AFTER breakfast the-following morning Roland Clewe mounted his horse and rod_ver to a handsome house which stood upon a hill about a mile and a half fro_ardis. Horses, which had almost gone out of use during the first third of th_entury, were now getting to be somewhat in fashion again. Many people no_ppreciated the pleasure which these animals had given to the world since th_eginning of history, and whose place, in an aesthetic sense, no inanimat_achine could supply. As Roland Clewe swung himself from the saddle at th_oot of a broad flight of steps, the house door was opened and a lad_ppeared.
"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 younge_han Clewe. This was Mrs. Margaret Raleigh, partner with Roland Clewe in th_orks at Sardis, and, in fact, the principal owner of that great estate. Sh_as a widow, and her husband had been not only a man of science, but a ver_ich man; and when he died, at the outset of his career, his widow believed i_er duty to devote his fortune to the prosecution and development o_cientific works. She knew Roland Clewe as a hard student and worker, as a ma_f brilliant and original ideas, and as the originator of schemes which, i_arried out successfully, would place him among the great inventors of th_orld.
She was not a scientific woman in the strict sense of the word, but she had _ost thorough and appreciative sympathy with all forms of physical research,
and there was a distinctiveness and grandeur in the aims towards which Rolan_lewe had directed his life work which determined her to unite, with all th_ower of her money and her personal encouragement, in the labors he had se_or himself.
Therefore it was that the main part of the fortune left by Herbert Raleigh ha_een invested in the shops and foundries at Sardis, and that Roland Clewe an_argaret Raleigh were partners and co-owners in the business and the plant o_he establishment.
"I am glad to welcome you back," said she, her hand in his. "But it strikes m_s odd to see you come upon a horse; I should have supposed that by this tim_ou 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 ol_ammy'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 sa_hat the things he hates most in this world are dead legs. 'When I can't us_ine,' he said, 'let me have some others that are alive.' This is such _retty creature," she added, as Clewe was looking about for some place t_hich he might tie his animal, "that I have a great mind to learn to rid_yself!"
"A woman on a horse would be a queer sight," said he; and with this they wen_nto the house.
The conference that morning in Mrs. Raleigh's library was a long and somewha_nxious one. For several years the money of the Raleigh estate had been freel_nd generously expended upon the enterprises in hand at the Sardis Works, bu_o far nothing of important profit had resulted from the operations. Man_hings had been carried on satisfactorily and successfully to various stages,
but nothing had been finished; and now the two partners had to admit that th_ork which Clewe had expected to begin immediately upon his return from Europ_ust be postponed.
Still, there was no sign of discouragement in the voices or the faces—it ma_e said, in the souls—of the man and woman who sat there talking across _able. 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 th_heeks, a slight line or two of anxiety in the forehead, a handsome, well-cu_outh, without beard, and a frame somewhat spare but strong; a man of gracefu_ut unaffected action, dressed in a riding-coat, breeches, and leathe_eggings. She, her cheeks colored with earnest purpose, her gray eyes rathe_arger than usual as she looked up from the paper where she had bee_alculating, was dressed in the simple artistic fashion of the day. Th_alling folds of the semi-clinging fabrics accommodated themselves well to _igure 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 ou_omething else. People are watching us, talking of us, expecting something o_s; 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 hav_een watching and waiting and expecting something, and it is time that _hould give you something; now the question is—"
"Not at all," said she, interrupting. "You arrogate too much to yourself. _on't expect you to give anything to me. We are working together, and it i_oth of us who must give this poor old world something to satisfy it for _hile, until we can disclose to it that grand discovery, grander than anythin_hat it has ever even imagined. I want to go on talking about it, but I shal_ot 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 b_he great shell?"
Clewe shook his head.
"No," said he; "that is progressing admirably, but many things are necessar_efore we can experiment with it."
"Since you were away," said she, "I have often been down to the works to loo_t it, but everything about it seems to go so slowly. However, I suppose i_ill go fast enough when it is finished."
"Yes," said he. "I hope it will go fast enough to overturn the artillery o_he world; but, as you say, don't let us talk about the things for which w_ust 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 tak_y mind from the Artesian ray."
"Nor can I," he answered; "but for the present we must put our hands to wor_t something else."
The Artesian ray, of which these two spoke, was an invention upon which Rolan_lewe had been experimenting for a long time, and which was and had been th_bject of his labors and studies while in Europe. In the first decade of th_entury it had been generally supposed that the X ray, or cathode ray, ha_een developed and applied to the utmost extent of its capability. It was use_n surgery and in mechanical arts, and in many varieties of scientifi_perations, but no considerable advance in its line of application had bee_ecognized for a quarter of a century. But Roland Clewe had come to believe i_he existence of a photic force, somewhat similar to the cathode ray, but o_nfinitely greater significance and importance to the searcher after physica_ruth. Simply described, his discovery was a powerful ray produced by a ne_ombination of electric lights, which would penetrate down into the earth,
passing through all substances which it met in its way, and illuminating an_isclosing everything through which it passed.
All matter likely to be found beneath the surface of the earth in that part o_he country had been experimented upon by Clewe, and nothing had resisted th_enetrating and illuminating influence of his ray—well called Artesian ray,
for it was intended to bore into the bowels of the earth. After making man_inor trials of the force and powers of his light, Roland Clewe had undertake_he construction of a massive apparatus, by which he believed a ray could b_enerated which, little by little, perhaps foot by foot, would penetrate int_he earth and light up everything between the farthest point it had attaine_nd the lenses of his machine. That is to say, he hoped to produce a long hol_f light about three feet in diameter and as deep as it was possible to mak_t descend, in which he could see all the various strata and deposits of whic_he earth is composed. How far he could send down this piercing cylinder o_ight he did not allow himself to consider. With a small and imperfect machin_e 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 deepes_oint to which man's knowledge had ever reached? Down so far that he mus_ollow his descending light with a telescope; down, down until he ha_iscovered the hidden secrets of the earth!
The peculiar quality of this light, which gave it its great preeminence ove_ll other penetrating rays, was the power it possessed of illuminating a_bject; passing through it; rendering it transparent and invisible;
illuminating the opaque substance it next met in its path, and afterward_endering that transparent. If the rocks and earth in the cylindrical cavitie_f light which Clewe had already produced in his experiments had actually bee_emoved with pickaxes and shovels, the lighted hole a few feet in depth coul_ot have appeared more real, the bottom and sides of the little well could no_ave been revealed more sharply and distinctly; and yet there was no hole i_he ground, and if one should try to put his foot into the lighted perforatio_e would find it as solid as any other part of the earth.