The First Men In The Moon
The Fight In The Cave Of The Moon Butchers
I DO not know how far we clambered before we came to the grating. It may be we
ascended only a few hundred feet, but at the time it seemed to me we might have hauled
and jammed and hopped and wedged ourselves through a mile or more of vertical ascent.
Whenever I recall that time,,there comes into my head the heavy clank of our golden
chains that followed every movement. Very soon my knuckles and knees were raw, and I
had a bruise on one cheek. After a time the first violence of our efforts diminished, and
our movements became more deliberate and less painful. The noise of the pursuing
Selenites had died away altogether. It seemed almost as though they had not traced us up
the crack after all, in spite of the tell-tale heap of broken fungi that must have lain
beneath it. At times the cleft narrowed so much that we could scarce squeeze up it; at
others it expanded into great drusy cavities, studded with prickly crystals or thickly beset
with dull, shining fungoid pimples. Sometimes it twisted spirally, and at other times
slanted down nearly to the horizontal direction. Ever and again there was the intermittent
drip and trickle of water by us. Once or twice it seemed to us that small living things had
rustled out of our reach, but what they were we never saw. They may have been
venomous beasts for all I know, but they did us no harm, and we were now tuned to a
pitch when a weird creeping thing more or less mattered little. And at last, far above,
came the familiar bluish light again, and then we saw that it filtered through a grating that
barred our way.
We whispered as we pointed this out to one another, and became more and more cautious
in our ascent. Presently we were close under the grating, and by pressing my face against
its bars I could see a limited portion of the cavern beyond. It was clearly a large space,
and lit no doubt by some rivulet of the same blue light that we had seen flow from the
beating machinery. An intermittent trickle of water dropped ever and again between the
bars near my face.
My first endeavour was naturally to see what might be upon the floor of the cavern, but
our grating lay in a depression whose rim hid all this from our eyes. Our foiled attention
then fell back upon the suggestion of the various sounds we heard, and presently my eye
caught a number of faint shadows that played across the dim roof far overhead.
Indisputably there were several Selenites, perhaps a considerable number, in this space,
for we could hear the noises of their intercourse, and faint sounds that I identified as their
footfalls. There was also a succession of regularly repeated sounds - chid, chid, chid -
which began and ceased, suggestive of a knife or spade hacking at some soft substance.
Then came a clank as if of chains, a whistle and a rumble as of a truck running over a
hollowed place, and then again that chid, chid, chid resumed. The shadows told of shapes
that moved quickly and rhythmically, in agreement with that regular sound, and rested
when it ceased.
We put our heads close together, and began to discuss these things in noiseless whispers.