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Title: My Terminal Moraine - 1892
Author: Stockton, Frank Richard
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "My Terminal Moraine - 1892" ***

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MY TERMINAL MORAINE

By Frank E. Stockton

Copyright, 1892, by P. F. Collier


A man’s birth is generally considered the most important event of his
existence, but I truly think that what I am about to relate was more
important to me than my entrance into this world; because, had not these
things happened, I am of the opinion that my life would have been of no
value to me and my birth a misfortune.

My father, Joshua Cuthbert, died soon after I came to my majority,
leaving me what he had considered a comfortable property. This consisted
of a large house and some forty acres of land, nearly the whole of which
lay upon a bluff, which upon three sides descended to a little valley,
through which ran a gentle stream. I had no brothers or sisters. My
mother died when I was a boy, and I, Walter Cuthbert, was left the sole
representative of my immediate family.

My estate had been a comfortable one to my father, because his income
from the practice of his profession as a physician enabled him to keep
it up and provide satisfactorily for himself and me. I had no profession
and but a very small income, the result of a few investments my father
had made. Left to myself, I felt no inducement to take up any profession
or business. My wants were simple, and for a few years I lived without
experiencing any inconvenience from the economies which I was obliged
to practice. My books, my dog, my gun and my rod made life pass very
pleasantly to me, and the subject of an increase of income never
disturbed my mind.

But as time passed on the paternal home began to present an air of
neglect and even dilapidation, which occasionally attracted my attention
and caused, as I incidentally discovered, a great deal of unfavorable
comment among my neighbors, who thought that I should go to work and
at least earn money enough to put the house and grounds in a condition
which should not be unworthy the memory of the good Dr. Cuthbert. In
fact, I began to be looked upon as a shiftless young man; and, now and
then, I found a person old enough and bold enough to tell me so.

But, instead of endeavoring to find some suitable occupation by which I
might better my condition and improve my estate, I fell in love, which,
in the opinion of my neighbors, was the very worst thing that could have
happened to me at this time. I lived in a thrifty region, and for a man
who could not support himself to think of taking upon him the support of
a wife, especially such a wife as Agnes Havelot would be, was considered
more than folly and looked upon as a crime. Everybody knew that I was in
love with Miss Havelot, for I went to court her as boldly as I went to
fish or shoot. There was a good deal of talk about it, and this finally
came to the ears of Mr. Havelot, my lady’s father, who, thereupon,
promptly ordered her to have no more to do with me.

The Havelot estate, which adjoined mine, was a very large one,
containing hundreds and hundreds of acres; and the Havelots were rich,
rich enough to frighten any poor young man of marrying intent. But I
did not appreciate the fact that I was a poor young man. I had never
troubled my head about money as it regarded myself, and I now did not
trouble my head about it as it regarded Agnes. I loved her, I hoped she
loved me, and all other considerations were thrown aside. Mr. Havelot,
however, was a man of a different way of thinking.

It was a little time before I became convinced that the decision of
Agnes’s father, that there should be no communication between that dear
girl and myself, really meant anything. I had never been subjected to
restrictions, and I did not understand how people of spirit could submit
to them; but I was made to understand it when Mr. Havelot, finding me
wandering about his grounds, very forcibly assured me that if I should
make my appearance there again, or if he discovered any attempt on my
part to communicate with his daughter in any way, he would send her from
home. He concluded the very brief interview by stating that if I had any
real regard for his daughter’s happiness I would cease attentions which
would meet with the most decided disapprobation from her only surviving
parent and which would result in exiling her from home, I begged for one
more interview with Miss Havelot, and if it had been granted I should
have assured her of the state of my affections, no matter if there were
reasons to suppose that I would never see her again; but her father very
sternly forbade anything of the kind, and I went away crushed.

It was a very hard case, for if I played the part of a bold lover and
tried to see Agnes without regard to the wicked orders of her father,
I should certainly be discovered; and then it would be not only myself,
but the poor girl, who would suffer. So I determined that I would submit
to the Havelot decree. No matter if I never saw her again, never heard
the sound of her voice, it would be better to have her near me, to have
her breathe the same air, cast up her eyes at the same sky, listen to
the same birds, that I breathed, looked at and listened to, than to have
her far away, probably in Kentucky, where I knew she had relatives,
and where the grass was blue and the sky probably green, or at any
rate would appear so to her if in the least degree she felt as I did in
regard to the ties of home and the affinities between the sexes.

I now found myself in a most doleful and even desperate condition of
mind. There was nothing in the world which I could have for which I
cared. Hunting, fishing, and the rambles through woods and fields
that had once been so delightful to me now became tasks which I seldom
undertook. The only occupation in which I felt the slightest interest
was that of sitting in a tower of my house with a telescope, endeavoring
to see my Agnes on some portion of her father’s grounds; but, although I
diligently directed my glass at the slightest stretch of lawn or bit
of path which I could discern through openings in the foliage, I never
caught sight of her. I knew, however, by means of daily questions
addressed to my cook, whose daughter was a servant in the Havelot
house, that Agnes was yet at home. For that reason I remained at home.
Otherwise, I should have become a wanderer.

About a month after I had fallen into this most unhappy state an old
friend came to see me. We had been school-fellows, but he differed from
me in almost every respect. He was full of ambition and energy, and,
although he was but a few years older than myself, he had already made
a name in the world. He was a geologist, earnest and enthusiastic in his
studies and his investigations. He told me frankly that the object of
his visit was twofold. In the first place, he wanted to see me, and,
secondly, he wanted to make some geological examinations on my grounds,
which were situated, as he informed me, upon a terminal moraine,
a formation which he had not yet had an opportunity of practically
investigating.

I had not known that I lived on a moraine, and now that I knew it, I did
not care. But Tom Burton glowed with high spirits and lively zeal as he
told me how the great bluff on which my house stood, together with the
other hills and wooded terraces which stretched away from it along the
side of the valley, had been formed by the minute fragments of rock and
soil, which, during ages and ages, had been gradually pushed down from
the mountains by a great glacier which once occupied the country to the
northeast of my house. “Why, Walter, my boy,” he cried, “if I had not
read it all in the books I should have known for myself, as soon as
I came here, that there had once been a glacier up there, and as it
gradually moved to the southwest it had made this country what it is.
Have you a stream down there in that dell which I see lies at right
angles with the valley and opens into it?”

“No,” said I; “I wish there were one. The only stream we have flows
along the valley and not on my property.”

Without waiting for me Tom ran down into my dell, pushed his way through
the underbrush to its upper end, and before long came back flushed with
heat and enthusiasm.

“Well, sir,” he said, “that dell was once the bed of a glacial stream,
and you may as well clear it out and plant corn there if you want to,
for there never will be another stream flowing through it until there is
another glacier out in the country beyond. And now I want you to let
me dig about here. I want to find out what sort of stuff the glacier
brought down from the mountains. I will hire a man and will promise you
to fill up all the holes I make.”

I had no objection to my friend’s digging as much as he pleased, and
for three days he busied himself in getting samples of the soil of my
estate. Sometimes I went out and looked at him, and gradually a little
of his earnest ardor infused itself into me, and with some show of
interest I looked into the holes he had made and glanced over the
mineral specimens he showed me.

“Well, Walter,” said he, when he took leave of me, “I am very sorry that
I did not discover that the glacier had raked out the bed of a gold mine
from the mountains up there and brought it down to you, or at any rate,
some valuable iron ore. But I am obliged to say it did not do anything
of the sort. But I can tell you one thing it brought you, and, although
it is not of any great commercial value, I should think you could make
good use of it here on your place. You have one of the finest deposits
of gravel on this bluff that I have met with, and if you were to take
out a lot of it and spread it over your driveways and paths, it would
make it a great deal pleasanter for you to go about here in bad weather
and would wonderfully improve your property. Good roads always give
an idea of thrift and prosperity.” And then he went away with a
valise nearly full of mineral specimens which he assured me were very
interesting.

My interest in geological formations died away as soon as Tom Burton had
departed, but what he said about making gravel roads giving the place an
air of thrift and prosperity had its effect upon my mind. It struck
me that it would be a very good thing if people in the neighborhood,
especially the Havelots, were to perceive on my place some evidences
of thrift and prosperity. Most palpable evidences of unthrift and
inpecuniosity had cut me off from Agnes, and why might it not be that
some signs of improved circumstances would remove, to a degree at least,
the restrictions which had been placed between us? This was but a very
little thing upon which to build hopes; but ever since men and women
have loved they have built grand hopes upon very slight foundations. I
determined to put my roadways in order.

My efforts in this direction were really evidence of anything but
thriftiness, for I could not in the least afford to make my drives
and walks resemble the smooth and beautiful roads which wound over the
Havelot estate, although to do this was my intention, and I set about
the work without loss of time. I took up this occupation with so much
earnestness that it seriously interfered with my observations from the
tower.

I hired two men and set them to work to dig a gravel-pit. They made
excavations at several places, and very soon found what they declared
to be a very fine quality of road-gravel. I ordered them to dig on
until they had taken out what they believed to be enough to cover all
my roads. When this had been done, I would have it properly spread and
rolled. As this promised to be a very good job, the men went to work in
fine spirits and evidently made up their minds that the improvements I
desired would require a vast deal of gravel.

When they had dug a hole so deep that it became difficult to throw up
the gravel from the bottom, I suggested that they should dig at some
other place. But to this they objected, declaring that the gravel was
getting better and better, and it would be well to go on down as long as
the quality continued to be so good. So, at last, they put a ladder into
the pit, one man carrying the gravel up in a hod, while the other
dug it; and when they had gone down so deep that this was no longer
practicable, they rigged up a derrick and windlass and drew up the
gravel in a bucket.

Had I been of a more practical turn of mind I might have perceived that
this method of working made the job a very long and, consequently, to
the laborers, a profitable one; but no such idea entered into my head,
and not noticing whether they were bringing up sand or gravel I allowed
them to proceed.

One morning I went out to the spot where the excavation was being made
and found that the men had built a fire on the ground near the opening
of the pit, and that one of them was bending over it warming himself.
As the month was July this naturally surprised me, and I inquired the
reason for so strange a performance.

“Upon my soul,” said the man, who was rubbing his hands over the blaze,
“I do not wonder you are surprised, but it’s so cold down at the bottom
of that pit that me fingers is almost frosted; and we haven’t struck any
wather neither, which couldn’t be expected, of course, a-diggin’ down
into the hill like this.”

I looked into the hole and found it was very deep. “I think it would be
better to stop digging here,” said I, “and try some other place.”

“I wouldn’t do that just now,” said the other man, who was preparing to
go down in the bucket; “to be sure, it’s a good deal more like a well
than a gravel-pit, but it’s bigger at the top than at the bottom, and
there’s no danger of its cavin’ in, and now that we’ve got everything
rigged up all right, it would be a pity to make a change yet awhile.”

So I let them go on; but the next day when I went out again I found that
they had come to the conclusion that it was time to give up digging in
that hole. They both declared that it almost froze their feet to stand
on the ground where they worked at the bottom of the excavation. The
slow business of drawing up the gravel by means of a bucket and windlass
was, therefore, reluctantly given up. The men now went to work to dig
outward from this pit toward the edge of the bluff which overlooked
my little dell, and gradually made a wide trench, which they deepened
until--and I am afraid to say how long they worked before this was
done--they could walk to the original pit from the level of the dell.
They then deepened the inner end of the trench, wheeling out the gravel
in barrows, until they had made an inclined pathway from the dell to the
bottom of the pit. The wheeling now became difficult, and the men soon
declared that they were sure that they had quite gravel enough.

When they made this announcement, and I had gone into some financial
calculations, I found that I would be obliged to put an end to my
operations, at least for the present, for my available funds were gone,
or would be when I had paid what I owed for the work. The men were
very much disappointed by the sudden ending of this good job, but they
departed, and I was left to gaze upon a vast amount of gravel, of which,
for the present at least, I could not afford to make the slightest use.

The mental despondency which had been somewhat lightened during my
excavating operations now returned, and I became rather more gloomy and
downcast than before. My cook declared that it was of no use to prepare
meals which I never ate, and suggested that it would save money if I
discharged her. As I had not paid her anything for a long time, I did
not see how this would benefit me.

Wandering about one day with my hat pulled down over my eyes and my
hands thrust deep into my pockets, I strolled into the dell and stood
before the wide trench which led to the pit in which I had foolishly
sunk the money which should have supported me for months. I entered this
dismal passage and walked slowly and carefully down the incline until I
reached the bottom of the original pit, where I had never been before.
I stood here looking up and around me and wondering how men could bring
themselves to dig down into such dreary depths simply for the sake of
a few dollars a week, when I involuntarily began to stamp my feet. They
were very cold, although I had not been there more than a minute. I
wondered at this and took up some of the loose gravel in my hand. It was
quite dry, but it chilled my fingers. I did not understand it, and I did
not try to, but walked up the trench and around into the dell, thinking
of Agnes.

I was very fond of milk, which, indeed, was almost the only food I now
cared for, and I was consequently much disappointed at my noonday meal
when I found that the milk had soured and was not fit to drink.

“You see, sir,” said Susan, “ice is very scarce and dear, and we can not
afford to buy much of it. There was no f reezin’ weather last winter,
and the price has gone up as high as the thermometer, sir, and so,
between the two of ‘em, I can’t keep things from spoilin’.”

The idea now came to me that if Susan would take the milk, and anything
else she wished to keep cool in this hot weather, to the bottom of the
gravel-pit, she would find the temperature there cold enough to preserve
them without ice, and I told her so.

The next morning Susan came to me with a pleased countenance and said,
“I put the butter and the milk in that pit last night, and the butter’s
just as hard and the milk’s as sweet as if it had been kept in an
ice-house. But the place is as cold as an ice-house, sir, and unless I
am mistaken, there’s ice in it. Anyway, what do you call that?” And she
took from a little basket a piece of grayish ice as large as my fist.
“When I found it was so cold down there, sir,” she said, “I thought
I would dig a little myself and see what made it so; and I took a
fire-shovel and hatchet, and, when I had scraped away some of the
gravel, I came to something hard and chopped off this piece of it, which
is real ice, sir, or I know nothing about it. Perhaps there used to be
an ice-house there, and you might get some of it if you dug, though
why anybody should put it down so deep and then cover it up, I’m sure I
don’t know. But as long as there’s any there, I think we should get it
out, even if there’s only a little of it; for I can not take everything
down to that pit, and we might as well have it in the refrigerator.”

This seemed to me like very good sense, and if I had had a man I should
have ordered him to go down to the pit and dig up any lumps of ice
he might find and bring them to the house. But I had no man, and I
therefore became impressed with the opinion that if I did not want to
drink sour milk for the rest of the summer, it might be a good thing for
me to go down there and dig out some of the ice myself. So with pickaxe
and shovel I went to the bottom of the pit and set myself to work.

A few inches below the surface I found that my shovel struck something
hard, and, clearing away the gravel from this for two or three square
feet, I looked down upon a solid mass of ice. It was dirty and begrimed,
but it was truly ice. With my pick I detached some large pieces of it.
These, with some discomfort, I carried out into the dell where Susan
might come with her basket and get them.

For several days Susan and I took out ice from the pit, and then I
thought that perhaps Tom Burton might feel some interest in this frozen
deposit in my terminal moraine, and so I wrote to him about it. He did
not answer my letter, but instead arrived himself the next afternoon.

“Ice at the bottom of a gravel-pit,” said he, “is a thing I never heard
of. Will you lend me a spade and a pickaxe?”

When Tom came out of that pit--it was too cold a place for me to go with
him and watch his proceedings--I saw him come running toward the house.

“Walter,” he shouted, “we must hire all the men we can find and dig,
dig, dig. If I am not mistaken something has happened on your place that
is wonderful almost beyond belief. But we must not stop to talk. We must
dig, dig, dig; dig all day and dig all night. Don’t think of the cost.
I’ll attend to that. I’ll get the money. What we must do is to find men
and set them to work.”

“What’s the matter?” said I. “What has happened?”

“I haven’t time to talk about it now; besides I don’t want to, for fear
that I should find that I am mistaken. But get on your hat, my dear
fellow, and let’s go over to the town for men.”

The next day there were eight men working under the direction of my
friend Burton, and although they did not work at night as he wished
them to do, they labored steadfastly for ten days or more before Tom was
ready to announce what it was he had hoped to discover, and whether or
not he had found it. For a day or two I watched the workmen from time to
time, but after that I kept away, preferring to await the result of
my friend’s operations. He evidently expected to find something worth
having, and whether he was successful or not, it suited me better to
know the truth all at once and not by degrees.

On the morning of the eleventh day Tom came into the room where I was
reading and sat down near me. His face was pale, his eyes glittering.
“Old friend,” said he, and as he spoke I noticed that his voice was
a little husky, although it was plain enough that his emotion was not
occasioned by bad fortune--“my good old friend, I have found out what
made the bottom of your gravel-pit so uncomfortably cold. You need not
doubt what I am going to tell you, for my excavations have been complete
and thorough enough to make me sure of what I say. Don’t you remember
that I told you that ages ago there was a vast glacier in the country
which stretches from here to the mountains? Well, sir, the foot of that
glacier must have reached further this way than is generally supposed.
At any rate a portion of it did extend in this direction as far as this
bit of the world which is now yours. This end or spur of the glacier,
nearly a quarter of a mile in width, I should say, and pushing before it
a portion of the terminal moraine on which you live, came slowly toward
the valley until suddenly it detached itself from the main glacier and
disappeared from sight. That is to say, my boy”--and as he spoke Tom
sprang to his feet, too excited to sit any longer--“it descended to
the bowels of the earth, at least for a considerable distance in that
direction, Now you want to know how this happened. Well, I’ll tell you.
In this part of the country there are scattered about here and there
great caves. Geologists know one or two of them, and it is certain that
there are others undiscovered. Well, sir, your glacier spur discovered
one of them, and when it had lain over the top of it for an age or two,
and had grown bigger and bigger, and heavier and heavier, it at last
burst through the rock roof of the cave, snapping itself from the
rest of the glacier and falling in one vast mass to the bottom of the
subterranean abyss. Walter, it is there now. The rest of the glacier
came steadily down; the moraines were forced before it; they covered
up this glacier spur, this broken fragment, and by the time the climate
changed and the average of temperature rose above that of the glacial
period, this vast sunken mass of ice was packed away below the surface
of the earth, out of the reach of the action of friction, or heat, or
moisture, or anything else which might destroy it. And through all the
long procession of centuries that broken end of the glacier has been
lying in your terminal moraine. It is there now. It is yours, Walter
Cuthbert. It is an ice-mine. It is wealth, and so far as I can make out,
it is nearly all upon your land. To you is the possession, but to me is
the glory of the discovery. A bit of the glacial period kept in a cave
for us! It is too wonderful to believe! Walter, have you any brandy?”

It may well be supposed that by this time I was thoroughly awakened to
the importance and the amazing character of my friend’s discovery, and
I hurried with him to the scene of operations. There he explained
everything and showed me how, by digging away a portion of the face of
the bluff, he had found that this vast fragment of the glacier,
which had been so miraculously preserved, ended in an irregularly
perpendicular wall, which extended downward he knew not how far, and the
edge of it on its upper side had been touched by my workmen in digging
their pit. “It was the gradual melting of the upper end of this
glacier,” said Tom, “probably more elevated than the lower end, that
made your dell. I wondered why the depression did not extend further up
toward the spot where the foot of the glacier was supposed to have been.
This end of the fragment, being sunk in deeper and afterward covered up
more completely, probably never melted at all.”

“It is amazing--astounding,” said I; “but what of it, now that we have
found it?”

“What of it?” cried Tom, and his whole form trembled as he spoke. “You
have here a source of wealth, of opulence which shall endure for the
rest of your days. Here at your very door, where it can be taken out and
transported with the least possible trouble, is ice enough to supply the
town, the county, yes, I might say, the State, for hundreds of years.
No, sir, I can not go in to supper. I can not eat. I leave to you the
business and practical part of this affair. I go to report upon its
scientific features.”

“Agnes,” exclaimed, as I walked to the house with my hands clasped and
my eyes raised to the sky, “the glacial period has given thee to me!”

This did not immediately follow, although I went that very night to
Mr. Havelot and declared to him that I was now rich enough to marry his
daughter. He laughed at me in a manner which was very annoying, and made
certain remarks which indicated that he thought it probable that it was
not the roof of the cave, but my mind, which had given way under the
influence of undue pressure.

The contemptuous manner in which I had been received aroused within me a
very unusual state of mind. While talking to Mr. Havelot I heard not
far away in some part of the house a voice singing. It was the voice
of Agnes, and I believed she sang so that I could hear her. But as her
sweet tones reached my ear there came to me at the same time the harsh,
contemptuous words of her father. I left the house determined to crush
that man to the earth beneath a superincumbent mass of ice--or the
evidence of the results of the ownership of such a mass--which would
make him groan and weep as he apologized to me for his scornful and
disrespectful utterances and at the same time offered me the hand of his
daughter.

When the discovery of the ice-mine, as it grew to be called, became
generally known, my grounds were crowded by sightseers, and reporters
of newspapers were more plentiful than squirrels. But the latter were
referred to Burton, who would gladly talk to them as long as they could
afford to listen, and I felt myself at last compelled to shut my gates
to the first.

I had offers of capital to develop this novel source of wealth, and I
accepted enough of this assistance to enable me to begin operations on a
moderate scale. It was considered wise not to uncover any portion of the
glacier spur, but to construct an inclined shaft down to its wall-like
end and from this tunnel into the great mass. Immediately the leading
ice company of the neighboring town contracted with me for all the ice I
could furnish, and the flood-gates of affluence began slowly to rise.

The earliest, and certainly one of the greatest, benefits which came
to me from this bequest from the unhistoric past was the new energy and
vigor with which my mind and body were now infused. My old, careless
method of life and my recent melancholy, despairing mood were gone, and
I now began to employ myself upon the main object of my life with an
energy and enthusiasm almost equal to that of my friend, Tom Burton.
This present object of my life was to prepare my home for Agnes.

The great piles of gravel which my men had dug from the well-like pit
were spread upon the roadways and rolled smooth and hard; my lawn was
mowed; my flower-beds and borders put in order; useless bushes and
undergrowth cut out and cleared away; my outbuildings were repaired
and the grounds around my house rapidly assumed their old appearance of
neatness and beauty.

Ice was very scarce that summer, and, as the wagons wound away from the
opening of the shaft which led down to the glacier, carrying their loads
to the nearest railway station, so money came to me; not in large sums
at first, for preparations had not yet been perfected for taking out the
ice in great quantities, but enough to enable me to go on with my work
as rapidly as I could plan it. I set about renovating and brightening
and newly furnishing my house. Whatever I thought that Agnes would
like I bought and put into it. I tried to put myself in her place as I
selected the paper-hangings and the materials with which to cover the
furniture.

Sometimes, while thus employed selecting ornaments or useful articles
for my house, and using as far as was possible the taste and judgment
of another instead of my own, the idea came to me that perhaps Agnes had
never heard of my miraculous good fortune. Certainly her father would
not be likely to inform her, and perhaps she still thought of me, if she
thought at all, as the poor young man from whom she had been obliged to
part because he was poor.

But whether she knew that I was growing rich, or whether she thought I
was becoming poorer and poorer, I thought only of the day when I could
go to her father and tell him that I was able to take his daughter and
place her in a home as beautiful as that in which she now lived, and
maintain her with all the comforts and luxuries which he could give her.

One day I asked my faithful cook, who also acted as my housekeeper and
general supervisor, to assist me in making out a list of china which I
intended to purchase.

“Are you thinking of buying china, sir?” she asked. “We have now quite
as much as we really need.”

“Oh, yes,” said I, “I shall get complete sets of everything that can be
required for a properly furnished household.”

Susan gave a little sigh. “You are spendin’ a lot of money, sir, and
some of it for things that a single gentleman would be likely not to
care very much about; and if you was to take it into your head to travel
and stay away for a year or two, there’s a good many things you’ve
bought that would look shabby when you come back, no matter how careful
I might be in dustin’ ‘em and keepin’ ‘em covered.”

“But I have no idea of traveling,” said I. “There’s no place so pleasant
as this to me.”

Susan was silent for a few moments, and then she said: “I know very well
why you are doing all this, and I feel it my bounden duty to say to you
that there’s a chance of its bein’ no use. I do not speak without good
reason, and I would not do it if I didn’t think that it might make
trouble lighter to you when it comes.”

“What are you talking about, Susan; what do you mean?”

“Well, sir, this is what I mean: It was only last night that my daughter
Jane was in Mr. Havelot’s dining-room after dinner was over, and Mr.
Havelot and a friend of his were sitting there, smoking their cigars and
drinking their coffee. She went in and come out again as she was busy
takin’ away the dishes, and they paid no attention to her, but went on
talkin’ without knowing, most likely, she was there. Mr. Have-lot and
the gentleman were talkin’ about you, and Jane she heard Mr. Havelot say
as plain as anything, and she said she couldn’t be mistaken, that even
if your nonsensical ice-mine proved to be worth anything, he would
never let his daughter marry an ice-man. He spoke most disrespectful of
ice-men, sir, and said that it would make him sick to have a son-in-law
whose business it was to sell ice to butchers, and hotels, and
grog-shops, and pork-packers, and all that sort of people, and that he
would as soon have his daughter marry the man who supplied a hotel with
sausages as the one who supplied it with ice to keep those sausages from
spoiling. You see, sir, Mr. Havelot lives on his property as his father
did before him, and he is a very proud man, with a heart as hard and
cold as that ice down under your land; and it’s borne in on me very
strong, sir, that it would be a bad thing for you to keep on thinkin’
that you are gettin’ this house all ready to bring Miss Havelot to when
you have married her. For if Mr. Havelot keeps on livin’, which there’s
every chance of his doin’, it may be many a weary year before you get
Miss Agnes, if you ever get her. And havin’ said that, sir, I say no
more, and I would not have said this much if I hadn’t felt it my bounden
duty to your father’s son to warn him that most likely he was workin’
for what he might never get, and so keep him from breakin’ his heart
when he found out the truth all of a sudden.”

With that Susan left me, without offering any assistance in making out a
list of china. This was a terrible story; but, after all, it was founded
only upon servants’ gossip. In this country, even proud, rich men like
Mr. Havelot did not have such absurd ideas regarding the source of
wealth. Money is money, and whether it is derived from the ordinary
products of the earth, from which came much of Mr. Havelot’s revenue,
or from an extraordinary project such as my glacier spur, it truly could
not matter so far as concerned the standing in society of its possessor.
What utter absurdity was this which Susan had told me! If I were to go
to Mr. Havelot and tell him that I would not marry his daughter because
he supplied brewers and bakers with the products of his fields, would he
not consider me an idiot? I determined to pay no attention to the idle
tale. But alas! determinations of that sort are often of little avail. I
did pay attention to it, and my spirits drooped.

The tunnel into the glacier spur had now attained considerable length,
and the ice in the interior was found to be of a much finer quality than
that first met with, which was of a grayish hue and somewhat inclined to
crumble. When the workmen reached a grade of ice as good as they could
expect, they began to enlarge the tunnel into a chamber, and from this
they proposed to extend tunnels in various directions after the fashion
of a coal-mine. The ice was hauled out on sledges through the tunnel and
then carried up a wooden railway to the mouth of the shaft.

It was comparatively easy to walk down the shaft and enter the tunnel,
and when it happened that the men were not at work I allowed visitors
to go down and view this wonderful ice-cavern. The walls of the chamber
appeared semi-transparent, and the light of the candles or lanterns gave
the whole scene a weird and beautiful aspect. It was almost possible
to imagine one’s self surrounded by limpid waters, which might at any
moment rush upon him and ingulf him.

Every day or two Tom Burton came with a party of scientific visitors,
and had I chosen to stop the work of taking out ice, admitted the public
and charged a price for admission, I might have made almost as much
money as I at that time derived from the sale of the ice. But such a
method of profit was repugnant to me.

For several days after Susan’s communication to me I worked on in my
various operations, endeavoring to banish from my mind the idle nonsense
she had spoken of; but one of its effects upon me was to make me feel
that I ought not to allow hopes so important to rest upon uncertainties.
So I determined that as soon as my house and grounds should be in a
condition with which I should for the time be satisfied, I would go
boldly to Mr. Havelot, and, casting out of my recollection everything
that Susan had said, invite him to visit me and see for himself the
results of the discovery of which he had spoken with such derisive
contempt. This would be a straightforward and business-like answer to
his foolish objections to me, and I believed that in his heart the old
gentleman would properly appreciate my action.

About this time there came to my place Aaron Boyce, an elderly farmer of
the neighborhood, and, finding me outside, he seized the opportunity to
have a chat with me.

“I tell you what it is, Mr. Cuthbert,” said he, “the people in this
neighborhood hasn’t give you credit for what’s in you. The way you
have fixed up this place, and the short time you have took to do it, is
enough to show us now what sort of a man you are; and I tell you, sir,
we’re proud of you for a neighbor. I don’t believe there’s another
gentleman in this county of your age that could have done what you have
done in so short a time. I expect now you will be thinking of getting
married and startin’ housekeepin’ in a regular fashion. That comes just
as natural as to set hens in the spring. By the way, have you heard that
old Mr. Havelot’s thinkin’ of goin’ abroad? I didn’t believe he would
ever do that again, because he’s gettin’ pretty well on in years, but
old men will do queer things as well as young ones.”

“Going abroad!” I cried. “Does he intend to take his daughter with
him?”

Mr. Aaron Boyce smiled grimly. He was a great old gossip, and he had
already obtained the information he wanted. “Yes,” he said, “I’ve heard
it was on her account he’s going. She’s been kind of weakly lately, they
tell me, and hasn’t took to her food, and the doctors has said that what
she wants is a sea voyage and a change to foreign parts.”

Going abroad! Foreign parts! This was more terrible than anything I had
imagined. I would go to Mr. Havelot that very evening, the only time
which I would be certain to find him at home, and talk to him in a way
which would be sure to bring him to his senses, if he had any. And if
I should find that he had no sense of propriety or justice, no sense of
his duty to his fellow-man and to his offspring, then I would begin a
bold fight for Agnes, a fight which I would not give up until, with her
own lips, she told me that it would be useless. I would follow her to
Kentucky, to Europe, to the uttermost ends of the earth. I could do it
now. The frozen deposits in my terminal moraine would furnish me with
the means. I walked away and left the old farmer standing grinning. No
doubt my improvements and renovations had been the subject of gossip
in the neighborhood, and he had come over to see if he could find out
anything definite in regard to the object of them. He had succeeded, but
he had done more: he had nerved me to instantly begin the conquest of
Agnes, whether by diplomacy or war.

I was so anxious to begin this conquest that I could scarcely wait for
the evening to come. At the noon hour, when the ice-works were deserted,
I walked down the shaft and into the ice-chamber to see what had been
done since my last visit. I decided to insist that operations upon a
larger scale should be immediately begun, in order that I might have
plenty of money with which to carry on my contemplated campaign. Whether
it was one of peace or war, I should want all the money I could get.

I took with me a lantern and went around the chamber, which was now
twenty-five or thirty feet in diameter, examining the new inroads which
had been made upon its walls. There was a tunnel commenced opposite the
one by which the chamber was entered, but it had not been opened more
than a dozen feet, and it seemed to me that the men had not been working
with any very great energy. I wanted to see a continuous stream of
ice-blocks from that chamber to the mouth of the shaft.

While grumbling thus I heard behind me a sudden noise like thunder and
the crashing of walls, and, turning quickly, I saw that a portion of
the roof of the chamber had fallen in. Nor had it ceased to fall. As
I gazed, several great masses of ice came down from above and piled
themselves upon that which had already fallen.

Startled and frightened, I sprang toward the opening of the entrance
tunnel; but, alas! I found that that was the point where the roof had
given way, and between me and the outer world was a wall of solid ice
through which it would be as impossible for me to break as if it were a
barrier of rock. With the quick instinct which comes to men in danger I
glanced about to see if the workmen had left their tools; but there were
none.

They had been taken outside. Then I stood and gazed stupidly at the
mass of fallen ice, which, even as I looked upon it, was cracking and
snapping, pressed down by the weight above it, and forming itself into
an impervious barrier without crevice or open seam.

Then I madly shouted. But of what avail were shouts down there in the
depths of the earth? I soon ceased this useless expenditure of strength,
and, with my lantern in my hand, began to walk around the chamber,
throwing the light upon the walls and the roof. I became impressed with
the fear that the whole cavity might cave in at once and bury me here
in a tomb of ice. But I saw no cracks, nor any sign of further disaster.
But why think of anything more? Was not this enough? For, before that
ice-barrier could be cleared away, would I not freeze to death?

I now continued to walk, not because I expected to find anything or do
anything, but simply to keep myself warm by action. As long as I could
move about I believed that there was no immediate danger of succumbing
to the intense cold; for, when a young man, traveling in Switzerland, I
had been in the cave of a glacier, and it was not cold enough to prevent
some old women from sitting there to play the zither for the sake of
a few coppers from visitors. I could not expect to be able to continue
walking until I should be rescued, and if I sat down, or by chance slept
from exhaustion, I must perish.

The more I thought of it, the more sure I became that in any case I must
perish, A man in a block of ice could have no chance of life. And Agnes!
Oh, Heavens! what demon of the ice had leagued with old Havelot to shut
me up in this frozen prison? For a long time I continued to walk, beat
my body with my arms and stamp my feet. The instinct of life was strong
within me. I would live as long as I could, and think of Agnes. When I
should be frozen I could not think of her.

Sometimes I stopped and listened. I was sure I could hear noises, but I
could not tell whether they were above me or not. In the centre of the
ice-barrier, about four feet from the ground, was a vast block of the
frozen substance which was unusually clear and seemed to have nothing on
the other side of it; for through it I could see flickers of light, as
though people were going about with lanterns. It was quite certain that
the accident had been discovered; for, had not the thundering noise been
heard by persons outside, the workmen would have seen what had
happened as soon as they came into the tunnel to begin their afternoon
operations.

At first I wondered why they did not set to work with a will and cut
away this barrier and let me out. But there suddenly came to my mind
a reason for this lack of energy which was more chilling than the
glistening walls around me: Why should they suppose that I was in the
ice-chamber? I was not in the habit of coming here very often, but I was
in the habit of wandering off by myself at all hours of the day. This
thought made me feel that I might as well lie down on the floor of this
awful cave and die at once. The workmen might think it unsafe to mine
any further in this part of the glacier, and begin operations at some
other point. I did sit down for a moment, and then I rose involuntarily
and began my weary round. Suddenly I thought of looking at my watch.
It was nearly five o’clock. I had been more than four hours in that
dreadful place, and I did not believe that I could continue to exercise
my limbs very much longer. The lights I had seen had ceased. It was
quite plain that the workmen had no idea that any one was imprisoned in
the cave.

But soon after I had come to this conclusion I saw through the clear
block of ice a speck of light, and it became stronger and stronger,
until I believed it to be close to the other side of the block. There it
remained stationary; but there seemed to be other points of light which
moved about in a strange way, and near it. Now I stood by the block
watching. When my feet became very cold, I stamped them; but there I
stood fascinated, for what I saw was truly surprising. A large coal of
fire appeared on the other side of the block; then it suddenly vanished
and was succeeded by another coal. This disappeared, and another took
its place, each one seeming to come nearer and nearer to me. Again and
again did these coals appear. They reached the centre of the block; they
approached my side of it. At last one was so near to me that I thought
it was about to break through, but it vanished. Then there came a few
quick thuds and the end of a piece of iron protruded from the block.
This was withdrawn, and through the aperture there came a voice which
said: “Mr. Cuthbert, are you in there?” It was the voice of Agnes!

Weak and cold as I was, fire and energy rushed through me at these
words. “Yes,” I exclaimed, my mouth to the hole; “Agnes, is that you?”

“Wait a minute,” came from the other side of the aperture. “I must make
it bigger. I must keep it from closing up.”

Again came the coals of fire, running backward and forward through the
long hole in the block of ice. I could see now what they were. They were
irons used by plumbers for melting solder and that sort of thing,
and Agnes was probably heating them in a little furnace outside, and
withdrawing them as fast as they cooled. It was not long before the
aperture was very much enlarged; and then there came grating through
it a long tin tube nearly two inches in diameter, which almost, but not
quite, reached my side of the block.

Now came again the voice of Agnes: “Oh, Mr. Cuthbert, are you truly
there? Are you crushed? Are you wounded? Are you nearly frozen? Are you
starved? Tell me quickly if you are yet safe.”

Had I stood in a palace padded with the softest silk and filled with
spicy odors from a thousand rose gardens, I could not have been better
satisfied with my surroundings than I was at that moment. Agnes was not
two feet away! She was telling me that she cared for me! In a very few
words I assured her that I was uninjured. Then I was on the point of
telling her I loved her, for I believed that not a moment should be lost
in making this avowal. I could not die without her knowing that. But the
appearance of a mass of paper at the other end of the tube prevented
the expression of my sentiments. This was slowly pushed on until I
could reach it. Then there came the words: “Mr. Cuthbert, these are
sandwiches. Eat them immediately and walk about while you are doing it.
You must keep yourself warm until the men get to you.”

Obedient to the slightest wish of this dear creature, I went twice
around the cave, devouring the sandwiches as I walked. They were the
most delicious food that I had ever tasted. They were given to me by
Agnes. I came back to the opening. I could not immediately begin my
avowal. I must ask a question first. “Can they get to me?” I inquired.
“Is anybody trying to do that? Are they working there by you? I do not
hear them at all.”

“Oh, no,” she answered; “they are not working here. They are on top of
the bluff, trying to dig down to you. They were afraid to meddle with
the ice here for fear that more of it might come down and crush you
and the men, too. Oh, there has been a dreadful excitement since it was
found that you were in there!”

“How could they know I was here?” I asked.

“It was your old Susan who first thought of it. She saw you walking
toward the shaft about noon, and then she remembered that she had not
seen you again; and when they came into the tunnel here they found one
of the lanterns gone and the big stick you generally carry lying where
the lantern had been. Then it was known that you must be inside. Oh,
then there was an awful time! The foreman of the ice-men examined
everything, and said they must dig down to you from above. He put his
men to work; but they could do very little, for they had hardly any
spades. Then they sent into town for help and over to the new park for
the Italians working there. From the way these men set to work you might
have thought that they would dig away the whole bluff in about five
minutes; but they didn’t. Nobody seemed to know what to do, or how to
get to work; and the hole they made when they did begin was filled up
with men almost as fast as they even threw out the stones and gravel. I
don’t believe anything would have been done properly if your friend, Mr.
Burton, hadn’t happened to come with two scientific gentlemen, and since
that he has been directing everything. You can’t think what a splendid
fellow he is! I fairly adored him when I saw him giving his orders and
making everybody skip around in the right way.”

“Tom is a very good man,” said I; “but it is his business to direct that
sort of work, and it is not surprising that he knows how to do it. But,
Agnes, they may never get down to me, and we do not know that this roof
may not cave in upon me at any moment; and before this or anything else
happens I want to tell you--”

“Mr. Cuthbert,” said Agnes, “is there plenty of oil in your lantern? It
would be dreadful if it were to go out and leave you there in the dark.
I thought of that and brought you a little bottle of kerosene so that
you can fill it. I am going to push the bottle through now, if you
please.” And with this a large phial, cork end foremost, came slowly
through the tube, propelled by one of the soldering irons. Then came
Agnes’s voice: “Please fill your lantern immediately, because if it goes
out you can not find it in the dark; and then walk several times around
the cave, for you have been standing still too long already.”

I obeyed these injunctions, but in two or three minutes was again at the
end of the tube. “Agnes,” said I, “how did you happen to come here? Did
you contrive in your own mind this method of communicating with me?”

“Oh, yes; I did,” she said. “Everybody said that this mass of ice must
not be meddled with, but I knew very well it would not hurt it to make a
hole through it.”

“But how did you happen to be here?” I asked.

“Oh, I ran over as soon as I heard of the accident. Everybody ran here.
The whole neighborhood is on top of the bluff; but nobody wanted to come
into the tunnel, because they were afraid that more of it might fall in.
So I was able to work here all by myself, and I am very glad of it.
I saw the soldering iron and the little furnace outside of your house
where the plumbers had been using them, and I brought them here myself.
Then I thought that a simple hole through the ice might soon freeze up
again, and if you were alive inside I could not do anything to help you;
and so I ran home and got my diploma case, that had had one end melted
out of it, and I brought that to stick in the hole. I’m so glad that it
is long enough, or almost.”

“Oh, Agnes,” I cried, “you thought of all this for me?”

“Why, of course, Mr. Cuthbert,” she answered, before I had a chance to
say anything more. “You were in great danger of perishing before the men
got to you, and nobody seemed to think of any way to give you immediate
relief. And don’t you think that a collegiate education is a good thing
for girls--at least, that it was for me?”

“Agnes,” I exclaimed, “please let me speak. I want to tell you, I must
tell you--”

But the voice of Agnes was clearer than mine and it overpowered my
words. “Mr. Cuthbert,” she said, “we can not both speak through this
tube at the same time in opposite directions. I have here a bottle of
water for you, but I am very much afraid it will not go through the
diploma case.”

“Oh, I don’t want any water,” I said. “I can eat ice if I am thirsty.
What I want is to tell you-”

“Mr. Cuthbert,” said she, “you must not eat that ice. Water that was
frozen countless ages ago may be very different from the water of modern
times, and might not agree with you. Don’t touch it, please. I am going
to push the bottle through if I can. I tried to think of everything that
you might need and brought them all at once; because, if I could
not keep the hole open, I wanted to get them to you without losing a
minute.”

Now the bottle came slowly through. It was a small beer-bottle, I think,
and several times I was afraid it was going to stick fast and cut off
communication between me and the outer world--that is to say, between me
and Agnes. But at last the cork and the neck appeared, and I pulled it
through. I did not drink any of it, but immediately applied my mouth to
the tube.

“Agnes,” I said, “my dear Agnes, really you must not prevent me from
speaking. I can not delay another minute. This is an awful position for
me to be in, and as you don’t seem to realize--”

“But I do realize, Mr. Cuthbert, that if you don’t walk about you will
certainly freeze before you can be rescued. Between every two or three
words you want to take at least one turn around that place. How dreadful
it would be if you were suddenly to become benumbed and stiff! Everybody
is thinking of that. The best diggers that Mr. Burton had were three
colored men; but after they had gone down nothing like as deep as
a well, they came up frightened and said they would not dig another
shovelful for the whole world. Perhaps you don’t know it, but there’s a
story about the neighborhood that the negro hell is under your property.
You know many of the colored people expect to be everlastingly punished
with ice and not with fire--”

“Agnes,” I interrupted, “I am punished with ice and fire both. Please
let me tell you--”

“I was going on to say, Mr. Cuthbert,” she interrupted, “that when the
Italians heard why the colored men had come out of the hole they would
not go in either, for they are just as afraid of everlasting ice as the
negroes are, and were sure that if the bottom came out of that hole they
would fall into a frozen lower world. So there was nothing to do but to
send for paupers, and they are working now. You know paupers have to do
what they are told without regard to their beliefs. They got a dozen of
them from the poor-house. Somebody said they just threw them into the
hole. Now I must stop talking, for it is time for you to walk around
again. Would you like another sandwich?”

“Agnes,” said I, endeavoring to speak calmly, “all I want is to be able
to tell you--”

“And when you walk, Mr. Cuthbert, you had better keep around the edge
of the chamber, for there is no knowing when they may come through. Mr.
Burton and the foreman of the ice-men measured the bluff so that they
say the hole they are making is exactly over the middle of the chamber
you are in, and if you walk around the edge the pieces may not fall on
you.”

“If you don’t listen to me, Agnes,” I said, “I’ll go and sit anywhere,
everywhere, where death may come to me quickest. Your coldness is worse
than the coldness of the cave. I can not bear it.”

“But, Mr. Cuthbert,” said Agnes, speaking, I thought, with some
agitation, “I have been listening to you, and what more can you possibly
have to say? If there is anything you want, let me know. I will run and
get it for you.”

“There is no need that you should go away to get what I want,” I said.
“It is there with you. It is you.”

“Mr. Cuthbert,” said Agnes, in a very low voice, but so distinctly that
I could hear every word, “don’t you think it would be better for you to
give your whole mind to keeping yourself warm and strong? For if you let
yourself get benumbed you may sink down and freeze.”

“Agnes,” I said, “I will not move from this little hole until I have
told you that I love you, that I have no reason to care for life or
rescue unless you return my love, unless you are willing to be mine.
Speak quickly to me, Agnes, because I may not be rescued and may never
know whether my love for you is returned or not.”

At this moment there was a tremendous crash behind me, and, turning,
I saw a mass of broken ice upon the floor of the cave, with a cloud
of dust and smaller fragments still falling. And then with a great
scratching and scraping, and a howl loud enough to waken the echoes of
all the lower regions, down came a red-headed, drunken shoemaker. I can
not say that he was drunk at that moment, but I knew the man the moment
I saw his carroty poll, and it was drink which had sent him to the
poorhouse.

But the sprawling and howling cobbler did not reach the floor. A rope
had been fastened around his waist to prevent a fall in case the bottom
of the pit should suddenly give way, and he hung dangling in mid
air with white face and distended eyes, cursing and swearing and
vociferously entreating to be pulled up. But before he received any
answer from above, or I could speak to him, there came through the hole
in the roof of the cave a shower of stones and gravel, and with them a
frantic Italian, his legs and arms outspread, his face wild with terror.

Just as he appeared in view he grasped the rope of the cobbler, and,
though in a moment he came down heavily upon the floor of the chamber,
this broke his fall, and he did not appear to be hurt. Instantly he
crouched low and almost upon all fours, and began to run around the
chamber, keeping close to the walls and screaming, I suppose to his
saints, to preserve him from the torments of the frozen damned.

In the midst of this hubbub came the voice of Agnes through the hole:
“Oh, Mr. Cuthbert, what has happened? Are you alive?”

I was so disappointed by the appearance of these wretched interlopers
at the moment it was about to be decided whether my life--should it last
for years, or but for a few minutes--was to be black or bright, and I
was so shaken and startled by the manner of their entry upon the scene,
that I could not immediately shape the words necessary to inform Agnes
what had happened. But, collecting my faculties, I was about to speak,
when suddenly, with the force of the hind leg of a mule, I was pushed
away from the aperture, and the demoniac Italian clapped his great
mouth to the end of the tube and roared through it a volume of oaths
and supplications. I attempted to thrust aside the wretched being, but
I might as well have tried to move the ice barrier itself. He had
perceived that some one outside was talking to me, and in his frenzy he
was imploring that some one should let him out.

While still endeavoring to move the man, I was seized by the arm, and
turning, beheld the pallid face of the shoemaker. They had let him down
so that he reached the floor. He tried to fall on his knees before me,
but the rope was so short that he was able to go only part of the way
down, and presented a most ludicrous appearance, with his toes scraping
the icy floor and his arms thrown out as if he were paddling like a
tadpole. “Oh, have mercy upon me, sir,” he said, “and help me get out
of this dreadful place. If you go to the hole and call up it’s you, they
will pull me up; but if they get you out first they will never think of
me. I am a poor pauper, sir, but I never did nothin’ to be packed in ice
before I am dead.”

Noticing that the Italian had left the end of the aperture in the block
of ice, and that he was now shouting up the open shaft, I ran to the
channel of communication which my Agnes had opened for me, and called
through it; but the dear girl had gone.

The end of a ladder now appeared at the opening in the roof, and this
was let down until it reached the floor. I started toward it, but before
I had gone half the distance the frightened shoemaker and the maniac
Italian sprang upon it, and, with shrieks and oaths, began a maddening
fight for possession of the ladder. They might quickly have gone up one
after the other, but each had no thought but to be first; and as one
seized the rounds he was pulled away by the other, until I feared the
ladder would be torn to pieces. The shoemaker finally pushed his way up
a little distance, when the Italian sprang upon his back, endeavoring
to climb over him; and so on they went up the shaft, fighting, swearing,
kicking, scratching, shaking and wrenching the ladder, which had been
tied to another one in order to increase its length, so that it was in
danger of breaking, and tearing at each other in a fashion which made it
wonderful that they did not both tumble headlong downward. They went
on up, so completely filling the shaft with their struggling forms and
their wild cries that I could not see or hear anything, and was afraid,
in fact, to look up toward the outer air.

As I was afterward informed, the Italian, who had slipped into the hole
by accident, ran away like a frightened hare the moment he got his
feet on firm ground, and the shoemaker sat down and swooned. By this
performance he obtained from a benovolent bystander a drink of whiskey,
the first he had had since he was committed to the poorhouse.

But a voice soon came down the shaft calling to me. I recognized it as
that of Tom Burton, and replied that I was safe, and that I was coming
up the ladder. But in my attempt to climb, I found that I was unable
to do so. Chilled and stiffened by the cold and weakened by fatigue and
excitement, I believe I never should have been able to leave that
ice chamber if my faithful friend had not come down the ladder and
vigorously assisted me to reach the outer air.

Seated on the ground, my back against a great oak tree, I was quickly
surrounded by a crowd of my neighbors, the workmen and the people who
had been drawn to the spot by the news of the strange accident, to gaze
at me as if I were some unknown being excavated from the bowels of the
earth, I was sipping some brandy and water which Burton had handed me,
when Aaron Boyce pushed himself in front of me.

“Well, sir,” he said, “I am mighty glad you got out of that scrape. I’m
bound to say I didn’t expect you would. I have been sure all along that
it wasn’t right to meddle with things that go agin Nature, and I haven’t
any doubt that you’ll see that for yourself and fill up all them tunnels
and shafts you’ve made. The ice that comes on ponds and rivers was good
enough for our forefathers, and it ought to be good enough for us. And
as for this cold stuff you find in your gravel-pit, I don’t believe it’s
ice at all; and if it is, like as not it’s made of some sort of pizen
stuff that freezes easier than water. For everybody knows that water
don’t freeze in a well, and if it don’t do that, why should it do it in
any kind of a hole in the ground? So perhaps it’s just as well that you
did git shut up there, sir, and find out for yourself what a dangerous
thing it is to fool with Nature and try to git ice from the bottom of
the ground instead of the top of the water.”

This speech made me angry, for I knew that old Boyce was a man who was
always glad to get hold of anything which had gone wrong and try to make
it worse; but I was too weak to answer him.

This, however, would not have been necessary, for Tom Burton turned upon
him. “Idiot,” said he, “if that is your way of thinking you might as
well say that if a well caves in you should never again dig for water,
or that nobody should have a cellar under his house for fear that the
house should fall into it. There’s no more danger of the ice beneath us
ever giving way again than there is that this bluff should crumble under
our feet. That break in the roof of the ice tunnel was caused by
my digging away the face of the bluff very near that spot. The high
temperature of the outer air weakened the ice, and it fell. But down
here, under this ground and secure from the influences of the heat of
the outer air, the mass of ice is more solid than rock. We will build
a brick arch over the place where the accident happened, and then there
will not be a safer mine on this continent than this ice-mine will be.”

This was a wise and diplomatic speech from Burton, and it proved to be
of great service to me; for the men who had been taking out ice had been
a good deal frightened by the fall of the tunnel, and when it was proved
that what Burton had said in regard to the cause of the weakening of the
ice was entirely correct, they became willing to go to work again.

I now began to feel stronger and better, and, rising to my feet, I
glanced here and there into the crowd, hoping to catch a sight of Agnes,
But I was not very much surprised at not seeing her, because she would
naturally shrink from forcing herself into the midst of this motley
company; but I felt that I must go and look for her without the loss of
a minute, for if she should return to her father’s house I might not be
able to see her again.

On the outskirts of the crowd I met Susan, who was almost overpowered
with joy at seeing me safe again. I shook her by the hand, but, without
replying to her warm-hearted protestations of thankfulness and delight,
I asked her if she had seen Miss Havelot.

“Miss Agnes!” she exclaimed. “Why, no sir; I expect she’s at home; and
if she did come here with the rest of the neighbors I didn’t see her;
for when I found out what had happened, sir, I was so weak that I sat
down in the kitchen all of a lump, and have just had strength enough to
come out.”

“Oh, I know she was here,” I cried; “I am sure of that, and I do hope
she’s not gone home again.”

“Know she was here!” exclaimed Susan. “Why, how on earth could you know
that?”

I did not reply that it was not on the earth but under it, that I became
aware of the fact, but hurried toward the Havelot house, hoping to
overtake Agnes if she had gone that way. But I did not see her, and
suddenly a startling idea struck me, and I turned and ran home as fast
as I could go. When I reached my grounds I went directly to the mouth
of the shaft. There was nobody there, for the crowd was collected into
a solid mass on the top of the bluff, listening to a lecture from Tom
Burton, who deemed it well to promote the growth of interest and healthy
opinion in regard to his wonderful discovery and my valuable possession.
I hurried down the shaft, and near the end of it, just before it joined
the ice tunnel, I beheld Agnes sitting upon the wooden track. She was
not unconscious, for as I approached she slightly turned her head. I
sprang toward her; I kneeled beside her; I took her in my arms. “Oh,
Agnes, dearest Agnes,” I cried, “what is the matter? What has happened
to you? Has a piece of ice fallen upon you? Have you slipped and hurt
yourself?”

She turned her beautiful eyes up toward me and for a moment did not
speak. Then she said: “And they got you out? And you are in your right
mind?”

“Right mind!” I exclaimed. “I have never been out of my mind. What are
you thinking of?”

“Oh, you must have been,” she said, “when you screamed at me in that
horrible way. I was so frightened that I fell back, and I must have
fainted.”

Tremulous as I was with love and anxiety, I could not help laughing.
“Oh, my dear Agnes, I did not scream at you. That was a crazed Italian
who fell through the hole that they dug.” Then I told her what had
happened.

She heaved a gentle sigh. “I am so glad to hear that,” she said. “There
was one thing that I was thinking about just before you came and which
gave me a little bit of comfort; the words and yells I heard were
dreadfully oniony, and somehow or other I could not connect that sort of
thing with you.”

It now struck me that during this conversation I had been holding
my dear girl in my arms, and she had not shown the slightest sign of
resistance or disapprobation. This made my heart beat high.

“Oh, Agnes,” I said, “I truly believe you love me or you would not have
been here, you would not have done for me all that you did. Why did you
not answer me when I spoke to you through that wall of ice, through the
hole your dear love had made in it? Why, when I was in such a terrible
situation, not knowing whether I was to die or live, did you not comfort
my heart with one sweet word?”

“Oh, Walter,” she answered, “it wasn’t at all necessary for you to say
all that you did say, for I had suspected it before, and as soon as you
began to call me Agnes I knew, of course, how you felt about it. And,
besides, it really was necessary that you should move about to keep
yourself from freezing. But the great reason for my not encouraging you
to go on talking in that way was that I was afraid people might come
into the tunnel, and as, of course, you would not know that they were
there, you would go on making love to me through my diploma case, and
you know I should have perished with shame if I had had to stand there
with that old Mr. Boyce, and I don’t know who else, listening to your
words, which were very sweet to me, Walter, but which would have sounded
awfully funny to them.”

When she said that my words had been sweet to her I dropped the
consideration of all other subjects.

When, about ten minutes afterward, we came out of the shaft we were met
by Susan.

“Bless my soul and body, Mr. Cuthbert!” she exclaimed. “Did you find
that young lady down there in the centre of the earth? It seems to me as
if everything that you want comes to you out of the ground. But I have
been looking for you to tell you that Mr. Havelot has been here after
his daughter, and I’m sure if he had known where she was, he would have
been scared out of his wits.”

“Father here!” exclaimed Agnes. “Where is he now?”

“I think he has gone home, miss. Indeed I’m sure of it; for my daughter
Jennie, who was over here the same as all the other people in the
county, I truly believe told him--and I was proud she had the spirit
to speak up that way to him--that your heart was almost broke when you
heard about Mr. Cuthbert being shut up in the ice, and that most likely
you was in your own room a-cryin’ your eyes out. When he heard that he
stood lookin’ all around the place, and he asked me if he might go
in the house; and when I told him he was most welcome, he went in. I
offered to show him about, which he said was no use, that he had been
there often enough; and he went everywhere, I truly believe, except in
the garret and the cellar. And after he got through with that he went
out to the barn and then walked home.”

“I must go to him immediately,” said Agnes.

“But not alone,” said I. And together we walked through the woods, over
the little field and across the Havelot lawn to the house. We were told
that the old gentleman was in his library, and together we entered the
room. Mr. Havelot was sitting by a table on which were lying several
open volumes of an encyclopedia. When he turned and saw us, he closed
his book, pushed back his chair and took off his spectacles. “Upon my
word, sir,” he cried; “and so the first thing you do after they pull you
out of the earth is to come here and break my commands.”

“I came on the invitation of your daughter, sir.”

“And what right has she to invite you, I’d like to know?”

“She has every right, for to her I owe my existence.”

“What rabid nonsense!” exclaimed the old gentleman. “People don’t owe
their existence to the silly creatures they fall in love with.”

“I assure you I am correct, sir.” And then I related to him what his
daughter had done, and how through her angelic agency my rescuers had
found me a living being instead of a frozen corpse.

“Stuff!” said Mr. Havelot. “People can live in a temperature of
thirty-two degrees above zero all winter. Out in Minnesota they think
that’s hot. And you gave him victuals and drink through your diploma
case! Well, miss, I told you that if you tried to roast chestnuts in
that diploma case the bottom would come out.”

“But you see, father,” said Agnes, earnestly, “the reason I did that
was because when I roasted them in anything shallow they popped into the
fire, but they could not jump out of the diploma case.”

“Well, something else seems to have jumped out of it,” said the old
gentleman, “and something with which I am not satisfied. I have been
looking over these books, sir, and have read the articles on ice,
glaciers and caves, and I find no record of anything in the whole
history of the world which in the least resembles the cock-and-bull
story I am told about the butt-end of a glacier which tumbled into a
cave in your ground, and has been lying there through all the geological
ages, and the eras of formation, and periods of animate existence down
to the days of Noah, and Moses, and Methuselah, and Rameses II, and
Alexander the Great, and Martin Luther, and John Wesley, to this day,
for you to dig out and sell to the Williamstown Ice Co.”

“But that’s what happened, sir,” said I.

“And besides, father,” added Agnes, “the gold and silver that people
take out of mines may have been in the ground as long as that ice has
been.”

“Bosh!” said Mr. Havelot. “The cases are not at all similar. It is
simply impossible that a piece of a glacier should have fallen into a
cave and been preserved in that way. The temperature of caves is always
above the freezing-point, and that ice would have melted a million years
before you were born.”

“But, father,” said Agnes, “the temperature of caves filled with ice
must be very much lower than that of common caves.”

“And apart from that,” I added, “the ice is still there, sir.”

“That doesn’t make the slightest difference,” he replied. “It’s against
all reason and commonsense that such a thing could have happened. Even
if there ever was a glacier in this part of the country and if the lower
portion of it did stick out over an immense hole in the ground, that
protruding end would never have broken off and tumbled in. Glaciers are
too thick and massive for that.”

“But the glacier is there, sir,” said I, “in spite of your own
reasoning.”

“And then again,” continued the old gentleman, “if there had been a cave
and a projecting spur the ice would have gradually melted and dripped
into the cave, and we would have had a lake and not an ice-mine. It is
an absurdity.”

“But it’s there, notwithstanding,” said I.

“And you can not subvert facts, you know, father,” added Agnes.

“Confound facts!” he cried. “I base my arguments on sober, cool-headed
reason; and there’s nothing that can withstand reason. The thing’s
impossible and, therefore, it has never happened. I went over to your
place, sir, when I heard of the accident, for the misfortunes of my
neighbors interest me, no matter what may be my opinion of them,
and when I found that you had been extricated from your ridiculous
predicament, I went through your house, and I was pleased to find it
in as good or better condition than I had known it in the days of
your respected father. I was glad to see the improvement in your
circumstances; but when I am told, sir, that your apparent prosperity
rests upon such an absurdity as a glacier in a gravel hill, I can but
smile with contempt, sir.”

I was getting a little tired of this. “But the glacier is there, sir,”
 I said, “and I am taking out ice every day, and have reason to believe
that I can continue to take it out for the rest of my life. With such
facts as these before me, I am bound to say, sir, that I don’t care in
the least about reason.”

“And I am here, father,” said Agnes, coming close to me, “and here I
want to continue for the rest of my days.”

The old gentleman looked at her. “And, I suppose,” he said, “that you,
too, don’t in the least care about reason?”

“Not a bit,” said Agnes.

“Well,” said Mr. Havelot, rising, “I have done all I can to make you
two listen to reason, and I can do no more. I despair of making sensible
human beings of you, and so you might as well go on acting like a couple
of ninny-hammers.”

“Do ninny-hammers marry and settle on the property adjoining yours,
sir?” I asked.

“Yes, I suppose they do,” he said. “And when the aboriginal ice-house,
or whatever the ridiculous thing is that they have discovered, gives
out, I suppose that they can come to a reasonable man and ask him for a
little money to buy bread and butter.”

Two years have passed, and Agnes and the glacier are still mine; great
blocks of ice now flow in almost a continuous stream from the mine to
the railroad station, and in a smaller but quite as continuous stream
an income flows in upon Agnes and me; and from one of the experimental
excavations made by Tom Burton on the bluff comes a stream of ice-cold
water running in a sparkling brook a-down my dell. On fine mornings
before I am up, I am credibly informed that Aaron Boyce may generally be
found, in season and out of season, endeavoring to catch the trout with
which I am trying to stock that ice-cold stream. The diploma case,
which I caused to be carefully removed from the ice-barrier which had
imprisoned me, now hangs in my study and holds our marriage certificate.

Near the line-fence which separates his property from mine, Mr. Havelot
has sunk a wide shaft. “If the glacier spur under your land was a
quarter of a mile wide,” he says to me, “it was probably at least a half
a mile long; and if that were the case, the upper end of it extends into
my place, and I may be able to strike it.” He has a good deal of money,
this worthy Mr. Havelot, but he would be very glad to increase his
riches, whether they are based upon sound reason or ridiculous facts. As
for Agnes and myself, no facts or any reason could make us happier than
our ardent love and our frigid fortune.





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