The Building Of The Sphere

: The First Men In The Moon

I remember the occasion very distinctly when Cavor told me of his idea of

the sphere. He had had intimations of it before, but at the time it seemed

to come to him in a rush. We were returning to the bungalow for tea, and

on the way he fell humming. Suddenly he shouted, "That's it! That

finishes it! A sort of roller blind!"

"Finishes what?" I asked.

"Space--anywhere! The moon."

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"What do you mean?"

"Mean? Why--it must be a sphere! That's what I mean!"

I saw I was out of it, and for a time I let him talk in his own fashion. I

hadn't the ghost of an idea then of his drift. But after he had taken tea

he made it clear to me.

"It's like this," he said. "Last time I ran this stuff that cuts things

off from gravitation into a flat tank with an overlap that held it down.

And directly it had cooled and the manufacture was completed all that

uproar happened, nothing above it weighed anything, the air went squirting

up, the house squirted up, and if the stuff itself hadn't squirted up too,

I don't know what would have happened! But suppose the substance is loose,

and quite free to go up?"

"It will go up at once!"

"Exactly. With no more disturbance than firing a big gun."

"But what good will that do?"

"I'm going up with it!"

I put down my teacup and stared at him.

"Imagine a sphere," he explained, "large enough to hold two people and

their luggage. It will be made of steel lined with thick glass; it will

contain a proper store of solidified air, concentrated food, water

distilling apparatus, and so forth. And enamelled, as it were, on the

outer steel--"



"But how will you get inside?"

"There was a similar problem about a dumpling."

"Yes, I know. But how?"

"That's perfectly easy. An air-tight manhole is all that is needed. That,

of course, will have to be a little complicated; there will have to be a

valve, so that things may be thrown out, if necessary, without much loss

of air."

"Like Jules Verne's thing in A Trip to the Moon."

But Cavor was not a reader of fiction.

"I begin to see," I said slowly. "And you could get in and screw yourself

up while the Cavorite was warm, and as soon as it cooled it would become

impervious to gravitation, and off you would fly--"

"At a tangent."

"You would go off in a straight line--" I stopped abruptly. "What is to

prevent the thing travelling in a straight line into space for ever?" I

asked. "You're not safe to get anywhere, and if you do--how will you get


"I've just thought of that," said Cavor. "That's what I meant when I said

the thing is finished. The inner glass sphere can be air-tight, and,

except for the manhole, continuous, and the steel sphere can be made in

sections, each section capable of rolling up after the fashion of a roller

blind. These can easily be worked by springs, and released and checked by

electricity conveyed by platinum wires fused through the glass. All that

is merely a question of detail. So you see, that except for the thickness

of the blind rollers, the Cavorite exterior of the sphere will consist of

windows or blinds, whichever you like to call them. Well, when all these

windows or blinds are shut, no light, no heat, no gravitation, no radiant

energy of any sort will get at the inside of the sphere, it will fly on

through space in a straight line, as you say. But open a window, imagine

one of the windows open. Then at once any heavy body that chances to be in

that direction will attract us--"

I sat taking it in.

"You see?" he said.

"Oh, I see."

"Practically we shall be able to tack about in space just as we wish. Get

attracted by this and that."

"Oh, yes. That's clear enough. Only--"


"I don't quite see what we shall do it for! It's really only jumping off

the world and back again."

"Surely! For example, one might go to the moon."

"And when one got there? What would you find?"

"We should see--Oh! consider the new knowledge."

"Is there air there?"

"There may be."

"It's a fine idea," I said, "but it strikes me as a large order all the

same. The moon! I'd much rather try some smaller things first."

"They're out of the question, because of the air difficulty."

"Why not apply that idea of spring blinds--Cavorite blinds in strong

steel cases--to lifting weights?"

"It wouldn't work," he insisted. "After all, to go into outer space is not

so much worse, if at all, than a polar expedition. Men go on polar


"Not business men. And besides, they get paid for polar expeditions. And

if anything goes wrong there are relief parties. But this--it's just

firing ourselves off the world for nothing."

"Call it prospecting."

"You'll have to call it that.... One might make a book of it perhaps," I


"I have no doubt there will be minerals," said Cavor.

"For example?"

"Oh! sulphur, ores, gold perhaps, possibly new elements."

"Cost of carriage," I said. "You know you're not a practical man. The

moon's a quarter of a million miles away."

"It seems to me it wouldn't cost much to cart any weight anywhere if you

packed it in a Cavorite case."

I had not thought of that. "Delivered free on head of purchaser, eh?"

"It isn't as though we were confined to the moon."

"You mean?"

"There's Mars--clear atmosphere, novel surroundings, exhilarating sense

of lightness. It might be pleasant to go there."

"Is there air on Mars?"

"Oh, yes!"

"Seems as though you might run it as a sanatorium. By the way, how

far is Mars?"

"Two hundred million miles at present," said Cavor airily; "and you go

close by the sun."

My imagination was picking itself up again. "After all," I said,

"there's something in these things. There's travel--"

An extraordinary possibility came rushing into my mind. Suddenly I saw,

as in a vision, the whole solar system threaded with Cavorite liners

and spheres deluxe. "Rights of pre-emption," came floating into my

head--planetary rights of pre-emption. I recalled the old Spanish

monopoly in American gold. It wasn't as though it was just this planet

or that--it was all of them. I stared at Cavor's rubicund face, and

suddenly my imagination was leaping and dancing. I stood up, I walked

up and down; my tongue was unloosened.

"I'm beginning to take it in," I said; "I'm beginning to take it in." The

transition from doubt to enthusiasm seemed to take scarcely any time at

all. "But this is tremendous!" I cried. "This is Imperial! I haven't

been dreaming of this sort of thing."

Once the chill of my opposition was removed, his own pent-up excitement

had play. He too got up and paced. He too gesticulated and shouted. We

behaved like men inspired. We were men inspired.

"We'll settle all that!" he said in answer to some incidental difficulty

that had pulled me up. "We'll soon settle that! We'll start the drawings

for mouldings this very night."

"We'll start them now," I responded, and we hurried off to the laboratory

to begin upon this work forthwith.

I was like a child in Wonderland all that night. The dawn found us both

still at work--we kept our electric light going heedless of the day. I

remember now exactly how these drawings looked. I shaded and tinted while

Cavor drew--smudged and haste-marked they were in every line, but

wonderfully correct. We got out the orders for the steel blinds and frames

we needed from that night's work, and the glass sphere was designed within

a week. We gave up our afternoon conversations and our old routine

altogether. We worked, and we slept and ate when we could work no longer

for hunger and fatigue. Our enthusiasm infected even our three men, though

they had no idea what the sphere was for. Through those days the man Gibbs

gave up walking, and went everywhere, even across the room, at a sort of

fussy run.

And it grew--the sphere. December passed, January--I spent a day

with a broom sweeping a path through the snow from bungalow to

laboratory--February, March. By the end of March the completion was in

sight. In January had come a team of horses, a huge packing-case; we

had our thick glass sphere now ready, and in position under the crane

we had rigged to sling it into the steel shell. All the bars and blinds

of the steel shell--it was not really a spherical shell, but polyhedral,

with a roller blind to each facet--had arrived by February, and the

lower half was bolted together. The Cavorite was half made by March, the

metallic paste had gone through two of the stages in its manufacture,

and we had plastered quite half of it on to the steel bars and blinds.

It was astonishing how closely we kept to the lines of Cavor's first

inspiration in working out the scheme. When the bolting together of

the sphere was finished, he proposed to remove the rough roof of the

temporary laboratory in which the work was done, and build a furnace

about it. So the last stage of Cavorite making, in which the paste is

heated to a dull red glow in a stream of helium, would be accomplished

when it was already on the sphere.

And then we had to discuss and decide what provisions we were to

take--compressed foods, concentrated essences, steel cylinders containing

reserve oxygen, an arrangement for removing carbonic acid and waste from

the air and restoring oxygen by means of sodium peroxide, water

condensers, and so forth. I remember the little heap they made in the

corner--tins, and rolls, and boxes--convincingly matter-of-fact.

It was a strenuous time, with little chance of thinking. But one day,

when we were drawing near the end, an odd mood came over me. I had been

bricking up the furnace all the morning, and I sat down by these

possessions dead beat. Everything seemed dull and incredible.

"But look here, Cavor," I said. "After all! What's it all for?"

He smiled. "The thing now is to go."

"The moon," I reflected. "But what do you expect? I thought the moon was

a dead world."

He shrugged his shoulders.

"We're going to see."

"Are we?" I said, and stared before me.

"You are tired," he remarked. "You'd better take a walk this afternoon."

"No," I said obstinately; "I'm going to finish this brickwork."

And I did, and insured myself a night of insomnia. I don't think I have

ever had such a night. I had some bad times before my business collapse,

but the very worst of those was sweet slumber compared to this infinity of

aching wakefulness. I was suddenly in the most enormous funk at the thing

we were going to do.

I do not remember before that night thinking at all of the risks we were

running. Now they came like that array of spectres that once beleaguered

Prague, and camped around me. The strangeness of what we were about to do,

the unearthliness of it, overwhelmed me. I was like a man awakened out of

pleasant dreams to the most horrible surroundings. I lay, eyes wide open,

and the sphere seemed to get more flimsy and feeble, and Cavor more unreal

and fantastic, and the whole enterprise madder and madder every moment.

I got out of bed and wandered about. I sat at the window and stared at

the immensity of space. Between the stars was the void, the unfathomable

darkness! I tried to recall the fragmentary knowledge of astronomy I had

gained in my irregular reading, but it was all too vague to furnish any

idea of the things we might expect. At last I got back to bed and snatched

some moments of sleep--moments of nightmare rather--in which I fell and

fell and fell for evermore into the abyss of the sky.

I astonished Cavor at breakfast. I told him shortly, "I'm not coming with

you in the sphere."

I met all his protests with a sullen persistence. "The thing's too mad,"

I said, "and I won't come. The thing's too mad."

I would not go with him to the laboratory. I fretted bout my bungalow for

a time, and then took hat and stick and set out alone, I knew not whither.

It chanced to be a glorious morning: a warm wind and deep blue sky, the

first green of spring abroad, and multitudes of birds singing. I lunched

on beef and beer in a little public-house near Elham, and startled the

landlord by remarking apropos of the weather, "A man who leaves the world

when days of this sort are about is a fool!"

"That's what I says when I heerd on it!" said the landlord, and I found

that for one poor soul at least this world had proved excessive, and there

had been a throat-cutting. I went on with a new twist to my thoughts.

In the afternoon I had a pleasant sleep in a sunny place, and went on my

way refreshed. I came to a comfortable-looking inn near Canterbury. It

was bright with creepers, and the landlady was a clean old woman and took

my eye. I found I had just enough money to pay for my lodging with her. I

decided to stop the night there. She was a talkative body, and among many

other particulars learnt she had never been to London. "Canterbury's as

far as ever I been," she said. "I'm not one of your gad-about sort."

"How would you like a trip to the moon?" I cried.

"I never did hold with them ballooneys," she said evidently under the

impression that this was a common excursion enough. "I wouldn't go up in

one--not for ever so."

This struck me as being funny. After I had supped I sat on a bench by the

door of the inn and gossiped with two labourers about brickmaking, and

motor cars, and the cricket of last year. And in the sky a faint new

crescent, blue and vague as a distant Alp, sank westward over the sun.

The next day I returned to Cavor. "I am coming," I said. "I've been a

little out of order, that's all."

That was the only time I felt any serious doubt our enterprise. Nerves

purely! After that I worked a little more carefully, and took a trudge for

an hour every day. And at last, save for the heating in the furnace, our

labours were at an end.