A Trip to Mars - Fenton Ash - ebook

A Trip to Mars ebook

Fenton Ash

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Opis

An exciting science fiction adventure, in which two Edwardian schoolboys Gerald Wilton and Jack Lawford journey on A Trip to Mars, where they have various adventures and help to suppress a revolt. The story opens in the Southern Seas with the fall of what is at first taken for an immense meteorite, but really is a Martian airship. The heroes, in company with a few other denizens of this earth, are invited to return to Mars, and what they do and see there, make a tale well worth reading. This story is a simple variation on the theme of „A Son of the Stars”, but it is not a sequel thereto. Its most original feature is the spaceship used to transport the heroes, a compound or the organic and inorganic that qualifies as an early cyborg.

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Liczba stron: 374

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Contents

PREFACE

I. THE FALL OF THE GREAT METEORITE

II. WHAT GERALD SAW

III. STRANGE VISITORS

IV. GERALD CARRIED OFF

V. KING IVANTA

VI. THE KING'S OFFER

VII. OFF ON A TRIP TO MARS

VIII. A NARROW ESCAPE

IX. ARMEATH'S SECRET

X. CAPTURED BY A COMET

XI. 'WELCOME TO MARS!'

XII. PRINCE ALONDRA

XIII. THE PALACE IN THE CLOUDS

XIV. TOM CLINCH'S STATEMENT

XV. HUNTING THE GREAT MARS EAGLE

XVI. IN DIRE PERIL

XVII. LESSONS IN FLYING

XVIII. A ROYAL PROGRESS

XIX. A DARING PLOT

XX. THE DEATH POOL

XXI. A SECRET TREASURE-HOUSE

XXII. MALTO

XXIII. A FOUL DEN

XXIV. AT THE PAVILION

XXV. AGRANDO THROWS OFF THE MASK

XXVI. THE WIRELESS MESSAGE

XXVII. A DESPERATE VENTURE

XXVIII. SAILING ON THE STORM-WIND

XXIX. ATTACKED IN THE DARK

XXX. CAPTURED

XXXI. AT HOME IN A VOLCANO

XXXII. IVANTA A FUGITIVE

XXXIII. A QUEER HUNT

XXXIV. A NIGHT EXPEDITION

XXXV. HOW IVANTA GAINED A FLEET

XXXVI. THE OLD WELL

XXXVII. THE FIGHT FOR THE STRONGHOLD

XXXVIII. A GREAT AERIAL BATTLE

XXXIX. THE END OF THE STRUGGLE

XL. CONCLUSION

PREFACE

In the case of my former book my first written for young readers I inserted a preface stating at some length my reasons for taking up the writing of stories of the kind. In it I pointed out that I had endeavoured to combine amusement with a little wholesome instruction; and that what might at first sight appear to be mere irresponsible flights of fanciful imagination had, in reality, in all cases some quasi-scientific foundation.

Doubtless such a preface is unusual in a work of fiction, and even more so in one intended chiefly for boys; but the result proved that its intention was understood and appreciated. I should show myself ungrateful indeed if I omitted, at the first opportunity, to record my deep sense of the kindly sympathy and approval with which that preface and the whole book were received by those reviewers and they were many who favoured my work with a notice.

In this, my second attempt in the same direction, I am conscious that I have set myself a difficult task, for it is not an easy matter to give verisimilitude to a story of a visit to another planet about which we necessarily know so little. Yet astronomy as a study is so fascinating, its mysteries and possibilities are so wonderful, so boundless, its influences so elevating and ennobling, that little apology is needed for any effort to attract the attention of youthful readers to it by making it the subject of a romance.

Amongst other difficulties the story-writer here meets with, by no means the least confronts him when he is called upon to decide which of various theories put forward by different scientists he shall adopt as a starting-point. Mars, for instance, may have an atmosphere which is like ours, or one that is either thinner or denser, or it may have no atmosphere at all. As to this nothing is known with certainty, and the most learned authorities differ one from another. In these circumstances, I have adopted the supposition which seems best suited to my story namely, that the air there may be denser than it is on the surface of our globe; but I do not wish to be understood as asserting it as a fact. The same remark applies to the assumption that diamonds or other precious stones do not exist naturally in Mars. In regard to these two points, I have felt it may be allowable, as children say, to ‘make believe’ a little in forming a groundwork upon which to build up a story. As to the rest, I have refrained, in deference to the known prejudices of young people, from interjecting constant scientific explanations in the course of the narrative. Only sufficient has been introduced here and there to justify the hope that none will sit down to its perusal without getting up a little the wiser.

We are all of us, as Sir Isaac Newton so aptly yet reverently expressed it, ‘only as children picking up pebbles on the seashore while the great ocean of knowledge lies stretched out before us.’

I shall be well satisfied if, in addition to affording pleasure to youthful readers, I enable them to pick up incidentally even so much as a few grains of the sand which lies beside the pebbles upon that wondrous, glorious shore.

THE AUTHOR.

I. THE FALL OF THE GREAT METEORITE

‘What a magnificent night! What a scene! Jack, old man, I think you will have to go in to supper without me and leave me to myself. It seems a sort of sacrilege to go indoors to exchange the moon’s beautiful light for the miserable glimmer of a little oil-lamp, and this invigorating air off the sea for the smell of paraffin oil. Ugh!’

‘You’re a queer chap, Gerald; as dreamy, at times, as any girl, I declare! You amuse me vastly when you take on these sudden sentimental fits. When you are in this mood no stranger would ever imagine you were the same go-ahead, muscular young Christian you can prove yourself to be at other times.’

‘Yes, I suppose I’m a bit of a dreamer, Jack. I’ve been told it so many times that I fancy there must be something in it. Yet “While you sleep, then am I awake”–you know the quotation.’

‘Faith! I believe you there, Gerald. I believe you were cut out for a night-bird!’

‘No, no; now you’ve got hold of the wrong end of the stick. It isn’t that I prefer the night to the day; it is simply that by day one cannot see the stars, and one loses touch with the marvellous thoughts they inspire. Look at the sky overhead now! Look at those little shining points of light, and think how that they are all worlds such as ours is, or was, or will be! Imagine what it would be like if we could sail up amongst them from this old earth of ours if we could roam at will through space, stopping here and calling there upon those which are inhabited as I feel assured some must be. What sights we should see! What wonders we should encounter! Ah, think of it!’

‘I’d rather think just now of having a bit of supper,’ remarked the practical-minded Jack, with a yawn. ‘And I’m going in to get it too; so, are you coming with me, or are you not?’

This talk took place upon a headland of a lonely island in the Southern Seas. A tropical moon cast its wondrous radiance over everything around, shimmering upon the water, and causing the whole island to appear as though floating in an ocean of molten silver. There was just wind enough now and then to start the graceful palms waving cool, refreshing zephyrs that set millions of sparkling ripples in motion on the sea, and sent them dancing merrily shorewards to plash at last upon the golden sands at the foot of the cliff.

Gerald Wilton and Jack Lawford were two youths, orphans both, who, after having been brought up and educated in England, found themselves, through a curious series of chances, passing their time upon this island under the guardianship of a former friend of Gerald’s father, named Armeath. The latter was a scientist who had chosen to make this out-of-the-way spot absolutely uninhabited save for himself and his establishment his home for a year or two, in order the better to pursue certain abstruse studies to which he was ardently devoted.

They were stalwart, well-grown, clean-limbed British youths, these two, with good-looking faces and well-knit frames, fond of hunting, shooting, fishing, and all outdoor sports. At first, therefore, it is needless to say, they had enjoyed the change to this far-off island home, and entered with zest into its free, open life. If limited as to space, there were larger islands near, amongst which they could take an occasional cruise, and where they could go ashore for hunting expeditions.

But after nearly a year, even this pleasant life had begun to grow a little monotonous. The two high-spirited youngsters were getting somewhat tired of it, and beginning to long almost unconsciously for other and more exciting adventures.

Of the two, however, Gerald perhaps was more troubled by these vague, restless feelings than his chum. As his friend had said, Gerald was given at times to fits of dreaming. In appearance he was fairer and a little taller than his companion, with gray eyes which often had in them an abstracted, far-away look. Jack, on the other hand, was almost swarthy of skin, with dark hair, firm lips, and keen, alert eyes, which indicated an active, determined character, and a practical, matter-of-fact temperament.

That, in effect, constituted the essential difference between these two firm friends. Gerald was fond of indulging in speculations concerning all kinds of scientific research. The mysteries of the unknown, and the as yet ‘undiscovered;’ the limitless possibilities lying in the worlds surrounding our globe speculations concerning such themes as these had for him an irresistible fascination. Jack, on the other hand, kept his thoughts and interest fixed upon the practical side of everything about him. He was a skilful mechanic and a trained mathematician, and had developed clever engineering abilities; he might possibly some day become an inventor. But speculative, dreamy fancies had little attraction for him.

‘Jack,’ said Gerald impressively, ‘I can’t come in just now I really cannot! I can’t exactly say why, but to-night I seem to be unusually restless. I could not sit down indoors, nor could I rest if I went to bed. I don’t know what it is; but I have a feeling’–

‘It’s the electricity in the air. I suppose there must be more lying about loose to-night than suits your constitution,’ remarked Jack prosaically. ‘I said a minute or two since that you were as dreamy at times as any girl. I begin now to think you are developing “nerves” as well. However, do as you please! Stop here and enjoy yourself with your “nervy,” dreamy fancies if you choose. For my part, I ‘m going in to supper, and’–

‘What are you lads talking about?’

This question, which came from some one behind them, caused the two friends to start suddenly, and then glance at one another with wondering looks.

It was not that they had not recognised the voice. They knew it at once to be that of Mr Armeath, their guardian; the wonder was that he should have come out to them. Usually he spent the whole night shut up in his own rooms, immersed in his studies, or gazing through his telescope at the heavens above; for, amongst other things, he was an enthusiastic astronomer.

‘Faith!’ exclaimed Jack, in an aside to Gerald, ‘I begin to think you ‘re right after all. There must be something unusual in the air to account for this new move!’

The new-comer was a tall, fine-looking old man, with an ascetic face and a kindly voice and manner. His hair and beard were white, but his deep-set eyes glowed with the liveliness and fire of a vigorous young man.

With the self-absorbed, thoughtful air that so often marks the devoted scientist or profound student, Armeath, without waiting for any reply to the question he had asked, stepped past the two youngsters and walked almost to the edge of the bluff. There he gazed first at the sandy shore fifty feet or more below, then out over the glistening sea to the distant horizon, and finally at the deep-blue, star-spangled sky overhead.

Behind the three, at a distance of a few hundred yards, was the building or rather group of buildings which formed their home. These were built bungalow-fashion, save as to one part the observatory which rose above the rest, with detached dwelling-places for their attendants close by.

Inland, the ground fell away, and there was on one side a winding road down to the shore. On the other side, the ground rose again towards higher ridges in the centre of the island.

The old man remained for some minutes gazing fixedly upwards; the two young fellows, very much surprised, and if the truth be told a little awed by his demeanour, remained also motionless, gazing alternately at him and at each other.

Suddenly the sage uttered a sort of cry an exclamation so strange, so thrilling, that his companions were startled, and stared anxiously about, seeking for an explanation.

Then they saw him raise an arm and point to the sky, and, following the direction thus indicated, they both started and stood and gazed fixedly as though spell-bound.

‘Look!’ exclaimed Jack. ‘It is a meteor!’

And that was all that was said all, indeed, there was time for. There was no time for questions, for comments, for anything, in fact, save a great gasp of astonishment, and scarcely even for that.

Careering towards them through the upper air, at what seemed lightning speed, was something which left a long, luminous trail behind it. Rays and flashes of light of different colours burst from it in its course, darting out in all directions. A low, rushing sound became audible, which quickly increased in volume until it became a terrific, deafening, overwhelming roar.

There was a sudden disturbance in the air, as of the approach of a whirlwind, and a crackling noise as of the discharge of fireworks.

Then something seemed to shoot past them into the sea, the ‘wind’ from it almost brushing them aside like that caused by a shell fired from some colossal cannon.

From the sea came a mighty crash as of a loud explosion, while columns of water and clouds of vapour rose into the air. The water came right over the top of the cliff, drenching the amazed spectators, and almost sweeping one it was Jack off his feet.

Hardly had the spray cleared away when there was another commotion in the water. The sea, boiling and chafing, seemed to rise up into a pyramid, and from it a huge dark mass shot up into the air, dropping back into the sea again with a plunge only a little less violent than that which had accompanied its first fall.

For a brief space it was lost to view, and then it reappeared, shooting again high into the air, as might a gigantic whale throwing itself out of the sea in sport or an endeavour to escape some terrible marine foe.

These mad leaps and plunges were repeated again and again, becoming each time less in height and violence, until at last they ceased.

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