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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Great Stone Of Sardis - Chapter III - MARGARET RALEIGH
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The Great Stone Of Sardis - Chapter III - MARGARET RALEIGH Post by :superwebbiz Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :April 2011 Read :2482

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The Great Stone Of Sardis - Chapter III - MARGARET RALEIGH

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.

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