We Ought Never To Have Done It: Part Five
III. Sixty Years Ago – A Perfectly Secluded Area
In the clearing, there stands a scaffold.
Richmond Jasper Milford was not a patient Bruce. He had paid tens of thousands of neopoints for a tower to be built, and the fact that there was only now a scaffold tested his patience. For the same price, he could have bought ten pre-existing towers scattered from the Haunted Woods to Terror Mountain. At a time when a week’s wages for the pets scampering up and down the ladders in the clearing was a single neopoint, he should have been waited on hand and foot like old King Skarl, long since buried and forgotten with ancient Meridell. But no, here he stood in the middle of Fyora knows where waiting for something which should have been done months ago.
Not that it was really Fyora knows where. R.J. Milford had chosen this spot very exactly after incalculable months of research, of diving through the collected, collated literature of every scientific and social field known to pet. It was one of those privileges of being old money in Neopia; being an armchair scientist was easy, and all it took was ambition to act upon the knowledge. And R.J. Milford had plenty of both, and now he knew exactly where it all should be applied.
He stared at the scaffolding again for some minutes before removing a large leather journal from the satchel at his feet and began to write.
The work progresses as well as I could hope but not as well as I would expect. Pets are motivated by money, I suppose, of which I am not made nor do I distribute as if it were true. But time is not of the utmost essence, and I can wait.
This is my first visit to the site. For future reference, I should remark upon the appearance of the clearing. It might well be pertinent.
R.J. Milford cast a discerning eye around the lot, his pristine, black eyebrows rising ever higher as he viewed the scene. It was beautifully bright out, the blue sky above not marred by a single cloud. The surrounding pine trees were filled with the sounds of wildlife, chittering despite the busy work of the construction. Nowhere was it indicated that this had once been the site of a…
Something. The records were never clear on that.
Old site appears overgrown. Zoning permits in Neopia Central referenced only citations for an "industrial camp" of some sort. I expected mining, but it looks as though it may have been a minor logging operation.
Question: If logging, why is only this small clearing left open? If mining, where is the shaft? I sincerely expected a shaft.
The clearing is covered with a veneer of dirt. Initial measurements from the foreman indicate-
R.J. Milford consulted a sheet of paper handily produced from his satchel.
-a depth of five feet of this sediment across the entire clearing. No rocks to speak of. No trees or shrubbery growing. If there is old equipment, it is buried further than five feet down. According to recent geology reports, sedimentation rates in the Neopian highlands shouldn’t be more than half an inch of sediment per year at an extreme maximum. Assuming these conditions, the youngest this sediment could be is 120 years. This seems to me extremely unlikely.
Probable conclusion: the site has been buried.
The site had been buried. Excavations proceeded at the clearing, and it was discovered before too long that there had once been, upon that very spot, something akin to a mining operation. An old shaft was uncovered, a foreman’s office, a workmen’s camp, all was laid bare beneath the many picks and shovels that Milford had hired to work the land. It would have been an archaeological wonderland had Milford been of the proper scientific persuasion. As it was, he was an armchair biologist, and the history of pets did little to tickle his curiosity.
"Look at it, Tittlefeather." Milford gestured grandly to the scaffolding that still encompassed much of the clearing. "After years, we finally have an idea to grab hold of. We finally have…evidence."
"Quite, sir." Tittlefeather fluffed his feathers graciously, as every Pteri butler in Neopia Central had been bred to do. Rhetorical questions and statements that brooked no response should always be met with a gracious feather fluff. "Does sir require anything? A refreshment, perhaps?"
Milford flicked his flipper absent-mindedly. "No, no. To watch the work is enough for me, to see how it is to toil, to watch the work unfold before me…it gives me life, Tittlefeather. It makes me yearn for work of my own." His brow furrowed. "Now hold a second…is my equipment arrived yet?"
"Three boxes from Neopia Central this morning, sir. Marked ‘Dining Room.’ I ordered them to be placed in the requisitions hall until you had a chance to allocate them."
"Quite right, Tittles, old bird, quite right. But blast if they’re the wrong boxes! The laboratory equipment, that’s what we need right now! They’re unearthing the main drilling shaft as we speak and I daresay what we’re after is just underneath. We can’t let such an opportunity pass us by." Milford adjusted his fat bottom in the plush armchair and squinted out from underneath his portable tent. "I say, how long do you think it will take them to finish digging it up?"
Tittlefeather fluffed his feathers once more. "It’s hard to say, sir. Crews often exaggerate the amount of time necessary to complete a project, but this site appears to be heavily buried. It could be a few days, it could be a few weeks. My best estimate, if sir were to ask me-"
"Which I did!" Milford huffed.
Tittlefeather continued, unperturbed. "-would be another two weeks. The shaft is uncovered, the main buildings have been unearthed, and now it is a simple matter of digging out a relatively narrow shaft and constructing sir’s tower around it. With the amount of men sir has hired to engage upon this activity, the estimated time of completion is short, to be sure."
Milford twitched a flipper and looked back out at the proceedings. The site was busy, it was true. Workmen from all over the continent busied themselves with digging, nailing, hauling, and measuring. None were too concerned about trampling the site, but all were preoccupied with centering themselves around the shaft in the center of the clearing. It was this shaft that Milford had paid them to find, the shaft that tens of thousands of neopoints had made a priority. And if he wanted a shrine erected to this self-same shaft, then by Fyora, they would make it happen.
Milford smiled. It wasn’t a shrine he wanted, no. Shrines were for those fools back in the city who thought Fyora deserved their undivided love. Shrines were the deviants who fled to Mystery Island to worship some nincompoop named Pango Pango. No, this was to be a monument to science. To the rational. The tower constructed here was to represent, for all generations to come, a total triumph of science over superstition. The supernatural would be tamed. R.J. Milford would conquer the demon of these hills.
17th, Hunting, he wrote.
I can feel something. It beckons beneath the soil. It wishes to be freed. It demands to be tamed. As poetic as it sounds, there is something here that only civilization can bring to heel, some archaic, ancient beast, produced by the wild hills. Science shall rule here. Science shall uncover the secrets of nature and bring it to the populace.
That sounds grand, should be a fitting introduction to the biography of my discoveries. To more important matters, the work on the site continues to satisfaction, uncovering approximately five feet of soil in the shaft per day. Assuming now that the site was once a mining operation (and assuming that the desired mineral was copper), a depth of approximately 150 feet and no more is estimated as the maximum depth of the shaft. Assuming again that the miners reached something novel before this depth, it should take no more than two weeks to reach something of consequence, be it even the top of a chamber. Let it be written here that I believe the first artifact of consequence to be a door (I shall owe Lord Calthersby 100 neopoints if it be not so, blast that Nimmo), and a door of some merit at that. Laid into an otherwise impenetrable room of stone, metal, or some other material, this door will bar all entry and brook no destruction. This will have been laid down by the miners and will possibly (probably) be a molten plug of metal, poured down the shaft. I do not blame them this excess, and in fact dread the moment we break through such a stopper.
R.J. Milford stopped writing here and again examined his environs. He looked to his left and right and observed the imported silks, linens, bookshelves, decanters, four-poster, manservant, and screens. He looked out upon the scaffolds, the saws, the benches, the dozens upon dozens of unknowing laborers from the city. He looked at the mute pines. He looked at the unblinking sky. And he looked at the ground, with the sunken shaft, only a few feet deep and already casting shadows upon those deep within.
How did such things come to be here? he wondered. And how, indeed, did I?
To be continued…