A Great Void And A Great Longing
Part of: SATURN
From: A Journey In Other Worlds
Resuming their march, the travellers proceeded along the
circumference of a circle having a radius of about three miles,
with the Callisto in the centre. In crossing soft places they
observed foot-prints forming in the earth all around them. The
impressions were of all sizes, and ceased when they reached
rising or hard ground, only to reappear in the swamps, regulating
their speed by that of the travellers. The three men were greatly
surprised at this.
"You may observe," said Cortlandt, "that the surface of the
impression is depressed as you watch it, as though by a weight,
and you can see, and even hear, the water being squeezed out,
though whatever is doing it is entirely invisible. They must be
made by spirits sufficiently advanced to have weight, but not
advanced enough to make themselves visible."
Moved by a species of vandalism, Bearwarden raised his
twelve-bore, and fired an ordinary cartridge that he had not
prepared for the dragons, at the space directly over the nearest
forming prints. There was a brilliant display of prismatic
colours, as in a rainbow, and though the impressions already made
remained, no new ones were formed.
"Now you have done it!" said Cortlandt. "I hoped to be able to
investigate this further."
"We shall doubtless see other and perhaps more wonderful things,"
replied Bearwarden. "I must say this gives me an uncanny
When they had completed a little over half their circle, they
came upon another of the groves with which Saturn seemed to
abound, at the edge of which, in a side-hill, was a cave, the
entrance of which was composed of rocky masses that had
apparently fallen together, the floor being but little higher
than the surface outside. The arched roof of the vestibule was
rendered watertight by the soil that had formed upon it, which
again was overgrown by vines and bushes.
"This," said Bearwarden, "will be a good place to camp, for the
cave will protect us from dragons, unless they should take a
notion to breathe at us from the outside, and it will keep us dry
in case of rain. To-morrow we can start with this as a centre,
and make another circuit."
"We can explore Saturn on foot," said Cortlandt, "and far more
thoroughly than Jupiter, on account of its comparative freedom
from monsters. Not even the dragons can trouble us, unless we
meet them in large numbers."
Thereupon they set about getting fuel for their fire. Besides
collecting some of the dead wood that was lying all about, they
split up a number of resinous pine and fir trees with explosive
bullets from their revolvers, so that soon they not only had a
roaring fire, but filled the back part of the cave with logs to
dry, in case they should camp there again at some later day.
Neither Cortlandt nor Bearwarden felt much like sleeping, and so,
after finishing the birds the president had brought down that
morning, they persuaded Ayrault to sit up and smoke with them.
Wrapping themselves in their blankets--for there was a chill in
the air--they sat about the camp-fire they had built in the mouth
of the cave. Two moons that were at the full rose rapidly in the
clear, cold sky. On account of their distance from the sun, they
were less bright than the terrestrial moon, but they shone with a
marvellously pure pale light. The larger contained the exact
features of a man. There was the somewhat aquiline nose, a
clear-cut and expressive mouth, and large, handsome eyes, which
were shaded by well- marked eyebrows. The whole face was very
striking, but was a personification of the most intense grief.
The expression was indeed sadder than that of any face they had
ever seen. The other contained the profile of a surpassingly
beautiful young woman. The handsome eyes, shaded by lashes,
looked straight ahead. The nose was perfect, and the ear small,
while the hair was artistically arranged at the top and back of
the head. This moon also reflected a pure white ray. The former
appeared about once and a quarter, the latter but three quarters,
the size of the terrestrial moon, and the travellers immediately
recognized them by their sizes and relative positions as Tethys
and Dione, discovered by J. D. Cassini in March, 1684. The sad
face was turned slightly towards that of its companion, and it
looked as if some tale of the human heart, some romance, had been
engraved and preserved for all time on the features of these dead
bodies, as they silently swung in their orbits forever and anon
were side by side.
"In all the ages," said Cortlandt, "that these moons have
wandered with Saturn about the sun, and with the solar system in
its journey through space, they can never have gazed upon the
scene they now behold, for we may be convinced that no mortal man
has been here before."
"We may say," said Ayrault, "that they see in our bodies a type
of the source from which come all the spiritual beings that are
"If, as the writers of mythology supposed," replied Cortlandt,
"inanimate objects were endowed with senses, these moons would
doubtless be unable to perceive the spiritual beings here; for
the satellites, being material, should, to be consistent, have
only those senses possessed by ourselves, so that to them this
planet would ordinarily appear deserted."
"I shall be glad," said Bearwarden, gloomily, "when those moons
wane and are succeeded by their fellows, for one would give me an
attack of the blues, while the other would subject me to the
inconvenience of falling in love."
As he spoke, the upper branches of the trees in the grove began
to sway as a cold gust from the north sighed among them. "Lose
no more opportunities," it seemed to cry, "for life is short and
uncertain. Soon you will all be colder than I, and your future,
still as easily moulded as clay, will be set as Marpesian marble,
more fixed than the hardest rock."
"Paradise," said Cortlandt, "contains sights and sounds that
might, I should think, arouse sad reminiscences without the aid
of the waters of Lethe, unless the joy of its souls in their new
resources and the sense of forgiveness outweigh all else."
With a parting look at the refined, silvery moon, and its
sorrow-laden companion, they retired to the sheltering cave,
piled up the fire, and talked on for an hour.
"I do not see how it is," said Bearwarden, "that these moons,
considering their distance from the sun, and the consequently
small amount of light they receive, are so bright."
"A body's brightness in reflecting light," replied Cortlandt,
"depends as much on the colour and composition of its own surface
as on the amount it receives. It is conceivable that these
moons, if placed at the earth's distance from the sun, would be
far brighter than our moon, and that our familiar satellite, if
removed to Saturn, would seem very dim. We know how much more
brilliant a mountain in the sunlight is when clad in snow than
when its sides are bare. These moons evidently reflect a large
proportion of the light they receive."
When they came out shortly after midnight the girl's-face moon
had already set, leaving a dark and dreary void in the part of
the sky it had so ideally filled. The inexpressibly sad
satellite (on account of its shorter distance and more rapid rate
of revolution) was still above the horizon, and, being slightly
tilted, had a more melancholy, heart-broken look than before.
While they gazed sadly at the emptiness left by Dione, Cortlandt
saw Ayrault's expression change, and, not clearly perceiving its
cause, said, wishing to cheer him: "Never mind, Dick; to-morrow
night we shall see it again."
"Ah, prosaic reasoner," retorted Bearwarden, who saw that this,
like so many other things, had reminded Ayrault of Sylvia, "that
is but small consolation for having lost it now, though I suppose
our lot is not so hard as if we were never to see it again. In
that moon's face I find the realization of my fancied ideal
woman; while that sad one yonder seems as though some celestial
lover, in search of his fate, had become enamoured of her, and
tried in vain to win her, and the grief in his mind had impressed
itself on the then molten face of a satellite to be the monument
throughout eternity of love and a broken heart. If the spirits
and souls of the departed have any command of matter, why may not
their intensest thoughts engrave themselves on a moon that, when
dead and frozen, may reflect and shine as they did, while
immersed in the depths of space? At first Dione bored me; now I
should greatly like to see her again."
"History repeats itself," replied Cortlandt, "and the same phases
of life recur. It is we that are in a changed receptive mood.
The change that seems to be in them is in reality in us. Remain
as you are now, and Dione will give you the same pleasure
tomorrow that she gave to-day."
To Ayrault this meant more than the mere setting to rise again of
a heavenly body. The perfume of a flower, the sighing of the
wind, suggesting some harmony or song, a full or crescent moon,
recalled thoughts and associations of Sylvia. Everything seemed
to bring out memory, and he realized the utter inability of
absence to cure the heart of love. "If Sylvia should pass from
my life as that moon has left my vision," his thoughts continued,
"existence would be but sadness and memory would be its cause,
for the most beautiful sounds entail sorrow; the most beautiful
sights, intense pain. "Ah," he went on with a trace of
bitterness, while his friends fell asleep in the cave, "I might
better have remained in love with science; for whose studies
Nature, which is but a form of God, in the right spirit, is not
dependent for his joy or despair on the whims of a girl. She, of
course, sees many others, and, being only twenty, may forget me.
Must I content myself with philosophical rules and mathematical
formulae, when she, whose changefulness I may find greater than
the winds that sigh over me, now loves me no longer? O love,
which makes us miserable when we feel it, and more miserable
still when it is gone!"
He strung a number of copper wires at different degrees of
tension between two trees, and listened to the wind as it ranged
up and down on this improvised AEolian harp. It gradually ran
into a regular refrain, which became more and more like words.
Ayrault was puzzled, and then amazed. There could be no doubt
about it. "You should be happy," it kept repeating--"you should
be happy," in soft musical tones.
"I know I should," replied Ayrault, finally recognizing the voice
of Violet Slade in the song of the wind, "and I cannot understand
why I am not. Tell me, is this paradise, Violet, or is it not
The notes ranged up and down again, and he perceived that she was
causing the wind to blow as she desired--in other words, she was
making it play upon his harp.
"That depends on the individual," she replied. "It is rather
sheol, the place of departed spirits. Those whose consciences
made them happy on earth are in paradise here; while those good
enough to reach heaven at last, but in whom some dross remains,
are further refined in spirit, and to them it is purgatory.
Those who are in love can be happy in but one way while their
love lasts. What IS happiness, anyway?"
"It is the state in which desires are satisfied, my fair Violet,"
"Say, rather, the state in which desire coincides with duty,"
replied the song. "Self-sacrifice for others gives the truest
joy; being with the object of one's love, the next. You never
believed that I loved you. I dissembled well; but you will see
for yourself some day, as clearly as I see your love for another
"Yes," replied Ayrault, sadly, "I am in love. I have no reason
to believe there is cause for my unrest, and, considering every
thing, I should be happy as man can be; yet, mirabile dictu, I am
in--hades, in the very depths!"
"Your beloved is beyond my vision; your heart is all I can see.
Yet I am convinced she will not forget you. I am sure she loves
"I have always believed in homoeopathy to the extent of the
similia similibus curantur, Violet, and it is certain that where
nothing else will cure a man of love for one woman, his love for
another will. You can see how I love Sylvia, but you have never
seemed so sweet to me as to-day."
"It is a sacrilege, my friend, to speak so to me now. You are
done with me forever. I am but a disembodied spirit, and escaped
hades by the grace of the Omnipotent, rather than by virtue of
any good I did on earth. So far as any elasticity is left in my
opportunities, I am dead as yon moon. You have still the gift
that but one can give. Within your animal body you hold an
immortal soul. It is pliable as wax; you can mould it by your
will. As you shape that soul, so will your future be. It is the
ark that can traverse the flood. Raise it, and it will raise
you. It is all there is in yourself. Preserve that gift, and
when you die you will, I hope, start on a plane many thousands of
years in advance of me. There should be no more comparison
between us than between a person with all his senses and one that
is deaf and blind. Though you are a layman, you should, with
your faith and frame of mind, soon be but little behind our
"I supposed after death a man had rest. Is he, then, a bishop
"The progress, as he told you, is largely on the old lines. As
he stirred men's hearts on earth, he will stir their souls in
heaven; and this is no irksome or unwelcome work."
"You say he WILL do this in heaven. Is he, then, not there yet?"
"He was not far from heaven on earth, yet technically none of us
can be in heaven till after the general resurrection. Then, as
we knew on earth, we shall receive bodies, though, as yet,
concerning their exact nature we know but little more than then.
We are all in sheol--the just in purgatory and paradise, the
unjust in hell."
"Since you are still in purgatory, are you unhappy?"
"No, our state is very happy. All physical pain is past, and can
never be felt again. We know that our evil desires are overcome,
and that their imprints are being gradually erased. I
occasionally shed an intangible tear, yet for most of those who
strove to obey their consciences, purgatory, when essential,
though occasionally giving us a bitter twinge, is a joy-producing
state. Not all the glories imaginable or unimaginable could make
us happy, were our consciences ill at ease. I have advanced
slowly, yet some things are given us at once. After I realized I
had irrevocably lost your love, though for a time I had hoped to
regain it, I became very restless; earth seemed a prison, and I
looked forward to death as my deliverer. I bore you no malice;
you had never especially tried to win me; the infatuation--that
of a girl of eighteen--had been all on my side. I lived five sad
and lonely years, although, as you know, I had much attention.
People thought me cold and heartless. How could I have a heart,
having failed to win yours, and mine being broken? Having lost
the only man I loved, I knew no one else could replace him, and I
was not the kind to marry for pique. People thought me handsome,
but I felt myself aged when you ceased to call. Perhaps when you
and she who holds all your love come to sheol, she may spare you
to me a little, for as a spirit my every thought is known; or
perhaps after the resurrection, when I, too, can leave this
planet, we shall all soar through space together, and we can
study the stars as of old."
"Your voice is a symphony, sweetest Violet, and I love to hear
your words. Ah, would you could once more return to earth, or
that I were an ethereal spirit, that we might commune face to
face! I would follow you from one end of Shadowland to the
other. Of what use is life to me, with distractions that draw my
thoughts to earth as gravitation drew my body? I wish I were a
"You are talking for effect, Dick--which is useless here, for I
see how utterly you are in love."
"I AM in love, Violet; and though, as I said, I have no reason to
doubt Sylvia's steadfastness and constancy, I am very unhappy. I
have always heard that time is a balsam that cures all ills, yet
I become more wretched every day."
"Do all you can to preserve that love, and it will bring you joy
all your life. Your happiness is my happiness. What distresses
you, distresses me."
The tones here grew fainter and seemed about to cease.
"Before you leave me," cried Ayrault, "tell me how and when I may
see or hear you again."
"While you remain on this planet, I shall be near; but beyond
Saturn I cannot go."
"Yet tell me, Violet, how I may see you? My love unattained, you
perceive, makes me wretched, while you always gave me calm and
peace. If I may not kiss the hand I almost asked might be mine,
let me have but a glance from your sweet eyes, which will comfort
me so much now."
"If you break the ice in the pool behind you, you shall see me
till the frame melts."
After this the silence was broken only by the sighing of the wind
in the trees. The pool had suddenly become covered with ice
several inches thick. Taking an axe, Ayrault hewed out a
parallelogram about three feet by four and set it on end against
the bank. The cold grey of morning was already colouring the
east, and in the growing light Ayrault beheld a vision of Violet
within the ice. The face was at about three fourths, and had a
contemplative air. The hair was arranged as he had formerly seen
it, and the thoughtful look was strongest in the beautiful grey
eyes, which were more serious than of yore. Ayrault stood
riveted to the spot and gazed. "I could have been happy with
her," he mused, and to think she is no more!"
As drops fell from the ice, tears rose to his eyes.
. . . . . . .
"What a pretty girl!" said Bearwarden to Cortlandt, as they came
upon it later in the day. "The face seems etched or imprinted by
some peculiar form of freezing far within the ice."
The next morning they again set out, and so tramped, hunted, and
investigated with varying success for ten Saturnian days. They
found that in the animal and plant forms of life Nature had
often, by some seeming accident, struck out in a course very
different from any on the earth. Many of the animals were bipeds
and tripeds, the latter arranged in tandem, the last leg being
evidently an enormously developed tail, by which the creature
propelled itself as with a spring. The quadrupeds had also
sometimes wings, and their bones were hollow, like those of
birds. Whether this great motive and lifting power was the
result of the planet's size and the power of gravitation, or
whether some creatures had in addition the power of developing a
degree of apergetic repulsion to offset it, as they suspected in
the case of the boa-constrictor that fell upon Cortlandt on
Jupiter, they could not absolutely ascertain. Life was far less
prolific on Saturn than on Jupiter, doubtless as a result of its
greater distance from the sun, and of its extremes of climate,
almost all organic life being driven to the latitudes near the
equator. There were, as on Jupiter, many variations from the
forms of life to which they were accustomed, and adaptations to
the conditions in which they found themselves; but, with the
exception of the strange manifestations of spirit life, they
found the workings of the fundamental laws the same. Often when
they woke at night the air was luminous, and they were convinced
that if they remained there long enough it would be easy to
devise some telegraphic code of light-flashes by which they could
communicate with the spirit world, and so get ideas from the host
of spirits that had already solved the problem of life and death,
but who were not as yet sufficiently developed to be able to
return to the earth. One day they stopped to investigate what
they had supposed to be an optical illusion. They observed that
leaves and other light substances floated several inches above
the surface of the water in the pools. On coming to the edge and
making tests, they found a light liquid, as invisible as air,
superimposed upon the water, with sufficient buoyancy to sustain
dry wood and also some forms of life. They also observed that
insects coming close to the surface and apparently inhaling it,
rapidly increased in size and weight, from which they concluded
it must throw off nitrogen, carbon, or some other nourishment in
the form of gas. The depth upon the water was unaffected by
rain, which passed through it, but depended rather on the
condition of the atmosphere, from which it was evidently
condensed. There seemed also to be a relation between the amount
of this liquid and the activity of the spirits. Finally, when
their ammunition showed signs of running low, they decided to
return to the Callisto, go in it to the other side of the planet,
and resume their investigations there. Accordingly, they set out
to retrace their steps, returning by a course a few miles to one
side of the way they had come, and making the cave their
objective point. Arriving there one evening about sunset, they
pitched their camp. The cave was sheltered and comfortable, and
they made preparation for passing the night.
"I shall be sorry," said Ayrault, as they sat near their fire,
"to leave this place without again seeing the bishop. He said we
could impress him anywhere, but it may be more difficult to do
that at the antipodes than here."
"It does seem," said Bearwarden, "as though we should be missing
it in not seeing him again, if that is possible. Nothing but a
poison-storm brought him the first time, and it is not certain
that even in such an emergency would he come again uncalled."
"I think," said Ayrault, "as none of the spirits here are
malevolent, they would warn us of danger if they could. The
bishop's spirit seems to have been the only one with sufficiently
developed power to reappear as a man. I therefore suggest that
to-morrow we try to make him feel our thought and bring him to
Next: The Spirit's Second Visit
Previous: Ayrault's Vision