A VOYAGE TO THE MOON by Cyrano de Bergerac
I.--Arrival on the Moon
After many experiments I constructed a flying machine, and, sitting on top of it, I boldly launched myself in the air from the crest of a mountain. I had scarcely risen more than half a mile when something went wrong with my machine, and it shot back to the earth. But, to my astonishment and joy, instead of descending with it, I continued to rise through the calm, moonlight air. For three-quarters of an hour I mounted higher and higher. Then suddenly all the weight of my body seemed to fall upon my head. I was no longer rising quietly from the Earth, but tumbling headlong on to the Moon. At last I crashed through a tree, and, breaking my fall among its leafy, yielding boughs, I landed gently on the grass below.
I found myself in the midst of a wild and beautiful forest, so full of the sweet music of singing-birds that it seemed as if every leaf on every tree had the tongue and figure of a nightingale. The ground was covered with unknown, lovely flowers, with a magical scent. As soon as I smelt it I became twenty years younger. My thin grey hairs changed into thick, brown, wavy tresses; my wrinkled face grew fresh and rosy; and my blood flowed through my veins with the speed and vigour of youth.
I was surprised to find no trace of human habitation in the forest. But in wandering about I came upon two strong, great animals, about twelve cubits long. One of them came towards me, and the other fled into the forest. But it quickly returned with seven hundred other beasts. As they approached me, I perceived that they were creatures with a human shape, who, however, went on all-fours like some gigantic kind of monkey. They shouted with admiration when they saw me; and one of them took me up by the neck and flung me on his back, and galloped with me into a great town.
When I saw the splendid buildings of the city I recognised my mistake. The four-footed creatures were really enormous men. Seeing that I went on two legs, they would not believe that I was a man like themselves. They thought I was an animal without any reasoning power, and they resolved to send me to their queen, who was fond of collecting strange and curious monsters.
All this, of course, I did not understand at the time. It took me some months to learn their language. These men of the Moon have two dialects; one for the nobility, the other for the common people. The language of the nobility is a kind of music; it is certainly a very pleasant means of expression. They are able to communicate their thoughts by lutes and other musical instruments quite as well as by the voice.
When twenty or thirty of them meet together to discuss some matter, they carry on the debate by the most harmonious concert it is possible to imagine.
The common people, however, talk by agitating different parts of their bodies. Certain movements constitute an entire speech. By shaking a finger, a hand, or an arm, for instance, they can say more than we can in a thousand words. Other motions, such as a wrinkle on the forehead, a shiver along a muscle, serve to design words. As they use all their body in speaking in this fashion, they have to go naked in order to make themselves clearly understood. When they are engaged in an exciting conversation they seem to be creatures shaken by some wild fever.
Instead of sending me at once to the Queen of the Moon, the man who had captured me earned a considerable amount of money by taking me every afternoon to the houses of the rich people. There I was compelled to jump and make grimaces, and stand in ridiculous attitudes in order to amuse the crowds of guests who had been invited to see the antics of the new animal.
But one day, as my master was pulling the rope around my neck to make me rise up and divert the company, a man came and asked me in Greek who I was. Full of joy at meeting someone with whom I could talk, I related to him the story of my voyage from the Earth.
“I cannot understand,” I said, “how it was I rose up to the Moon when my machine broke down and fell to the Earth.”
“That is easily explained,” he said. “You had got within the circle of lunar influence, in which the Moon exerts a sort of sucking action on the fat of the body. The same thing often happens to me. Like you, I am a stranger on the Moon. I was born on the Sun, but, being of a roving disposition, I like to explore one planet after another. I have travelled a good deal in Europe, and conversed with several persons whose names you no doubt know. I remember that I was once famous in ancient Greece as the Demon of Socrates.”
“Then you are a spirit?” I exclaimed.
“A kind of spirit,” he replied. “I was one of the large company of the Men of the Sun who used to inhabit the Earth under the names of oracles, nymphs, woodland elves, and fairies. But we abandoned our world in the reign of the Emperor Augustus; your people then became so gross and stupid that we could no longer delight in their society. Since then I have stayed on the Moon. I find its inhabitants more enlightened than the inhabitants of the Earth.”
“I don’t!” I exclaimed. “Look how they treat me, as if I were a wild beast! I am sure that if one of their men of science voyaged to the Earth, he would be better received than I am here.”
“I doubt it,” said the Man of the Sun. “Your men of science would have him killed, stuffed, and put in a glass case in a museum.”
CONTINUES NEXT WEEK