The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 17/Number 102/Were they Crickets?

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WERE THEY CRICKETS?

ABOUT seven years ago, (it is possible that some of my readers may recall it,) the following paragraph appeared in the New York daily papers;—

 

"Mysterious Disappearance.—A young man named George Snyder left the residence of his parents in Thirty-Third Street, last Friday evening without his hat and taking nothing with him but the suit which he was wearing (dark doeskin pants, and invisible-green coat), and has not yet been heard from. It is feared that he has wandered, in some sudden mental derangement, off the wharves. Any information which may lead to his discovery will be gratefully received by the distressed parents."

 

No information was ever received until the 1st of April last, when the missing man himself returned to his father's house, as mysteriously as he went, and was welcomed as one risen from the dead. I am that George Snyder, and propose to give now a brief account of that strange going and coming. Since April last I have been engaged, as well as the excitement of listening to the narrative of the great events which had taken place in my native land during my absence would allow me, in preparing for publication a history of my observations, made during the six years' absence; but of this history I can now give merely an outline.

On the night of my departure, November 5, 1858, I was sitting in my own room, studying Gauss's "Theoria Motus"; and, as was often the case with me, I grew so absorbed in the study as to lose all consciousness of outward things beyond the limits of the single page before me. I had forgotten the time of night,—nay, I could not have recalled the time of my life, whether I was in college or had graduated, whether I had entered on my profession or was preparing for it. My loss of the sense of space was as absolute as my loss of the sense of time, and I could not have said whether I was in my father's house in New York, or in my room in Wentworth Hall, or in my office in Jersey City. I only knew that the page, illuminated by a drop gas-light, was before me, and on it the record of that brilliant triumph of the human intellect, the deduction of a planet's entire orbit from observations of its position.

As I sat thus absorbed, my attention was partially diverted by a slight tapping, as if upon the very table upon which my book was resting. Without raising my eyes from the page, I allowed my thoughts to wander, as I inquired within myself what could have produced the noise. Could it be that I was thus suddenly "developed as a medium," and that the spirit of some departed friend wished to communicate with me? I rejected the thought instantly, for I was no believer in modern necromancy. But no sooner had I mentally decided that this was not the true explanation than I began to feel my right hand tremble in an unnatural manner, and my fingers close against my will around a pencil which I had been loosely holding. Then suddenly, upon the paper on which I had been occasionally filling out the omitted links in Gauss's mathematical reasoning, my hand, against my will, legibly scrawled, "Copernicus,"—upon which a renewed tapping was heard upon the table. I sprang out of my chair, as one startled out of sleep, and looked about the room. My full consciousness of time and place returned, and I saw nothing unusual about my apartment; there were the books, the chairs, and even the table, standing in motionless silence as usual. I concluded that my late hours and excessive concentration on my studies had made me nervous, or else that I had had a dream. I closed the book and prepared to go to bed. Like school-boy whistling to keep his courage up, I began to talk aloud, saying: "I wish Copernicus would really come and carry me off to explore the solar system; I fancy that I could make a better report than Andrew Jackson Davis has done."

I tremble even now as I recall the instantaneous effect of those words. While I was still speaking, all earthly things vanished suddenly from my sight. There was no floor beneath me, no ceiling above, no walls around. There was even no earth below me, and no sky above. Look where I would, nothing was visible but my own body. My clothing shone with a pale blue light, by which I could peer into the surrounding darkness to the distance, as I should judge, of about twenty or thirty feet. I was apparently hanging, like a planet, in mid-ether, resting upon nothing. Horrible amazement seized me, as the conviction flashed through me like an electric shock that I must have lost my reason. In a few moments, however, this terror subsided; I felt certain that my thoughts were rational, and concluded that it was some affection of the optic nerve. But in a very few seconds I discovered by internal sensations that I was in motion, in a rapid, irregular, and accelerating motion. Awful horror again seized me; I screamed out a despairing cry for help, and fainted.

When I recovered from the swoon, I found myself lying on a grassy bank near a sea-shore, with strange trees waving over me. The sun was apparently an hour high. I was dressed as on the preceding evening, without a hat. The air was deliciously mild, the landscape before me lovely and grand. I said to myself: "This is a beautiful dream; it must be a dream." But it was too real, and I said, "Can it be that I am asleep?" I pinched my arms, I went to the sea and dipped my head in the waters,—'t was in vain; I could not awake myself, because I was already awake.

"No!" I replied, "you are not awake." Do you not remember that saying of Engel, that when men dream of asking whether they are awake, they always dream that they answer yes? But I said, I will apply two tests of my own which have often, when I was dreaming, convinced me that I was asleep and thus enabled me to awake. I gathered some pebbles and began to count them and lay them in heaps, and count them over again. There were no discrepancies between my counts; I was awake. Then I took out my pencil and memorandum-book to see whether I could solve an equation. But my hand was seized with trembling, and wrote without my assistance or guidance these words: "I, Copernicus, will comfort your friends. Be calm, be happy, you shall return and reap a peculiar glory. You, first of the inhabitants of Earth, have visited another planet while in the flesh. You are on an island in the tropical regions of Mars. I will take you home when you desire it,—only not now."

It would be in vain for me to attempt to recall and to describe the whirling tumult of thoughts and emotions which this message created. I sat down upon the grass, and for a time was incapable of deliberate thought or action. At length I arose and paced up and down the turf, staring around upon the changeless blue of the seaward horizon, the heaving swell of the ocean, the restless surf fretting against the shore, and the motionless hills that rose behind each other inland, and lured the eye to a distant group of mountains. The coloring of sea and land was wonderfully fine; both seemed formed of similar translucent purple; and despite the excited state of my feelings and the stupendous nature of the words which I had just seen written by my own pencil, I was impressed with a sense of grandeur and of beauty which presently filled me with faith and hope. I assured myself that the spirit to whom permission had been given thus to transport me from my home was as kind as he was powerful. He had set me down in a beautiful country, he had promised to return me home when I desired it,—"only not now";—by which I concluded that he wished me to think calmly over the question before asking to return. And why, I added, should I be in haste? Copernicus, if it be he, promises to comfort my parents,—the island looks fertile,—if I find no inhabitants, I can be a new Robinson Crusoe,—and when I have explored the island thoroughly, I will ask this spirit to carry me back to New York, where I shall publish my observations, and add a new chapter to our knowledge of the solar system.

I walked toward the mountains, among strange shrubs, and under strange trees. Some were in blossom, others laden with fruit, all in luxuriant foliage. As I walked on, the scenery became more and more charming; but I saw no signs of man, nor even of birds, nor beasts. Beautiful butterflies and other insects were abundant; in a little stream I saw minnows, and a fish elegantly striped with silver and gold; and as I followed up the brook, occasionally a frog, startled at my approach, leaped from the bank and dived into the water with a familiar cry. I wandered on until I judged it to be nearly noon, and, growing hungry, ventured to taste a fruit which looked more edible than any I had seen. To my delight I found it as delicious as a paw-paw. I dined on them heartily, and, sitting under the shade of the low trees from which I had gathered them, I fell into a reverie which ended in a sound sleep.

When I awoke it was night. I walked out of the little grove in which I was sheltered, that I might have a clearer view of the stars. I soon recognized the constellations with which I had been familiar for years, though in somewhat new positions. Conspicuous near, the horizon was the "Milk Dipper" of Sagittarius, and I instantly noticed, with a thrill of intense surprise, that the planet Mars was missing! When I had first awakened, and stepped out of the grove, I had only a dim remembrance in my mind of having rambled in the fields and fallen asleep on the grass; but this planet missing in the constellation Sagittarius recalled to me at once my miraculous position on the planet Mars. Here was a confirmation unexpected and irrefragable of the truth of what Copernicus had written by my hand. The excited whirl of thoughts and emotions thus revived banished sleep, and I walked back and forward under the grove, and out on the open turf, gazing again and again at the constellation in which, only two days before, I had from the Jersey City ferryboat seen the now missing planet. At length Sagittarius sank behind the mountains, and the Twins arose out of the sea. With new wonder and admiration I beheld in Castor's knee the steady lustre of a planet which I had not known before,—an overwhelming proof of the reality of my asserted position on the planet Mars. For as this new planet was exactly in the opposite pole of the point whence Mars was missing, what could it be but my native Earth seen as a planet from that planet which had now become my earth? You may imagine that this new vision excited me too much to allow sleep to overpower me again until nearly daybreak.

When I awoke, the sun was far above the waves. I breakfasted upon my newly tasted fruit, and resumed my journey toward the mountains in the west. An hour's walk brought me to the spot where I first saw the inhabitants of the island. I shall never forget a single feature of that landscape. The mingled delight at seeing them, and astonishment after looking a few moments at them, have photographed the whole surrounding scene to its minutest details indelibly upon my memory. I had ascended a little eminence in the principal valley of a brook, (which I had been following nearly from its outlet,) when suddenly the mountains, of which I had lost sight for a time, rose up before me in sublime strength, no longer of translucent purple, but revealing, under the direct light, their rugged solidity. On my right, in the foreground, were lofty black cliffs, made darker by being seen lying in their own shadow. On my left, green hills, in varying forms, stretched almost an interminable distance, varying also in their color and depth of shade. At the foot of the cliffs, in full sight, but too distant to be distinctly heard, the brook leaped along its rocky bed in a succession of scrambling cataracts, until it was in a perfect foam with the exertion. I sat upon a stone, gazing upon this valley, calmed, soothed, charmed with its beauty, and was speculating upon the cause of the ruddy purplish hue which I still noticed in the landscape, as I had the day before, when I heard a choir of half a dozen voices, apparently on the nearest cliff, joining in a Haydn-like hymn of praise. I drew nearer to the spot, and soon satisfied myself that all the sounds proceeded from one man sitting alone on a projecting rock. I listened to him attentively, vainly endeavoring to imagine how he produced such a volume of sounds, and delighted with the beautiful melody and exquisite harmony of his polyphonous song. When he ceased to sing, I stepped out in front of him and hailed him with a hearty "Good morning!" What was my astonishment to see him instantly unfurl a prodigious pair of wings, and fly off the rock. Hovering over me for a little while, evidently as much astonished at me as I at him, he flew away, and presently returned with a companion. They alighted near me, and began, as I thought, to sing, but in a very fragmentary way. I afterwards found that they were in conversation. I spoke to them, and, concealing my fears, endeavored by various signs to intimate my friendly disposition. They were not very backward in meeting my advances; and yet I soon discovered that, although they were two to one against me, they were as much alarmed as I; whereupon I became greatly reassured. It was not long before we had exchanged presents of wild fruits, and they had begun, by dumb show, and beckoning, and the utterance of soothing sounds, to invite me to accompany them. We proceeded slowly, for they could not be satisfied in their examination of me, nor I in my examination of them; and yet we rather preferred to keep out of each other's reach. Two points in them chiefly attracted my attention. One was their prodigious wings, which they folded into a very small compass when they walked. The other was their peculiar language, not being any articulate speech, but only the utterance of vowel-sounds of musical quality, which seemed to come from several voices at once, and that not from the mouth, but, as I then thought, from all parts of their bodies.

At length we reached a charming arbor, into which they conducted me. This arbor was built of some sort of bamboo or cane, woven together into a coarse lattice-work, the roof being made of the same and covered with huge leaves, perhaps of some palm. I call it an arbor, because the latticed sides were covered with flowering vines, of great variety and beauty. Within were bamboo seats and a table, whose material I afterward discovered was the dried leaves of a gigantic flag, flattened and made hard by a peculiar process of drawing them between joints of bamboo, somewhat as cane is pressed between rollers. Upon the table were numerous manuscripts, written, as I afterwards learned, on a paper made of the same flag. These manuscripts were removed, and a repast set on the table by servants, as I then took them to be, who brought it in from an adjoining arbor; but I found afterwards that they were members of the family, and that the relation of servant and master was not known among the inhabitants of the island. When these new members of the family first came to the arbor in which I and my two captors, as they considered themselves, were sitting, they started back, terrified at my appearance; and it was with great difficulty that my captors prevailed upon them to enter. This further encouraged me in the faith that they were a timid and inoffensive people. Their noonday meal, of which they gave me a part, (although they did not invite me to come to the table with them,) gave me still greater assurance, since I found it composed wholly of fruits and cereals. After their dinner, during which it was evident that they were engaged in a very lively discussion of their visitor or captive, some of the family flew away, and in the course of an hour returned, accompanied by half a dozen others, whom I afterwards found were the most learned naturalists of my captor's acquaintance. I was invited by pantomime to walk out into the open air, and of course accepted the invitation. Never was there such a Babel of musical tones as that which assailed my ears while these six learned—(what shall I call them? since their own name is not expressible by the letters of any alphabet)—learned men discussed me from every point of view. The mild and inoffensive appearance of the people, and the evident kindness mingled with their curiosity, had entirely disarmed my suspicions, and I as gladly showed them what I could do as I watched to see their habits. The whole afternoon was passed in exhibiting to these strange beings all of the various gaits and modes of motion and gymnastic exercises which I had ever learned.

After supper my captor led me to a separate arbor, and pointed to a bed of soft, white straw, upon which I immediately stretched myself, and he retired. Presently I arose and attempted to go out, but found that he had fastened the door on the outside. It was not pleasant to find myself a prisoner; but that subject was instantly driven from my mind as I looked out through the lattice and saw Sagittarius, with no signs of the planet Mars. I returned to my straw; and, after the excitement of the day had subsided, I fell asleep and slept until after sunrise. My captor soon after appeared, bringing a basket of delicious fruits and bread. When I had eaten freely, he allowed me to wander at will, setting first a boy on top of my arbor, apparently to watch that I did not wander out of sight. I walked about and found that the homestead of my captor consisted of seven arbors in a grove of fruit-trees, with about a dozen acres of corn adjoining. This corn is a perennial, like our grass, and a field once planted yields in good land fifteen or twenty crops with only the labor of gathering. It then becomes exhausted, and the canes are burnt at a particular season, which destroys the roots, and prepares the ground admirably for fruit-trees. There were no stables about the place, and there are no horses nor cows on the island,—indeed, frogs and toads are the highest vertebrates known there.

About the middle of the forenoon, my host, or captor, came, guided by his boy, who, flying from arbor to arbor and from tree to tree, had kept me in sight during my ramble. He brought with him seven others, bearing a hammock through the air, four flying on either side, and lowered it near me in the field. He then made signs to me to lie in the hammock. It was with some difficulty that I persuaded myself to risk it; but I thought at last that, after coming safely from the Earth to Mars, I would not shrink from a little excursion in the atmosphere of that planet. I laid myself in the hammock, and soon saw that the seven friends of my host were as much afraid of taking it up as I had been of getting in it. However, they mustered courage, and, spreading their wings, raised me up in the air. I was, I suppose, a deal heavier than they expected; for they set me down upon the top of the first knoll in their path, and set me down so suddenly that I was aware of their intention only by being dashed against the ground. I sprang up, and began to rub the bruised spots, while my winged bearers folded their wings, and lay panting on the turf. They had not taken me a half-mile. When they were rested, my host motioned to me to resume my place; and the eight again bore me, with more deliberate stroke, a full mile before dropping me again. But they were so much exhausted, and took so long to rest, that I suggested, by signs and motions, that I should rather walk; and so for the next mile they carried the empty hammock, flying very slowly, while I walked rapidly, or ran, after them. When, in my turn, I became exhausted, they motioned me into the hammock again. In this way, partly by being carried and partly on my own feet, I at length reached an immense arbor, in which several hundred of these creatures were assembled. It was the regular day of meeting for their Society of Natural History. One of our party first went in, and, I suppose, announced our arrival, then came out and spoke to my captor, who beckoned me to follow, and led me in. I was placed on a platform, and he then made a polyphonous speech, without a consonant sound in it; describing, as I afterwards learned, the history of my discovery and capture, and going into some speculations on my nature. Then the principal men crowded about me and felt me, and led me about the hall, until, what with the landings of the hammock and the handling of these sons of Mars, I was sore and wearied beyond expression.

At length I was taken to a small arbor, where I was allowed to rest and to take food. The Society then, as I have since been told, held a long discussion, and finally appointed a committee to examine me, observe my habits, and report at the next regular meeting. There is no moon at Mars; but the regular meeting was on the twenty-eighth day following,—the seven notes of music having given them the idea of weeks.

Extra ropes were then attached to the hammock, (which was built for the use of the infirm and aged, but the weight of these creatures is scarce half that of men,) and sixteen of them carried me back to my captor's homestead. That night I fell asleep before it was dark enough to see the stars, and assure myself, by a glance at the Milk Dipper, that it was not all a dream; but I awoke before daylight, and gazed through the lattice at the Twins, and at the Earth, shining with steady lustre upon Castor's knee.

I will not weary the reader with details from my journal of each succeeding day. The committee came day after day and studied me. They induced me to lay aside part of my clothing that they might examine me more minutely, especially about the joints of the ankle, the knee, shoulder, and elbow; and were never weary of examining my neck and spinal column. I could not talk to them, and they had never seen a vertebrate higher in organization than their frogs and toads; wherefore, at the end of four weeks, they reported "that I was a new and wonderful gigantic Batrachian"; that "they recommended the Society to purchase me, and, after studying my habits thoroughly, dissect me, and mount my skeleton." Of which report I was, of course, in blessed ignorance for a long, long while.

So my captor and his friends took the kindest care of me, and endeavored to amuse and instruct me, and also to find out what I would do if left to myself,—taking notes assiduously for the memoirs of their Society. I can assure the reader that I, on my part, was not idle, but took notes of them with equal diligence, at which imitation of their actions they were greatly amused. But I flatter myself that, when my notes, now in the hands of the Smithsonian Institution, are published, with the comments of the learned naturalists to whom the Institution has referred them, they will be found to embody the most valuable contributions to science. My own view of the inhabitants of Mars is that they are Rational Articulates. Rational they certainly are, and, although I am no naturalist, I venture to pronounce them Articulates. I do not mean anything disrespectful to these learned inhabitants of Mars in saying that their figure and movements reminded me of crickets: for I never have watched the black field-crickets in New England, standing on tiptoe to reach a blade of grass, without a feeling of admiration at their gentlemanly figure and the gracefulness of their air. But what is more important, I am told that Articulates breathe through spiracles in the sides of their bodies; and I know that these planetary men breathe through six mouths, three on either side of the body, entirely different in appearance and character from the seventh mouth in their face, through which they eat.

In the volumes of notes which will be published by the Smithsonian Institution as soon as the necessary engravings can be finished, will also appear all that I was able to learn concerning the natural history of that planet, under the strict limitation, to which I was subjected, of bringing to Earth nothing but what I could carry about my own person.[1]

I was, myself, particularly interested in investigating the Martial language, which differs entirely from our terrestrial tongues in not being articulate. Each of the six lateral mouths of these curious men is capable of sounding only one vowel, and of varying its musical pitch about five or six semitones. Thus, their six mouths give them a range of two and a half or three octaves. The right-hand lowest mouth is lowest in pitch, and gives a sound resembling the double o in moon; the next lowest in pitch is the lowest left-hand mouth, and its vowel is more like o in note. Thus they alternate, the highest left-hand mouth being highest in pitch, and uttering a sound resembling a long ee. The sound of each of the six is so individual, that, before I had been there six months, I could recognize, even in a stranger, the tones of each one of the six mouths. But they seldom use one mouth at a time. Their simplest ideas, such as the names of the most familiar objects, are expressed by brief melodic phrases, uttered by one mouth alone. Closely allied ideas are expressed by the same phrase uttered by a different mouth, and so with a different vowel-sound. But most ideas are complex; and these are expressed in the Mavortian speech by chords, or discords, produced by using two or more mouths at once. A few music types will illustrate this, by examples, better than any verbal description can do.


The signification of these chords is by no means arbitrary; but, on the contrary, their application is according to fixed rules and according to æsthetic principles; so that the highest poetry of these people becomes, in the very process of utterance, the finest music; while the utterance of base sentiments, or of fustian, becomes, by the very nature of the language, discordant, or at best vapid and unmelodious.

It will readily be imagined that I was a very long while in learning to understand a speech so entirely different in all its principles from our earthly tongues. And when I began to comprehend it, as spoken by my new friends, I was unable, having but one mouth, to express anything but the simplest ideas. However, I had Yankee ingenuity enough to supply in some measure my want of lateral mouths.

My captor daily allowed me more and more freedom, and at length permitted me to wander freely over the whole island, simply taking the precaution to send a boy with me as a companion and guide, in case I should lose my way. In one of these rambles I discovered a swamp of bamboos, and by the aid of my pocket-knife cut down several and carried them home. Then, with great difficulty and interminable labor, I managed to make a sort of small organ, a very rude affair, with six kinds of pipes, six of each kind. A bamboo pipe, with a reed tongue of the same material, or even one with a flute action, was not so sweet in tone as the voice of my friends; but they saw what I was trying to do, and could, after growing familiar with the sound of my pipes, decipher my meaning. The astonishment of my captor and his family at finding that their monster Batrachian could not only express simple ideas with his one mouth, but all the most complex notions by pieces of bamboo fastened together and held on his knees before him, was beyond measure. From this time my progress in learning their speech was very rapid; and within a year from the completion of my organ I could converse fluently with them. Of course, I had not mastered all the intricacies of their tongue, and even up to the time of my leaving them I felt that I was a mere learner; nevertheless, I could understand the main drift of all that they said; and what was equally gratifying to me, I could express to them almost anything expressible in English, and they understood me.

My life now became a very happy one; I became sincerely attached to my captor and to his family, and was charmed with their good sense and their kind feeling. I flatter myself also that they, in their turn, were not only proud of their Batrachian, but grew fond of him. They showed me more and more attention, gave me a seat at their table, and furnished me with clothes of their own fashion. I must confess, however, that the openings on the sides for their mouths, and on the back for their wings, were rather troublesome to me, and occasioned me several severe colds, until I taught them to make my vesture close about my chest.

When visitors came to their house I was always invited to bring out my organ and converse with them. Strangers found some difficulty in understanding me; but with the family I conversed with perfect ease, and they interpreted for me. I found that the universal theory concerning me was, that I came from beyond a range of mountains on the nearest continent, beyond which no explorations had ever been made. Concerning my mode of crossing the steep and lofty barrier on the continent, and the deep, wide strait which separated the island from the mainland, they speculated in vain. I humored this theory at first, as far as I could without positive statements of falsehood, for I knew that, if I told the truth, it would be absolutely incredible to them; and I did not reveal to my Martial friends my own terrestrial, to them celestial character, until just before my departure.

But my psychical character perplexed them much more than my zoölogical. It seems that these islanders had been accustomed to call themselves, in their own tongue, "rational animals with sentiments of justice and piety,"—all which, be it remembered, is expressed in their wonderful language by a simple harmonic progression of four full chords.[2] But here was a Batrachian,—one of the lower orders of creation, in their view,—from whom the Almighty had withheld the gift of a rational soul, who nevertheless appeared to reason as soundly as they,—to understand all their ideas,—not only repeating their sentences on his bamboo pipes, but commenting intelligently on them; and who not only gave these proofs of an understanding mind, but of a heart and soul, manifesting almost Mavortian affection for his captor's family, and occasionally betraying even the existence of some religious sentiments. Was all this delusive? Did this Batrachian really possess a rational soul, with sentiments of piety and justice, or only a wonderfully constructive faculty of imitation?

Reader, in your pride of Caucasian blood, you may think it incredible that such doubts should have been entertained concerning a man whose father is from one of the best families in Holland, whose mother is descended from, good English stock, and who himself exhibits sufficient intelligence to write this narrative; but nevertheless such doubts were actually entertained by a large proportion of the inhabitants of the island. Not only did the members of their Society of Natural History become warmly interested in the discussion, but finally the whole population of the island took sides on the question, and debated it with great warmth. The area of their country is about the same as that of Great Britain; but as they have no law of primogeniture, nor entailment of estates, nor hereditary rank, they have no poverty and no over-population; all of the inhabitants were happy and well-educated, all had abundant leisure, and all were ready to examine the evidence concerning the wonderful Batrachian that was said to have come ashore on the eastern side of their island.

But alas! even in this well-governed and happy community, not every man's opinion was free from error, nor every man's temper free from prejudice and passion. Those who insisted that my bamboo music was only a parrot-like imitation of their speech accused those who held that I was really rational of the crime of exalting a Batrachian into equality with "rational animals with sentiments of justice and piety"; and the accused party, after a little natural shrinking from so bold a position, finally confessed the crime, by acknowledging that they thought that I was at least entitled to all the rights of their race. Here was the beginning of a feud which presently waxed as hot as that between the Big-Endians and the Little-Endians of Liliput.

I have no doubt in my own mind that the temper displayed in this controversy sprang partly from causes which had been in operation for many years before my visit. Somewhere about the middle of the last century, (I am speaking now of terrestrial dates, translating their long years and odd numeral scale into ours,) a colony from the mainland had settled at one end of their island, and were still living among them. These continental men differed somewhat in figure and stature from the islanders, and their wings were of a dusky hue, while the islanders' wings were distinctly purple in their tone. These colonists were looked upon by most of the islanders as an inferior race, and there had been very few cases of intermarriage between them. These few cases had, however, led to some earnest discussions. Some maintained that it was only a want of good taste in a Purple-wing to be willing to marry a Dusky-wing, but that it was not a thing forbidden by morality or to be forbidden by law. Others maintained that such intermarriage was against nature, against public order and morality, and should be prohibited. Nay, some went so far as to say that these Dusky-wings were intruders, who ought to be sent back to their native continent; that the island was the Purple-wings' country, and that the Purple-wings should have absolute control over it, and ought not to suffer any other race to participate in its advantages.

This division of opinion and feeling concerning the Dusky-wings, although deep and earnest, had not led to much open debate; the people of the island were very hospitable and polite, and they refrained to a great extent from showing their prejudices against the colonists. But my arrival gave them an opportunity of saying with open frankness many things which, although said concerning me, were meant and understood as referring to the immigrants from the continent. The Dusky-wings themselves said but little; they were quiet, inoffensive, affectionate people, who were somewhat wounded occasionally by the scorn of a Purple-wing, but simply went on minding their own business, and showing kindness to all persons alike.

The aborigines of the island, outnumbering the others by twenty to one, discussed me and my position with eager warmth. On the one hand, it was argued that I was a Batrachian,—of a high species, it was granted, but still only an animal; that, if I really had reason and sentiments, they must be of a low order; that certainly I had no social nor legal rights which their race were bound to respect; that I was the property of my captor, by right of discovery, and he had absolute rights over me as a chattel; that he might sell me or use me as lawfully as he could sell or use clothing, food, or books; that he might compel me to work for him; and that he even had a right to poison me (as they poisoned troublesome insects) whenever he was tired of the burden of my support, or wished to study my anatomy.

On the other hand, it was maintained that the fact of my being a Batrachian had no bearing on my moral rights, and ought not to have upon my social and legal rights. The capacity which I had for understanding the moral law and for feeling injustice gave me a claim to justice. Whoever has the moral sense to claim rights is by that very endowment vested with rights. "The true brotherhood between us rational animals," said this party, "is founded in our rationality and in our sentiments of justice and piety, and not in our animal nature. But this Batrachian, although belonging to the lower orders of animal nature, partakes with us of reason and of the sentiments of justice and piety. He is therefore our brother, and his rights are as sacred as our own. He is the guest, and not the chattel, of the family who discovered him. To sell him or to buy him, to force him to labor against his will, to hold his life less sacred than our own, would be criminal."

Of course I knew nothing of all this until I had been there for several years, and acquired a tolerable familiarity with their speech. Indeed, it required a considerable time for the feud to arrive at its highest. But at length party strife concerning me and concerning the relative superiority of the two races rose to such a pitch, that I seriously feared lest I should be the innocent cause of a civil war in this once happy island. Moreover, I saw that my presence was becoming a source of serious inconvenience to my host and to his family. They were attached to me, that I could not doubt; but neither could I doubt that it was unpleasant to them to have old acquaintances decline any further intercourse with them because they had allowed a Batrachian to sit at table with them.

Very reluctantly I decided that I would ask Copernicus to restore me to my own family on Earth. First I broke the matter cautiously to my host, and explained to him confidentially my real origin and my intended return. He was astonished beyond measure at my revelation, and I could with difficulty persuade him that I was not of celestial nature. We talked it over daily for several weeks, and then explained it to the family, and afterwards to a select circle of friends, who were to publish it after my departure, and give to the whole island their first notions of terrestrial geography and history. Finally, I decided upon a night in which I would depart, and at bed-time bade the family good by. At midnight I filled my pockets and sundry satchels with my note-books, specimens of dried plants, insects, fragments of minerals, etc., and, hanging these satchels on my arms, called on Copernicus to fulfil his promise. Instantly all things disappeared again from my view; I was floating with my satchels in mid-ether, and fell into a trance. When I awaked, I was in my father's house in New York. How long the passage required, I have no means of determining.

The present brief sketch of my life upon the planet Mars is designed partly to call attention to the volumes which I am preparing, in conjunction with more learned and more scientific collaborateurs, for immediate publication by the Smithsonian Institution, and partly for the gratification of readers who may never see those ponderous quartos.

I will only add, that, since my return to Earth, I have never been able to obtain any information either from Copernicus or from any other of the illustrious dead, except through the pages of their printed works.


  1. The strangeness of my adventures will be so apt to breed incredulity among those unacquainted with my character, that I add some certificates from the highest names known to science.
    "New York, June 13, 1865.—Three plants, submitted to me by Mr. George Snyder for examination, prove to be totally unlike any botanical family hitherto known or described in any books to which I have access.
    "Robert Brown, Prof. Bott. Col., Coll. N. Y."
    "New York, June 15, 1865.—Mr. George Snyder. Dear Sir: Your mineral gives, in the spectroscope, three elegant red bands and one blue band; and certainly contains a new metal hitherto unknown to chemistry.
    "R. Bunsen, Prof. Chem., N. Y. Free Acad."
    "Cambridge, Mass., June, 18, 1863.—Mr. George Snyder has placed in my hands three insects, belonging to three new families of Orthoptera, differing widely from all previously known.
    "Kirby Spence, Assist. Ent., Mus. Comp. Zöol."
  2. These chords are those of E, A, B, E, whence the creatures might be called Eabes.

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.