Gropings under Ground.

From: Kobboltozo: A Sequel to the Last of the Huggermuggers (1869)
Author: Christopher Pearse Cranch
Published: Lee and Shepard 1869 Boston



  THE two dwarfs groped round and round the great cave, but could not find the door by which they entered. “What the deuce shall we do?” they said; “this is a most unfortunate business!” “Why didn’t you look well where the door was?” said one. “Why didn’t you return before the wind arose!” said the other. “Why did you stop to look at those letters on the wall?” said the carpenter; “you knew you couldn’t read them!” “Why didn’t you bring along some matches to relight our torches?” said the cobbler. “And why didn’t you bring a covered lantern?” said the carpenter. “If you had only had your wits about you,” said the cobbler, “you would have taken a better look into that manuscript, and ascertained where the wonderful shell-fish were to be found, and then we needn’t have got ourselves into this hole!”

  “Confound your old manuscript, with the shellfish,” said the carpenter. “I wish to heavens I had never seen it, or told you any thing about it, and then I should have been safe and snug in my bed at home!”

  And so grumbling at each other, they groped about in the impenetrable darkness; and instead of helping and sympathizing with each other, selfish beings that they were, they did nothing but lay the cause of their misfortune on each other’s shoulders.

  At last they found in the darkness an opening, which they supposed was the door. But they were mistaken. It was only another passage, leading them still further underneath the ground. There was nothing to do now but wait till morning, or go on groping their way in the darkness, hoping by and by to reach an opening in the rocks by which they might extricate themselves from this gloomy and dangerous place. Gloomy it certainly was, and, for aught they knew, dangerous, for they were fearful every moment of plunging headlong into some deep hole or well.

  After awhile, finding no outlet, and fearing to go on, they concluded to sit or lie down, and wait patiently for the morning light—if indeed the morning light ever came into that dark labyrinth. So they sat down and waited, with their backs against the damp sides of the cavern. The night seemed endlessly long. At last they thought they perceived a faint, dim light, so they continued their way. Sometimes the passage grew wide and high; sometimes it was so low and narrow that they could hardly squeeze through. At length it grew gradually wider and higher, and descended rapidly. Soon it began to grow less dark, and they could see the roofs of the winding galleries through which they passed hung with stalactites and crystals. It continued to grow lighter, but with a tinge as of a distant fire-light, not the clear white sunshine. What could this be? was it a subterranean fire they were approaching?

  Larger and more splendid became the hanging stalactites and crystals. Great blocks of marble—white, green, and red—of porphyry, jasper, malachite, agate, carnelian, lapis lazuli, lay heaped in confusion around. And now the walls and ceilings were all powdered and frosted over with marble and silver—now glowed with crystallizations of copper, platina, or zinc; —and now it was all gold—gold growing and branching out into every sort of fantastic design—gold blossoming like fern or coral, or clinging to the stone like sponges or fungi—gold streaking and veining the rocks. And now, behold, all manner of precious stones, that seemed to blossom like flowers amid the gold and silver leaf-work—flowers of diamond, ruby, carbuncle, emerald, topaz, garnet, sapphire—all glowing more intensely, as the two dwarfs advanced, in the mysterious fire-light which they were approaching.

  There seemed to be no end to these gorgeous chambers and galleries. Sometimes, tempted by the splendor of these gold plants and gems, they endeavored to tear or break off a branch of the metal leaves, or a bunch of diamonds or rubies. It resisted all their efforts, and they were forced to leave it. They were lost in wonder at all this strange and unheard of magnificence. “Have we then reached the centre of the earth,” they thought, “and are these the secret laboratories and treasure-houses of the earth?”

  At last they approached a great door, gorgeous to behold, before which hung what appeared to be a great curtain of pure gold-leaf and amber, inwrought with thousands of diamonds, and sapphires, and rubies. This curtain seemed to be semi-transparent, and it was behind this and through this that the great red light was glowing, which they had seen so far off among the caves.

  The dwarfs raised one corner of this curtain and entered. They were struck dumb with· wonder and amazement at what they saw.

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