Through the Earth/Chapter XXVIII



"ON casting his eyes around the interior of the car, the sight of the furniture had suggested to our hero the idea that, now that bodies no longer possessed weight, he ought to be able to lift up a very heavy weight with no appreciable exertion.

"It seems to me," said he, "that I ought to be able to lift thousands upon thousands of pounds with my little finger. As bodies have no weight, it ought to require no force to lift them. I have already noticed that the furniture is all arranged so that it can be easily unfastened, and I think I shall experiment on that."

Acting on this idea, William accordingly unfastened all the furniture that was in the car, and, piling the articles one on top of the other, he tried to lift the entire pile with his little finger, being careful, however, to first slip his foot under a strap at the bottom of the car—a necessary precaution to prevent him from rising with his load.

But the furniture would not budge.

"I guess I'll have to use my whole hand," he said, somewhat discomfited. But even with his hand he was unable to move the pile.

This was a positive surprise to William. "I thought," said he, "that, now that bodies have no weight, I ought to be able to lift the heaviest objects without any exertion whatever."

Then he recollected what the doctor had told him about mass. "Ah," said he, "I think I see what the trouble is. If the furniture were up in the air I should indeed require no force to hold it there, since it has no weight—that is to say, no tendency to fall. But in order to raise it, it will be necessary to use a certain amount of force to overcome its inertia. A very little force will suffice, if I am willing to wait long enough, and I could, if I wished, raise all the furniture with my little finger; but it would take too long, so I shall use both hands."

Here, again, our hero's reasoning was perfectly correct, but it was based on the assumption that objects in the car possessed no weight at all, and his assumption, as he was soon to learn, was erroneous; for, even with his two hands, William found it quite a task to raise the furniture. He, however, finally succeeded, and triumphantly held out this weight of several hundred pounds at arm's length.

"Here you are, ladies and gentlemen!" he cried. "Walk right up and view the modern Samson. I can lift anything you give me, and not half try! Walk right up! Admission, only five cents, or half a dime! Only a nickel, ladies and gentlemen! Walk right up!"

It was really quite amusing; but, to our hero's surprise, the objects, instead of being devoid of weight, exerted a very perceptible pressure on his hand.

Astonished at this, he gave the articles a strong upward push, and up they all went, pell-mell; but, curious to relate, instead of ascending to the ceiling, as William had confidently expected, the objects began to slowly fall again before they reached the top of the car.

"Well, I declare!" exclaimed our hero, hugely astonished. "If I had been obliged to figure out beforehand what was going to happen on this trip, I should never have been able to come anywhere
"He Held out this Weight at Arm's Length"


near the truth. The things that you feel sure are going to occur are those that don't take place, while the ones you don't think about are precisely those that do happen. And as soon as something does happen, and you think everything else is going to occur in the same way, then it changes and takes place in a different manner. All the laws of nature seem turned topsy-turvy in this car!"

Whatever the explanation, there was no doubt about the fact that bodies in the car now possessed a slight weight. William would not believe it until he had made several experiments. He began by placing his penknife beside him, and slowly, very slowly, it fell to the bottom of the car and stayed there. The furniture, too, did likewise. He lifted each article a slight distance from the floor, and yet it slowly but surely fell to the bottom again. To "make assurance double sure," he now did what he should have done at first, namely, he looked at the spring balance suspended in the car. The needle showed that the pound weight now weighed about half an ounce. As a final test, our hero suspended himself to the balance, and found he weighed about six pounds.

"There's no longer the slightest doubt about it," muttered William. "Everything in the car is now regaining its weight."

Then the doctor's words recurred to him, together with his explanation about the resistance of the air retarding the car, though not checking his own speed.

"I guess the doctor was right, as usual," said our hero; "but, whatever the reason, if bodies are going to get their weight again, the sooner I bring this furniture back to the top of the car, the better it will be. If I delay long it may become too heavy for me to carry up, and I don't want to have it loose in the car when we come to a stop on the New York side."

Accordingly, William, now no longer fearing to jump, bounded up to the ceiling with one of the lounges, and fastened it in place there. Then he let himself slowly fall to the floor, and jumped up again with one of the chairs, which he fastened securely in place. The table with the books came next; and then he occupied himself with restoring the remaining articles of furniture to their proper places at the bottom of the car.

These matters having been attended to, our hero gave a casual glance at the clock. It may be well to state here that this clock was not worked by a pendulum, as a pendulum could not swing if deprived of its weight. In order to have a clock that would correctly keep the time in the novel conditions in which it was to be placed, the doctor had it arranged to be worked by a spiral spring, his clock being, in reality, nothing but a huge watch, the parts finished with the highest accuracy in order to insure its perfect working. When our hero looked up, the hands pointed to ten minutes past eleven.

"Ten minutes past eleven!" exclaimed William. "Is it possible that it is only ten minutes since I started? Why, I've passed through so many curious experiences that the minutes seem like hours. Nevertheless, I ought very soon to be at the center of the earth. They taught us at school that a body falls sixteen feet the first second, forty-eight feet the next, eighty feet the third, and so on, falling thirty-two feet more each second. The distance to the center of the earth is about four thousand miles; so, as I have a pencil in my pocket, I can easily make the calculation. Let me see; why, it will only take me a little over nineteen minutes to finish the first half of my journey. In nine minutes more I ought to be at the very center of the earth."

He looked again at the telemeter; but, to his dismay, the needle was still far from the spot that would indicate the center.

A sudden fear came over our hero. "Something must be wrong!" he exclaimed in anguish. "I must calculate at once how far I ought to have fallen already, and compare it with the indications of the telemeter."

With feverish haste he jotted down the figures and performed the operations; but when he looked up again at the instrument a cry escaped him.

"I am lost!" he exclaimed in despair. "I am already one whole minute behind time! There must have been more air in the tube than the doctor calculated. One minute seems like a very small delay, and yet it is sufficient to keep me from arriving within six hundred miles of my destination. I shall never come anywhere near New York, but shall keep falling backward and forward in the tube until I finally come to a stop in the center; and there I may have to remain several days before the doctor can find some means of fishing me out—dead or alive!"