Page:The fairy tales of science.djvu/306

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262
THE GNOMES.

exudes through the opening; but when the process of petrifaction has reached a certain stage, a man may walk upon the surface without wetting his shoes. The stony mass is finely laminated, and a section of it resembles an accumulation of sheets of coarse paper. Such is the constant tendency of this water to solidify, that the very bubbles on its surface become hard, as if, by a stroke of magic, they had been arrested and metamorphosed into marble.

Return we to our subterranean regions, promising that Ave will not ascend to the surface again unless such a course should appear absolutely necessary to the elucidation of our subject. In Gnome-land there are other wonders besides the capacious caverns, with their glancing roofs and walls and clustering stalactite columns. The hidden treasures of the earth—or, in more ordinary language, "the bowels of the earth"—are only to be exceeded in their wondrous accumulation and occurrence by their vastness and value. The gnomes were formerly held to be the legitimate guardians of these treasures; and for the sake of our fairy tale, we will suppose this view to be founded on facts. As mere story-tellers, we may create just as many giants, fairies, or gnomes as we please, even though we think fit to destroy them afterwards. Let us therefore people our stalactite cavern with elves like those to which our artist's fancy has given birth.

What a wonderful scene meets our mental vision!