"It is possible—is it not?—for you to imagine a continuous volley of iron balls passing near you in one line, in a horizontal direction, with considerable velocity. Suppose that a pane of glass were to be gradually moved so that a corner of it would be struck by one of the balls; then the entire sheet of glass would be shivered by the concussion, even though the bullet struck but a single spot of glass, the point of contact covering only a small area. Imagine now that the velocity of the volley of bullets be increased a thousand fold; then a plate of glass thrust into their track would be smoothly cut, as though with a file that would gnaw its way without producing a single radiating fracture. A person standing near the volley would now hear a deep purr or growling sound, caused by the friction between the bullets and the air. Increase gradually the rapidity of their motion, and this growl would become more acute, passing from a deep, low murmur, into one less grave, and as the velocity increased, the tone would become sharper, and at last piercingly shrill. Increase now the rapidity of the train of bullets again, and again the notes would decrease in turn, passing back again successively through the several keys that had preceded, and finally would reach the low growl which first struck the ear, and with a further increase of speed silence would ensue, silence evermore, regardless of increasing velocity.(*) From these hundreds of miles in a second at which the volley is now passing, let the rapidity be augmented a thousand times, reaching in their flight into millions of miles each second, and to the eye, from the point where the sound disappeared, as the velocity increased, a dim redness would appear, a glow just perceptible,
indicating to the sense of sight, by a continuous line, the track of the moving missiles. To all appearance, the line would be as uniform as an illuminated pencil mark, even though the several integral bullets of the trail might be separated one from another by miles of space. Let a pane of glass now be thrust across their track, and from the point of contact a shower of sparks would fly, and the edges of glass close to either side of the orifice would be shown, on withdrawing the glass, to have been fused. Conceive now that the velocity of the bullets be doubled and trebled, again and again, the line of red light becomes brighter, then brilliant, and finally as the velocity increases, at a certain point pure white results, and to man's sense the trail would now be a continuous something, as solid as a bar of metal if at a white heat, and (even if the bullets were a thousand miles apart) man could not bring proof of their separate existence to his senses. That portion of a pane of glass or other substance, even steel or adamant, which should cross its track now would simply melt away, the portion excised and carried out of that pathway neither showing itself as scintillations, nor as fragments of matter. The solid would instantly liquefy, and would spread itself as a thin film over the surface of each ball of that white, hot mass of fleeing metal, now to all essential conditions as uniform as a bar of iron. Madly increase the velocity to millions upon millions of miles per second, and the heat will disappear gradually as did the sound, while the bright light will pass backward successively through the primary shades of color that are now known to man, beginning with violet, and ending with red, and as the red fades away the train of bullets will disappear to the sense of man. Neither light nor sound now accompanies the volley, neither the human eye nor the human ear can perceive its presence. Drop a pane of glass or any other object edgewise through it, and it gives to the sense of man no evidence; the molecules of the glass separate from in front to close in from behind, and the moving train passes through it as freely as light, leaving the surface of the glass unaffected."
"Hold," I interrupted; "that would be as one quality of matter passing through another quality of matter without disturbance to either, and it is a law in physics that two substances can not occupy the same space at the same time."
"That law holds good as man understands the subject, but bullets are no longer matter. Motion of mass was first changed into motion of molecules, and motion of molecule became finally augmented into motion of free force entities as the bullets disintegrated into molecular corpuscles, and then were dissociated, atoms resulting. At this last point the sense of vision, and of touch, ceased to be affected by that moving column (neither matter nor force), and at the next jump in velocity the atoms themselves disappeared, and free intangible motion resulted—nothing, vacancy.
"This result is the all-pervading spirit of space (the ether of mankind), as solid as adamant and as mobile as vacuity. If you can reverse the order of this phenomenon, and imagine an irregular retardation of the rapidity of such atomic motion, you can read the story of the formation of the material universe. Follow the chain backward, and with the decrease of velocity, motion becomes tangible matter again, and in accordance with conditions governing the change of motion into matter, from time to time the various elements successively appear. The planets may grow without and within, and ethereal space can generate elemental dirt. If you can conceive of an intermediate condition whereby pure space motion becomes partly tangible, and yet is not gross enough to be earthy matter, you can imagine how such forces as man is acquainted with, light, heat, electricity, magnetism, or gravity even are produced, for these are also disturbances in space motion. It should be easily understood that, according to the same simple principle, other elements and unknown forces as well, now imperceptible to man's limited faculties, could be and are formed outside and inside his field of perception."
"I fear that I can not comprehend all this," I answered.
"So I feared, and perhaps I have given you this lesson too soon, although some time ago you asked me to teach you concerning the assertion that electricity, light, heat, magnetism, and gravity are disturbances, and you said, 'Disturbances of what?' Think the lesson over, and you will perceive that it is easy. Let us hope that the time will come when we will be able to glance beneath the rough, material, earth surface knowledge that man has acquired, and experience the mind expansion that leads, to the blissful insight possessed by superior beings who do not have to contend with the rasping elements that encompass all who dwell upon the surface of the earth."
I pondered over these words, and a vague light, an undefined, inexpressible something that I could not put into words broke into my mind; I inferred that we were destined to meet with persons, or existences, possessed of new senses, of a mind development that man had not reached, and I was on the point of questioning my pilot when the motion of the boat was suspended, land appeared ahead, we drew up to it, and disembarked. Lifting the boat from the water my guide placed it on land at the edge of the motionless lake, and we resumed our journey. The scenery seemed but little changed from that of the latter part of our previous line of travel down the inclined plane of the opposite side of the lake that we had crossed. The direction was still downward after leaving the high ridge that bordered the edge of the lake, the floor of the cavern being usually smooth, although occasionally it was rough and covered with stony debris. The mysterious light grew perceptibly brighter as we progressed, the fog-like halo previously mentioned became less dense, and the ring of obscurity widened rapidly. I could distinctly perceive objects at a great distance. I turned to my companion to ask why this was, and he replied:
"Because we are leaving one of the undiscovered conditions of the upper atmosphere that disturbs the sunlight."
"Do you say that the atmosphere is composed of substances unknown to man?"
"Yes; several of them are gases, and others are qualities of space condition, neither gas, liquid, nor solid. (*) One particularly interferes with light in its passage. It is an entity that is not moved by the motion of the air, and is unequally distributed over the earth's surface. As we ascend above the earth it decreases, so it does as we descend into it. It is not vapor of water, is neither smoke, nor a true gas, and is as yet sensible to man only by its power of modifying the intensity of light. It has no color, is chemically inactive, and yet modifies the sun's rays so as to blot objects from view at a comparatively small distance from a person on the face of the earth. That this fact is known to man is evident from the knowledge he possesses of the difference in the power of his organs of vision at different parts of the earth. His sight is especially acute on the table lands of the Western Territories."
"I have been told," I answered, "that vapor of water causes this obscuration, or absorption, of light."
"Vapor of water, unless in strata of different densities, is absolutely transparent, and presents no obstacle to the passage of light," he said. "When vapor obstructs light it is owing to impurities contained in it, to currents of varying densities, or wave motions, or to a mechanical mixture of condensed water and air, whereby multitudes of tiny globular water surfaces are produced. Pure vapor of water, free from motion, is passive to the sunlight."
"I can scarcely believe that a substance such as you describe, or that any constituent of the air, can have escaped the perception of the chemist," I replied.
In, as I thought, a facetious manner he repeated after me the word "chemist," and continued:
"Have chemists detected the ether of Aristotle, that you have mentioned, and I have defined, which scientists nevertheless accept pervades all space and every description of matter, and that I have told you is really matter itself changed into ultra atomic motion? Have chemists explained why one object is transparent, and another of equal weight and solidity is opaque? Have chemists told you why vermilion is red and indigo is blue (the statement that they respectively reflect these rays of light is not an explanation of the cause for such action)? Have chemists told you why the prism disarranges or distorts sunlight to produce the abnormal hues that men assume compose elementary rays of light? Have chemists explained anything concerning the why or wherefore of the attributes of matter, or force, or even proven that the so-called primary forms of matter, or elements, are not compounds? Upon the contrary, does not the evolution that results in the recorded discoveries of the chemist foretell, or at least indicate, the possible future of the art, and promise that surrounding mysteries are yet to be developed and expanded into open truths, thus elaborating hidden forces; and that other form's of matter and unseen force expressions, are destined to spring into existence as the sciences progress? The chemist of to-day is groping in darkness; he is a novice as compared with the elaborated chemist of the near future; the imperfectly seen of the present, the silent and unsuspected, will become distinctly visible in a time that is to come, and a brightening of the intellect by these successively upward steps, up stairs of science, will, if science serves herself best, broaden the mind and give power to the imagination, resulting finally in"—
"Go on," I said.
"The passage of mortal man, with the faculties of man intact, into communion with the spirit world."
218:* A scientific critic seems to think that the shrill cry would cease instantly and not gradually. However, science has been at fault more than once, and I do not care to take liberties with this statement.—J. U. L.
221:* This has since been partly supported by the discovery of the element Argon. However, the statement has been recorded many years. Miss Ella Burbige, stenographer, Newport, Ky., copied the original in 1887; Mr. S. D. Rouse, attorney, Covington, Ky., read it in 1889; Mr. Russell Errett, editor of the Christian Standard, in 1890, and Mr. H. C. Meader, President of the American Ticket Brokers’ Association, in 1892. It seems proper to make this explanation in order to absolve the author from any charge of plagiarism, for each of these persons will recall distinctly this improbable [then] assertion.—J. U. L.