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The Geological Spieler
by [?]

“Having a look at the country, I suppose?” asked the boss presently.

“Yes,” said Steelman; then after a moment’s reflection: “I am travelling for my own amusement and improvement, and also in the interest of science, which amounts to the same thing. I am a member of the Royal Geological Society–vice-president in fact of a leading Australian branch;” and then, as if conscious that he had appeared guilty of egotism, he shifted the subject a bit. “Yes. Very interesting country this–very interesting indeed. I should like to make a stay here for a day or so. Your work opens right into my hands. I cannot remember seeing a geological formation which interested me so much. Look at the face of that cutting, for instance. Why! you can almost read the history of the geological world from yesterday–this morning as it were–beginning with the super-surface on top and going right down through the different layers and stratas–through the vanished ages–right down and back to the pre-historical–to the very primeval or fundamental geological formations!” And Steelman studied the face of the cutting as if he could read it like a book, with every layer or stratum a chapter, and every streak a note of explanation. The boss seemed to be getting interested, and Steelman gained confidence and proceeded to identify and classify the different “stratas and layers,” and fix their ages, and describe the conditions and politics of man in their different times, for the boss’s benefit.

“Now,” continued Steelman, turning slowly from the cutting, removing his glasses, and letting his thoughtful eyes wander casually over the general scenery–“now the first impression that this country would leave on an ordinary intelligent mind–though maybe unconsciously, would be as of a new country–new in a geological sense; with patches of an older geological and vegetable formation cropping out here and there; as for instance that clump of dead trees on that clear alluvial slope there, that outcrop of limestone, or that timber yonder,” and he indicated a dead forest which seemed alive and green because of the parasites. “But the country is old–old; perhaps the oldest geological formation in the world is to be seen here, the oldest vegetable formation in Australasia. I am not using the words old and new in an ordinary sense, you understand, but in a geological sense.”

The boss said, “I understand,” and that geology must be a very interesting study.

Steelman ran his eye meditatively over the cutting again, and turning to Smith said:

“Go up there, James, and fetch me a specimen of that slaty outcrop you see there–just above the coeval strata.”

It was a stiff climb and slippery, but Smith had to do it, and he did it.

“This,” said Steelman, breaking the rotten piece between his fingers, “belongs probably to an older geological period than its position would indicate–a primitive sandstone level perhaps. Its position on that layer is no doubt due to volcanic upheavals–such disturbances, or rather the results of such disturbances, have been and are the cause of the greatest trouble to geologists–endless errors and controversy. You see we must study the country, not as it appears now, but as it would appear had the natural geological growth been left to mature undisturbed; we must restore and reconstruct such disorganized portions of the mineral kingdom, if you understand me.”

The boss said he understood.

Steelman found an opportunity to wink sharply and severely at Smith, who had been careless enough to allow his features to relapse into a vacant grin.

“It is generally known even amongst the ignorant that rock grows–grows from the outside–but the rock here, a specimen of which I hold in my hand, is now in the process of decomposition; to be plain it is rotting–in an advanced stage of decomposition–so much so that you are not able to identify it with any geological period or formation, even as you may not be able to identify any other extremely decomposed body.”