At the Earth's Core

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 4

witness a perfect orgy of prayer--if one may allude with such a
simile to so solemn an act.

But to my astonishment I discovered that with death staring him in the
face Abner Perry was transformed into a new being. From his lips there
flowed--not prayer--but a clear and limpid stream of undiluted
profanity, and it was all directed at that quietly stubborn piece of
unyielding mechanism.

"I should think, Perry," I chided, "that a man of your professed
religiousness would rather be at his prayers than cursing in the
presence of imminent death."

"Death!" he cried. "Death is it that appalls you? That is nothing by
comparison with the loss the world must suffer. Why, David within this
iron cylinder we have demonstrated possibilities that science has
scarce dreamed. We have harnessed a new principle, and with it
animated a piece of steel with the power of ten thousand men. That two
lives will be snuffed out is nothing to the world calamity that entombs
in the bowels of the earth the discoveries that I have made and proved
in the successful construction of the thing that is now carrying us
farther and farther toward the eternal central fires."

I am frank to admit that for myself I was much more concerned with our
own immediate future than with any problematic loss which the world
might be about to suffer. The world was at least ignorant of its
bereavement, while to me it was a real and terrible actuality.

"What can we do?" I asked, hiding my perturbation beneath the mask of a
low and level voice.

"We may stop here, and die of asphyxiation when our atmosphere tanks
are empty," replied Perry, "or we may continue on with the slight hope
that we may later sufficiently deflect the prospector from the vertical
to carry us along the arc of a great circle which must eventually
return us to the surface. If we succeed in so doing before we reach
the higher internal temperature we may even yet survive. There would
seem to me to be about one chance in several million that we shall
succeed--otherwise we shall die more quickly but no more surely than as
though we sat supinely waiting for the torture of a slow and horrible
death."

I glanced at the thermometer. It registered 110 degrees. While we
were talking the mighty iron mole had bored its way over a mile into
the rock of the earth's crust.

"Let us continue on, then," I replied. "It should soon be over at

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