The Coming Race HTML version

Chapter 20
From the date of the expedition with Taee which I have just narrated, the child paid me
frequent visits. He had taken a liking to me, which I cordially returned. Indeed, as he was
not yet twelve years old, and had not commenced the course of scientific studies with
which childhood closes in that country, my intellect was less inferior to his than to that of
the elder members of his race, especially of the Gy-ei, and most especially of the
accomplished Zee. The children of the Vril-ya, having upon their minds the weight of so
many active duties and grave responsibilities, are not generally mirthful; but Taee, with
all his wisdom, had much of the playful good-humour one often finds the characteristic of
elderly men of genius. He felt that sort of pleasure in my society which a boy of a similar
age in the upper world has in the company of a pet dog or monkey. It amused him to try
and teach me the ways of his people, as it amuses a nephew of mine to make his poodle
walk on his hind legs or jump through a hoop. I willingly lent myself to such
experiments, but I never achieved the success of the poodle. I was very much interested
at first in the attempt to ply the wings which the youngest of the Vril-ya use as nimbly
and easily as ours do their legs and arms; but my efforts were attended with contusions
serious enough to make me abandon them in despair.
These wings, as I before said, are very large, reaching to the knee, and in repose thrown
back so as to form a very graceful mantle. They are composed from the feathers of a
gigantic bird that abounds in the rocky heights of the country- the colour mostly white,
but sometimes with reddish streaks. They are fastened round the shoulders with light but
strong springs of steel; and, when expanded, the arms slide through loops for that
purpose, forming, as it were, a stout central membrane. As the arms are raised, a tubular
lining beneath the vest or tunic becomes, by mechanical contrivance inflated with air,
increased or diminished at will by the movement of the arms, and serving to buoy the
whole form as on bladders. The wings and the balloon-like apparatus are highly charged
with vril; and when the body is thus wafted upward, it seems to become singularly
lightened of its weight. I found it easy enough to soar from the ground; indeed, when the
wings were spread it was scarcely possible not to soar, but then came the difficulty and
the danger. I utterly failed in the power to use and direct the pinions, though I am
considered among my own race unusually alert and ready in bodily exercises, and am a
very practiced swimmer. I could only make the most confused and blundering efforts at
flight. I was the servant of the wings; the wings were not my servants- they were beyond
my control; and when by a violent strain of muscle, and, I must fairly own, in that
abnormal strength which is given by excessive fright, I curbed their gyrations and
brought them near to the body, it seemed as if I lost the sustaining power stored in them
and the connecting bladders, as when the air is let out of a balloon, and found myself
precipitated again to the earth; saved, indeed, by some spasmodic flutterings, from being
dashed to pieces, but not saved from the bruises and the stun of a heavy fall. I would,
however, have persevered in my attempts, but for the advice or the commands of the
scientific Zee, who had benevolently accompanied my flutterings, and, indeed, on the last
occasion, flying just under me, received my form as it fell on her own expanded wings,