We Arrive On Mars And Meet With A Startling Surprise
From: To Mars Via The Moon
On hearing my excited exclamation, John and M'Allister at once stepped
on to the platform and, having looked down, were as much surprised as I
was, for lo! we were heading direct for the very spot which I had
previously told them it was my fancy to land upon, and we were not three
miles away from it. We also saw a large town or city close by our
"One would almost imagine you were a magician, Professor," said John,
"and that this affair was all your work, and intended to secure a
landing only where you thought proper."
"No, John," I answered, "I had nothing to do with our coming to this
spot, and it is still a mystery to me how it was we were not able to
continue on our original course. The Gordian Knot was too much for us
"Well," John said, "it does not matter so long as we succeed in landing
"By Jove!" he exclaimed suddenly, "look through the glass over there,"
pointing forwards as he spoke. "I can see enormous crowds of people
evidently watching our vessel."
It really was so, for, as we drew nearer and nearer, we could plainly
see an enormous multitude of people who seemed to be drawn up along the
four sides of an immense square open space, and they were all looking
upwards towards the Areonal.
"Go and have a wash," I said to M'Allister, who had become quite grimy
from the perspiration occasioned by his exciting work just previously.
"We will see to the machines, if necessary. You must not descend amongst
such an assembly of the natives with dirty hands and face."
"No," he replied, "Kenneth M'Allister will not disgrace old Scotland by
doing such a thing as that."
"Look sharp, then, M'Allister," John called after him; then, peeping
down again, he pointed to the farther side of the square, saying, "Look,
Professor, I can see some pavilions over there, and a large dais affair,
with a canopy over it! Look at the flags and banners too!" he cried;
"and there seems to be a large number of officials round the dais.
Perhaps that's the Emperor of Mars sitting there!"
"I doubt that, John," I replied; "but probably he is some very important
personage. How singular," I added, "that this spot which I selected
should be the only one toward which we were able to steer our vessel!"
"Well, we shall soon know something about that, I expect," replied John.
"Heh, mon!" exclaimed M'Allister, who had now rejoined us, looking spick
and span, and with his face shining from the fresh application of soap
and water, "I believe they are all down there watching for our arrival."
"It really looks like it," I said; "but how could they have known we
were coming? So many scores of thousands could not have been gathered
together at a few minutes' notice. Well, you can see to the machines,
and take us gently down into that square."
"Professor," remarked John, "those people are not the big, ugly giants,
nor the strange animals which some of our folks have imagined the
inhabitants of Mars to be. They appear a bit tall; but, so far as I can
see from here with the glass, they are a fairly good-looking lot. They
seem quite friendly too," he added, "and we shall not require those guns
"No, certainly not," I replied, for now we were close enough to see that
the people were waving their hands towards us, and that children were
waving bright-coloured flags. Just then a welcoming shout came up to us
from below, and we made friendly signs to the people in response. Then
they cheered us again and again, so we knew we could safely descend
With skilful manoeuvring M'Allister soon brought our vessel down near
the centre of the square, and we were all ready to step out. John
judiciously, but rather reluctantly, ceased smoking and put away his
pipe, not knowing what kind of reception he might have if he appeared
amongst these strangers with a pipe in his mouth.
A line of officials was arranged in a curve on each side of the dais,
and three of them came towards us from either side, making signs of
friendliness and welcome.
Seeing that we had nothing to fear, we at once stepped on to the ground
and advanced to meet them. In spite of weighted boots, which we had
taken the precaution to wear, we had some difficulty in walking
properly; the gravitation being so much less than on the earth we had an
irresistible tendency to lift our feet much too high at every step we
As we met, each official made a very graceful and courteous inclination
of his body, and we all bowed in response. The first couple of officials
then conducted me towards the dais, and I could now see that they were
very much taller than myself, being quite seven feet nine inches in
height. They were, however, so splendidly proportioned that at first
their stature had not impressed me as being much above our ordinary
standard; whilst their features were most beautifully formed and
regular, their complexions being very clear and fresh-looking.
One great peculiarity I noticed in all around us, and that was a
peculiar soft and liquid glow in their eyes, which seemed to light up
the whole of their features, adding greatly to their beauty and nobility
As we approached the dais, its occupant rose and came down the steps to
meet us on the level ground. Whatever his rank, he was a most
magnificent figure, his whole bearing being serenely dignified, majestic
and impressive; whilst the expression upon his radiantly glowing
countenance was benign and intelligent beyond anything I had imagined or
anticipated, though I had expected much.
What followed, however, was surprising beyond measure, and it was
startling and electrifying in the suddenness with which it came upon me;
for, as this splendid being moved towards me with stately steps, and
both hands outstretched in greeting, he said to me in English,
"Welcome to Mars! welcome to my country, oh stranger from a far-off
world! In the name of the whole people, I bid you welcome to our
world, which we call 'Tetarta,' and to this city of Sirapion!"
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