[A spacious garden-room, with one door to the left, and two doors to the right. In the middle of the room a round table, with chairs about it. On the table lie books, periodicals, and newspapers. In the foreground to the left a window, and by it a small sofa, with a worktable in front of it. In the background, the room is continued into a somewhat narrower conservatory, the walls of which are formed by large panes of glass. In the right-hand wall of the conservatory is a door leading down into the garden. Through the glass wall a gloomy fjord landscape is faintly visible, veiled by steady rain.]
As I left the railway station at Worchester and set out on thethree-mile walk to Ransom's cottage, I reflected that no one on thatplatform could possibly guess the truth about the man I was going tovisit. The flat heath which spread out before me (for the village liesall behind and to the north of the station) looked an ordinary heath.The gloomy five-o'clock sky was such as you might see on any autumnafternoon. The few houses and the clumps of red or yellowish trees werein no way remarkable. Who could imagine that a little farther on in thatquiet landscape I should meet and shake by the hand a man who had livedand eaten and drunk in a world forty million miles distant from London,who had seen this Earth from where it looks like a mere point of greenfire, and who had spoken face to face with a creature whose life beganbefore our own planet was inhabitable?
There was no reply--not a sound except the echo of the sounds I had beenmaking myself. There was only something white fluttering on the knocker.I guessed, of course, that it was a note. In striking a match to read itby, I discovered how very shaky my hands had become; and when the matchwent out I realised how dark the evening had grown. After severalattempts I read the thing. "Sorry. Had to go up to Cambridge. Shan't beback till the late train. Eatables in larder and bed made up in yourusual room. Don't wait supper for me unless you feel like it--E. R." Andimmediately the impulse to retreat, which had already assailed meseveral times, leaped upon me with a sort of demoniac violence. Here wasmy retreat left open, positively inviting me. Now was my chance. Ifanyone expected me to go into that house and sit there alone for severalhours, they were mistaken! But then, as the thought of the returnjourney began to take shape in my mind, I faltered. The idea of settingout to traverse the avenue of beech trees again (it was really dark now)with this house behind me (one had the absurd feeling that it couldfollow one) was not attractive. And then, I hope, something better cameinto my mind--some rag of sanity and some reluctance to let Ransom down.At least I could try the door to see if it were really unlocked. I did.And it was. Next moment, I hardly know how, I found myself inside andlet it slam behind me.
It was quite dark, and warm. I groped a few paces forward, hit my shinviolently against something, and fell. I sat still for a few secondsnursing my leg. I thought I knew the layout of Ransom'shall-sitting-room pretty well and couldn't imagine what I had blunderedinto. Presently I groped in my pocket, got out my matches, and tried tostrike a light. The head of the match flew off. I stamped on it andsniffed to make sure it was not smouldering on the carpet. As soon as Isniffed I became aware of a strange smell in the room. I could not forthe life of me make out what it was. It had an unlikeness to ordinarydomestic smells as great as that of some chemicals, but it was not achemical kind of smell at all. Then I struck another match. It flickeredand went out almost at once--not unnaturally, since I was sitting on thedoor-mat and there are few front doors even in better built houses thanRansom's country cottage which do not admit a draught. I had seennothing by it except the palm of my own hand hollowed in an attempt toguard the flame. Obviously I must get away from the door. I rosegingerly and felt my way forward. I came at once to anobstacle--something smooth and very cold that rose a little higher thanmy knees. As I touched it I realised that it was the source of thesmell. I groped my way along this to the left and finally came to theend of it. It seemed to present several surfaces and I couldn't picturethe shape. It was not a table, for it had no top. One's hand gropedalong the rim of a kind of low wall--the thumb on the outside and thefingers down inside the enclosed space. If it had felt like wood Ishould have supposed it to be a large packing-case. But it was not wood.I thought for a moment that it was wet, but soon decided that I wasmistaking coldness for moisture. When I reached the end of it I struckmy third match.
To that landing, as Ransom narrated it to me, I will now proceed. Heseems to have been awakened (if that is the right word) from hisindescribable celestial state by the sensation of falling--in otherwords, when he was near enough to Venus to feel Venus as something inthe downward direction. The next thing he noticed was that he was verywarm on one side and very cold on the other, though neither sensationwas so extreme as to be really painful. Anyway, both were soon swallowedup in the prodigious white light from below which began to penetratethrough the semi-opaque walls of the casket. This steadily increased andbecame distressing in spite of the fact that his eyes were protected.There is no doubt this was the albedo, the outer veil of very denseatmosphere with which Venus is surrounded and which reflects the sun'srays with intense power. For some obscure reason he was not conscious,as he had been on his approach to Mars, of his own rapidly increasingweight. When the white light was just about to become unbearable, itdisappeared altogether, and very soon after the cold on his left sideand the heat on his right began to decrease and to be replaced by anequable warmth. I take it he was now in the outer layer of thePerelandrian atmosphere--at first in a pale, and later in a tinted,twilight. The prevailing colour, as far as he could see through thesides of the casket, was golden or coppery. By this time he must havebeen very near the surface of the planet, with the length of the casketat right angles to that surface--falling feet downwards like a man in alift. The sensation of falling--helpless as he was and unable to move hisarms--became frightening. Then suddenly there came a great greendarkness, an unidentifiable noise--the first message from the newworld--and a marked drop in temperature. He seemed now to have assumed ahorizontal position and also, to his great surprise, to be moving notdownwards but upwards; though, at the moment, he judged this to be anillusion. All this time he must have been making faint, unconsciousefforts to move his limbs, for now he suddenly found that the sides ofhis prison-house yielded to pressure. He was moving his limbs,encumbered with some viscous substance. Where was the casket? Hissensations were very confused. Sometimes he seemed to be falling,sometimes to be soaring upwards, and then again to be moving in thehorizontal plane. The viscous substance was white. There seemed to beless of it every moment . . . white, cloudy stuff just like the casket,only not solid. With a horrible shock he realised that it was thecasket, the casket melting, dissolving away, giving place to anindescribable confusion of colour--a rich, varied world in which nothing,for the moment, seemed palpable. There was no casket now. He was turnedout--deposited--solitary. He was in Perelandra.
Once more, a phenomenon which reason might have anticipated took him bysurprise. To be naked yet warm, to wander among summer fruits and lie insweet heather--all this had led him to count on a twilit night, a mildmidsummer greyness. But before the great apocalyptic colours had diedout in the west, the eastern heaven was black. A few moments, and theblackness had reached the western horizon. A little reddish lightlingered at the zenith for a time, during which he crawled back to thewoods. It was already, in common parlance, "too dark to see your way."But before he had lain down among the trees the real night hadcome--seamless darkness, not like night but like being in a coal-cellar,darkness in which his own hand held before his face was totallyinvisible. Absolute blackness, the undimensioned, the impenetrable,pressed on his eyeballs. There is no moon in that land, no star piercesthe golden roof. But the darkness was warm. Sweet new scents camestealing out of it. The world had no size now. Its boundaries were thelength and breadth of his own body and the little patch of softfragrance which made his hammock, swaying ever more and more gently.Night covered him like a blanket and kept all loneliness from him. Theblackness might have been his own room. Sleep came like a fruit whichfalls into the hand almost before you have touched the stem.
There were trees near him loaded with the fruit which he had alreadytasted, but his attention was diverted by a strange appearance a littlefarther off. Amid the darker foliage of a greenish-grey thicketsomething seemed to be sparkling. The impression, caught out of thecorner of his eye, had been that of a greenhouse roof with the sun onit. Now that he looked at it squarely it still suggested glass, butglass in perpetual motion. Light seemed to be coming and going in aspasmodic fashion. Just as he was moving to investigate this phenomenonhe was startled by a touch on his left leg. The beast had followed him.It was once more nosing and nudging. Ransom quickened his pace. So didthe dragon. He stopped; so did it. When he went on again it accompaniedhim so closely that its side pressed against his thighs and sometimesits cold, hard, heavy foot descended on his. The arrangement was solittle to his satisfaction that he was beginning to wonder seriously howhe could put an end to it when suddenly his whole attention wasattracted by something else. Over his head there hung from a hairytube-like branch a great spherical object, almost transparent, andshining. It held an area of reflected light in it and at one place asuggestion of rainbow colouring. So this was the explanation of theglass-like appearance in the wood. And looking round he perceivedinnumerable shimmering globes of the same kind in every direction. Hebegan to examine the nearest one attentively. At first he thought it wasmoving, then he thought it was not. Moved by a natural impulse he putout his hand to touch it. Immediately his head, face, and shoulders weredrenched with what seemed (in that warm world) an ice-cold shower bath,and his nostrils filled with a sharp, shrill, exquisite scent thatsomehow brought to his mind the verse in Pope, "die of a rose inaromatic pain." Such was the refreshment that he seemed to himself tohave been, till now, but half awake. When he opened his eyes--which hadclosed involuntarily at the shock of moisture--all the colours about himseemed richer and the dimness of that world seemed clarified. Are-enchantment fell upon him. The golden beast at his side seemed nolonger either a danger or a nuisance. If a naked man and a wise dragonwere indeed the sole inhabitants of this floating paradise, then thisalso was fitting, for at that moment he had a sensation not of followingan adventure but of enacting a myth. To be the figure that he was inthis unearthly pattern appeared sufficient. 2b1af7f3a8