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- The Great Stone of Sardis - 4/33 -
"Not at all," said she, interrupting. "You arrogate too much to yourself. I don't expect you to give anything to me. We are working together, and it is both of us who must give this poor old world something to satisfy it for a while, until we can disclose to it that grand discovery, grander than anything that it has ever even imagined. I want to go on talking about it, but I shall not do it; we must keep our minds tied down to some present purpose. Now, Mr. Clewe, what is there that we can take up and carry on immediately? Can it be the great shell?"
Clewe shook his head.
"No," said he; "that is progressing admirably, but many things are necessary before we can experiment with it."
"Since you were away," said she, "I have often been down to the works to look at it, but everything about it seems to go so slowly. However, I suppose it will go fast enough when it is finished."
"Yes," said he. "I hope it will go fast enough to overturn the artillery of the world; but, as you say, don't let us talk about the things for which we must wait. I will carefully consider everything that is in operation, and to-morrow I will suggest something with which we can go on."
"After all," said she, as they stood together before parting, "I cannot take my mind from the Artesian ray."
"Nor can I," he answered; "but for the present we must put our hands to work at something else."
The Artesian ray, of which these two spoke, was an invention upon which Roland Clewe had been experimenting for a long time, and which was and had been the object of his labors and studies while in Europe. In the first decade of the century it had been generally supposed that the X ray, or cathode ray, had been developed and applied to the utmost extent of its capability. It was used in surgery and in mechanical arts, and in many varieties of scientific operations, but no considerable advance in its line of application had been recognized for a quarter of a century. But Roland Clewe had come to believe in the existence of a photic force, somewhat similar to the cathode ray, but of infinitely greater significance and importance to the searcher after physical truth. Simply described, his discovery was a powerful ray produced by a new combination of electric lights, which would penetrate down into the earth, passing through all substances which it met in its way, and illuminating and disclosing everything through which it passed.
All matter likely to be found beneath the surface of the earth in that part of the country had been experimented upon by Clewe, and nothing had resisted the penetrating and illuminating influence of his ray--well called Artesian ray, for it was intended to bore into the bowels of the earth. After making many minor trials of the force and powers of his light, Roland Clewe had undertaken the construction of a massive apparatus, by which he believed a ray could be generated which, little by little, perhaps foot by foot, would penetrate into the earth and light up everything between the farthest point it had attained and the lenses of his machine. That is to say, he hoped to produce a long hole of light about three feet in diameter and as deep as it was possible to make it descend, in which he could see all the various strata and deposits of which the earth is composed. How far he could send down this piercing cylinder of light he did not allow himself to consider. With a small and imperfect machine he had seen several feet into the ground; with a great and powerful apparatus, such as he was now constructing, why should he not look down below the deepest point to which man's knowledge had ever reached? Down so far that he must follow his descending light with a telescope; down, down until he had discovered the hidden secrets of the earth!
The peculiar quality of this light, which gave it its great preeminence over all other penetrating rays, was the power it possessed of illuminating an object; passing through it; rendering it transparent and invisible; illuminating the opaque substance it next met in its path, and afterwards rendering that transparent. If the rocks and earth in the cylindrical cavities of light which Clewe had already produced in his experiments had actually been removed with pickaxes and shovels, the lighted hole a few feet in depth could not have appeared more real, the bottom and sides of the little well could not have been revealed more sharply and distinctly; and yet there was no hole in the ground, and if one should try to put his foot into the lighted perforation he would find it as solid as any other part of the earth.
THE MISSION OF SAMUEL BLOCK
Not far from the works at Sardis there was a large pond, which was formed by the damming of a stream which at this point ran between high hills. In order to obtain a sufficient depth of water for his marine experiments, Roland Clewe had built an unusually high and strong dam, and this body of water, which was called the lake, widened out considerably behind the dam and stretched back for more than half a mile.
He was standing on the shore of this lake, early the next morning, in company with several workmen, examining a curious-looking vessel which was moored near by, when Margaret Raleigh came walking towards him. When he saw her he left the men and went to meet her.
"You could not wait until I came to your house to tell you what I was going to do?" he said, smiling.
"No," she answered, "I could not. The Artesian ray kept me awake nearly all night, and I felt that I must quiet my mind as soon as I could by giving it something real and tangible to take hold of. Now what is it that you are going to do? Anything in the ship line?"
"Yes," said he, "it is something in that line. But let us walk back a little; I am not quite ready to tell the men everything. I have been thinking," he said, as they moved together from the lake, "of that practical enterprise which we must take up and finish, in order to justify ourselves to the public and those who have in various ways backed up our enterprises, and I have concluded that the best thing I can do is to carry out my plan of going to the north pole."
"What!" she exclaimed. "You are not going to try to do that --you, yourself?" And as she spoke, her voice trembled a little.
"Yes," said he, "I thought I would go myself, or else send Sammy."
"Ridiculous!" said she. "Send Sammy Block! You are joking?"
"No," said he, "I am not. I have been planning the expedition, and I think Sammy would be an excellent man to take charge of it. I might go part of the way--at least, far enough to start him--and I could so arrange matters that Sammy would have no difficulty in finishing the expedition, but I do not think that I could give up all the time that such an enterprise deserves. It is not enough to merely find the pole; one should stay there and make observations which would be of service."
"But if Sammy finishes the journey himself," she said, "his will be the glory."
"Let him have it," replied Clewe. "If my method of arctic exploration solves the great problem of the pole, I shall be satisfied with the glory I get from the conception. The mere journey to the northern end of the earth's axis is of slight importance. I shall be glad to have Sammy go first, and have as many follow him as may choose to travel in that direction."
"Yet it is a great achievement," said she. "I would give much to be the first human being who has placed his foot upon the north pole."
"You would get it wet, I am afraid," said Clewe, smiling; "but that is not the kind of glory I crave. If I can help a man to go there, I shall be very willing to do so, provided he will make me a favorable report of his discoveries."
"Tell me all about it," she said--"when will you start? How many will go?"
"There is some work to be done on that boat," said he. "Let me set the men at it, and then we will go into the office, and I will lay everything before you."
When they were seated in a quiet little room attached to one of the large buildings, Roland Clewe made ready to describe his proposed arctic expedition to his partner, in whose mind the wonderful enterprise had entered, driving out the disturbing thoughts of the Artesian ray.
"You have told me about it before," said she, "but I am not quite sure that I have it all straight in my mind. You will go, I suppose, in a submarine boat--that is, whoever goes will go in it?"
"Yes," said he, "for part of the way. My plan is to proceed in an ordinary vessel as far north as Cape Tariff, taking the Dipsey, my submarine boat, in tow. The exploring party, with the necessary stores and instruments, will embark on the Dipsey, but before they start they will make a telegraphic connection with the station at Cape Tariff. The Dipsey will carry one of those light, portable cables, which will be wound on a drum in her hold, and this will be paid out as she proceeds on her way. Thus, you see, by means of the cable from Cape Tariff to St. Johns, we can be in continual communication with Sammy, no matter where he may go; for there is no reason to suppose that the ocean in those northern regions is too deep to allow the successful placing of a telegraphic cable.
"My plan is a very simple one, but as we have not talked it over
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