world, a creature of waves and winds, and all the chances of space,
who cannot even unite to overcome the beasts that prey upon his kind, and
yet who dares to invade another planet. During this aside I sat thinking,
and then at his desire I told him of the different sorts of men. He
searched me with questions. "And for all sorts of work you have the same
sort of men. But who thinks? Who governs?'

"I gave him an outline of the democratic method.

"When I had done he ordered cooling sprays upon his brow, and then
requested me to repeat my explanation conceiving something had miscarried.

"'Do they not do different things, then?' said Phi-oo.

"Some, I admitted, were thinkers and some officials; some hunted, some
were mechanics, some artists, some toilers. 'But all rule,' I said.

"'And have they not different shapes to fit them to their different

"'None that you can see,' I said, 'except perhaps, for clothes. Their
minds perhaps differ a little,' I reflected.

"'Their minds must differ a great deal,' said the Grand Lunar, 'or they
would all want to do the same things.'

"In order to bring myself into a closer harmony with his preconceptions, I
said that his surmise was right 'It was all hidden in the brain,' I said;
'but the difference was there. Perhaps if one could see the minds and
souls of men they would be as varied and unequal as the Selenites. There
were great men and small men, men who could reach out far and wide, men
who could go swiftly; noisy, trumpet-minded men, and men who could
remember without thinking.... The record is indistinct for three words.

He interrupted me to recall me to my previous statements. 'But you said
all men rule?' he pressed.

"To a certain extent," I said, and made, I fear, a denser fog with my

"He reached out to a salient fact. "Do you mean," asked, 'that there is
no Grand Earthly?'

I thought of several people, but assured him finally there was none. I
explained that such autocrats and emperors as we had tried upon earth had
usually ended in drink, or vice, or violence, and that the large and
influential section of the people of the earth to which I belonged, the
Anglo-Saxons, did not mean to try that sort of thing again. At which the
Grand Lunar was even more amazed.

"But how do you keep even such wisdom as you have?" he asked; and I
explained to him the way we helped our limited [a word omitted here,
probably "brains"] with libraries of books. I explained to him how our
science was growing by the united labours of innumerable little men, and
on that he made no comment save that it was evident we had mastered much
in spite of our social savagery, or we could not have come to the moon.
Yet the contrast was very marked. With knowledge the Selenites grew and
changed; mankind stored their knowledge about them and remained brutes -
equipped. He said this... [Here there is a short piece of the record

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

"'Our States and Empires are still the rawest sketches of what order will
some day be,' I said, and so I came to tell him.... [At this point a
length of record that probably represents thirty or forty words is totally

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

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

"I told him that was perfectly correct.

"He asked for particulars to assist his imagination.

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

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

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

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

"'But surely they do not like it!' translated Phi-oo.

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

"'But what good is this war?' asked the Grand Lunar, sticking to his

"'Oh! as for good!' said I; 'it thins the population!'

"'But why should there be a need - ?'..

"There came a pause, the cooling sprays impigned upon his brow, and then
he spoke again."

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

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

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