THE GREAT STONE OF SARDIS
BY FRANK R. STOCKTON
I. THE ARRIVAL OF THE EUTERPE-THALIA
II. THE SARDIS WORKS
III. MARGARET RALEIGH
IV. THE MISSION OF SAMUEL BLOCK V. UNDER WATER
VI. VOICES FROM THE POLAR SEAS
VII. GOOD NEWS GOES FROM SARDIS
VIII. THE DEVIL ON THE DIPSEY
IX. THE ARTESIAN RAY
X. "LAKE SHIVER"
XI. THEY BELIEVE IT IS THE POLAR SEA
XII. CAPTAIN HUBBELL TAKES COMMAND
XIII. LONGITUDE EVERYTHING
XIV. A REGION OF NOTHINGNESS
XV. THE AUTOMATIC SHELL
XVI. THE TRACK OF THE SHELL
XVII. CAPTAIN HUBBELL DECLINES TO GO WHALING
XVIII. MR. MARCY'S CANAL
XIX. THE ICY GATEWAY
XX. "THAT IS HOW I LOVE YOU"
XXI. THE CAVE OF LIGHT
XXII. CLEWE'S THEORY
XXIII. THE LAST DIVE OF THE DIPSEY
XXIV. ROVINSKI COMES TO THE SURFACE
THE GREAT STONE OF SARDIS
THE ARRIVAL OF THE EUTERPE-THALIA
It was about noon of a day in early summer that a westward-bound Atlantic liner was rapidly nearing the port of New York. Not long before, the old light-house on Montauk Point had been sighted, and the company on board the vessel were animated by the knowledge that in a few hours they would be at the end of their voyage.
The vessel now speeding along the southern coast of Long Island was the Euterpe-Thalia, from Southampton. On Wednesday morning she had left her English port, and many of her passengers were naturally anxious to be on shore in time to transact their business on the last day of the week. There were even some who expected to make their return voyage on the Melpomene-Thalia, which would leave New York on the next Monday.
The Euterpe-Thalia was one of those combination ocean vessels which had now been in use for nearly ten years, and although the present voyage was not a particularly rapid one, it had been made in a little less than three days.
As may be easily imagined, a vessel like this was a very different craft from the old steamers which used to cross the Atlantic—"ocean greyhounds" they were called—in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
It would be out of place here to give a full description of the vessels which at the period of our story, in 1947, crossed the Atlantic at an average time of three days, but an idea of their construction will suffice. Most of these vessels belonged to the class of the Euterpe-Thalia, and were, in fact, compound marine structures, the two portions being entirely distinct from each other. The great hull of each of these vessels contained nothing but its electric engines and its propelling machinery, with the necessary fuel and adjuncts.
The upper portion of the compound vessel consisted of decks and quarters for passengers and crew and holds for freight. These were all comprised within a vast upper hull, which rested upon the lower hull containing the motive power, the only point of contact being an enormous ball-and-socket joint. Thus, no matter how much the lower hull might roll and pitch and toss, the upper hull remained level and comparatively undisturbed.
Not only were comfort to passengers and security to movable freight gained by this arrangement of the compound vessel, but it was now possible to build the lower hull of much less size than had been the custom in the former days of steamships, when the hull had to be large enough to contain everything. As the more modern hull held nothing but the machinery, it was small in comparison with the superincumbent upper hull, and thus the force of the engine, once needed to propel a vast mass through the resisting medium of the ocean, was now employed upon a comparatively small hull, the great body of the vessel meeting with no resistance except that of the air.
It was not necessary that the two parts of these compound vessels should always be the same. The upper hulls belonging to one of the transatlantic lines were generally so constructed that they could be adjusted to any one of their lower or motive-power hulls. Each hull had a name of its own, and so the combination name of the entire vessel was frequently changed.
It was not three o'clock when the Euterpe-Thalia passed through the Narrows and moved slowly towards her pier on the Long Island side of the city. The quarantine officers, who had accompanied the vessel on her voyage, had dropped their report in the official tug which had met the vessel on her entrance into the harbor, and as the old custom-house annoyances had long since been abolished, most of the passengers were prepared for a speedy landing.
One of these passengers—a man about thirty-five—stood looking out over the stern of the vessel instead of gazing, as were most of his companions, towards the city which they were approaching. He looked out over the harbor, under the great bridge gently spanning the distance between the western end of Long Island and the New Jersey shore—its central pier resting where once lay the old Battery—and so he gazed over the river, and over the houses stretching far to the west, as if his eyes could catch some signs of the country far beyond. This was Roland Clewe, the hero of our story, who had been studying and experimenting for the past year in the scientific schools and workshops of Germany. It was towards his own laboratory and his own workshops, which lay out in the country far beyond the wide line of buildings and settlements which line the western bank of the Hudson, that his heart went out and his eyes vainly strove to follow.
Skilfully steered, the Thalia moved slowly between high stone piers of massive construction; but the Euterpe, or upper part of the vessel, did not pass between the piers, but over them both, and when the pier-heads projected beyond her stern the motion of the lower vessel ceased; then the great piston, which supported the socket in which the ball of the Euterpe moved, slowly began to descend into the central portion of the Thalia, and as the tide was low, it was not long before each side of the upper hull rested firmly and securely upon the stone piers. Then the socket on the lower vessel descended rapidly until it was entirely clear of the ball, and the Thalia backed out from between the piers to take its place in a dock where it would be fitted for the voyage of the next day but one, when it would move under the Melpomene, resting on its piers a short distance below, and, adjusting its socket to her ball, would lift her free from the piers and carry her across the ocean.
The pier of the Euterpe was not far from the great Long Island and New Jersey Bridge, and Roland Clewe, when he reached the broad sidewalk which ran along the river-front, walked rapidly towards the bridge. When he came to it he stepped into one of the elevators, which were placed at intervals along its sides from the waterfront to the far-distant point where it touched the land, and in company with a dozen other pedestrians speedily rose to the top of the bridge, on which moved two great platforms or floors, one always keeping on its way to the east, and the other to the west. The floor of the elevator detached itself from the rest of the structure and kept company with the movable platform until all of its passengers had stepped on to the latter, when it returned with such persons as wished to descend at that point.
As Clewe took his way along the platform, walking westward with it, as if he would thus hasten his arrival at the other end of the bridge, he noticed that great improvements had been made during his year of absence. The structures on the platforms, to which people might retire in bad weather or when they wished refreshments, were more numerous and apparently better appointed than when he had seen them last, and the long rows of benches on which passengers might sit in the open air during their transit had also increased in number. Many people walked across the bridge, taking their exercise, while some who were out for the air and the sake of the view walked in the direction opposite to that in which the platform was moving, thus lengthening the pleasant trip.
At the great elevator over the old Battery many passengers went down and many came up, but the wide platforms still moved to the east and moved to the west, never stopping or changing their rate of speed.
Roland Clewe remained on the bridge until he had reached its western end, far out on the old Jersey flats, and there he took a car of the suspended electric line, which would carry him to his home, some fifty miles in the interior. The rails of this line ran along the top of parallel timbers, some twenty feet from the ground, and below and between these rails the cars were suspended, the wheels which rested on the rails being attached near the top of the car. Thus it was impossible for the cars to run off the track; and as their bottoms or floors were ten or twelve feet from the ground, they could meet with no dangerous obstacles. In consequence of the safety of this structure, the trains were run at a very high speed.
Roland Clewe was a man who had given his life, even before he ceased to be a boy, to the investigation of physical science and its applications, and those who thought they knew him called him a great inventor; but he, who knew himself better than any one else could know him, was aware that, so far, he had not invented anything worthy the power which he felt within himself.
After the tidal wave of improvements and discoveries which had burst upon the world at the end of the nineteenth century there had been a gradual subsidence of the waters of human progress, and year by year they sank lower and lower, until, when the twentieth century was yet young, it was a common thing to say that the human race seemed to have gone backward fifty or even a hundred years.
It had become fashionable to be unprogressive. Like old furniture in the century which had gone out, old manners, customs, and ideas had now become more attractive than those which were modern and present. Philosophers said that society was retrograding, that it was becoming satisfied with less than was its due; but society answered that it was falling back upon the things of its ancestors, which were sounder and firmer, more simple and beautiful, more worthy of the true man and woman, than all that mass of harassing improvement which had swept down upon mankind in the troubled and nervous days at the end of the nineteenth century.
On the great highways, smooth and beautiful, the stage-coach had taken the place to a great degree of the railroad train; the steamship, which moved most evenly and with less of the jarring and shaking consequent upon high speed, was the favored vessel with ocean travellers. It was not considered good form to read the daily papers; and only those hurried to their business who were obliged to do so in order that their employers might attend to their affairs in the leisurely manner which was then the custom of the business world.
Fast horses had become almost unknown, and with those who still used these animals a steady walker was the favorite. Bicycles had gone out as the new century came in, it being a matter of course that they should be superseded by the new electric vehicles of every sort and fashion, on which one could work the pedals if he desired exercise, or sit quietly if his inclinations were otherwise, and only the very young or the intemperate allowed themselves rapid motion on their electric wheels. It would have been considered as vulgar at that time to speed over a smooth road as it would have been thought in the nineteenth century to run along the city sidewalk.
People thought the world moved slower; at all events, they hoped it would soon do so. Even the wiser revolutionists postponed their outbreaks. Success, they believed, was fain to smile upon effort which had been well postponed.
Men came to look upon a telegram as an insult; the telephone was preferred, because it allowed one to speak slowly if he chose. Snap-shot cameras were found only in the garrets. The fifteen minutes' sittings now in vogue threw upon the plate the color of the eyes, hair, and the flesh tones of the sitter. Ladies wore hoop skirts.
But these days of passivism at last passed by; earnest thinkers had not believed in them; they knew they were simply reactionary, and could not last; and the century was not twenty years old when the world found itself in a storm of active effort never known in its history before. Religion, politics, literature, and art were called upon to get up and shake themselves free of the drowsiness of their years of inaction.
On that great and crowded stage where the thinkers of the world were busy in creating new parts for themselves without much reference to what other people were doing in their parts, Roland Clewe was now ready to start again, with more earnestness and enthusiasm than before, to essay a character which, if acted as he wished to act it, would give him exceptional honor and fame, and to the world, perhaps, exceptional advantage.
THE SARDIS WORKS
At the little station of Sardis, in the hill country of New Jersey, Roland Clewe alighted from the train, and almost instantly his hand was grasped by an elderly man, plainly and even roughly dressed, who appeared wonderfully glad to see him. Clewe also was greatly pleased at the meeting.
"Tell me, Samuel, how goes everything?" said Clewe, as they walked off. "Have you anything to say that you did not telegraph? How is your wife?"
"She's all right," was the answer. "And there's nothin' happened, except, night before last, a man tried to look into your lens-house."
"How did he do that?" exclaimed Clewe, suddenly turning upon his companion. "I am amazed! Did he use a ladder?"
Old Samuel grinned. "He couldn't do that, you know, for the flexible fence would keep him off. No; he sailed over the place in one of those air-screw machines, with a fan workin' under the car to keep it up."
"And so he soared up above my glass roof and looked down, I suppose?"
"That's what he did," said Samuel; "but he had a good deal of trouble doin' it. It was moonlight, and I watched him."
"Why didn't you fire at him?" asked Clewe. "Or at least let fly one of the ammonia squirts and bring him down?"
"I wanted to see what he would do," said the old man. "The machine he had couldn't be steered, of course. He could go up well enough, but the wind took him where it wanted to. But I must give this feller the credit of sayin' that he managed his basket pretty well. He carried it a good way to the windward of the lens-house, and then sent it up, expectin' the wind to take it directly over the glass roof, but it shifted a little, and so he missed the roof and had to try it again. He made two or three bad jobs of it, but finally managed it by hitchin' a long cord to a tree, and then the wind held him there steady enough to let him look down for a good while."
"You don't tell me that!" cried Clewe. "Did you stay there and let him look down into my lens-house?"
The old man laughed. "I let him look down," said he, "but he didn't see nothin'. I was laughin' at him all the time he was at work. He had his instruments with him, and he was turnin' down his different kinds of lights, thinkin', of course, that he could see through any kind of coverin' that we put over our machines; but, bless you! he couldn't do nothin', and I could almost hear him swear as he rubbed his eyes after he had been lookin' down for a little while."
Clewe laughed. "I see," said he. "I suppose you turned on the photo-hose."
"That's just what I did," said the old man. "Every night while you were away I had the lens-room filled with the revolving-light squirts, and when these were turned on I knew there was no gettin' any kind of rays through them. A feller may look through a roof and a wall, but he can't look through light comin' the other way, especially when it's twistin' and curlin' and spittin'."
"That's a capital idea," said Clewe. "I never thought of using the photo-hose in that way. But there are very few people in this world who would know anything about my new lens machinery even if they saw it. This fellow must have been that Pole, Rovinski. I met him in Europe, and I think he came over here not long before I did."
"That's the man, sir," said Samuel. "I turned a needle searchlight on him just as he was givin' up the business, and I have got a little photograph of him at the house. His face is mostly beard, but you'll know him."
"What became of him?" asked Clewe.
"My light frightened him," he said, "and the wind took him over into the woods. I thought, as you were comin' home so soon, I wouldn't do nothin' more. You had better attend to him yourself."
"Very good," said Clewe. "I'll do that."
The home of Roland Clewe, a small house plainly furnished, but good enough for a bachelor's quarters, stood not half a mile from the station, and near it were the extensive buildings which he called his Works. Here were laboratories, large machine-shops in which many men were busy at all sorts of strange contrivances in metal and other materials; and besides other small edifices there was a great round tower-like structure, with smooth iron walls thirty feet high and without windows, and which was lighted and ventilated from the top. This was Clewe's special workshop; and besides old Samuel Block and such workmen as were absolutely necessary and could be trusted, few people ever entered it but himself. The industries in the various buildings were diverse, some of them having no apparent relation to the others. Each of them was expected to turn out something which would revolutionize something or other in this world, but it was to his lens-house that Roland Clewe gave, in these days, his special attention. Here a great enterprise was soon to begin, more important in his eyes than anything else which had engaged human endeavor.
When sometimes in his moments of reflection he felt obliged to consider the wonders of applied electricity, and give them their due place in comparison with the great problem he expected to solve, he had his moments of doubt. But these moments did not come frequently. The day would arrive when from his lens-house there would be promulgated a great discovery which would astonish the world.
During Roland Clewe's absence in Germany his works had been left under the general charge of Samuel Block. This old man was not a scientific person; he was not a skilled mechanic; in fact, he had been in early life a shoemaker. But when Roland Clewe, some five years before, had put up his works near the little village of Sardis, he had sent for Block, whom he had known all his life and who was at that time the tenant of a small farm, built a cottage for him and his wife, and told him to take care of the place. From planning the grounds and superintending fences, old Sammy had begun to keep an eye upon builders and mechanics; and, being a very shrewd man, he had gradually widened the sphere of his caretaking, until, at this time, he exercised a nominal supervision over all the buildings. He knew what was going on in each; he had a good idea, sometimes, of the scientific basis of this or that bit of machinery, and had gradually become acquainted with the workings and management of many of the instruments; and now and then he gave to his employer very good hints in regard to the means of attaining an end, more especially in the line of doing something by instrumentalities not intended for that purpose. If Sammy could take any machine which had been constructed to bore holes, and with it plug up orifices, he would consider that he had been of advantage to his kind.
Block was a thoroughly loyal man. The interests of his employer were always held by him first and above everything. But although the old man understood, sometimes very well, and always in a fair degree, what the inventor was trying to accomplish, and appreciated the magnitude and often the amazing nature of his operations, he never believed in any of them.
Sammy was a thoroughly old-fashioned man. He had been born and had grown up in the days when a steam-locomotive was good enough and fast enough for any sensible traveller, and he greatly preferred a good pair of horses to any vehicle which one steered with a handle and regulated the speed thereof with a knob. Roland Clew e might devise all the wonderful contrivances he pleased, and he might do all sorts of astonishing things with them, but Sammy would still be of the opinion that, even if the machines did all that they were expected to do, the things they did generally would not be worth the doing.
Still, the old man would not interfere by word or deed with any of the plans or actions of his employer. On the contrary, he would help him in every possible way—by fidelity, by suggestion, by constant devotion and industry; but, in spite of all that, it was one of the most firmly founded principles of his life that Roland Clewe had no right to ask him to believe in the value of the wild and amazing schemes he had on hand.
Before Roland Clewe slept that night he had visited all his workshops, factories, and laboratories. His men had been busily occupied during his absence under the directions of their various special managers, and those in charge were of the opinion that everything had progressed as favorably and as rapidly as should have been expected; but Roland Clewe was not satisfied, even though many of his inventions and machines were much nearer completion than he had expected to find them. The work necessary to be done in his lens-house before he could go on with the great work of his life was not yet finished.
As well as he could judge, it would be a month or two before he could devote himself to those labors in his lens-house the thought of which had so long filled his mind by day, and even during his sleep.
After breakfast the-following morning Roland Clewe mounted his horse and rode over to a handsome house which stood upon a hill about a mile and a half from Sardis. Horses, which had almost gone out of use during the first third of the century, were now getting to be somewhat in fashion again. Many people now appreciated the pleasure which these animals had given to the world since the beginning of history, and whose place, in an aesthetic sense, no inanimate machine could supply. As Roland Clewe swung himself from the saddle at the foot of a broad flight of steps, the house door was opened and a lady appeared.
"I saw you coming!" she exclaimed, running down the steps to meet him.
She was a handsome woman, inclined to be tall, and some five years younger than Clewe. This was Mrs. Margaret Raleigh, partner with Roland Clewe in the works at Sardis, and, in fact, the principal owner of that great estate. She was a widow, and her husband had been not only a man of science, but a very rich man; and when he died, at the outset of his career, his widow believed it her duty to devote his fortune to the prosecution and development of scientific works. She knew Roland Clewe as a hard student and worker, as a man of brilliant and original ideas, and as the originator of schemes which, if carried out successfully, would place him among the great inventors of the world.
She was not a scientific woman in the strict sense of the word, but she had a most thorough and appreciative sympathy with all forms of physical research, and there was a distinctiveness and grandeur in the aims towards which Roland Clewe had directed his life work which determined her to unite, with all the power of her money and her personal encouragement, in the labors he had set for himself.
Therefore it was that the main part of the fortune left by Herbert Raleigh had been invested in the shops and foundries at Sardis, and that Roland Clewe and Margaret Raleigh were partners and co-owners in the business and the plant of the establishment.
"I am glad to welcome you back," said she, her hand in his. "But it strikes me as odd to see you come upon a horse; I should have supposed that by this time you would arrive sliding over the tree-tops on a pair of aerial skates."
"No," said he. "I may invent that sort of thing, but I prefer to use a horse. Don't you remember my mare? I rode her before I went away. I left her in old Sammy's charge, and he has been riding her every day."
"And glad enough to do it, I am sure," said she, "for I have heard him say that the things he hates most in this world are dead legs. 'When I can't use mine,' he said, 'let me have some others that are alive.' This is such a pretty creature," she added, as Clewe was looking about for some place to which he might tie his animal, "that I have a great mind to learn to ride myself!"
"A woman on a horse would be a queer sight," said he; and with this they went into the house.
The conference that morning in Mrs. Raleigh's library was a long and somewhat anxious one. For several years the money of the Raleigh estate had been freely and generously expended upon the enterprises in hand at the Sardis Works, but so far nothing of important profit had resulted from the operations. Many things had been carried on satisfactorily and successfully to various stages, but nothing had been finished; and now the two partners had to admit that the work which Clewe had expected to begin immediately upon his return from Europe must be postponed.
Still, there was no sign of discouragement in the voices or the faces—it may be said, in the souls—of the man and woman who sat there talking across a table. He was as full of hope as ever he was, and she as full of faith.
They were an interesting couple to look upon. He, dark, a little hollow in the cheeks, a slight line or two of anxiety in the forehead, a handsome, well-cut mouth, without beard, and a frame somewhat spare but strong; a man of graceful but unaffected action, dressed in a riding-coat, breeches, and leather leggings. She, her cheeks colored with earnest purpose, her gray eyes rather larger than usual as she looked up from the paper where she had been calculating, was dressed in the simple artistic fashion of the day. The falling folds of the semi-clinging fabrics accommodated themselves well to a figure which even at that moment of rest suggested latent energy and activity.
"If we have to wait for the Artesian ray," she said, "we must try to carry out something else. People are watching us, talking of us, expecting something of us; we must give them something. Now the question is, what shall that be?"
"The way I look at it is this," said her companion. "For a long time you have been watching and waiting and expecting something, and it is time that I should give you something; now the question is—"
"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 for some time, I will describe it in full. All explorers who have tried to get to the north pole have met with the same bad fortune. They could not pass over the vast and awful regions of ice which lay between them and the distant point at which they aimed; the deadly ice-land was always too much for them; they died or they turned back.
"When flying-machines were brought to supposed perfection, some twenty years ago, it was believed that the pole would easily be reached, but there were always the wild and wicked winds, in which no steering apparatus could be relied upon. We may steer and manage our vessels in the fiercest storms at sea, but when the ocean moves in one great tidal wave our rudders are of no avail. Everything rushes on together, and our strongest ships are cast high upon the land.
"So it happened to the Canadian Bagne, who went in 1927 in the best flying-ship ever made, and which it was supposed could be steadily kept upon its way without regard to the influence of the strongest winds; but a great hurricane came down from the north, as if square miles of atmosphere were driving onward in a steady mass, and hurled him and his ship against an iceberg, and nothing of his vessel but pieces of wood and iron, which the bears could not eat, was ever seen again. This was the last polar expedition of that sort, or any sort; but my plan is so easy of accomplishment—at least, so it seems to me—and so devoid of risk and danger, that it amazes me that it has never been tried before. In fact, if I had not thought that it would be such a comparatively easy thing to go to the pole, I believe I should have been there long ago; but I have always considered that it could be done at some season when more difficult and engrossing projects were not pressing upon me.
"What I propose to do is to sink down below the bottom of the ice in the arctic regions, and then to proceed in a direct line northward to the pole. The distance between the lower portions of the ice and the bottom of the Arctic Ocean I believe to be quite sufficient to allow me all the room needed for navigation. I do not think it necessary to even consider the contingency of the greatest iceberg or floe reaching the bottom of the arctic waters; consequently, without trouble or danger, the Dipsey can make a straight course for the extreme north.
"By means of the instruments the Dipsey will carry it will be comparatively easy to determine the position of the pole, and before this point is reached I believe she will find herself in an open sea, where she may rise to the surface. But if this should not be the case, a comparatively thin place in the ice will be chosen, and a great opening blown through it by means of an ascensional shell, several of which she will carry. She will then rise to the surface of the water in this opening, and the necessary operations will be carried on."
"Mr. Clewe," said Margaret Raleigh, "the thing is so terrible I cannot bear to think of it. The Dipsey may have to sail hundreds and hundreds of miles under the ice, shut in as if an awful lid were put over her. No matter what happened down there, she could not come up and get out; it would be the same thing as having a vast sky of ice stretched out above one. I should think the very idea of it would make people shudder and die."
"Oh, it is not so bad as all that," answered Clewe. "There is nothing so dear to the marine explorer as plenty of water, and plenty of room to sail in, and under the ice the Dipsey will find all that."
"But there are so many dangers," said she, "that you cannot provide against in advance."
"That is very true," said he, "but I have thought so much about them, and I have studied and consulted so much about them, that I think I have provided against all the dangers we have reason to expect. To me the whole business seems like very plain, straightforward sailing."
"It may seem so here," said Margaret Raleigh, "but it will be quite another thing out under the arctic ice."
Preparations for the expedition were pushed forward as rapidly as possible, and Clewe would have been delighted to make this voyage into the unseen regions of the nether ice, but he knew that it was his duty not to lose time or to risk his life when he was on the brink of a discovery far more wonderful, far more important to the world, than the finding of the pole. Therefore he determined that he would go with the expedition no farther than the point where the ice would prevent the farther progress of the vessel in which they would sail from New York.
It was not to be supposed that Roland Clewe intended to intrust such an expedition to the absolute command of such a man as old Samuel Block. There would be on board the Dipsey an electrician who had long been preparing himself for this expedition; there were to be other scientific men; there would be a submarine engineer, and such minor officers and assistants as would be necessary; but Clewe wanted some one who would represent him, who could be trusted to act in his place in case of success or of failure, who could be thoroughly depended upon should a serious emergency arise. Such a man was Samuel Block, and, somewhat strange to say, old Sammy was perfectly willing to go to the pole. He was always ready for anything within bounds of his duty, and those bounds included everything which Mr. Clewe wished done.
Sammy was an old-fashioned man, and therefore, in talking over arrangements with Roland Clewe, he insisted upon having a sailor in the party.
"In old times," said he, "when I was a young man, nobody ever thought of settin' out on any kind of sea-voyagin' without havin' a sailor along. The fact is, they used to be pretty much all sailors."
"But in this expedition," said Clewe, "a sailor would be out of place. One of your old-fashioned mariners would not know what to do under the water. Submarine voyaging is an entirely different profession from that of the old-time navigator."
"I know all that," said Sammy. "I know how everything is a machine nowadays; but I shall never forget what a glorious thing it was to sail on the sea with the wind blowin' and the water curlin' beneath your keel. I lived on the coast, and used to go out whenever I had a chance, but things is mightily changed nowadays. Just think of that yacht-race in England the other day—a race between two electric yachts, with a couple of vessels ploughin' along to windward carryin' between 'em a board fence thirty feet high to keep the wind off the yachts and give 'em both smooth water and equal chance. I can't get used to that sort of thing, and I tell you, sir, that if I am goin' on a voyage to the pole, I want to have a sailor along. If everything goes all right, we must come to the top of the water some time, and then we ought to have at least one man who understands surface navigation."
"All right," said Clewe; "get your sailor."
"I've got my eye on him; he's a Cape Cod man, and he's not so very old either. When he was a boy people went about in ships with sails, and even after he grew up Cap'n Jim was a great feller to manage a catboat; for things has moved slower on the Cape than in many parts of the country."
So Captain Jim Hubbell was engaged as sailor to the expedition; and when he came on to Sardis and looked over the Dipsey he expressed a general opinion of her construction and capabilities which indicated a disposition on his part to send her, and all others fashioned after her plan, to depths a great deal lower than ever had been contemplated by their inventors. Still, as he wanted very much to go to the pole if it was possible that he could get there, and as the wages offered him were exceedingly liberal, Captain Jim enlisted, in the party. His duties were to begin when the Dipsey floated on the surface of the sea like a commonsense craft.
A day or two before the expedition was ready to start, Roland Clewe was very much surprised one morning by a visit from Sammy's wife, Mrs. Sarah Block, who lost no time in informing him that she had made up her mind to accompany her husband on the perilous voyage he was about to make.
"You!" said Clewe. "You could not go on such an expedition as that!"
"If Sammy goes, I go," said Mrs. Block. "If it is dangerous for me, it is dangerous for him. I have been tryin' to get sense enough in his head to make him stay at home, but I can't do it; so I have made up my mind that I go with him or he don't go. We have travelled together on top of the land, and we have travelled together on top of the water, and if there's to be travellin' under the water, why then we travel together all the same. If Sammy goes polin', I go polin'. I think he's a fool to do it; but if he's goin' to be a fool, I am goin' to be a fool. And as for my bein' in the way, you needn't think of that, Mr. Clewe. I can cook for the livin', I can take care of the sick, and I can sew up the dead in shrouds."
"All right, Mrs. Block," said Clewe. "If you insist on it, and Sammy is willing, you may go; but I will beg of you not to say anything about the third class of good offices which you propose to perform for the party, for it might cast a gloom over some of the weaker-minded."
"Cast a gloom!" said Mrs. Block. "If all I hear is true, there will be a general gloom over everything that will be like havin' a black pocket-handkercher tied over your head, and I don't know that anything I could say would make that gloom more gloomier."
When Margaret Raleigh parted with Clewe on the deck of the Go Lightly, the large electric vessel which was to tow the Dipsey up to the limits of navigable Northern waters, she knew he must make a long journey, nearly twice as far as the voyage to England, before she could hear from him; but when he arrived at Cape Tariff, a point far up on the northwestern coast of Greenland, she would hear from him; for from this point there was telegraphic communication with the rest of the world. There was a little station there, established by some commercial companies, and their agent was a telegraph-operator.
The passage from New York to Cape Tariff was an uneventful one, and when Clewe disembarked at the lonely Greenland station he was greeted by a long message from Mrs. Raleigh, the principal import of which was that on no account must he allow himself to be persuaded to go on the submarine voyage of the Dipsey. On his part, Clewe had no desire to make any change in his plans. During all the long voyage northward his heart had been at Sardis.
The Dipsey was a comparatively small vessel, but it afforded comfortable accommodations for a dozen or more people, and there was room for all the stores which would be needed for a year. She was furnished, besides, with books and every useful and convenient contrivance which had been thought desirable for her peculiar expedition.
When everything was ready, Roland Clewe took leave of the officers, the crew, and the passenger on board the Dipsey, and the last-mentioned, as she shook hands with him, shed tears.
"It seems to me like a sort of a congregational suicide, Mr. Clewe," said she. "And it can't even be said that all the members are doin' it of their own accord, for I am not. If Sammy did not go, I would not, but if he does, I do, and there's the end of that; and I suppose it won't be very much longer before there's the end of all of us. I hope you will tell Mrs. Raleigh that I sent my best love to her with my last words; for even if I was to see her again, it would seem to me like beginning all over again, and this would be the end of this part of my life all the same. What I hope and pray for is that none of the party may die of any kind of a disease before the rest all go to their end together; for remains on board an under-water vessel is somethin' which mighty few nerves would be able to stand."
When all farewells had been said, Mr. Clewe went on board the Go Lightly, on the deck of which were her officers and men and the few inhabitants of the station, and then the plate-glass hatchways of the Dipsey were tightly closed, and she began to sink, until she entirely disappeared below the surface of the water, leaving above her a little floating glass globe, connected with her by an electric wire.
As the Dipsey went under the sea, this little globe followed her on the surface, and the Go Lightly immediately began to move after her. This arrangement had been made, as Clewe wished to follow the Dipsey for a time, in order to see if everything was working properly with her. She kept on a straight course, flashing a light into the little globe every now and then; and finally, after meeting some floating ice, she shattered the globe with an explosion, which was the signal agreed upon to show that all was well, and that the Dipsey had started off alone on the submarine voyage to the pole.
Roland Clewe gazed out over the wide stretch of dark-green waves and glistening crests, where nothing could be seen which indicated life except a distant, wearily-flapping sea bird, and then, turning his back upon the pole, he made preparations for his return voyage to New York, at which port he might expect to receive direct news from Sammy Block and his companions.
When the Dipsey, the little submarine vessel which had started to make its way to the north pole under the ice of the arctic regions, had sunk out of sight under the waters, it carried a very quiet and earnestly observant party. Every one seemed anxious to know what would happen next, and all those whose duties would allow them to do so gathered under the great skylight in the upper deck, and gazed upward at the little glass bulb on the surface of the water, which they were towing by means of an electric wire; and every time a light was flashed into this bulb it seemed to them as if they were for an instant reunited to that vast open world outside of the ocean. When at last the glass globe was exploded, as a signal that the Dipsey had cut loose from all ties which connected her with the outer world, they saw through the water above them the flash and the sparks, and then all was darkness.
The interior of the submarine vessel was brightly lighted by electric lamps, and the souls of the people inside of her soon began to brighten under the influence of their work and the interest they took in their novel undertaking; there was, however, one exception—the soul of Mrs. Block did not brighten.
Mrs. Sarah Block was a peculiar person; she was her husband's second wife, and was about forty years of age. Her family were country people, farmers, and her life as a child was passed among folk as old-fashioned as if they had lived in the past century, and had brought their old-fashioned ideas with them into this. But Sarah did not wish to be old-fashioned. She sympathized with the social movements of the day; she believed in inventions and progress; she went to school and studied a great deal which her parents never heard of, and which she very promptly forgot. When she grew up she wore the widest hoop-skirts; she was one of the first to use an electric spinning-wheel; and when she took charge of her father's house, she it was who banished to the garret the old-fashioned sewing-machine, and the bicycles on which some of the older members of the family once used to ride. She tried to persuade her father to use a hot-air plough, and to give up the practice of keeping cows in an age when milk and butter were considered not only unnecessary, but injurious to human health. When she married Samuel Block, then a man of forty-five, she really thought she did so because he was a person of progressive ideas, but the truth was she married him because he loved her, and because he did it in an honest, old-fashioned way.
In her inner soul Sarah was just as old-fashioned as anybody—she had been born so, and she had never changed. Endeavor as she might to make herself believe that she was a woman of modern thought and feeling, her soul was truly in sympathy with the social fashions and customs in which she had been brought up; and those to which she was trying to educate herself were on the outside of her, never a part of her, but always the objects of her aspirations. These aspirations she believed to be principles. She tried to set her mind upon the unfolding revelations of the era, as young women in her grandfather's day used to try to set their minds upon Browning. When Sarah told Mr. Clewe that she was going on the Dipsey because she would not let her husband go by himself, she did so because she was ashamed to say that she was in such sympathy with the great scientific movements of the day that she thought it was her duty to associate herself with one of them; but while she thought she was lying in the line of high principle, she was in fact expressing the truthful affection of her old-fashioned nature—a nature she was always endeavoring to keep out of sight, but which from its dark corner ruled her life.
She had an old-fashioned temper, which delighted in censoriousness. The more interest she took in anything, the more alive was she to its defects. She tried to be a good member of her church, but she said sharp things of the congregation.
No electrical illumination could brighten the soul of Mrs. Block. She moved about the little vessel with a clouded countenance. She was impressed with the feeling that something was wrong, even now at the beginning, although of course she could not be expected to know what it was.
At the bows, and in various places at the sides of the vessel, and even in the bottom, were large plates of heavy glass, through which the inmates could look out into the water, and there streamed forward into the quiet depths of the ocean a great path of light, proceeding from a powerful searchlight in the bow. By this light any object in the water could be seen some time before reaching it; but to guard more thoroughly against the most dreaded obstacle they feared to meet—down-reaching masses of ice—a hydraulic thermometer, mounted on a little submarine vessel connected with the Dipsey by wires, preceded her a long distance ahead. Impelled and guided by the batteries of the larger vessel, this little thermometer-boat would send back instant tidings of any changes in temperature in the water occasioned by the proximity of ice. To prevent sinking too deep, a heavy lead, on which were several electric buttons, hung far below the Dipsey, ready at all times, day or night, to give notice if she came too near the reefs and sands of the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.
The steward had just announced that the first meal on board the Dipsey was ready for the officers' mess, when Mrs. Block suddenly rushed into the cabin.
"Look here, Sammy," she exclaimed; "I want you, or somebody who knows more than you do, to tell me how the people on this vessel are goin' to get air to breathe with. It has just struck me that when we have breathed up all the air that's inside, we will simply suffocate, just as if we were drowned outside a boat instead of inside; and for my part I can't see any difference, except in one case we keep dry and in the other we are wet."
"More than that, madam," said Mr. Gibbs, the Master Electrician, who, in fact, occupied the rank of first officer of the vessel; "if we are drowned outside in the open water we shall be food for fishes, whereas if we suffocate inside the vessel we shall only be food for reflection, if anybody ever finds us."
"You did not come out expectin' that, I hope?" said Mrs. Block. "I thought something would happen when we started, but I never supposed we would run short of air."
"Don't bother yourself about that, Sarah," said Sammy. "We'll have all the air we want; of course we would not start without thinkin' of that."
"I don't know," said Sarah. "It's very seldom that men start off anywhere without forgettin' somethin'."
"Let us take our seats, Mrs. Block," said Mr. Gibbs, "and I will set your mind at rest on the air point. There are a great many machines and mechanical arrangements on board here which of course you don't understand, but which I shall take great pleasure in explaining to you whenever you want to learn something about them. Among them are two great metal contrivances, outside the Dipsey and near her bows, which open into the water, and also communicate with the inside of her hull. These are called electric gills, and they separate air from the water around us in a manner somewhat resembling the way in which a fish's gills act. They continually send in air enough to supply us not only with all we need for breathing, but with enough to raise us to the surface of the water whenever we choose to produce it in sufficient quantities."
"I am glad to hear it," said Mrs. Block, "and I hope the machines will never get out of order. But I should think that sort of air, made fresh from the water, would be very damp. It's very different from the air we are used to, which is warmed by the sun and properly aired."
"Aired air seems funny to me," remarked Sammy.
There was fascination, not at all surprising, about the great glass lights in the Dipsey, and whenever a man was off duty he was pretty sure to be at one of these windows if he could get there. At first Mrs. Block was afraid to look out of any of them. It made her blood creep, she said, to stare out into all that solemn water. For the first two days, when she could get no one to talk to her, she passed most of her time sitting in the cabin, holding in one of her hands a dustbrush, and in the other a farmer's almanac. She did not use the brush, nor did she read the almanac, but they reminded her of home and the world which was real.
But when she did make up her mind to look out of the windows, she became greatly interested, especially at the bow, where she could gaze out into the water illuminated by the long lane of light thrown out by the search-light. Here she continually imagined she saw things, and sometimes greatly startled the men on lookout by her exclamations. Once she thought she saw a floating corpse, but fortunately it was Sammy who was by her when she proclaimed her discovery, and he did not believe in any such nonsense, suggesting that it might have been some sort of a fish. After that the idea of fish filled the mind of Mrs. Block, and she set herself to work to search in an encyclopaedia which was on board for descriptions of fishes which inhabited the depths of the arctic seas. To meet a whale, she thought, would be very bad, but then a whale is clumsy and soft; a sword-fish was what she most dreaded. A sword-fish running his sword through one of the glass windows, and perhaps coming in himself along with the water, sent a chill down her back every time she thought about it and talked about it.
"You needn't be afraid of sword-fishes," said Captain Jim Hubbell. "They don't fancy the cold water we are sailin' in; and as to whales, don't you know, madam, there ain't no more of 'em?"
"No more whales!" exclaimed Sarah. "I have heard about 'em all my life!"
"Oh, you can read and hear about 'em easy enough," replied Captain Jim, "but you nor nobody else will ever see none of 'em ag'in—at least, in this part of the world. Sperm-whales began gittin' scarce when I was a boy, and pretty soon there was nothin' left but bow-head or right whales, that tried to keep out of the way of human bein's by livin' far up North; but when they came to shootin' 'em with cannons which would carry three or four miles, the whale's day was up, and he got scarcer and scarcer, until he faded out altogether. There was a British vessel, the Barkright, that killed two bow-head whales in 1935, north of Melville Island, but since that time there hasn't been a whale seen in all the arctic waters. I have heard that said by sailors, and I have read about it. They have all been killed, and nothin' left of 'em but the skeletons that's in the museums."
Mrs. Block shuddered. "It would be terrible to meet a livin' one, and yet it is an awful thought to think that they are all dead and gone," said she.
VOICES FROM THE POLAR SEAS
Although Sammy Block and his companions were not only far up among the mysteries of the region of everlasting ice, and were sunk out of sight, so that their vessel had become one of these mysteries, it was still perfectly possible for them to communicate, by means of the telegraphic wire which was continually unrolling astern, with people all over the world. But this communication was a matter which required great judgment and caution, and it had been a subject of very careful consideration by Roland Clewe.
When he had returned to Cape Tariff, after parting with the Dipsey, he had received several messages from Sammy, which assured him that the submarine voyage was proceeding satisfactorily. But when he went on board the Go Lightly and started homeward, he would be able to hear nothing more from the submarine voyagers until he reached St. John's, Newfoundland—the first place at which his vessel would touch. Of course constant communication with Sardis would be kept up, but this communication might be the source of great danger to the plans of Roland Clewe. Whatever messages of importance came from the depths of the arctic regions he wished to come only to him or to Mrs. Raleigh. He had contrived a telegraphic cipher, known only to Mrs. Raleigh, Sammy, and two officers of the Dipsey, and, to insure secrecy, Sammy had been strictly enjoined to send no information in any other way than in this cipher.
For years there had been men, both in America and in Europe, who had been watching with jealous scrutiny the inventions and researches of Roland Clewe, and he well understood that if they should discover his processes and plans before they were brought to successful completion he must expect to be robbed of many of the results of his labors. The first news that came to him on his recent return to America had been the tale told by Sammy Block, of the man in the air who had been endeavoring to peer down into his lens-house, and he had heard of other attempts of this kind. Therefore it was that the telegraphic instrument on the Dipsey had been given into the sole charge of Samuel Block, who had become a very capable operator, and who could be relied upon to send no news over his wire which could give serviceable information to the operators along the line from Cape Tariff to Sardis, New Jersey.
But Clewe did not in the least desire that Margaret Raleigh should be kept waiting until he came back from the arctic regions for news from the expedition, which she as well as himself had sent out into the unknown North. Consequently Samuel Block had been told that he might communicate with Mrs. Raleigh as soon and as often as he pleased, remembering always to be careful never to send any word which might reveal anything to the detriment of his employers. When a message should be received on board the Dipsey that Mr. Clewe was ready to communicate with her, frequent reports were expected from the Master Electrician, but it would be Sammy who would unlock the cover which had been placed over the instrument.
Before he retired to his bunk on the first night on board the Dipsey, Sammy thought it proper to send a message to Mrs. Raleigh. He had not telegraphed before because he knew that Mr. Clewe would communicate fully before he left Cape Tariff.
Margaret Raleigh had gone to bed late, and had been lying for an hour or two unable to sleep, so busy was her mind with the wonderful things which were happening in the far-away polar regions—strange and awful things—in which she had such a direct and lively interest. She had heard, from Roland Clewe, of the successful beginning of the Dipsey's voyage, and before she had gone to her chamber she had received a last message from him on leaving Cape Tariff; and now, as she lay there in her bed, her whole soul was occupied with thoughts of that little party of people—some of them so well known to her—all of them sent out upon this perilous and frightful expedition by her consent and assistance, and now left alone to work their way through the dread and silent waters that underlie the awful ice regions of the pole. She felt that so long as she had a mind she could not help thinking of them, and so long as she thought of them she could not sleep.
Suddenly there was a ring at the door, which made her start and spring from her bed, and shortly a telegraphic message was brought to her by a maid. It was from the depths of the Arctic Ocean, and read as follows:
"Getting on very well. No motion. Not cold. Slight rheumatism in Sarah's shoulder. Wants to know which side of plasters you gave her goes next skin,
An hour afterwards there flashed farther northward than ever current from a battery had gone before an earnest, cordial, almost affectionate message from Margaret Raleigh to Sarah Block, and it concluded with the information that it was the rough side of the plasters which should go next to the skin. After that Mrs. Raleigh went to bed with a peaceful mind and slept soundly.
Frequent communications, always of a friendly or domestic nature, passed between the polar sea and Sardis during the next few days. Mrs. Raleigh would have telegraphed a good deal more than she did had it not been for the great expense from Sardis to Cape Tariff, and Sarah Block was held in restraint, not by pecuniary considerations, but by Sammy's sense of the fitness of things. He nearly always edited her messages, even when he consented to send them. One communication he positively refused to transmit. She came to him in a great flurry.
"Sammy," said she, "I have just found out something, and I can't rest until I have told Mrs. Raleigh. I won't mention it here, because it might frighten some people into fits and spasms. Sammy, do you know there are thirteen people on board this boat?"
"Sarah Block!" ejaculated her husband, "what in the name of common-sense are you talkin' about? What earthly difference can it make whether there are thirteen people on this vessel or twelve? And if it did make any difference, what are you goin' to do about it? Do you expect anybody to get out?"
"Of course I don't," replied Sarah; "although there are some of them that would not have come in if I had had my say about it; but as Mrs. Raleigh is one of the owners, and such a good friend to you and me, Sammy, it is our duty to let her know what dreadful bad luck we are carryin' with us."
"Don't you suppose she knows how many people are aboard?" said Sammy.
"Of course she knows; but she don't consider what it means, or we wouldn't all have been here. It is her right to know, Sammy. Perhaps she might order us to go back to Cape Tariff and put somebody ashore."
In his heart Samuel Block believed that if this course were adopted he was pretty sure who would be put on shore, if a vote were taken by officers and crew; but he was too wise to say anything upon this point, and contented himself with positively refusing to send southward any news of the evil omen.
The next day Mrs. Block felt that she must speak upon the subject or perish, and she asked Mr. Gibbs what he thought of there being thirteen people on board.
"Madam," said he, "these signs lose all their powers above the seventieth parallel of latitude. In fact, none of them have ever been known to come true above sixty-eight degrees and forty minutes, and we are a good deal higher than that, you know."
Sarah made no answer, but she told her husband afterwards that she thought that Mr. Gibbs had his mind so full of electricity that it had no room for old-fashioned common-sense. It did not do to sneer at signs and portents. Among the earliest things she remembered was a story which had been told her of her grandmother's brother, who was the thirteenth passenger in an omnibus when he was a young man, and who died that very night, having slipped off the back step, where he was obliged to stand, and fractured his skull.
At last there came a day when a message in cipher from Roland Clewe delivered itself on board the Dipsey, and from that moment a hitherto unknown sense of security seemed to pervade the minds of officers and crew. To be sure, there was no good reason for this, for if disaster should overtake them, or even threaten them, there was no submarine boat ready to send to their rescue; and if there had been, it would be long, long before such aid could reach them; but still, they were comforted, encouraged, and cheered. Now, if anything happened, they could send news of it to the man in whom they all trusted, and through him to their homes, and whatever their far-away friends had to say to them could be said without reserve.
There was nothing yet of definite scientific importance to report, but the messages of the Master Electrician were frequent and long, regardless of expense, and, so far as her husband would permit her, Sarah Block informed Mrs. Raleigh of the discouragements and dangers which awaited this expedition. It must be said, however, that Mrs. Block never proposed to send back one word which should indicate that she was in favor of the abandonment of the expedition, or of her retirement from it should opportunity allow. She had set out for the north pole because Sammy was going there, and the longer she went "polin'" with him, the stronger became her curiosity to see the pole and to know what it looked like.
The Dipsey was not expected to be, under any circumstances, a swift vessel, and now, retarded by her outside attachments, she moved but slowly under the waters. The telegraphic wire which she laid as she proceeded was the thinnest and lightest submarine cable ever manufactured, but the mass of it was of great weight, and as it found its way to the bottom it much retarded the progress of the vessel, which moved more slowly than was absolutely necessary, for fear of breaking this connection with the living world.
Onward, but a few knots an hour, the Dipsey moved like a fish in the midst of the sea. The projectors of the enterprise had a firm belief that there was a channel from Baffin's Bay into an open polar sea, which would be navigable if its entrance were not blocked up by ice, and on this belief were based all their hopes of success. So the explorers pressed steadily onward, always with an anxious lookout above them for fear of striking the overhanging ice, always with an anxious lookout below for fear of dangers which might loom up from the bottom, always with an anxious lookout starboard for fear of running against the foundations of Greenland, always with an anxious lookout to port for fear of striking the groundwork of the unknown land to the west, and always keeping a lookout in every direction for whatever revelation these unknown waters might choose to make to them.
Captain Jim Hubbell had no sympathy with the methods of navigation practised on board the Dipsey. So long as he could not go out on deck and take his noon observations, he did not believe it would be possible for him to know exactly where his vessel was; but he accepted the situation, and objected to none of the methods of the scientific navigators.
"It's a mighty simple way of sailin'," he said to Sammy. "As long as there's water to sail in, you have just got to git on a line of longitude—it doesn't matter what line, so long as there's water ahead of you—and keep there; and so long as you steer due north, always takin' care not to switch off to the magnetic pole, of course you will keep there; and as all lines of longitude come to the same point at last, and as that's the point you are sailin' for, of course, if you can keep on that line of longitude as long as it lasts, it follows that you are bound to git there. If you come to any place on this line of longitude where there's not enough water to sail her, you have got to stop her; and then, if you can't see any way of goin' ahead on another line of longitude, you can put her about and go out of this on the same line of longitude that you came up into it on, and so you may expect to find a way clear. It's mighty simple sailin' —regular spellin' book navigation—but it isn't the right thing."
"It seems that way, Cap'n Jim," said Sammy, "and I expect there's a long stretch of underwater business ahead of us yet, but still we can't tell. How do we know that we will not get up some mornin' soon and look out of the upper skylight and see nothin' but water over us and daylight beyond that?"
"When we do that, Sammy," said Captain Jim, "then I'll truly believe I'm on a v'yage!"
GOOD NEWS GOES FROM SARDIS
When Roland Clewe, after a voyage from Cape Tariff which would have been tedious to him no matter how short it had been, arrived at Sardis, his mind was mainly occupied with the people he had left behind him engulfed in the arctic seas, but this important subject did not prevent him from also giving attention to the other great object upon which his soul was bent. At St. John's, and at various points on his journey from there, he had received messages from the Dipsey, so that he knew that so far all was well, and when he met Mrs. Raleigh she had much to tell him of what might have been called the domestic affairs of the little vessel.
But while keeping himself in touch, as it were, with the polar regions, Roland Clewe longed to use the means he believed he possessed of peering into the subterranean mysteries of the earth beneath him. Work on the great machine by which he would generate his Artesian ray had been going on very satisfactorily, and there was every reason to believe that he would soon be able to put it into operation.
He had found Margaret Raleigh a different woman from what she had been when he left her.
The absence had been short, but the change in her was very perceptible. She was quieter; she was more intent. She had always taken a great interest in his undertakings, but now that interest not only seemed to be deepened, but it was clouded by a certain anxiety. She had been an ardent, cheerful, and hopeful co-worker with him, so far as she was able to do so; but now, although she was quite as ardent, the cheerfulness had disappeared, and she did not allude to the hopefulness.
But this did not surprise Clewe; he thought it the most natural thing in the world; for that polar expedition was enough to cloud the spirits of any woman who had an active part and share in it, and who was bound to feel that much of the responsibility of it rested upon her. At times this responsibility rested very heavily upon himself. But if thoughts of that little submerged party at the desolate end of the world came to him as he sat in his comfortable chair, and a cold dread shot through him, as it was apt to do at such times, he would hurriedly step to his telegraphic instrument, and when he had heard from Sammy Block that all was well with them, his spirits would rise again, and he would go on with his work with a soul cheered and encouraged.
But good news from the North did not appear to cheer and encourage the soul of Mrs. Raleigh. She seemed anxious and troubled even after she had heard it.
"Mr. Clewe," said she, when he had called upon her the next morning after his return, "suppose you were to hear bad news from the Dipsey, or were to hear nothing at all—were to get no answer to your messages—what would you do?"
His face grew troubled.
"That is a terrible question," he said. "It is one I have often asked myself; but there is no satisfactory answer to it. Of course, as I have told myself and have told you, there seems no reason to expect a disaster. There are no storms in the quiet depths in which the Dipsey is sailing. Ice does not sink down from the surface, and even if a floating iceberg should turn over, as they sometimes do in the more open sea, the Dipsey will keep low enough to avoid such danger. In fact, I feel almost sure that if she should meet with any obstacle which would prevent her from keeping on her course to the pole, all she would have to do would be to turn around and come back. As to the possibility of receiving no messages, I should conclude in that case that the wire had broken, and should wait a few days before allowing myself to be seriously alarmed. We have provided against such an accident. The Dipsey is equipped as a cable-laying vessel, and if her broken wire is not at too great a depth, she could recover it; but I have given orders that should such an accident occur, and they cannot reestablish communication, they must return."
"Where to?" asked Mrs. Raleigh.
"To Cape Tariff, of course. The Dipsey cannot navigate the surface of the ocean for any considerable distance."
"And then?" she asked.
"I would go as quickly as possible to St. John's, where I have arranged that a vessel shall be ready for me, and I would meet the party at Cape Tariff, and there plan for a resumption of the enterprise, or bring them home. If they should not be able to get back to Cape Tariff, then all is blank before me. We must not think of it."
"But you will go up there all the same?" she said.
"Oh yes, I will go there."
Mrs. Raleigh made no answer, but sat looking upon the floor.
"But why should we trouble ourselves with these fears?" continued Clewe. "We have considered all probable dangers and have provided against them, and at this moment everything is going on admirably, and there is every reason why we should feel hopeful and encouraged. I am sorry to see you look so anxious and downcast."
"Mr. Clewe," said she, "I have many anxieties; that is natural, and I cannot help it, but there is only one fear which seriously affects me."
"And that makes you pale," said Clewe. "Are you afraid that if I begin work with the Artesian ray I shall become so interested in it that I shall forget our friends up there in the North? There is no danger. No matter what I might be doing with the ray, I can disconnect the batteries in an instant, lock up the lens-house, and in the next half-hour start for St. John's. Then I will go North if there is anything needed to be done there which human beings can do."
She looked at him steadfastly.
"That is what I am afraid of," she said.
Roland Clewe did not immediately speak. To him Margaret Raleigh was two persons. She was a woman of business, earnest, thoughtful, helpful, generous, and wise; a woman with whom he worked, consulted, planned, who made it possible for him to carry on the researches and enterprises to which he had devoted his life. But, more than this, she was another being; she was a woman he loved, with a warm, passionate love, which grew day by day, and which a year ago had threatened to break down every barrier of prudence, and throw him upon his knees before her as a humiliated creature who had been pretending to love knowledge, philosophy, and science, but in reality had been loving beauty and riches. It was the fear of this catastrophe which had had a strong influence in taking him to Europe.
But now, by some magical influence—an influence which he was not sure he understood—that first woman, the woman of business, his partner, his co-worker, had disappeared, and there sat before him the woman he loved. He felt in his soul that if he tried to banish her it would be impossible; by no word or act could he at this moment bring back the other.
"Margaret Raleigh," he said, suddenly, "you have thrown me from my balance. Yon may not believe it, you may not be able to imagine the possibility of it, but a spirit, a fiery spirit which I have long kept bound up within me, has burst its bonds and has taken possession of me. It may be a devil or it may be an angel, but it holds me and rules me, and it was set loose by the words you have just spoken. It is my love for you, Margaret Raleigh!" He went on, speaking rapidly. "Now tell me," said he. "I have often come to you for advice and help—give it to me now. In laboratory, workshop, office, with you and away from you, abroad and at home, by day and by night, always and everywhere I have loved you, longed for a sight of you, for a word from you, even if it had been a word about a stick or a pin. And always and everywhere I have determined to be true to myself, true to you, true to every principle of honor and common-sense, and to say nothing to you of love until by some success I have achieved the right to do so. By words which made me fancy that you showed a personal interest in me, you have banished all those resolutions; you have—But I am getting madder and madder. Shall I leave this room? Shall I swear never to speak—"
She looked up at him. The ashiness had gone out of her face. Her eyes were bright, and as she lifted them towards him a golden softness and mistiness came into the centre of each of them, as though he might look down through them into her soul.
"If I were you," said she, "I would stay here and say whatever else you have to say."
He told her what more he had to say, but it was with his arms around her and his eyes close to hers.
"Do you know," she said, a little afterwards, "that for years, while you have been longing to get to the pole, to see down into the earth, and to accomplish all the other wonderful things that you are working at in your shops, I too have been longing to do something—longing hundreds and hundreds of times when we were talking about batteries and lenses and of the enterprises we have had on hand."
"And what was that?" he asked.
"It was to push back this lock of hair from your forehead. There, now; you don't know how much better you look!"
Before Clewe left the house it was decided that if in any case it should become necessary for him to start for the polar regions these two were to be married with all possible promptness, and they were to go to the North together.
That afternoon the happy couple met again and composed a message to the arctic seas. It was not deemed necessary yet to announce to society what had happened, but they both felt that their friends who were so far away, so completely shut out from all relations with the world, and yet so intimately connected with them, should know that Margaret Raleigh and Roland Clewe were engaged to be married.
Roland sent the message that evening from his office. He waited an unusually long time for a reply, but at last it came, from Sammy. The cipher, when translated, ran as follows:
"Everybody as glad as they can be. Specially Sarah. Will send regular congratulations. Private message soon from me. We have got the devil on board."
Clewe was astonished: Samuel Block was such a quiet, steady person, so unused to extravagance or excitement, that this sensational message was entirely beyond his comprehension. He could fix no possible meaning to it, and he was glad that it did not come when he was in company with Margaret. It was too late to disturb her now, and he most earnestly hoped that an explanation would come before he saw her again.
That night he dreamed that there was a great opening near the pole, which was the approach to the lower regions, and that the Dipsey had been boarded by a diabolical passenger, who had come to examine her papers and inquire into the health of her passengers and crew.
THE DEVIL ON THE DIPSEY
After a troubled night, Roland Clewe rose early. He had made up his mind that what Sammy had to communicate was something of a secret, otherwise it would have been telegraphed at once. For this reason he had not sent him a message asking for immediate and full particulars, but had waited. Now, however, he felt he could wait no longer; he must know something definite before he saw Margaret. Not to excite suspicion by telegraphing at untimely hours, he had waited until morning, and as the Dipsey was in about the same longitude as Sardis, and as they kept regular hours on board, without regard to the day and night of the arctic regions, he knew that he would not now be likely to rouse anybody from his slumbers by "calling up" the pole.
Although the telephone had been brought to such wonderful perfection in these days, Roland Clewe had never thought of using it for purposes of communication with the Dipsey. The necessary wire would have been too heavy, and his messages could not have been kept secret. In fact, this telegraphic communication between Sardis and the submarine vessel was almost as primitive as that in use in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
But Clewe had scarcely entered the office when he was surprised by the sound of the instrument, and he soon found that Sammy was calling to him from the polar seas. He sat down instantly and received this message:
"Could not send more last night. Gibbs came in. Did not want him to know until I had heard from you. That Pole, Rovinski, is on board. Never knew it until yesterday. Had shaved off his beard and had his head cropped. He let it grow, and I spotted him. There is no mistake. I know him, but he has not found it out. He is on board to get ahead of you some way or other —perhaps get up a mutiny and go to the pole himself. He is the wickedest-looking man I ever saw, and he scared me when I first recognized him. Will send news as long as I am on hand. Let me know what you think. I want to chuck him into the scuttle-box.
"If that could be done," said Clewe to himself, "it would be an end to a great many troubles."
The scuttle-box on the submarine vessel was a contrivance for throwing things overboard. It consisted of a steel box about six feet long and two feet square at the ends, and with a tightly fitting door at each extremity. When this scuttle-box was used it was run down through a square opening in the bottom of the Dipsey, the upper door was opened, matter to be disposed of was thrown into it, the upper door was shut and the lower one opened, whereupon everything inside of it descended into the sea, and water filled the box. When this box was drawn up by means of its machinery, the water was forced out, so that when it was entirely inside the vessel it was empty, and then the lower door was closed. For some moments the idea suggested by Sammy was very 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 forms, everything which went to make up the sides of the bright cavity into which he looked. He saw the various strata of clay, sand, gravel, exactly as he would have seen them in a circular hole cut accurately and smoothly into the earth. No stone or lump protruded from the side of this apparent excavation, the inner surface of which was as smooth as if it had been cut down with a sharp instrument.
Clewe was frightened. Was it possible that this could be an imaginary cavity into which he was looking? He drew back; he was about to put out one foot to feel if it were really solid ground upon which this light was pouring, but he refrained. He got a long stick, and with it touched the centre of the light. What he felt was hard and solid; the end of the stick seemed to melt, and this startled him. He pulled back the stick—he could go on no further by himself. He must have somebody in here with him; he must have the testimony of some other eyes; he needed the company of a man with a cool and steady brain.
He ran to the door and called Bryce. When the master-workman had entered and the door had been locked behind him, he exclaimed, "How pale you are! Does it work?"
"I think so," said Clewe; "but perhaps I am crazy and only imagine it. You see that circular patch of light upon the ground there? I want you to go close to it and look down upon it, and tell me what you see."
Bryce stepped quickly to the illuminated space. He looked down at it; then he approached nearer; then he carefully placed his feet by its edge and leaned over further, gazing intently downward, and he exclaimed, "Good heavens! How did you make the hole?"
At that moment he heard a groan, and, looking across the illuminated space, he saw Clewe tottering. In the next moment he was stretched upon the ground in a dead faint.