The Ship That Sailed To Mars,

By William Timlin


questions? comments?

This is Part 1 - The Ship That Sailed to Mars













The Ship-Builder

Although it was difficult to believe, the Old Man had not always been old, and in his dim, forgotten youth, he had said "I will go to Mars; sailing by way of the Moon, and the more friendly planets." But those around him, Scientists, and Astronomers some cried out in scorn, "Have we not ever taught you that Mars is thirty thousand miles away, and nothing could ever live on a journey there?' And they left him, muttering in their beards as they went, for they had no faith, nor any belief, in Fairies. 

Therefore he had taken his leave of men, and mens ways, and he had spent his long lifetime in a sleepy office in a dull, dark street; passing his waking hours in strange dreams, or poring over weird and ancient books, and always and ever planning a ship to sail to Mars. 
By reason of his faith, the Faries came to him, and he chose those with cunning skill as craftsmen to help him and started a shipyard. 

All round him in his office were dusty fragments of his glittering, ineffectual dreams, and here and there little fragile machines coiled their fairy springs, or spun unheeded their golden wheels. 


The Shipyard

His shipyard was not commented upon, for it was so long ago built that no one remembered the building of it, nor did they recollect that it sprung up in a night - a crystal dome at the back of his office, a sudden globe that gave his little house the appearance of having blown a bubble. And people gave it no more attention than those other ample miracles - like the wonder of dawn or the beauty of the stars - that had been unnoticed in their midst for ever. 
There in the shipyard the Old Man's Faries worked untiringly, fashioning cunning models from the drawings supplied by him: from beautiful plans they made beautiful ships that would not fly. 

Contented in his dreams - where no failure was a disappointment, so sure was he of ultimate success - the Old Man never heeded the grave procession of the years nor ever required he aught of man or woman. So his life was perhaps the happiest on Earth. 


The Ship

Upon a certain day it happened, just as the stars came flocking after the Sun, that he finished a design for a ship that would really fly. He knew in his heart that this was The Ship, and already he seemed to feel the dawn on Mars, and anon see its double moons wheeling through its ancient burnt-out stars. 

Therefore, to make assurance more certain, he set his craftsmen to work, and the model made, was with exceeding difficulty, restrained from disappearing skywards by the quickest possible way. 

In the forgetfulness of their elation, the Faries nearly lost a valued member of their community, whose attention to duty was greater than his total weight. 


The Planning of the Ship

It is not to be thought that the devising of the Ship was immediate and easy, for a great amount of time was spent in discussion before it was settled as to what size ship was needed to take so many crew of a certain stature, and so much provision of a certain weight. 

There was also that careful point to settle as to what presents they should bear to Mars, for the Faries have a legend regarding the dwellers there. And they think not as the Astronomers do, that there are dubious things on Mars, and unmentionable people. Moreover they have known from oldest times that on Mars there dwell those Faries who fled the Moon when that unhappy planet cooled from sunny opulence to clearest shimmering ice. Those matters settled, the Old Man made with loving care a big working drawing of the Ship and everything was marked down on it. It nearly came about that the drawing, of which they were all very proud, was spoilt by one of the Faries, who would persist in colouring it blue in the wrong places. 


The Building of the Ship

The building of the Ship went very quickly. Everyone was so interested and beyond closing up one of their number in a cabin with no door, there were no mishaps, or serious problems of construction to face. The wood, of incredible lightness, was brought through a trap-door from the grove of a friendly gnome, and two or three old crones wove the sails of thread of swansdown, and ornamented them with colours strung from peacocks' tails. 

Also to them came the Elf King's favorite metal worker, laden with richly-carven plates of gold and ropes of sapphires and diamonds, and borne upon donkeys was a golden figure-head in the form of a triumphant phoenix. 

And Pan sent two quaintly graven caskets of classic form, an offering to Mars. In one was the ring of a happy woman's laugh, and in the other the quickening joy of an English Spring. 
From all Fairyland there came wondrous presents whose use was hard to fathom, till the shipyard gleamed with the misty radiance of silver and moonstone, and the warm glow of ruby and amethyst. And the night was lit by the lamps the fireflies and glow-worms kindle and the work went on happily, unceasing from dawn to dawn. 


The Manning of the Ship

The Ship now rose in all its gracious bulk, from keel to deck a thing of manifold delights, and much was it conjectured regarding who would occupy its ten delectable cabins, or proudly strut along its fairy bridge. 

Not because of self - for he had forgotten how to act like men do with each other - the Old Man appointed himself Captain of the Ship. This was easy of performance, but there remained the difficult and delicate task of manning the Ship, for everyone wanted to go - even the old crones who argued that their work was the most important part of the Ship, and their right of going the strongest. Then for the sake of that peace and harmony so beloved of Faries, lots were drawn, and the crew was made up of those fortunates who drew the numbers from one to ten. 


The Victualling of the Ship

It is possible that the Crew, in all its importance had developed a certain pomposity that was undoubtedly difficult to live with, and this was the root from which sprang the confusion in victualling the Ship.

They made out long lists of their favourite foods, and no one would give way to another's wish. Therefore it was so ordered that that each should take what he wanted and eat it when and where he willed. The only thing they were unanimous about was their affection for milk, and to save space, they stole a cow, and as sustenance for the cow they took the green field too. This field, with the cow in the middle, was attached to the back of the Ship, at the end of a rope, so as to be towed behind in the form of a raft.


The Launching of the Ship

The sail could not be hoisted in the ship-yard, even with the roof off, so the Captain ordered the Ship to be drawn up, and it poised on the point of the dome like a sunlit cloud - which in fact, the dull-witted passers-by in that mean street tool it to be. And if its radiance irritated their eyesight, its beauty or strangeness never impressed them. With its sheen of ivory and gold, and lustre of emerald and sapphire; its peacock hangingss and rose silk ropes, the Ship was nearly as beautiful as a sunset. And very few people there were in that neighborhood who realised that night was heralded by a sun that slipped down redly through the smoke.

The Captain and Crew had the utmost difficulty in persuading the homestaying Fairies to release the ropes, but at last the ship was free; and with a curtsey it slid up a sunbeam through the clouds. As they sailed past those impalpable towers that the Westing wind had piled up, the Captain and the Crew were fairly swollen with elation. They could not conceive the dangers that they must inevitably meet. Nor had they knowledge enough to turn their course aside from the Sorrowful Planet, where tears as big as mountains are wrung from lowering purple clouds; nor from that repellant dwelling of Hate, the Thunder City amongst the Iron Hills of Mars, or from those other Sinister Things that, driven driven from inhabited spheres, brood in uncanny silences on ancient horrid stars forgotten of the Gods.


The Departure of the Ship

Below on the Earth, they saw the farmer whose cow they had stolen. He was standing beside the depression in his land, that had once been a perfectly good field, with its invaluable cow. It was obvious that he was surprised, but there was also in him heavy indignation, and his pardonable irritation seemed of just that quality and strength to inevitably force him to take the portentous step of Writing to the Newspaper. Steaming towards him from the farm buildings, like ants from a heap, came his wife and family, and faithful farm hands; the order of their coming being arranged by their varying turns of speed.

Soon the Ship was mounting the edge of the gloaming, beyond view of anything, and up above a fairy floor of clouds.





The Ship That Sailed To Mars,

By William Timlin


questions? comments?

This is Part 1 - The Ship That Sailed to Mars