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Did you never find yourself in the same difficulty? When your husband had come home from sea, and kissed you and the children, and wondered at their size, did you never sit silent and have to think what you should say? Were you never fairly relieved when little Phil said, blustering, "I got three eggs to-day." The truth is, that silence is very satisfactory intercourse, if we only know all is well. When De Sauty got his original cable going, he had not much to tell after all; only that consols were a quarter per cent higher than they were the day before. "Send me news," lisped he--poor lonely myth!--from Bull's Bay to Valentia,--"send me news; they are mad for news." But how if there be no news worth sending? What do I read in my cable despatch to-day? Only that the Harvard crew pulled at Putney yesterday, which I knew before I opened the paper, and that there had been a riot in Spain, which I also knew. Here is a letter just brought me by the mail from Moreau, Tazewell County, Iowa. It is written by Follansbee, in a good cheerful hand. How glad I am to hear from Follansbee! Yes; but do I care one straw whether Follansbee planted spring wheat or winter wheat? Not I. All I care for is Follansbee's way of telling it. All these are the remarks by which Haliburton explains the character of the messages he sent in reply to George Orcutt's autographs, which were so thoroughly satisfactory.
Should he say Mr. Borie had left the Navy Department and Mr. Robeson come in? Should he say the Lords had backed down on the Disendowment Bill? Should he say the telegraph had been landed at Duxbury? Should he say Ingham had removed to Tamworth? What did they care for this? What does anybody ever care for facts? Should he say that the State Constable was enforcing the liquor law on whiskey, but was winking at lager? All this would take him a week, in the most severe condensation,-- and for what good? as Haliburton asked. Yet these were the things that the newspapers told, and they told nothing else. There was a nice little poem of Jean Ingelow's in a Transcript Haliburton had with him. He said he was really tempted to spell that out. It was better worth it than all the rest of the newspaper stuff, and would be remembered a thousand years after that was forgotten. "What they wanted," says Haliburton, "was sentiment. That is all that survives and is eternal." So he and Rob. laid out their cambric thus:--
RAW. AL WEL. SO GLAD.
Haliburton hesitated whether he would not add, "Power 5000," to indicate the full power I was using at Tamworth. But he determined not to, and, I think, wisely. The convenience was so great, of receiving the signal at the spot where it could be answered, that for the present he thought it best that they should go on as they did. That night, however, to his dismay, clouds gathered and a grim snow-storm began. He got no observations; and the next day it stormed so heavily that he could not lay his signals out. For me at Tamworth, I had a heavy storm all day, but at midnight it was clear; and as soon as the regular eclipse was past, George began with what we saw was an account of the great anaclysm which sent them there. You observe that Orcutt had far greater power of communicating with us than we had with him. He knew this. And it was fortunate he had. For he had, on his little world, much more of interest to tell than we had on our large one.
18. "It stormed hard. We were all asleep, and knew nothing till morning; the hammocks turned so slowly."
Here was another revelation and relief. I had always supposed that if they knew anything before they were roasted to death, they had had one wild moment of horror. Instead of this, the gentle slide of the MOON had not wakened them, the flight upward had been as easy as it was rapid, the change from one centre of gravity to another had of course been slow,--and they had actually slept through the whole. After the dancers had rested once, Orcutt continued:--
19. "We cleared E. A. in two seconds, I think. Our outer surface fused and cracked somewhat. So much the better for us."
They moved so fast that the heat of their friction through the air could not propagate itself through the whole brick surface. Indeed, there could have been but little friction after the first five or ten miles. By E. A. he means earth's atmosphere.
His 20th despatch is: "I have no observations of ascent. But by theory our positive ascent ceased in two minutes five seconds, when we fell into our proper orbit, which, as I calculate, is 5,109 miles from your mean surface."
In all this, observe, George dropped no word of regret through these five thousand miles.
His 21st despatch is: "Our rotation on our axis is made once in seven hours, our axis being exactly vertical to the plane of our own orbit. But in each of your daily rotations we get sunned all round."
Of course, they never had lost their identity with us, so far as our rotation and revolution went: our inertia was theirs; all the fatal, Fly-Wheels had given them was an additional motion in space of their own.
This was the last despatch before daylight of Sunday morning; and the terrible snow-storm of March, sweeping our hemisphere, cut off our communication with them, both at Tamworth and No. 9, for several days.
But here was ample food for reflection. Our friends were in a world of their own, all thirty-seven of them well, and it seemed they had two more little girls added to their number since they started. They had plenty of vegetables to eat, with prospect of new tropical varieties according to Dr. Darwin. Rob. Shea was sure that they carried up hens; he said he knew Mrs. Whitman had several Middlesexes and Mrs. Leonard two or three Black Spanish fowls, which had been given her by some friends in Foxcroft. Even if they had not yet had time enough for these to develop into Alderneys and venison, they would not be without animal food.
When at last it cleared off, Haliburton had to telegraph: "Repeat from 21"; and this took all his cambric, though he had doubled his stock. Orcutt replied the next night:
22. "I can see your storms. We have none. When we want to change climate we can walk in less than a minute from midsummer to the depth of winter. But in the inside we have eleven different temperatures, which do not change."
On the whole there is a certain convenience in such an arrangement. With No. 23 he went back to his story:--
It took us many days, one or two of our months, to adjust ourselves to our new condition. Our greatest grief is that we are not on the meridian. Do you know why?"
Loyal George! He was willing to exile himself and his race from the most of mankind, if only the great purpose of his life could be fulfilled. But his great regret was that it was not fulfilled. He was not on the meridian. I did not know why. But Haliburton, with infinite labor, spelt out on the Flat,
CYC. PROJECT. AD FIN.,
by which he meant, "See article Projectiles in the Cyclopaedia at the end"; and there indeed is the only explanation to be given. When you fire a shot, why does it ever go to the right or left of the plane in which it is projected? Dr. Hutton ascribes it to a whirling motion acquired by the bullet by friction with the gun. Euler thinks it due chiefly to the irregularity of the shape of the ball. In our case the B. M. was regular enough. But on one side, being wholly unprepared for flight, she was heavily stored with pork and corn, while her other chambers had in some of them heavy drifts of snow, and some only a few men and women and hens.
Before Orcutt saw Haliburton's advice, he had sent us 24 and 25.
24. "We have established a Sandemanian church, and Brannan preaches. My son Edward and Alice Whitman are to be married this evening."
This despatch unfortunately did not reach Haliburton, though I got it. So, all the happy pair received for our wedding-present was the advice to look in the Cyclopaedia at article Projectiles near the end.
"We shall act `As You Like It' after the wedding. Dead-head tickets for all of the old set who will come."
Actually, in one week's reunion we had come to joking.
The next night we got 26:
"Alice says she will not read the Cyclopaedia in the honeymoon, but is much obliged to Mr. Haliburton for his advice."
"How did she ever know it was I?" wrote the matter- of-fact Haliburton to me.
27. "Alice wants to know if Mr. Haliburton will not send here for some rags; says we have plenty, with little need for clothes."
And then despatches began to be more serious again. Brannan and Orcutt had failed in the great scheme for the longitude, to which they had sacrificed their lives,--if, indeed, it were a sacrifice to retire with those they love best to a world of their own. But none the less did they devote themselves, with the rare power of observation they had, to the benefit of our world. Thus, in 28:
"Your North Pole is an open ocean. It was black, which we think means water, from August 1st to September 29th. Your South Pole is on an island bigger than New Holland. Your Antarctic Continent is a great cluster of islands."
29. "Your Nyanzas are only two of a large group of African lakes. The green of Africa, where there is no water, is wonderful at our distance."
30. "We have not the last numbers of `Foul Play.' Tell us, in a word or two, how they got home. We can see what we suppose their island was."
31. "We should like to know who proved Right in `He Knew He was Right.'"
This was a good night's work, as they were then telegraphing. As soon as it cleared, Haliburton displayed,--
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The Brick Moon and Other Stories -by- Edward Everett Hale