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- The Great Stone of Sardis - 20/33 -
"But I must really go and do something; I shall go crazy if I sit here idle."
Margaret knew that the loss of the shell was the greatest blow that Roland had ever yet received. His ambitions as a scientific inventor were varied, but she was well aware that for some years he had considered it of great importance to do something which would bring him in money enough to go on with his investigations and labors without depending entirely upon her for the necessary capital. If he could have tunnelled a mountain with this shell, or if he had but partially succeeded in so doing, money would have come to him. He would have made his first pecuniary success of any importance.
"What are you going to do, Roland?" said she, as he rose to leave the room.
"I am going to find the depth of the hole that shell has made. It ought to be filled up, and I must calculate how many loads of earth and stones it will take to do it."
That afternoon he came to Mrs. Raleigh's house.
"Margaret," he exclaimed, "I have lowered a lead into that hole with all the line attached which we have got on the place, and we can touch no bottom. I have telegraphed for a lot of sounding-wire, and I must wait until it shall arrive before I do anything more."
"You must be very, very careful, Roland, when you are doing that work," said Margaret. "Suppose you should fall in!"
"I have provided against that," said he. "I have laid a floor over the hole with only a small opening in it, so there is no danger. And another curious thing I must tell you-our line is not wet: we have struck no water!"
When Margaret visited the Works the next day she found Roland Clewe and a number of workmen surrounding the flooring which had been laid over the hole. They were sounding with a windlass which carried an immense reel of wire. The wire was extremely thin, but the weight of that portion of it which had already been unwound was so great that four men were at the handles of the windlass.
Roland came to meet Margaret as she entered.
"The lead has gone down six miles," he said, in a low voice, "and we have not touched the bottom yet."
"Impossible!" she cried. "Roland, it cannot be! The wire must be coiling itself up somewhere. It is incredible! The lead cannot have gone down so far!"
"Leads have gone down as far as that before this," said he. "Soundings of more than six miles have been obtained at sea."
She went with him and stood near the windlass. For an hour she remained by his side, and still the reel turned steadily and the wire descended into the hole.
"Shall you surely know when it gets to the bottom?" said she.
"Yes," he answered. "When the electric button under the lead shall touch anything solid, or even anything fluid, this bell up here will ring."
She stayed until she could stay no longer. She knew it would be of no use to urge Roland to leave the windlass. Very early the next morning a note was brought to her before she was up, and on it was written:
"We have touched bottom at a depth of fourteen and an eighth miles."
When Roland came to Mrs. Raleigh's house, about nine o'clock that morning, his face was pale and his whole form trembled.
"Margaret," he cried, "what are we going to do about it? It is wonderful; I cannot appreciate it. I have had all the men up in the office this morning and pledged them to secrecy. Of course they won't keep their promises, but it was all that I could do. I can think of no particular damage which would come to me if this thing were known, but I cannot bear that the public should get hold of it until I know something myself. Margaret, I don't know anything."
"Have you had your breakfast?" she asked.
"No," he said; "I haven't thought of it."
"Did you eat anything last night?"
"I don't remember," he answered.
"Now I want you to come into the dining-room," said she. "I had a light breakfast some time ago, and I am going to eat another with you. I want you to tell me something. There was a man here the other day with a patent machine for making button-holes--you know the old-fashioned button-holes are coming in again--and if this is a good invention it ought to sell, for nearly everybody has forgotten how to make button-holes in the old way."
"Oh, nonsense!" said Roland. "How can you talk of such things? I can't take my mind--"
"I know you can't," she interrupted. "You are all the time thinking of that everlasting old hole in the ground. Well, I am tired of it; do let us talk of something else."
Margaret Raleigh was much more than tired of that phenomenal hole in the earth which had been made by the automatic shell; she was frightened by it. It was something terrible to her; she had scarcely slept that night, and she needed breakfast and change of thought as much as Roland.
But it was not long before she found that it was impossible to turn his thoughts from that all-absorbing subject. All she could do was to endeavor to guide them into quiet channels.
"What are you going to do this morning?" she asked, towards the close of the breakfast.
"I am going to try to take the temperature of that shaft at various points," said he.
"That will be an excellent thing," she answered; "you may make valuable discoveries; but I should think the heat at that great depth would be enough to melt your thermometers."
"It did not melt my lead or my sounding-wire," said he. And as he said these words her heart fell.
The temperature of this great perforation was taken at many points, and when Roland brought to Margaret the statement of the height of the mercury at the very bottom she was astounded and shocked to find that it was only eighty-three degrees.
"This is terrible!" she ejaculated.
"What do you mean?" he asked in surprise. "That is not hot. Why, it is only summer weather."
But she did not think it terrible because it was so hot; the fact that it was so cool had shocked her. In such temperature one could live! A great source of trust and hope had been taken from her.
"Roland," she said, sinking into a chair, "I don't understand this at all. I always thought that it became hotter and hotter as one went down into the earth; and I once read that at twenty miles below the surface, if the heat increased in proportion as it increased in a mine, the temperature must be over a thousand degrees Fahrenheit. Your instrument could not have registered properly; perhaps it never went all the way down; and perhaps it is all a mistake. It may be that the lead did not go down so far as you think."
He smiled; he was becoming calmer now, for he was doing something: he was obtaining results.
"Those ideas about increasing heat at increasing depths are old-fashioned, Margaret," he said. "Recent science has given us better theories. It is known that there is great heat in the interior of the earth, and it is also known that the transmission of this heat towards the surface depends upon the conductivity of the rocks in particular locations. In some places the heat comes very near the surface, and in others it is very, very far down. More than that, the temperature may rise as we go down into the earth and afterwards fall again. There may be a stratum of close-grained rock, possibly containing metal, coming up from the interior in an oblique direction and bringing the heat towards the surface; then below that there may be vast regions of other rocks which do not readily conduct heat, and which do not originate in heated portions of the earth's interior. When we reach these, we must find the temperature lower, as a matter of course. Now I have really done this. A little over five miles down my thermometer registered ninety-one, and after that it began to fall a little. But the rocks under us are poor conductors of heat; and, moreover, it is highly probable that they have no near communication with the source of internal heat."
"I thought these things were more exact and regular," said she; "I supposed if you went down a mile in one place, you would find it as hot as you would in another."
"Oh no," said he. "There is nothing regular or exact in nature; even our earth is not a perfect sphere. Nature is never mathematically correct. You must always allow for variations. In some parts of the earth its heated core, or whatever it is, must be very, very far down."
At this moment a happy thought struck Margaret.
"How easy it would be, Roland, for you to examine this great hole! I can do it; anybody can do it. It's perfectly amazing when you think of it. All you have to do is to take your Artesian, ray machine into that building and set it over the hole; then you can light the whole interior, all the way down to
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