The white-haired reader, in whom I had now become deeply interested, no longer an unwelcome stranger, suspended his reading, laid down his manuscript, and looking me in the face, asked:
” Are you a believer?”
” No,” I promptly answered.
” What part of the narrative do you question?”
“All of it.”
” Have you not already investigated some of the statements I previously made?” he queried.
” Yes,” I said; ” but you had not then given utterance to such preposterous expressions.”
” Is not the truth, the truth?” he answered.
” You ask me to believe impossibilities,” I replied.
” Name one.”
” You yourself admit,” I said warmly, ” that you were incredulous, and shook your head when your guide asserted that the bottom of the ocean might be as porous as a sieve, and still hold water. A fountain can not rise above its source.”
” It often does, however,” he replied.
” I do not believe you,” I said boldly. ” And, furthermore, I assert that you might as reasonably ask me to believe that I can see my own brain, as to accept your fiction regarding the production of light, miles below the surface of the earth.”
” I can make your brain visible to you, and if you dare to accompany me, I will carry you beneath the surface of the earth and prove my other statement,” he said. ” Come!” He arose and grasped my arm.
” You confess that you fear the journey.”
I made no reply.
” Well, since you fear that method, I am ready to convince you of the facts by any rational course you may select, and if you wish to stake your entire argument on the general statement that a stream of water can not rise above its head, I will accept the challenge; but I insist that you do not divulge the nature of the experiment until, as you are directed, you make public my story.”
” Of course a fluid can be pumped up,” I sarcastically observed. ” However, I promise the secrecy you ask.”
” I am speaking seriously,” he said, ” and I have accepted your challenge; your own eyes shall view the facts, your own hands prepare the conditions necessary. Procure a few pints of sand, and a few pounds of salt; to-morrow evening I will be ready to make the experiment.”
” Agreed; if you will induce a stream of water to run up hill, a fountain to rise above its head, I will believe any statement you may henceforth make.”
” Be ready, then,” he replied, ” and procure the materials named.” So saying he picked up his hat and abruptly departed.
These substances I purchased the next day, procuring the silver sand from Gordon’s pharmacy, corner of Eighth and Western Row, and promptly at the specified time we met in my room.
He came, provided with a cylindrical glass jar about eighteen inches high and two inches in diameter ( such as I have since learned is called a hydrometer jar), and a long, slender drawn glass tube, the internal diameter of which was about one-sixteenth of an inch.
” You have deceived me,” I said; ” I know well enough that capillary attraction will draw a liquid above its surface. You demonstrated that quite recently to my entire satisfaction.”
” True, and yet not true of this experiment,” he said.- ” I propose to force water through and out of this tube; capillary attraction will not expel a liquid from a tube if its mouth be above the surface of the supply.”
He dipped the tip of a capillary tube into a tumbler of water; the water rose inside the tube about an inch above the surface of the water in the tumbler.
Capillary attraction can do no more,” he said. ” Break the tube one-eighth of an inch above the water ( far below the present capillary surface ), and it will not overflow. The exit of the tube must be lower than the surface of the liquid if circulation ensues.”
He broke off a fragment, and the result was as predicted. Then he poured water into the glass jar to the depth of about six inches, and selecting a piece of very thin muslin, about an inch square, turned it over the end of the glass tube, tied it in position, and dropped that end of the tube into the cylinder.
” The muslin simply prevents the tube from filling with sand,” he explained. Then he poured sand into the cylinder until it reached the surface of the water. (See Figure 23.)
” Your apparatus is simple enough,” I remarked, I am afraid with some sarcasm.
” Nature works with exceeding simplicity,” he replied; ” there is no complex apparatus in her laboratory, and I copy after nature.”
Then he dissolved the salt in a portion of water that he drew from the hydrant into my wash bowl, making a strong brine, and stirred sand into the brine to make a thick mush. This mixture of sand and brine he then poured into the cylinder, filling it nearly to the top. ( See Figure 23, B. The sand settling soon left a layer of brine above it, as shown by A.) I had previously noticed that the upper end of the glass tube was curved, and my surprise can be imagined when I saw that at once water began to flow through the tube, dropping quite rapidly into the cylinder. The lower end of the curve of the glass tube was fully half an inch above the surface of the liquid in the cylinder.
I here present a figure of the apparatus. ( Figure 23.)
The strange man, or man image, I do not know which, sat before me, and in silence we watched the steady flow of water, water rising above its surface and flowing into the reservoir from which it was being continually derived.
” Do you give up?” he asked.
” Let me think,” I said.
” As you please,” he replied.
” How long will this continue?” I inquired.
” Until strong salt water flows from the tube.”
Then the old man continued:
” I would suggest that after I depart you repeat these experiments. The observations of those interested in science must be repeated time and again by separate individuals. It is not sufficient that one person should observe a phenomenon; repeated experiments are necessary in order to overcome error of manipulation, and to convince others of their correctness.
Not only yourself, but many others, after this manuscript appears, should go through with similar investigations, varied in detail as mind expansion may suggest. This experiment is but the germ of a thought which will be enlarged upon by many minds under other conditions. An event meteorological may occur in the experience of one observer, and never repeat itself. This is possible. The results of such experiments as you are observing, however, trust be followed by similar results in the hands of others, and in behalf of science it is necessary that others should be able to verify your experience. In the time to come it will be necessary to support your statements in order to demonstrate that your perceptive faculties are now in a normal condition.
Are you sure that your conceptions of these results are justified by normal perception? May you not be in an exalted state of mind that hinders clear perception, and compels you to imagine and accept as fact that which does not exist? Do you see what you think you see? After I am gone, and the influences that my person and mind exert on your own mind have been removed, will these results, as shown by my experiments, follow similar experimental conditions? In the years that are to pass before this paper is to be made public, it will be your duty to verify your present sense faculty. This you must do as opportunities present, and with different devices, so that no question may arise as to what will follow when others repeat our experiments. To-morrow evening I will call again, but remember, you must not tell others of this experiment, nor show the devices to them.
” I have promised,” I answered.
He gathered his manuscript and departed, and I sat in meditation watching the mysterious fountain.
As he had predicted, finally, after a long time, the flow slackened, and by morning, when I arose from my bed, the water had ceased to drip, and then I found it salty to the taste. The next evening he appeared as usual, and prepared to resume his reading, making no mention of the previous test of my faith. I interrupted him, however, by saying that I had observed that the sand had settled in the cylinder, and that in my opinion his experiment was not true to appearances, but was a deception, since the sand by its greater weight displaced the water, which escaped through the tube, where there was least resistance.
” Ah,” he said, ” and so you refuse to believe your own eyesight, and are contriving to escape the deserved penalty; I will, however, acquiesce in your outspoken desire for further light, and repeat the experiment without using sand. But I tell you that mother earth, in the phenomena known as artesian wells, uses sand and clay, pools of mineral waters of different gravities, and running streams. The waters beneath the earth are under pressure, induced by such natural causes as I have presented you in miniature, the chief difference being that the supplies of both salt and fresh water are inexhaustible, and by natural combinations similar to what you have seen; the streams within the earth, if a pipe be thrust into them, may rise continuously, eternally, from a reservoir higher than the head. In addition, there are pressures of gases, and solutions of many salts, other than chloride of soda, that tend to favor the phenomenon. Yon are unduly incredulous, and you ask of me more than your right after staking your faith on an experiment of your own selection. You demand more of me even than nature often accomplishes in earth structure; but to-morrow night I will show you that this seemingly impossible feat is possible.”
He then abruptly left the room. The following evening he presented himself with a couple of one-gallon cans, one of them without a bottom. I thought I could detect some impatience of manner as he filled the perfect can with water from the hydrant, and having spread a strip of thin muslin over the mouth of the other can, pressed it firmly over the mouth of the can of water, which it fitted tightly, thus connecting them together, the upper ( bottomless ) can being inverted. Then he made a narrow slit in the center of the muslin with his pen-knife, and through it thrust a glass tube like that of our former experiment. Next he wrapped a string around the open top of the upper can, crossed it over the top, and tied the glass tube to the center of the cross string.
” Simply to hold this tube in position,” he explained.
The remainder of the bag of salt left from the experiment of the preceding evening was then dissolved in water, and the brine poured into the upper can, filling it to the top. Then carefully thrusting the glass tube downward, he brought the tip of the curve to within about one-half inch of the surface of the brine, when immediately a rapid flow of liquid exhibited itself.
( Figure 24.)
” It rises above its source without sand,” he observed.
” I can not deny the fact,” I replied, ” and furthermore I am determined that I shall not question any subsequent statement that you make.” We sat in silence for some time, and the water ran continuously through the tube. I was becoming alarmed, afraid of my occult guest, who accepted my self-selected challenges, and worked out his results so rapidly ; he seemed to he more than human.
” I am a mortal, but a resident of a higher plane than you,” he replied, divining my thoughts. ” Is not this experiment a natural one?”
” Yes,” I said.
” Did not Shakspeare write, ` There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy’?”
” Yes,” I said.
And my guest continued:
” He might have added, ‘ and always will be’.”
” Scientific men will explain this phenomenon,” I suggested. ” Yes, when they observe the facts,” he replied, ” it is very simple. They can now tell, as I have before remarked, how Columbus stood the egg on end; however, given the problem before Columbus expounded it, they would probably have wandered as far from the true solution as the mountain with its edgewise layers of stone is from the disconnected artesian wells on a distant sea coast where the underground fresh and salt water in overlying currents and layers clash together. The explanation, of course, is simple. The brine is of greater specific gravity than the pure water; the pressure of the heavier fluid forces the lighter up in the tube. This action continues until, as you will see by this experiment, in the gradual diffusion of brine and pure water the salt is disseminated equally throughout the vessels, and the specific gravity of the mixed liquid becomes the same throughout, when the flow will cease. However, in the earth, where supplies are inexhaustible, the fountain flows unceasingly.”