The Coming Race HTML version

Chapter 3
Slowly and cautiously I went my solitary way down the lamplit road and towards the
large building I have described. The road itself seemed like a great Alpine pass, skirting
rocky mountains of which the one through whose chasm I had descended formed a link.
Deep below to the left lay a vast valley, which presented to my astonished eye the
unmistakeable evidences of art and culture. There were fields covered with a strange
vegetation, similar to none I have seen above the earth; the colour of it not green, but
rather of a dull and leaden hue or of a golden red.
There were lakes and rivulets which seemed to have been curved into artificial banks;
some of pure water, others that shone like pools of naphtha. At my right hand, ravines
and defiles opened amidst the rocks, with passes between, evidently constructed by art,
and bordered by trees resembling, for the most part, gigantic ferns, with exquisite
varieties of feathery foliage, and stems like those of the palm-tree. Others were more like
the cane-plant, but taller, bearing large clusters of flowers. Others, again, had the form of
enormous fungi, with short thick stems supporting a wide dome-like roof, from which
either rose or drooped long slender branches. The whole scene behind, before, and beside
me far as the eye could reach, was brilliant with innumerable lamps. The world without a
sun was bright and warm as an Italian landscape at noon, but the air less oppressive, the
heat softer. Nor was the scene before me void of signs of habitation. I could distinguish at
a distance, whether on the banks of the lake or rivulet, or half-way upon eminences,
embedded amidst the vegetation, buildings that must surely be the homes of men. I could
even discover, though far off, forms that appeared to me human moving amidst the
landscape. As I paused to gaze, I saw to the right, gliding quickly through the air, what
appeared a small boat, impelled by sails shaped like wings. It soon passed out of sight,
descending amidst the shades of a forest. Right above me there was no sky, but only a
cavernous roof. This roof grew higher and higher at the distance of the landscapes
beyond, till it became imperceptible, as an atmosphere of haze formed itself beneath.
Continuing my walk, I started,- from a bush that resembled a great tangle of sea-weeds,
interspersed with fern-like shrubs and plants of large leafage shaped like that of the aloe
or prickly-pear,- a curious animal about the size and shape of a deer. But as, after
bounding away a few paces, it turned round and gazed at me inquisitively, I perceived
that it was not like any species of deer now extant above the earth, but it brought instantly
to my recollection a plaster cast I had seen in some museum of a variety of the elk stag,
said to have existed before the Deluge. The creature seemed tame enough, and, after
inspecting me a moment or two, began to graze on the singular herbiage around
undismayed and careless.