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FOR two or three days it rained incessantly, so that nothing could be proved or disproved about the violet star which the man Bellairs had predicted would hit the Earth. He appeared to have been the only observer; but a dozen men could not have given more details than those which, purporting at any rate to come from him, were published in the newspapers the morning after the first announcement. It was then Saturday; the day selected for the final end of all things was the following Wednesday, and even the actual hour of the impact with the Earth's atmosphere was given, though I cannot now remember it.
The popular idea of the matter was probably hit very well by one of the newspapers, which, with characteristic wit, called the star Mirzarbeau's Beast-ly Comet," and treated the whole prediction as a huge practical joke.
On Sunday the coming of the violet star was referred to in a few pulpits; but even so rather as a possibility than as a disaster likely to befall. London, fresh from its experiences of Mirzarbeau, might have been expected to err on the side of credulity rather than in the opposite direction, but it did nothing of the sort— it had exaggerated previous events to such a degree that imagination could no longer be played upon.
Monday morning, however, saw a crop of letters in the newspapers. Whatever scepticism the writers might privately entertain about the star, they all seemed full of a lively fear as to what influence the prophecy might have upon their fellows. Scientific men wrote to the effect that no body, whether star or comet, could travel in the course or speed assigned to the mysterious violet star without violating every known law. Others, less dogmatic, referred to Biela's comet through which the Earth had passed without inconvenience in the nineteenth century.
Others, again, confined themselves to remarking that two observations of a comet could not possibly give data sufficient to calculate its course, or else sarcastically inquired whether Professor Bellairs had telegraphed the news from America. All asserted that the name of Bellairs was unknown in the astronomical world.
The sole contribution to the other side appeared under the signature of "G. Dornton." It was practically a reiteration of what he had already told me, with a few addenda that were unpleasant enough reading for any one inclined to give them credence. Briefly, he stated that there would be a great tidal wave, an earthquake, a heavy flood, intense heat and storm; then, when the elementary atoms of hydrogen in the star had saturated the Earth's atmosphere, annihilation upon a gigantic scale, a mighty replica of what Mirzarbeau had done.
"Lest," he wrote, " I should be considered an idle dogmatist, let me explain how Mirzarbeau did what he did.
"Every one knows that musical notes can be rendered visible as colours. This was demonstrated at the St. James's Hall some years since.
"Every one knows that musical notes cause sand or any free substance to take certain definite forms. This has been demonstrated a thousand times. Every note has its equivalent geometrical form.
"Consequently every colour (colour being only a musical note in another shape) must have a correspondingly equivalent geometrical form; and colour, sound, and form be all interchangeable.
"Light is colour. All form is dependent upon it, born of it. 'Let there be light' meant more than any theologian or scientist has yet troubled to consider. All creation is in those words.
"One may ask : what colour was the first light?
"The antithesis of light is blackness. Every artist knows that black is the contrast colour to violet— its antithesis. Green, Nature's colour, is the complementary colour to violet.
"The spectroscope is known to all. The colour of the actinic rays in the solar spectrum, the rays that make life possible, is violet. To violet, the colour of the almost supernatural x rays, we must give the first place among colours— the first place in the Scheme of Things; it is the elementary base of the whole Universe.
"The lightest gas is hydrogen. It alone has defied all attempts at liquefaction and closer analysis : in many senses it is the unknown gas. Mirzarbeau had a theory— a theory held not by him alone, and known to every chemist— that every form of matter is but hydrogen with its atoms arranged in varying ways, The power that arranged could disarrange, that is, resolve into the simplest form— the first form,— the colour violet— the unit of all elements which we see as the unknown greenish-yellow vapour its complementary colour in the corona of our sun.
"All that Mirzarbeau did was to project a ray of violet into the atmosphere, which, reflecting it down, resolved everything it fell upon into the original arrangement of hydrogen. The slight residue, the absolutely inert gaseous envelope of argon surrounding every body, petrified into a minute image of the body. When Mirzarbeau beat upon the ground after the annihilation of Waterloo station, he was destroying these traces of his secret. This was the whole secret, the rest merely some clever machinery for aiming; and the whole was based upon a correct rendering of the exact tone of the original elementary reddish-violet, just as the Mark, the yellow green antidote which protected, was the exact complementary colour.
"Having detailed this much, I apprehend that what else I have to say about the violet star will be listened to. Had Mirzarbeau been an independent unit many things might be different. But he was a mere molecule blindly acting his part. The solar system is a huge sentient organism; and our planet chances to be the seat of its brain,— we and all living things being the molecules of that brain. All the slaughter done by Mirzarbeau, all the struggle with the Chinese, these and all things are merely vast repetitions of what happens in our own brains whenever we evolve or receive a thought.
"Mirzarbeau had a second machine, one that plunged into the infinities of space, and by which he was supposed to have been attracting a comet when he met his end by a— to him— unforeseen accident. No fancy could have been more absolutely false— he was the molecule that retarded— prevented the conception of the idea, kept back the comet. When an idea at last reaches a slow-thinking brain, same molecular Mirzarbeau first perishes. He has perished; and the idea from some distant stellar system is now plunging towards Earth. Earth, the brain of our System, will receive that idea. In receiving it, all, or nearly all, life will perish from the planet's surface; but that is a detail of no more account in the Scheme of Things than the similar catastrophes which take place every moment that we use our brains. In the eons of Infinite Space there is no reckoning for infinitesimal specks like us."
To the mass of people this letter was a joke also; Dornton had so kept himself in the background during the reign of Mirzarbeau, that, probably, not half-a-dozen people were aware of who he was.
Specious as the pseudo-scientific beginning of this letter might be to the average reader, the ending was more than any could credit. With whatever object Dornton wrote, nothing that was said about the comet did more to allay fear of or belief in it than did this letter. Who Bellairs was had been a mystery; now he was taken to be but Dornton masquerading for the joke.
And so the time passed, till Wednesday dawned, dull and cloudy.
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