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Title: Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 726 - November 24, 1877
Author: Various
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 726 - November 24, 1877" ***

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Fourth Series


NO. 726.      SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 1877.      PRICE 1½_d._]


It is vexing, even saddening, to think how large an amount of
discovery, invention, and skill is applied to the murderous purposes of
war. As we advance in civilisation, armies become larger and larger,
and more abundantly supplied with agencies we would willingly see
devoted to more peaceful purposes. Whether wars of race, wars of creed,
wars of ambition, or wars of national vanity, the result is much about
the same in this respect. Some consolers tell us that wars by-and-by
will become so terrible as to check the desire to wage them: let us
hope so, despite present symptoms.

Science has unquestionably rendered a vast amount of aid to attack
and defence in war within the last few years. Gunpowder, gun-cotton,
dynamite, and other explosive substances for fire-arms, torpedoes,
and military mining have had their properties and relative powers
investigated with remarkable completeness. Gun-carriages have
been so vastly improved, that by Captain Scott's contrivances a
six-hundred-pounder can be managed as easily and quickly as a
thirty-two-pounder could in the days of our fathers or grandfathers;
while by Major Moncrieff's automatic apparatus a gun lowers itself
behind the screen of a parapet or earthen battery for loading, and then
raises itself twelve or fifteen feet to fire over it.

Photography, again, is applied in a great variety of ways to aid
warlike operations. At the office of the Ordnance Survey, or under the
supervision of the Director, an amazing number of such photographs are
taken, enlarged or reduced from the original dimensions according to
circumstances, and multiplied or prepared for printing by a very rapid
process of zincography or some other kind of electro-engraving. One of
the Reports issued by the Director tells us that he supplies the War
Office with photographs of plans of battles, important fortified posts
and their surrounding districts, barracks and forts in all parts of
the British dominions, &c. All the equipments of troops for the field
are similarly photographed or zincographed, as unerring patterns for
reference. For such wars as we have been engaged in during the past
five-and-twenty years (happily few in number), such as the Crimean,
Abyssinian, and Ashanti campaigns, photographs and zincographs have
been supplied in large number to the officers, illustrating all details
which the home authorities have been able to ascertain, and which are
likely to be useful in the intended operations.

What are we to say of the _torpedo_, and its management by electricity?
This is really a wonderful subject, the influence of which on future
naval warfare even the most skilled and experienced officers can only
dimly surmise. We know that during the civil war in America, the
Federal torpedoes wrought more destruction on the Confederate ships
than all the guns in the Federal fleet; that, on the other hand, the
Confederate torpedoes so effectually guarded the approach to Richmond
up James River, that a hostile flotilla was compelled to retire baffled
and disappointed. One unlucky Federal ship unwittingly passed over a
submerged torpedo at the moment of explosion. And with what result?
'The hull of the ship was visibly lifted out of the water, the boiler
exploded, the smoke-funnels were carried away, and the crew projected
into the air with extreme velocity. Out of the crew of one hundred and
twenty-seven men, only three remained alive--the vessel itself being
blown to atoms.' The arrangements have been so much improved since that
time, that messages can be sent across a river or estuary from shore to
shore through the very wire which is to discharge the torpedo! In every
naval war during the last few years, torpedoes have been more or less
employed. In what way the weaker Russian fleet has been able to baffle
the stronger fleet of the Turks in the struggle of 1877, the newspapers
have told us in full detail. There is no necessity for pursuing this
part of the subject further, seeing that it was lately treated with
some degree of fullness in our pages.

But the greatest marvel of all, in regard to the application of
electricity to warlike purposes, is the _electric telegraph_.
We know what service the lightning-messenger renders to society
generally in the peaceful daily maintenance of commercial and social
intercommunication; and military men now know what a potent instrument
it is in the conduct of field-operations and siege-works. An officer
well qualified to judge affirms that the memorable Franco-German War,
so disastrous to France, could not have been carried on without the aid
of the electric telegraph by the German forces. The warlike struggles
engaged in by various European powers in the Crimea, in India during
the Mutiny, in China, in New Zealand, in the Austro-Italian provinces,
in Morocco by the Spaniards, in America by the Federals and the
Confederates, in Holstein during the brief Dano-German War, in Bohemia
during the still briefer Austro-Prussian War, in Abyssinia, in France
during the struggle against the Germans, in Ashanti--all these were
marked by the adoption of the electric telegraph to a greater or less

Many of us remember, from the vivid descriptions written by the
special correspondents of the daily newspapers, how terrible were
the sufferings of the British troops in the Crimea during the winter
of 1854-5, engaged in trench-work and other siege-operations under
almost every kind of privation. But we also know how impossible it
would have been to learn the news quickly in England and to send
instructions, without the aid of telegraphy. An electric cable was for
this very purpose submerged in the Black Sea from the Turkish mainland
to the Crimea; while on land, wires were set up from Balaklava to the
headquarters outside Sebastopol. Thus it was that daily messages could
be exchanged between Lord Raglan's headquarters and the War Office in
London--also between the special correspondents of the daily papers
and their employers in Fleet Street or Printing House Square. So in
like manner, during the struggle arising out of the Indian Mutiny, the
advancing British columns contrived, wherever possible, to maintain
unbroken telegraphic communication with Calcutta, whereby the viceroy
was kept informed of what was going on. Of course the mutineers or
rebels destroyed or disrupted the wires wherever and whenever they
could; and to repair the damage thus inflicted formed no small part of
the arduous duties of the British officers.

Our little but expensive war in Abyssinia in 1868, marked by a less
shedding of blood than almost any other war in modern times, was
an engineers' war from first to last. A wild and unknown country
was surveyed and accurately mapped out, four hundred miles of
road constructed, tube-wells sunk, photographs of various useful
kinds taken, and a telegraphic system established. The telegraphic
arrangements first made had to be abandoned, owing to the scantiness
of the facilities for transporting the necessary materials. The more
restricted plan actually adopted was difficult enough, so limited
were the means of obtaining wood for telegraph poles. On approaching
Magdala, however, Captain St John (who had the management of this part
of the engineering) succeeded in laying down from five to ten miles
a day. Short as was the war, this telegraph conveyed more than seven
thousand eight hundred messages during the five months of its working,
and aided most materially in giving effect to General (now Lord)
Napier's well-planned and successful scheme of operations.

Our strange Ashanti War gave further evidence of the formation of a
telegraph line through a wild country inhabited by a barbarous people.
Lieutenant Jekyll, who had the management of this work, has given a
lively account of the difficulties that beset him, and his mode of
overcoming them. It was at first intended to fight the war with native
levies and to lay down a railway; but Sir Garnet Wolseley, on landing
to take the command, soon found that the natives were not sufficiently
reliable, that the country was almost impracticable for a railway, that
he must have English troops, and that an electric telegraph would be a
highly useful aid. Lieutenant Jekyll, with a small staff, went inland
and bought bamboo canes of the blacks, set them up as posts, and laid
his wires from Cape Coast Castle to Coomassie at the rate of about two
miles a day. A gang of fifty natives helped him. Of these worthies
he says: 'They were not promising in appearance, and I was compelled
to dispense with the services of those who were _less than four feet
high_! (We italicise these words to shew what pigmies many of the West
Africans are.) But they had with them an intelligent headman; and by
dint of supervision, supplemented by a little flogging once now and
then, turned out a tolerably useful body for light work, as niggers
go.' The line was extended by degrees as far as Accrofumu, about a
hundred miles from the coast. An amusing proof was afforded of the
tendency of the natives to regard the telegraph as a kind of fetich,
charm, or spell. The English one day saw bits of white cotton-thread
suspended from tree to tree for several miles, as if to obtain thereby
some of the mysterious benefits which the white man evidently expected
from the wire. When the native helpers received small electric shocks
occasionally, consequent on the testing or using of the line, they
made sure that a charm was at work; and the lieutenant was half afraid
his men would run away in terror. The climate was very trying to the
English, who, lying ill with fever, got the natives to rouse them when
any movements of the receiving apparatus were observed. Nevertheless,
this telegraphic line rendered services much more than compensatory for
the expense, difficulty, and anxiety of laying, maintaining, and using

The truly wonderful and eventful Franco-German War of 1870-1 exhibited
the value of electro-telegraphy with a completeness never equalled
before or since. A foretaste had been given in the Austro-Prussian or
'Seven Weeks' War' of 1866; when four complete and distinct telegraphic
organisations were adopted--one with Prince Frederick-William's fine
army; one with that of Prince Charles; one at the king's headquarters;
and one in reserve. Each could lay down wires as fast as the
headquarters could advance. The speedy termination of the war averted
the necessity of constructing field-telegraphs, such as those about to
be described.

When the German forces advanced to Paris in the closing months
of 1870, the plan pursued with the telegraph was as follows: The
ordinary commercial and railway telegraphs were gradually extended
over the frontier into France, as the German armies advanced. The
field or _étappen_ telegraphs maintained communication between the
base of operations, the ammunition dépôts, and the advanced columns
of the various army corps. When the sappers and miners had pushed on
to the vicinity of Paris, the ubiquitous wire travelled with them.
The materials used were light and simple; the operators employed
to transmit and receive messages had been trained in the state
establishments; and headquarters were kept instantly informed of
any observed movements on the part of the French. The telegraph was
indeed in constant use by the Germans--for arranging the transport
of ammunition; for hourly communication with the commissariat; for
directing the conveyance to Germany of sick and wounded, as well as
prisoners; for regulating the traffic on the field railways; for
maintaining unbroken connection between the troops, which formed
a belt of ninety miles' circumference around Paris; for summoning
reinforcements to any point where suddenly needed; and to send news of
any gap in the continuity of the immense ring of soldiers encircling
the beleaguered city.

If any evidence were needed of the invaluable services rendered by the
electric telegraph in the war just noticed, it was furnished by M. Von
Chauvin, who attended before a Committee of the House of Commons on
Postal Telegraphs in 1876. He stated in distinct terms that the war
could not have been carried on without this potent aid.

Our own English system of war telegraphy, organised at Chatham, has
been improved from time to time. Light iron telegraph poles are
provided, to support insulated wires. There is a travelling office on
wheels for the operators; while the materials are carried in specially
constructed wagons. So strong is the wire that wheels may go over
it; and therefore the line is laid above ground or _on_ the ground
according to circumstances. Spikes of peculiar form enable the wires
to be hung on trees or walls to meet the contingencies of towns and
villages. The nucleus of the staff of operators is a small body of
Royal Engineers, under their own officers, comprising about fifty
military men, with occasional assistance from others--well organised
into superintendents, inspectors, clerks, linesmen, storemen, artisans,
and labourers. The wagons for materials contain drums on which the wire
is coiled; this is unrolled as the wagon moves on, which is as fast as
the operators can lay the line. At the present time, ten thousand miles
of prepared wire are said to be kept in store, ready for any exigences.

We might go on to notice the aid furnished to warlike operations by the
electric light; as for instance, at Paris in the closing weeks of 1870,
when such a light on Montmartre enabled the Parisians to gather some
knowledge of what the besiegers were about at night. But enough: the
brief summary above given will suffice to shew how electricity is used
in war.



Time went by, and nothing happened to justify Mabel's fears. Wilfred
seemed to be working hard and getting on well. His talent was
pronounced unmistakable by the master under whom he was placed, and
he himself was in good spirits about his future. But before very long
matters began to change. His letters to Mabel were less frequent and
shorter than they had been; he spoke with less openness and frankness
of his doings; and it was evident to her that there was a _something_
which he was careful to keep from her.

She longed to see Mr Merton, to hear from him what news he had of his
son, and whether his ideas about Wilfred corresponded with her own; but
she dared not speak to him about it. She knew how hard he had always
been to Wilfred, how intolerant of all his faults; and she knew well
there would be little mercy to be hoped for him at his father's hands
if, as she suspected, he had been taking more to pleasure and less to
work lately. She dared not even speak to her father of what she feared,
for could she expect even him to think as leniently of her dear one as
she did? So she had to go on from day to day keeping her trouble--which
was not less difficult to bear because it was only suspected--to

At last, when Wilfred had been about nine months in Paris, but too
certain proof arrived of how true her suspicions had been. Mr Colherne
was staying away from home--a very unusual proceeding, and Mabel was
left alone. He had gone to pass a few days with a friend in Scotland,
whither it had been impracticable for his daughter to accompany him.

The morning after his departure, Mabel came down to breakfast rather
later than usual, singing a snatch of one of her favourite ditties, and
burst open the dining-room door in a way that was indicative of her
lively feelings. Her eye lighted upon a letter that was lying in her
plate; the writing was that of Wilfred Merton. The missive was almost
illegible and very brief, and acted upon her gay spirits like a sudden
freezing. It ran as follows:

    MY DARLING MABEL--I must write a few words, the last you will
    ever have from me, to tell you that whatever may appear,
    however any one may try to persuade you, I still love you;
    love you, as I have done all my life, with all the best part
    of my nature. Believe that, Mabel, my own, always. I write to
    say good-bye, for I shall never see you again; and yet I never
    longed to see you as I do at this moment. I feel half mad now,
    and hardly know what I am writing. How shall I say it; I have
    nothing to live for, except disgrace, and I will not live for
    that, I am resolved. Once more, good-bye, dearest and best. Try
    to forgive me, and then forget me, as every one else in the
    world will soon do.


For an instant Mabel sat quite still, gazing straight before her with
one expression, that of blank despair, upon her face. This sudden
fearful shock had quite stunned her. But she was not a girl to remain
inactive, simply grieving over misfortune, when there was anything to
be done. Her resolution was promptly taken. She rang, and a servant

'Tell Hawkesley to bring the brougham round as soon as he possibly
can,' she said; 'tell him not to mind how it looks, but to be at the
door as soon as possible.'

'Is anything the matter, miss?' said the man, astonished at this order.

'Yes. I have no time to lose.'

'Is it master, miss?' he asked, with that dreadful habit of his class
of questioning instead of doing what is wanted.

'No; papa is quite well. But don't stop now; go yourself to the stable;
I haven't a minute to waste.'

In a few minutes more she was seated in the brougham which was fast
making its way to Mr Merton's bank in the City.


Mr Merton was sitting in the private office of his counting-house with
a large book open before him. Just as he was in the middle of some
calculation which, to judge from the expression of his face, was pretty
abstruse, the door opened and a clerk entered. The banker looked up
with no appearance of being pleased at the interruption.

'What is it, Mr Chester?' he said, rather angrily.

'There is a young lady, sir, who says she must see you as soon as
possible, and alone.'

'O nonsense. I can't possibly attend to her. Don't you know who she is?'

'No, sir; she wouldn't give me her name, nor tell me her business.
I said that I was sure you couldn't see her; but she said it was
absolutely necessary that you should do so, and that you would know her

'You must tell her that it is out of the question for me to see her, if
she will not send word who she is, or what she wants.'

'There's no good, sir; I have told her so. But she is quite determined
to come; and I thought I had better speak to you, as it seemed so
strange to have her waiting about there.'

'Well, in that case I suppose you must shew her in.'

The clerk withdrew, and in an instant returned with a young lady who
had a thick veil over her face. Having ushered her into the room, he
withdrew and shut the door, leaving Mr Merton and his visitor alone.

No sooner was the door closed than the lady put up her veil and
disclosed the features of Mabel Colherne.

'Why, Mabel!' said Mr Merton, appearing considerably more surprised
than pleased at finding who his visitor was; 'what in the world brings
you here?'

Mabel for her only answer put Wilfred's letter into his father's hands.
He read it through without shewing any signs of either surprise or
regret, and when he had finished it, handed it back to her without

'Well, Mr Merton?' she said, feeling impatient at his silence.

'Well, Mabel?' he returned.

'Have you read the letter?'

'Most certainly.'

'And have you nothing to say?'

'What _am_ I to say?'

'Mr Merton,' exclaimed Mabel, hardly able to control herself, 'can you
read such a letter from your son, and not care about it?'

'I have given up thinking of Wilfred as my son at all, Mabel. I gave
him the chance of rising in his odious profession by sending him to
Paris, and what has been his conduct in return for my kindness? He has
done nothing but amuse himself, and get into all kinds of disreputable
mischief. I should have told you all this before, and tried to persuade
you to break off with him; but I did not do so; in the first place,
because I was sure you would not listen to me; and in the second,
because I did not want to be the means of cutting him off from your
affection, and thus rendering his amendment impossible.'

'I have been afraid that something has been going wrong with Wilfred
lately. I wish you had told me before; I might have been able to
influence him for good.'

'I don't believe that any influence in the world would be useful to
him; he is a thoroughly worthless fellow. I paid his debts once upon
condition that he would contract no more, but I might have saved myself
the trouble; within a month he wanted more money. I was not going to be
guilty a second time of the weakness of saving him from difficulties he
had brought upon himself, in spite too of all my warnings; so I wrote
back to say that I would have no more to do with him.'

'Mr Merton, you will not keep to such a cruel resolution now, with such
a letter as this before you?'

'Are you so weak, Mabel, as to be taken in by such nonsense as this?
Don't you see that being unable to get at me, he is simply trying what
he can do with you?'

'No, Mr Merton; I don't believe that, and won't for a moment. I trust
my own instinct, which is a woman's natural guide, and generally a
very sure one, and I am certain that Wilfred intends doing something

'I have told you before now that my son is a foolish weak fellow, and
not worth anybody's love.'

'What is that to me, Mr Merton?' exclaimed Mabel, exasperated beyond
endurance. '_I_ love him, and I can hardly be expected to stand quietly
by and let him be ruined, because the affection you ought to bear your
son is wanting in your nature. Who knows but that the treatment he thus
received under his own father's roof may have'----

'What do you wish me to do? What is there that _can_ be done?' cried Mr
Merton, interrupting the girl's impassioned burst.

'I want you to go with me to Paris to see Wilfred, that we may take him
away from harm, if it be not too late. If papa had been at home now,
he would, I am sure, have gone with me; but I could not wait till he

'You can hardly be serious in proposing for me to go on such a wild
expedition as that, I think?'

'Mr Merton, I am quite sure that that letter means more than you think;
and I am determined that he shall not be left to be ruined without an
attempt to save him. If you will not come I must and will go alone.'

'You are mad, Mabel! Go to Paris alone, and to see this worthless
fellow! What do you suppose the world would say of such conduct?'

'I can't think of that when the person I love best on earth is in such
danger, as I am sure Wilfred is now, and there is a chance, however
faint it may be, of my saving him. I can answer to heaven and my own
conscience for what I am going to do, and I must brave the world. I
shall write and tell papa what I have done, and I am sure that he will
follow me as soon as possible. Good-bye, Mr Merton; there is no use in
my stopping here longer.'

'Stay, Mabel!' he began, detaining her as she rose. 'I cannot possibly
allow you to go alone, and I have of course no power of interfering
with your actions. If you really are bent upon this scheme, which
I still think an utterly mad one, I must, for the sake of my own
reputation as much as for yours, accompany you.'

'Believe me that my fears are not uncalled for. I am sure something
dreadful is going to happen to Wilfred, and I only dread being too late
even now. I am very thankful you are going with me; and am certain that
you will never repent it.'

'No thanks: it is only necessity that makes me do it. When do you

'To-night, if possible.'

Mr Merton looked into a Bradshaw that was lying upon the table. 'The
train to meet the night-boat leaves London at half-past eight; to catch
that you must start from your house at half-past seven.'

'I will do that. Will you meet me at the station?'

'Yes; I will be there at a quarter past eight.'

'Good-bye till then; and thank you again a thousand times.'

Mr Merton attended her to the outer door of the office, and she drove
home well satisfied with her mission. Writing to her father, to tell
him everything, and what she was going to do, she packed a small box
to take with her, and then did little else but wish the day, which
seemed interminable, gone. Long before it was necessary, she was at the
station; and punctual to the appointed minute, Mr Merton appeared.

After a journey that to Mabel seemed endless, they at length reached
Paris, and drove straight to the hotel in which Wilfred lived.

As they stopped, Mr Merton said: 'You may depend upon it we shall
find our trouble wasted, and that the object of your anxiety is out
somewhere amusing himself.'

Mabel did not answer. She could hear her heart beat as she sprang
out of the cab; and without waiting for her companion, entered the
court-yard of the hotel, and went to the den appropriated to the
_concierge_. That gentleman was reading a newspaper, in which he seemed
much interested, and did not look up as she came near him.

'Monsieur Merton, est-il chez-lui?' she asked breathlessly.

The concierge put his finger against the word he was reading, in mute
protest against being interrupted, and looking slowly up, said rather
dreamily: 'Plaît-il, Madame?'

'Monsieur Merton, est-il chez-lui?' she repeated more eagerly than

The man turned round, and walking with the most provoking deliberation
to the other end of the room, where numerous keys were hanging, looked
at the place appropriated to the one belonging to Wilfred's room, and
seeing that it was unoccupied, came back to Mabel and answered: 'Oui,

'Quel est le numéro de sa chambre?'

'Soixante-deux, au cinquième,' said the concierge, returning to his
paper as he finished speaking.

Mr Merton had paid the driver and joined Mabel as this conversation
came to an end, and they started to mount the stairs to the fifth floor
as directed.

Even Mabel's youth and energy could not prevent her from getting out
of breath in that long climb; and by the time she and Mr Merton had
arrived at the fourth floor, they were obliged to stop and rest.

Before they had stood an instant, they were startled by a loud report
of a pistol coming from the floor above them. With a loud scream,
Mabel sped up the remaining stairs and entered the room named by the

Mr Merton came almost instantly after her, and found Wilfred lying
insensible on the floor, and Mabel kneeling by his side, trying to
restore consciousness.


Within an hour, two of the most skilful physicians that Paris could
boast were with Wilfred Merton. And when they left him, their verdict
was not one to give much hope. He had shot himself in the chest,
and it was very doubtful whether he would recover from that fearful
self-inflicted wound.

Mr Merton's anguish during those long days and nights while Wilfred
lay at death's door was terrible to behold. Alienated as had been his
affection for his son while absent, the feelings of parental love
returned tenfold, now that he might be on the point of losing that
son for ever; and as he nursed his boy with that womanly gentleness
which is so touching in a man, it was evident that his whole hope of
happiness was bound up in his recovery.

Mr Colherne had, as Mabel predicted, lost no time in following her to
Paris, and though he could hardly feel the intense and painful interest
in the invalid that his father felt, still for Mabel's sake he became a
willing sharer in the nursing.

As for Mabel, hope was very strong in her, and made that time of
watching much easier to bear. She could not help believing that that
strong determination to cross the Channel had been put into her mind to
enable her to save the one who was so dear to her; and in that belief
she put her trust.

At last, after long, weary, sometimes almost despairing watching, the
patient took a favourable turn. The burning fever ceased; and one day
the doctor told the anxious watchers that there was great hope; that
indeed, unless any unforeseen complications arose, there was nothing
further to fear.

Then the pent-up feelings of Mr Merton--that grief which he had tried
so unsuccessfully to conceal from his companions, could be kept in no
longer; he threw his arms round Mabel's neck, buried his face on her
shoulder, and burst into tears, those tears which, when shed by a man,
are so inexpressibly painful to see.

'Mabel,' he said, 'I owe all this to you; if it had not been for you, I
should have been my son's murderer.'

Mabel pressed her lips upon his forehead in silence; her heart was too
full of thankfulness for speech.

Wilfred was very patient, and manfully bore all the trials of the time.
As soon as he was well enough to be able to think of what he had done,
a feeling of intense remorse had come over him, and had taken such
powerful hold that at first it threatened to throw him back. But the
gentle hand of Mabel was a wonderful restorer; a word or two of loving
assurance changed this bitter remorse into a quiet sorrow. It happened
one day, about a week after this, that while Mabel was reading at the
window of the invalid's room, she heard Wilfred's voice gently calling
to her. It was as if the voice of her lover had been suddenly restored
to him.

'Can you forgive me, my darling?' he asked.

'Am I not a woman, Wilfred? And is it not a woman's privilege to

'I don't think you are a woman, Mabel; I think you are an angel.' Few
words, but conveying volumes.

From that moment her lover began to mend steadily, though still slowly;
every day there was more and more to hope, until at length Wilfred was
pronounced wholly out of danger. And then one evening in the dusk,
when the lamps were being lighted in the street below them, and the
increased hum and buzz of the later day were coming on, Wilfred and
Mabel found themselves again alone.

'Mabel,' he said in a low voice, when they had been quite silent for
a long time, 'I have been wanting an opportunity to tell you all the
wrong that I have done. Shall I tell you now?'

'Yes, Wilfred, now--in this twilight light.' She slid her hand into his
as she spoke, and they remained in that position while he told her his

There was nothing new about it; it was the old story. Led by bad
companions into temptations, his naturally lively and weak nature was
not able to resist; ashamed of himself for his own conduct when he
found himself outrunning his allowance, and obliged to apply to his
father for help. Thrown into despair by his father's harsh conduct
to him, he had plunged still more wildly into the excesses and
dissipations of his leaders, till at last, horrified at what he was
doing, and seeing no means of escape from the snares in which he had
allowed himself to be caught, he had written that letter to Mabel;
had waited, vaguely hoping for he knew not what, for some days, and
had ultimately sought to put an end to himself in a fit of intense
depression. Weakness, that shoal which is even more fatal, because
more hidden than wickedness, had wrecked him, as it has wrecked so
many. In the deep remorse that he now felt, he greatly exaggerated the
wickedness of his conduct, for though he had been guilty of grievous
folly, he had done no positive or irremediable wrong either to himself
or others. The only actual definite sin he had committed was the
suicidal one, from the consequences of which Mabel's resolution had
happily saved him.

When he had finished this history, he paused an instant, and then
added, without looking at her: 'And now, Mabel, that you have heard
all this, do you still say that you forgive me? Can you still love me?'

'A love would be very useless, Wilfred, that deserted its object just
when it was most wanted; I hope my love is a truer one than that.'

'Mabel, my beloved,' said he, drawing her closer to him as he spoke,
'if it had not been for you, I should have been beyond the power of
repentance now. Your affection has saved me once, and it shall keep me
from harm now, for ever!'

Before very many years had gone by, Wilfred Merton's name was known as
that of a successful young painter. He and his wife were settled in
London, and were able to live in very comfortable style. They had no
children, which was their only serious drawback to happiness; but if
ever Wilfred, seeing his wife look longingly at some merry group of
little ones, and guessing her thoughts, tried to console her, she would
put her hand into his and say, her truthful eyes looking full at him as
she spoke: 'I have you, Wilfred, beside me, and I am content.'

       *       *       *       *       *

The foregoing narrative, which is founded upon events which actually
took place, may be turned to advantage by those parents who are prone
to thwart the natural inclinations of their children, or cut them
adrift without a proper guide. The career of many a man has been
blighted by the mistaken, though perhaps well-meant policy of a father
who, desirous to see his son follow up his own profession, has tried to
compel that son to work contrary to his inclination, with results more
or less disastrous.


The history of precious stones, those beautiful objects which have
strongly appealed to the imagination of men in all ages, has been
written many times; and yet their latest chronicler is doubtless
justified in assuming that the knowledge of them in its practical sense
is not widespread; that even in the jeweller's trade there are many who
are not skilled in detecting the real measure of difference between
one stone and another, either by the specific gravity, which supplies
the essential test, or by the minor tests of rarity and quality. In
treating of the history and distinguishing characteristics of _Precious
Stones and Gems_, Mr Streeter has certainly conferred a benefit on
'the trade;' to the general reader the book can hardly fail to be of
interest, for it puts a captivating subject before him under a variety
of aspects, and appeals successfully to imagination as well as to taste
for exact knowledge.

From the magnificent specimens which the rescued Sindbad carried away
with him when he tied himself with his turban to the roc's leg, on
through a long succession of fable and of history, diamonds will never
cease to enchant mankind, having always taken the lead in interest, as
they have been supreme in value among those treasures of the mineral
kingdom which are called gems or precious stones. Ages before men
discovered that their beauty could be enhanced by handiwork, their
rarity and their price had endowed them with a surpassing charm; and
now, when handiwork has been brought almost to perfection, and science
has dispelled the mystery with which the diamond was invested, they
maintain their immemorial supremacy. In company with Mr Streeter we may
trace the beautiful things from their habitat in India, the Brazils,
South Africa, the Ural Mountains, and Australia, through their history
in the ancient times and in medieval days, when they formed the theme
of many fables and the object of much superstition.

The diamond dwells in the same lands and in the same strata with many
other gems, but it is the most precious as it is the most difficult to
find; and though its nature resembles theirs in many respects, in one
it is unique--it is the hardest of all known substances, and belongs to
those bodies which refract light most strongly. Its magnifying power
is greater than that of glass; but it is seldom used for microscopic
lenses, owing to the great difficulty of making them perfectly
accurate. It was believed to possess double refraction, but that has
been disproved; and the deviation which gave rise to the error is
traced to the existence of internal air-bubbles, as in amber, by which
the course of the light is altered. It is the triumph of cutting to
exhibit these qualities to the highest degree, and thus did Babinet, a
great authority on diamonds, test them. 'In a sheet of white paper he
bored a hole somewhat larger than the diamond to be tested: he let a
ray of sunlight pass through the hole, and holding the diamond a little
distance from it, yet at such an angle as to allow the ray to alight
on a point of the flat facet, he found this facet to be forthwith
represented on the paper as a white figure, whilst all around little
rainbow circles were delineated. If the observer found the primary
colours red, yellow, and blue definitely separated one from the other
in these little circles, and if their number were considerable, and
they stood at equal distances from each other, then he pronounced the
brilliant to be well cut.'

From Mr Streeter we learn that in commercial estimation, coloured
gems stand far behind the diamond; insomuch, he tells us, that this
stone represents ninety per cent., and the others altogether only ten
per cent. of the quantity on sale. A hundred years ago, Brazil became
the rival of India in the production of diamonds, and the finders
were the poor mulattos and negroes, who explored for them the sterile
wilds of Minas-Novas, and sold them to the merchants. The story of
the discovery of these gems at Bahia is as follows: A slave who came
from Minas-Geräes was tending his master's flocks in Bahia, and he
noticed that the soil resembled that of his native place. He groped
in the sand and found seven hundred carats of diamonds. He ran away,
and offered the gems for sale in a distant city. Of course such wealth
in the hands of a slave aroused suspicion, and the negro was arrested
and sent back to his master, who tried in vain to come at a knowledge
of his secret. At last he bethought him of sending the slave again to
tend his flocks at Bahia, and he watched him. Again the slave-shepherd
groped in the gem-hiding sand, and the truth was discovered. Then came
numbers of wealth-seekers from Minas-Geräes and other parts of Brazil,
so that the next year twenty-five thousand men were diamond-hunting in
Bahia, and the amount daily obtained for some time rose to one thousand
four hundred and fifty carats. The trade was a prerogative of the
Portuguese crown, and Lisbon was the chief emporium of the gems. The
precious things are of fluctuating value. In 1836 they were very dear;
but in 1848 the price fell; and a few years ago there was 'a glut in
the market,' in consequence of Dom Pedro's having paid the Brazilian
state debt to England in diamonds instead of money, when the price fell
fifty per cent. in the Leipsic market.

Mr Streeter, who has great faith in the future of Queensland as a
diamond-field, gives a most interesting account of the discoveries in
New South Wales, that wonderful colony, whose long-delayed luck has
come at last, and from all sides at once; but dwells at length and with
exultation upon the Cape diamond-fields. 'South Africa,' he says, 'is
richer, and its produce is far more to the purpose of modern history,
and to the supply of the precious stones, which form our wealth of
gems, than the old diamond-fields of the East or West.' The history of
the discovery of gems in the colonies partakes of the romance which
attended the discovery of gold; and is not free from the tradition
of crime and misfortune, which rests upon similar revelations in the
Old World. Idle as are the superstitions which impute specific evil
influences to certain gems, it is not to be denied that there have been
many instances of 'fatal jewels;' and that cruelty, injustice, and
terrible human suffering have attended the rifling of the earth's bosom
for those mysterious treasures formed by her wonderful chemistry from
an invisible component of the atmosphere. Many of the strange stories
of medieval alchemists deal with the attempt to make diamonds, and Mr
Streeter tells us of the experiments which have determined their nature
and combustibility. There is a fascination to the imagination in the
following description of the burning of diamonds:

'In 1750 the Emperor Francis I., at Vienna, subjected, in the presence
of the chemist Darzet, diamonds and rubies worth six thousand florins
to the heat of a smelting-furnace for twenty-four hours. The diamonds
were found to have totally disappeared; but the rubies remained, and
appeared much more beautiful than before. In 1771 a magnificent diamond
was burned at Paris in the laboratory of the chemist Macquer. Hence
arose a great discussion. The diamond had disappeared; but whither?
Had it volatilised? Had it burned? Had it exploded? No one could
say. Then stepped forward a celebrated jeweller, by name Le Blanc,
who asserted the indestructibility of the diamond in the furnace,
stating that he had often placed diamonds in an intense fire to purify
them from certain blemishes, and that they had never suffered the
smallest injury.' (This has been done also by Mr Streeter with similar
results.) 'The chemists D'Arcet and Bonelle then demanded of him that
he should make the experiment on the spot in their presence. He took
some diamonds, inclosed them in a mass of coal and lime in a crucible,
and submitted them to the action of the fire. He had no doubt that he
should find them safe. At the end of three hours, on looking into the
crucible, they had utterly disappeared.'

Then appeared upon the scene the famous Lavoisier, he to whom the
Convention refused a fortnight's reprieve from the guillotine, just as
he was on the threshold of a probably sublime discovery in the science
of light; Fouquier-Tinville returning him for answer that the Republic
had no need of chemists and _savants_. In the presence of Lavoisier,
Maillard, another jeweller, took three diamonds and closely packed them
in powdered charcoal in an earthen pipe-bowl in a strong fire; and when
the pot was taken out, there lay the diamonds in the powdered charcoal
untouched. It was, however, gradually discovered that it was only by
entirely shutting out the air, and therefore the oxygen with which the
carbon combines, that the diamonds were preserved from burning; whereas
by the simple admission of air, of which oxygen is a constituent
part, diamonds burn just the same as common coal. This was proved
by Lavoisier in 1776; and Davy subsequently shewed that the diamond
contains no hydrogen. So, when the most precious object which the earth
produces is burned, the gas formed from its combustion is just that
which our fires and our gas-burners yield, and our own bodies too,
by the combustion which attends their living; and, says Mr Streeter,
'the old fable of the maiden from whose lips fell diamonds, may have
a really scientific basis after all.' It takes immense heat to burn a
diamond, and if it were possible to collect the black material which
covers the surface during the process, it would be found to be simply

The origin of the diamond is still a matter of scientific investigation
and dispute; and the various opinions concerning it may be collected
under two heads: (1) The diamond is formed immediately from carbon or
carbonic acid by the action of heat. (2) It is formed from the gradual
decomposition of vegetable matter. The various methods by which the
supporters of the respective theories suppose the transformation to
have been wrought, are full of interest and suggestion. In Brazil it
was discovered that the matrix of the diamond is itacolumite, and it
is said that the gems obtained from itacolumite sandstone have rounded
angles and corners, whilst those from the sandy schist are perfect
crystals. 'If,' says Mr Streeter, 'this be a fact, we must believe that
the agency which changed the sandstone into itacolumite acted also on
the diamond.'

Whether in the mines or by the rivers, whose 'golden sands' are flecked
with gems, in rich Brazil, the labour of procuring these beautiful
gems is great, and large specimens are rarely found; so rarely, that
big diamonds have their histories--terrible histories too often--like
heroes and race-horses. They are weighed by the carat, a word which
Mr Streeter considers to have been derived from the name of a bean, a
species of _Erythrina_, which grows in Africa. 'The tree which yields
this fruit is called by the natives "kuara" (sun), and both blossom
and fruit are of a golden colour. The bean when dried is nearly always
of the same weight, and thus in very remote times it was used in
Schangallas, the chief market of Africa, as a standard of weight for
gold. The beans were afterwards imported into India, and were then
used for weighing the diamond.' It is estimated that in ten thousand
diamonds rarely more than _one_ weighing twenty carats is met with,
while possibly eight thousand of one carat or less may be encountered.
An elaborate system of rewards and punishments is adopted in the
Brazilian mining and river-searching works; but it is believed that in
spite of this, one-third of the produce is surreptitiously disposed of
by the labourers.

The histories of those world-famous diamonds the Sancy, the Regent,
the Koh-i-noor, the Blue (or Hope) diamond, and others, have been
related before, and history and romance have dealt with the misery
and crime, the evil passions and the mystic fancies, involved in the
stories of some of these. In a few lines Mr Streeter gives a sketch
of the Brazilian contribution to this many-chaptered story, which is
not generally known. 'The discovery of these precious stones in 1746,'
he says, 'proved a great curse to the poor inhabitants of the banks
of the diamond rivers. Scarcely had the news of the discovery reached
the government, ere they tried to secure the riches of these rivers
for the crown. To effect this, the inhabitants were driven away from
their houses to wild far-away places, and deprived of their little
possessions. Nature itself seemed to take part against them: a dreadful
drought, succeeded by a violent earthquake, increased their distress.
Many of them perished; but those who lived to return on the 18th May
1805, were benevolently reinstated in their rightful possessions.
Strange to say, on their return the earth seemed strewn with diamonds.
Often the little ones would bring in between three and four carats of

Next to the diamond comes the oriental ruby, and in former days it was
more prized than the gem, which has a genus all to itself. The ancients
gave immense sums for fine specimens of the ruby variety of 'corundum,'
or aluminous stone. In Benvenuto Cellini's time a perfect ruby of
a carat weight cost eight hundred crowns, whilst a diamond of like
weight cost only one hundred. The two most important rubies ever known
in Europe were brought to England in 1875. One was a dark-coloured
stone, cushion-shape, weighing thirty-seven carats; the other a blunt
drop-shape of 47-1/16 carats. Mr Streeter thinks that the London market
would never have seen these truly royal gems but for the poverty of the
Burmese government; and adds an interesting account of the estimation
in which rubies are held in the distant Land of the White Elephant.
The sale of the two rubies caused such excitement that a military
guard had to escort the persons who conveyed the precious packet to
the vessel. No regalia in Europe contains two such rubies. The smaller
was sold abroad for ten thousand pounds; the larger has also found a
purchaser, but Mr Streeter does not tell us at what price. The great
ruby of the kings of Burmah is said to be as large as a pigeon's egg,
and of wondrous quality; but is a treasure which no European eye
has ever seen. Very few rubies pass out of the country; the king is
excessively fond of these gems, and prohibits the export of them. The
Burmese have strange notions about rubies; 'they believe that they
ripen in the earth; that they are at first colourless and crude, and
gradually become yellow, green, blue, and last of all _red_--this being
considered the highest point of beauty and ripeness.'

The sapphire, the emerald, and the opal (the last erroneously supposed
to exist in India, whereas it is found almost entirely in Hungary),
the turquoise, and the cat's-eye (a rare variety of the chrysoberyl,
and inferior in hardness to the diamond and sapphire only), are,
each in its turn, the subjects of Mr Streeter's lucid and learned
exposition; after which he passes to the less valuable classes,
pearls, onyx, and the gems used for engraving and other purposes. The
increasing estimation in which the true Ceylonese cat's-eye is held
(it is one of the most fashionable gems at present, and there are
specimens in the market worth upwards of one thousand pounds), renders
the following particularly interesting: 'In India the cat's-eye has
always been much prized, and is held in peculiar veneration as a charm
against witchcraft. It is the last jewel a Cingalese will part with.
The specimens most esteemed by the Indians are those of a dark olive
colour, having the ray so bright on each edge as to appear double.
It is indeed wonderfully beautiful with its soft deep colour and
mysterious gleaming streak, ever shifting, like a restless spirit,
from side to side as the stone is moved; now glowing at one spot, now
at another. No wonder that an imaginative and superstitious people
regard it with awe and wonder, and believing it to be the abode of some
"genius" or djinn, dedicate it to their gods as a sacred stone.'


When I was a little boy--I am now an old man of sixty--'Aunt Oliver,'
as we used to call my father's widowed sister, was in the habit of
paying long visits at my father's house. She had not long been a widow;
and though past the meridian of life, was still a beautiful woman. But
what made her so exceedingly popular with all my father's children was
her repeated kindnesses, displayed to us in the shape of various useful
and ornamental gifts, carefully chosen to suit our several ages and
characters; but above all, her wonderful condescension in giving up
her own pursuits on many a winter's night, that she might recount to
us, as we sat grouped around the nursery fire, some of the incidents
of her varied and eventful life. She had been a great traveller in her
day, having been to Rome, and even visited the Holy Land; and what is
more, she had written a book of travels! a circumstance which caused
us to regard her with a strange curiosity almost amounting to awe; a
feeling on our part which, but for her uniform kindness, might have
detracted from that universal love we one and all bore towards her. One
of my aunt's adventures made a strong impression on my youthful mind,
and is even now, after a lapse of half a century, still fresh in my
recollection. Thinking it might serve to divert those who have a fancy
for the humorous, I have gathered up the threads of the story from the
storehouse of my memory, and now present it in narrative form, under
the foregoing title.

       *       *       *       *       *

My uncle, Mr Oliver Brown, was in the iron trade; and in connection
with his business, which was a very large one, was in the habit of
paying periodical visits to the manufacturing town of Bolton, near to
which his principal iron-works were situated. He usually paid these
visits alone; but on the occasion of which I am about to speak he was
accompanied by my aunt, who deemed it her duty to be with her husband,
as it was winter-time and he had only just recovered from a severe
illness. It was late in the evening of a bleak November day that the
coach which conveyed Mr and Mrs Oliver Brown from their comfortable
country-seat, distant some fifty miles from Bolton, entered the noisy
ill-paved streets of that bustling town, and proceeded to what at that
period was the principal inn of the place. Both travellers were tired
by their journey, and after a hasty dinner, were glad to retire to rest.

'Did you say number twenty-seven, second floor?' inquired Mrs Oliver,
addressing the lady at the bar, as she took a chamber candlestick from
her hand and proceeded to mount the stairs.

'Twenty-seven, second floor,' responded the landlady with an
affirmative nod and a gracious smile.

'Twenty-seven, second floor,' repeated my uncle as he followed in the
wake of his more active and enterprising helpmate, who, threading her
way up the spiral staircase and along a labyrinth of corridors and
passages, had already arrived at the dormitory in question. Mr and Mrs
Oliver were soon in bed; and there we will leave them, whilst we look
in at number twenty-nine on the same floor, and make the acquaintance
of Mr and Mrs Wormwood Scrubbs, the occupants of that apartment. They,
like their neighbours at number twenty-seven, were in comfortable
circumstances, and like the latter, not much given to travelling
for pleasure's sake on a cold raw day in November; but an affair of
business which demanded their presence at Bolton had compelled them to
sacrifice their ease and comfort, and come to that town on this bleak
November day. Mr Scrubbs had long been subject to attacks of gout
in the foot; and as he had heard of this disease having a tendency
sometimes to shift its seat to the brain or the stomach, when it was
apt to assume a more serious type, he had made it a rule to carry about
his person in the daytime, and to place under his pillow at night,
a certain medicine which an eminent physician had assured him would
speedily arrest any such erratic tendency on the part of the malady
from which he suffered.

Now, on this particular night, whether from over-exertion, exposure
to cold, or some other cause I know not, Mr Scrubbs happened to be
visited with certain premonitory symptoms of an approaching attack of
gout, whereupon he instinctively felt under his pillow for the valuable
specific I have referred to. He then remembered he had inadvertently
left it in the pocket of his greatcoat, which he had thrown upon the
sofa in the private sitting-room into which Mrs Scrubbs and himself had
been ushered on their arrival at the inn; whereupon, being unwilling to
disturb his better-half, who was in a profound sleep, he let himself
quietly out of bed, and throwing his dressing-gown over his shoulders,
proceeded to light his candle. Having done this, he gently opened the
door and sallied forth, leaving the door slightly ajar, in order that
he might the more easily find the room on his return.

It so chanced just about the time Mr Wormwood Scrubbs was proceeding
on the above mission, that Mrs Oliver Brown, who was too fatigued
to sleep, suddenly recollected that she had left her reticule with
her purse inside it on the table in the room where she and Mr Brown
had had their dinner; and wisely considering that it would not be
prudent to leave it there till morning, she resolved to descend to the
sitting-room and recover the bag at once; accordingly slipping out of
bed, she struck a light, and opening the bedroom door, stepped into the
corridor into which it led. She then proceeded to assure herself by a
reference to certain figures that were painted over the door-frames
of the several dormitories that the room she had just quitted was
number twenty-seven and no other; and having satisfied her mind on this
point, she left the door ajar, and gliding swiftly along the different
passages and down the cork-screw-shaped staircase, soon reached the
sitting-room, whence, having found the bag she was in search of, she
retraced her steps in the same rapid way, exercising her memory as
she went along by repeating the number of the room to which she was

Now Mrs Oliver Brown, who, by the way, had an undoubted bump for
localities, had formed an idea--and a very correct idea it was--that
number twenty-seven was the second room on the left-hand side of the
corridor; but on her return, finding the door of this chamber closed,
whilst that of the one adjoining it was open, she not unnaturally
supposed she might have made a mistake in regard to the position of
number twenty-seven; but in order to set all doubt at rest upon this
point, she was about to refer to the number on the door-frame, when
a sudden gust of wind sweeping along the whole length of the passage
extinguished the candle, leaving her in utter darkness. Thus situated,
Mrs Oliver Brown did what most ladies (and gentlemen also, I think)
would have done under the circumstances: she groped her way along the
passage till she came to the open door of number twenty-nine, went
softly in, shut the door in the same quiet way, and got into bed,
where, being greatly fatigued with all she had undergone, she soon fell
fast asleep.

In the meantime, Mr Wormwood Scrubbs having repossessed himself of
his gout mixture, had also returned to the corridor, where seeing
a door ajar precisely as he had left his own, he at once went in,
closed the door, blew out his candle, and popped into bed, where my
excellent uncle was still sleeping as peacefully as a baby, and utterly
unconscious of the recent migratory movements of Mrs Brown, which were
destined to produce such an unlooked-for disturbance in the domestic
arrangements of the two families occupying respectively numbers
twenty-seven and twenty-nine.

Mr Wormwood Scrubbs, however, though now quite easy both in body
and mind, was unable to sleep, and lay awake, first thinking of one
thing and then of another, till he was suddenly recalled to the stern
realities of life by hearing his wife's voice proceeding apparently
from the adjoining room. In a state of immense perplexity, he struck
out with his sound leg in the direction of the sleeping figure at his
side, when having come in contact with a plump warm body corresponding
to that of his amiable helpmate, he paused, and suspending all further
investigation for the present, calmly awaited the issue of events. Nor
had he very long to wait.

Mrs Wormwood Scrubbs was a lady of a highly nervous and excitable
temperament, with whom, when once roused, it would be about as useless
and dangerous an experiment to attempt to argue as with a tigress
surrounded by a litter of famished cubs. She had just waked up from
her first sleep, when happening to put her hand upon that part of the
connubial couch where her Wormwood's head was wont to rest, she found
it brought in contact with a lace nightcap, and a profusion of long
curls that had escaped from beneath it.

'Why, what's this, Scrubbs? What tomfoolery's this you're after? What's
this, I say?' tagging, as she spoke, at the head-dress of her supposed
husband. 'Why, goodness gracious, it isn't Scrubbs after all!'--as
starting up in bed, my aunt in gentle but startled accents implored her
to be quiet.

'But who are you? and what are you doing in number twenty-nine?'

'Number twenty-nine! Surely this is not twenty-nine, but twenty-seven,'
doubtingly returned my aunt, as the idea suddenly flashed upon her that
she _might_ have mistaken the one room for the other. 'I think I can
explain it all.'

'Explain it all! Of course you'll explain it all, and something more
than that, before I've done with you, you good-for-nothing impudent
hussy that you are!'

'For heaven's sake, be calm, my good woman, or you'll rouse the whole
house,' expostulated my aunt in the gentlest manner possible.

'Don't "good-woman" me!' shouted Mrs Scrubbs at the top of her voice,
as springing from the bed, she seized the bell-rope and pulled at it
with a violence that threatened to carry everything with it. Amid
this terrific uproar, Mr Scrubbs and his bedfellow Mr Brown, who had
been vainly trying to make themselves heard from the adjoining room,
suddenly appeared candle in hand upon the scene.

As oil cast upon the troubled sea will instantly reduce that element
to a state of the profoundest calm, so did the sudden appearance of
Mr Scrubbs act as if by a charm to allay in one moment all the angry
feelings of Bella Scrubbs, and where only a few moments before all was
violence and discord, there now reigned perfect peace and good-will.

The mutual explanations that ensued, it is needless to say, were
perfectly satisfactory to all the parties concerned; and after a
readjustment of partners, the two families once more took possession of
their respective chambers, where I need hardly say they were not again
molested during the remaining part of that memorable November night.


Of the thousands of tourists who flock every year from all parts of
the civilised world to gaze upon the picturesque beauties of the
Highlands, to muse among the ruined aisles of Iona, or to listen to the
diapason of the sea, as it sinks and swells through the pillared caves
of Staffa, few, comparatively speaking, care to go so far north as the
Shetlands; yet these islands, though generally bare, have a beauty of
their own--the breezy, ever-changeful beauty of the sea.

The scientific tourist will not fail to find something to interest
him in Shetland. There are bold headlands, wide reefs of black crags,
and a flora which, although neither rich nor varied, has charms
for the botanist. There are broad stretches of sandy beach, not so
sterile as they look, but affording, in hidden nooks and crannies,
no bad hunting-ground for a naturalist out for a summer holiday. If
you are a member of the Alpine Club, there are here no mountains for
you to climb, but there are cliffs such as might well appal the most
practised mountaineer; and in summer there is the sun, shining in a
cloudless sky nearly all through the four-and-twenty hours. There in
summer, midnight is not like the midnights of more southern climes, but
is permeated by the rays of a sun, set indeed, but so soon about to
rise, that there is scarcely any absence of light.

If you are a painter, you may have sea-views in abundance. You may
choose your own time and place and grouping; early morning if you
will, with the white mists rolling in over the shimmering sea, and the
clamorous gulls hovering above skerries that are crusted all over with
dense clinging masses of sea-weed. Or you may wait till the ascending
sun rolls back the curtain of mist, and the sea gleams out before you
a wide sheet of burnished gold, spangled with the rocky islets of a
storm-swept archipelago. The waves roll in at your feet--long majestic
ridges of water, dappled with lines of foam; the wide swell of the
Atlantic sweeping in from the far shores of Labrador; while from far
inland some tiny streamlet tumbles down to the sea through a natural
copsewood of dwarf ash and birch and hazel.

Bold points and headlands stand like brave sentinels far out to sea,
sheltering little natural harbours where the fisherman's boat rides in
safety. Tiny fiords run inland into deep glens, with here and there a
fisherman's hut or a crofter's cottage. Perhaps, however, you may have
a fancy for foul weather, when the sky darkens like a pall over the
sea, and the storm-fiend rouses himself from his ocean lair, and the
tempest-tossed waves scud along in wreaths of foam to break in hoarse
thunder upon the shore, or hurl themselves in impotent rage against the
face of the steep headland. In Shetland you have grand alternations of
calm and storm.

It is perhaps, however, for the student of human nature that Shetland
has the greatest attractions. Here he will find a simple, kindly,
primitive set of people, of Norwegian descent, but now anglicised
in language and usages. They are, however, fond of old legends and
stories. Mrs Saxby, the authoress of _Rockbound, a Story of the
Shetland Isles_, in a pleasantly told narrative introduces us to this
primitive people. We have for the scene of the story an island called
Vaalafiel, five miles long, and a little over two in width, with a
tiny harbour, and gray old mansion-house set in a strip of scraggy
pine-wood. Vaalafiel, Mrs Saxby tells us, 'is coiled upon the sea
much in the way a kitten rolls itself together on the hearth-rug--the
creature's paws being represented by the narrow belts of land
overlapping each other and forming the arms of our voe (fiord), whose
crags are very suggestive of claws. Rising abruptly from the shores
of this harbour, the island becomes a hill, whose eastern side is a
precipice dipping into the German Ocean. The north point terminates
in a bold headland, from whence the hill slopes gradually southwards,
until it ends in a beautiful stretch of sand, kissed white by the broad
waves of the Atlantic. The neighbouring islands cluster north and
south, leaving deep narrow channels, where the two great seas keep up
a perpetual warfare; and he is a daring sailor who ventures to cross
those tideways when their "dark hour" approaches.'

Under the old house of Vaalafiel and the cliffs adjacent to it were
wide underground caverns, such as in the 'good old smuggling times'
were no uncommon adjuncts to country houses, and even manses, if they
happened to be conveniently near the shore. This smugglers' cave was
the scene of a tragedy, such as was of no unfrequent occurrence among
desperate men in these lawless days. A hasty blow struck in sudden
passion hurried one rash soul to its last account, and darkened as with
the brand of Cain the lives of many others. There is an old nurse,
full of well-nigh forgotten Norse superstitions, and a little lonely
child, the heiress of the rockbound islet, whose dearest pleasure was
to watch the sea on the serene summer evenings when the sky became
like a poet's dream, and earth and sea put on the glory of the clouds.
Mrs Saxby describes 'the Shetland summer night as not dark at all;
it is merely a twilight, which is prolonged sufficiently to assume
a character of its own. Not dark, not light, not a brief uncertain
mingling of both, but a quiet earnest period of rest, when Nature
dreams but does not sleep, and yet is not awake. We call it "the dim,"
and you can discern objects quite clearly while it broods over the
earth.' The wild winter nights have a grand storm-driven beauty of
their own, when the Aurora Borealis shoots forth a fitful light, and
the nursling of the gray North 'catches glimpses of the beauty dwelling
in colour.' The solitary child Inga, bearing in her brave little heart
the burden of her father's dimly realised crime, yet cleaving to him,
because he loves her, with an affection far stronger than that which
binds her to her cold unloving mother, develops into a healthy spirited
girl. Lonely and prosaic as her life was, it was not, however, without
a salutary admixture of holidays and holiday amusements. The lady of
Vaalafiel, although a somewhat stern disciplinarian, was wise enough
to recognise the truth of the axiom, that 'all work and no play make
Jack a dull boy,' and so upon birthdays and such kindred anniversaries
she somewhat relaxed the rigidity of her rule. A fat bullock was killed
in honour of the young heiress, and Miss Inga's favourite Newfoundland
dog (evidently desirous of contributing his share to the feast) went
off one night to the hills and ran down half-a-dozen sheep. It was
found that he had performed the service of a butcher in a perfectly
scientific manner; so the animals were carried home and added to the

With such a superabundance of _pièces de resistance_, even the
crustiest old bachelor in the world might have found a picnic tolerably
enjoyable; and Miss Inga and her young friends had a most delightful
day of it in their sweet northern Arcadia, clad as it then was in all
its witching garb of summer. 'The sun,' she says, 'rose in cloudless
glory, and everything was dipped in sunshine of another kind as
well; for Aytoun' (a divinity student quite as fascinating as _The
Modern Minister_) 'had returned for the midsummer vacation, and that
would have been gladness enough for me. There were with him some of
his college companions, who made sparkling speeches, sang hearty
songs, assisted in distributing prizes to the winning boats, and then
challenged the islanders to a football match. Which played best is
an undecided question to this day, for each side had a method of its
own, and did not comprehend that of its opponent. Then the people were
gathered on a smooth meadow near our house, and the plaintive Foula
Reel called upon old and young alike to join in the graceful and truly
poetic dance of Shetland. The natural good breeding of the islanders
allowed us to remove every restriction on their pleasure, which was
characterised by a hearty enjoyment without the slightest approach to

As unlike as possible to a heroine of romance, the child reared in
this homely fashion is yet sweet enough to carry blessing and love
wherever she goes; to heal old wounds with her simple beauty and
goodness; to carry peace into the unforgiving relentlessness of her
mother's heart; and to efface the blackness of her father's crime
(justifiable homicide, a soft-hearted jury would resolve it into)
with tender penitential tears. Miss Inga is in truth a very lovable
character, innocent, simple, and yet intelligent; gentle and winning
in her ways, although she can be spirited and resolute upon occasion;
full of affectionate respect for her stern mother, and of deep romantic
devotion for her father, for whose sake she marries without love,
which no properly constituted heroine of romance ever does or can do,
but which many a good woman has done, to find, as she did, peace and
household joy and contentment at a good man's hearth.

Many of the descriptive passages in _Rockbound_ are written with
considerable vividness and effect, as for instance the storm, through
whose agency a crisis in the plot of the tale is worked out. 'A
tempestuous morning was breaking, and sea and wind were uttering
wrathful warnings of what might befall the unwary fishers who were out
on the deep, and I looked out with eyes which scarcely saw--with a mind
on which impressions seemed lost. As if still in a dream, I beheld the
furious waves come rolling majestically from the far deep and break
with thundering sound upon the rocky arms of our voe. As I gazed, there
suddenly appeared round a point of the high land a little vessel with
closely reefed sails struggling in the sea between Vaalafiel and its
neighbouring island. Her hull was partially concealed from my view
by the arms of our voe, but very soon I seemed to know that it must
be the _Seamew_, and that she was attempting to enter the harbour;
and a thought occurred to me which was suggestive of peril at once:
Why do they try to pass through so narrow and dangerous a strait when
the storm is at its worst? As if in answer to my thought, the vessel
hoisted a flag of distress, probably with a forlorn hope that some
wakeful eye might see it, and then she lay to, as trying to advance in
the very teeth of the gale. My father, everything, was forgotten in
that breathless moment, as I watched my tiny ship thus turn, pause, and
enter the rocky path beset by death. She was evidently being driven by
cruel necessity to dare so hazardous a piece of navigation, and I soon
discerned that she was no longer manageable. Just then a gust of wind
still more furious than before caught her at a critical moment, and in
less time than I say the words in, she was tossing among some detached
rocks at the entrance to the harbour, a total wreck, and likely to go
down every instant.

'I had stood terror-bound till then; but the sight of figures clinging
to the spars stirred me to action, and I flew to arouse our servants.
They were soon hurrying to the neighbouring cottages, in hope of
assistance from any men who chanced to be at home; and I ran along the
shore until I reached the crags opposite where the disabled yacht lay.
I was soon joined there by numerous women and a few old feeble men,
who shook their heads and groaned when I frantically implored them to
launch a boat and go to the rescue. "There's no an able-bodied man in
the island wha kens hoo to handle an oar," they cried; "oor men are a'
at the haaf" (deep-sea fishing). "The Lord preserve them this awfu'

Then for a touch of simple pathos, take the neglected child's scanty
recollections of her unloved childhood: 'One of the few things I
remember is that I always wore a black frock. This circumstance is
impressed on my mind, because I had, and still have, a perfect passion
for rich gorgeous colours. Nature in the gray North seldom gave my eyes
a feast of radiant hues; no brilliant butterflies and flowers clothing
the earth in the garments of heaven; no winter clusters of red berries
and wreaths of evergreen. There were some old pictures in the house in
which scarlet shawls and purple curtains played a prominent part, and I
spent a large portion of the time usually devoted to sleep by sensible
children in admiring these, and conjuring up fantastic histories of
each portrait.'

Altogether, the book is sweet, fresh, tender-hearted, like a whiff of
the foaming ocean spray, quite out of the hackneyed round, and yet
sufficiently realistic to impress the reader with a conviction that
it is the record of a life which has been lived, which, if not the
highest aim of the novelist's art, is yet an indispensable adjunct to
it. We have only to add that Shetland is now easily reached by regular
steamers plying between Granton (Edinburgh) and Lerwick, the capital of
the islands; while we believe a small steamer plies from Lerwick for
local accommodation. A summer cruise in a yacht would, however, be the
perfection of voyaging for the purpose not only of seeing Shetland, but
Orkney and various intermediate islands, such as Fair Isle and Foula,
which are out of the way of general traffic. To visit these distant
fragments of land in the north, forming the scene of Scott's vivid
romance of _The Pirate_, would furnish a new sensation never to be



The Report of the meeting of the British Association held last year
at Glasgow has just been published in a goodly volume of more than
three hundred pages. Among its contents are Reports of Committees, of
which it may be said that the more widely they are known the better;
and bearing in mind recent disasters at sea, the Investigation of the
Steering Qualities of Ships by Professor Osborne Reynolds of Owens
College, Manchester, appears the more interesting. 'The experiments of
the Committee on large ships,' he remarks, 'have completely established
the fact, that the reversing of the screw of a vessel with full way
on, very much diminishes her steering power, and reverses what little
it leaves; so that where a collision is imminent, to reverse the screw
and use the rudder as if the ship would answer to it in the usual
manner, is a certain way of bringing about the collision.' This is
an important fact, for it is well known that collisions have been
occasioned by the very means made use of to avoid them. And Professor
Reynolds says further: 'It appears that a ship will turn faster, and
for an angle of thirty degrees, in less room when driving full speed
ahead, than with her engines reversed, even if the rudder is rightly
used. Thus when an obstacle is too near to admit of stopping the ship,
then the only chance is to keep the engines on full speed ahead, and so
give the rudder an opportunity of doing its work. These general laws
are of the greatest importance, but they apply in different degrees to
different ships; and each commander should determine for himself how
his ship will behave.... It is also highly important that the effect of
the reversal of the screw should be generally recognised, particularly
in the law courts; for in the present state of opinion on the subject,
there can be no doubt that judgment would go against any commander who
had steamed on ahead, knowing that by so doing he had the best chance
of avoiding a collision.'

The statements thus set forth are illustrated by diagrams which shew
the position of the vessel after reversal of the screw, and the
position after steaming ahead. The latter shews that collision would be
entirely avoided.

We frequently read that in future sea-fights the ram will be relied
on for running down enemy's ships and sending them to the bottom. But
where is the captain at the present day who has had experience of
ramming, and of other evolutions which will be required in a fleet
of steam ironclads under quite new conditions? Soldiers can go into
temporary camps and get experience in 'autumn manœuvres;' but sailors
cannot have mock-actions and run down ships which cost half a million
sterling, nor venture to try the eighty-ton-gun on their consorts.
Hence there will be very much to learn in the first great naval battle.

Under these circumstances, Professor Reynolds recommends that small
steam-launches should be built of wood, each representing the exact
form of one of our large ships, and that with these all possible
manœuvres should be carried out, and officers make themselves
familiar with all the effects of the screw on the rudder, with all
the conditions of steering, with all the evolutions requisite to
bring about or to avoid a collision, and with the effects of ramming.
If strongly built of wood, these little vessels would withstand an
experimental blow from the ram.

The value of such experiments would be real, for it is now known that
the behaviour of a small copy of a ship is exactly the same as that
of the great ship, in proportion to the size. The waves set up by the
launch bear the same relation to her size as the waves of the ship do
to the ship. The recognition of this law marks an epoch in the progress
of naval architecture. Given a model, Mr Froude 'can now predict with
certainty the comparative and actual resistance of ships before they
are constructed.'

The Report of the Committee for investigating the circulation of the
underground waters in the New Red Sandstone and Permian formations
of England, and the quantity and character of the water supplied to
various towns and districts from these formations, conveys information
interesting to everybody--for everybody drinks. At Liverpool there
are wells sunk in the New Red Sandstone which yield more than seven
million gallons daily; at Birkenhead the same; at Coventry, Birmingham,
and Leamington four millions and a half; at Nottingham nearly four
millions; and at Warrington and Stockport more than a million and
a half gallons every day. The total makes up a large quantity; but
it is nothing in comparison with the supply which the whole area of
the New Red may be expected to furnish. This area, says the Report,
is certainly not less than ten thousand square miles in extent in
England and Wales, with an average rainfall of thirty inches, of which
certainly never less than ten inches per annum percolates the ground,
which would give an absorption of water amounting to no less than one
hundred and forty-three millions three hundred and thirty-six thousand
gallons per square mile per annum; which, on an available area of ten
thousand square miles, gives an annual absorption of nearly a billion
and a half of gallons in England and Wales. As if to heighten the
effect of this good news, we are told the 'New Red Sandstone Rock
constitutes one of the most effective filtering media known.... It
exerts a powerful oxidising influence on the dissolved organic matter,
which percolates it to such an extent, that in the waters of certain
deep wells, every trace of organic matters is converted into innocuous
mineral compounds.' And again: 'Waters drawn from deep wells in the New
Red Sandstone are almost invariably clear, sparkling, and palatable,
and are among the best and most wholesome waters for domestic supply
in Great Britain.' After reading this, may we not say that Undermere,
about which no one will quarrel, is the lake whence great towns in the
north should draw their water supply?

During the meeting of the British Association at Plymouth last August,
the Mineralogical Society held their second annual gathering under the
presidency of Mr Sorby, F.R.S., who in his address gave an account
of a new method for determining the index of refraction of minerals,
which can be readily employed in their identification. This seems a
dry subject; but it is one likely to be valuable and interesting to
mineralogists and chemists, and to lead to an entirely new branch of
mineralogical study, and to the discovery of a new class of optical
properties of crystals. For a proper understanding of the method, a
knowledge of optics, of mathematics, and other branches of science
would be necessary; but we may state generally that it is based on
the fact, that if an object, when placed in focus for examination on
the stage of a microscope, is covered with a plate of some highly
refracting substance, the focal length is increased; in other words,
the microscope must be raised a little farther from the object in order
to restore the focus. The distance to which the microscope has been
moved thus becomes a measure, which can be accurately determined on
a scale to thousandths of an inch. By this measure, therefore, very
minute differences of refraction can be determined, and the several
minerals identified; and Mr Sorby, in conjunction with Professor
Stokes, Sec. R.S., has arrived at certain definite conclusions,
which, embodied in numerical tables, may ere long be consulted by all
interested in the subject.

On this point Mr Sorby explained in his address: 'On applying this
method to the study of various minerals, the difference is found to
be very great. We can mostly at once see whether they give a single
unifocal image or one or two bifocal images, and form a very good
opinion respecting the intensity of the double refraction, and easily
determine whether it is positive or negative.... These facts combined
furnish data so characteristic of the individual minerals, that it
would usually be difficult to find two approximately similar.... It has
been said that in studying the microscopical structure of rocks it is
often difficult to distinguish nepheline from apatite. But the index
of nepheline is about 1.53, whereas that of apatite is 1.64, and such
a considerable difference could easily be recognised in a section not
less than one-fiftieth of an inch in thickness.'

The observations hitherto made prove that minerals may be ranged
in classes according to their refracting power and their chemical
composition. The fluorides are lowest in the scale, while quartz,
corundum, the sulphides and arsenides, are among the highest. From
these particulars it will be understood that researches into mineralogy
have a prospect of becoming more and more interesting.

As we have a British Association for the Advancement of Science, so
our neighbours across the Channel have a French Association. It met
last August at Havre, and in a few of its fifteen sections manifested
signs of activity. Among the meteorologists, diagrams were exhibited
shewing clearly that the 'changes of pressure in the upper regions of
the atmosphere are by no means similar to those at the surface of the
earth; for when the pressure at the lower station decreases, it rises
at the upper station, and the reverse; or when it is steady at the one,
it rises or falls at the other.' A line of telegraph for meteorological
purposes is now erected from Bagnères to the Pic du Midi, seventeen
miles. The Pic is nine thousand feet high, and will be an interesting
observing station, in constant communication with the lower regions.
A proposition was made that the Transatlantic steam-ship companies
should be requested to institute regular meteorological observations on
board their vessels; and that the captive balloon of next year's Great
Exhibition at Paris should be an observing station. Paris is chosen as
the meeting-place of the Association for next year, and at the same
time a free international meteorological congress will be held.

During recent years it has been said that the marshes and saltish
depressions in the territory of Algiers and other parts of North Africa
were once covered by the sea, and schemes have been announced for
readmitting the sea by cutting channels from the Mediterranean. Mr Le
Chatelier, a French chemist, says--the existence of the salts is not
due to the drying up of a former sea, but to the masses of rock-salt
which exist in the mountains. From these the salt is dissolved out by
rain or by subterranean waters, and the saline solution percolates the
soil to feed the artesian reservoirs which underlie the desert. These
observations will require attention from geographers.

If any apology were required for a somewhat late notice of Dr Sayre's
method of rectifying curvature of the spine, it would be found in the
fact that among the arts the healing art holds an eminent place, and
has special claims on every one's attention. Dr Sayre, an American, has
this year visited England to make known his method of curing those
malformations of the backbone under which many persons remain cripples
for the whole of their life; and now that it is known, the wonder is
that it was not thought of before. In carrying out the operation, the
patient is lifted from the ground, and suspended by a support under
the chin and back of the head: sometimes a support is placed under the
armpits, and sometimes the arms are raised. In this position the weight
of the pelvis acts on the crook in the spine, and pulls it straight; a
bandage dipped in plaster of Paris is then bound round the body; a few
iron splints are inserted in the bandage, and as the plaster dries,
a mould is formed, which keeps the straightened bones in place. The
suspension is now at an end; the patient is found to be an inch or two
inches taller than before the operation, and can walk without limping.
After a few days, the plaster-mould is cut up each side, to allow of
removal for washing the body; but the two halves are quickly replaced
and held in position by a bandage. In some instances six months'
wearing of the plaster-mould effects a cure, and the patient enjoys an
ease and activity never before experienced.

This method of cure contrasts favourably with the treatment which keeps
the patient supine many weary months. As may be imagined, it succeeds
better with children than with adults; but even adults have been cured.
A case occurred at Cork, the patient being a woman aged twenty-two, and
requiring a little mechanical pulling to assist in the straightening;
but it was accomplished, and she walked out of the room two inches
taller than she entered it.

Mr Hoppe-Seyler, a learned German, has published a paper on Differences
of Chemical Structure and of Digestion among Animals, supported by
numerous examples, which shew that according to the organism so is the
power to form differences of tissue; and he sums up thus: 'Looking at
the question broadly, we find that the chemical composition of the
tissues and the chemical functions of the organs present undoubted
relations to the stages of development, which shew themselves in the
zoological system, as well as in the early stages of development of
each individual higher organism. These relations deserve further notice
and investigation, and are qualified in many respects to prevent and
correct errors in the classification of animals. It is generally
supposed that the study of development is a purely morphological
science, but it also presents a large field for chemical research.'
This concluding sentence is significant, and should have serious

Waste pyrites from the manufacture of sulphuric acid is, as regards
hardness, a good material for roads when mixed with gravel; but
chemically it is not good. In the neighbourhood of Nienburg, Hanover,
where roads and paths were covered with waste pyrites, it was found
that grass and corn ceased to grow; and a farmer on mixing well-water
with warm milk, observed that the milk curdled. The explanation is,
that the waste pyrites 'contained not only sulphide of iron and earthy
constituents, but also sulphide of zinc, and that by the influence of
the oxygen of the atmosphere and the presence of water, these sulphides
were gradually converted into the corresponding sulphates;' and these,
continually extracted by the rain-water, soaked into the soil,
contaminated the wells, and produced other injurious effects.

The want of really efficient names to distinguish various kinds
of manufactured iron has long been felt in the iron trade. The
Philadelphia Exhibition gave rise to a Commission which, after
discussion of the question, have recommended that all malleable
compounds of iron similar to the substance called wrought-iron shall
be called 'weld-iron;' that compounds similar to the product hitherto
known as puddled steel, shall be called 'weld-steel;' that compounds
which cannot be appreciably hardened when placed in water while red-hot
shall be called 'ingot-iron;' and that compounds of this latter
which from any cause are capable of being tempered, shall be called

By further exercise of his inventive abilities, Major Moncrieff has
produced a hydro-pneumatic spring gun-carriage perfectly adapted for
use in the field. A gun mounted on this carriage could be made ready
for action within ten minutes after its arrival in the trenches.

The Science and Art Department have commenced the publication of
a 'Universal Art Inventory, consisting of brief Notes of Fine and
Ornamental Art executed before the year 1800 chiefly to be found in
Europe.' This is a praiseworthy undertaking, for there are so many
rarities of art which can never be seen by the multitude, which can
never be moved from their place or purchased, that an inventory thereof
with descriptive notes cannot fail to be of great utility. Nearly all
the governments of Europe and many royal personages are co-operating
in this work, which includes reproductions in possible instances.
Some of these reproductions are well known to the frequenters of the
South Kensington Museum; for example, the great mantel-piece from the
Palais de Justice at Bruges; Trajan's Column from Rome; a Buddhist
gateway from India, of the first century; a monument from Nuremberg,
and other elaborate works. As a means of reference, this Inventory
will be welcome to many a student, and as it necessarily will take
many years to complete, there will be the pleasure of watching for
fresh instalments of information. But all students should remember
that 'the laws of design are as definite as those of language, with
much the same questions as to order, relationship, construction or
elegance; differing for dissimilar styles as for divers tongues. The
pupil in design has similar obstacles to encounter with those of the
schoolboy in his alphabet and grammar; the ability to use the pencil or
the brush will no more produce an artist than the acquirement of the
writing-master's art with Lindley Murray's rules will make a poet.'

Professor Justin Winsor, one of the American delegates to the
conference of librarians held last month, points out with much
earnestness that by the extension of libraries a great impetus may be
given to national education, and an opening made at the same time for
the employment of women. In America, pains have been taken to engage
men and women in the work who are content to labour to attain the level
of a far higher standard than the public at large have been usually
willing to allow as the test of efficiency. 'We believe,' remarks the
Professor, 'that libraries are in the highest sense public charities;
that they are missionary enterprises; that it is to be supine if we
are simply willing to let them do their unassisted work; that it is
their business to see two books read instead of one, and good books
instead of bad. To this end it has been urged that one of our principal
universities shall have a course of bibliography and training in
library economy.'

In reply to various correspondents, we beg to state that the
information regarding the manufacture of vegetable isinglass in Rouen,
which appeared under the head of _A Few French Notes_ in No. 717 of
this _Journal_, was taken from _L'Armée Scientifique_, a work compiled
by the well-known French savant, M. L. Figuier. As there seems to be
some difficulty in reconciling M. Figuier's statements with the present
state of the process as carried on in France, we are making further
inquiry, and hope to be able to give early and definite information.


The 'Shaftmen' at our collieries are selected for their physical
strength and pluck, in addition to the skill and practical knowledge
required for their particular work. The incident we are about to relate
will shew how severely the former of these qualifications may at times
be tested.

The work of these men is confined to the shaft of the pit, and consists
mainly in repairing the 'tubbing' or lining of the shaft, stopping
leaks, or removing any obstructions interfering with the free passage
of the cages up and down the pit. The coal-pit at N---- has a double
shaft, divided by a 'bratticing' or wooden partition. These divisions
we will call A and B. Two cages (the vehicles of transport up and down
the pit) ascend and descend alternately in shaft A. At a certain point
the shaft is widened, to allow the cages to pass each other, and their
simultaneous arrival at this point is insured by the arrangement of the
wire-ropes on the winding-wheels over the pit-mouth. The oscillation of
the cages is guarded against by wooden guiders running down each side
of the shaft, which fit into grooves in the sides of the cage.

On one occasion during a very severe frost these guiders had become
coated with ice, and thus their free passage in the grooves of the
cages was interfered with. Before this obstruction was discovered, the
engine having been set in motion, the downward cage, which fortunately
was empty at the time, stuck fast in the shaft before arriving at the
passing-point. The ascending cage, whose only occupant was a small boy
returning to 'bank,' proceeding on its upward course, crashed into the
downward cage in the narrow part of the shaft, where of course there
was only a single passage. Though the shock was something terrific, the
steel rope was not broken; as the engineman, whose responsible position
entails the greatest presence of mind and watchfulness, had stopped the
engine on the first indication of an unusual tremor in the rope. Yet
such was the violence of the meeting, that both cages, though strongly
constructed of iron, were bent and broken--in fact rendered useless--by
being thus jammed together in a narrow space. The greatest anxiety was
felt as to the fate of the boy, as it was seen that even if he had
escaped with his life after such a severe crash, his rescue would be a
work of great danger and difficulty.

We may imagine the horror of the poor little fellow while suspended
in the shattered cage over a gulf some four hundred feet deep, both
cages firmly wedged in the shaft, and the ropes rendered useless for
any means of descent to the scene of the catastrophe. The readiest
way of approach seemed to be by shaft B, the position of which we
have indicated above. Down this then, a Shaftman, whom we will call
Johnson, descended in a cage until he arrived at an opening in the
brattice-work by which he could enter shaft A. He found himself (as he
supposed) at a point a little above where the accident had occurred;
and this conclusion he came to from seeing two ropes leading downwards,
which he naturally took to be those by which the cages were suspended.
Under this impression he formed the design of sliding down one of the
ropes, with a view to liberating, if possible, the entangled cages and
securing the safety of the unfortunate boy. The hardy fellow was soon
gliding through the darkness on his brave and dangerous errand. He had
descended about forty feet, when, to his horror and amazement, his
course was suddenly checked by a bend in the rope; and the terrible
discovery flashed upon him, that he was _suspended in the loop of the
slack rope_, which here took a return course to the top of the downward

It will be understood that when the descending cage stuck upon the
runners, as the rope continued to unwind from the pulley it hung down
in a loop, descending lower and lower, until the engine was stopped by
the meeting of the cages. This loop or 'bight' was naturally mistaken
by Johnson for the _two ropes_, and he did not discover until he found
himself in the fearful situation described, that he had entered through
the brattice into shaft A _below_ instead of above where the cages
were fixed. There he hung then, over a yawning abyss many fathoms
deep--closed from above by the locked cages--all below looming dark and

None of course knew his danger; his hands were chilled by the freezing
rope; his arms, already fully exercised, began to ache and stiffen with
the strain and intense cold, added to the bewildering sense of hopeless
peril. Good need there was then that pluck and endurance be found in
the Shaftman! His square sturdy frame and unflinching spirit were now
on their trial. Had his presence of mind gone or his nerve failed, he
must have been paralysed with fear, lost his hold, and been dashed into
an unrecognisable mass.

But self-preservation is a potent law, and working in such a spirit he
framed a desperate plan for a struggle for life. The guiders running
down the inside of the shaft are fastened on to cross-beams about six
feet apart. Johnson hoped that if he could reach one of these, he might
obtain a footing whereon to rest, and by their means clamber up to the
opening in the brattice-work. How to reach them was the next question
that flashed lightning-like through his brain. This he essayed to do
by causing the rope to oscillate from side to side, hoping thus to
bring himself within reach of one of the cross-beams. And now commenced
a _fearful swing_. Gaining a lodgment with one knee in the loop, he
set the rope swinging by the motion of his body, grasping out wildly
with one hand each time he approached the side of the shaft. Once,
twice, thrice! he felt the cold icy face of the 'tubbing,' but as yet
nothing except slimy boards met his grasp, affording no more hold than
the glassy side of an iceberg. At last he touched a cross-beam, to
which his iron muscles, now fully roused to their work, held on like
a vice. He soon found footing on the beam below, and then letting go
the treacherous rope, rested in comparative security before beginning
the perilous ascent. With incredible endurance of nerve and muscle he
clambered upward alongside the guider, by the aid of the cross-beams,
and by thrusting his hands through the crevices of the timber. In this
manner he reached the opening into shaft B, where the cage in which he
had descended was waiting. Chilled, cramped, and frozen, and barely
able to give the signal, he was drawn to the pit-mouth prostrate and
exhausted. The boy was rescued unhurt by a man being lowered to the
top of the cages in shaft A. Johnson suffered no ill consequences, and
though a hero above many known to fame, he still pursues his hardy task
as a Shaftman; while beneath the homely exterior still lives the pluck
and sinew of iron that did not fail him even in his Fearful Swing.


    The following lines are taken from _The Captive Chief, a Tale of
    Flodden Field_, by James Thomson (H. H. Blair, Alnwick, 1871).

    Now keenly blows the northern blast;
    Like winter hail the leaves fall fast,
    And my pet Robin's come at last
                      To our old thorn;
    With warbling throat and eye upcast
                      He greets the morn;

    Like some true friend you come to cheer,
    When all around is dark and drear.
    And oh! what friend to me more dear
                      Than your sweet sel'?
    Your mellow voice falls on my ear
                      Like some sweet spell.

    Oft at the gloaming's pensive hour,
    When clouds above me darkly lower,
    I've sought a seat in some lone bower,
                      With heart opprest;
    You soothed me with your magic power,
                      And calmed my breast.

    When Morning dons her sober gray
    To usher in the coming day,
    And Phœbus shines with sickly ray
                      On all around,
    No warblers greet him from the spray
                      With joyous sound.

    But you, sweet bird, unlike the throng,
    Salute him with a joyous song.
    When heavy rains and sleet prolong
                      The dreary day,
    You chant to him your evening song
                      Upon the spray.

    No blackbird whistles in the grove,
    Where late in chorus sweet they strove;
    No warbler's tongue is heard to move,
                      But all is sad;
    No cushat woos his amorous love
                      In hazel glade.

       *       *       *       *       *

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

       *       *       *       *       *

_All Rights Reserved._

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