The harsh emphasis, the pitiless black and white of scenery had altogether
disappeared. The glare of the sun had taken upon itself a faint tinge of
amber; the shadows upon the cliff of the crater wall were deeply purple.
To the eastward a dark bank of fog still crouched and sheltered from the
sunrise, but to the westward the sky was blue and clear. I began to
realise the length of my insensibility.
We were no longer in a void. An atmosphere had arisen about us. The
outline of things had gained in character, had grown acute and varied;
save for a shadowed space of white substance here and there, white
substance that was no longer air but snow, the arctic appearance had gone
altogether. Everywhere broad rusty brown spaces of bare and tumbled earth
spread to the blaze of the sun. Here and there at the edge of the
snowdrifts were transient little pools and eddies of water, the only
things stirring in that expanse of barrenness. The sunlight inundated the
upper two blinds of our sphere and turned our climate to high summer, but
our feet were still in shadow, and the sphere was lying upon a drift of
And scattered here and there upon the slope, and emphasised by little
white threads of unthawed snow upon their shady sides, were shapes like
sticks, dry twisted sticks of the same rusty hue as the rock upon which
they lay. That caught one's thoughts sharply. Sticks! On a lifeless
world? Then as my eye grew more accustomed to the texture of their
substance, I perceived that almost all this surface had a fibrous texture,
like the carpet of brown needles one finds beneath the shade of pine
"Cavor! " I said.
"It may be a dead world now - but once -"
Something arrested my attention. I had discovered among these needles a
number of little round objects. And it seemed to me that one of these had
moved. "Cavor," I whispered.
But I did not answer at once. I stared incredulous. For an instant I
could not believe my eyes. I gave an inarticulate cry. I gripped his arm.
I pointed. "Look!" I cried, finding my tongue. "There! Yes! And there!"
His eyes followed my pointing finger. "Eh?" he said.
How can I describe the thing I saw? It is so petty a thing to state, and
yet it seemed so wonderful, so pregnant with emotion. I have said that
amidst the stick-like litter were these rounded bodies, these little oval
bodies that might have passed as very small pebbles. And now first one and
then another had stirred, had rolled over and cracked, and down the crack
of each of them showed a minute line of yellowish green, thrusting outward
to meet the hot encouragement of the newly-risen sun. For a moment that
was all, and then there stirred, and burst a third!
"It is a seed," said Cavor. And then I heard him whisper very softly,
"Life!" And immediately it poured upon us that our vast journey had not
been made in vain, that we had come to no arid waste of minerals, but to a
world that lived and moved! We watched intensely. I remember I kept
rubbing the glass before me with my sleeve, jealous of the faintest
suspicion of mist.
The picture was clear and vivid only in the middle of the field. All about
that centre the dead fibres and seeds were magnified and distorted b~ the
curvature of the glass. But we could see enough! One after another all
down the sunlit slope these miraculous little brown bodies burst and gaped
apart, like seed-pods, like the husks of fruits; opened eager mouths.
that drank in the heat and light pouring in a cascade from the newly-risen
Every moment more of these seed coats ruptured, and even as they did so
the swelling pioneers overflowed their rent-distended seed-cases, and
passed into the second stage of growth. With a steady assurance, a swift
deliberation, these amazing seeds thrust a rootlet downward to the earth
and a queer little bundle-like bud into the air. In a little while the
whole slope was dotted with minute plantlets standing at attention in the
blaze of the sun.
They did not stand for long. The bundle-like buds swelled and strained and
opened with a jerk, thrusting out a coronet of little sharp tips,
spreading a whorl of tiny, spiky, brownish leaves, that lengthened
rapidly, lengthened visibly even as we watched. The movement was slower
than any animal's, swifter than any plant's I have ever seen before. How
can I suggest it to you - the way that growth went on? The leaf tips grew
so that they moved onward even while we looked at them. The brown
seed-case shrivelled and was absorbed with an equal rapidity. Have you
ever on a cold day taken a thermometer into your warm hand and watched the
little thread of mercury creep up the tube? These moon plants grew like
In a few minutes, as it seemed, the buds of the more forward of these
plants had lengthened into a stem and were even putting forth a second
whorl of leaves, and all the slope that had seemed so recently a lifeless
stretch of litter was now dark with the stunted olive-green herbage of
bristling spikes that swayed with the vigour of their growing.
I turned about, and behold! along the upper edge of a rock to the eastward
a similar fringe in a scarcely less forward condition swayed and bent,
dark against the blinding glare of the sun. And beyond this fringe was the
silhouette of a plant mass, branching clumsily like a cactus, and swelling
visibly, swelling like a bladder that fills with air.
Then to the westward also I discovered that another such distended form
was rising over the scrub. But here the light fell upon its sleek sides,
and I could see that its colour was a vivid orange hue It rose as one
watched it; if one looked away from it for a minute and then back, its
outline had changed; it thrust out blunt congested branches until in a
little time it rose a coralline shape of many feet in height. Compared
with such a growth the terrestrial puff-ball, which will sometimes swell a
foot in diameter in a single night, would be a hopeless laggard. But then
the puff-ball grows against a gravitational pull six times that of the
moon. Beyond, out of gullies and flats that had been hidden from us, but
not from the quickening sun, over reefs and banks of shining rock, a
bristling beard of spiky and fleshy vegetation was straining into view,
hurrying tumultuously to tale advantage of the brief day in which it must
flower and fruit and seed again and die. It was like a miracle, that
growth. So, one must imagine, the trees and plants arose at the Creation
and covered the desolation of the new-made earth.
Imagine it; Imagine that dawn! The resurrection of the frozen air, the
stirring and quickening of the soil, and then this silent uprising of
vegetation, this unearthly ascent of fleshiness and spikes. Conceive it
all lit by a blaze that would make the intensest sunlight of earth seem
watery and weak. And still around this stirring jungle, wherever there was
shadow, lingered banks of bluish snow. And to have the picture of our
impression complete, you must bear in mind that we saw it all through a
thick bent glass, distorting it as things are distorted by a lens, acute
only in the centre of the picture, and very bright there, and towards the
edges magnified and unreal.