UNBIDDEN GUEST RETURNS TO READ HIS MANUSCRIPT,
CONTINUING HIS NARRATIVE.
THE MOTHER OF A VOLCANO.-- " YOU CAN NOT DISPROVE, AND
YOU DARE NOT ADMIT."
A year from the evening of the departure of the old man, found me in my room, expecting his presence; and I was not surprised when he opened the door, and seated himself in his accustomed chair.
" Are you ready to challenge my statements?" he said, taking up the subject as though our conversation had not been interrupted.
" Do you accept my history?"
" You can not disprove, and you dare not admit. Is not that your predicament?" he asked. " You have failed in every endeavor to discredit the truth, and your would-be scientists, much as they would like to do so, can not serve you. Now we will continue the narrative, and I shall await your next attempt to cast a shadow over the facts."
Then with his usual pleasant smile, he read from his manuscript a continuation of the intra-earth journey as follows:
" Be seated," said my eyeless guide, " and I will explain some facts that may prove of interest in connection with the nature of the superficial crust of the earth. This crystal liquid spreading before us is a placid sheet of water, and is the feeder of the volcano, Mount Epomeo."
Can that be a surface of water?" I interrogated. " I find it hard to
realize that water can be so immovable. I supposed the substance before us to be
a rigid material, like glass, perhaps."
" There is no wind to ruffle this aqueous surface,- why should it not be quiescent? This is the only perfectly smooth sheet of water that you have ever seen. It is in absolute rest, and thus appears a rigid level plane."
" Grant that your explanation is correct," I said, " yet I can not understand how a quiet lake of water can give rise to a convulsion such as the eruption of a volcano."
" Not only is this possible," he responded, " but water usually causes the exhibition of phenomena known as volcanic action. The Island of Ischia, in which the volcanic crater Epomeo is situated, is connected by a tortuous crevice with the peaceful pool by which we now stand, and at periods, separated by great intervals of time, the lake is partly emptied by a simple natural process, and a part of its water is expelled above the earth's surface in the form of superheated steam, which escapes through that distant crater."
" But I see no evidence of heat or even motion of any kind."
" Not here," he replied; " in this place there is none. The energy is developed thousands of miles away, but since the phenomena of volcanic action are to be partially explained to you at a future day, I will leave that matter for the present. We shall cross this lake."
I observed as we walked along its edge that the shore of the lake was precipitous in places, again formed a gradually descending beach, and the dead silence of the space about us, in connection with the death-like stillness of that rigid mass of water and its surroundings, became increasingly impressive and awe-inspiring. Never before had I seen such a perfectly quiet glass-like surface. Not a vibration or undulation appeared in any direction. The solidity of steel was exemplified in its steady, apparently inflexible contour, and yet the pure element was so transparent that the bottom of the pool was as clearly defined as the top of the cavern above me. The lights and shades of the familiar lakes of Western New York were wanting here, and it suddenly came to my mind that there were surface reflections, but no shadows, and musing on this extraordinary fact, I stood motionless on a jutting cliff absorbed in meditation, abstractedly gazing down into that transparent depth.
Without sun or
moon, without apparent source of light, and yet perfectly
illuminated, the lofty caverns seemed cut by that aqueous plane into two
sections, one above and one below a transparent, rigid surface line. The
dividing line, or horizontal plane, appeared as much a surface of air as a
surface of water, and the material above that plane seemed no more nor less a
gas, or liquid, than that beneath it. If two limpid, transparent liquids,
immiscible, but of different gravities, be poured into the same vessel, the line
of demarkation will be as a brilliant mirror, such as I now beheld parting and
yet uniting the surfaces of air and water.
Lost in contemplation, I unconsciously asked the mental question
" Where are the shadows?"
My guide replied:
" You have been accustomed to lakes on the surface of the earth; water that is illuminated from above; now you see by a light that is developed from within and below, as well as from above. There is no outside point of illumination, for the light of this cavern, as you know, is neither transmitted through an overlying atmosphere nor radiated from a luminous center. It is an inherent quality, and as objects above us and within the lake are illuminated alike from all sides, there can be no shadows."
Musingly, I said:
" That which has occurred before in this journey to the unknown country of which I have been advised, seemed mysterious; but each succeeding step discovers to me another novelty that is more mysterious, with unlooked-for phenomena that are more obscure."
" This phenomenon is not more of a mystery than is the fact that light radiates from the sun. Man can not explain that, and I shall not now attempt to explain this. Both conditions are attributes of force, but with this distinction-the crude light and heat of the sun, such as men experience on the surface of the earth, is here refined and softened, and the characteristic glare and harshness of the light that is known to those who live on the earth's surface is absent here. The solar ray, after penetrating the earth's crust, is tempered and refined by agencies which than will yet investigate understandingly, but which he can not now comprehend."
" Am I destined to deal with these problems ?"
" Only in part."
" Are still greater wonders before us?"
" If your courage is sufficient to carry you onward, you have yet to enter the portal of the expanse we approach."
" Lead on, my friend," I cried; " lead on to these undescribed scenes, the occult wonderland that "-
He interrupted me almost rudely, and in a serious manner said:
" Have you not learned that wonder is an exemplification of ignorance? The child wonders at a goblin story, the savage at a trinket, the man of science at an unexplained manifestation of a previously unperceived natural law; each wonders in ignorance, because of ignorance. Accept now that all you have seen from the day of your birth on the surface of the earth, to the present, and all that you will meet here are wonderful only because the finite mind of man is confused with fragments of evidence, that, from whatever direction we meet them, spring from an unreachable infinity. We will continue our journey."
Proceeding farther along the edge of the lake we came to a metallic boat. This my guide picked up as easily as though it were of paper, for be it remembered that gravitation had slackened its hold here. Placing it upon the water, he stepped into it, and as directed I seated myself near the stern, my face to the bow, my back to the shore. The guide, directly in front of me, gently and very slowly moved a small lever that rested on a projection before him, and I gazed intently upon him as we sat together in silence. At last I became impatient, and asked him if we would not soon begin our journey.
We have been on our way since we have been seated," he answered.
I gazed behind with incredulity: the shore had disappeared, and the diverging wake of the ripples showed that we were rapidly skimming the water.
" This is marvelous," I said; " incomprehensible, for without sail or oar, wind or steam, we are fleeing over a lake that has no current."
" True, but not marvelous. Motion of matter is a result of disturbance of energy connected therewith. Is it not scientifically demonstrated, at least in theory, that if the motion of the spirit that causes the magnetic needle to assume its familiar position were really arrested in the substance of the needle, either the metal would fuse and vaporize or ( if the forces did not appear in some other form such as heat, electricity, magnetism, or other force ) the needle would be hurled onward with great speed?"
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