Into the Abyss
The Story of a Strange Experiment Under the Sea
H. G. Wells
Author of “Mr. fBritling Sees It Through,” etc. ~
THE LIEUTENANT stood in front of the steel sphere and gnawed a piece of pine splinter. “What do you think of it, Steevens?” he asked.
“It's an idea,” said Steevens, in the tone of one who keeps an open mind.
“I believe it will smash—flat,” said the lieutenant.
“He seems to have calculated it all out pretty well,” said Steévèns, still impartial.
“But think of the pressure,” said the Lieutenant. “At the surface of the water it’s fourteen pounds to the inch, thirty feet down it’s double that; sixty, treble; ninety, four times; nine hundred, forty times; five thousand three hundred — that’s a mile—it’s two hundred and forty times fourteen pounds; that’s—let’s see —thirty hundred-weight—a ton and a half, Steevens; a ton and a half to the square inch. And the ocean where he’s going is five miles deep. That’s seven and a half-”
“Sounds a lot,” said Steevens, “but it’s a jolly thick steel.”
THE LIEUTENANT made no answer, but resumed his pine splinter. The object, of their conversation was a huge globe of steel, having an exterior diameter of perhaps eight feet. It looked like the shot for some Titanic piece of artillery. It was elaborately nested in a monstrous scaffolding built into the frame work af the vessel, and the gigantic spars that were presently to 9ling it overboard gave the stern of the ship an appearance that had raised the curiosity of every decent sailor who had sighted it, from the Pool of London to the Tropic of Capricorn. In two places, one above the other, the steel gave place to a couple of circular windows of enormously thick glass, and one of these, set in a steel frame of great solidity, was now partially unscrewed. Both the men had seen the interior of this globe for the first time that morning. It was elaborately padded with air cushions, with little studs sunk between bulging pillows to work the simple mechanism of the affair. Everything was elaborately padded, even the Myer’s apparatus,, which was to absorb carbonic acid and replace the oxygen inspired by its tenant, when he had crept in by the glass manhole, and had been screwed in. It was so elaborately padded that a man might have been fired from a gun in it with perfect safety. And it had need to be, for presently a man was to crawl in through that glass manhole, to be screwed up tightly ƒ and to be flung overboard, and to sink down-down —down—for five miles, even as the lieutenant said. It had taken the strongest hold of his imaginatipn; it made him a bore at mess ; and he found Steevens, the new arrival aboard, a godsend to talk to about it, over and over again.
“It’s my opinion,” said the lieutenant.
“that that glass will simply bend in and bulge and smash, under a pressure of that sort. Daubree has made rocks run like water under big pressures—and, you
mark my words-”
“If the glass did break in,” said Steevens, “what then?”
“The water would shoot in like a jet of iron. Have you ever felt a straight jet of high pressure water? It would hit as hard as a bullet. It would simply smash him and flatten him. It would tear down his throat, and into his lungs; it would
blow in his ears-”
“What a detailed imagination you have,” protested Steevens, who saw things vividly.
“It’s a simple statement of the inevitable,” said the Lieutenant.
“And the globe?”
“Would just give out a few little bubbles, and it would settle down comfortably against the day of judgment, among the oozes and the bottom clay—with poor Elstead spread over his own smashed cushions like butter over bread.”
“IJ AVING a look at the jigger?” Tisaid a voice from the rear; and Elstead stood behind them; spick and span in white, with a cigarette between' his teeth, and his eyes smiling out of the shadow of his ample hat-brim. “What’s that about bread and butter, Weybridge? Grumbling as usual about the insufficient pay of naval officers? It wop’t be more than a day now before I start. We are to get the slings ready to-day. This clean sky and gentle swell is just the kind of thing for swinging off twenty tons of lead and iron; isn’t it?”
“It won’t affect you much,” said Weybridge.
“No. Seventy or eighty feet down, and I shall be there in a dozen seconds, there’s not a particle moving, though the wind shriek itself hoarse up above, and the water lifts halfway to the clouds. No.
Down there-” He moved to the side
of the skip and the other two followed him. All three leant forward on their elbows and stared down into the yellowgreen water.
“Peace” said Elstead, finishing his thought aloud.
“Are you dead certain that clockwork will, act?” asked Weybridge, presently.
“It has worked thirty-five times,” said Elstead. “It’s bound to work.”
“But if it doesn’t?”
“Why shouldn’t it?”
“I wouldn’t go down in that confounded thing,” said Weybridge, “for twenty thousand pounds.”
“Cheerful chap you are,” said Elstead, and spat sociably at a bubble below.
“I don’t understand yet how you mean to work the thing,” said Steevens.
“ TN THE first place I’m screwed into the sphere,” said Elstead, “and when I’ve turned the electric light off and on three times to show I’m cheerful, I’m swung out over the stern by that crane, with all those big lead sinkers slung below me. The top lead weight has a roller carrying a hundred fathom of strong cord rolled up, and that’s all that joins the sinkers to the sphere, except the slings that will be cut when the affair is dropped. " We use cord rather than wire rope because it‘s easier to cut and* more buoyant—necessary points as you will see.
“Through each of these lead weights you notice there is a hole, and an iron rod will be run through that and will project six feet on the lowt;r side. If that rod is rammed up from oelow it knocks up a lever and sets the clockwork in motion at the side of the cylinder on which the cord winds.
“Very well. The whole affair is lowered gently into the water, and the slings are cut. The sphere floats—with the air in it, it’s lighter than water ; but the lead weights go down straight and the cord runs out. When the cord is all paid out, the sphere will go down too, pulled down by the cord.”
“But why the cord?” asked Steevens. “Why not fasten the weights directly to the sphere?”
“Because of the smash down below. The whole affair will go rushing down, mile after mile, at a headlong paee at last. It would be knocked to pieces on the bottom if it wasn’t for that cord. But the weights will hit the bottom, and directly they do the buoyancy of the sphere will come into play. ‘.It will go on sinking slower and slower; come to a stop at last and then begin to float upward again.
“That’s where the clockwork comes in Directly the weights smash against the sea bottom, the rod will be knocked through and will lick up the clockwork, and the cord will b® rewound on the reel. I shall be lugged down to the sea bottom. There I shall stay for half an hour, with the electric light on, looking about me. Then the clockwork will release a spring knife, the cord will be cut, and upvI shall rush again, like a soda-water bubble. The cord itself will help the flotation.”
“And if you should chance to hit a ship?” said Weybridge.
“I should come up at such a pace, I should go clean through it,” said Elstead, “like a cannon ball. You needn’t woriy about that.”
“And suppose some nimble crustacean should wiggle into your clockwork-”
“It would be a pressing sort of invitation for me to stop,” said Elstead turning his back oa thé water and staring at the sphere.
THEY had swung Elstead overboard by eleven o’clock. The day was serenely bright and calm, with the horizon lost in haze. The electric glare in the little upper compartment beamed cheerfully three times: Then they let him
down slowly to the surface of the water, an<L a. sailor in the stern chains hung ready to cut the tackle that held the lead weights and the sphere together. The globe, which had looked so large on deck, looked the smallest thing conceivable under the stern of the ship. It rolled a little, and its two dark windows. which floated uppermost, sejemed 'ike eyes turned up in round wonderment at the people who crowded the rail. A voice wondered how Elstead Tiked the rolling. “Are you ready?” sang out the Commander. “Aye, aye. sir!” “Then let her go!”
The rope of the tackle tightened against the blade and was cut, and an eddy rolled over the globe in a grotesquely helpless fashion. Some one waved a handkerchief, some one else tried an ineffectual cheer, a middy was counting slowly “Eight, niite, ten!” Another roll, then with a jerk and -a splash the tning righted itself.
It seemed to be eta tionary for a moment to grow rapidly smaller. and then the water closed over it, ami it became visible, enlarged by refraction and dimmer, below the surface. Before one could count three it na<i disappeared. There was a bicker of white tignt fp duw*, m th* water, that diminished toa speck and vanished.
Then there was nothing but a depth of water going down into blackness, through which a shark was swimming.
' I 'HEN suddenly the screw of the rrui*■ ser began to rotate, the water was crickled, the shark disappeared in a wrinkled confusion, and a torrent of foam rushed across the crystalline clearness that had swallowed up Elstead. “What’s the idea?” said one A. B. to another.
“We’re gping to lay off a couple of miles, ’fear he should hit us when he comes up,” said his mate.
The .«hip steamed slowly to her new position. Aboard her almost every one who was unoccupied remained watching the breathing swell into which the sphere had sunk. For the next hour it is doubtful if a word was spoken.that did not bear directly or indirectly on Elstead. The
December sun was now high in the sky, and the heat very considerable.
“He’ll be cold enough down there,” said Weybridge. “They say that below a certain depth sea-water’s always just about freezing.”
“Where’ll he come up?” asked Steevens. “I’ve lost my bearings.”
“That’s the spot,” said the Commander, who prided himself on his omniscience.
He extended a precise finger south-eastward “Ami tins, f reckon, is pretty nearly the moment,” he said. “He’s been thirty-five minutes."
“Then he’s overdue,” said Weybridge. “Pretty nearly,”-said the Commander. “I suppose it tçkes a few minutes foi that cord of his to wind in.”
“I forgot that,” said Weybridge, evidently relieved.
A ND THEN began the suspense. A minute slowly dragged itself out, and no sphere shot out of the water. Another followed, and nothing broke the low oilv swell. The sailors explained to one another that little point about the winding-in of the cord. The rigging was dotted with expectant faces. “Come up.
Elstead!” called one hairy-chested sait, impatiently, and the others caught it up, and shouted aa though they were waiting for the curtain of a theatre to rise.
The Commander glanced irritably at them.
“Of course, if the acceleration’s less than two,” he said, “he’ll be all the longer. We aren’t absolutely certain that was the proper figure. I’m no slavish believer in calculations.” Steevens agreed concisely. No one on the quarter-deck spoke for a couple of minutes. Then Steevens’ watch-case clicked.
TXT' HEN, twenty’’’’ one . minutes after, the sun reached its zenith, they were still waiting for the globe to re-appear, and not a man aboard that dared to whisper that hope was dead. It was Weybridge who first gave expression to that realization. He spoke while the sound of eight bells still hung in the air. “I always distrusted that window,” he said quite suddenly to Steevens.
“Good God!” said Steevens. “You don’t'
“Well!” said Weybridge, and left the rest to his imagination.
“I’m no great believer in calculations myself,” said the Commander, dubiously, “so that I’m not altogether hopeless yet.” And at midnight the gunboat was steaming slowly in a spiral round the spot where the globe had sunk, and the white beam of the electric light fled and halted and swept discontentedly onward again over the waste o f phosphorescent water under the little stars.
"1 f h i s window hasn't burst and
smashed him," said Weybridge, “then it’s a cursed sight worse, for his clockwork has gone wrong and he’s alive now, five miles under our feet, down there in the cold and dark, anchored in that little bubble of his, where never a ray of light has shone or a human being lived, since the waters were gathered together. He’s there without food, feeling hungry and thirsty and
scared, wondering whether he’ll starve
or stifle. Which will it be? The Myer’s
apparatus is running out, I suppose. How long do they last?”
“Good Heavens !” he exclaimed. “What little things we are! What daring little devils! Down there, miles and miles of water — all water, and all this empty water about us and this sky. Gulfs!”
He threw his hands out, and as he did so a little white streak swept
noiselessly up the sky, travelling more slowly, stopped, became a motionless dot as though a new star had fallen up into the sky. Then it went sliding back again and lost itself amidst the reflections of the stars, and the white haze of the sea’s phos phorescence.
At the sight he stopped, arm extended and mouth open. He shut his mouth, opened it again and wavpd his arms with an impatient gesture. Then he turned, shouted, “El-stead ahoy,” to the first watch, and went at a run to Lindley and the searchlight. ’
“I saw him,” he said. “Starboard there! His light’s on and he’s just shot out of the water. Bring the light round. We ought to see him drifting, when he lifts on the swell.”
But they never picked up the explorer until dawn. Then they almost ihn him down. The crane was swung out and a boat’s crew hooked the chain to the sphere. When they had shipped the sphere they unscrewed the manhole and peered into the darkness of the interior (for the electric light chamber Was intended to illuminate the water about the sphere, and was shut off entirely from its general cavity).
The air was very hot within the cavity, and the india-rubber at the lip of the manhole was soft. There was no answer to their eager questions and no sound of movement within. Elstead seemed to be lying motionless, crumpled up in the bottom of the globe. The^ ship’s doctor crawled in and lifted him out to the men outside. For a moment or so they did not know whether Elstead was alive or dead. His face, in the yellow glow of the -ship’s lamps, glistened with perspiration. They carried him down to his own cabin.
He was not dead they found, but in a state of absolute nervous collapse, and besides cruelly bruised. For some days he had to lie perfectly still. It was a week before he could tell his experiences.
Almost his first words were that he was going down again. The sphere would have to be altered, he said, in order to allow him to throw off the cord if need be, and that was all. He had had the most marvellous experience. “You thought I should find nothing but ooze,” he said. “You laughed at my explorations, and I’ve discovered a new' world!”
He told his story m disconnected fragments, and chiefly from the wrong end, so that it is impossible to re-tell it in his words. But what follows is the narrative of his experience.
IT BEGAN atrociously, he said* Before the cord ran out the thing kept rblling over. He felt like a frog in a football. He could see nothing but the crane and the sky overhead, with an occasional glimpse of the people on the ship’s rail. He couldn’t tell a bit w’hich way the thing would roll next. Suddenly he would find his feet going up and try to step, and over he went rolling, head over heels and just anyhow on the padding. Any other 9hape would have been more comfortable, but no other shape was to be relied upon under the huge pressure of the nethermost abyss.
Suddenly the swaying ceased; the globe righted, and when he had picked himself up, he saw the water all about him greenyblue With an attenuated light filtering down from above, and a shoal of little floating things went rushing up past him, as it seemed to him, towards the light.
And even as he looked it grew darker and darker, until the water above was as dark as the midnight sky, albeit of a greener shade, and the water black. And little -transparent things in the water developed a faint glint of luminosity, and shot past him in faint greenish streaks.
And the feeling of falling! It was just like the start of a lift, he said, only it kept on. One has to imagine what that means, that keeping on. It was then of all times that Elstead repented of his adventure. '
He saw the chances against him in an altogether new light. He thought of the big cuttle-fish people knew to exist in the middle waters, the kind of things they find half-digested in whiles at times, or floating dead and rotten and half eaten by fish. Suppose one caught hold and wouldn’t leave go. And had the clockwork really been sufficiently tested? But whether he wanted to go on or go back mattered not the slightest now.
T N FIFTY seconds everything was as black as night outside, except where the beam from his light struck through the waters, and picked out every how and then some fish or scrap of sinking matter.
They flashed by too fast for him to see /
what they were. Once he thought passed a shark. And then the sphere
began to get hot by friction against the water. They had under-estimated this, it seems.
The first thing he noticed was that he was perspiring, and then he heard a hissing, growing louder, under his feet, and saw a lot of little bubbles—very little bubbles they were—rushing upward like a fan through the water outside. Steam! He felt the window and it was hot. He turned on the minute glow lamp that lit his own cavity, looked at the padded watch by the studs, and saw he had been travelling now for two minutes. It came into his head that the window would crack through the conflict of temperatures, for he knew the bottom water was very near freezing.
Then suddenly the floor of the sphere seemed to press against his feet, the rush of bubbles outside grew slower and slower and the hissing diminished. The sphere rolled a little. The window had not cracked, nothing had given, and he knew that the dangers of sinking, at any rate, were over.
In another minute or so, he would be on the floor of the abyss. He thought, he said, of Steevens and Weybridge and the rest of them five miles overhead, higher to him than the very highest clouds that ever floated over land are to us, steaming slowly and staring down and wondering what had happened to him.
L_T E PEERED out of the window. *■ There were no more bubbles now, and the hissing had stoped. Outside there was a heavy blackness—as black as black velvet — except where hhe electric light pierced the empty water and showed the color of it—a yeHow green. Then three things like shapes of fire swam into sight, following each other through the water. Whether they were little and near, or big and far off, he could not tell.
Each was outlined in a bluish light almost as bright as the lights of a fishingsmack, a light which seemd to be smoking greatly, and all along the sides of them were speck» of this, like the lighted portholes of a ship. Their phosphorescence seemed to go out as they came into
the radiance of his lamp, and he saw then that'they were indeed fish of some strange sort, with huge heads, vast eyes, and dwindling bodies and tails. Their eyes were turned towards him, and he judged they were following him down. He aupposed they were attracted by his glare.
Presently others of the same sort joined them. As he went on down he noticed . that the water became of a pallid color, and that little specks twinkled in his ray like motes in sunbeam. This was probably due to the clouds of ooze and mud that the impact of his leaden sinkers had disturbed.
By the time he was drawn down to the lead weights he was in a dense fog of white that his electric light failed altogether to pierce more than a few yards, and many minutes elapsed before the hanging sheets of sediment subsided to any extent. Thçn, lit by his light and by the transient phosphorescence of a distant shoal of fishes, he was able to see under the huge blackness of the superincumbent water an undulating expanse of greyish-white ooze, broken here and there by tangled thickets of a growth of sea lilies, waving hungry tentacles in the air.
/ he-^t'ARTHER away were the graceful translucent outlines of a group of gi-
gantic spones. About ihis floor there were scattered a number c-f bristling flattish tufts of richpurple and black, which he decided must be some sort of sea-urchin, and small, large-eyed or blind things, having a curious resemblance, some to woodlice, and others to lobsters, crawled sluggishly across the track of the light and vanished into the obscurity again, leaving furrowed trails behind them.
Then suddenly the hovering swarm of little fishes veered aliout and came towards him as a flight of starlings might do. They passed ove:* him like a phosphorescent snow, and i;hen he saw behind them some larger creature advancing towards the sphere.
At first he could s«« it only dimly, a faintly moving figure remotely suggestive of a walking man, and then it came into the spray of light that the lamp shot out. As the glare struck it, it shut its eyes, dazzled. He stared in a rigid astonishment.
J T WAS a strange, vertebrated animal. * Its dark purple head was dimly suggestive of a chameleon, but it had such a high forehead and such a brain-case as no reptile ever displayed before; the vertical pitch of his face gave it a most extraordinary resemblance to a human being.
Two large and protruding eyes projected from sockets in chameleon fashion, and it had a broad reptilian mouth with horny lips beneath its little nostrils. In the position of the ears were two huge gill covers, and out of these floated a branching tree of coralline filaments, almost like the tree-like gills that very young sharks possess.
But the humanity of the face was not the most extraordinary thing about the creature. It was a biped, its almost globular body w*as poised on a tripod of two frog-like legs and a long thick tail, and its fore limbs, which grotesquely caricatured the human hand much as a frog’s do. carried a long shaft of bone, tipped with copper. The color of the creature was variegated; its head, hands, and legs
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were purple but its skin, which hung loosely upon it, even a9 clothes might do, was a phosphorescent grey. And it stood there, blinded by the light.
At last this unknown creature of the abyss blinked; its eyes open, and, shading them with itk disengaged hand, opened its mouth and gave vent to a shouting noise, articulate almost as speech might be, that penetrated even the steel case and padded jacket of the sphere. How a shouting may be accomplished without lungs Elsteaddocs not profess to explain. It then moved sideways out of the glare into the mystery of shadow that bordered it on either side, and Elstead felt rather than saw that it was coming towards him. Fancying the light had attracted it, he turned the switch that cut off the current. In another moment something soft dabbled upon the steel, and the globe äwayed.
Then the shputing was repeated, and it seemed to him ¡that a distant ycho answered it. The dabbing recurred, and the globe swayed and ground against the spindle over which the wire was rolled. He stood in the blackness, and peered out into the everlasting night of the abyss. And presently he saw, very faint and remote, other phosporescont quasi-human forms hurrying towards him.
HARDLY knowing what he did, he felt about in his swaying prison for the stud of the exterior electric light, and came by accident against hi9 own small glow lamp in jits padded recess. The sphere twisted,land then threw him down ; he heard shoufs like shouts of surprise, and when he rbse to his feet he saw two pairs of stary eyes peering into the lower window and reflecting his light.
In another moment hands were dabbing vigorously at his steel casing, and there was a sound, hbrrible enough in his position, of the metal protection of the clockwork being vigorously hammered. That, indeed* sent his heart into his mouth, for if these strange creatures succeeded in stopping that hÿs relea» would never occur. Scarcely ¡had he thought as much when he felt the sphere sway violently, and the floor of! it pre» hard against his feet. He turned off the glow lamp that lit the interior,', and »nt the ray' of the large light in the »parate compartment out into the water. The sea floor and the man-like creatures had disappeared, and a couple of fish chasing each other dropped suddenly by the window.
He thought at once that these strange denizens of the ¡deep »a had broken the wire rope, and that he had escaped. He drove up faster and faster, and then stopped with a jerk that sent him flying against the padded roof of his prison. For half a miriute perhaps he was too astonished to think.
Then he felt that the sphere was spinning slowly, and; rocking, and it »emed to him that it was also being drawn through the water. By! crouching clo» to the window he managed to make his weight effective and roll that part of the sphere downward, but he could see nothing save the pale' ray of ’his light striking down ineffectively into the darknes. It occurred to him that jhe would see more if he
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turned the lamp off and allowed his eyes to grow accustomed to the profound obI scurity.
T N THIS he was wise. After some min* utes the velvety blackness became a translucent blackness, and then far away, and as faint as the zodiacal light of an English summer evening, he saw shapes moving below. He judged these creatures had detached his cable and were towing him along the sea bottom.
And then he saw something faint and remote across the undulations of the submarine plain, a broad horizon of pale luminosity that extended this way and j that way as far as the range of his little j window permitted hirn to see. To this he j was being towed, as a ballon might be j towed by men out of the open country i into a town. He approached it very slowJ ly, and very slowly the dim irradiation j was gathered together into more definite j shapes.
It was nearly five o’clock before he came i over this luminous area, and by that' time he could make out an arrangement sug: gwtive of streets and houses grouped about as a vast roofless erection that was j grotesquely suggestive of a ruined abbey, j It was spread out like a map below him. ¡ The houses were all roofless inclosures of walls, and their substance being, as he I afterwards saw, of phosphorescent bones, j gave the place an appearance as if it ‘ were built of drowned moonshine. . !
Among the inner caves of the place ; waving trees of crinoid stretched their tentacles, and tall, slender, glassy sponges
shot like shining minarets and lilies of I filmy light out of the general glow of the ! city. In the open spaces of the place he could see a stirring movement as of crowds of people, but he was too many i fathoms above them to distinguish the 1 individuals in those crowds.
THEN slowly they pulled him down, and as they did so the details of the 1 place crept slowly upon his apprehension.
1 He saw that the courses of the cloudy buildings were marked out with beaded lines of round objects, and then he per; ceived that at several points below him in i broad open spaces were forms like the i encrusted shapes of ships.
I Slowly and surely he was drawn down.
! and the forms below him became brighter, clearer and more distinct. He was being pulled down, he perceived, towards the large building in the centre of the town, and he could catch a glimpse ever and again of the multitudinous forms that were lugging at his cord. He was astonished to see that the rigging of one of the ships, which formed such a prominent i feature of the place, was crowded with a 1 host of gesticulating figures regarding Í him. and then the walls of the great buildj ing rose about him silently, and hid the ! city from his eÿes.
Ánd such walls they w’ere, of water! logged wood, and twisted wire rope and I iron spars, and copper, and the bones and I skulls of dead men.
1 The skulls ran in curious zig-zag lines and spirals and fantastic curves over the building; and in and out of their eyesockets, and over the whole surface of the place, lurked and played a multitude of silvery little fishes.
And now he was at such a level that he could see these strange people of the abyss plainly once more. To his astonishi ment, he perceived that they wrere prosj trating themselves before him, all save i one. dressed as it seemed in a robe of placoid scales, and crowned with a luminous diadem, w'ho stood with his reptilian mouth opening and shutting as Í though he led the chanting of the worshippers.
They continued worshipping him, without rest or intermission, for the spar® of : three hours.
OST circumstantial was Elstead's account of this astounding city and its people, these people of perpetual night, who have never seen sun or moon or stars, green vegetation, nor any living airbreathing creatures, who know nothing of fire, nor any light but the phosphorescent light of living things.
Startling as is his story, it is yet more startling to find that scientific men, of i such eminence as Adams and Jenkins, find 1 nothing incredible in it. They tell me they see no reason why intelligent, waterbreathing, vertebrated creatures inured to a low temperature and enormous pressure, and of such a heavy structure, that neither alive nor dead would they float, might not live upon the bottom of the deep sea, and quite unsuspected by us, descendants like ourselves of the great Theriomorpha of the New Red Sandstone age.
We should be known to them, however, as strange meteoric creatures wont to fall catastrophically dead out of the mysterious blackness of their watery sky. And not only w’e ourselves, but our ships, our metals, our appliances, would come
raining down out of the night. Sometimes sinking things would smite down and crush them, as if it were the judgment of some unseen power above, and sometimes would come things of the utmost rarity or utility or shapes of in»P ring suggestion. One can understand, p -haps, something of their behaviour at t'r » descent of a living man, of the things a barbaric people might do, to whom an enhaloed shining creature came suddenly out of the sky.
AT ONE time or another Elstead pro^ bably told the officers of the Plantillan every detail of his strange twelve hours in the abyss. That he also intended to write them down is certain, but he never did, and so unhappily we have to piece together the discrepant fragments of his story from the reminiscences of Commander Simmons, Weybridge, Steevens, Lindley and the others.
We see the thing darkly in fragmentary glimpses—the huge ghostly building, the I »owing, chanting people, with their dark, chameleon-like heads and faintly luminous forms, and Elstead, with his lieh» turned on again, vainly trying^, convey to their minds that the cord by whVch the sphere was held was to be severed! Minute after minute slipped away, artd Elstead. looking at his watch, was horrified to find that he Had oxygen only for Tour hours more. But the chant in his honor kept on as remorselessly as if it was the marching song of his approaching death.
The manner of his release he does not understand, but to judge by the end of co-d that hung from the sphere, it had heen cut through by rubbing against the edge of the altar. Abruptly the sphere ro led over, and he swept up, out of their w*''.rid, as an ethereal creature, clothed, in a vacuum, would sweep through our own atmosphere back to its native ether again. He must have torn out of their sight as a hydrogen bubble hastens tipwards from our air. A strange ascension it must have seemed to them.
The sphere rushed up with even greater velocity than, when weighted with the lead sinkers, it had rushed down. It became exceedingly hot. It drove up with the windows uppermost, and he remembers the torrent of bubbles frothing against the glass. Every moment he expected this to fly. Then suddenly something like a huge wheel seemed to be released in his head, the padded compartment began spinning about him, and he fainted. His next recollection was of his cabin, and of the doctor's voice.
But that is the substance of the extraordinary story that Elstead related in fragments to the officers of the Ptanninan.. He promised to write it all down at a later date. His mind was chiefly occupied with the improvement of his apparatus, which was effected at Rio.
It remains only to tell that on February 2nd, 1896, he made his second descent into the ocean abyss, with the improvements his first experience suggested. What happened we shall probably never krow. Hej never returned. The Ptarmi-
« beat about the point of his submersion, seeking him in vain for thirteen days. Then she returned to Rio, and the news was telegraphed to his friends. So the matter remains for the present. But it is hardly probable that any further attempt will be made to verify his strange story of these hitherto unsuspected cities of. the deep sea.