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|The Underground City||Jules Verne|
Simon Ford's Experiment
|Page 1 of 5||
THE old clock in the cottage struck one as James Starr and his two companions went out. A dim light penetrated through the ventilating shaft into the glade. Harry's lamp was not necessary here, but it would very soon be of use, for the old overman was about to conduct the engineer to the very end of the Dochart pit.
After following the principal gallery for a distance of two miles, the three explorers--for, as will be seen, this was a regular exploration-- arrived at the entrance of a narrow tunnel. It was like a nave, the roof of which rested on woodwork, covered with white moss. It followed very nearly the line traced by the course of the river Forth, fifteen hundred feet above.
"So we are going to the end of the last vein?" said James Starr.
"Ay! You know the mine well still."
"Well, Simon," returned the engineer, "it will be difficult to go further than that, if I don't mistake."
"Yes, indeed, Mr. Starr. That was where our picks tore out the last bit of coal in the seam. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I myself gave that last blow, and it re-echoed in my heart more dismally than on the rock. Only sandstone and schist were round us after that, and when the truck rolled towards the shaft, I followed, with my heart as full as though it were a funeral. It seemed to me that the soul of the mine was going with it."
The gravity with which the old man uttered these words impressed the engineer, who was not far from sharing his sentiments. They were those of the sailor who leaves his disabled vessel-- of the proprietor who sees the house of his ancestors pulled down. He pressed Ford's hand; but now the latter seized that of the engineer, and, wringing it:
"That day we were all of us mistaken," he exclaimed. "No! The old mine was not dead. It was not a corpse that the miners abandoned; and I dare to assert, Mr. Starr, that its heart beats still."
"Speak, Ford! Have you discovered a new vein?" cried the engineer, unable to contain himself. "I know you have! Your letter could mean nothing else."
"Mr. Starr," said Simon Ford, "I did not wish to tell any man but yourself."
"And you did quite right, Ford. But tell me how, by what signs, are you sure?"
"Listen, sir!" resumed Simon. "It is not a seam that I have found."
"What is it, then?"
"Only positive proof that such a seam exists."
"And the proof?"
"Could fire-damp issue from the bowels of the earth if coal was not there to produce it?"
"No, certainly not!" replied the engineer. "No coal, no fire-damp. No effects without a cause."
"Just as no smoke without fire."
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