"Please continue, I am intensely interested; I wish that I could give you my reasons for the desire; I can not do so, but I beg you to continue."
"I should add," continued Vaughn, ignoring my remarks, "that we have established rules to measure the force of gravitation, and have estimated the decrease of attraction as we leave the surfaces of the planets. We have made comparative estimates of the weight of the earth and planets, and have reason to believe that the force expression of gravitation attains a maximum at about one-sixth the distance toward the center of the earth, then decreases, until at the very center of our planet, matter has no weight. This, together with the rule I repeated a few moments ago, is about all we know, or think we know, of gravitation. Gravitation is the beginning and gravitation is the end; all earthly bodies kneel to gravitation. I can not imagine a Beyond, and yet gravitation," mused the rapt philosopher, "may also be an expression of"—he hesitated again, forgetting me completely, and leaned his shaggy head upon his hands. I realized that his mind was lost in conjecture, and that he was absorbed in the mysteries of the scientific immensity. Would he speak again? I could not think of disturbing his reverie, and minutes passed in silence. Then he slowly, softly, reverently murmured: "Gravitation, Gravitation, thou art seemingly the one permanent, ever present earth-bound expression of Omnipotence. Heat and light come and go, as vapors of water condense into rain and dissolve into vapor to return again to the atmosphere. Electricity and magnetism appear and disappear; like summer storms they move in diversified channels, or even turn and fly from contact with some bodies, seemingly forbidden to appear, but thou, Gravitation, art omnipresent and omnipotent. Thou createst motion, and yet maintainest the equilibrium of all things mundane and celestial. An attempt to imagine a body destitute of thy potency, would be to bankrupt and deaden the material universe. O! Gravitation, art thou a voice out of the Beyond, and are other forces but echoes—tremulous reverberations that start into life to vibrate for a spell and die in the space caverns of the universe while thou continuest supreme?"
His bowed head and rounded shoulders stooped yet lower; he unconsciously brushed his shaggy locks with his hand, and seemed to confer with a familiar Being whom others could not see.
"A voice from without," he repeated; " from beyond our realm! Shall the subtle ears of future scientists catch yet lighter echoes? Will the brighter thoughts of more gifted men, under such furtherings as the future may bring, perchance commune with beings who people immensity, distance disappearing before thy ever-reaching spirit? For with thee, who holdest the universe together, space is not space, and there is no word expressing time. Art thou a voice that carriest the history of the past from the past unto and into the present, and for which there is no future, all conditions of time being as one to thee, thy self covering all and connecting all together? Art thou, Gravitation, a voice? If so, there must be a something farther out in those fathomless caverns, beyond mind imaginings, from which thou comest, for how could nothingness have formulated itself into a voice? The suns and universe of suns about us, may be only vacant points in the depths of an all-pervading entity in which even thyself dost exist as a momentary echo, linked to substances ponderous, destined to fade away in the interstellar expanse outside, where disturbances disappear, and matter and gravitation together die; where all is pure, quiescent, peaceful and dark. Gravitation, Gravitation, imperishable Gravitation; thou seemingly art the ever-pervading, unalterable, but yet moving spirit of a cosmos of solemn mysteries. Art thou now, in unperceived force expressions, speaking to dumb humanity of other universes; of suns and vortices of suns; bringing tidings from the solar planets, or even infinitely distant star mists, the silent unresolved nebulae, and spreading before earth-bound mortal minds, each instant, fresh tidings from without, that, in ignorance, we can not read? May not beings, perhaps like ourselves but higher in the scale of intelligence, those who people some of the planets about us, even now beckon and try to converse with us through thy subtle, ever-present self? And may not their efforts at communication fail because of our ignorance of a language they can read? Are not light and heat, electricity and magnetism plodding, vacillating agents compared with thy steady existence, and is it even further possible?"—
His voice had gradually lowered, and now it became inaudible; he was oblivious to my presence, and had gone forth from his own self; he was lost in matters celestial, and abstractedly continued unintelligibly to mutter to himself as, brushing his hair from his forehead, he picked up his well-worn felt hat, and placed it awkwardly on his shaggy head, and then shuffled away without bidding me farewell. The bent form, prematurely shattered by privation; uncouth, unkempt, typical of suffering and neglect, impressed me with the fact that in him man's life essence, the immortal mind, had forgotten the material part of man. The physical half of man, even of his own being, in Daniel Vaughn's estimation, was an encumbrance unworthy of serious attention, his spirit communed with the pure in nature, and to him science was a study of the great Beyond.
I embraced the first opportunity that presented itself to read the works that Prof. Vaughn suggested, and sought him more than once to question further. However, he would not commit himself in regard to the possible existence of other forces than those with which we are acquainted, and when I interrogated him as to possibilities in the study of obscure force expressions, he declined to express an opinion concerning the subject. Indeed, I fancied that he believed it probable, or at least not impossible, that a closer acquaintance with conditions of matter and energy might be the heirloom of future scientific students. At last I gave up the subject, convinced that all the information I was able to obtain from other persons whom I questioned, and whose answers were prompt and positive, was evolved largely from ignorance and self-conceit, and such information was insufficient to satisfy my understanding, or to command my attention. After hearing Vaughn, all other voices sounded empty.
I therefore applied myself to my daily tasks, and awaited the promised return of the interesting, though inscrutable being whose subterranean sojourneying was possibly fraught with so much potential value to science and to man.
160:* Mr. Drury can not claim to have recorded verbatim Prof. Vaughn's remarks, but has endeavored to give the substance. His language was faultless, his word selections beautiful, his soliloquy impressive beyond description. Perhaps Drury even misstated an idea, or more than one, evolved then by the great mind of that patient man. Prof. Daniel Vaughn was fitted for a scientific throne, a position of the highest honor; but, neglected by man, proud as a king, he bore uncomplainingly privations most bitter, and suffered alone until finally he died from starvation and neglect in the city of his adoption. Some persons are ready to cry, "Shame! Shame!" at wealthy Cincinnati; others assert that men could not give to Daniel Vaughn, and since the first edition of Etidorhpa appeared, the undersigned has learned of one vain attempt to serve the interests of this peculiar man. He would not beg, and knowing his capacities, if he could not procure a position in which to earn a living, he preferred to starve. The only bitterness of his nature, it is said, went out against those who, in his opinion, kept from him such employment as returns a livelihood to scientific men; for he well knew his intellect earned for him such a right in Cincinnati. will the spirit of that great man, talented Daniel Vaughn, bear malice against the people of the city in which none who knew him will deny that he perished from cold and privation? Commemorated is he not by a bust of bronze that distorts the facts in that the garments are not seedy and unkempt, the figure stooping, the cheek hollow and the eye pitifully expressive of an empty stomach? That bust modestly rests in the public library he loved so well, in which he suffered so uncomplainingly, and starved so patiently. J. U. L.