Through the Earth/Chapter XII
FLORA CURTIS COMES TO THE RESCUE
HE triumphant smile faded out of Mr. Curtis's face as he noted the effect of his words on the worthydoctor, and, half ashamed of himself, he turned on his heel and marched out of the room, leaving Flora and the doctor together.
As for Flora, she saw only one thing,—that Dr. Giles was in trouble,—and with a woman's intuition she seized upon the best possible mode of comforting him. She seemed to feel instinctively that Dr. Giles was one of those persons who, when afflicted with any trouble, instead of giving it free vent, keep it tightly locked in their bosoms, letting it do all the internal ravage it pleases. She therefore thought it would be the very best thing for the doctor to make him ease his mind by talking of his trouble, and she accordingly seated herself on the sofa by his side, and began questioning him.
"I know I am dreadfully stupid," she said, "but I don't at all understand what has happened. Won't you please explain the matter to me?"
Dr. Giles felt the young girl's sympathy keenly, and it comforted him more than he was willing to confess.
"The long and the short of the matter, Flora," said he, "is that I am a fool! By overlooking one little point I have rendered my whole scheme impossible, and, after all my work, I shall never be able to send either freight or passengers through my tube!" And Dr. Giles clenched his fist viciously.
Flora was puzzled. "I don't see why it is you won't be able to send your car through," she said. "The tube's all ready, and the car's all ready. Everything has been prepared just as you wished, and everything seemed successful, so I don't see what will prevent you from sending a car through, as you had planned!"
"Ah, Flora, neither did I until your father spoke just now. I had n't stopped to reflect on what would happen when I dropped the car into the tunnel."
"Why, it would just fall through to the New York side, would n't it?" asked Flora.
"That's what I thought, too, and what anybody would think. But I was mistaken. I had completely forgotten the centrifugal force of the earth!"
"What's that?" asked Flora, "and how would that hinder the fall of the car?"
"You know, of course, Flora, that the earth turns around on its axis once in every twenty-four hours."
"Yes, I know that; that's what makes day and night."
"True. Now, if it were not for this motion, anything dropped into my tunnel would fall straight through to New York; but this movement of the earth is going to spoil everything."
"How so?" inquired Flora.
"Why, in this way. As the earth is twenty-five thousand miles in circumference, and turns around on its axis once in every twenty-four hours, it follows that every person on the equator is continually traveling in a circle, at the rate of more than a thousand miles an hour."
"Yes, I understand that," said Flora.
"Well, here in Australia we are twenty degrees below the equator, and are consequently not traveling quite so fast; but for convenience I shall suppose that we are turning at the rate of one thousand miles an hour. In other words, every object in Australia, including you, myself, the car, and, in short, every object around us, is continually traveling toward the east at the rapid rate of one thousand miles an hour!"
"I understand," said Flora, noticing that her companion paused.
"Well, suppose the earth were to suddenly stop spinning; do you know what would happen to you?"
"I suppose I should keep on turning in a circle," said Flora.
"Not a bit of it," said Dr. Giles; "you would fly off in a straight line toward the east, at the rate of one thousand miles per hour! And the same thing will happen with the car. In a word, the car, in its fall through the earth, will retain this initial velocity, and during its entire passage through the tube will be flying toward the east at the frightful speed of one thousand miles an hour."
"Yes," said Flora, "I understand that; but the tunnel, too, will be traveling just as fast. The tube will be moving toward the east at the rate of one thousand miles per hour just as well as the car; so it seems to me the car ought to stay right in the middle of the hole during the entire trip."
"You forget," said Dr. Giles, "that it is only at the surface of the earth that the hole will be traveling at the rate of one thousand miles an hour. The lower portions of the hole, making much smaller daily circles, naturally travel at a much lower speed, whereas at the very center of the earth the hole, instead of moving toward the east at the rate of one thousand miles an hour, will only move a few feet in a whole day!"
"Well, then, what will happen to the car?" inquired Flora, anxiously.
"What will happen to it? Why, even though I took the precaution to drop the car down into the very middle of the tube, as the vehicle will retain its rapid rate toward the east during its entire passage, it will continually scrape against the eastern side of the tube. This friction will be so great that it will certainly prevent the car from going much beyond the center of the earth, and it will in all probability be sufficient to destroy both the car and the tube!"
Flora was silent, and the doctor continued:
"Do you wonder now that I feel so badly? Just as I was on the very verge of success, to find all my plans knocked on the head, all my work rendered useless! In fact, my whole scheme is impracticable, unless I dig a tunnel through from the north pole to the south pole. Here, indeed, I should have no centrifugal force to deal with, as the axis of the hole would be relatively stationary; but a tunnel in such a location would be of no use whatever. At any other spot on the earth I should be obliged to make due allowance for the centrifugal force, and dig a curved tunnel instead of a straight one. Here in Australia, my tube, instead of going straight through the earth, would have to make something like a parabolic curve, and terminate nearly two thousand miles away from its present location."
"How do you make two thousand miles?" asked Flora. "I thought you said the trip would not take more than an hour, and that the car would move eastward only at the rate of one thousand miles an hour."
"Yes," said Dr. Giles; "but you must remember that while the car is falling the New York end of the tube will also be moving eastward at the rate of about a thousand miles an hour. In other words, the car will move one thousand miles eastward, and the New York station another thousand miles; therefore, both of these motions taken together would make a difference of nearly two thousand miles. That is to say, the New York end of my tube would have to be about two thousand miles farther west than it is at present."
"You mean farther east, don't you?" corrected Flora.
"No, farther west. What is the east side of the tube for us is, of course, the west side for people at the other end. But of what use is it to say any more about this matter? To build a curved tunnel such as would be necessary would, at the present day, be a mechanical impossibility, so it's just a waste of time to speculate about it."
"But, doctor," said Flora, "could n't you do anything to prevent the car from striking the walls as it went down?"
"No," said Dr. Giles, reflectively; "I see no way of doing that unless—eureka! I have it!" he suddenly shouted. "Flora, you're an angel!" he cried, springing up triumphantly from his seat. "Do you know that you have shown me the way to overcome this difficulty, and to-morrow my first car will make its journey through the earth, or my name is n't Joshua Giles!"