Let the reader who has followed this strange story which I am directed to title ” The End of Earth,” and who, in imagination, has traversed the cavernous passages of the underworld and listened to the conversation of those two personages who journeyed towards the secrets of the Beyond, return now to upper earth, and once more enter my secluded lodgings, the home of Llewellen Drury, him who listened to the aged guest and who claims your present attention. Remember that I relate a story within a story. That importunate guest of mine, of the glittering knife and the silvery hair, like another Ancient Mariner, had constrained me to listen to his narrative, as he read it aloud to ine from the manuscript. I patiently heard chapter after chapter, generally with pleasure, often with surprise, sometimes with incredulity, or downright dissent. Much of the narrative, I must say,- yes, most of it, appeared possible, if not probable, as taken in its connected sequence. The scientific sections were not uninteresting; the marvels of the fungus groves, the properties of the inner light, I was not disinclined to accept as true to natural laws; but when The-Man-Who-Did-It came to tell of the intra-earth salt deposits, and to explain the cause of the disappearance of lakes that formerly existed underground, and their simultaneous replacement by beds of salt, my credulity was overstrained.
” Permit me to interrupt your narrative,” I remarked, and then in response to my request the venerable guest laid down his paper.
” Well?” he said, interrogatively.
” I do not believe that last statement concerning the salt lake, and, to speak plainly, I would not have accepted it as you did, even had I been in your situation.”
” To what do you allude?” he asked.
” The physical abstraction of water from the salt of a solution of salt; I do not believe it possible unless by evaporation of the water.”
” You seem to accept as conclusive the statements of men who have never investigated beneath the surface in these directions, and you question the evidence of a man who has seen the phenomenon. I presume you accept the prevailing notions about salt beds, as you do the assertion that liquids seek a common level, which your scientific authorities also teach as a law of nature?”
” Yes; I do believe that liquids seek a common level, and I am willing to credit your other improbable statements if you can demonstrate the principle of liquid equilibrium to be untrue.”
” Then,” said he, ” to-morrow evening I will show you that fluids seek different levels, and also explain to you how liquids may leave the solids they hold in solution without evaporating from them.”
He arose and abruptly departed. It was near morning, and yet I sat in my room alone pondering the story of my unique guest until I slept to dream of caverns and seances until daylight, when I was awakened by their vividness. The fire was out, the room was cold, and, shivering in nervous exhaustion, I crept into bed to sleep and dream again of horrible things I can not describe, but which made me shudder in affright at their recollection. Late in the day I awoke.
On the following evening my persevering teacher appeared punctually, and displayed a few glass tubes and some blotting or bibulous paper.
” I will first show you that liquids may change their levels in opposition to the accepted laws of men, not contrary to nature’s laws; however, let me lead to the experiments by a statement of facts, that, if you question, you can investigate at any time. If two vessels of water be connected by a channel from the bottom of each, the water surfaces will come to a common level.”
He selected a curved glass tube, and poured water into it. The water assumed the position shown in Figure 11.
” You have not shown me anything new,” I said; ” my text-books taught me this.”
” True, but I have exhibited that which is the foundation of your philosophy regarding liquids. Let me proceed:
” If we pour a solution of common salt into such a U tube, as I do now, you perceive that it also rises to the same level in both ends.”
” Of course it does:”
” Do not interrupt me. Into one arm of the tube containing the brine I now carefully pour pure water. You observe that the surfaces do not seek the same level.” (Figure 12.)
” Certainly not,” I said; ” the weight of the liquid in each arm is the same, however; the columns balance each other.”
” Exactly; and on this assumption you base your assertion that connected liquids of the same gravity must always seek a common level, but you see from this test that if two liquids of different gravities be connected from beneath, the surface of the lighter one will assume a higher level than the surface of the heavier.”
” Agreed; however tortuous the channel that connects them, such must be the case.”
” Is it not supposable,” said he, ” that there might be two pockets in the earth, one containing salt water, the other fresh water, which, if joined together, might be represented by such a figure as this, wherein the water surface would be raised above that of the brine?” And he drew upon the paper the accompanying diagram. (Figure I3.)
” Yes,” I admitted; ” providing, of course, there was an equal pressure of air on the surface of each.”
” Now I will draw a figure in which one pocket is above the other, and ask you to imagine that in the lower pocket we have pure water, in the upper pocket brine (Figure 14); can you bring any theory of your law to bear upon these liquids so that by connecting them together the water will rise and run into the brine?”
” No,” I replied; ” connect them, and then the brine will flow into the water.”
” Upon the contrary,” he said; ” connect them, as innumerable cavities in the earth are joined, and the water will flow into the brine.”
” The assertion is opposed to applied philosophy and common sense,” I said.
” Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise, you know to
be a maxim with mortals,” he replied; ” but I must pardon you; your dogmatic education narrows your judgment. I now will prove you in error.”
He took from his pocket two slender glass tubes, about an eighth of an inch in bore and four inches in length, each closed at one end, and stood them in a perforated cork that he placed upon the table.
Into one tube he poured water, and then dissolving some salt in a cup, poured brine into the other, filling both nearly to the top ( Figure 15 ). Next he produced a short curved glass tube, to each end of which was attached a strip of flexible rubber tubing. Then, from a piece of blotting paper such as is used to blot ink, he cut a narrow strip and passed it through the arrangement, forming the apparatus represented by Figure 16.
Then he inserted the two tubes ( Figure 15 ) into the rubber, the extremities of the paper being submerged in the liquids, producing a combination that rested upright in the cork as shown by Figure 17.
The surfaces of both liquids were at once lowered by reason of the suction of the bibulous paper, the water decreasing most rapidly, and soon the creeping liquids met by absorption in the paper, the point of contact, as the liquids met, being plainly discernable. Now the old man gently slid the tubes upon each other, raising one a little, so as to bring the surfaces of the two liquids exactly on a plane; he then marked the glass at the surface of each with a pen.
” Observe the result,” he remarked as he replaced the tubes in the cork with their liquid surfaces on a line.
Together we sat and watched, and soon it became apparent that the surface of the water had decreased in height as compared with that of the brine. By fixing my gaze on the ink mark on the glass I also observed that the brine in the opposing tube was rising.
” I will call to-morrow evening,” he said, ” and we shall then discover which is true, man’s theory or nature’s practice.”
Within a short time enough of the water in the tube had been transferred to the brine to raise its surface considerably above its former level, the surface of the water being lowered to a greater degree. ( Figure 18) I was discomfited at the result, and upon his appearance next evening peevishly said to the experimenter:
” I do not know that this is fair.”
” Have I not demonstrated that, by properly connecting the liquids, the lighter flows into the heavier, and raises itself above the former surface?”
” Yes; but there is no porous paper in the earth.”
” True; I used this medium because it was convenient. There are, however, vast subterranean beds of porous materials, stone, sand, clay, various other earths, many of which will answer the same purpose. By perfectly natural laws, on a large scale, such molecular transfer of liquids is constantly taking place within the earth, and in these phenomena the law of gravitation seems ignored, and the rule which man believes from narrow experience, governs the flow of liquids, is reversed. The arched porous medium always transfers the lighter liquid into the heavier
one until its surface is raised considerably above that of the light one. In the same way you can demonstrate that alcohol passes into water, sulphuric ether into alcohol, and other miscible light liquids into those heavier.”
” I have seen you exemplify the statement on a small scale, with water and brine, and cannot question but that it is true on a large one,” I replied.
” So you admit that the assertion governing the surfaces of liquids is true only when the liquids are connected from beneath. In other words, your thought is one-sided, as science thought often is.”
” Now as to the beds of salt deep within the earth. You are also mistaken concerning their origin. The water of the ocean that runs through an open channel from the one side may flow into an underground lake, that by means of the contact action ( suction ) of the overlying and surrounding strata is being continually emptied of its water, but not its salt. Thus by absorption of water the brine of the lake in time becomes saturated, starting crystallization regularly over the floor and sides of the basin.
Eventually the entire cavity is filled with salt, and
a solid mass of rock salt remains. If, however, before the lake becomes solid, the brine supply is shut off by some natural cause as by salt crystals closing the passage thereto, the underground lake is at last drained of its water, the salt crystallizing over the bottom,and upon the cliffs, leaving great crevices through the saline deposits, as chances to have been the case with the salt formations through which I passed with my guide, and have recently described to you.”
” Even now I have my doubts as to the correctness of your explanations, especially concerning the liquid surfaces.”
” They are facts, however; liquids capable of being mixed, if connected by porous arches ( bibulous paper is convenient for illustrating by experiment ) reverse the rule men have accepted to explain the phenomena of liquid equilibrium, for I repeat, the lighter one rushes into that which is heavier, and the surface of the heavier liquid rises. You can try the experiment with alcohol and water, taking precautions to prevent evaporation, or you can vary the experiment with solutions of various salts of different densities; the greater the difference in gravity between the two liquids, the more rapid will be the flow of the lighter one into the heavier, and after equilibrium, the greater will be the contrast in the final height of the resultant liquid surfaces.”
” Men will yet explain this effect by natural laws,” I said.
” Yes,” he answered; ” when they learn the facts; and they will then be able to solve certain phenomena connected with diffusion processes that they can not now understand. Did I not tell you that after the fact had been made plain it was easy to see how Columbus stood the egg on its end? What I have demonstrated by experiment is perhaps no new principle in hydrostatics. But I have applied it in a natural manner to the explanation of obscure natural phenomena, that men now seek unreasonable methods to explain.”
” You may proceed with your narrative. I accept that when certain liquids are connected, as you have shown, by means of porous substances, one will pass into the other, and the surface of the lighter liquid in this case will assume a position below that of the heavier.”
” You must also accept,” said he, ” that when solutions of salt are subjected to earth attraction, under proper conditions, the solids may by capillary attraction be left behind, and pure water finally pass through the porous medium. Were it not for this law, the only natural surface spring water on earth would be brine, for the superficial crust of the earth is filled with saline solutions. All the spring-fed rivers and lakes would also be salty and fetid with sulphur compounds, for at great depths brine and foul water are always present. Even in countries where all the water below the immediate surface of the earth is briny, the running springs, if of capillary origin, are pure and fresh. You may imagine how different this would be were it not for the law I have cited, for the whole earth’s crust is permeated by brine and saline waters. Did your ‘ philosophy ‘ never lead you to think of this?”
Continuing, my guest argued as follows: ” Do not lakes exist on the earth’s surface into which rivers and streams flow, but which have no visible outlet? Are not such lakes saline, even though the source of supply is comparatively fresh? Has it never occurred to you to question whether capillarity- assisted by surface evaporation ( not evaporation only as men assert ) is not separating the water of these lakes from the saline substances carried into them by the streams, thus producing brine lakes? Will not this action after a great length of time result in crystalline deposits over portions of the bottoms of such lakes, and ultimately produce a salt bed?”
” It is possible,” I replied.
” Not only possible, but probable. Not only probable, but true. Across the intervening brute strata above the salt crystals the surface rivers may flow, indeed, owing to differences in specific gravity the surface of the lake may be comparatively fresh, while in the quiet depths below, beds of salt crystals are forming, and between these extremes may rest strata after strata of saline solutions, decreasing in gravity towards the top.”
Then he took his manuscript, and continued to read in a clear, musical voice, while I sat a more contented listener than I had been previously. I was not only confuted, but convinced. And I recalled the saying of Socrates, that no better fortune can happen a man than to be confuted in an error.