A Journey in Other Worlds by J. J. Astor - HTML preview

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Hard At Work


 In a few moments Ayrault returned with pencils, a pair of compasses, and paper.

"Let us see, in the first place," said Deepwaters, "how long the journey will take. Since a stone falls 16.09 feet the first second, and 64+ feet the next, it is easy to calculate at what rate your speed would increase with the repulsion twice that of the ordinary traction. But I think this would be too slow. It will be best to treble or quadruple the apergetic charge, which can easily be done, in which case your speed will exceed the muzzle-velocity of a projectile from a long-range gun, in a few seconds. As the earth's repulsion decreases, the attraction of mars and Jupiter will increase, and, there being no resistance, your gait will become more and more rapid till it is necessary to reverse the charge to avoid being dashed to pieces or being consumed like a falling star by the friction in passing through Jupiter's atmosphere. You can be on the safe side by checking your speed in advance. You must, of course, be careful to avoid collisions with meteors and asteroids but if you do, they will be of use to you, for by attracting or repelling them you can change your course to suit yourself, and also theirs in inverse ratio to their masses. Jupiter's moons will be like head and stern lines in enabling you to choose the part of the surface on which you wish to land. With apergy it is as essential to have some heavy body on which to work, within range, as to have water about a ship's propellers. Whether, when apergy is developed, gravitation is temporarily annulled, or reversed like the late attraction of a magnet when the current is changed, or whether it is merely overpowered, in which case your motion will be the resultant of the two, is an unsettled and not very important point; for, though we know but little more of the nature of electricity than was known a hundred years ago, this does not prevent our producing and using it."

"Jupiter, when in opposition," he continued, "is about 380,000,000 miles from us, and it takes light, which travels at the rate of 190,000 miles a second, just thirty-four minutes to reach the earth from Jupiter. If we suppose the average speed of your ship to be one- fivehundredth as great, it will take you just eleven days, nineteen hours and twenty minutes to make the journey. You will have a fine view of Mars and the asteroids, and when 1,169,000 miles from Jupiter, will cross the orbit of Callisto, the fifth moon in distance from the giant planet. That will be your best point to steer by."

"I think," said Ayrault, "as that will be the first member of Jupiter's system we pass, and as it will guide us into port, it would be a good name for our ship, and you must christen her if we have her launched."

 "No, no," said Deepwaters, "Miss Preston must do that; but we certainly should have a launch, for you might have to land in the water, and you must be sure the ship is tight."

"Talking of tight ships," said Bearwarden, passing a decanter of claret to Stillman, "may remind us that it is time to splice the 'main brace.' There's a bottle of whisky and some water just behind you," he added to Deepwaters, "while three minutes after I ring this bell," he said, pressing a button and jerking a handle marked '8,' "the champagne cocktails will be on the desk."

 "I see you know his ways," said Stillman to Bearwarden, drooping his eyes in Deepwaters's direction.

 "Oh, yes, I've been here before," replied Deepwaters. "You see, we navy men have to hustle now-a-days, and can't pass our time in a high-backed chair, talking platitudes."

 At this moment there was a slight rumbling, and eight champagne cocktails, with the froth still on, and straws on a separate plate, shot in and landed on a corner of the desk.

 "Help yourselves, gentlemen," said Bearwarden, placing them on a table; "I hope we shall find them cold."

"Do you know," said Deepwaters to Ayrault, while rapidly making his cocktail disappear, "the Callisto's cost with its outfit will be very great, especially if you use glucinum, which, though the ideal metal for the purpose, comes pretty high? I suggest that you apply to Congress for an appropriation. This experiment comes under the 'Promotion of Science Act,' and any bill for it would certainly pass."

"No, indeed," replied Ayrault; "the Callisto trip will be a privilege and glory I would not miss, and building her will be a part of it. I shall put in everything conducive to success, but will come to the Government only for advice."

"I will send a letter to all our ambassadors and consuls," said Stillman, "to telegraph the department anything they may know or learn that will be of use in adjusting the batteries, controlling the machine, or anything else, and will turn over to you in a succinct form all information that may be relevant, for without such sorting you would be overwhelmed."

"And I," said Deepwaters, "will order the commanders of our vessels to give you a farewell salute at starting, and to pick you up in case you fail. When you have demonstrated the suitability of apergy," he continued, "and the habitability of Jupiter and Saturn--,which, with their five and eight moons, respectively, and rings thrown in, must both be vastly superior to our little second-rate globe--we will see what can be done towards changing our orbit, and if we cannot swing a little nearer to our new world or worlds. Then we'll lower, or rather raise, the boats in the shape of numerous Callistos, and have a landing-party ready at each opposition, while a man or two can be placed in charge of each projectile to bring it back in ballast. Thus we may soon have regular interplanetary lines."

"As every place seems to have been settled from some other," said Cortlandt, "I do not see why, with increased scientific facilities, history should not repeat itself, and this be the point from which to colonize the solar system; for, for the present at least, it would seem that we could not get beyond that."

 "As it will be quite an undertaking to change the orbit, said Deepwaters, "we shall have time meanwhile to absorb or run out all inferior races, so that we shall not make the mistake of extending the Tower of Babel."

 "He is putting on his war-paint," said Stillman, "and will soon want a planet to himself."

"I see no necessity for even changing the orbit," said Bearwarden, "except for the benefit of those that remain. If this attempt succeeds, it can doubtless be repeated. An increase in eccentricity would merely shorten the journey, if aphelion always coincided with opposition, which it would not."

"Let us know how you are getting on," said Deepwaters to Ayrault, "and be sure you have the Callisto properly christened. Step lively there, landlubbers!" he called to Stillman; "I have an appointment at Washington at one, and it is now twenty minutes past twelve. We can lunch on the way."

Ayrault immediately advertised for bids for the construction of a glucinum cylinder twenty-five feet in diameter, fifteen feet high at the sides, with a domed roof, bringing up the total height to twenty-one feet, and with a small gutter about it to catch the rain on Jupiter or any other planet they might visit. The sides, roof, and floor were to consist of two sheets, each one third of an inch thick and six inches apart, the space between to be filled with mineral wool, as a protection against the intense cold of space. There were also to be several keels and supports underneath, on which the car should rest. Large, toughened plate-glass windows were to be let into the roof and sides, and smaller ones in the floor, all to be furnished with thick shades and curtains. Ayrault also decided to have it divided into two stories, with ceilings six and a half to seven and a half feet high, respectively, with a sort of crow's nest or observatory at the top; the floors to be lattice- work, like those in the engine-room of a steamer, so that when the carpets were rolled up they should not greatly obstruct the view. The wide, flat base and the low centre of gravity would, he saw, be of use in withstanding the high winds that he knew often prevailed on Jupiter.

As soon as possible he awarded the contract, and then entering his smart electric trap, steered for Vassar University along what was the old post-road--though its builders would not have recognized it with its asphalt surface, straightened curves, and easy grades--to ask his idol to christen the Callisto when it should be finished.

 Starting from the upper end of Central Park, he stopped to buy her a bunch of violets, and then ran to Poughkeepsie in two hours.

Sylvia Preston was a lovely girl, with blue eyes, brown hair, and perfect figure, clear white skin, and just twenty. She was delighted to see him, and said she would love to christen the Callisto or do anything else that he wished. "But I am so sorry you are going away," she went on. "I hate to lose you for so long, and we shall not even be able to write."

 "Why couldn't we be married now," he asked, "and go to Jupiter for our honeymoon?"

"I'm afraid, dear," she answered, "you would be sorry a few years hence if I didn't take my degree; and, besides, as you have asked those other men, there wouldn't be room for me."

 "We could have made other arrangements," he replied, "had I been able to persuade you to go."

 "Won't you dine with us at Delmonico's this evening, and go to the play?" she asked. "Papa has taken a box."

 "Of course I will," he said, brightening up. "What are you going to wear?"

 "Oh, I suppose something light and cool, for it's so hot," she answered.

 "I'll go now, so as to be ready," he said, getting up and going towards the door to which Sylvia followed him.

 A man in livery stood at the step of the phaeton. Ayrault got in and turned on the current, and his man climbed up behind.

On turning into the main road Ayrault was about to increase his speed, when Sylvia, who had taken a short cut appeared at the wayside carrying her hat in one hand and her gloves in the other.

 "I couldn't let you go all by yourself," she said. "The fact is, I wanted to be with you."

"You are the sweetest thing that ever lived, and I'll love you all my days," he said, getting down and helping Sylvia to the seat beside him. "What a nuisance this fellow behind is!" he continued--referring to the groom-- "for, though he is a Russian, and speaks but little English, it is unpleasant to feel he is there."

 "You'll have to write your sweet nothings, instead of saying them," Sylvia replied.

 "For you to leave around for other girls to see," answered Ayrault with a smile.

 "I don't know what your other girls do," she returned, "but with me you are safe."

Ayrault fairly made his phaeton spin, going up the grades like a shot and down like a bird. On reaching New York, he left Sylvia at her house, then ran his machine to a florist's, where he ordered some lilies and roses, and then steered his way to his club, where he dressed for dinner. Shortly before the time he repaired to Delmonico's--which name had become historical, though the founders themselves were long dead--and sat guard at a table till Sylvia, wearing his flowers and looking more beautiful than any of them, arrived with her mother and father, and Bearwarden, whom they knew very well. "How are the exams getting on, Miss Preston?" Bearwarden asked.

 "Pretty well," she replied, with a smile. "We had English literature yesterday, and natural history the day before. Next week we have chemistry and philosophy."

 "What are you taking in natural history?" asked Bearwarden, with interest.

 "Oh, principally physical geography, geology, and meteorology," she replied. "I think them entrancing."

"It must be a consolation," said Ayrault, "when your best hat is spoiled by rain, to know the reason why. Your average," he continued, addressing Sylvia, "was ninety in the semiannuals, and I haven't a doubt that the finals will maintain your record for the year."

 "Don't be too sure," she replied. "I have been loafing awfully, and had to engage a 'grind' as a coach."

 After dinner they went to the play, where they saw a presentation of Society at the Close of the Twentieth Century, which Sylvia and Ayrault enjoyed immensely.

A few days after the Delmonico dinner, while Bearwarden, Cortlandt, and Ayrault sat together discussing their plans, the servant announced Ayrault's family physician, Dr. Tubercle Germiny, who had been requested to call.

 "Delighted to see you, doctor," said Ayrault, shaking hands. "You know Col. Bearwarden, our President, and Dr. Cortlandt--an LL. D., however, and not a medico."

 "I have had the pleasure," replied Dr. Germiny, shaking hands with both.

"As you may be aware, doctor," said Ayrault, when they were seated, "we are about to take a short trip to Jupiter, and, if time allows, to Saturn. We have come to you, as one familiar with every known germ, for a few precautionary suggestions and advice concerning our medicine-chest."

"Indeed!" replied Dr. Germiny, "a thorough knowledge of bacteriology is the groundwork of therapeutics. It is practically admitted that every ailment, with the exception of mechanical injuries, is the direct result of a specific germ; and even in accidents and simple fractures, no matter what may be the nature of the bruise, a micro-organism soon announces its presence, so that if not the parent, it is the inseparable companion, in fact the shadow, of disease. Now, though not the first cause in this instance, it has been indubitably proved, that much of the effect, the fever and pain, are produced and continued by the active, omnipresent, sleepless sperm. Either kill the micrococcus or heal the wound, and you are free from both. It being, therefore, granted that the ills of life are in the air, we have but to find the peculiar nature of the case in hand, its habits, tastes, and constitution, in order to destroy it. Impoverish the soil on which it thrives, before its arrival, if you can foresee the nature of the inoculation to which you will be exposed, by a dilute solution of itself, and supply it only with what it particularly dislikes. For an already established tubercle requiring rapid action of the blood, such as may well exist among the birds and vertebrates of Jupiter and Saturn, I suggest a hypodermic rattlesnake injection, while hydrocyanic acid and tarantula saliva may also come in well. The combinations that so long destroyed us have already become our panacea."

 "I see you have these poisons at your fingers' ends," said Ayrault, "and we shall feel the utmost confidence in the remedies and directions you prescribe."

They found that, in addition to their medicine-chest, they would have to make room for the following articles, and also many more: six shot-guns (three double-barrel 12-bores, three magazine 10-bores,) three rifles, three revolvers; a large supply of ammunition (explosive and solid balls), hunting-knives, fishing-tackle, compass, sextant, geometrical instruments, canned food for forty days, appliance for renewing air, clothing, rubber boots, apergetic apparatus, protection-wires, aneroid barometer, and kodaks.