From The Wit and Humor of America, edited by Marshall P. Wilder, Volume IV, New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls and Company, 1911; pp. 779-802.
THE GIRL FROM MERCURY
AN INTERPLANETARY LOVE STORY
Being the Interpretation of Certain Phonic Vibragraphs Recorded by the Long’s Peak Wireless Installation, Now for the First Time Made Public Through the Courtesy of Professor Caducious, Ph. D., Sometime Secretary of the Boulder Branch of the Association for the Advancement of Interplanetary Communication.
BY HERMAN KNICKERBOCKER VIELÉ
It is evident that the following logograms form part of a correspondence between a young lady, formerly of Mercury, and her confidential friend still resident upon the inferior planet. The translator has thought it best to preserve, as far as possible, the spirit of the original by the employment of mundane colloquialisms; the result, in spite of many regrettable trivialities, will, it is believed, be of interest to students of Cosmic Sociology.
THE FIRST RECORD
Yes, dear, it’s me. I’m down here on the Earth and in our Settlement House, safe and sound. I meant to have called you up before, but really this is the first moment I have had to myself all day. — Yes, of course, I said “all day.” You know very well they have days and nights here, because this restless little planet spins, or something of the sort. — I haven’t the least idea why it does so, and 780 I don’t care. — I did not come here to make intelligent observations like a dowdy “Seeing Saturn” tourist. So don’t be Uranian. Try to exercise intuitive perception if I say anything you can’t understand. — What is that? — Please concentrate a little harder. — Oh! Yes, I have seen a lot of human beings already, and would you believe it? some of them seem almost possible — especially one. — But I will come to that one later. I’ve got so much to tell you all at once I scarcely know where to begin. — Yes, dear, the One happens to be a man. You would not have me discriminate, would you, when our object is to bring whatever happiness we can to those less fortunate than ourselves? You know success in slumming depends first of all upon getting yourself admired, for then the others will want to be like you, and once thoroughly dissatisfied with themselves they are almost certain to reform. Of course I am only a visitor here, and shall not stay long enough to take up serious work, so Ooma says I may as well proceed along the line of least resistance. — If you remember Ooma’s enthusiasm when she ran the Board of Missions to Inferior Planets, you can fancy her now that she has an opportunity to carry out all her theories. Oh, she’s great!
My transmigration was disappointing as an experience. It was nothing more than going to sleep and dreaming about circles — orange circles, yellow circles, with a thousand others of graduated shades between, and so on through the spectrum till you pass absolute green and get a tone or two toward blue and strike the Earth color-note. Then with me everything got jumbled together and seemed about to take new shapes, and I woke up in the most commonplace manner and opened my eyes to find myself externalized in our Earth Settlement House with Ooma laughing at me.781
“Don’t stir!” she cried. “Don’t lift a finger till we are sure your specific gravity is all right.” And then she pinched me to see if I was dense enough, because the atmosphere is heavier or lighter or something here than with us.
I reminded her that matter everywhere must maintain an absolute equilibrium with its environment, but she protested.
“That’s well enough in theory; you must understand that the Earth is awfully out of tune at present, and sometimes it requires time to readjust ourselves to its conditions.”
— I did not say so, but I fancy Ooma may have been undergoing readjustment. — My dear, she has grown as pudgy as a Jupitan, and her clothes — but then she always did look more like a spiral nebula than anything else.
(The record here becomes unintelligible by reason of the passage of a thunderstorm above the summit of Long’s Peak.)
— There must be star-dust in the ether. — I never had to concentrate so hard before. — That’s all about the Settlement House, and don’t accuse me again of slighting details. I’m sure you know the place now as well as Ooma herself, so I can go on to tell what little I have learned about human beings.
It seems I am never to admit that I was not born on Earth, for, like all provincials, the humans pride themselves on disbelieving everything beyond their own experience, and if they understood they would be certain to resent intrusions from another planet. I’m sure I don’t blame them altogether when I recall those patronizing Jupitans. — And I’m told they are awfully jealous and distrustful even of one another, herding together for protection and governed by so many funny little tribal codes that 782 what is right on one side of an imaginary boundary may be wrong on the other. — Ooma considers this survival of the group-soul most interesting, and intends to make it the subject of a paper. I mention it only to explain why we call our Settlement a Boarding-House. A Boarding-House, you must know, is fundamentally a hunting pack which one can affiliate with or separate from at will. — Rather a pale yellow idea, isn’t it? Ooma thinks it necessary to conform to it in order to be considered respectable, which is the one thing on Earth most desired. — What, dear? — Oh, I don’t know what it means to be respectable any more than you do. — One thing more. You’ll have to draw on your imagination! Ooma is called here Mrs. Bloomer. — Her own name was just a little too unearthly. Mrs. signifies that a woman is married. — What? — Oh, no, no, no, nothing of the sort. — But I shall have to leave that for another time. I’m not at all sure how it is myself.
By the way, if any one should ask you where I am, just say I’ve left the planet, and you don’t know when I shall be back. — Yes, you know who I mean. — And, dear, perhaps you might drop of hint that I detest all foreigners, especially Jupitans. — Please don’t laugh so hard; you’ll get the atmospheric molecules all woozy. — Indeed, there’s not the slightest danger here. Just fancy, if you please, beings who don’t know when they are hunger without consulting a wretched little mechanism, and who measure their radius of conception by the length of their own feet. — Of course I shall be on hand for the Solstice! I wouldn’t miss that for an asteroid! — Oh, did I really promise that? Well, I’ll tell you about him another time.783
THE SECOND RECORD
THOUGH PROBABLY THIRD COMMUNICATION
— I really must not waste so much gray matter, dear, over unimportant details. But I simply had to tell you all about my struggles with the clothes. When Ooma came back, just as I had mastered them with the aid of her diagrams, the dear thing was so much pleased she actually hugged me, and I must confess the effect made me forget my discomfort. Really, an Earth girl is not so much to be pitied if she has becoming dresses to wear. As you may be sure I was anxious to compare myself with others, I was glad enough to hear Ooma suggest going out.
“Come on,” she said, executively, “I have only a half-hour to devote to your first walk. Keep close beside me, and remember on no account to either dance or sing.”
“But if I see others dancing may I not join them?” I inquired.
“You won’t see anybody dancing on Broadway,” she replied, a trifle snubbily, but I resolved to escape from her as soon as possible and find out for myself.
I shall never forget my shock on discovering the sky blue instead of the color it should be, but soon my eyes became accustomed to the change. In fact, I have not since that first moment been able to conceive of the sky as anything but blue. And the city? — Oh, my dear, my dear, I never expected to encounter anything so much out of key with the essential euphonies. Of course I have not traveled very much, but I should say there is nothing in the universe like a street they call Broadway — unless it be upon the lesser satellite of Mars, where the poor people are so awfully cramped for space. When I suggested this to Ooma she laughed and called me clever, for it seems 784 there is a tradition that a mob of meddling Martians once stopped on Earth long enough to give the foolish humans false ideas about architecture and many other matters. But I soon forgot everything in my interest in the people. Such a poor puzzle-headed lot they are. One’s heart goes out to them at once as they push and jostle one another this way and that, with no conceivable object other than to get anywhere but where they are in the shortest time possible. One longs to help them; to call a halt upon their senseless struggles; to reason with them and explain how all the psychic force they waste might, if exerted in constructive thought, bring everything they wish to pass. Mrs. Bloomer assures me they only ridicule those who venture to interfere, and it will take at least a Saturn century to so much as start them in the right direction. Our settlement is their only hope, she says, and even we can help them only indirectly.
Not long ago, it appears, they had to choose a King or Mayor, or whatever the creature is called who executes their silly laws, and our people so manipulated the election that the choice fell on one of us.
I thought this a really good idea, and supposed, of course, we must at once have set about demonstrating how a planet should be managed. But no! that was not our system, if you please. Instead of making proper laws our agent misbehaved himself in every way the committee could suggest, until at last the humans rose against him and put one of themselves in his place, and after that things went just a little better than before. This is the only way in which they can be taught. But, dear me, isn’t it tedious?
Of course, I soon grew anxious for an exchange of thought with almost any one, but it was a long while before I discovered a single person who was not in a violent 785 hurry. At last, however, we came upon a human drawn apart a little from the throng, who stood with folded arms, engaged apparently in lofty meditation. His countenance was amiable, although a little red.
Saying nothing to Ooma of my purpose, I slipped away from her, and looking up into the creature’s eyes inquired mentally the subject of his thoughts; also, how he came to be so inordinately stout, and why he wore bright metal buttons on his garment. But my only answer was a stupid blink, for his mentality seemed absolutely incapable of receiving suggestions not expressed in sounds. I observed farther that his aura inclined too much toward violet for perfect equipoise.
“G’wan out of this, and quit yer foolin’,” he remarked, missing my meaning altogether.
Of course I spoke then, using the human speech quite glibly for a first attempt, and hastened to assure him that though I had no idea of fooling, I should not go on until my curiosity have been satisfied. But just then Ooma found me.
“My friend is a stranger,” she explained to the brass-buttoned man.
“They why don’t you put a string to her?” he asked.
I learned later that I had been addressing one of the public jesters employed by the community to keep Broadway from becoming intolerably dull.
“But you must not speak to people in the street,” said Ooma, “not even to policemen.”
“Then how am I to brighten others’ lives?” I asked, more than a little disappointed, for several humans hurrying past had turned upon me looks indicating moods receptive of all the brightening I could give.
I might have amused myself indefinitely, studying the rapid succession of varying faces, had not Bloomer cautioned 786 me not to stare. She said people would think me from the country, which is considered discreditable, and as this reminded me that I had as yet seen nothing growing, I asked to be shown the gardens and groves.
“There is one,” she said, indicating an open space not far away, where sure enough there stood some wretched looking trees which I had not recognized before, forgetting that, of course, leaves here must be green. I saw no flowers growing, but presently we came upon some in a sort of crystal bower guarded by a powerful black person. I wanted so to ask him how he came to be black, but the memory of may last attempt at information deterred me. Instead, I inquired if I might have some roses.
“Walk in, Miss,” he replied most civilly, and in I walked through the door, past the sweetest little embryonic, who wore the vesture of a young policeman.
“Boy,” I said, “have you begun to realize your soul?”
“Nope,” he replied, “I ain’t in fractions yet.”
— Some stage of earthly progress, I suppose, though I did not like a certain movement of his eyelid, and one never can tell, you know, how hard embryonics are really striving. So I made haste to gather all the roses I could carry, and was about to hurry after Ooma, when a person barred my way.
“Hold on!” he cried. “Ain’t you forgetting something? Why don’t you take the whole lot?”
“Because I have all I want for the present,” I answered, rather frightened, perceiving that his aura had grown livid, and I don’t know how I could have soothed him had not Ooma once more come to my relief. I could see that she was annoyed with me, but she controlled herself and placed some token in the being’s hand which acted on his agitation like a charm.
As I told you, Bloomer had given me with the other 787 things, a crown of artificial roses which, now that I had real flowers to wear, I wanted to throw away, but this she would not permit, insisting that such a proceeding would make the humans laugh at me — though to look into their serious faces one would not believe this possible. The thoughts of those about me, as I divined them, seemed anything but jocular. They came to me incoherent and inconsecutive, a jumble of conditional premises leading to approximate conclusions expressed in symbols having no intrinsic meaning. — Of course, it is unfair to judge too soon, but I have already begun to doubt the existence of direct perception among them. — What did you say, dear? — Bother direct perception? — Well, I wonder how we should like to apprehend nothing that could not be put into words? You, I’m sure, would have the most confused ideas about Earthly conditions if you depended entirely upon my remarks. — Now concentrate, and you shall hear something really interesting.
— No, not the One yet. — He comes later. —
We had not gone far, I carrying my roses, and Bloomer not too well pleased, as I fancied, because so many people turned to look at us (Bloomer has retrograded physically until she is at times almost Uranian, probably as the result of wearing black, which appears to be the chromatic equivalent of respectability), when suddenly I became sensible of a familiar influence, which was quite startling because so unexpected. Looking everywhere, I caught sight of — who do you suppose? Our old friend Tuk. — Mr. Tuck, T-u-c-k here, if you please. He was about to enter a — a means of transportation, and though his back was towards me, I recognized that drab aura of his at once, and projected a reactionary impulse which was most effective.
In his surprise he was for the moment in danger of 788 being trampled upon by a rapidly moving animal. — Yes, dear, I said “animal.” — I don’t know and I don’t consider it at all important. I do not pretend to be familiar with mundane zoölogy. — Tuck declared himself delighted to see me, and so I believe he was, though he controlled his radiations in the supercilious way he always had. But upon one point he did not leave me long on doubt. Externally, at least, my Earthly Ego is a —
(NOTE: The word which signifies a species of peach or nectarine peculiar to the planet Mercury is doubtless used here in a symbolic sense.)
— I caught on to that most interesting fact the moment his eyes rested on me.
“By all that’s fair to look upon!” he cried, jumping about in a manner human people think eccentric, “are you astral or actualized?”
“See for yourself,” I said, holding out my hand, which it took him rather longer than necessary to make sure of.
“Well, what on Earth brings you here? Come down to paint another planet red?” he rattled on, believing himself amusing.
“Now haven’t I as much right to light on Earth as on any other bit of cosmic dust?” I asked, laughing and forgetting how much snubbing he requires in the delight of seeing any one I knew.
Then he insisted that I had a “date” with him. — A date, as I discovered later, means something nice to eat. — and hinted very broadly that Bloomer need not wait if she had more important matters to attend to. I must confess she did not seem at all sorry to have me taken off her hands, for after cautioning me to beware of a number of things I did not so much as know by name, she shot off like a respectable old aerolite with a black trail streaming out behind. If she remains here much longer she will be 789 coming back upon a mission to reform us. As for Tuck, he became insufferably patronizing at once.
“Well, how do you like the Only Planet? and how do you like the Only Town? and how do you like the Only Street?” he began, waving his hands and looking about him as though there were anything here that one of us could admire. But, of course, I refused to gratify him with my crude impressions. I simply said:
“You appear very well pleased with them yourself.”
“And so will you be,” he replied, “when you have realized their possibilities. Remark that elderly entity across the street. I have to but exert my will that he shall sneeze and drop his eyeglasses, and behold, there they go.” — Yes, my dear, eyeglasses. They are worn on the nose by people who imagine they can not see very well.”
“I consider such actions cruel and unkind,” I said, at the same time willing an embryonic girl to pick the glasses up, and though the child was rather beyond my normal circle, I was delighted to see her obey. But I have an idea Tuck regretted an experiment which taught me something I might not have found out, at least for a while.
I had now been on Earth several hours, and change of atmosphere gives one a ravenous appetite. You see, I had forgotten to ask Ooma how, and how often, humans ate, so when Tuck suggested breakfast as a form of entertainment I put myself in sympathy with the idea at once. Besides it is most important to know just where to find the things you want, and you may be sure I made a lot of mental notes when we came, as presently we did, to a tower called Astoria.
I understand that the upper portions of the edifice are used for study of the Stars, but we were made welcome on the lower story by a stately being, who conducted us to honorable seats in an inner court. There were small trees 790 growing here, green, of course, but rather pretty for all that; the people, gathered under the shade in little groups, were much more cheerful and sustaining than any I had seen so far, and an elemental intelligence detailed to minister to our wants seemed well-trained and docile.
“Here you have a glimpse of High Life,” announced Tuck, when he had written something on a paper.
“The Higher Life?” I inquired, eagerly, and I did not like the flippant tone in which he answered:
“No, not quite — just high enough.”
I was beginning to be so bored by his conceit and self-complacency that I cast my eyes about and smiled at several pleasant-looking persons, who returned the smile and nodded in a friendly fashion, till I could perceive Tuck’s aura bristle and turn greenish-brown.
“You can’t possibly see any one you know here,” he protested, crossly.
“All the better reason why I should reach out in search of affinities,” I retorted. But after that, though I was careful to keep my eyes lowered most of the time, I resolved to come some day to the Astoria alone and smile at every one I liked. I don’t believe I should ever know a human if Tuck could have his way.
Presently the elemental brought us delicious things, and while we ate them Tuck talked about himself. It appears he has produced an opera here which is a success. People throng to hear it and consider him a great composer. At all of which, you may believe, I was astonished — just fancy our Tuk posing as a genius! — but presently when he became elated by the theme and hummed a bar or two, I understood. The wretch had simply actualized a few essential harmonies — and done it very badly. I see now why he likes so much being here, and understand why his associates are almost altogether human. I don’t 791 remember ever meeting with such deceit and effrontery before. I was so indignant that I could feel my astral fingers tremble. I could not bear to look at him, and as by that time I had eaten all I could, I rose and walked directly from the court without another word. I am sure he would have pursued me had not the elemental, divining my wish to escape, detained him forcibly.
Once in the street again, I immedaitely hypnotized an old lady, willing her to go direct to Bloomer’s Boarding-House while I followed behind. It may not have been convenient for her, I am afraid, but I knew of no other way to get back. — Dear me, the light is growing dim, and I must be dressing for the evening. Good-by! — By the way, I forgot to tell you something else that happened — remind me of it next time!
THE THIRD RECORD
— Yes, I remember, and you shall hear all about it before I describe an evening at the Settlement, but it don’t amount to much. — I told you how cross and over-bearing Tuck was at the Astoria tower, and of the mean way in which he restricted my observations. Well, of all the people in the grove that day there was only one whom I could see without being criticized, and he sat all alone and facing me, just behind Tuck’s back. Some green leaves hung between us, and whenever I moved my head to note what he was doing he moved his, too, to look at me. He seemed so lonely that I was sorry for him, but his atmosphere showed him to be neither sullen nor Uranian, and I could not help it if I was just a little bit responsive. Besides, Tuck, once on the subject of his opera, grew so self-engrossed and dominant that one had either to assert one’s own mentality or become subjective.792
— No, dear, that is not the only reason. There may be such a thing as an isolated reason, but I have never met one — they always go in packs. I confess to a feeling of interest in the stranger. Nobody can look at you with round blue eyes for half an hour steadily without exercising some attraction, either positive or negative, and I felt, too, that he was trying to tell me something which would have been a great deal more interesting than Tuck’s opera, and I believe had I remained a little longer we could have understood each other between the trees just as you and I can understand each other across the intervals of space. But then it is so easy to be mistaken. — I had to pass quite close to him in going out, and I am not sure I did not drop a rose.
— There may be just a weenie little bit more about the Astorian, but that will come in its proper place. Now I must get on to the evening. — It was not much of an occasion, merely the usual gathering of our crowd, or rather of those of us who have no special assignment for the time in the large Council Room I have described to you.
The President of the Board of Control at present is Marlow, Marlow the Great, as he is called, the painter whose pictures did so much to elevate the Patagonians. — No, dear, I never heard of Patagonia before, but I’m almost sure it’s not a planet. — With Marlow came a Mrs. Mopes, who is engaged in creating schools of fiction by writing stories under different names and then reviewing them in her own seven magazines. Next, taking the guests at random, was Baxter, a deadly person in his human incarnation, whose business it is to make stocks fly up or tumble down. — I don’t know what stocks are, but they must be something very easily frightened. — Then there was a Mr. Waller, nicknamed the Reverend, whom the Council allows to speak the truth occasionally, while 793 the rest of the time he tells people anything they want to hear to win their confidence. And the two Miss Dooleys who sing so badly that thousands who can not sing at all leave off singing altogether when they once hear them. And Mr. Flick, who misbehaves at funerals to distract mourners from their grief, and a Mr. O’Brien, whose duty it is to fly into violent passions in public places just to show how unbecoming temper is.
There were many others, so many I can not begin to enumerate them. Some had written books and were known all over the planet, and some who were not known at all had done things because there was nobody else to do them. And some were singers and some were actors, and some were rich and some were poor to the outside world, but in the Council Room they met and laughed and matched experiences and made jokes; from the one who had built a battle ship so terrible that all the other ships were burnt on condition that his should be also, to the ordinary helpers who applaud stupid plays till intelligent human beings become thoroughly disgusted with bad art.
In the world, of course, they are all serious enough, and often know each other only by secret signs, while every day and night and minute our poor earth-brothers come a little nearer the light — pushed toward it, pulled toward it, wheedled and tricked and bullied and coaxed, and thinking all the while how immensely clever they are, and what a wonderful progressive, glorious age they have brought about for themselves. — At all events, this is the rather vague composite impression I have received of the plans and purposes of the Board of Directors, and doubtless it is wrong.
I suppose with a little trouble I might have recognized nearly every one, but the fancy took me to suspend intuition 794 just to see how Earth girls feel, and you know when one is hearing a lot of pleasant things one does not much care who happens to be saying them.
I fancy Marlow thought less of me when I confessed that I am here only for the lark, and really do not care a meteor whether the planet is ever elevated or not. But he is a charming old fellow all the same, and the only one of the lot who has not grown the least bit smudgy.
Marlow announced that the evening would be spent in harmony with the vibrations of Orion, and set us all at work to get in touch. I love Orion light myself, for none other suits my aura quite so well, and I was glad to find they had not taken up the Vega fad. — The light here? My dear, it is not even filtered. — Some of us, no doubt for want of practice, were rather slow about perfecting, but finally we all caught on, and when O’Brien, no longer fat and florid, and the elder Miss Dooley, no longer scrawny, moved out to start the dance, there was only one who had not assumed an astral personality. Poor fellow, though I pitied him, I did admire his spunk in holding back. It seems that as an editor he took to telling falsehoods on his own account so often that the Syndicate is packing him off as Special Correspondent to a tailless comet.
Tuck never came at all; either he realizes how honest people must regard him and his opera, or else the elementals at the Astoria are still detaining him.
We had a lovely dance, and while we rested Marlow called on some of us for specialties. Mrs. Mopes did a paragraph by a man named Henry James, translated into action, which seemed quite difficult, and then a person called Parker externalized a violin and gave the Laocoon in terms of sound. To me his rendering of marble resembled terra-cotta until I learned that he copy of the 795 statue here is awfully weatherstained. After this three pretty girls gave the Aurora Borealis by telepathic suggestion rather well, and then I sang “Love Lives Everywhere” — just plain song.
— I know this must all sound dreadfully flat to you, quite like “Pastimes for the Rainy Season in Neptune,” but Bloomer says she doesn’t know what would happen if we should ever give a really characteristic jolly party.
We wound up with an Earth dance called the Virginia Reel, the quickest means you ever saw for descending to a lower psychic plane. That’s all I have to tell, and quite enough, I’m sure you’ll think. — What? The Astorian? I have not seen him since. — But there is a little more, a very little, if you are not tired. — This morning I received a gift of roses, just like the one I dropped yesterday, brought me by the same small embryonic I had seen in the flower shop. I asked the child in whose intelligence the impulse had originated, and he replied:
“A blue-eyed feller with a mustache, but he gave me a plunk not to tell.”
I understood a plunk to be a token of confidence, and I at once expressed displeasure at the boy’s betrayal of his trust. I told him such an act would make dark lines upon his aura which might not fade for several days.
“Say, ain’t you got some message to send back?” he asked.
“Boy!” said I, “don’t forget your little aura.”
“All right,” he answered, “I’ll tell him ‘Don’t forget your little aura.’ I’ll bet he coughs up another plunk.”
I don’t know what he meant, but I am very much afraid there may be some mistake. — Oh, yes, I am quite sure to be back in time for the Solstice. — Or at least for the Eclipse.796
THE FOURTH RECORD
(NOTE : Between this logogram and the last the Long’s Peak Receptive Pulsator was unfortunately not in operation for the space of a fortnight, as the electrician who took the instrument apart for adjustment found it necessary to return to Denver for oil.)
— Yes, dear, it’s me, though if I did not know personality to be indestructible I should begin to have my doubts. I have not made any more mistakes, that is, not any bad ones, since I went to the Astoria alone for lunch, and the elementals were so very disagreeable just because I had no money. I know all about money now, except exactly how you get it, and Tuck assures me that is really of no importance. I never told Ooma how the blue-eyed Astorian paid my bill for me, and her perceptive faculties have grown too dull to apprehend a thing she is not told. Fresh roses still come regularly every day, and of course I can do no less than express my gratitude now and then. — Oh, I don’t know how often, I don’t remember. — But it is ever so much pleasanter to have some one you like to show you the way about than to depend on hypnotizing strangers, who may have something else to do.
— I told you last week about the picnic, did I not? the day, I mean, when Bloomer took me into the country, and Tuck so far forgave my rudeness to him as to come with us to carry the basket. — Oh, yes, indeed, I am becoming thoroughly domesticated on Earth. And, my dear, these humans are docility itself when you once acquire the knack of making them do exactly as you wish, which is as easy as falling off a log. — A log is the external evidence of a pre-existent tree, cylindrical in form, and though often sticky, not sufficiently so to be adhesive.
— That picnic was so pleasant — or would have been but 797 for Bloomer’s anxiety that I should behave myself, and Tuck’s anxiety that I should not — that I determined to have another all by myself — and I have had it.
I traveled to the same little dell I described before, and I put my feet in the waters just as I wasn’t allowed to do the other day. And I built a fire and almost cooked an egg and ate cake (an egg is the bud of a bird, and cake is edible poetry) sitting on a fence. — Fences grow horizontally and have no leaves. — Don’t ask so many questions!
After a while, however, I became tired of being alone, so I started off across some beautiful green meadows toward a hillside, where I had observed a human walking about and waving a forked wand. He proved the strangest-looking being I have met with yet, more like those wild and woolly space-dwellers who tumbled out when that tramp comet bumped against our second moon. But he was a considerate person, for when he saw me coming and divined that I should be tired, he piled up a quantity of delicious-scented herbage for me to sit on.
“Good morning, mister,” I said, plumping myself down upon the mound he had made, and he, being much more impressionable than you would suppose from his Uranian appearance, replied:
“I swan, I like your cheek.”
“It’s a pleasant day,” I said, because one is always expected to announce some result of observation of the atmosphere. It shows at once whether or not one is an idiot.
“I call it pretty danged hot,” he returned, intelligently.
“Then why don’t you get out of the sun?” I suggested, more to keep the conversation fluid than because I cared a bit.
“I’m a-goin’ to,” he answered, “just as soon as that goll-darned wagon comes.” (A “goll-darned” wagon is, I think, a wagon without springs.)798
“What are you going to do then?” I asked, beginning to fear I should be left alone again after all my trouble.
“Goin’ home for dinner,” he replied, and I at once said I would go with him. — You see, I had placed a little too much reliance on the egg.
“I dunno about that, but I guess it will be all right,” he urged, hospitably, and presently the goll-darned wagon arrived with another man, who turned out to be the first one’s son and who looked as though he bit.
Together the two threw all the herbage into the wagon till it was heaped far above their heads.
“How am I ever to get up?” I asked, for I had no idea of walking any farther, and I could see the man’s white house ever so far away.
“Who said you was goin’ to get up at all?” inquired the biter, disagreeably, but the other answered for me.
“I said it, that’s how, you consarned jay,” he announced, reprovingly.
When I had made them both climb up first and give me each a hand, I had no difficulty at all in mounting, but I was very careful not to thank the Jay, which seemed to make him more morose than ever. Then they slid down again, and off we started.
Once when we came to some lovely blue flowers growing in water near the roadside I told the Jay to stop and wade in and pick them for me.
“I’ll be dogged if I do,” he answered; so I said:
“I don’t know what being ‘dogged’ means, but if it is a reward for being nice and kind and polite, I hope you will be.”
Whereupon he bit at me once and waded in, while the other man, whose name, it seems, was Pop, sat down upon a stone and laughed.
“Gosh! If this don’t beat the cats,” he said, slapping 799 his knee, which was his way of making himself laugh harder.
I put the flowers in my hair and in my belt and wherever I could stick them. But there was still a lot left over, and whenever we met people I threw them some, which appeared to please Pope, but made the Jay still more bite-y.
Presently we came to a very narrow place and there, as luck would have it, we met an automobile. — Thank goodness, I need not explain automobile. — And who should be at the lever all alone but — the Astorian.
I recognized him instantly, and he recognized me, which was, I suppose, his reason for forgetting to stop till he had nearly run us down. In a moment we were in the wildest tangle, though nothing need have happened had not the Jay completely lost his temper.
“Hang your picture!” he called out, savagely, “what do you want? — The Earth?”
And with that he struck the animals — the wagon was not self-propelling — a violent blow, and they sprang forward with a lurch which made the hay begin to slip. I tried to save myself, but there was nothing to catch hold of, so off I slid and — oh, my dear, my dear, just fancy it! — I landed directly in his lap. — No, not the Jay’s. — Of course, I stayed there as short a time as possible, for he was very nice about moving up to make room for me on the seat, but I am afraid it did seem frightfully informal just at first.
“It was all the fault of that consarned Jay,” I explained, as soon as I had recovered my composure, “and I shall never ride in his goll-darned wagon again.”
“I sincerely hope you will not,” replied Astoria, looking at me with the most curious expression. “It would be much better to let me take you wherever you wish to go.”
“That’s awfully kind of you,” I said, “but I don’t care 800 to go anywhere in particular this afternoon, except as far as possible from that objectionable young man.”
The Astorian did not speak again till he had turned something in the machine to make it back and jerk, and, once free from the upset hay, go on again.
“Say, Sissy, I thought you was comin’ to take dinner,” Pop called out from under the wagon, where he had crawled for safety, and when I replied as nicely as I could, “No, thank you, not to-day,” he said again, quite sadly as I thought, “Gosh blim me, if that don’t beat the cats!” and also several other things I could not hear because we were moving away so rapidly.
When we had gone about a hundred miles — or yards, or inches, whichever it was — the Astorian, who had been sitting very straight, inquired of those gentlemen — meaning Pop and Jay — were near relatives.
I showed him plainly that I thought his question Uranian, and explained that I had not a relative on Earth. Then I told him exactly how I had come to be with them, and about my picnic and the egg. I am afraid I did not take great pains to make the story very clear, for it was such fun to perplex him. He is not at all like the Venus people, who have become so superlatively clever that they are always bored to death.
“Were you surprised to see me flying through the air?” I asked.
“Oh, no,” he said; “I have always thought of you as coming to Earth in some such way from some far-distant planet.”
“Oh, then you know!” I gasped.
The Astorian laughed.
“I know you are the one perfect being in the world, and that is quite enough,” he said, and I saw at once that whatever he had guessed about me he knew nothing at all of the Settlement.801
“Miss Aura,” he went on, — he has called me that ever sine that little embryonic made his stupid blunder, and I have not corrected him — here it is almost necessary to have some sort of a name — “Miss Aura, don’t you think we have been mere acquaintances long enough? I’m only human —”
“Yes, of course,” I interrupted, “but then that is not your fault —”
“I’m glad you look upon my misfortune so charitably,” he said, a trifle more puzzled than usual, as I fancied.
“It is my duty,” I replied. “I want to elevate you; to brighten your existence.”
“My Aura!” he whispered; and I was not qutie sure whether he meant me or not.
We were moving rapidly along the broad road beside a river. There were hills in the distance and the air from them was in the key of the Pleiades. There were gardens everywhere full of sunlight translated into flowers, and without an effort one divined the harmony of growing things. I felt that something was about to happen; I knew it, but I did not care to ask what it might be. Perhaps if I had tried I could not have known; perhaps for that hour I was only an Earth girl and could only know things as they know them, but I did not care.
We were going faster, faster every moment.
“Was it you who willed me to come out into the country?” I asked. “Have you been watching for me and expecting me?”
We were moving now as clouds that rush across a moon.
“I think I have been watching for you all my life and willing you to come,” he said, which shows how dreadfully unjust we sometimes are to humans.
“While I was on another planet?” I inquired. “While 802 we were million and millions of miles apart? Suppose that I had never come to Earth?”
We were moving like the falling stars one journeys to the Dark Hemisphere to see.
“I should have found you all the same,” he whispered, half laughing, but his blue eyes glistened. “I do not think that space itself could separate us.”
“Oh, do you realize that?” I asked, “and do you really know?”
“I know I have you with me now,” he said, “and that is all I care to know.”
We were flying now, flying as comets fly to perihelion. The world about was slipping from us, disintegrating and dissolving into cosmic thoughts expressed in color. Only his eyes were actual, and the blue hills far away, and the wind from them in the key of the Pleiades.
“There shall never any more be time or space for us,” he said.
“But,” I protested, “we must not overlook the fundamental facts.”
“In all the universe there is just one fact,” he cried, catching my hand in his, and then —
(NOTE : Here a portion of the logogram becomes indecipherable, owing, perhaps, to the passage of some large bird across the line of projection. What follows is the last recorded vibragraph to date.)
— Yes, dear, I know I should have been more circumspect. I should have remembered my position, but I didn’t. And that’s why I’m engaged to be married. — You have to here, when you reach a certain point — I know you will think it a great come-down for one of us, but after all do we not owe something to our sister planets? —
The End of The Wit and Humor of America, Volume IV.