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- The Great Stone of Sardis - 10/33 -
attractive to Clewe, and he could not help thinking that the occasion might arise when it would be perfectly proper to carry it into execution.
Now that he knew the import of Sammy's extraordinary communication, he felt that it would not be right to withhold his knowledge from Margaret. Of course it might frighten her very much, but this was an enterprise in which people should expect to be frightened. Full confidence and hearty assistance were what these two now expected from each other.
"What is it exactly that you fear?" she asked, when she had heard the news.
"That is hard to say," replied Roland. "This man Rovinski is a scientific jackal; he has ambitions of the very highest kind, and he seeks to gratify them by fraud and villainy. It is now nearly two years since I have found out that he has been shadowing me, endeavoring to discover what I am doing and how I am doing it; and the moment he does get a practical and working knowledge of anything, he will go on with the business on my lines as far as he can. Perhaps he may succeed, and, in any case, he will be almost certain to ruin my chances of success--that is, if I were not willing to buy him off. He would be pretty sure to try blackmail if he found he could not make good use of the knowledge he had stolen."
"The wretch!" cried Margaret. "Do you suppose he hopes to snatch from you the discovery of the pole?"
"That seems obvious," replied Roland, "and it's what Sammy thinks. It is the greatest pity in the world he was not discovered before he got on the Dipsey."
"But what can you do?" cried Margaret.
"I cannot imagine," he replied, "unless I recall the Dipsey to Cape Tariff, and go up there and have him apprehended."
"Couldn't he be apprehended where he is?" she asked. "There are enough men on board to capture him and shut him up somewhere where he could do no harm."
"I have thought of that," answered Roland, "but it would be a very difficult and delicate thing to do. The men we have on board the Dipsey are trusty fellows--at least, I thought so when they were engaged--but there is no knowing what mutinous poison this Pole may have infused into their minds. If one of their number should be handcuffed and shut up without good reason being given, they might naturally rebel, and it would be very hard to give satisfactory reasons for arresting Rovinski. Even Gibbs might object to such harshness upon grounds which might seem to him vague and insufficient. Sammy knows Rovinski, I know him, but the others do not, and it might be difficult to convince them that he is the black-hearted scoundrel we think him; so we must be very careful what we do."
"As to calling the Dipsey back," said Margaret, "I would not do it; I would take the risks."
"I think you are right," said Clewe. "I have a feeling that if they come back to Cape Tariff they will not go out again. Some of the men may be discouraged already, and it would produce a bad impression upon all of them to turn back for some reason which they did not understand, or for a reason such as we could give them. I would not like to have to bring them back, now that they are getting on so well."
In the course of the morning there came from the officers, men, and passenger of the Dipsey a very cordial and pleasant message to Mr. Clewe and Mrs. Raleigh, congratulating them upon the happy event of which they had been informed. Sarah Block insisted on sending a supplementary message for herself, in which she was privately congratulatory to as great an extent as her husband would allow her to go, and which ended with a hope that if they lived to be married they would content themselves with doing their explorations on solid ground. She did not want to come back until she had seen the pole, but some of her ideas about that kind of travelling were getting to be a good deal more fixed than they had been.
The advice which Roland Clewe gave to Samuel Block was simple enough and perhaps unnecessary, but there was noshing else for him to say. He urged that the strictest watch be kept on Rovinski; that he should never be allowed to go near the telegraph instrument; and if, by insubordination or any bad conduct, a pretext for his punishment should offer itself, he should be immediately shut up where he could not communicate with the men. It was very important to keep him as much as possible in ignorance of what was going on and of what should be accomplished; that, after all, was the main point. If the pole should be discovered, Rovinski must have nothing to do with it. Sammy replied that everything should he reported as soon as it turned up, and any orders received from Mr. Clewe should be carried out so long as he was alive to help carry them.
"Now," said Roland to Margaret, "there's nothing more that we can do in regard to that affair. As soon as there are any new developments we shall have to consider it again, but until then let us give up our whole souls to each other and the Artesian ray."
"It seems to me," said she, "that if we could have discovered a good while ago some sort of ray by which we could see into each other's souls, we should have gained a great many hours which are now lost."
"Not at all," replied Clewe; "they are not lost. In our philosophy, nothing is lost. All the joys we have missed in days that are past shall be crowded into the days that are to come."
THE ARTESIAN RAY
In less than a week after the engagement of Roland Clewe and Margaret Raleigh work on the great machine which was to generate the Artesian ray had so far progressed that it was possible to make some preliminary experiments with it. Although Clewe was sorry to think of the very undesirable companion which Samuel Block had carried with him into the polar regions, he could not but feel a certain satisfaction when he reflected that there was now no danger of Rovinski gaining any knowledge of the momentous operations which he had in hand in Sardis. He had had frequent telegrams from Sammy, but no trouble of any kind had yet arisen. It was true that the time for trouble, if there were to be any, had probably not yet arrived, but Clewe could not afford to disturb his mind with anticipations of disagreeable things which might happen.
The masses of lenses, batteries, tubes, and coils which constituted the new instrument had been set up in the lens-house, and it was with this invention that Clewe had succeeded in producing that new form of light which would not only penetrate any material substance, but illuminate and render transparent everything through which it passed, and which would, it was hoped, extend itself into the earth to a depth only limited by the electric power used to generate it.
Margaret was very anxious to be present at the first experiment, but Clewe was not willing that this should be.
"It is almost certain," he said, "that there will be failures at first, not caused perhaps by any radical defects in the apparatus, but by some minor fault in some part of it. This almost always happens in a new machine, and then there are uninteresting work and depressing waiting. As soon as I see that my invention will act as I want it to act, I shall have you in the lens-house with me. We may not be able to do very much at first, but when I really begin to do anything I want both of us to see it done."
There was no flooring in that part of the lens-house where the machine was set up, for Clewe wished his new light to operate directly upon the earth. At about eight feet above the ground was the opening through which the Artesian ray would pass perpendicularly downward whenever the lever should be moved which would connect the main electric current.
When all was ready, Clewe sent every one, even Bryce, the master-workman, from the room. If his invention should totally fail, he wanted no one but himself to witness that failure; but if it should succeed, or even give promise of doing so, he would be glad to have the eyes of his trusted associates witness that success. When the doors were shut and locked, Clewe moved a lever, and a disk of light three feet in diameter immediately appeared upon the ground. It was a colorless light, but it seemed to give a more vivid hue to everything it shone upon--such as the little stones, a piece of wood half embedded in the earth, grains of sand, and pieces of mortar. In a few seconds, however, these things all disappeared, and there revealed itself to the eyes of Clewe a perfectly smooth surface of brown earth. This continued for some little time, now and then a rounded or a flattened stone appearing in it, and then gradually fading away.
As Clewe stared intently down upon the illuminated space, the brown earth seemed to melt and disappear, and he gazed upon a surface of fine sand, dark or yellowish, thickly interspersed with gravel-stones. This appearance changed, and a large rounded stone was seen almost in the centre of the glowing disk. The worn and smooth surface of the stone faded away, and he beheld what looked like a split section of a cobble-stone. Then it disappeared altogether, and there was another flat surface of gravel and sand.
Between himself and the illuminated space on which he gazed--his breath quick and his eyes widely distended--there seemed to be nothing at all. To all appearances he was looking into a cylindrical hole a few feet deep. Everything between the bottom of this hole and himself was invisible; the light had made intervening substances transparent, and had deprived them of color and outlines. It was as though he looked through air.
Then his eyes fell upon the sides of this cylindrical opening, and these, illuminated, but not otherwise acted upon by the volume of Artesian rays, showed, in all their true colors and
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