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Title: Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art - No. 687. February 24, 1877.
Author: Various
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art - No. 687. February 24, 1877." ***

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[Illustration: CHAMBERS'S JOURNAL

OF

POPULAR

LITERATURE, SCIENCE, AND ART.

Fourth Series

CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS.

NO. 687.      SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 1877.      PRICE 1½_d._]



TO LIVE TO A HUNDRED.


That is what most people would like, if it could be easily managed. All
know that they must throw off 'this mortal coil' some time, but there
are innumerable and plausible reasons why they wish to avoid throwing
it off as long as possible. They have important affairs on hand which
require attention. They have children to educate and see out into the
world. They are interested in certain public movements with which the
newspapers are rife, and would like to see how these stirring events
terminate. They are engaged in some important scientific investigations
which they are anxious to complete. They have realised a small fortune,
and would like to see it grow something larger, so that they might make
a decent flourish with their bequests. And so on without end. They have
often declared that the weather has become so bad that life is not
worth having. But on second thoughts, when things are looking serious,
they come to the conclusion that the weather may be endured, and that
the world is not such a bad world after all. Dying, who speaks of
dying? The idea of such a thing is ridiculous.

There is a clever book of old date full of pictorial illustrations
called the _Dance of Death_. Each picture represents a pleasant
scene in social life, into which Death, in the form of a skeleton,
impertinently intrudes himself, and beckons a particular individual
to come away; which individual, considerably surprised and disgusted
at the summons, is obliged to go off, very much against his will.
The moral suggested is the total unexpectedness of the visit--the
uncertainty of human life. Such books amuse people. They laugh at
seeing a self-complacent person sitting at a table stuffing and
enjoying himself with good things, and who, on chancing to look
a little aside, perceives to his consternation a skeleton bowing
respectfully, and beckoning with its bony finger to walk off. He is
wanted, and must march--not a moment to stay. The very glass just
poured out must be left untasted. Very droll, very suggestive such
pictures, only nobody is ever benefited by them. 'All men think all
men mortal but themselves,' says the poet. Men perhaps do not exactly
think so. But what comes pretty much to the same thing, they flatter
themselves they will have a 'long day.' No doubt they will live a good
while yet, and it is as well to be jolly in the meantime.

It is a curious fact, disclosed by physiologists who think deeply on
the subject, that society is very much to blame for the comparative
shortness of life. This was not well understood when the _Dance of
Death_ was written. It is understood now. Inquiries into the laws
of health and disease, along with statistics, make it plain that
premature decease is owing to a variety of preventable causes. We are
gravely informed by Dr Farr, in his letter[1] to the Registrar-general
of England, that the natural lifetime of man is a century! To die
earlier than a hundred years of age is all a mistake. It is the fault
of something or somebody or other that people die young. With a good
constitution to start with, and due care in ordinary circumstances,
life may be protracted to eighty, to ninety, or to a hundred. If that
be what most people like, why don't they try? It is very certain, as
is observable by the newspaper obituaries, that latterly many persons,
whether they have tried or not, lived to be upwards of a hundred years
of age. We have just seen a death reported at a hundred and six, and
a month or two ago one at a hundred and ten. Some of these long-lived
individuals were of a humble rank in life. One or two were parish
paupers. Occasionally we hear of negroes in the United States dying
at a hundred and ten or a hundred and twelve years old, whose early
life was spent in slavery. Among the aristocracy, deaths are pretty
frequently reported at about eighty or ninety, but rarely at a hundred
and above it. From these circumstances it may be inferred that fine
living does not particularly contribute to extreme longevity.

The number of children who die young is immense. Bad nursing, neglect,
whooping-cough, croup, measles, scarlet fever, small-pox, dosing with
soporifics, carry off a large proportion. Bad air in close stuffy
dwellings, and insufficient food, likewise destroy great numbers of
children, particularly in old ill-contrived towns. Only by a kind of
good-luck and natural strength of fibre do they get beyond five years
of age. That is the first clearance; after which ensue the casualties
of youth, too often brought about by carelessness. Latterly, Death has
played great havoc among young and old through new developments of
what are called zymotic diseases; or in plain English, diseases which
originate in the fermentation of putrefying substances. These diseases
are by no means new. They were known in ancient times. But in our own
day they have sprung into enormous vigour, through the influence of
modern domestic arrangements; and generally speaking, the finer the
houses the worse have matters grown.

In his operations, Death has wonderfully potent auxiliaries in
house-builders; or at least those who get up houses to sell regardless
of sanitary arrangements. Pipes to carry off refuse are scamped,
everything is scamped. The pipes are ill put together and badly laid;
foul air, the result of festering fermentation, escapes into the
dwelling. Diphtheria and typhoid fever are the probable consequence.
Much that is curious has been written concerning these zymotic
diseases. It is now generally believed that the poisonous gases arising
from imperfect pipeage in houses consist intrinsically of fungoid
germs, which are unconsciously swallowed by the luckless inhabitants of
the houses so affected. Whether this Germ theory be correct or not, the
result is the same. By inhaling the vitiated air, we drink a kind of
poison, which produces the most fatal disorders. In our own small way,
we could speak from experience of this bad pipeage system, which has
obviously become one of the scandals of the age. It is enough for us
to advise every purchaser of a house to look strictly to the condition
of pipes and drains. If he cannot do it himself, let him procure the
assistance of experts. What a thing to say of some modern improvements,
that they have ended in giving us two of the greatest evils in
life--foul air in our houses, and foul water to drink! One would almost
think that these so-called improvements had been ingeniously devised in
the interest of the undertakers.

People as we see are slain right and left by ailments which seize upon
them insidiously when least expected. The weakest of course come off
worst. This brings us to the fact that considerable numbers possess
but a feeble stamina, and are unable to ward off disease, even with
all the appliances of art. They come of a weakly parentage perhaps
through several generations. Being by inheritance little better than an
incarnation of beer and gin, they are absolutely born with a tendency
to succumb to disorders which others would escape. Dr Farr makes the
remark, that our very philanthropic schemes for rendering succour to
the afflicted tend to raise crops of people of inferior organisation.
'The imbecile, the drunkard, the lunatic, the criminal, the idle, and
all tainted natures, were once allowed to perish in fields, asylums,
or jails, if they were not directly put to death; but these classes and
their offspring now figure in large numbers in the population.'

From one cause and another, it is not surprising that so comparatively
few reach extreme old age. The average of human life has been extended
through the resources of modern science, but not to such an extent as
might be expected, for the average still does not range higher than
forty-five to fifty. Some reasons for this comparatively low average
have been alluded to. To these may be added the frightful deterioration
of health from intemperance. Drinking, once a fashionable vice, has
become a prevalent evil in the lower departments of society, and the
evil is conspicuously increased in proportion to an advancement in
the gains of labour. Alcohol! In that single word we have no end of
premature deaths accounted for. The most correctly logical definition,
as far as we have seen, of the physical and mental ills inflicted
through the agency of alcohol, is that given by Dr B. W. Richardson
in his work on the _Diseases of Modern Life_. There can be no doubt
that the reckless abuse of this stimulant, always growing the more
reckless, as has been said, as means are increased for its indulgence,
has a terrible effect on the increase of pauperism and death-rates.
According to Dr Richardson, alcohol has a tendency to throw life off
its balance--'A balance at the best of times finely set is broken in
favour of death. A mental shock, a mechanical injury, an exposure to
cold, a strain, a deprivation of food beyond the usual time of taking
food;--any of these causes, and others similar, are sufficient to cause
an organic wreck, which, left to its own fate, would soon break up from
progressive internal failure of vital power.' Much that follows on this
subject we commend to general attention--without, however, expecting
that what the learned writer says will be of any practical avail.

Another cause for the undue shortening of life which has not been yet
referred to, is the intense mental strain prevalent among literary
men, artists, statesmen, judges, and some other classes. If not a new
feature in society, this mental strain is at least more conspicuous
than it was formerly, because the struggle to attain high rewards is
greater, and more dependent on individual exertion than it seems to
have been in past and less exacting times. In short, in derangement
of the nervous system, leading to no end of functional derangements
in the heart, stomach, and so on, in all which are found reasons why
so many of our most eminent notabilities are removed ere they reach
fourscore. They fall victims to a heedless, certainly unfortunate,
overtasking of the brain. Medical men in high practice, though well
aware of the dangers of professional exhaustion, are not always exempt
from the charge of being careless of their own health. The wiser among
them endeavour to limit their hours of work, and at the proper season
retreat to the country, for the sake of invigorating rural sports.
But for these precautions, the death-rate among London physicians
would be very much greater than it is. The late Sir Henry Holland is
known to have greatly lengthened his days by habitually making long
autumnal tours over the globe; always returning invigorated for fresh
work. The very common practice among people in business of taking a
month's holiday at the sea-side, or some inland healthful resort--a
practice immensely facilitated by railways and steamboats--has the
same beneficial tendency. As regards the salutary results of checking
the mental strain in literary labour, we could speak from a degree of
personal experience. We have for the last forty years--whether in town
or country, whether in winter or summer--never written a line after
nine o'clock at night. When that hour strikes, the ink-glass is shut
up, the pen and paper laid aside, and the mind is allowed to calm down
before retiring to rest. The rule is peremptorily followed with the
best consequences.

In the varied pressure of inexorable circumstances it may not be
possible to be so extremely guarded. Lives are abruptly lost, the
most precious in the community. He, however, who falls in the fair
fight of life, though mistaken has been his eagerness, may be said
to fall nobly. It is a considerably different thing when men shorten
their days through luxurious indulgences, in wanton disregard of the
rules essential to the preservation of bodily health. Up till fifty
years of age, it perhaps signifies little how some of these rules are
neglected, because the constitution originally vigorous resists or
overcomes various deteriorating influences. At all events, there may
be no immediate mischief. After fifty, and more particularly sixty, a
change has taken place. The breathing, the digestive, the circulatory
processes are less able to endure tear and wear. A little indiscretion
may derange the whole machine, and bring it prematurely to a dead stop.

It is wonderful how much may be done to protract existence by the
habitual restorative of sound sleep. Late hours, under mental strain,
are of course incompatible with this solacement. On this topic Dr
Richardson says it has been painful for him to trace the beginnings of
pulmonary consumption to late hours at 'unearthly balls and evening
parties,' by which rest is broken, and encroachments made on the
constitution. But, he adds, 'If in middle age the habit of taking
deficient and irregular sleep be still maintained, every source of
depression, every latent form of disease, is quickened and intensified.
The sleepless exhaustion allies itself with all other processes of
exhaustion, or it kills imperceptibly, by a rapid introduction of
premature old age, which leads directly to premature dissolution.'
There, at once, is an explanation why many people die earlier than they
ought to do. They violate the primary principle of taking a regular
night's rest. If they sleep, it is disturbed. They dream all sorts of
nonsense. That is to say, they do not sleep soundly or for any useful
purpose; for dreaming is nothing more than wild, imaginative notions
passing through the brain while half sleeping or dozing. In dreaming,
there is no proper or restorative rest.

It is a pity that Dr Richardson, as in the case of other medical
writers, has refrained from stating that the practice of late dining,
always growing later and later, to suit fashionable fancies, is quite
incompatible with that tranquil and wholesome night's rest which
contributes materially to a healthy and protracted old age. How can
any one who inconsiderately sits eating and drinking till within an
hour or two of midnight, so as to render refreshing sleep pretty
nearly impossible, expect to reach eighty, ninety, or a hundred years
of age? Narcotics are taken to procure the much-coveted sleep. They
give no natural repose, besides otherwise doing harm. It is customary
to say of sentiments of remorse that they 'murdered sleep.' So at
least said Macbeth, and, as is known, he spoke from very unpleasant
experience. But as things go, sleeplessness arises less from remorse
and other mental affections than from physical causes connected with
digestion. The stomach, to use a familiar phrase, is out of sorts. And
in a vast number of cases it would be wonderful if it were otherwise.
Just think of the habitual overtasking of the digestive functions
and corresponding secretions, from the practice of late eating and
drinking--late ceremonious dinners, which, from their tiresome
sameness, their simpering platitudes, their dull insincerity, their
waste of food, waste of time, and waste of health and comfort, can
scarcely be said to claim a single redeeming feature. If that be called
social intercourse, it is a downright sham--poor outcome indeed of the
accumulated intelligence and inventiveness of the nineteenth century.
One of the dangers of dining out in winter arises from exposure to
cold and damp night-air. The excuse usually made is, that of being
well wrapped up. But although that is right in its way, the fact is
well known to medical practitioners that grievous mischief may be done
in an instant of time. By a single gulp of cold air, or by a chill to
the feet, in stepping from the door to a carriage, a deed may be done
beyond the power of science to undo. Our belief is, that cold caught
at late dinners and other late entertainments is a prolific source of
disorders that prove fatal. With what a thrill of sorrow have we lately
attended the funerals of aged and estimable persons who gave promise
of living other ten or twenty years, but were said to have died after
a three days' illness, in consequence of having one evening when they
were out 'caught a little cold.'

It is tolerably evident that, setting aside the masses who die young
and in middle life, from ailments that are difficult to be warded
off, length of days is considerably dependent on individual effort
as regards a graceful sacrifice to the rules of health. The explicit
statement of Dr Farr, that the natural span of human life is a century,
will to many appear startling. But calmly considered, a century is
but a small fraction in the vast expanse of time. Years pass away
imperceptibly. The man of seventy or eighty can hardly realise that
so many years have slipped over his head. In his own condition he
feels little to impress him with the fact. The past has vanished
like a dream. The evidence of advanced years consists mainly in the
recollection of events, recollection of places visited, recollection
of the friends and acquaintances we have lost. The past is a vista
strewed with memories, some agreeable, others saddening. We have worked
our way as it were into a new world, yet with everything going on very
much as it did long ago, _plus_ a happy diminution in the number of
Torturations.

The estimate formed of age ought not properly to depend on years.
One man at seventy may be in constitution not older than another at
forty-five or fifty. All depends on the original strength of frame, and
the way it has been treated. Hence are seen lively old men, who, from
their manners and activity, you would say were like men of thirty.
The bloom on their cheeks, their tasteful toilet, their dancing, their
singing, are a kind of marvel. The explanation of the phenomenon
is, that besides having been careful as regards temperate habits
and attention to air and exercise, they have all along cultivated
a cheerful view of human affairs. 'A merry heart doeth good like a
medicine, but grief drieth the bones.' They have studied that text to
some practical purpose. At fifty, at sixty, at seventy, they have been
steadily qualifying for a hundred, and it seems not unlikely (if kept
free from worry) that they will reach that desirable epoch--at all
events, under a moderate discount of ten per cent., they may get as
far as ninety, and on the morning after their decease have something
handsomely said of them in the newspapers.

Keeping steadily in view Dr Farr's comforting view of the matter, we
shall be glad if anything we have cheerfully ventured to suggest, has
led people to reflect that with a reasonable degree of care they may
have themselves to blame if they do not 'Live to a Hundred.'

    W. C.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] This letter is appended to the Supplement to the Thirty-fifth
Annual Report concerning Births, Deaths, and Marriages in England, 1875.



THE LAST OF THE HADDONS.

CHAPTER X.--MARIAN.


As I had expected, the neighbourhood through which we were driven did
not appear to be inhabited by the most prosperous class of people. We
presently found ourselves in Green Street; and when the cabman drew up
before a retail shoemaker's shop, we saw at once that there could be no
doubt about its being the place we wanted. The name of Pratt ran up and
down, and across the house, in every direction, backwards and forwards,
and sideways and lengthways; to say nothing of a large blue boot
swinging over the pavement, conveying the information that this was the
veritable Pratt's, and there was no other in the three kingdoms who
sold boots and shoes so good and cheap, and beautiful to behold, as did
Jonathan Pratt. Telling the cabman to wait, I entered a sort of bower
of boots and shoes (they hung all round the doorway, and were ticketed
'Great Bargains,' 'Alarming Sacrifices,' 'The Princesses' Favourite,'
and so forth), closely followed by Lilian.

'I'll attend to you in half a moment, ladies,' said a stout, brisk,
good-tempered-looking man, as he put some small shoes into a parcel,
and counted out the change to a customer at the counter, adding to her:
'You've got the best of me again, Mrs Gooch, by a good threepence, that
you have! There, take 'em away quick, before I change my mind!'

'Oh, you always say that, Mr Pratt,' laughed the good woman, gathering
up her parcel and change, and pleasantly wishing him good-day.

Evidently Mr Pratt was a favourite with his customers. I afterwards
heard that he was famous for his jokes and good-nature, as well as a
keen eye to business.

'Now, ladies,' he went on, turning smilingly towards us, as the good
woman left the shop, and rubbing his hands briskly together; 'here I am
ready to go through it all again, though you ladies always get the best
of me in a bargain, you know you do. Eh'---- Falling back a little as
Lilian put up her veil; and even in that somewhat obscured light seeing
that she was very different from the generality of 'ladies' he had to
deal with, he added: 'I beg your pardon, Miss, I'm sure. What may I
have the pleasure of shewing you?' For Mr Pratt prided himself upon his
ability to suit his manners to his customers.

'You are Mr Pratt?' she began hesitatingly.

'Yes, Miss; that's me for certain.'

Lilian looked towards me, and I said: 'Will you allow us to speak with
Mrs Pratt? Our business is with her, if she will kindly see us for a
few minutes.'

'Mrs Pratt! _To_ be sure, ladies; _to_ be sure. Please to step this
way.' We followed him into a small back-shop; and after putting two
chairs for us, and--I suppose from force of habit--placing two little
squares of carpet at our feet, he opened a side-door, and called out:
'Mother, you're wanted.'

Lilian, who looked very white and agitated, slipped her hand into mine;
I clasped it firmly, waiting not a little anxiously for her sake.

A slight little woman, with a gentle good face, and soft dark eyes,
looking very neat in a clean lilac print gown and large white apron,
came hesitatingly into the room. One glance at her shewed us that it
was not she whom we were seeking. Though her slight figure made her
perhaps appear younger than she really was, she could not have been
much less than fifty. We were for the moment both too much absorbed in
the one thought to speak; and after glancing timidly first towards her
husband and then at us, she asked: 'Is it change wanted, Jonathan?'

'These ladies want to speak to you, Susan,' he replied, looking a
little surprised at our silence.

Lilian flushed up, glancing pleadingly towards me again. It was
certainly rather embarrassing. I was casting about in my mind to find
some way of approaching the subject without committing ourselves, in
the event of their not being in the secret, when fortunately Mr Pratt's
attention was called towards the shop-door, where commenced a brisk
patter of words with reference to some of the bargains. With this
gentle-looking woman it would be much easier to say what we wanted to
say than with her husband, more accustomed to gauge the worth of words.
So I plucked up my courage, and began: 'We have come to you, Mrs Pratt,
in the hope of obtaining some information'---- I suddenly thought of
new tactics, and said: 'Is the name of Farrar known to you?'

'Farrar!' She put her hand to her side, and sank down on to the nearest
chair, gazing at me without a word.

Seeing that I was at anyrate so far correct as to be speaking to the
right Mrs Pratt, I went on: 'Perhaps you know that Mr Farrar has been
ill for some time?'

'Yes, Miss; I know that.'

'Do you also know that his illness terminated in death ten days ago?' I
said, speaking slowly, and carefully separating my words, in order to
in some measure break the shock; for though she was not the 'Marian'
we were seeking, her agitation shewed me that they were in some way
connected.

'Dead!' she murmured--'dead!' as she sat gazing at us, or rather at
some vision which the words seemed to have called up before her mental
eyes.

I thought it best now to go straight to the point, and said: 'Before
his death, Mr Farrar expressed a wish that this packet should be
delivered to the person to whom it is addressed; and therefore we
thought it best to bring it ourselves to you, Mrs Pratt.'

She mechanically took it from my hand, looking down at it as though she
were in a dream.

'But,' eagerly began Lilian, 'you see it is written above, "For
Marian;" and before he died, dear papa told me'----

'You are Miss Farrar!' ejaculated Mrs Pratt, turning towards Lilian
with a strange expression in her eyes: a mixture of curiosity and
surprise, it appeared to me.

'Yes; I am his daughter; and very anxious to obey his last request. He
told me that I have a sister, and wished me to be good to her. He meant
to provide for her, and his will was prepared; but his illness was very
sudden at--the last, and the lawyer did not arrive in time.'

I had thought it only just to tell Lilian what Mr Markham said, and she
eagerly caught at the idea that her father had intended to provide for
the other.

Mrs Pratt murmured something about its being very kind of Mr Farrar;
her eyes downcast, and hands fluttering about her apron-strings.

'We thought it best to bring this ourselves, Mrs Pratt, because we wish
to be in communication with Marian,' I said. 'And of course you know
where she is. You know her, do you not?'

'Yes, Miss,' replied Mrs Pratt. She sat very pale and still a few
moments, and then went on slowly and hesitatingly: 'If you really wish
to see her'----

Lilian very earnestly assured her that she did.

'Then will you please to come this way, ladies?' she whispered, still,
I fancied, a little nervously and doubtfully.

We rose at once, and followed her into the passage, up a narrow
staircase, and into a front-room on the first floor. One glance shewed
me that this was very different from what might have been expected in
Mrs Pratt's best room--different in the way of being very pretentious.
It was in fact evidently intended to be considered a drawing-room,
and was crowded with tawdry finery, which not even its exquisite
cleanliness could make to look respectable. Gaudy furniture, gaudy
curtains, gaudy vases, with quantities of artificial flowers; a round
table spread with gaudily bound books, &c.--all looking in such strange
contrast with Mrs Pratt herself in her homely simplicity.

'Will you tell us where to find my sister?' eagerly began Lilian, after
a hasty glance around.

'Sister!' said Mrs Pratt. 'You are not ashamed to call her that; or--is
it that you do not know?'

'I have guessed that--that her mother was to be pitied,' said Lilian in
a low voice, a crimson flush suffusing her face.

'And you can still call her sister?'

'Yes.'

'God bless you, dear young lady! It's only the best and purest could
say that. Let me--pray let me.'

And before Lilian could prevent her, Mrs Pratt sank on her knees and
kissed the young girl's hands. It expressed all the more to me, because
I judged that Mrs Pratt was not naturally so emotional as most people.
She recovered herself quickly too. After turning away for a few moments
towards the window, where she stood wiping her eyes, she was the same
self-contained, quiet-looking, little woman we had first seen.

'Please forgive me, ladies; but, as you have guessed, I do know Marian
Reed. Her poor mother was my only sister, and since her death, Marian
has always lived with us. Mr Farrar has always paid very handsome for
her; and she has been brought up like a--lady.' Mrs Pratt hesitated a
little over the word, and added: 'I mean, compared with people like
us--a deal better than my own little ones.'

To gain a little time for Lilian, I asked: 'How many children have you,
Mrs Pratt?'

'We have seven, Miss; but I've a good husband; a better man than
Jonathan doesn't breathe; and business is brisk; so we want for
nothing.'

The latter part of her sentence was meant for a hint, I thought, and
I was all the more favourably inclined towards her in consequence. At
anyrate we were amongst honest people.

'Is--Marian in the house now?' inquired Lilian. 'May I see her?'

Once more I noticed the reluctance in Mrs Pratt's face, as she replied:
'Yes, Miss; I'll go and tell her.'

'No; please do not tell her; let me introduce myself.'

Mrs Pratt consented; and to be quite honest with us, did not leave the
room. Standing at the open door, she called out: 'Miss Reed--Marian,
dear!'

No reply.

'Marian, dear, will you please come down for a few minutes?'

'What for?' called out a voice from some upper chamber.

'Somebody wants to see you, dear.'

I heard a word which seemed very much like 'Bother!' and a sound as of
a book thrown down. Then there was a somewhat heavy and leisurely tread
descending the stairs.

'Well, what is it?'

A girl of about twenty or twenty-one years of age entered the room,
looking as though she had been disturbed and resented it. At sight of
her my heart sank. Lilian's sister! This underbred girl, arrayed in
the latest style of elegance as interpreted by Islington. Everything
about her was in the extreme of penny-fashion-book style; the largest
of chignons, the fluffiest of curls covering her forehead down to her
eyebrows, the longest of ribbons streaming down her back, and the
latest inventions in the way of imitation jewellery. I am bound to
acknowledge that she was in her way good-looking; with plenty of dark
hair, large round dark eyes, red (not pink) and white complexion, and
good though large figure, and yet----Could any one in the world be more
disappointing, as Lilian's sister?

She crossed the room, seated herself with a _dégagé_ air in a
lounging-chair, and playing with a bunch of trinkets, it was then the
fashion to call charms, upon her watch-chain, she languidly inquired if
we had come about the music lessons.

'Because I have almost made up my mind to engage a gentleman. I require
something advanced, you know; and the gentleman who is organist at our
church gives lessons to a select few, and'----

'Are you Marian?' asked Lilian, white and trembling.

'I am Miss Reed,' very stiffly returned that young lady.

'This young lady is Miss Farrar,' I put in, to help Lilian.

'O indeed!' returned Miss Reed.

I saw that the name told her nothing. I know now that she had never
been told her father's name.

With slowly gathering colour, Mrs Pratt now came to my assistance. 'Mr
Farrar was the gentleman who--paid for your schooling and all that,
Marian, dear--the quarterly allowance came from him.'

'And who was he?'

'Your father!' returned her aunt, in a low broken voice: 'and these
ladies have come to tell us that he has been ill, and--and'----

'He is dead!' said Marian; taking note of our black clothes, and
becoming as pale as one of her complexion could become.

'Come!' I thought, not a little relieved, 'she can feel.' But I very
quickly found that I had been somewhat premature in giving her credit
upon that account. It is possible to feel without the feeling being
worth very much. I saw in what way she was touched, as she went on,
with a little catch in her breath, looking from one to the other of us:
'What has he left me?'

We were silent; and putting the right construction upon our silence,
she hurriedly added: 'You don't mean to say he hasn't left me anything,
after'----

Without any further anxiety on the score of her feelings, I put in: 'Mr
Farrar has left no will, Miss Reed; and all his property comes to this
young lady--his daughter.'

'Then I say it is mean, and shameful--downright shameful! and'----

'Hush, Marian, pray; Marian, dear, you forget!' pleaded Mrs Pratt,
laying her hand upon the girl's arm.

'Am I not his daughter too? Am I not to say a word if I am left a
beggar, after being always led on to expect to be a lady? It _is_
shameful; and I do not care who hears me say so!' Flashing a look of
angry defiance at us.

Lilian sat gazing at her; in her sorrow and disappointment, utterly
incapable of uttering a word. It had not occurred to her that she
might find this kind of sister. She had probably never before been in
contact with any one like Marian Reed, and indeed we had both of us
expected to see a very different person from this. If she had been only
poor--anything like the children of poor parents generally, there would
have been some reason for hope. But now! I afterwards found that Mr
Farrar's very liberal allowance had been expended entirely on Marian
Reed herself, Mr Pratt very decidedly objecting to accept more than a
fair remuneration for her board and lodging; and the command of so much
money had fostered a natural vanity and love of dress, until she had
become the fine lady before us.

'If you will only be good enough to allow me to explain, you will, I
think, do Mr Farrar more justice, as well as spare his daughter, Miss
Reed,' I said, in a tone which made her turn sharply towards me with a
look and gesture which seemed to say: 'And who are you?'

Having succeeded so far as to quiet her, I went on: 'Mr Farrar's
illness terminated rather suddenly at last, Miss Reed; and the lawyer
who was summoned did not arrive in time for the will to be signed'----

'But he might have'----

I stopped her again. 'Mr Farrar did what he could in trusting his
daughter to carry out his wishes; and you will find her only too
anxious to do all that is right.'

I saw the round black eyes turn sharply and speculatively upon Lilian
for a moment; then she replied, in a slightly mollified tone: 'So much
depends upon what people consider right, you know.'

I saw that Lilian was battling against herself, and longed to say
to my darling: 'Trust to your instinct, which is altogether against
asking this girl to come to live with you. Whatever else you may do,
do not yield to a false sentiment in this one thing.' Unfortunately
(or fortunately; looking at the question from this distance of time, I
am not really sure which I ought to write), Lilian did _not_ obey her
instinct. In her anxiety lest she should not carry out her father's
wishes, she was afraid to trust to her own feelings in the matter. When
Marian a little impatiently asked:

'I should like to know what _you_ call right?' Lilian replied in a low
faltering voice:

'He wished me to be good to you; and I came to-day to ask you to live
with me, and--be my sister--for--dear papa's sake. He has left a great
deal of money, and quite intended you to share it.'

'That is,' I hastened to interpose, seeing the effect of the word
'share' upon the other--'Mr Farrar no doubt meant that the allowance
which you have hitherto received should be continued to you, Miss Reed.
I have reason to think something of that kind was to be done.'

'That would be very kind and generous. Wouldn't it, Marian, dear?' said
Mrs Pratt.

'And' (I went on) 'perhaps you would prefer remaining with the friends
who have been so good to you, and going on as before, Miss Reed?'

But Miss Reed very quickly gave us to understand that she did not
prefer it; though Mrs Pratt put in a gentle word or two on my side:
'You have always been very comfortable with us, dear!'

Comfortable! That evidently would not be sufficient to satisfy Marian
Reed any longer.

'I have been brought up as a young lady, aunt' (at present she had no
doubts upon the point); 'and learned music, and French, and dancing,
and all that; so papa must have intended me to come to live with him
some time, and it seems only fair that my sister should ask me.--What's
your name, dear? It seems funny my not knowing your name; doesn't it?'

'My name is Lilian.'

'Lilian! What a pretty name--quite _charmong_!'

I saw that it was to be; and that the only thing I could now do was to
gain a little delay, so I said: 'Of course you will want a little time
to prepare, Miss Reed.' She was about to protest; but I quietly went
on: 'It will be necessary to procure mourning, and so forth.'

'O yes; I had forgotten that,' she replied, eyeing Lilian's black
dress, nearly covered with crape. 'Of course I shall;' adding a little
apologetically: 'You mustn't expect me to feel exactly the same as you
do about it, you know. Of course I am very sorry, and all that; but I
do not remember ever having seen papa; so it isn't to be expected that
I can feel quite as much as though I had always known him.'

'No,' replied Lilian, with what I fancied to be a sigh of relief. She
would have even jealously resented this stranger claiming the privilege
to share her grief as well as her money. Had he not loved her--and had
she not loved him?

There was silence again for a few moments, which was broken by Marian
Reed, the most self-possessed of any of us, for even I, the least
interested, felt somewhat nonplussed by the aspect of affairs: 'It
will take me a good week or ten days to get _distangy_ mourning;' with
a glance towards Lilian, as she gave that evidence of having learned
French. 'Suppose we say ten days?'

'Very well,' replied Lilian, rising.

'But you haven't given me the address yet, you know. And you must
excuse my reminding you that there's been nothing said about last
quarter's remittance, which was due last week, and which we have been a
great deal inconvenienced by not receiving.'

I hastened to put the packet into her hand. 'This was placed ready for
you, Miss Reed; but for the address upon it we might not have found
you; and I daresay you will find it correct.'

'O yes; no doubt;' taking it with a negligent air, in amusing contrast
with her next words: 'And then there's the mourning, you know; that
will have to be paid for; and good mourning is so expensive.'

'O yes; of course; I beg your pardon,' said Lilian, hurriedly taking
out her pocket-book. 'This is the address; and---- No; I find I have
not enough money with me; but I will send you a cheque when I get
home, if that will do. And of course you will like to make some little
acknowledgment to the friends who have been always so kind to you.'

'Of course I should, if you send enough,' sharply replied Miss Reed.

The colour rose in Lilian's cheeks. 'I will send what you please.'

'Well, you couldn't say more than that, I'm sure,' graciously responded
Miss Reed. 'But I'd rather leave it to you.'

'Will fifty pounds be enough?'

Mrs Pratt looked awe-struck; but her niece, who evidently prided
herself upon _sang-froid_, calmly said: 'O yes; quite enough; thank
you.'

'If you will let us know the day and train, we will drive to the
station to meet you,' said Lilian, her voice sinking lower.

'Yes; I will write and tell you when I am ready, dear.' And after going
through the ceremony of shaking hands and bidding us good-morning, Miss
Reed sank languidly back into her seat again, leaving her aunt to shew
us out.

As we reached the foot of the stairs, we could see into a side-room,
the door of which was open, and observing some children sitting round a
table, I asked: 'Are these your little ones, Mrs Pratt?'

'Yes, Miss. Would you like to walk in?'

I did wish to walk in, and availed myself of the invitation,
notwithstanding poor Lilian's pleading look. She was, I knew, anxious
to get away as quickly as possible. But I wanted to judge for myself as
to whether the contrast between Mrs Pratt's children and their cousin
was as great as between herself and that young lady. Seven children,
whose ages seemed to range between about five and fifteen, were seated
round a neatly spread table at dinner; and though the fare seemed of
the homeliest, they were partaking it with quiet enjoyment under the
supervision of an elder sister, a girl of about fifteen, pretty, and
fresh, and neat-looking in her print frock. Altogether as refreshing a
contrast to the cousin up-stairs as could well be conceived.

After one little shy blushing acknowledgment of our greeting, she
attended to her business again.

'Don't stare at the ladies, Billy,' she whispered, guiding the spoonful
of rice which, in his astonishment at seeing us, he was sending over
his shoulder towards his mouth.

'She's quite a mother to them already,' said Mrs Pratt, brightening up
wonderfully in the presence of her children. 'I can't find it in my
heart to let her go to service until the others are grown up a bit. We
can't spare Susy, can we, dears?'

This seemed to two or three of the younger ones to indicate that
there had been some proposition to take her, and that we were the
delinquents. But we hastened to reassure them, and tears were soon
dried again, though two or three pairs of sharp little eyes kept watch
over Susy.

How heartily I wished that this had been the sister we were seeking;
this modest, good, unpretending Susy. I think the same thought was in
Lilian's mind as she wistfully eyed her. The tinkling of a bell sounded
in some back place, and Susy bade one of her little brothers: 'Run,
Tommy, and tell Miss Reed dinner will soon be ready.'

Then I noticed a tray ready spread on a side-table; and in reply to my
look of inquiry, Mrs Pratt explained: 'Miss Reed' (she was evidently
more accustomed to call her Miss Reed than Marian) 'lives up-stairs,
ladies, since she went for a year to boarding-school; she prefers it.'

'And so do we,' heartily put in her husband, entering at the moment.
'We bring our little ones up to work, ladies. _They_ won't get two
hundred a year without earning it, and I won't have fine notions put
into their heads. I shall be satisfied, I tell them, if they grow up
respectable, and not ashamed to look any one in the face. Miss Reed
likes to be a fine lady, and we've got no right to object to that.
I don't take any more from her than what pays for her lodging and
keep--not a penny; and of course she's a right to do what she likes
with the rest; but she never pleased me more than when she made up
her mind to keep to her own rooms. Excuse me, ladies; but I've been
accustomed to speak my mind, and somehow I always feel bound to say
what my mind is, when Miss Reed's being talked about.'

Lilian was silent. I murmured something to the effect that I quite
agreed with him as regarded making his children as much as possible
independent of circumstances.

'Miss Reed's going away, father,' said Mrs Pratt. 'These ladies came to
tell her that--the gentleman is dead.'

'Dead!'

'And this young lady is Miss Farrar, Jonathan. She has come to ask
Marian to go and live with her.'

It took Mr Pratt some little time to get over the surprise; but I soon
saw that it was not an altogether disagreeable one.

'It is so good of you, dear young lady,' murmured Mrs Pratt, who
scarcely took her eyes from Lilian's face. 'So much more than Miss
Reed could expect.'

'You may well say that, mother!' ejaculated Mr Pratt. 'It _is_ more
than she could expect--a deal. Though, to tell the truth, I shan't be
so very down-hearted about her going, for my part. We can let our rooms
again, and---- Well, as I said before, I don't want any of our young
ones to grow up after Miss Reed's pattern.' At a murmured word from
his wife, he put his hand for a moment on her shoulder. 'Mrs Pratt is
more soft-hearted, and she naturally feels more for her sister's child
than I do; but she's been a good deal put upon, and she'll see it's all
for the best that Miss Reed should go, by-and-by. I can only say that
she's kept true to her promise to her dying sister, and the girl can't
say anything to the contrary. Her aunt's been a regular slave to her,
always ready to cocker up one, who---- Well, there, mother; I won't say
any more: what's gone's past; and I hope Miss Reed will be satisfied
now, that's all. I never denied but what she's a fine lass enough--to
look at; and when she's got all she wants in the way of being fine
enough, I daresay she'll be all right. Anyhow, she needn't be afraid of
our shaming her. Business is good, and like to be; but if it wasn't, it
would make no difference; we shall not run after her. If she likes to
come and see her aunt sometimes, I think it would do her good, because,
as I've said before, Mrs Pratt's soft-hearted about her; but even she
wouldn't be soft-hearted enough to run after a girl who didn't want to
see her.'

'Of course you will come to see us at Fairview, Mrs Pratt,' said
Lilian, in her earnest unmistakably sincere way; 'and of course she
will come often to see you.'

'One thing we needn't go far to see, Miss,' said Mr Pratt, who was
evidently impressed in Lilian's favour. 'I know the real thing when I
see it; and that's why the Brummagem up-stairs doesn't go down with
me. There--there; I've done, mother. Good-day, ladies; and thank you
kindly, for us.'

And after shaking hands with Mrs Pratt and her children, Lilian
pressing her purse into Susy's hand, we took our departure, escorted to
the cab by Mr Pratt.



'ONE SHILLING.'


One of the eighteenth-century poets exclaims in a burst of enthusiasm
how 'happy is the man who, void of cares and strife, in silken purse
or leathern pouch retains a Splendid Shilling.' Then, poor fellow,
as if overcome with the prospect, he dwells on the various pleasures
which the splendid shilling was able to realise. Had he lived exactly
a hundred years later, his poem might have been ten times the length,
for what a vast variety of things may be enjoyed or purchased for a
shilling is now a matter of daily wonder. The penny still keeps its
ground in small matters. So does the sixpence. But these inferior
coins, as well as those of higher denominations, are nothing in point
of popularity to the shilling. Looking to its growing importance,
we would recommend every one to have always a shilling ready in the
pocket. He will hardly walk a hundred yards in any busy thoroughfare
without seeing how the shilling may be laid out to advantage. 'Price
One Shilling,' 'Admission One Shilling,' stare us in the face in all
directions.

'Price One Shilling' is very observable at the booksellers'. Shilling
books crowd the railway book-stalls in profusion; not merely garish
volumes of sensational fiction in gaudily printed covers, but standard
works in good type on good paper. Gilt-edged leather-bound Bibles and
Prayer-books; the plays of Shakspeare; the poems of Scott, Byron,
Burns, Cowper; the novels and romances of Fielding, Smollett, Scott,
Lytton, Cooper--the completeness of many of these shilling works is
remarkable. Monthly magazines have in most part abandoned the old
half-crown standard, and have come into the shilling circle. Shilling
atlases of maps, useful for schools, are becoming plentiful. Stationery
pays a like homage to the silver coin in the neatly arranged packets
and boxes of paper and envelopes, the boxes of colours and of drawing
instruments, the fitted writing-cases for emigrants and soldiers,
the grosses of steel pens (reminding the older among us of the days
when steel pens were charged a shilling each), the pen-knife with an
ever-pointed pencil at one end, &c. Published music displays a similar
tendency towards the shilling in collections, after the copyright
sheets have had their day. The gems of an opera, with the words in two
languages; the great symphonies of Beethoven; the charming _Lieder ohne
Wörter_ of Mendelssohn; the books of instruction for the chief musical
instruments--all are made up into shilling worths to an extent that has
attracted the attention of most of us.

Go on a leisurely ramble through the principal streets, and see how
multifarious are the indications in the same direction. The shilling
razor is now a really serviceable article, made to shave as well
as to sell (the gross of green spectacles, bought by the Vicar of
Wakefield's son Moses, were, as we all remember, made to sell only).
Shilling telescopes are in the windows, as are shilling thermometers
and shilling microscopes; shilling spectacles are to be had by those
who need them, and shilling eyeglasses by fast gents who do not. The
smallest retailed portions of some beverages are priced a shilling, as
are the largest of others. A shilling, paid by a simpleton of either
sex, purchases a mystic delineation of character from handwriting. When
the verger or some other official has shewn you the architectural and
monumental curiosities of a cathedral; or an old dame has escorted you
through the ruins of an abbey or castle, telling her tale of marvel as
she goes; or a domestic has taken you through the principal rooms of
an old country mansion--a shilling is, more frequently than any other
coin, the _honorarium_ awarded. Shilling hat clubs, clothes clubs,
coal clubs, goose clubs, watch clubs, &c. are rather plentiful in the
metropolis--speculations in which working-men think they lay out their
money to advantage; but do they? The shilling has been long used by the
recruiting sergeant wherewith to secure fresh additions to the ranks.
A shilling dinner, provided by a 'Restaurant Company, Limited,' had a
struggle for existence some time back; but beef at tenpence a pound put
an end to it. A shilling is (practically) the smallest cab fare. Oaths,
till lately (we hope they are not so now), were a shilling each in some
judicial proceedings, and, not unfrequently, dear at the price.

Nor are fine-art and professional investments any less within the
influence of the mighty shilling. There are many varieties of the
Shilling Art Union, in which persons do a little quiet lottery-gambling
under the guise of art. Shilling lessons in various accomplishments are
given by persons whose pecuniary means are not up to the level of their
professional aspirations. A shillingworth of postage-stamps, if you
believe the advertisers (which you had better not), will initiate you
into 'a light and genteel employment.' Shilling photographs constitute
quite a world in themselves in our shop windows; and it is amusing to
see the impartiality with which princesses, bishops, swimming-men, pets
of the ballet, poets, clergymen, criminals, tragic actresses, monastic
brothers, acrobatic brothers, and opera stars are admitted. Shilling
photographs are to be had so minute that a shilling microscope is
necessary to render them visible.

Little less general and varied is the announcement 'Admission One
Shilling.' There may be select accommodation at higher terms in some
instances, and 'back seats' at lower terms in others; but a shilling
marks the most prevalent charge. We have pretty well outlived the
shilling panoramas, dioramas, cosmoramas, and needlework exhibitions;
nevertheless, a constantly increasing supply of other kinds tempts the
public. The Royal Academy, the summer and winter exhibitions at the
British Institution, the French Gallery, the German Gallery, several
watercolour exhibitions, are each 'One Shilling;' as are likewise
special pictures of note, and the collected works of particular
artists. If we long for a little science made easy, a shilling will
unlock the gates of the Polytechnic Institution, the Zoological
Gardens, Westminster Aquarium, and many another place. Perhaps the
best shillingworth is the Crystal Palace; but it is only necessary to
glance down the advertising columns of the daily papers to see how
varied are the temptations of a similar kind, all alike in this if
in no other particular--that a shilling secures admission to any and
all. Shilling promenade concerts are quite notable; while classical
and choral concerts are likewise brought within the same category.
Shilling 'Entertainments,' as they are called--neither theatres nor
operas, neither exhibitions nor concerts, but comprising something of
two or more of these--are now so numerous amongst us that they cannot
easily be counted: black (or blackened) minstrels, Psychos and other
automata, conjurers, music-halls, monopolologue entertainments, Tom
Thumbs, 'Two-headed Nightingales,' &c.

These characteristics of everyday life and its doings are to a
considerable extent applicable to most of the great towns of England;
but we are treating them in special relation to the widely stretching
and ever-growing metropolis. And this leads us to draw attention to
a circumstance which renders shilling entertainments and amusements
more and more accessible every year. In days which some among us will
remember, London attractions were available to few except those who
for the time sojourned within its limit. No suburban railway trains,
few suburban omnibuses, and still fewer stage-coaches, there was a
deficiency in the means for bringing the public to the central regions
of the metropolis, and of taking them home again when the day's
pleasuring was ended. It is not too much to say that, for all practical
purposes of locomotion, Kensington and Westbourne, Kennington and
Walworth, Hackney and Stepney, Holloway and Kilburn, were farther out
of town then than Richmond and Croydon--nay, Windsor and Gravesend--are
now. Saying nothing of omnibuses and cabs, we are within the truth in
stating that a hundred railway stations are easily reached from the
metropolis by trains starting at eleven or twelve o'clock at night
at cheap fares. What is the consequence? The father of a family can
arrange for wife and senior children (juniors of course included in the
pantomime season) a visit from the near suburbs and the more distant
environs, to places of interest in the metropolis; knowing that there
will be the means of returning home after the enjoyments of the evening
are ended. How this tells upon the shilling will be readily understood
by those who know the prevalent prices of admission to public places.

May we not find a clue to the solution, at the Mint? We all know that
it is more convenient to make our payments, so far as possible, in one
coin than in two or more, let it be of gold, silver, or copper. Now,
as a matter of ascertained fact, the Mint produces a larger number of
shillings than of any other denomination of silver coin. For instance,
in ten recent years, twenty-six million shillings were produced at the
Mint, against seventeen million sixpences and nine million florins--the
other silver coins being relatively few in number. Why it is that
the Mint puts eighty-seven and a quarter grains of sterling silver
into each and every shilling, and never deviates from that quantity
(rigorously 87.27272 grains), we are not here called upon to inquire;
but unquestionably the determination exerts some effect on prices,
within the limit, at anyrate, of the matters discussed in the present
article--intensified by the predominance of this particular kind of
silver coin over others. If we were to abolish the shilling from our
coinage, and to substitute the franc (worth about tenpence), there is
much reason to believe that we should gradually change from 'Price
One Shilling' to 'Price One Franc;' and the same with 'Admission'
instead of 'Price.' Very likely we should receive less in quantity,
less number or less dimensions, of articles or enjoyments included in
each purchase; but this would be borne with more patience than a change
in the opposite direction--in other words, it would be found more
easy to adjust our dealings to the altered value of the coin, than to
give the troublesome amount of one franc in silver _plus_ twopence in
copper or bronze to make up a shillingworth; for a dislike to 'bother'
is prevalent with most of us. But how about 'Admission One Franc?'
Should we obtain only five-sixths as much instruction or amusement
as we now obtain; and if so, in what manner would the curtailment be
carried into effect? Would the shilling gallery, for instance, share
in the enjoyment of less splendour and less fun when it became a franc
gallery? Would a franc concert-caterer give a smaller number of songs,
and the Polytechnic give fewer dissolving views and scientific lectures
on each evening?

A subject of much solicitude to the financial and commercial world
just at present may, for aught we can tell, be wrapped up in this very
problem. The price or value of pure or bullion silver has fallen
materially. The purchasing power of (say) an ounce of silver is
less than it was a year ago, as compared with gold and with general
commodities; and perchance the amount of 'value received' may have to
be readjusted to our friend the shilling in some way not at present
perceptible.

A question has been asked, What is the real or intrinsic value of
a shilling? and a good question it is, like the late Sir Robert
Peel's, 'What is a pound?' The matter seems simple, but it intimately
involves many important considerations. So far as concerns the Mint,
the government, or the state, the value of a shilling is honestly
expressed; no profit is made on its manufacture; on the contrary, a
certain sum has to be provided annually out of the general taxation of
the country, to make up a small deficiency. The chemical and mechanical
processes of coining cost so much, the unavoidable (though trifling)
waste amounts to so much, the wear of the coin costs so much for
recoining after a few years, and so much for putting in new silver to
make up the deficiency from 'light weight;' and all these items swell
the cost of the shilling to the Mint. If the coin were made much below
its intrinsic value in pure silver, it would not pass on the continent;
if above, it would be melted down as bullion; and thus the Mint or the
state has many points to consider in the matter. A bronze penny pays
its full expense of manufacture; a gold sovereign and a silver shilling
do not. Whether, at the present time, when the Mint can buy silver
bullion and old silver at a cheaper rate than was the case a few years
ago, the silver coinage just now pays its own expenses, is a question
on which possibly the Master of the Mint may have something to say in
his next annual Report.



THE BIG TREES OF MARIPOSA.


M. le Baron De Hübner in his interesting work, _A Ramble Round the
World_, gives an account of an excursion from San Francisco to the
Yosemite Valley, in the Sierra Nevada, for the purpose of seeing what
are known as the 'Big Trees of Mariposa.' It is a toilsome journey
by stage-wagons with relays of horses, through a wild country, and
the distance going and returning is four hundred and forty miles. The
journey took place in June, when the weather was fine, as it generally
is in California near the coast of the Pacific. At the _rancho_ or
farm establishment of a hospitable planter, the wheeled carriages
could go no farther, and the party were provided with little Indian
horses, harnessed and saddled in the Mexican fashion, to complete the
excursion. There were now, however, only a few miles to be travelled.

The Big Trees of Mariposa, which are reported to be the most gigantic
trees in the world, were discovered as lately as 1855. The stories
told of their gigantic dimensions seemed almost incredible. It was
represented that they exceeded in height the tallest church steeples;
were in fact as high as the top of St Paul's in London, and that is
three hundred and fifty-six feet, reckoning from the marble floor
to the cross. Another circumstance that seemed surprising was that
these marvellously tall trees grew in a valley among mountains, at
a height of eight thousand feet above the level of the sea. Such a
circumstance in itself conveys an impressive idea of the magnificent
climate in California, it being difficult in any part of England to
grow trees successfully at a greater elevation than a thousand feet
above sea-level, and seldom at that. Reaching the spot where the large
trees grew, the Baron and his companions began to observe various trees
fallen on account of age or the force of the winds, while at the same
time infant trees were springing spontaneously up, and which, after
growing for hundreds of years, will perish in their turn. Of the trees
generally, the Baron says:

'The Big Trees of Mariposa well deserve their world-spread reputation.
A law lately passed, and voted unanimously by the legislature, shelters
them both from speculation and from the devastation of the mining
companies. Unfortunately, however, it cannot protect them from the
incendiary fires of the Indians. But none of these trees can be cut
down. There are more than four hundred, which, thanks to their diameter
of more than thirty feet, their circumference of upwards of ninety
feet, and their height of more than three hundred feet, are honoured
with the appellation of the Big Trees. Some of them have lost their
crown and been in part destroyed by fire, that scourge of Californian
forests. Others, overthrown by tempests, are lying prostrate on the
soil, and are already covered with those parasitic creeping plants
which are ever ready to crop up round these giant corpses. One of
these huge hollow trunks makes a natural tunnel. We rode through it
in all its length on horseback without lowering our heads. Another,
still standing and green, enables a horseman to enter it, turn round,
and go out of it by the same opening. These two trees form the great
attraction of the tourists. Like the Russian pilgrims in Palestine
who have bathed in the Jordan, the tourists, after having passed on
horseback through the tunnelly trunk of one of these trees and the
interior of the other, strong in the consciousness of having done their
duty, think of nothing but instant departure. The greater part of these
trees are marked by the inscriptions of different celebrated persons.
One of them bears the name of Ferdinand de Lesseps.

'The Big Trees, with their smooth, dead-red trunks and short horizontal
branches, are of a coniferous race, well known in Europe. One sees
specimens in all our botanical gardens and in most of the "pinetums"
of private persons. The first discoverer, an Englishman, gave them the
name, which has stuck to them in Europe, of _Wellingtonia_. This name,
which was offensive to the Americans, was changed by them into _Sequoia
gigantea_, after an Indian chief of Pennsylvania, who distinguished
himself by his kindness to the whites and by his civilised habits.
These _Sequoias_ would have a far grander effect to the eye if they
were isolated, instead of being crowded with other trees, many of which
have attained to almost the same size. Without the help of a guide, it
would be difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish them from one
another. The great indefinable charm of this spot lies in the poetic
beauty of the site and the extraordinary fecundity of nature.'

The _Wellingtonia gigantea_, or Mammoth pine, as it is sometimes
called, is a tree perfectly hardy and of rapid growth. Its leaves
resemble those of the _Arbor vitæ_. Introduced by seeds into Great
Britain, it is grown successfully as an ornamental tree, though we
have not yet had sufficient experience to say whether it will attain
anything like the dimensions and height it does in California. We
planted one in 1865, when it was about a foot high, and now it has
attained a height of twelve to thirteen feet. It grows about a foot in
the year. We watch its progress with considerable interest.



MRS PETRE.

IN TWO CHAPTERS.--CHAPTER II.


'Twelve hours afterwards Janet Heath was stunned and horrified to hear,
from a strange source, that Mrs Petre was dead--had died in the middle
of the night from an overdose of laudanum. Fortunately for Janet, the
woman who lived next door to her cottage was possessed of great good
sense; and when Janet rushed into her house wildly denouncing Mrs
Danton, Mrs Dixon said: "Just have a care what you say; if her heart is
anything like her face, you'll have a slippery customer to deal with in
Mrs Danton. There'll be an inquiry, and plenty chance to speak then."

'But Janet, though cautioned, went straight up to Hilton Lodge, did
not pause to be announced, but walking into the dining-room, faced Mrs
Danton, who, with an air half-defiant, half-cringing, said: "This is a
sad business; isn't it?"

"Sad?" cried Janet; "shameful. How did it happen? How could it have
happened?"

"An overdose of laudanum," returned Mrs Danton.

"Laudanum!" exclaimed Janet, a new light flashing across her. "What was
that the doctor said to you yesterday about the laudanum? I did not
hear your answer."

"You were not meant to hear my answer," responded Mrs Danton, who
bringing her evil face upon a level with Janet's, and tapping her
sharply on the shoulder, added: "You don't come here to censure me."
Her look was so terrible, Janet said she felt her knees tremble beneath
her; she involuntarily turned away whilst Mrs Danton added: "It is not
my wish that Mr Aubrey Stanmore should be made acquainted with this
event. I will communicate with Mrs Petre's friends. I warn you of my
severest displeasure and vengeance if you inform him."

'The words fell blankly upon Janet's ears; she simply left the room and
made her way up to the drawing-room, where lay all that was mortal of
her poor old friend.

'Meanwhile the authorities came upon the scene; and now I must
endeavour to be very explicit. You know no body can be buried without
a certificate from the doctor as to the cause of death; and on this
occasion Mrs Danton knew a coroner's inquest would be absolutely
necessary. But in the meantime a letter was speeding up to the Aubrey
Stanmores, written in wild excitement by Janet, simply stating that
Mrs Petre was dead; that they said it was from an overdose of laudanum
taken by herself; but added Janet: "I was with her half an hour before
she is said to have taken it, and I never saw her calmer or more
sensible. Pray, do something!" concluded Janet, "for all is not right."

'Mr Stanmore's first step was to proceed at once to his solicitor,
an extremely worthy man, who, on hearing the circumstances, at once
consented to start for Lynton, whither he was accompanied by both
Aubrey and his wife. They judged it prudent, after seeing Janet, to go
direct to the doctor's house, in order to ascertain particulars from
him, as, from Aubrey's position with his aunt, it was not quite easy
for them to go direct to her house now she was dead, when she had not
received them there during her lifetime. How vividly did Aubrey now
recall his last interview with her, when Mrs Danton was absent; how he
had knelt down by her side and beseeched her to send her off, and in
her place to install the faithful Janet. "When Arthur Dumaresque comes
home," had been her feeble promise; and now, how true his words to his
wife and Janet had turned out: "That woman will never let my aunt live
until Arthur Dumaresque comes home."

'This doctor whom they were about to visit was a new importation to
Lynton. He had obtained a fair share of practice, but it was more than
doubtful how long he would continue to retain it, for neither his
manner nor his appearance was in his favour. However, the Stanmores and
Mr Westmoreland the lawyer merely knew that he had attended Mrs Petre;
and it was simply to hear his account of the melancholy affair that
they troubled him with a visit.

'Much to their amazement, nothing could have been more brusque
or discourteous than Dr Harper's manner. He received them in the
most extraordinary way, and flatly refused to be, as he called it,
"interrogated" as to the circumstances of Mrs Petre's death.

"Had you ordered the laudanum?" asked Mr Westmoreland.

"No; I had not," he answered. "I knew nothing about it till I was sent
for, and told to bring the stomach-pump."

"And how had she taken it?" pursued Mr Westmoreland. "Who bought it?
Where was it got?"

"I tell you I am not going to be questioned; the inquiry will give
you all particulars;" and without even the civility of a bow to the
Stanmores, he ushered them out of his room.

'The police-office was the next place to be visited. There every
question was answered with alacrity and politeness, and the following
particulars given by the constable whose duty it was to ascertain the
facts where such occurrences took place. The inquiry, he told them,
was fixed for the following day. The jury were all summoned; and the
coroner, at some inconvenience to himself, had consented, in order to
accommodate the relatives of the late Mrs Petre, to allow it to take
place at the house.

'It appeared that Mrs Danton had lodged the following statement
with the constable: About ten minutes or a quarter of an hour after
Janet Heath had left, the drawing-room bell rang violently; the
housemaid--the old woman I have described--went to answer it; but
before she could get up-stairs it pealed again. Mrs Petre was sitting
in her chair when she entered, and said: "Send Danton up to me."

'Danton--who always raged at this abbreviation--accordingly went
up-stairs; and on getting into the drawing-room, Mrs Petre exclaimed,
holding out a large bottle: "See what I have done! I have emptied this
bottle of laudanum. What effect will it have?"

"It will make you drowsy; you must keep awake," replied Danton.

'It was a bottle capable of holding four ounces of laudanum, which,
according to Mrs Danton's testimony, Mrs Petre had herself bought a
few days before, for the purpose, it was supposed, of applying to her
rheumatic limbs.

'Mrs Petre, whose horror of death was well known, at once exhibited
the greatest alarm. "Send for the doctor--send for the doctor!" was
her entreaty; and Mrs Danton sent the housemaid--the old woman who was
supposed to wait on Mrs Petre--off in the carriage, which happened to
be at the door then; not direct to Dr Harper's house, but to _another
patient's_, "to see if he was there;" at that house the housemaid
lingered, and it was not until fully three-quarters of an hour had
elapsed that Dr Harper reached Hilton Lodge with the stomach-pump.
For that three-quarters of an hour surely a strict account would be
required at the inquest.

'Mrs Petre lingered on until the middle of the night, by which
time several of Mrs Danton's own relatives had arrived upon the
scene--notably one who volunteered the information that previous to
the old lady's death she had stood in readiness, handkerchief in hand,
ready to tie up the poor old face.

'However, to be as brief as possible. The Stanmores were so completely
convinced that there had been foul play, that, by dint of strenuous
exertions, they succeeded in persuading the coroner to defer the
inquest until the Monday. Janet must be called as a witness; and Mr
Stanmore, as the nearest relative, declared that he must identify the
body. Accordingly, the constable who had previously arranged with
Mrs Danton for the immediate inquest, proceeded to the house; now
anxious to elicit further particulars, and also to intimate to her
the postponement. He wanted the second bottle--for Mrs Danton had
stated the laudanum had been purchased in separate ones. That was not
forthcoming. It had been broken or mislaid; so only one--a good-sized
one without any label--was handed over to him.

'Upon informing her of the new arrangement, Mrs Danton started
violently, but recovering herself, said to a relation of her own, in a
half aside, but quite audibly: "I know who is at the bottom of this,
but I shall know what to do."

'The constable then left; and Mr Stanmore meanwhile was not idle as
regarded efforts to collect all the evidence he could relative to his
aunt's death. The case appeared a very clear one to him. Mrs Danton
had, if not _all_ his aunt's bonds in her own name, at anyrate a sum of
money in amount quite impossible to guess at. Mrs Petre had declared
her intention to get rid of her, and Major Dumaresque was coming home
shortly, when a proper account would no doubt be demanded; and with
Mrs Petre's aid, all would have to be disgorged, and Mrs Danton would
return to her old life of needy dependence, with only censure and
disgrace attached to her. There was no lack of motive; and looking at
the case in any light, nothing could seem more conclusive than it was.

'Monday soon came; and at eleven o'clock the coroner with his twelve
jurymen assembled in the best parlour of the _Royal George_, amidst
great excitement; the witnesses collected in an adjoining room; and
after the body had been viewed by the jury and identified by Aubrey
Stanmore, proceedings fairly began. It was a long low-roofed room, with
a narrow table, at the head of which the coroner sat; close by him were
the solicitors, one for the Stanmores, the other for Mrs Danton; on
one side of the table were the jurymen; whilst at the end of it were
standing a group of officials, a police inspector; and the summoning
constable, whose duty it was to call the witnesses separately, and to
hand them the Bible to kiss whilst the coroner rapidly read over the
required oath.

'The Stanmores were in the waiting-room with Janet Heath, when in
walked Mrs Danton, alone; her cadaverous face looking yellower and
more repulsive than ever, her black eyes glancing from side to side,
betraying a nervousness she evidently tried hard to conceal.

"Would she go out alone?" wondered Mrs Stanmore. "Would not the hand of
the law be upon her, and the death of the poor old lady avenged?" Who
could tell!

'But at last all was in readiness. Mrs Stanmore not being required as a
witness, was ushered first into the room, and accommodated with a seat
by the coroner. Aubrey was then called, merely to identify the body. It
was that, of Mrs Petre his aunt. The last time he had seen her she was
in good health. Her money matters were arranged by Mrs Danton, of whom
she intended soon to get rid. And a host of other information quivered
on his lips, when the coroner dismissed him.

'Then came the housemaid, Margaret Penn, who stated she was in Mrs
Petre's service partly as nurse partly as housemaid. She knew Mrs
Petre had bought the laudanum to rub her rheumatic limbs with. She had
noticed Mrs Petre had taken a small quantity on the preceding night,
and fearing danger, had carried the bottle down to Mrs Danton, who,
uncorking and tasting it, had said: "Take it back and place it where
you found it, so that Mrs Petre may not miss it;" accordingly she did
so. She verified Mrs Danton's first statement to the constable, that
soon after Janet's departure Mrs Petre's bell had rung twice; that on
answering it, however, Mrs Petre had exhibited nothing unusual beyond
a demand for "Danton." Danton had gone up, and soon afterwards called
Margaret, telling her Mrs Petre had accidentally taken some laudanum,
and desired her to go for the doctor. That was all she knew.

'The doctor's evidence was the next taken. He had merely attended Mrs
Petre for a slight cold. He knew she had got some laudanum to rub her
limbs with. She was an old lady, suffering from considerable depression
of mind, and somewhat feeble in body. He had been called in to see her,
having received a message to say she had taken an overdose of laudanum.
He took the stomach-pump and applied it; but she was too far gone. No
emetics had been administered previous to his arrival. The amount she
had taken was not sufficient to act as its own emetic. She was slightly
conscious when he saw her, and gave him to understand that she had
herself taken the dose. He did all he could for her; he considered she
had died from narcotic poisoning.

'Then came--not the person from whom Mrs Petre was supposed to have
bought the laudanum--but the partner in the establishment, who, strange
to say, read his evidence from a paper he produced; eliciting thereby
a disapproving remark from several of the jurymen, who truly said where
only truth was to be told, there was no occasion for written papers.
It was merely to state that Mrs Petre, or a lady whom he understood to
be Mrs Petre, bought the laudanum in two separate quantities at his
establishment.

'Then came a surgeon who had made a postmortem examination. The
deceased had died of narcotic poisoning. He went into various medical
details of no interest, as the cause of death was clear; but one remark
seemed to startle the jurymen, who listened with the most praiseworthy
attention. The hands of the deceased were bruised and discoloured, and
the little finger of the right hand blackened. This he accounted for by
their having been "flecked" with a towel to try to keep deceased awake.

'Janet Heath was next called. Nothing in the world could have been
more convincing or more conclusive than her evidence--the clear and
artless manner in which she gave it--her open, honest grieved face, as
she described her last interview with her mistress--detailing her own
horror at hearing of the death, and depicting Mrs Petre's position with
Danton; her penniless state; the neglect and unhappiness she suffered
from, but how at length Mrs Petre seemed to have summoned up courage
to dismiss her custodian, whose presence was anything but conducive to
her comfort. She dwelt upon her last visit; upon Mrs Petre's remarks
regarding Major Dumaresque's return; on her kindly mention of Mr and
Mrs Aubrey Stanmore; in fact, nothing seemed wanting.

'Janet Heath was dismissed; and then came the witness, Mrs Selina
Danton. A suppressed murmur ran round the room as she entered, ghastly
pale, her great black eyes seeming almost to be starting out of her
head; but she advanced boldly enough to the table--kissing the Holy
Book audibly--took the oath, and amidst the profoundest silence,
gave her evidence. She was a cousin of the deceased. She managed her
affairs. Deceased was subject to fits of great depression. She was
not quite unable to manage her money matters, but preferred deputing
her to do so. Her will was in favour of Major Dumaresque. She had
asked her for some money to buy the laudanum. She had given her three
shillings. Margaret had mentioned she had touched the bottle; and she,
the witness, had--never dreaming of the consequences--desired her to
replace it.

"Did the witness think deceased had taken it accidentally, or did she
think she had deliberately meant to destroy herself?"

'The witness answered that she most unhesitatingly, and before the
corpse itself--a most unnecessary addition--could swear that deceased
had deliberately taken the fatal draught, meaning to commit suicide.
She then proceeded to state, that when deceased had first sent for
her, she had said: "Danton, look here; I have taken all this;"
pointing to the empty bottle. "_This_ will tell you why."--"Here is
my proof," concluded Mrs Danton, as with a theatrical gesture she
waved in her hand a letter, which she began to read, and which was to
the effect that the writer, Mrs Petre, was dying; that her life had
been a most unhappy one. A few sentences, a signature and date, with
superscription--"The Last Words of Mrs Petre."

"Is that Mrs Petre's handwriting?" asked the coroner. "Can you
identify it?" holding it towards Mr Stanmore.

"I think it is--I believe it is," he answered, gazing earnestly at it.

"You _know_ it is," almost shrieked Mrs Danton, glaring at him with the
ferocity of a tigress.

"Silence--silence!" from the coroner.

'Aubrey's identification was enough for the coroner, who instantly,
without any hesitation, proceeded to sum up for the jury, entirely
in favour of Mrs Danton. The coroner's own mind was quite clear, and
his bias equally obvious: the letter left not a shadow of doubt. The
deliberation of the jury was brief, their verdict being, "Suicide
whilst of unsound mind;" but they wished to be appended to their
verdict a strong and severe censure upon Mrs Danton for not having
removed the laudanum when she ought to have done it. The coroner,
however, refused to append the censure, upon the plea that to do so
would be equal to a criminal charge; and the proceedings terminated.

       *       *       *       *       *

'Of course,' continued Mr Langley, 'none of us was satisfied; and the
conviction is clear upon my mind that Mrs Petre was simply murdered. If
the coroner had summoned his constable, and asked him what account, in
the first instance, Mrs Danton had given of the death, the discrepancy
would have instantly suggested itself to an intelligent jury; but
it appears to me that an inquest is merely to discover the cause of
death, not the motives and circumstances surrounding it, which a police
investigation would inevitably elicit.'

'Then what is the use of a coroner's inquest?' I asked, rather
bewildered.

'That is a question you must excuse my answering,' he replied. 'Until
they are differently conducted, I consider them a mere farce; for in
this instance, those few lines, which no one saw Mrs Petre write, might
have been written by her or might not; no one knew. They did not allude
to self-destruction; her own horror of death, and her anticipations
of Major Dumaresque's return, combated the probability of her having
voluntarily taken the dose. It is a mystery, and a mystery it is likely
to remain; nor will it be the last, unless such occurrences are more
closely inquired into.'

'And was the will wholly in Major Dumaresque's favour?' I asked. 'Did
Danton benefit in no way pecuniarily by the death?'

'We thought not at first, for the will was wholly in Major Dumaresque's
favour; but I had the curiosity to go and pay my shilling to see the
document at Somerset House. It was written by Mrs Danton herself, and
contained merely a vague bequeathment of all to the major, not stating
any particulars. Mrs Danton had appointed herself co-executor with the
major; it was witnessed by two servants; and the misspelt composition
most tremulously signed by the poor old lady, whose pitiable condition
at the time left her in no condition to be properly cognisant of
her actions. My impression after reading it was, that there was far
more than met the eye under Mrs Petre's death; but I know the Aubrey
Stanmores did not gain much for their trouble, beyond the approbation
of their conscience; for they found that right is not always might, and
that justice is not always done, even when matters are investigated by
the aid of a coroner's inquiry.

'And what has become of Mrs Danton?'

'As you may imagine, she soon left the neighbourhood; and Hilton Lodge
has not had another tenant since the mystery of Mrs Petre's death,
which no one considered solved or satisfactorily accounted for by the
Coroner's Inquest.'



THE MONTH:

SCIENCE AND ARTS.


Why should London have a monopoly of the museums carried on at the
public expense? is a question which has been frequently asked; and
at a meeting held in Birmingham it was recently repeated with good
show of argument by the mayors of some of our chief provincial towns.
The importance of galleries and museums for educational purposes is
admitted. Much of science and of the arts may be learned through the
eyes. There is in the British Museum and other establishments in
London, a surplus of articles that could be turned to good uses in
museums in country towns; and so application is to be made to the
Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1851, for portions of the large
balance--seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds remaining in their
hands. The whole of the kingdom contributed towards the success of that
Exhibition, and may therefore claim to participate in the available
profits. There is a good show of reason in this argument, which it is
to be hoped will have due consideration. An additional point is, that
a museum when once started has a tendency to grow; for there are many
people possessed of objects of nature or art who are disposed to give
or bequeath them to an institution where they will be taken care of and
appreciated.

In looking back on the weather that darkened the closing weeks of
last year and the opening weeks of the present year, the rainfall is
seen as the conspicuous phenomenon. As is shewn by observations made
at Greenwich Observatory and other places, eleven inches of rain fell
in about eight weeks. The annual rainfall in eastern England is about
26 inches: thus nearly half the quantity that should have been spread
over twelve months was poured down in two. Taking the month of December
by itself, the rainfall was the greatest for any month during twenty
years. In London the quantity registered was 6.25 inches; at Selborne
(White's Selborne) it was 9.77 inches; at Skipton (Yorkshire), 10.53
inches; at Bodmin (Cornwall), 12.69 inches; and at Seathwaite, in the
Lake country, a notoriously rainy district, the December rainfall was
18.31 inches. The reader may well exclaim 'Prodigious!'

But it is well to remember that in the first nine months of 1876 there
was a large deficiency of rain; the quantity as measured at Greenwich
Observatory was not more than 13¾ inches, being 4½ inches less than
the average extending over a period of sixty-one years. The time of
greatest deficiency was from April to August: hence it may be said that
there were large arrears to make up; and the means have been supplied
by an unusual, and as yet inexplicable, flow of warm water and warm air
towards our coasts from the Atlantic.

The floods, though wide-spread and distressing, were not so deep as
the floods of 1875. But in this particular there appears to be a want
of accurate measures; and a proposition has been made that a combined
system of flood-marks for the whole country should be established. With
these once in place, each bearing its proper date, there would be no
difficulty in comparing the height of successive inundations. Perhaps
this and other questions may be left to the Meteorological Office,
which in all probability will be much increased in efficiency during
the present session of parliament. The Committee appointed to inquire
into the working of that useful office have reported in favour of an
extension of its usefulness, including the scientific as well as the
economical aspects of the question.

According to Dr Gilbert, the amount of ammonia that comes down with
rain and 'minor aqueous deposits' varies from six and a half to ten
pounds per acre in Western Europe. If the amount is in proportion to
the rainfall the coming season should be fruitful. In connection with
all this it is worth remark that, so far as the returns are made up,
the health of the nation was good in 1876. In the first quarter the
death-rate was, omitting decimals, twenty-three per thousand, twenty in
the second quarter, and nineteen in the third.

The Natural History Society of Montreal have published further
particulars of the plague of locusts which in 1874 afflicted
Manitoba and the North-west Territories. In that year the hungry
swarms destroyed five million bushels of grain; in other words, they
devoured the green plants that would have produced that quantity.
This fact alone justifies the hostility with which the creatures
are treated wherever they alight, and the endeavours made for their
total extinction. According to Mr Dawson, a scientific observer,
they consist of but a single species, _Caloptenus spretus_, having
numerous parasitic enemies, besides birds, which devour them greedily.
Their breeding-grounds are the vast unpeopled tracts between the one
hundred and fourth and one hundred and eleventh meridians, and the
forty-ninth to fifty-third parallels. Mr Dawson states that being on
the high plains near White Mud River, he saw swarms of locusts on
the wing 'at all altitudes, following no determinate direction, but
sailing in circles, and crossing each other in flight. The greater
number were hovering over the swamps or spots of luxuriant grass, or
resting on the prairie. A slight breath of wind would induce them all
to take wing, causing a noise like that of the distant sound of surf,
or a gentle breeze among pine-trees. They appeared ill at ease, as if
anxiously awaiting a favourable wind.' Their migration is not flight,
for they have no intrinsic power of directing their course, but like
a sailing-vessel, must depend on the wind for propulsion. Their fixed
determination to travel in a certain direction, and the wonderful
instinct which leads them to wait for a favourable wind, are pointed
out by Mr Dawson as worthy of special remark. The favourable wind is
of course that which blows towards the settlements and lands under
cultivation. There is evidence that the young broods at times migrate
from the settlements to the breeding-grounds of their parents: on which
Mr Dawson says: 'It would be a fact surpassing in interest the journeys
of birds of passage, if it should be found that the locust requires
two generations to complete the normal cycle of its migration.'
Evidently extirpation to be effectual must be on a great scale. One of
the plans proposed is to prevent the burning of the prairies in the
autumn, and to set them on fire in the spring, when the young locusts
are hatched. Another plan is to suddenly burn a broad belt of country
when it is known that swarms are approaching; but this applies only
to the unsettled districts. Another is by planting of trees to create
a rainfall and infuse damp into the climate: moisture being fatal to
locust life. Coniferous trees especially appear to exert a protective
effect. One of the districts of Manitoba has never been ravaged by
locusts. It is separated by a belt of fir forest, which they have never
been known to cross.

From a paper read before the Helvetic Society of Science at Basel we
learn that the fever districts of Switzerland are the valley of the
Rhone in its middle course between Martigny and Brieg, and some parts
of the canton Tessin. Owing to the large extent of marshes in these
districts, malaria and intermittent fevers and neuralgia prevail in the
summer and autumn. The effect of town-life in promoting consumption
is made evident by the fact that in Zurich the deaths from pulmonary
phthisis are one hundred and four to the thousand, while in Zug
they are not more than seventeen. Tillers of the ground have thus
an important advantage over those who work in shops and factories.
Consumption disappears with altitude, and dwellers on the mountains or
in the upper valleys are free from it; but on the other hand they are
very liable to inflammation of the respiratory organs. Deaf and dumb
persons, in proportion to the population, are more numerous than in any
other country of Europe. And lastly, we gather that 'alcoholism' is on
the increase in Switzerland as well as elsewhere.

A communication to the Société de Médecine at Caen makes known that
the natives in some parts of Egypt cure hydrophobia by administering a
certain insect called _Darnah_. The insect is a species of _Mylabris_.
To facilitate the swallowing, it is given to the patient inclosed in a
ripe date.

A doctor in Paris has invented an apparatus which he calls a
spirophore, to be employed for the relief of persons suffering from
asphyxia or suffocation. It may be described as a chamber constructed
of zinc: in this chamber the patient is placed, but his head remains
outside. Air is then drawn from the chamber by a pump; the patient's
lungs expand: air is then pumped into the cylinder, and the lungs
contract; and this operation is continued at intervals until the
patient recovers.

The account of an experiment with ozone may be interesting to
non-professional readers: 'A piece of fresh beef was cut into
two equal parts, one of which was placed in a stoppered bottle
containing ordinary air, and the other in a similar bottle containing
ozonised air. In five days the meat in the first bottle was in full
putrefaction, while that in the second bottle containing ozonised air,
was as fresh as when put in, nor was any change manifested on the tenth
day, when the bottle was opened to see if the meat had any offensive
odour. Although the stopper was then quickly replaced, putrefaction had
commenced on the following day. Milk was kept in ozonised oxygen for
eight days without undergoing any change.'

Professor O. Rood of New York states that in certain conditions of the
eye, such as are produced by prolonged excitation, nervous derangement,
or by effects of fever, the nerves which convey impressions of colour
fail to act, and give rise to 'temporary green colour-blindness.' This
is a fact which should be borne in mind by persons whose occupation
requires them to distinguish colours.

The question of the effect of sun-spots on climate has been often
discussed, but so many considerations are involved therein that many
years must pass before it will be settled. In a paper published in
the _Monthly Notices_ of the Astronomical Society, Professor Langley
of Allegheny Observatory, Pennsylvania, after shewing the different
points from which the question must be approached, states, as the
result of his own investigations, that 'sun-spots do exercise a direct
and real influence on terrestrial climates, by decreasing the mean
temperature of this planet at their maximum. This decrease is, however,
so minute, that it is doubtful whether it has been directly observed
or discriminated from other changes. The whole effect is represented
by a change in the mean temperature of our globe in eleven years not
exceeding three-tenths, and not less than one-twentieth, of one degree
of the Centigrade thermometer.'

Captain Watkin, R.A., has invented a range-finder, under different
forms, for use in military and naval training and in time of war. If
a hostile ship is approaching our coast or working her way into a
harbour, it is important to know her exact distance, so that she may
be hit by the heavy shot of the defensive battery. The range-finder,
which is a combination of a telescope and a spirit-level, requires not
more than eight seconds to indicate the distance in yards on a scale,
and the guns can then be brought to bear with unerring accuracy. Should
the ship be hidden by smoke, observers with an electric position-finder
are stationed some way off, and make known her movements by telegraph,
whereby the gunners can keep up their fire although they cannot see the
enemy. This seems incredible; but the explanation is, that by means of
charts ruled in squares, the position of a ship in any square or any
part of a square can be identified, and aim taken accordingly. Another
form of range-finder, of very simple construction, is intended for use
on land. It is a japanned metal box ten inches by four, with a few
holes in two sides, and one half of the top free to open by a hinge.
Inside is an arrangement of mirrors, and a boxwood scale of yards from
six hundred to four thousand. With this instrument and three staves,
used in determining a base, one man by himself can ascertain the range
of an object--a battery, a wood, a river, or a body of men, in three
minutes; with two men it can be accomplished in one minute. Truly we
may say that the art of killing becomes more and more scientific.

The Geological Survey Department in New Zealand has published a Report
on the climate of that country extending over a series of years, and
brought down to 1873. From this we gather that the rainfall of New
Zealand presents some analogy with the rainfall of England in the
difference of amount between the eastern and western coast. Taranaki,
for example, on the west coast of the North Island, has an annual
rainfall of more than sixty inches; while Napier, on the east coast,
has about thirty inches. In the South Island, the yearly fall at
Hokitika, on the west, is a hundred and twenty inches; while at Dunedin
and Christchurch it is not more than one quarter or one-third of that
quantity. The climate of Nelson is described as the 'most pleasant and
finest in New Zealand, on account of its calm winter, the protection of
its chains of mountains, and its clear sky, which is but rarely covered
with clouds.' Yet Nelson is a rainy place: more than nine inches of
rain have fallen there in a single day.

Owing to the peculiarities of climate, the glaciers on the west side of
the New Zealand Alps descend very low, down to about seven hundred feet
only above the level of the sea; and this is in the same geographical
latitude as Leghorn. But different from the glaciers of Europe, the
lower part of the New Zealand glaciers are decorated by pines, beeches,
tree-ferns, and fuchsias in luxuriant growth.

From an accompanying Report on the minerals of the colony, we learn
that more specimens of coal had been analysed than in any previous
year, and that they 'represent an immense quantity of workable coal of
excellent quality.' A splendid industrial prospect this for New Zealand.

The system of telegraph weather-signals has been adopted by the
government of Canada; and storm warnings and other meteorological
particulars are now regularly despatched to and from a number of
stations in the Dominion three times a day. The central office is
at Toronto, and thence the signals are telegraphed to Washington.
A noonday time-gun is fired every day by electricity at Quebec,
and for the benefit of ship-masters accurate time-signals are sent
to the provincial outports: from all of which we see that Canada
is co-operating praiseworthily in the grand meteorological and
astronomical telegraph scheme.

The Hudson's Bay Company are taking measures for improving the
navigation of the Saskatchewan and other waters in their great
territory. The Red River and Lake Winnipeg are embraced in the scheme,
which, when carried out, will open water communications to the base
of the Rocky Mountains. The natural resources of those hitherto
unfrequented regions are so great that any undertaking which promises
to render them available should be encouraged. Their value will prove
to be far beyond that of mere hunting-grounds, especially when the
great thoroughfares cross them from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Out of the proceeds of a munificent bequest, the Academy of Sciences
at Turin have founded a biennial prize, to be given alternately to
foreigners and to Italians. It is called the Bressa prize, from
the name of the testator, a beneficent doctor of medicine; and the
programme sets forth that 'the net interest of the first two years will
be given to that person, of whatever nation or country he be, who shall
have during the previous four years made the most important discovery,
or published the most valuable work on Natural and Experimental
Philosophy, Natural History, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physiology, and
Pathology, as well as Geology, History, Geography, and Statistics.'
The year 1879 is fixed for the award of the first prize, which will
amount to twelve thousand francs, about four hundred and eighty pounds
sterling. In 1881, Italians only will be allowed to compete, and
so on every two years. With so wide a range of subjects, a crowd of
competitors may be expected, and the difficulty of deciding on the best
among so many will be exceedingly great.



CATS.


It is not often that we hear any credit rendered to the cat for either
intelligence or affection; and it is therefore pleasing to be able to
record two instances in which one, if not both of these qualities is
shewn in a remarkable manner in this animal. A gentleman writing from
India to a friend in England, a few mails ago, says of a pet Persian
cat: 'I was lolling on the sofa, drowsily perusing the newspaper a few
mornings ago, when Tom came and stood near me mewing in a plaintive
way, as if to attract attention. Not wishing to be disturbed, I waved
him off. He, however, returned in a minute or so, and this time jumped
on to the sofa, and looking me in the face, renewed his noise more
vigorously. Losing patience, I roughly drove him away. He then went to
the door of an adjoining room, and stood there mewing most piteously.
Fully aroused, I got up and went towards him. As I approached, he
made for the further corner of the room, and began to shew fight,
bristling up and flourishing his tail. It at once struck me that there
was an unwelcome visitor in the room, which Tom wished to get rid of;
and sure enough, in looking towards the corner, I discovered a cobra
coiled up behind a boot-shelf under a dressing-table. The noise made
by our approach aroused the snake, and he attempted to make off; but I
despatched him with my gun, which was ready loaded close by. You should
have seen Tom's satisfaction. He ran between my legs, rubbing himself
against them caressingly, as if to say, "Well done, master!" The snake
measured five feet seven inches in length.'

The friend to whom this incident is related, after reading it to me,
went on to say, that some years ago, when in India with her father, the
family were gathered after tea, one rainy evening, listening to one of
their number who was reading an interesting story. While thus engaged,
a cat of which her father was very fond jumped on to his knee, and
moving about in a restless manner, began to mew in a louder key than
usual. The old gentleman, as was his wont, commenced to caress the cat,
expecting thereby to quiet it; but to no purpose. It shewed signs of
impatience, by jumping down and up again, mewing vigorously the whole
time. Not wishing to be interrupted in what was going on, he called for
a servant to put the cat out of the room; but Puss would not tamely
submit to an indignant turn-out, and commenced clawing at the old
man's feet. This he thought was going too far: he rose to chastise the
cat; but ere he had time to do so, he discovered that it was nothing
less than a timely warning which Puss had given him; for not far from
where he sat there was, under the table, a small venomous snake, which
probably would have bitten him had he molested or trampled on it. The
reptile was immediately killed; and Puss ceased her mewing.

       *       *       *       *       *

Printed and Published by W. & R. CHAMBERS, 47 Paternoster Row,
LONDON, and 339 High Street, EDINBURGH.

       *       *       *       *       *

_All Rights Reserved._





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