We are in the depths of an underground cavern. It is bad enough to be underground, but here we are all enveloped in black as well: the ceiling is black, so are the walls; they are made of blocks of coal. The floor is one great black looking-glass. It is a sort of pond, polished as steel. Over this polished surface glistens the reflection of a solitary light, the light of a safety-lamp shining through a wire net.
A man guides himself over the pond in a narrow boat. By the doubtful light of the lamp he sees high pillars, which rise out of the depths below and reach to the very roof of the cavern—pillars slender, like the columns of a Moorish palace. These pillars are half white and half black; up to a certain point only are they coal black, beyond that they are light in color.
What are these pillars?
They are the stems of pines and palm-trees. These gigantic stems are quite at home in the layers over the coal-mine, but how have they descended here? They belong to another world—the world of light and air. The coal layers overhead sometimes take fire of themselves, and the fire, being intense, has loosened the hold of these giants and sent them below.