Chapter 4

I. First Appearances

In the last chapter we saw how badly off for water Mars, to all appearance, is; so badly off that inhabitants of that other world would have to irrigate to live. As to the actual presence there of such folk, the broad physical characteristics of the planet express no opinion beyond the silence of consent, but they have something very vital to say about the conditions under which alone their life could be led. They show that these conditions must be such that in the Martian mind there would be one question perpetually paramount to all the local labor, women's suffrage, and Eastern questions put together--the water question. How to procure water enough to support life would be the great communal problem of the day.

Were Mars like the Earth, we might well despair of detecting signs of any Martians for some time yet. Across the gulf of space that separates us from Mars, an area thirty miles wide would just be perceptible as a dot. It would, in such case, be hopeless to look for evidence of folk. Anything like London or New, York, or even Chicago in its own estimation would be too small to be seen, so sorry a figure does man cut upon the Earth he thinks to own. From the standpoint of forty millions of miles distance, probably the only sign of his presence here would be such semi-artificialities as the great grain-fields of the West when their geometric patches turned with the changing seasons from ochre to green, and then from green to gold. By his crops we should know him. A tell-tale fact this, for it would be still more likely to be the case with Mars. If the surface of the planet were cultivated at all, it would probably be upon a much more thorough plan than is the case with the Earth. Conditions hold there which would necessitate a much more artificial state of things. If cultivation there be, it must be cultivation largely dependent upon a system of irrigation, and therefore much more systematic than any we have as yet been forced to adopt.

Now, at this point in our investigation, when the broad features of Mars disclose conditions which imply irrigation as their organic corollary, we are suddenly confronted on the planet's face with phenomena so startlingly suggestive of this very thing as to seem its uncanny presentment. Indeed, so amazingly lifelike is their appearance that, had we possessed our present knowledge of the planet's physical condition before, we might almost have predicted what we see as criterion of the presence of living beings. What confronts us is this: --

When the great continental areas, the reddish-ochre portions of the disk, are attentively examined in sufficiently steady air, their desert-like ground is seen to be traversed by a network of fine, straight, dark lines. The lines start from points on the coast of the blue-green regions, commonly well-marked bays, and proceed directly to what seem centres in the middle of the continent, since most surprisingly they meet there other lines that have come to the same spot with apparently a like determinate intent. And this state of things is not confined to any one part of the planet, but takes place all over the reddish- ochre regions.

The lines appear either absolutely straight from one end to the other, or curved in an equally uniform manner. There is nothing haphazard in the look of any of them. Plotting upon a globe betrays them to be arcs of great circles almost invariably, even the few outstanding exceptions seeming to be but polygonal combinations of the same. Their most instantly conspicuous characteristic is this hopeless lack of happy irregularity. They are, each and all, direct to a degree. The lines are as fine as they are straight. As a rule, they are of scarcely any perceptible breadth, seeming on the average to be less than a Martian degree, or about thirty miles wide. They differ slightly among themselves, some being a little broader than this; some a trifle finer, possibly not above fifteen miles across. Their length, not their breadth, renders them visible; for though at such a distance we could not distinguish a dot less than thirty miles in diameter, we could see a line of much less breadth, because of its length. Speaking generally, however, the lines are all of comparable width.

Still greater uniformity is observable in different parts of the same line; for each line maintains its individual width, from one end of its course to the other. Although, at and near the point where it leaves the dark regions, some slight enlargement seems to occur, after it has fairly started on its course, it remains of

  By PanEris using Melati.

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