Part of: LAST OF EARTH
From: A Journey In Other Worlds
At last the preparations were completed, and it was arranged that
the Callisto should begin its journey at eleven o'clock A. M.,
December 21st--the northern hemisphere's shortest day.
Though six months' operations could hardly be expected to have
produced much change in the inclination of the earth's axis, the
autumn held on wonderfully, and December was pronounced very
mild. Fully a million people were in and about Van Cortlandt
Park hours before the time announced for the start, and those
near looked inquiringly at the trim little air-ship, that, having
done well on the trial trip, rested on her longitudinal and
transverse keels, with a battery of chemicals alongside, to make
sure of a full power supply.
The President and his Cabinet--including, of course, the shining
lights of the State and Navy Departments--came from Washington.
These, together with Mr. and Mrs. Preston, and a number of people
with passes, occupied seats arranged at the sides of the
platform; while sightseers and scientists assembled from every
part of the world.
"There's a ship for you!" said Secretary Stillman to the
Secretary of the Navy. "She'll not have to be dry-docked for
barnacles, neither will the least breeze make the passengers
"That's all you landlubbers think of," replied Deepwaters. "I
remember one of the kings over in Europe said to me, as he
introduced me to the queen: 'Your Secretary of State is a great
man, but why does he always part his hair in the middle?'
"'So that it shall not turn his head,' I replied.
"'But with so gallant and handsome an officer as you to lean
upon,' he answered, 'I should think he could look down on all the
world.' Whereupon I asked him what he'd take to drink."
"Your apology is accepted," replied Secretary Stillman.
Cortlandt also came from Washington, where, as chief of the
Government's Expert Examiners Board, he had temporary quarters.
Bearwarden sailed over the spectators' heads in one of the
Terrestrial Axis Straightening Company's flying machines, while
Ayrault, to avoid the crowd, had come to the Callisto early, and
was showing the interior arrangements to Sylvia, who had
accompanied him. She was somewhat piqued because at the last
moment he had not absolutely insisted on carrying her off, or
offered, if necessary, to displace his presidential and
Doctor-of-Laws friends in order to make room.
"You will have an ideal trip," she said, looking over some
astronomical star-charts and photographic maps of Jupiter and
Saturn that lay on the table, with a pair of compasses, "and I
hope you won't lose your way."
"I shall need no compass to find my way back," replied Ayrault,
"if I ever succeed in leaving this planet; neither will
star-charts be necessary, for you will be a magnet stronger than
any compass, and, compared with my star, all others are dim."
"You should write a book," said Sylvia, "and put some of those
things in it." She was wearing a bunch of forget-me-nots and
violets that she had cut from a small flower-garden of potted
plants Ayrault had sent her, which she had placed in her father's
At this moment the small chime clock set in the Callisto's
wood-work rang out quarter to eleven. As the sounds died away,
Sylvia became very pale, and began to regret in her womanly way
that she had allowed her hero to attempt this experiment.
"Oh," she said, clinging to his arm, "it was very wrong of me to
let you begin this. I was so dazzled by the splendour of your
scheme when I heard it, and so anxious that you should have the
glory of being the first to surpass Columbus, that I did not
realize the full meaning. I thought, also, you seemed rather
ready to leave me," she added gently, "and so said little; you do
not know how it almost breaks my heart now that I am about to
lose you. It was quixotic to let you undertake this journey."
"An undertaker would have given me his kind offices for one even
longer, had I remained here," replied Ayrault. "I cannot live in
this humdrum world without you. The most sustained excitement
cannot even palliate what seems to me like unrequited love."
"O Dick!" she exclaimed, giving him a reproachful glance, "you
mustn't say that. You know you have often told me my reason for
staying and taking my degree was good. My lot will be very much
harder than yours, for you will forget me in the excitement of
discovery and adventure; but I--what can I do in the midst of all
the old associations?"
"Never mind, sweetheart," he said, kissing her hand, "I have
seemed on the verge of despair all the time."
Seeing that their separation must shortly begin, Ayrault tried to
assume a cheerful look; but as Sylvia turned her eyes away they
were suspiciously moist.
Just one minute before the starting-time Ayrault took Sylvia back
to her mother, and, after pressing her hand and having one last
long look into her--or, as he considered them, HIS--deep-sea
eyes, he returned to the Callisto, and was standing at the foot
of the telescopic aluminum ladder when his friends arrived. As
all baggage and impedimenta bad been sent aboard and properly
stowed the day before, the travellers had not to do but climb to
and enter by the second-story window. It distressed Bearwarden
that the north pole's exact declination on the 21st day of
December, when the axis was most inclined, could not be figured
out by the hour at which they were to start, so as to show what
change, if any, had already been brought about, but the
astronomers were working industriously, and promised that, if it
were finished by midnight, they would telegraph the result into
space by flash-light code.
Raising his hat to his fiancee and his prospective
parents-in-law, Ayrault followed them up. To draw in and fold
the ladder was but the work of a moment. As the clocks in the
neighbouring steeples began to strike eleven, Ayrault touched the
switch that would correspond to the throttle of an engine, and
the motors began to work at rapidly increasing speed. Slowly the
Callisto left her resting-place as a Galatea might her pedestal,
only, instead of coming down, she rose still higher.
A large American flag hanging from the window, which, as they
started, fluttered as in a southern zephyr, soon began to flap as
in a stiff breeze as the car's speed increased. With a final
wave, at which a battery of twenty-one field-pieces made the air
ring with a salute, and the multitude raised a mighty cheer, they
drew it in and closed the window, sealing it hermetically in
order to keep in the air that, had an opening remained, would
soon have become rarefied.
Sylvia had waved her handkerchief with the utmost enthusiasm, in
spite of the sadness at her heart. But she now had other use for
it in trying to hide her tears. The Callisto was still going
straight up, with a speed already as great as a cannon ball's,
and was almost out of sight. The multitude then began to
disperse, and Sylvia returned to her home.
Let us now follow the Callisto. The earth and Jupiter not being
exactly in opposition, as they would be if the sun, the earth,
and Jupiter were in line, with the earth between the two, but
rather as shown in the diagram, the Callisto's journey was
considerably more than 380,000,000 miles, the mean opposition
distance. As they wished to start by daylight--i. e., from the
side of the earth turned towards the sun--they could not steer
immediately for Jupiter, but were obliged to go a few hundred
miles in the direction of the sun, then change their course to
something like a tangent to the earth, and get their final right
direction in swinging near the moon, since they must be
comparatively near some material object to bring apergy into
The maximum power being turned on, the projectile shot from the
earth with tremendous and rapidly increasing speed, by the
shortest course--i. e., a straight line--so that for the present
it was not necessary to steer. Until beyond the limits of the
atmosphere they kept the greatest apergetic repulsion focused on
the upper part of their cylinder, so that its point went first,
and they encountered least possible resistance. Looking through
the floor windows, therefore, the travellers had a most superb
view. The air being clear, the eastern border of North America
and the Atlantic were outlined as on a map, the blue of the ocean
and brownish colour of the land, with white snow- patches on the
elevations, being very marked. The Hudson and the Sound appeared
as clearly defined blue ribbons, and between and around the two
they could see New York. They also saw the ocean dotted for
miles with points in which they recognized the marine spiders and
cruisers of the North Atlantic squadron, and the ships on the
home station, which they knew were watching them through their
"I see," said Cortlandt, "that Deepwaters has been as good as his
word, and has his ships on the watch to rescue us in case we
"Yes," replied Bearwarden, "he is the right sort. When he gave
that promise I knew his men would be there."
They soon perceived that they had reached the void of space, for,
though the sun blazed with a splendour they had never before
seen, the firmament was intensely black, and the stars shone as
at midnight. Here they began to change their course to a curve
beginning with a spiral, by charging the Callisto apergetically,
and directing the current towards the moon, to act as an aid to
the lunar attraction, while still allowing the earth to repel,
and their motion gradually became the resultant of the two
forces, the change from a straight line being so gradual,
however, that for some minutes they scarcely perceived it. The
coronal streamers about the sun, such as are visible on earth
during a total eclipse, shone with a halo against the
ultra-Cimmerian background, bursting forth to a height of twenty
or thirty thousand miles above the surface in vast cyclonic
storms, producing so rapid a motion that a column of incandescent
gas may move ten thousand miles in less than ten minutes.
Whether these great streaks were in part electrical phenomena
similar to the aurora borealis, or entirely of intensely heated
material thrown up by explosions within the sun's mass, they
could not tell even from their point of vantage.
"I believe," said Cortlandt, pointing to the streamers, "that
they are masses of gas thrown beyond the sun's atmosphere, which
expand enormously when the pressure to which they are subjected
in the sun is removed--for only in space freed from resistance
could they move at such velocities, and that their brilliancy is
increased by great electrical disturbance. If they were entirely
the play of electrical forces, their change of place would be
practically instantaneous, which, however rapid their movement,
is not the case."
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