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- The Great Stone of Sardis - 33/33 -
hitherto benighted region.
In the winter, Margaret Raleigh and Roland Clewe were married. They travelled; they lived and loved in pleasant places; and they returned the next year rich in new ideas and old art trophies. They bought a fine estate, and furnished it and improved it as an artist paints a picture, without a thought of the cost of the colors he puts upon it. They were rich enough to have everything they cared to wish for. Undue toil and troubled thought had been the companions of Roland Clewe for many a year, and their company had been imposed upon him by his poverty; now he would not, nor would his wife, allow that companionship to be imposed upon him by his riches.
The Great Stone of Sardis was sold to a syndicate of kings, each member of which was unwilling that this dominant gem of the world should belong exclusively to any royal family other than his own. When a coronation should occur, each member of the syndicate had a right to the use of the jewel; at other times it remained in the custody of one of the great bankers of the world, who at stated periods allowed the inhabitants of said planet to gaze upon its transcendent brilliancy.
But the Works at Sardis were not given up. Margaret was not jealous of her rival, Science, and if Roland had ceased to be an inventor, a discoverer, a philosopher, simply because he had become a rich and happy husband, he would have ceased to be the Roland she had loved so long.
The discovery of the north pole had given him fame and honor; for, notwithstanding the fact that he had never been there, he was always considered as the man who had given to the world its only knowledge of its most northern point.
But in his heart Roland Clewe placed little value upon this discovery. Before Mr. Gibbs had announced the exact location of the north pole, all the students of geography had known where it was; before the eyes of the party on the Dipsey had rested upon the spot pointed out by Mr. Gibbs, it was well understood that the north pole was either an invisible point on the surface of ice or an invisible point on the surface of water. If no possible good could result from a journey such as the Dipsey had made, no subsequent good of a similar kind could ever be expected; for the next submarine vessel which attempted a northern journey under the ice was as likely to remain under the ice as it was to emerge into the open air; and if any one reached the open sea upon motor sledges, it would be necessary for them to carry boats with them if they desired so much as a sight of that weather-vane which, no matter how the wind blew, always pointed to the south.
It was the Artesian ray which Clewe considered the great achievement of his life, and to this he intended to devote the remainder of his working days. It was his object to penetrate deeper and deeper with this ray into the interior of the earth. He could always provide himself with telescopes which would show him the limit reached by his photic borer, and so long as that limit was a transparent disk, illuminated by his great ray, so long he would believe in the existence of the diamond centre of the earth. But when the penetrating light reached something different, then would come the time for a change in his theories.
Discussion and controversy in regard to the discoveries of the Artesian ray continued, often with great earnestness and heat, in learned circles, and there were frequent demands upon Clewe to demonstrate the truth of his descent of fourteen miles below the surface of the earth by an actual exhibition of the shaft he had made or by the construction of another.
But to such requests Clewe turned a deaf ear. It would be impossible for him to open his old shaft. If in any way he could remove the rocks and soil which now blocked up its upper portion for a distance of half a mile, it would be impossible to reconstruct any portion which had been obstructed. The smooth and polished walls of the shaft, which gave Clewe such assurance of safety from falling fragments, would not exist if the tunnel were opened.
As to a new shaft--that would require a new automatic shell, and this Clewe was not willing to construct. In fact, rather than make a new opening to the cave of light, he would prefer that people should doubt that any such cave existed. The more he thought of his own descent into that great cleft, the more he thought of the horrible danger of sliding down some invisible declivity to awful, unknown regions; the more he thought of the mysterious death of Rovinski, the more firmly did he determine that not by his agency should a human being descend again to those mysterious depths. He would do all that he could to enable men to see into the interior of this earth, but he would do nothing to help any man to get there.
The controversies in regard to their discoveries and theory disturbed Roland and Margaret not a whit; they worked steadily, with energy and zeal, and, above all, they worked without that dreadful cloud which so frequently overhangs the laborer in new fields--the fear that the means of labor will disappear before the object of the work shall come in view.
One morning in the early summer, Roland rushed into the room where Margaret sat.
"I have made a discovery!" he exclaimed. "Come quickly, I want to show it to you!"
The heart of the young wife sank. During all these happy days the only shadow that ever flitted across her sky was the thought that some novel temptation of science might turn her husband from the great work to which he had dedicated himself. Much that he had purposed to do, he had, at her earnest solicitation, set aside in favor of what she considered the greatest task to which a human being could give his time, his labor, and his thought. It had been long since she had heard her husband speak of a new discovery, and the words chilled her spirit.
"Come," he said, "quickly!" And, taking her by the hand, he led her out upon the lawn.
Over the soft green turf, under the beautiful trees, by the bright flowers of the parterres and through the natural beauty of the charming park, he led her; but not a word did she say of the soft colors and the soft air. Not a flower did she look at. It seemed to her as if she trod a bleak and stony road. She dreaded what she might hear, what she might see.
He led her hastily through a gate in the garden wall; they passed through the garden, and, whispering to her to step lightly, they entered a quiet, shady spot beyond the house grounds.
"This way," he whispered. "Stoop down. Do you see that shining thing with bright-red patches of color? It is an old tomato-can; a robin has built her nest in it; there are three dear little birds inside; the mother-bird is away, and I wanted you to come before she returned. Isn't it lucky that I should have found that? And here, in our own grounds? I don't believe there was ever another robin who made her nest in a tomato-can!"
Doubtless the two birds who had made that nest sincerely loved each other; and there were at that moment a great many other birds, and a great many men and women, in the same plight, but never anywhere did any human being possess a soul so happy as that of Margaret at that moment.
"Roland," she said, "when I first knew you, you would not have noticed such a little thing as that."
"I couldn't afford it," he said.
"It is the sweetest charm of all your triumphs!" said she.
"What is?" he asked.
"That you feel able to afford it now," answered Margaret.
Samuel Block and his wife Sarah found that life grew pleasanter as they grew older. Fortunate winds had blown down to them from the distant north; the substantial rewards of the enterprise were eminently satisfactory, and the honors which came to them were not at all unwelcome even to the somewhat cynical Samuel.
Sitting one evening with his wife before a cheering fire--for both of them were wedded to the old-fashioned ways of keeping warm--Sammy laid down the daily paper with a smile.
"There's an account here," he said, "of a lot o' fools who are goin' to fit out a submarine-ship to try to go under the ice to the pole, as we did. They may get there, and they may get back; they may get there, and they may never get back; and they may never get there, and never get back; but whichever of the three it happens to be, it'll be of no more good than if they measured a mile to see how many inches there was in it."
"Sammy," exclaimed Sarah, "I do think you are old enough to stop talkin' such nonsense as that. To be sure, there was a good many things that I objected to in that voyage to the pole. In the first place, there was thirteen people on board, which was the greatest mistake ever committed by a human explorin' party; and then, agin, there was no provision for keepin' whales from bumpin' the ship, and if you knew the number of hours that I laid awake on that Dipsey thinkin' what would happen if the frolicsome whale determined not to be left alone, and should follow us into narrow quarters, you would understand my feelin's on that subject; but as to sayin' there wasn't no good in the expedition --I think that's downright wickedness. Look at that fender; look at them andirons, them beautiful brass candlesticks, and that shovel and tongs, with handles shinin' like gold! If it hadn't been that we discovered the pole, and so got able to afford good furniture, all those handsome things would have been made of common silver, just as if they was pots and kittles, or garden-spades!"
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