Page:Melbourne and Mars.djvu/43

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41
BERTRAND'S SCHOOL OF MECHANICS.

would not be likely to cease unless it was a temporary current following some flaw in the rock and tending to produce volcanic action.

The next work was conducting the electricity in manageable quantities along wires to the surface. Before the following winter this was done, and as a result there was no need for the usual migration, for every home and every schoolhouse or other public building was adequately warmed and lighted.

Since then the source of electric power had been tapped in more than a thousand places, and as you know almost all the world's work is done by power drawn from beneath its surface rocks. You cannot go twenty miles in any direction without finding an electric fountain, free to the public, from which the accumulators of any travelling machine can be instantly recharged.

We cannot use up this force. The source of heat and light will remain until the sun himself grows cold and dark. Each planet is a great electrical machine. If you strip off its outer coverings as you would peel an orange, you come to where the ball is wrapped in currents running from north to south, and if you could live far beneath the surface at the south magnetic pole you would see those millions of currents pouring into one that returns through the core of the globe from pole to pole. If any planet could lose a share of its magnetic life it would be instantly resupplied from the sun. We, however, cannot consume any of this force. We only detain it and make it work for us on its way. It does not feel the work it does for us any more than the sun feels the effort by which it raises vapor into the air and piles snow upon the mountain top.

Monuments of those who perished that eventful day here been made in solid silver, and can be seen in the central museum. Let us hope that they know of the great boon that came into human life when they were so suddenly hurled out of it.'

For several days Bertrand's address formed a theme for conversation. Some said that he had received instructions from the Planetary Executive to direct as many youths as possible to prepare themselves for the work of making electrical machinery, the demand for such being greater than the supply. If that was the case he had certainly adopted the best measures possible, for quite one half of our pupils went into the workshops where such machinery is made and many more became designers and inventors.'

There is no need to follow our schoolboy diarist through his third educational course; Nothing very startling or sensational occurs. He has a few accidents, and sometimes takes an electric shock that makes him feel for a while as if his limbs were all dislocated. Any of these would have killed him in a real workshop, but sufficient power is not allowed to students, else few would get through their technical course.