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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Great Stone Of Sardis - Chapter VII - GOOD NEWS GOES FROM SARDIS
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The Great Stone Of Sardis - Chapter VII - GOOD NEWS GOES FROM SARDIS Post by :James Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :April 2011 Read :1733

Click below to download : The Great Stone Of Sardis - Chapter VII - GOOD NEWS GOES FROM SARDIS (Format : PDF)

The Great Stone Of Sardis - Chapter VII - 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.

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