Historical Reprints Fiction TORCHBEARERS : WATCHERS OF THE SKY


Catalog # SKU1777
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Alfred Noyes




A timeless science fiction classic, inspired by mankind's love of the skies and his obession for knowledge of the universe. The telescope became man's eye into the heavens. What would he discover there?


At noon, upon the mountain's purple height, above the pinewoods and the clouds it shone no larger than the small white dome of shell left by the fledgling wren when wings are born. By night it joined the company of heaven, and, with its constant light, became a star. A needlepoint of light, minute, remote, it sent a subtler message through the abyss, held more significance for the seeing eye than all the darkness that would blot it out, yet could not dwarf it. High in heaven it shone, alive with all the thoughts, and hopes, and dreams of man's adventurous mind. Up there, I knew the explorers of the sky, the pioneers of science, now made ready to attack that darkness once again, and win new worlds. Tomorrow night they hoped to crown the toil of twenty years, and turn upon the sky the noblest weapon ever made by man. War had delayed them. They had been drawn away designing darker weapons. But no gun could outrange this.

"Tomorrow night"--so wrote their chief--"we try our great new telescope, the hundred-inch. Your Milton's 'optic tube' has grown in power since Galileo, famous, blind, and old, talked with him, in that prison, of the sky. We creep to power by inches. Europe trusts her 'giant forty' still. Even tonight our own old sixty has its work to do; and now our hundred-inch. I hardly dare to think what this new muzzle of ours may find. Come up, and spend that night among the stars here, on our mountaintop. If all goes well, then, at the least, my friend, you'll see a moon stranger, but nearer, many a thousand mile than earth has ever seen her, even in dreams. As for the stars, if seeing them were all, three thousand million new-found points of light is our rough guess. But never speak of this. You know our press. They'd miss the one result to flash 'three thousand millions' round the world."

Tomorrow night! For more than twenty years, they had thought and planned and worked. Ten years had gone, one-fourth, or more, of man's brief working life, before they made those solid tons of glass, Their hundred-inch reflector, the clear pool, the polished flawless pool that it must be to hold the perfect image of a star. And, even now, some secret flaw--none knew until tomorrow's test--might waste it all.

Where was the gambler that would stake so much, time, patience, treasure, on a single throw? The cost of it, they'd not find that again, either in gold or life-stuff! All their youth was fuel to the flame of this one work. Once in a lifetime to the man of science, despite what fools believe his ice-cooled blood, there comes this drama. If he fails, he fails utterly. He at least will have no time for fresh beginnings. Other men, no doubt, years hence, will use the footholes that he cut in those precipitous cliffs, and reach the height, but he will never see it.

So for me, the light words of that letter seemed to hide the passion of a lifetime, and I shared the crowning moment of its hope and fear. Next day, through whispering aisles of palm we rode up to the foot-hills, dreaming desert-hills that to assuage their own delicious drought had set each tawny sun-kissed slope ablaze with peach and orange orchards. Up and up, along the thin white trail that wound and climbed and zigzagged through the grey-green mountain sage, the car went crawling, till the shining plain below it, like an airman's map, unrolled. Houses and orchards dwindled to white specks in midget cubes and squares of tufted green.

Once, as we rounded one steep curve, that made the head swim at the canyoned gulf below, we saw through thirty miles of lucid air elvishly small, sharp as a crumpled petal blown from the stem, a yard away, a sail lazily drifting on the warm blue sea. Up for nine miles along that spiral trail slowly we wound to reach the lucid height above the clouds, where that white dome of shell, no wren's now, but an eagle's, took the flush of dying day. The sagebrush all died out, and all the southern growths, and round us now, firs of the north, and strong, storm-rooted pines exhaled a keener fragrance; till, at last, reversing all the laws of lesser hills, they towered like giants round us. Darkness fell before we reached the mountain's naked height.

Over us, like some great cathedral dome, the observatory loomed against the sky; and the dark mountain with its headlong gulfs had lost all memory of the world below; for all those cloudless throngs of glittering stars and all those glimmerings where the abyss of space is powdered with a milky dust, each grain a burning sun, and every sun the lord of its own darkling planets, all those lights met, in a darker deep, the lights of earth, lights on the sea, lights of invisible towns, trembling and indistinguishable from stars, in those black gulfs around the mountain's feet.

Softcover, 5¼" x 8¾", 110+ pages
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