“We never suspected that the people of Earth did us such a great injustice,” he said, his whole countenance lighting up with good humor. “I have several volumes here giving accounts of observations of Earth, some of them written eight hundred years ago. It would perhaps interest you to hear what the Martian conception of the inhabitants of Earth was at that time.”
“Indeed it would,” I exclaimed, with rising curiosity.
“Well then,” rejoined Almos, bringing one of the books and turning over the leaves, while a curious smile still played about his mouth, “you must understand that this was written over a hundred years before super-radium was discovered, and at that time we had no means of observing Earth except through the telescope, which showed us the mountains, seas, and continents, much the same as your telescope must reveal the physical features of Mars. On the question of whether Earth is inhabited the author says:
“’That this planet is inhabited we have no reason to doubt, as it is known to be enveloped in an atmosphere, and it is now a generally accepted theory that the changes noticed in its color throughout the year are the seasonal effects on vegetable matter existing on its surface.... What the inhabitants are like, however, we can only surmise, but a study of the conditions under which they live will help us to picture the wild amphibious creatures they must be. Their planet, more than half covered with water, and being so many millions of miles nearer the sun than we are, is almost continually enveloped in heavy clouds of vapor, which, unless they were half fish, must surely suffocate them. They doubtless seek the depths of water when these clouds of thick vapor arise. Upon emerging, however, they have to face such intense heat as none of us could tolerate a minute and live.... They are no doubt provided with steel-like skin to resist this temperature.... That they are of a fierce temperament there can be little doubt, as their atmosphere, which is twice the weight of ours, is so overcharged with electricity, owing to the heat and clouds of vapor, that violent storms are constantly breaking over them, doubtless killing thousands of them at a time and tending to make the natures of the survivors as fierce as the elements which surround them.... Their year is but half as long as ours, and this—impeding the laws of propagation, thus making impossible the higher order of mankind—would naturally have the effect of rendering their lives a short, reckless, and ferocious existence, full of unrestrained cruelty and passions....’
“And now,” continued Almos, with a smile, after closing the volume, “you see there is no occasion for apologies from you.”
“No,” I answered, somewhat dryly.
“The fact is, my dear fellow,” said Almos, laughing and seeming to enjoy the situation immensely, “the entire solar system is pursuing the same path; what A thinks of B, B has already thought of A.”