My serene demeanor lasted but a moment, for simultaneously with his bowed response to my greeting, came in a clear voice, with perfect accent: “Bon soir, Monsieur!”
I started back, for it seemed as if someone in the room had spoken, but then I noticed that the Martian held in his hand the instrument I had seen on the previous evening. Was it possible that this was his voice, speaking French from a distance of millions of miles as clearly as if he were in the room? The thing was incredible! How could a Martian know a language evolved here on Earth? Was the whole thing then a delusion of an overwrought mind? I stood staring at the instrument in amazement.
The Martian, now seeing by my actions that his voice had been heard, raised his instrument and repeated his greeting. The voice rang as clearly as before; there could be no further doubt; through this wonderful instrument the Martian’s voice was projected, almost instantaneously to the Earth—millions of miles in a second. The mysterious power which enabled the Martian to project the waves, compared with our electricity as the telegraph does with the stage-coach. Was it strange that I stood aghast, as my mind slowly comprehended the enormous distance which that voice had traversed almost instantaneously?
It was some moments before my amazement permitted me to respond to this extraordinary salutation, then—my mind still too bewildered properly to grasp the situation—I mumbled something in English about my great astonishment at hearing a language of Earth spoken from a distant world.
The sound of my voice seemed to cause the Martian some surprise, but immediately his voice issued again in clear tones from the instrument.
“I greeted you in what I supposed was your native tongue,” he said in perfect English. “Although now we have but one composite language here, over a thousand years ago we spoke in many languages, as the people of your planet do at the present time.
“For more than six hundred years we have been able to observe the progress of your planet,” he went on, “through an instrument by which light-waves are projected and received, and have found it to be identical with ours of almost fifteen hundred years ago. By the placards in the streets of your cities and towns, we discovered that you also spoke in many tongues, and although the progress was necessarily slow, our astronomers were, by this means, able to learn the principal languages of Earth.
“Anxiously we have watched and waited for the discovery of an instrument that would respond to our projected light-waves and reveal to you the inhabitants of your neighboring planet. At last this momentous time has arrived. I congratulate you upon bringing it about.”
As he spoke, his voice, coming from the diaphragm of my instrument, sounded as distinct as if he were in the room, and his image, depicted life-size, made it hard to believe that he was more than a few feet away. That my informant was, in reality, millions of miles away, my mind absolutely refused to grasp.