Through the Earth/Chapter XXXII



LET us now return to William and see how he is faring. At the same moment that the danger-signal appeared in the car, a microphone fastened to the wall began to work, and William, highly puzzled, rapidly made his way to the instrument. This microphone was so arranged that it received the sounds from outside, and transmitted them, greatly magnified, to the interior of the car.

Had there been a perfect vacuum in the tube, the instrument would, of course, have been useless, as sound cannot travel through empty space. But, fortunately, there was, as we have said, a certain amount of air left in the tunnel, so that sounds could be received from the metal walls of the carbonite tube. These sounds were, it is true, considerably weakened in intensity, but by means of the microphone they were afterward increased to their normal volume.

Accordingly, when our hero put his ear to the instrument he could plainly hear all that was passing around him. He listened with an anxiety that may be readily conceived, and his face paled a little when through the instrument was borne to his ears an ominous rumbling and grumbling like the muttering of distant thunder. There was no mistaking the significance of that sound: it meant that some mighty internal commotion was taking place at the center of the earth, and that it portended danger to him. And as he listened the sound became louder and louder, until he seemed to be in the very midst of a battle, with heavy pieces of artillery thundering on all sides.

To depict our hero's feelings as he listened to these ominous sounds would not be easy. A hundred conflicting thoughts rushed through his mind; but he felt the need of prompt decision, and resolved above all things that he must reach the walls of the car in order to be ready for action when the time came.

"If I only had Dr. Giles here to advise me what to do," he exclaimed, "there might be some hope left; but thrown as I am entirely upon my own resources, and not even knowing just what the danger is that threatens me, I'm a goner, sure!"

As he said these words his eyes happened to fall on the telemeter, and to his surprise he found that he was now only twelve miles from the center of the earth—that spot so long a mystery to the human race; and the instrument showed him, moreover, that in two seconds more he would be at the exact center.

The clock pointed to twenty-one minutes past eleven. It had taken him only twenty-one minutes to fall to the center of the earth!

"Tick-tack, tick-tack," went the chronometer; and as the two seconds sped, the needle of the telemeter descended until it pointed exactly to the center of the earth. But at this instant our hero felt a terrific shock, and was hurled violently upward against the top of the car!