"After that came her story. It was a marvellous narrative. Translated into our tongue it ran as follows:
"The traditions of my fathers, handed down for generations so many that no one can number them, declare that the planet of Mars was not the place of our origin."
"Ages and ages ago our forefathers dwelt on another and distant world that was nearer to the sun than this one is, and enjoyed brighter daylight than we have here."
"They dwelt—as I have often heard the story from my father, who had learned it by heart from his father, and he from his—in a beautiful valley that was surrounded by enormous mountains towering into the clouds and white about their tops with snow that never melted. In the valley were lakes, around which clustered the dwellings of our race."
"It was, the traditions say, a land wonderful for its fertility, filled with all things that the heart could desire, splendid with flowers and rich with luscious fruits."
"It was a land of music, and the people who dwelt in it were very happy."
While the girl was telling this part of her story the Heidelberg Professor became visibly more and more excited. Presently he could keep quiet no longer, and suddenly exclaimed, turning to us who were listening, as the words of the girl were interpreted for us by one of the other linguists:
"Gentlemen, it is the Vale of Cashmere! Has not my great countryman, Adelung, so declared? Has he not said that the Valley of Cashmere was the cradle of the human race already?"
"From the Valley of Cashmere to the planet Mars—what a romance!" exclaimed one of the bystanders.
Colonel Smith appeared to be particularly moved, and I heard him humming under his breath, greatly to my astonishment, for this rough soldier was not much given to poetry or music:
"Who has not heard of the Vale of Cashmere,
With its roses the brightest that earth ever gave;
Its temples, its grottoes, its fountains as clear,
As the love-lighted eyes that hang over the wave."
Mr. Sidney Phillips, standing by, and also catching the murmur of Colonel Smith's words, showed in his handsome countenance some indications of distress, as if he wished he had thought of those lines himself.
Aina Tells Her Story.The girl resumed her narrative:
"Suddenly there dropped down out of the sky strange gigantic enemies, armed with mysterious weapons, and began to slay and burn and make desolate. Our forefathers could not withstand them. They seemed like demons, who had been sent from the abodes of evil to destroy our race."
"Some of the wise men said that this thing had come upon our people because they had been very wicked, and the gods in Heaven were angry. Some said they came from the moon, and some from the far-away stars. But of these things my forefathers knew nothing for a certainty."
"The destroyers showed no mercy to the inhabitants of the beautiful valley. Not content with making it a desert, they swept over other parts of the earth."
"The tradition says that they carried off from the valley, which was our native land, a large number of our people, taking them first into a strange country, where there were oceans of sand, but where a great river, flowing through the midst of the sands, created a narrow land of fertility. Here, after having slain and driven out the native inhabitants, they remained for many years, keeping our people, whom they had carried into captivity, as slaves."
"And in this Land of Sand, it is said, they did many wonderful works."
"They had been astonished at the sight of the great mountains which surrounded our valley, for on Mars there are no mountains, and after they came into the Land of Sand they built there with huge blocks of stone mountains in imitation of what they had seen, and used them for purposes that our people did not understand."
"Then, too, it is said they left there at the foot of these mountains that they had made a gigantic image of the great chief who led them in their conquest of our world."
At this point in the story the Heidelberg Professor again broke in, fairly trembling with excitement:
The Wonders of the Martians!"Gentlemen, gentlemen," he cried, "is it that you do not understand? This Land of Sand and of a wonderful fertilizing river—what can it be? Gentlemen, it is Egypt! These mountains of rock that the Martians have erected, what are they? Gentlemen, they are the great mystery of the land of the Nile, the Pyramids. The gigantic statue of their leader that they at the foot of their artificial mountains have set up—gentlemen, what is that? It is the Sphinx!"
The Professor's agitation was so great that he could go no further. And indeed there was not one of us who did not fully share his excitement. To think that we should have come to the planet Mars to solve one of the standing mysteries of the earth, which had puzzled mankind and defied all their efforts at solution for so many centuries! Here, then, was the explanation of how those gigantic blocks that constitute the great Pyramid of Cheops had been swung to their lofty elevation. It was not the work of puny man, as many an engineer had declared that it could not be, but the work of these giants of Mars.
Aina's Wonderful Story.
The Martians' Beautiful Prisoner Recounts Her Marvellous Adventures.Aina resumed her story.
"At length, our traditions say, a great pestilence broke out in the Land of Sand, and a partial vengeance was granted to us in the destruction of the larger number of our enemies. At last the giants who remained, fleeing before this scourge of the gods, used the mysterious means at their command, and, carrying our ancestors with them, returned to their own world, in which we have ever since lived."
"Then there are more of your people in Mars?" said one of the professors.
"Alas, no," replied Aina, her eyes filling with tears, "I alone am left."
For a few minutes she was unable to speak. Then she continued:
An Ancient Martian Conquest."What fury possessed them I do not know, but not long ago an expedition departed from the planet, the purpose of which, as it was noised about over Mars, was the conquest of a distant world. After a time a few survivors of that expedition returned. The story they told caused great excitement among our masters. They had been successful in their battles with the inhabitants of the world they had invaded, but as in the days of our forefathers, in the Land of Sand, a pestilence smote them, and but few survivors escaped."
"Not long after that, you, with your mysterious ships, appeared in the sky of Mars. Our masters studied you with their telescopes, and those who had returned from the unfortunate expedition declared that you were inhabitants of the world which they had invaded, come, doubtless, to take vengeance upon them."
"Some of my people who were permitted to look through the telescopes of the Martians, saw you also, and recognized you as members of their own race. There were several thousand of us, altogether, and we were kept by the Martians to serve them as slaves, and particularly to delight their ears with music, for our people have always been especially skilful in the playing of musical instruments, and in songs, and while the Martians have but little musical skill themselves, they are exceedingly fond of these things."
Waiting a Rescue.
"Although Mars had completed not less than five thousand circuits about the sun since our ancestors were brought as prisoners to its surface, yet the memory of our distant home had never perished from the hearts of our race, and when we recognized you, as we believed, our own brothers, come to rescue us from long imprisonment, there was great rejoicing. The news spread from mouth to mouth, wherever we were in the houses and families of our masters. We seemed to be powerless to aid you or to communicate with you in any manner. Yet our hearts went out to you, as in your ships you hung above the planet, and preparations were secretly made by all the members of our race for your reception when, as we believed, would occur, you should effect a landing upon the planet and destroy our enemies."
"But in some manner the fact that we had recognized you, and were preparing to welcome you, came to the ears of the Martians."
At this point the girl suddenly covered her eyes with her hands, shuddering and falling back in her seat.
"Oh, you do not know them as I do!" at length she exclaimed. "The monsters! Their vengeance was too terrible! Instantly the order went forth that we should all be butchered, and that awful command was executed!"
"How, then, did you escape?" asked the Heidelberg Professor.
Aina seemed unable to speak for a while. Finally mastering her emotion, she replied:
Her Fortunate Escape."One of the chief officers of the Martians wished me to remain alive. He, with his aides, carried me to one of the military depot of supplies, where I was found and rescued," and as she said this she turned toward Colonel Smith with a smile that reflected on his ruddy face and made it glow like a Chinese lantern.
"By ——!" muttered Colonel Smith, "that was the fellow we blew into nothing! Blast him, he got off too easy!"
The remainder of Aina's story may be briefly told.
When Colonel Smith and I entered the mysterious building which, as it now proved, was not a storehouse belonging to a village, as we had supposed, but one of the military depots of the Martians, the girl, on catching sight of us, immediately recognized us as belonging to the strange squadron in the sky. As such she felt that we must be her friends, and saw in us her only possible hope of escape. For that reason she had instantly thrown herself under our protection. This accounted for the singular confidence which she had manifested in us from the beginning.
Her wonderful story had so captivated our imaginations that for a long time after it was finished we could not recover from the spell. It was told over and over again from mouth to mouth, and repeated from ship to ship, everywhere exciting the utmost astonishment.
Destiny seemed to have sent us on this expedition into space for the purpose of clearing off mysteries that had long puzzled the minds of men..."
Garrett Serviss, Edison´s Conquest of Mars
(New York Evening Journal, 1989)