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At the Earth's Core

Chapter 2. A Strange World
I was unconscious little more than an instant, for as I lunged forward from the crossbeam
to which I had been clinging, and fell with a crash to the floor of the cabin, the shock
brought me to myself.
My first concern was with Perry. I was horrified at the thought that upon the very
threshold of salvation he might be dead. Tearing open his shirt I placed my ear to his
breast. I could have cried with relief--his heart was beating quite regularly.
At the water tank I wetted my handkerchief, slapping it smartly across his forehead and
face several times. In a moment I was rewarded by the raising of his lids. For a time he
lay wide-eyed and quite uncomprehending. Then his scattered wits slowly foregathered,
and he sat up sniffing the air with an expression of wonderment upon his face.
"Why, David," he cried at last, "it's air, as sure as I live. Why--why what does it mean?
Where in the world are we? What has happened?"
"It means that we're back at the surface all right, Perry," I cried; "but where, I don't know.
I haven't opened her up yet. Been too busy reviving you. Lord, man, but you had a close
squeak!"
"You say we're back at the surface, David? How can that be? How long have I been
unconscious?"
"Not long. We turned in the ice stratum. Don't you recall the sudden whirling of our
seats? After that the drill was above you instead of below. We didn't notice it at the time;
but I recall it now."
"You mean to say that we turned back in the ice stratum, David? That is not possible. The
prospector cannot turn unless its nose is deflected from the outside--by some external
force or resistance--the steering wheel within would have moved in response. The
steering wheel has not budged, David, since we started. You know that."
I did know it; but here we were with our drill racing in pure air, and copious volumes of it
pouring into the cabin.
"We couldn't have turned in the ice stratum, Perry, I know as well as you," I replied; "but
the fact remains that we did, for here we are this minute at the surface of the earth again,
and I am going out to see just where."
"Better wait till morning, David--it must be midnight now."
I glanced at the chronometer.
 
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