Through the Earth/Chapter XI
DR. GILES STRIKES A SNAG
O weld the two tubes together at the center of the earth was a most delicate operation; but the work was performed with the greatest care, and the doctor was highly gratified to find his labors crowned with success.
Then the boring-screws and other instruments were withdrawn, and specially constructed pumps were set in operation to exhaust the tube of air. This work was supplemented by the use of ingenious chemical processes to absorb the greater part of the rarefied air which the pumps and other apparatus were unable to remove.
This precaution was absolutely necessary, for, as already stated, air presents an enormous resistance to objects which are traveling at a great velocity. Air in the tube would not only have retarded the car considerably in its passage, and prevented it from reaching the opposite side of the earth, but would, by its friction, have also produced an amount of heat sufficient to damage the vehicle seriously.
Along with the boring of the hole, the construction of the car had occupied the doctor's attention. Fortunately, there was nothing very difficult in this part of the work, for any closed vessel whatever would have answered the purpose. Nevertheless, there were certain points that required to be taken into consideration. For example, as, in spite of the efforts made by the doctor to obtain a perfect vacuum, there would always remain a small amount of air in the tube, it would be well to construct the car of such a shape as to offer the least possible resistance in its passage.
Dr. Giles hesitated some little time as to the best shape for his vehicle, but ended by making the body of the car cylindrical, tapering to a point at both top and bottom. The height of the car was about twenty feet, and its width about fifteen; consequently, as the hole was thirty feet in diameter, there seemed little fear of the vehicle striking the sides, even though it should turn around during its journey.
As to the furnishing of the interior of the car, it is needless to say that the doctor had omitted nothing that would conduce either to the comfort or convenience of the passengers.
Mr. Curtis and his daughter happened to be in the doctor's office when the finishing touches were put to the work, and Dr. Giles rubbed his hands gleefully as he exclaimed:
"Well, James, what do you say now to my project?"
The doctor was justified in feeling elated, for the tube was at last complete, a veritable triumph of human skill, bringing Australia and New York into direct communication for the first time in the history of the world.
"What do I think now of your project?" repeated Mr. Curtis, with a sardonic smile. "I think that you have succeeded in this part of the work far better than anybody ever expected, and you deserve great credit for what you have done."
Dr. Giles noticed his friend's lurking smile, and understood it at once. "So, James," he said, "you're not satisfied yet as to the practicability of my enterprise?"
"No," replied Mr. Curtis, his smile broadening to a grin. "The fact is, I have been studying up the matter on my own account, and I find there is one very important point that you have entirely overlooked, and which yet will he sufficient to prevent the car from ever going through to New York."
"Out with it, James! Don't keep me in suspense like this!" said the doctor, with mock gravity; for he was accustomed to his friend's objections, and knew that they were generally of the utmost insignificance.
"Yes, doctor," said Mr. Curtis, with ill-concealed triumph, "there is one very important factor you have failed to take into consideration."
"Well, what is it?" asked the doctor, still smiling.
"The centrifugal force of the earth!" said Mr. Curtis, impressively.
Flora Curtis was a passive spectator in this scene, which she only imperfectly understood. But as her father uttered these last words she saw the doctor's face become ashy pale, and he sank back in his arm-chair almost without consciousness.
"James, you are right!" he articulated hoarsely. "I'm the greatest idiot alive! I had completely forgotten the centrifugal force of the earth; and this one little oversight will thwart all my plans! I shall now never be able to send cars through my tunnel! All the work we've done is absolutely useless; all the money we've spent is simply thrown away! All my planning has gone for nothing; my whole scheme is utterly wrecked, and all through one seemingly insignificant little oversight!"
And Dr. Giles hid his face in his hands.