The melody of flowers and Zarlah.
My visitor appeared to be a young man of about twenty-five, tall, handsome, broad-shouldered, and fair-complexioned, with that frank and open countenance which claims the friendship of all men. Without a moment’s hesitation he stepped forward with outstretched hand and, in the composite language of Mars, said:
“Good-evening, Almos. I am afraid this is an intrusion. I have interrupted your studies, I know, but the fact is—”
“Not at all, my dear Reon!” I found myself replying. “I am glad to see you at any time, and now, how can I be of service to you?”
Although I answered him in the composite language, and in a manner that did not excite the slightest suspicion, I did so unconsciously. In spite of the quandary in which I found myself upon coming face to face with an inhabitant of Mars, I outwardly remained perfectly calm, nor did it require any effort to appear so. The brain, in such an emergency, followed instinctively its natural habit. It was as if another man had spoken from within me, one who was perfectly acquainted with the visitor and with Martian affairs. I found, however, when the surprise of the first few moments had passed, that my mind could take control whenever it exerted itself to do so. Thus I was able to say whatever I wished, or, if necessity demanded, draw upon Almos’ knowledge for information. Replies came with the ease that Almos himself would have experienced in answering questions, and I soon found that, with discretion, there was no danger of my visitor suspecting the remarkable change of personality in his friend.
I learned that Reon had come with a message from Sarraccus, one of Mars’ greatest scientists, who was about to give a demonstration of his latest invention, a remarkable musical instrument called the lumaharp. A recognized authority on anything of a scientific nature, Almos’ counsel was sought, and it was desired that he should be present at the recital of this wonderful instrument.
Hastily ascertaining the time, I found that I had only two hours in which it would be safe to remain on Mars. So interested had I been in my observations of Earth, that the time had passed without my being aware of the narrow margin I had left myself in which to see the planet. I, however, informed my visitor that I would be ready to accompany him in a few minutes, and with all haste, prepared myself for this new undertaking.
I realized that once having left the observatory and stepped into a new and strange world, many things might happen to prevent me returning within two hours. But besides feeling that I was in duty bound to Almos to attend this demonstration, I also felt that the risks I had taken were too great to go unrewarded by even a glimpse into the life of this wonderful planet. The future, too, held that element of uncertainty which made me feel that I might pay dearly for the five hours spent in another world. If the return current failed to do what was expected of it, if I had erred in my calculation of the time I could remain on Mars, or if my room had been broken into and my body moved, the results would be disastrous.