“Ladies, Ladies,” Mason calls. “–You’ve seen her in the Evening Sky, you’ve wish’d upon her, and now for a short time will she be seen in the Day-light, crossing the Disk of the Sun,–and do make a Wish then, if you think it will help.– For Astronomers, who usually work at night, ’twill give us a chance to be up in the Day-time. Thro’ our whole gazing-lives, Venus has been a tiny Dot of Light, going through phases like the Moon, ever against the black face of Eternity. But on the day of this Transit, all shall suddenly reverse,– as she is caught, dark, embodied, solid, against the face of the Sun,– a Goddess descended from light to Matter.”
“And our Job,” Dixon adds, “is to observe her as she transits the face of the sun, and write down the Times as she comes and goes…?”
“That’s all? You could stay in England and do that,” jaunty little Chins and slender Necks, posing, and re-posing, blond girls laughing together, growing sticky and malapert.
The girls are taken on a short but dizzying journey, straight up, into the Aether, until there beside them in the grayish Starlight is the ancient, gravid Earth, the Fescue become a widthless Wand of Light, striking upon it brilliantly white-hot Arcs.
“Parallax. To an Observer up at the North Cape, the Track of the Planet, across the Sun, will appear much to the south of the same Track as observ’d from down here, at the Cape of Good Hope. The further apart the Obs North and South, that is, the better. It is the Angular Distance between, that we wish to know. One day, someone sitting in a room will succeed in reducing all the Observations, from all ’round the World, to a simple number of Seconds, and tenths of a Second, of Arc,– and that will be the Parallax.
Let us hope some of you are awake early enough, to see the Transit. Remember to keep both eyes open, and there will be the three Bodies, lined up perfectly,– the Heliocentric system in its true Mechanism, His artisanship how pure.” The Girls keep their Glances each looping ’round the others, like elaborately curl’d Tresses, trying to see if they should be understanding this, or,– being cruel young beauties ev’ry one,– even caring.
- Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dixon, Ch. 9