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Title: Beach Rambles in search of Seaside Pebbles and Crystals
Author: Francis, J. G. (Joseph Greene)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                              BEACH RAMBLES
                              IN SEARCH OF
                             SEASIDE PEBBLES
                                   AND
                                CRYSTALS.

               WITH SOME OBSERVATIONS ON THE ORIGIN OF THE
                   DIAMOND AND OTHER PRECIOUS STONES.

                                   BY
                             J. G. FRANCIS.

                                 LONDON:
                    ROUTLEDGE, WARNE, AND ROUTLEDGE,
                           FARRINGDON STREET;
                    AND 56, WALKER STREET, NEW YORK.
                                  1859.



INTRODUCTION.


There is a pleasure to an intelligent mind in discovering the origin,
or tracing the past history, of any natural object as revealed in its
structure and growth. It is thus that the study of trees and plants,
ferns and field flowers, occupies and delights us. And a similar interest
would be found to attach to Seaside Pebbles, as one branch of mineralogy,
if we could once come to observe and understand them.

But while the marine shells of England have been all numbered and
classified, and even the seaweeds are emerging out of dim confusion into
the order of botanical arrangement, there is no popular work extant on
the subject of our pebbles.

Dr. Mantell, indeed, published an elegant little volume, entitled
“Thoughts on a Pebble;” but he therein treats of a single species, the
_Choanite_; whereas, we have other fossil creatures beside Choanites
preserved in the heart of siliceous pebbles; and our shores yield from
time to time varieties of agate and jasper, differing from the oriental,
and some of them of great beauty.

In the present treatise, an attempt has been made to commend this subject
to more general attention, by grouping together many scattered facts and
methodizing the results. Learned disquisitions and technical terms have
been as much as possible avoided; but in the concluding chapters, sundry
interesting points in natural philosophy bearing upon the subject are
handled rather more scientifically; and here, some original matter will
be found.

The coloured plates are after drawings by a well-known and ingenious
artist;[1] the original specimens being in my own collection. They have
been carefully and faithfully executed, and are on the same scale as the
pebbles themselves.

If this essay of mine should induce any one possessed of ampler leisure
and more adequate powers to enter more largely upon the merits of the
theme, I shall be indeed gratified.

                                                           J. G. FRANCIS.

_Isle of Wight, 1859._

[1] M. W. S. Coleman.



BEACH RAMBLES, ETC., ETC.



CHAPTER I.

    ASPECT OF A BEACH, AND ITS PROBABLE ORIGIN.—TRUE NATURE OF THE
    PEBBLES WHICH COMPOSE IT.


I know of few things more pleasant than to ramble for a mile along one
of our southern beaches in the early days of autumn. We get the sniff of
the sea-breeze; we see prismatic colours dappling the water, or curiously
reflected from capes of wet sand; solemn, beetling cliffs, broken here
and there by a green slope, rise on one side of us; while, on the other,
we are enchanted by the wild music of the waves, as they dash noisily
upon the shingle at our feet, and then trickle back with faint, lisping
murmurs into the azure gulf.

Alpine scenery is majestic, and river-lit landscapes are delicious; but
they seem as pictures of still life compared with the stir and resonance
of the shore and the ocean. The breeze which bends the standing corn
does not impart so much pleasure as that which dimples the bay at the
foot of our rustic garden; the thunder-cloud resting on a mountain is
not so impressive as that huge wall of inky blackness, which seems as if
it would choke the very light and air while it gathers on the horizon,
but will presently rend asunder and purify the overcharged atmosphere by
launching a tempest upon the face of the deep.

There are few persons who, after spending one or two consecutive summers
at Eastbourne, or in the Isle of Wight, can repress an ardent longing to
visit similar scenes from time to time.

The sea-side stroll has, however, been accused of monotony. But this
is either by really incompetent judges, or by inveterate sportsmen, to
whom the neighbourhood of the ocean suggests nothing more apposite than
a meet with harriers on the downs, or a raid upon puzzled rabbits in
some outlying warren, with the aid of a keeper, ferrets, and “varmint”
dogs. To such, even a brief sojourn on the simple-featured coast may,
undoubtedly, prove wearisome; but the fault rests with themselves. For,
all the while, others, who are better informed and more awake to what
lies around them, will be cheerfully occupied in kindred pursuits at the
foot of the cliff, or away on the beach, or far out, at low tide, among
the weedy rocks and sand. Here they hunt the cockle and the razor-shell,
collect bright algæ and marvellous zoophytes, or search for agates and
fossils among the endless heaps of shingle.

The delicate actiniæ and the rarer sea-weeds cannot be obtained in
winter; but the pebbles, which are intended to form the subject of this
little book, may always be met with; and the changes induced by rough
winds and surging tides, yield them in even greater abundance.

The pleasure of collecting pebbles has been greatly enhanced, to my
mind, by considering how it is that we come to have pebbly beaches at
all. Inevitable as these may appear to some people, they are quite a
phenomenon in their way, and to the full as deserving our attention as
the colony in a rabbit-warren.

Originally, the land alone possesses such materials; but it is the sea
which finds them out; and these two facts, put side by side, have
sometimes reminded me of the arbitrary allotment of the sexes in the old
mythology. _Oceanus_ being an enterprising gentleman. _Terra_ (always
feminine) is the quiescent lady, to whom he pays his court. She carries a
prodigious number of these treasures in her flinty bosom; but it is only
he, and his friends the rivers, who can get at them and draw them forth.
In our English Channel, Ocean is as fond of doing this, and of fringing
his waterline with a brown pebbly border, as other gentlemen are,
now-a-days, of wearing, if possible, a beard like that of the Sophi. Nor
is this surprising, when we remember that all creatures naturally desire
something which they have not got. For the bottom of the sea itself is no
beach at all, but chalk or sand, and sometimes hardened sandstone, with,
I dare say, many precipitous pits and hollows, and many pointed crags.
Here, gigantic fronds of the oar-weed wave to and fro among thousands of
acres of dulse and bladderwrack; while porpoises and dog-fish dive, and
limpets and mussels crawl, and arrowy lobsters shoot through the cerulean
gloom, and (if Mr. Tennyson may be believed) mermen and mermaids play at
hide-and-seek. Wonderful things there must be, if we could only spy them
out; but I do not think many pebbles. Whereas, our mother Earth teems
with these latter. There are jaspers in the conglomerate, and agates in
the mountain rocks, and veins of porphyry and serpentine in the trap
and basalt, and garnets and sapphires in the granite, and flint-nodules
in the chalk, and quartz-crystals almost everywhere. Probably these
exist, also, in many of the submarine strata; but unless a volcanic
eruption should occur, there is no force in operation there to dislodge
them. The bed of the ocean, and all depths of it below a hundred feet
perpendicular,[2] as _divers_ well know, remain calm and still, even when
a tempest is raging above. But on what we are pleased to call “terra
firma,” the case is reversed. Solid as the ground appears, all is subject
to elemental change and motion; and whenever the waves of the sea or the
strong current of a river can plough some crumbling chine, or wear away
the face of a cliff, down come the imbedded pebbles and crystals, and
gradually form a _beach_ upon the margin of the ocean. And this beach
is tossed up and down, and rolled to and fro, until most of the stones
composing it have become as smooth as hazel-nuts.

The above may be rather a rough sketch of the source of a beach; but I
believe it is correct in its leading features. In a subsequent chapter we
may better note certain peculiarities which are more than meet the eye.

But what are the pebbles themselves?

Most persons have occasionally handled specimens of the precious stones
or “gems;” but few of them, perhaps, are aware that our pebbles of
the road-side and sea-shore claim a common origin with these dazzling
crystals. Such is, however, the fact. Chemical analysis, availing itself
of the blow-pipe, the solvent acids, and the voltaic battery, has
succeeded in determining the base of every known gem. And the earths
which furnish such bases are chiefly two—ALUMINA, or clay, and SILICA, or
pure flint. From these, with an admixture of lime, and sometimes of iron,
in small quantities, all the native gems are derived, with the exception
of the diamond, whose base is CARBON.

Intensely hard as these substances are, and apparently not susceptible of
change if left to themselves, they have probably passed through great
chemical changes in the silent laboratory of Nature. For it is supposed
that our operations in analysis, if carefully conducted, merely bring
back their subjects, by a kind of _reversing_ process, to their several
primitive bases.

Now it is evident that the commoner pebbles are derived from these same
earths, of clay or flint, albeit in a debased condition. For there
is nothing else of which they could be made: neither do they exhibit
any properties foreign to those which such substances possess. Yet,
how vast is the difference between an oriental gem and the brightest
production of clay-pits or granite rocks. Not greater, however, than that
between Damascus steel and coarse pig-iron; or, between French lawn and
sail-cloth. And if Art can work such distinctions, why not Nature?

In fact, a perfect gem is a master-piece which chemistry and
crystallization have combined to elaborate, and which man has ransacked
the corners of the earth to obtain. The deep has been made to surrender
its treasures to the diver or the sunken net: the rock has been blasted,
and its inmost vein searched: the rushing river filtered, and its sand
sifted: and the contents of the jeweller’s caskets are the result. Here
may be seen diamonds from Golconda; and rubies from Samarcand and Pegu:
sapphires, emeralds, and amethysts from Persia, Arabia, and Armenia:
the topaz, blazing like fire, from the Indies or from the Ural: the
turquoise, with its delicious blue, from Arabia and Palestine: the opal
from Honduras: the blood-red garnet and amandine from Bohemia, Ceylon,
and Greenland: the jacinth and the chrysoprase, the chrysolite and beryl,
with pure pearls of globular form, all from the land of the rising sun,
while a deep brown jasper, rayed with stripes and rings as black as jet,
has travelled like a wandering palmer from sultry Egypt or the terrible
desert of Sinai.

To form and perfect the finer crystals, extremes of heat or cold appear
to be necessary: whereas our clime has perhaps always been temperate.
Beside this, it is probable that the mother-earth is not found pure with
us. There is a kind of white clay, called “kaolin,” obtained in one
particular quarry near Meissen in Saxony, and met with nowhere else. From
this clay the exquisite Dresden porcelain is baked, and this clay cannot
be exactly imitated. A near approach to it has been made by mixing good
potter’s clay with pounded chalcedony-flints; but still the _biscuit_
so produced is never equal to that from the “kaolin.” In like manner, we
may suppose that the peculiar earth which exists in sapphires no longer
occurs in our post-tertiary clay-beds.

Moreover, we know that there are many different clays occurring in our
geological strata. We have the clays of the Lower Tertiary; the clay of
the Wealden; and the Kimmeridge and Oxford clays, both of which belong to
the Oolite. Also in these main divisions, sundry mineralogical varieties
are comprised under a common name. But the great age of the granite
formation renders it certain that from none of these clays could those
sapphires have come (as to their _base_), which are born of the granite
rock. Indeed, our existing beds of clay are more or less mingled with
felspar, and felspar is one of the “silicates;” whereas the blue sapphire
is pure alumina free from all admixture of silica.

However this may be, the great fields for gems are in India and the
island of Ceylon, and in certain parts of the Russian dominions. No very
valuable stones have as yet been obtained from Australia; although the
vicinity of gold-mines has always been held to be prolific in at least
one kind: the “mother of ruby” being a roseate substance embedded in the
rock, and generally met with alongside of a vein of gold. The topazes are
not equal to those from Saxony.

As to our own sea-girt Isle, it is surely as guiltless of indigenous
gems, as of white elephants or birds of paradise. Had any such existed
with us, they must long ere this have been brought to light and appeared
in the market. We have bored the plain to two hundred fathoms’ depth: we
have pierced the hillside in tunnels which extend for miles: geologists
and antiquarians have delved and hammered and sifted: many curious
fossils have turned up, and a world’s wealth in minerals, but never
anything like a diamond or an oriental sapphire.

It is well that, to console us under such apparent poverty as to the
gems, we possess the treasure an hundred-fold in other shapes, though
derived from the same sources. Clay gives us no sapphires; but it floors
our ponds and canals, furnishes our earthenware, and yields the bricks
which have built the ribs of London. Carbon refuses to flash upon us in
the rays of an indigenous “brilliant,” but it feeds our furnaces, propels
our steamers and locomotives, and cheers a million of household hearths
under the well-known form of Coal. And Iron is our national sceptre:
it reddens here no jacinth or ruby; but it supplies us with spades and
ploughshares, lays down thousands of miles of railway, and has made
England the forge and workshop of the known world for giant engines and
massive machinery.

If our wealth be less dazzling than that from Golconda or Peru, it is, we
may hope, more durable; flowing to us through a healthier channel, by the
honest labour and steady perseverance of the sons of the soil.

       *       *       *       *       *

This is somewhat of a digression from the subject of Sea-side pebbles.
But then, as was said, the magnificent crystals are their near kindred;
and in society the custom is to bring in any great connections we may
have, on the first fair opportunity: that once done, our _respectability_
is supposed to be established.

[2] On the banks of Newfoundland, and to the south of the Cape of Good
Hope, extraordinary exceptions occur to this rule; the sea being there
agitated to a vast depth, perhaps as much as five hundred feet. But this
is probably connected with the current of the great gulf-stream.



CHAPTER II.

    THE LAPIDARY’S BOARD; AND HIS WORKSHOP.


In some of our provincial towns along the coast, the open door and
cheerful bow-window of the lapidary, generally situated in the best
street, form a _coup d’œil_ which can hardly fail of enticing a visitor
to look in once during his morning walk.

If he should do this, he will probably become aware, by a certain
whirring sound, that there is an inner room which serves for a workshop.
This latter I have always been partial to: but as the contents of the
show-room are the most attractive, I will speak of them first, reserving
to the end of the chapter a description of the lapidary’s wheel and other
implements of his trade.

Let us suppose that we are in the pretty town of Sidmouth in South Devon.
Somebody wishes for a jet bead to replace one missing from a bracelet,
and we sally forth in quest of a jeweller’s shop, but come first
upon that of his cousin the lapidary, which may probably do as well.
Entering the doorway, a gigantic “snakestone” from Whitby, flanks the
threshold on one side; and on the other a lump of iron ore, of some two
hundred weight, keeps company with a quartz agate of equally cyclopean
dimensions. These are striking objects: and instinctively we pause for a
moment and consider whence they came. One of them has been washed out of
the ribs of the conglomerate: another, after being dug from the bowels of
the earth, was sent aloft by the miners as lumber: the third, once the
shell of a living ammonite, must have lain for thousands of years in its
cemetery of limestone rock, and was only disinterred when some northern
contractor, reckless probably of fossil remains, but wide-awake to the
actualities of his own generation, was excavating for a railway tunnel.
Inland productions these, for the most part. But the threshold is only
introductory: pass a few steps onward, and we shall handle substances
which are as strictly marine as “crassicornis” or tangle.

The interior of the shop is fitted up with a massive semicircular dresser
of elm or maple, some four feet in height, and perhaps half as many in
width. This is heaped with specimens culled from various beaches, and
several convenient shelves are similarly adorned; the polished stones
lying in open trays, but set at an angle so as best to reflect the light.
The eyeless head of a Saurian, a creature belonging to an extinct race,
is suspended from the ceiling; and a stuffed cormorant, a well-known
sea-bird of our own day, mounted on a rude tripod of fir-bough, fills the
only spare niche in the apartment. But there is no study or affectation
in all this: it is as genuine as the tent of shipwrecked Crusoe. The
lapidary has from the first felt himself at home with Nature, and has
found room for many of her devices and eccentricities, which he could not
now bear to turn out of doors. Neither are we inclined to quarrel with
him about his arrangements, though his shop exhibits nothing which will
remind us of a frontage in Pall Mall or Bond Street. Moreover, when we
look a little closer, he is not such a mere dreamer after all. Commerce
has not been forgotten, nor is a certain kind of elegance lacking. Those
well-washed panes of crown-glass are decorated with wisps of dried
sea-weed more delicate than ostrich-feathers, and which serve the purpose
of a hygrometer. And, interspersed with these, are sundry nuggets of
amber, bones of the cuttle-fish for your pounce-box, and a string of
veritable jet-beads: from which latter we at once select our purchase.

But we are now standing before the central counter, and our attention is
drawn to the curious and beautiful fossils which lie upon it. We take up
one to which the late Dr. Mantell kindly gave the name of a “choanite.”
In doing this, he not only adopted a foundling, but conferred endless
benefit upon the lapidaries. Nothing will sell in this country without _a
name_: the appellation chosen by the Doctor was judged suitable, and a
large and increasing sale of the fossil has followed upon it. This one is
of a portly size; and the lapidary, after slicing it in two, has polished
one of the flat surfaces. The internal structure revealed by this section
is not unlike the corolla of a daisy, and at once reminds us of the
living zoophyte called “actinia bellis.” _Choanite_ means “funnel-body:”
and the creature which lies here petrified must, when alive, have been
globular or pyriform, with many tubular arms branching out from one
central trunk.

The petrifaction has been faithful to its prototype: the several tubes
being now charged with limestone, and the space between them, once a
gelatinous substance, still retaining that appearance in a medium of
semi-pellucid chalcedony.

[Illustration: ALCYONIUM DIGITATUM.]

By the side of the choanite is another fossil, which we now call an
“alcyonite:” the learned name of the nearest living species being
“alcyonium digitatum.” It is known in the Isle of Wight as “deadman’s
fingers.” Despite the above unpleasing nickname, this is a most beautiful
fossil. Its outer form resembles that of a branching ice-plant: while a
polished section of one of the stems shows filaments all lying in the
direction of the axis, and exhibiting in their cut ends an effect not
unlike that of the granulations in a slice from a fresh cucumber. When
the pith, as sometimes happens, is particoloured, I do not know a more
desirable stone for the cabinet.

Fine specimens of this are now very scarce.

Another of these alcyonites has been polished all round, instead of
dividing it: and the pebble being translucent, one can almost count the
fibres or tubes disposed lengthwise.

Then we have a zoophyte, not _injected_ as are the choanites, but
preserved bodily, in delicate gray flint. It is an undoubted “actinia:”
in every respect the same with those pulpy individuals who are displaying
their jelly-like bodies and floral hues in many a household aquarium.
This creature once floated up and down in shallow marine pools, or clung
to banks of ribbon-weed fringing the coast-skerries. At present, himself
of stone, he is firmly wedged in a hollow within a large pebble, and
reminds us of the words of a pretty song:—

    “I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls.”

Several silicified sponges may next be examined. These are not exactly
beautiful, but they are curiously intricate; the once elastic tubes
having stiffened into “silex” of a light brown colour, and a horizontal
section displaying their fine reticulations.

A step further, and what is that handsome stone? It is a block of
Devonian jasper: scarcely so hard as the Egyptian, but more attractive,
owing to the richness of its hues. It is striated with veins of agate,
and here and there “shot” with a dark metallic “moss” of the colour
of bloodstone. As a set off to this, the lapidary has arranged with
true taste some quaint pieces of conglomerate, in which the nodules
of chalcedony or crystals of quartz have taken a high polish, and are
agreeably relieved by streaks of red jasper and blotches of yellow
limestone.

Another part of the board exhibits a score of the well-known “echini,”
which children call “sea-eggs.” These embrace two varieties, “spatangus”
and “cor anguinum;” or, in the vernacular dialect, “fairy-loaves” and
“fairy-hearts.” A third form of the Spatangus kind, but with a pointed
cusp, is called “Galerites albogalerus.” A few are chalcedonized: in
others, a bright spar has filled up the interior of the hollow conical
shell.

[Illustration: ANANCHYTES OVATUS. FAIRY LOAF.

COR ANGUINUM. FAIRY HEART.

GALERITES ALBOGALERUS. A FAIRY LOAF.

AMMONITE.]

A small open tray of twisted card contains several bits of carnelian,
and a true bloodstone from the Yorkshire coast: while on a strip of
canvas as a _lit de repos_, lie a cray-fish and some belemnites from the
Gault formation of the Wight, hemmed round by lustrous sharks’ teeth:
the latter now hardened into stone, and proclaiming by their isolated
condition that the jaws in which they once grew were cartilaginous, and
have therefore perished.

Thus the store of the lapidary comprises two main divisions, stones
_organic_ and _inorganic_, of the past history of the latter we know
little; and can only judge by surmise, upon approved geological
principles. In the former, there occur plain indications that we are
not handling either an accidental “lusus” or an embryo; but that the
structure here perpetuated was once endowed with life, and belonged to a
creature having its assigned place in the scale of animated being.

Let any one fill a drawer with such specimens gathered by himself: and,
omitting the question of mere marketable value, what jeweller’s counter
can compare with it for real interest? The oriental gems, though they
gleam as if “all air and fire,” are but dead crystals, and have never
stood higher than they stand now: whereas these pretty fossils from our
wave-beaten coast tell each a wondrous tale, and form a kind of tangible
link between the zoophyte of to-day and his far-removed ancestry in the
earliest seas which washed the surface of our globe.

[Illustration: A CRAY-FISH, FROM THE GAULT.

A SHARK’S TOOTH.]

But let us now look into the back-parlour, where all the cutting and
polishing takes place. A peep behind the scenes is generally instructive.

The first time I ever entered such a “sanctum,” I remained there nearly
an hour; _asking questions_, you may be sure.

The lapidary works by means of wheels. These wheels are instruments for
sawing and filing the stones which come under his hand: he has nothing
to add to them, but a good deal to take away from them. When any one
divides an orange with a sharp knife _equatorially_, he treats it as a
choanite is treated in the simplest case: but the principle is somewhat
different. The knife may cut the first as smooth as cheese, owing to the
superior hardness of the steel and the compressibility of the fruit: but
no instrument that man can invent will ever do this with a substance like
flint or jasper. All that the wheel can do is to act like a saw, and
to take out from the centre of the pebble, in the shape of saw-dust, a
section equal in thickness to the wheel itself. If this be effected, and
no more, then that part of the work is perfectly done: and this is not
effected, without some fault, once in a dozen times, unless the workman
be both skilful and attentive. The usual fault is, that the plane of
section is not kept perfectly horizontal.

But let us now see how the wheels act. There must always be two of
them: one which is to cut by its edge, and another which is to polish
by its surface. But the lapidary is generally provided with several of
both kinds; partly in case of accident, partly on account of variety in
the texture of the pebbles brought to him. Each wheel is fixed upon an
axis of its own, of perhaps a cubit’s length. And this portable axis is
bevelled as a screw, for some inches, at the other end, so that it can
be screwed at pleasure into a solid revolving spindle planted upright in
the floor of the workshop. The spindle itself may either be worked by a
leathern strap and a treddle; or, as is more usual, by a winch-handle
acting at a mechanical advantage.

The horizontal wheel being made to spin round by turning the winch with
one hand, the workman grasps the pebble firmly in the other, and presses
it against the edge of the disk, which revolving in a horizontal plane
acts like a saw. A pencil-line may first be drawn on the stone, to mark
out the intended section.

But this is not all. A _dry_ wheel, although it were formed of the finest
steel, could barely scratch the surface of an agate: or, if great force
were exerted at the winch, would splinter it. The lapidary has need of
diamond-powder, emery, and rotten-stone. He makes use also of a peculiar
kind of oil, and has a jar of water within reach for ordinary purposes.
The oil is called “brick-oil.” It comes from coal-tar, and does not
heat by friction, as common oil would: consequently, it neither burns
the operator’s fingers, nor injures his specimens by causing the wheel
to glow too fiercely. Of the above materials, the most expensive is the
diamond. Although obtained by crushing “bort,” of little intrinsic value,
it never costs the lapidary less than twenty-five shillings per _carat_;
and he can do nothing without it. Emery, on the other hand, which is a
coarse variety of corundum, is cheap enough.

The first wheel put on the spindle is an extremely thin one, it can
scarcely be too thin, and is made of tin or of the _softest_ steel. Its
disk should lie exactly level in the plane of the horizon, and it must
not have the shadow of a notch or bend upon its delicate edge. This wheel
the lapidary wets, along its entire rim, with oil or water, by means
of a feather. A small portion of the diamond, ready mixed with oil, is
then applied to the edge of the wheel, the latter being made to revolve
gently, until it has taken up the mixture from his finger.

The wheel thus primed is now set in motion, at first slowly, but by
degrees more rapidly, and the pebble being steadily pressed, not
_pushed_, against it, the diamond eats into the metal, and the metallic
edge armed with an adamantine tooth eats into the solid stone, and at
length saws it asunder.

In this way an agate of a couple of inches diameter, and of average
hardness, will be neatly divided in less than a quarter of an hour.

The two surfaces thus obtained are then inspected, and if the stone be
judged worthy, the lapidary proceeds to _polish_ either or both of them.
There is always some difference between the two, a slice having been
taken out of the pebble answering to the thickness of the wheel; hence
the importance of using a delicate disk, especially for valuable agates.

To accomplish the polishing, the thin wheel of steel is now exchanged for
a much thicker one of lead, which takes its place upon the spindle. It
is no longer the edge, but the ribbed upper surface which is now to do
the work; and to charge it for this, it is smeared over with rotten-stone
dipped in water. This heavy wheel is then set spinning at a rapid rate,
and the pebble is pressed flat upon it with great force; the heavier the
hand the better. As it slidders about, the action of the rotten-stone,
which is very fine in the grain, gives it by degrees a high polish. And
this polish is durable, and will preserve the agate from the corroding
effect of our atmosphere.

Less than the above will not dress a pebble for the cabinet.
Occasionally, much more is needed. For a very fine jasper I have seen two
or three polishing wheels employed, the last disk being always loaded
with soft rotten-stone.

As to the expense, it will cost from sixpence to ninepence to cut a small
pebble through; and to polish one surface, perhaps as much more. This is
supposing that you take your specimens direct to a working lapidary. If,
instead of doing so, you leave them at a jeweller’s shop with directions
_to get them done_, you may expect to be charged fully twice as much.
Nor is this so unreasonable as it sounds; for the man so deputed acts
as your servant and will look to be paid for his trouble: he must have
recourse to the lapidary, and you might at once have done so yourself.

To dress a large pebble, especially if a difficult stone in the grain,
is a more costly affair. It demands many consecutive hours of labour and
unremitting attention, and involves a perceptible outlay in diamond.
Moreover, the weight of such a stone causes, by its _vis inertiæ_, a
severe strain on the machinery, which then fares like an engine drawing
a monster-train up the inclined plane. This wear and tear of the wheels
is so serious a consideration in provincial towns, where the supply of
“plant” is limited, that few lapidaries out of London will undertake, for
any reasonable sum, to dress the agates and close-grained jaspers when
they run large.

One of my jaspers, a Devonshire beauty, took eight hours of cutting and
polishing in Clerkenwell; and even this was a trifle compared to some
of which I have heard tell. Certain substances again are intrinsically
teasing to the wheel. There is a class of jaspery flints which have a
dodge or twist in their texture; the lapidary abhors these visitors, and
will not meddle with them, if he knows it, without bargaining for extra
pay.

I have a great pleasure in seeing fine pebbles of my own polished. You
can stop the wheel every now and then, and watch how the stone gets
on. When the chiaroscuro begins to come out on the coloured pattern,
the effect is like that produced by holding some lively object before
a mirror. The surface no longer appears flat; but you obtain aërial
perspective, as in a good painting.

It were vain to deny that the lapidary’s acquaintance might in time
prove an expensive amusement; for pebble-hunting is a hobby, and like
all hobbies is liable to be over-ridden. But experience begets caution.
For a score of stones which a tyro will leave on the board to be cut, a
connoisseur will not venture above two or three.

Beginners, however, always run some risk, being naturally enthusiastic;
and the best way for them is to lay down a few sound rules, and to adhere
to these strictly. One good maxim is, to pay for all work upon the spot.
Even an enthusiast will soon grow weary of parting with ready money for
mere trash.

Some persons set up a wheel, &c., of their own, and operate upon their
treasure at home. I do not recommend this course to any one, unless
he were the son of a lapidary, as Achilles was “son of Peleus,” and
intend to devote himself to the occupation. For most amateurs it will
be found difficult. It is five to one that a young hand signalizes his
apprenticeship by spoiling his best agates, cutting his fingers, and
damaging his machinery. The only advantage, as far as I know, which such
a plan may possess, is that you might try some curious experiments in
working at odd pebbles.

A lapidary’s implements, if complete as they ought to be, will cost
him from seven to ten pounds. About five pounds’ worth of diamond is a
very good commencing stock. Five pounds more will fit up his shop with
a counter and drawers to lock, and his work-room with a table, stool,
hammers, a few cloths, and a good lens. This is all that he requires,
besides knowledge and patience.

Suppose the entire outlay should amount to twenty pounds; in a good
watering-place, on the south coast of England, he ought to make from
a hundred to a hundred and fifty pounds a year, without doing any
night-work. But by day he must not spare hands nor eyes: and he cannot
afford to make any serious mistakes with his customers. If he cuts a
fine choanite the wrong way, or mutilates a rare alcyonite, or robs a
promising “landscape-pebble” of its pellucid sky, it is well-nigh over
with his professional reputation; and that once gone, he will get little
custom of value. When I was last in Ventnor, the sea had thrown up some
singularly fine pebbles for several successive tides. Three working
lapidaries rented houses in the town; but all the more valuable orders
went to one of them. This man knew admirably well how to handle almost
any stone which was brought to him; while his two brethren in the craft,
though both of them hard-working men, were comparatively ignorant. They
were like quack-doctors, and he was a learned professor.



CHAPTER III.

    THE CONTENTS OF A GOOD BEACH, AND HOW TO OBTAIN THEM.


I have always been fond of trying conclusions with Nature at first hand.
When a boy at school, I learnt to swim by following some bigger boys, who
could swim already, into water which was quite out of all our depths.

I had never till then tried, except in shallow places, which, whatever
people may think, afford no criterion of how it will fare with you in a
drowning current. On this occasion we swam about fifty yards, in ten-foot
water, not without trepidation at first on my part, but towards the end
I gained breath and confidence. After that, I never had any difficulty,
whether in lakes or rivers, and I have ventured into scores of them at
all seasons, and that without the slightest previous notice of their
depth or temperature.

In like manner, I am convinced that to master anything, whether bodily
or intellectual, the all-important point is to make a genuine effort of
our own. Books may do something for us; teachers, if we can afford them,
something more; but we must do the main part ourselves.

I am reminded of the above in proposing to describe a good beach. A
lapidary once said to me, “Sir, you know this bit of the coast as well
as I do myself.” It was a high compliment, but it was not unmerited. The
truth is, I possess “memoranda,” jotted down from time to time, of divers
beaches and their usual contents, and I find that, omitting all mention
of bare reefs in shale and sandstone, or long reaches of sand, which are
of continual occurrence, there remain some forty odd miles of shingle
lying in three different parts of the English coast, with the character
of which I am thoroughly well acquainted.

Some of these beaches are very superior to others, and I select such for
description.

Amid countless boulders of flint, and heaps of hardened gravel, we have
upon a good beach certain smooth, translucent pebbles, and we have fossil
petrifactions enveloped in an opaque crust, and we have the variegated
jaspers and moss-agates.

Our semi-pellucid stones were, with the exception of an occasional bit
of “bloodstone,” the only pebbles of native growth known in Britain half
a century ago. They consist of two or three varieties of agate, two of
carnelian, and one of the crystal called an aquamarine. The presence of
this latter on the coast is a mere accident, as it is for the most part a
far-inland production, the growth of granitic rocks.

Agates and carnelians were once of frequent occurrence, but they have now
become scarce. Their brilliancy insures their being instantly seen, when
not buried under the loose shingle.

AGATE, with us, is always found smooth, and some of the best specimens
are indented on the sides, as if they had been subjected to a pinch
or pressure while in a soft state. As this substance is not met with
under the spiked form of a crystal, we may suppose that it never was
crystallized.

It is not laminar, like the diamond, nor coated, like a pearl, but one
simple concretion. It contains some alumina, but more silica, and is
probably one form of the onyx-stone. It is seldom very bright, being
more or less debased with earthy particles, but it is a pretty thing
to pick up, and it takes a high polish on the wheel of the lapidary. I
believe it is harder than jasper, but perhaps scarcely so _tough_.

In England, we find the agates greenish white, lemon colour, or dark
grey; and on the island of Iona, hard by the ruined monastery, they are
picked up of a soft green hue, and as clear as a chrysolite. The best
lump of agate I ever saw came from an unfrequented bay in the Isle of
Wight; the colours were dullish, but in texture it approached an oriental
onyx, and it weighed above a pound. I know of no equal specimen in the
collection of the British Museum.

CARNELIAN, which is our purest form of chalcedony, is undoubtedly a more
beautiful stone than the agate. This is either milk-white or of a deep
red. The latter tint is becoming scarce in Britain, having been much
sought out for the manufacture of seals and ring-stones, but now that
“sards” are so much in vogue, the real carnelian may get a respite and
appear in force again, as salmon have sometimes been known to do in their
native streams after falling off for many years.

The “sard” may be considered as the carnelian of the desert, or the
“carnelian” as the sard of the seashore. Sards are plentiful in the east.
Travellers, whose path lies over the waste plains and sandy reaches of
Egypt or Lybia, should pick up any darkly-tinted pebble they may descry
on the surface of the ground: it is probably a sard, perchance a valuable
specimen. One day, in homely Brighton, stepping into a lapidary’s, I
found upon his counter half-a-dozen unusual-looking stones already
cut in two, and some of them polished. “These are not English,” said
I, “where did you get them?” He told me, in reply, that a gentleman
just arrived from Egypt had taken these stones out of the mouth of his
carpet-bag and left them with him to be dressed. I examined them closely.
As I had expected, on learning the locality, one was a blood-red sard,
and two others were jaspers; a fourth was curiously mottled and ribbed
with chalcedony. They had been obtained without any expense, and at no
trouble beyond that of stooping to pick them up, and all four were very
_saleable_ articles in the trade.

The finest red carnelians are brought from the East, but they occur also
in Silesia, and splendid specimens of a dark hue have been obtained from
the sands of the Rhine.

In Scotland, on the beach of St. Andrew’s, I found a pretty variety,
“eyed,” but it is scarce. I have since seen similar stones, which had
been picked up at Cromer or at Aldborough.

The AQUAMARINE is sometimes met with on the sea-shore at Aberystwith in
North Wales, and more rarely on our eastern coast. Of course it is a
crystal, which has come down from the inland rocks, and has afterwards
been rolled smooth by the action of the waves among other pebbles.

The base of all our English crystals is _Silica_, with an admixture
of lime. Rock-crystal is the purest form of Silica. Common spar is a
carbonate of lime. The black or grey flints, which are shed in myriads
from many a chalk-cliff, are “Silex” much debased; some dark, viscous
matter, such as bitumen, having united, I think _chemically_, with the
clearer substance. Quartz are the small crystals of silica; a mass of
these will vary in its configuration.

Cairngorum stones are rock-crystals from the mountain of that name,
deeply impregnated with iron and aluminium. The claret-coloured ones,
found on Ben M’Dhui, are our nearest approach to an amethyst, and some
deep-red specimens remind us of the garnet.

As I propose here to speak only of our sea-shore pebbles, I shall not
dwell upon the Scotch crystals, which are, moreover, familiar to almost
everybody in the ornaments of tartan dresses. Neither shall I touch upon
the fluor spars of Derbyshire, or the magnificent crystals found in the
mines of Cornwall and Cumberland.

All these belong to crystallography, and I am persuaded that, in our
productions of the seaside, a crystallizing process has been the
exception and not the rule. I will only add to what is said above, that,
as far as I know, amidst the great range of tints comprised in the
different crystals from Scotland and from Ireland, there is no instance
of the _peach-colour_ or delicate pink, such as are picked up on some of
the “moraines” on the Alps of Savoy.

Secondly, such parts of our coast as are hemmed in by cretaceous
or sandstone cliffs abound in fossil pebbles. The organisms which
these inclose are, almost universally, those of zoophytes. Dendritic
or vegetable markings are rare, occurring principally in the white
chalcedony. A good pebble of this kind used to be called a mocha-stone;
the difficulty always was how to be quite sure where it came from. Those
from the Indies would generally be handsomer; while, on the other hand,
an equally fine specimen from our own shores would be of treble value.

But the petrifactions described in Chapter II. may be readily obtained
throughout the entire range of coast from Hastings to Selsea Bill, and
further.

In gathering these pebbles, if you intend them for the cabinet, and not
merely to amuse a passing hour, regard should be had to three points;
the size, the pattern, and the colour. The last-mentioned, which is,
nine times out of ten, the cause of average specimens being seen at all,
will itself be determined by the material of which the pebble consists.
Chalcedony has a bluish cast in the solid stone, especially when it is
wet with brine; but where “moss” is present, this will cause a golden
or red tint. Jasper, when semi-transparent, is greenish, otherwise, a
blood-red.

As to size, choanites and the globular “sponges” will vary from that of
a small pippin to that of a full-sized orange. Very rarely they exceed
this. If the pebble be of the right sort, the larger the better: but, as
a general rule, the finer ones run small.

The pattern is the most important feature; as you will soon recognize in
making a collection. And this, moreover, if no injury has yet been done
to the stone, decides the “contour” of the rolling beauty.

I shall not, however, say much about these patterns; not wishing to be
charged with exaggeration, as I probably should be, by those who have
never seen good ones, and who do not conceive of the endless varieties
into which four or five colours can thus be wrought in the stony loom of
Nature.

Amateurs must learn for themselves what these really are, and how to
judge of them scientifically, when they pick up a fossil weighing,
perhaps, a pound avoirdupois, and looking like a champion-potato. One
or two hints may be ventured. If the creature was an “alcyonite,” its
_facsimile_ in stone should have the external rings or mouths clearly
defined, and, if possible, equi-distant. Such a one, when cut, will
exhibit its tubes evenly disposed—not unlike a section of fir-wood under
the microscope. If it was an “actinia,” then the body of the zoophyte
should be central in the pebble, and the tentacles will be not much
melted away in a good slice.

“Sponges” must be chosen principally for their colour; in other words,
for the _texture_ of the stone. Those which exhibit the reticulations,
white or straw-colour, upon a very dark ground, are the most effective
generally: but the most perfect one I ever saw had a blood-red pattern
upon white. For a single _slice_ from this stone, half a guinea was
offered by me, and refused.

“Choanites” are easily discerned.

The “ventriculite” must have been a creature lower down in that scale
than the choanite. This fossil is repeatedly met with on our coast, but I
do not admire it enough to have retained a single specimen. When alive,
it would appear to have resembled, in stature and configuration, an
ordinary toadstool.

[Illustration: VENTRICULITE.

CHOANITE.]

The choanite was, undoubtedly, a beautiful creature, and, as ten thousand
of the family testify, abundant. Dr. Mantell said that its form, when
complete, was that of a pear or fig, and I think he obtained such a
fossil from the Lewes chalk, where it was growing upright on a stalk, in
the way in which he afterwards depicted it. Looking over my collection, I
see that I have a similar one, in black chalcedony-flint, which I picked
up at Shanklin; only, in my specimen, which came from the beach, the
delicate stem is, of course, gone.

The complete pyriform mound is rare, for obvious reasons. I never saw but
three instances of it; the above, of my own finding, was one. Another was
in pellucid white agate, spotted all over with the ends of the feelers.
The third, which I also picked up, had been pounded on a rough beach, and
crumbled in my hand.

Choanites and ventriculites, as animals, are supposed to be extinct.
Perhaps they are so, though I do not see how any one can take upon him to
pronounce as to what living organisms the great Southern Ocean may or may
not contain.

The creature, however, which I admire most, as perpetuated in these
marine fossils, is not a choanite, but an actinia of the “crass” kind.
One of these, large and of a globular form, in which the tubular
tentacles are distinctly shown, and the colour is yellow in the agate,
I found, in a sequestered spot, where the deep sand must have received
and sheltered it shortly after it had dropped from the cliff. The outer
whitey-brown crust was unbroken: and as this crust is the cuticle of
the pebble, and which always wears away first, I have no doubt of the
specimen being a perfect one. It could never have undergone a rub, beyond
that from soft sand or softer seaweed.

Lastly, striped jaspers and bloodstones are to be had for the seeking,
on our Devonshire and Yorkshire coasts. The bloodstone is too well known
to need any description; neither is there much variety or interest in
a rush-green, spotted with red. But the jaspers embrace several other
colours, and many lively patterns. South Devon has good ones, resembling
agatized wood. Scarborough has good ones, some of them quite equal
to the “weed-agate” of India. At Eastbourne, a dark-brown variety is
occasionally found, which is highly prized, because it approaches the
character of the Egyptian. Fine pebbles of this kind are also to be
obtained in the neighbourhood of St. Alban’s, in Hertfordshire, but they
are liable to be gritty.

Beside the above, which are true jaspers, scores of jasper-flints in
bright red, yellow, or green, occur on almost any beach. These are simply
burnt flints, containing a portion of oxide of iron. Their present
condition is probably the result of extinct volcanic agency. These
are not nearly so hard as the true jaspers, and their _fracture_ is
“conchoidal.”

For pleasing the eye, perhaps the choicest stone in Britain is a
moss-agate, of which the pretty name yields an accurate description.
The “moss” is some oxidized metal, whose ramifications form a striking
contrast with the limpid chalcedony in which it seems to float like
seaweed or sponge.

When a fine specimen of one of these stones has been cleverly cut,
it is not unusual to obtain in its section the principal features
of a mimic landscape—the clear sky, and the fuscous earth. Some, in
addition, display a setting sun, &c. Such stones get the name of
“landscape-pebbles.”

On the shores of Loch Tay, in Perthshire, remarkable ones are found—in
which the imaginative Highlander fancies he can trace the features of
his beloved mountain-scenery. Great store is set by these, on account
of their pattern; but they are mostly in sepia, and white, being never
suffused with warm colours, as are our marine specimens.

I may note here, finally, that to a true connoisseur, the prettiest
moss-agates are not so welcome as those which exhibit a bold and haggard
style. Some of the French pebbles, from the neighbourhood of Dieppe,
would be very fine indeed, only that they are spoiled by an undue
quantity of black “moss,” as black as mud.

Most of the above-named treasures may be obtained by any one who owns
a fair amount of perseverance, provided he or she have an eye for
pebbles. And nobody need be discouraged from the search, who likes them
well enough to be willing to take a good deal of trouble to find them.
One-half of what are counted difficulties in this life have their root
and growth in our constitutional laziness, and may be overcome by a
little energy. We have all of us an eye for ripe cherries and red roses,
why not for pebbles?

       *       *       *       *       *

Let me now state in a few brief paragraphs the merits of the case. People
say there is luck in all things. It may be so, once or twice; I never
knew it hold for a continuance. A course of practical experience in
almost any department of life will bring a sure quietus to such crude
fancies.

The searcher after pebbles must look to more sterling qualifications. He
should have good legs, good eyes, good judgment, and—I may as well say it
at once—a good temper. He should choose a likely part of an unfrequented
beach: and should go down at the right hour, somewhere about half-tide,
when the tide _is running out_.

It is as well for him to walk with the sun a little behind him, and on
one side; and I would recommend him, if possible, to avoid entertaining a
north-easter in his teeth.

Then he should be suitably rigged for the expedition. If he has ever
fished salmon, he will need no wrinkles here: but in case not, I may
specify the following. Strong ancle-boots, with double soles and on real
hob-nails, and a stout woollen sock within; rough trowsers, which he will
not grudge damping in the brine; and a coat of fustian or tweed, with
ample pockets. When the season is wintry, add to these a warm wrapper
for the neck; and, in one of his pockets, a Cording’s india-rubber cape
with sleeves. A water-proof cap, with a curtain to it. No umbrella, no
stick; but a light geologist’s hammer; and a canvas-bag, worked with open
meshes, for the heavier specimens, which otherwise he would have to carry
in his hand.

If he is going far, and it is as well to count upon eight or ten miles
from home, let him carry a flask of any liquid he likes best to imbibe;
together with a hunch of bread and cheese. [N.B. This will be found more
sustaining than a meat-sandwich.] Lastly, a few mild cigars, not omitting
the usual implements for striking a light _sub dio_. The fragrant weed
is always a cheerful companion, and doubly welcome when your path lacks
flowers: moreover, it has historical associations, which cabbages have
not, and will bring to mind Sir Walter Raleigh, who was a great man.

The above rules concerning the toilet will hold good for the fair sex,
_mutatis mutandis_. Only in addition, ladies should engage some stalwart
arm to lean upon; and should on no account venture themselves among
slippery rocks. As for those knights and esquires who accompany the
gentle dames on such a quest, they must look to themselves. I cannot now
stop to warn them of their peculiar peril; but they know what I mean.
It was among the Ocean-isles that Briseis led captive the stern son of
Peleus.

Above all, let the Pebble-searcher have nothing on his mind when he sets
forth: no broken engagements, no crying debts. Otherwise, he may look in
vain for moss-agates. Shakspeare, when he has to account for a valiant
warrior and politic general, a crowned king to boot, losing the great
battle of Bosworth-field, ascribes it all to the ghosts who sat heavy on
his soul. Any neglected or injured creature may prove on such occasions a
vengeful ghost.

Supposing your hours free, the best are those in which the daylight is
most powerful: say, from ten in the morning until four in the afternoon;
or, to take things in moderation, from eleven to three. A beaching
expedition made thus with determinate purpose, once or twice in the
course of six days, I hold to be reasonable diversion; and for matter
of interest, I know of no out-door pursuit which excels it, not even
Insect-catching, or Fly-fishing.

The above hints being attended to, one important point remains still to
be considered. It is absolutely necessary to understand pebbles in the
rough.

The more peculiar a beach is in its contents, the less will it exhibit
to catch the eyes of one who has never learnt to appreciate them.
Coloured seaweeds are enticingly bright; pearly shells are as evident as
trinkets; but the external coat of a genuine pebble differs widely from
its internal structure, and may yield to the uninitiated no indication
whatever of the value of the latter. A crust of hardened lime or
sandstone is a frequent envelope of the best specimens in one kind of
zoophyte. The stone itself is very likely mis-shapen, and perhaps lies
more than half buried in sand or shingle. Without knowing anything of the
nature of these fossils, you may occasionally pick up such “darkies” at a
venture; but you will never feel assured of them, you will never be able
to glean them from the multitudinous gravel, as the determined Fly-fisher
gets the best trout out of a pool, if you have not the pleasure of an
intimate acquaintance with their species. The readiest way of acquiring
this, and it is not born with anybody, is to spend a wakeful half-hour,
once and again, at the board of any civil lapidary, and there thoroughly
to inspect his casual store. A trifling purchase will abundantly content
him in return, the more as he hopes to cut several pebbles for you.

Observe, then the peculiar way in which the outer crust of an old pebble
is worn, as compared with that of one which has newly descended upon the
beach. This crust or cuticle is highly suggestive, if you can once come
to understand it; and as a hopeful indication of progress, you may safely
assume that you _do_ understand it, when you find that you can obtain
pebbles such as nine persons out of ten somehow never “have the luck” to
meet with. Sometimes a stone has parted with its original coating, and
has donned another: and this operation may either be complete, or still
_in fieri_. In the latter case, there will always be some token; either
by the substance not lying evenly, or by a change in the colour of the
second envelope, which becomes apparent on chipping off a fragment from
its surface.

Lose no opportunity of perfecting your judgment upon any form or texture
that comes in your way: for upon this will really depend what sort of
collection you shall win from the bosom of the coy beach. Nothing is
easier, on an average coast, than to pick up a score of showy-looking
but inferior stones. Few things will be found more difficult than to
bring home, as the fruit of your morning’s walk, two or three valuable
specimens. And the cause of this lies not at all in luck, nor altogether
in mere labour; for in all departments there are dunces who will still
drudge hard. It lies in the presence or absence of sound information on
the subject.

A good rule is, even early in your apprenticeship, to eschew trumpery.
But beware of hasty conclusions. Some collectors will take nothing away
with them from the beach which they do not feel quite sure about. This is
shallow practice, for it assumes an amount of discernment which nobody
possesses. I can see as far into a stone wall in this sense as most
people; but I rather like to carry off occasionally an odd-looking stone
which, like Bassanio’s happy casket, “rather threatens than doth promise
aught.” Such a pebble may turn out a prize. The things which every one
should reject without hesitation are those whose character is evident,
and with it their little worth.

Mediocrity in pebbles is insufferable. Do not assume that the
_wet_ portion of a beach necessarily yields the best chances. Many
pebble-hunters never get over this early delusion. On a coast which
is rarely trodden, the upper range contains the richest store. And in
every case, the tide runs twice in the twenty-four hours over banks
which now look dry and dusty, as well as over that narrow strip which
you see glistening with saline moisture. And while you cannot fail to
remark a pellucid stone or fossil which is sprinkled by the wave, if
your attention is caught by anything lying high and dry, the latter is
probably worth stooping for.

Walk rapidly over a poor, unproductive beach; but take your time and make
good use of your eyes when you find you are in the land of plenty.

If you carry a hammer with you, let it be of the right sort; a
well-tempered metal, not too large to stow away in a hind-pocket, and
_not armed with a spike_. When you have such a one, it is tolerably safe
to strike even a heavy blow on a large pebble in your other hand; but if
you do the same by a small one, you may chance to maim your left palm for
life: because in this case there is little reaction, and the blow you
deal will _drive_ the stone. But even with large pebbles, the preferable
method is to plant one foot firmly on the stone, leaving a portion
exposed to your aim. If your boots are of a sensible thickness, nothing
will come to grief.

Never dash pebbles down upon others in order to break them open. In
the first place, you risk a wound in your face from the rebound of a
fragment in what mathematicians term the “angle of reflexion,” an angle
which you have probably not calculated; but besides this, you may by
such imprudence destroy a valuable specimen. You can open plenty of
fossil flints and waterworn jaspers in the manner I have recommended
above; which knocks off a corner, and shows you the true nature of the
formations you are walking upon. I have learned a good deal in this way.

Lastly, when you are landed upon a superior beach, with the promise of a
few hours of open weather, use the golden opportunity and do your best.

Solomon was quite right when he said, “Whatever thy hand findeth to
do, do it with thy might.” It is evident that if you do not _in foro
conscientiæ_ think such a hobby worth the while, you ought not to meddle
with it. I quite agree that making shoes is more profitable, provided
always that you have custom; although I have known more than one instance
of working craftsmen who at intervals picked up some very good pebbles
too.

The above rules may sound marvellously simple. I only wish that a few as
simple were generally acted upon. We might then hope to see some noble
collections of really instructive pebbles from our as yet little known
sea-coast.



CHAPTER IV.

    WHICH BE THE BEST BEACHES IN ENGLAND.—CONCERNING STATIONARY AND
    MOVABLE SHINGLES.


The variety exhibited by Nature seems to be almost infinite, take what
ground we will for observation and comparison. This has been frequently
noted in both the animal and vegetable departments of Creation. I believe
it to be no less true of the mineral, especially when we embrace under
that head fossil remains.

If there be any feature in British scenery which to a cursory observer
appears uniform and identical everywhere, it is the yellow-looking beach
along the coast line. Yet it will be found on trial that our beaches
differ widely from each other. No two are quite alike. Devonshire is not
more diverse from Yorkshire, or Norfolk from the Isle of Wight, than are
their respective beaches, as to what these contain.

Nay more: on the range of the Sussex coast—a very monotonous range—I am
acquainted, at this present time of writing, with four beaches, which I
do not scruple to pronounce totally different one from another. If I were
shown the pebbles, I could generally tell from which quarter they came.
But to become aware of variety, you must observe certain admitted facts.
The frequenters of our coast-scenery, not one-tenth part of whom can
plead the sad excuse of being invalids, usually know but little of the
character of a beautiful beach lying in their intermediate neighbourhood.
Ordinarily speaking, a man will be better informed concerning the plains
of the Pampas, or the windings of the Coppermine River, than he is upon
the nature of the soil which is under his feet, or of the bough which
hangs over his head in the forest. And the reason of this is obvious; we
neglect the reality for the sake of the appearance. We greedily devour
certain stereotyped works as a kind of royal road to knowledge; but we
omit to notice and inquire into the sensible objects which are strewn
along our daily path.

Of course, we pay the penalty in kind. Two-thirds of our “book-knowledge”
is merely conceited ignorance; not the genuine gold, fit for current
coin, but a baser metal washed over, which will stand no one in stead
for long.

I will now describe accurately three beaches which occur in three
different counties. Any one who makes their acquaintance hereafter,
especially if in quest of pebbles, will, I believe, recognize the
original of each sketch. One of them now lies far away; but to think of
them is like dwelling on the still vivid impressions of a dream.

I am in a district of the New Red Sandstone, and as far as my eye can
reach I see towering cliffs of a kindred formation, wheeling round or
jutting out in foxy-coloured masses, while the innumerable points of
shingle glow like an autumn stubble at their feet. I commence searching
near the bright water-line, and what with the simple grandeur of the
scene, and what with the balmy breath of the south, I insensibly stray
onward for several miles, until the increasing weight in my pockets
suggests a pause. Now I will sit down under the shadow of that mid-way
rock, light a cigar, and inspect my treasures.

No sooner said than done. What a calming sensation a whiff of good
tobacco induces on these burning days! But what have I got? Above thirty
globes of chalcedony, blue and white, as oval as bantams’ eggs. I select
half a dozen on account of some beauty or peculiarity, and fling the
remainder into the sea, there to undergo a fresh impregnation. Next,
sundry bits of the red and white conglomerate. Let me advise everybody
who has the opportunity, to pick this up. When sliced and polished,
the surface obtained beats the inlaid work of a cabinet-maker all to
nothing. Next, a couple of choanites, one in the dark “rag,” ribbed like
sea-weed; the other in pretty light-brown moss-agate. These two go into
my breast-pocket for safety. Lastly, what has never been out of my hand
since I found it—a huge, knotted jasper-agate, of five pounds’ weight.

I will only add that the beach here described is a first-rate one in its
way, although not my absolute favourite. I had, however, never seen it
before, and have never visited it since; moreover, I had not a hammer
with me, nor any refreshment beyond a cigar, after tramping over many
miles of deep shingle; consequently, I do not suppose I did justice to
the contents of that bit of coast.

But where am I now? Two hundred miles away, and the scene is changed. I
have just rounded a headland, on whose summit the ripening corn-field is
waving and gleaming like the tuft on the head of a woodpecker. Dizzy
precipices of chalk stand like sugar-loaves against the blue sky, here
and there cleft in a tortuous, yawning chasm. Beneath, the beach seems to
slumber, so gentle is that lisping murmur, where the long billowy swell
washes the face of the skerries, and lifts up and down their heavy fringe
of tangle like a giant’s beard. Two hours are mine, as we mortals reckon,
before I am expected at the evening meal. This time I have my hammer
with me—no clumsy carpenter’s tool, which might rend or splinter, but a
tempered steel.

I did but walk a couple of miles in all. I found sundry pieces of
perfectly white agate, one of which proved good enough for a seal. I
broke open a score or two of jaspers, and was rewarded at last by a
fine slab of the rich brown (quasi-Egyptian). Then I hunted up from
the shingle a pocketful of “sponges,” and a choanite in dark purple
flint, which is rare. And then time was up, and scaling the cliff by a
well-known gap and pathway, I returned home to crab-pie and a cup of tea,
and the welcome of a dear, kind face. This part of our coast is much
visited now by pebble-seekers.

Now I have crossed a channel of the sea, and have looked upon the mighty
three-deckers, and all the flower of the yachtery of England; and I
have strolled through a smart modern town, and have passed a meditative
half-hour in a very ancient village, and then, at a sharp turn, I have
quitted the high-road, with its hot milestones, and picked my way through
a blossoming lane where the nightingales were singing; and I have
scrambled over the edge of a snipe-bog, and hurried past the mouth of a
diluvian estuary, and here I am, stretched at full length on the choicest
bit of beach in all the realm of Queen Victoria. In front of me are
soaring pinnacles of chalk, ribbed and dotted with primeval flints, like
the gun-muzzles in an upper deck. Behind me rises another barrier, formed
of the dark “greensand;” and on one side, for the space of a mile, these
lofty brows have dipped and disappeared, that the red edge of the wealden
might crop out from a wide tract of rush-grown water-meadows. Through the
heart of these latter steals a rivulet, beloved of stray wild-fowl, but
not tenanted by anything so lively as a trout.

The position of this beach is all that can be desired, and its contents
will not disappoint expectation. It has sometimes reminded me of one of
those angular nooks formed externally by the converging hedges of a
cover and a crop, where you are sure to meet with the hares and pheasants
which have come out to feed on your wheat-stubble or turnips. Here,
however, instead of the scuttling game, you must look for matchless
pebbles.

Often as I have paced this charming strand, the occasion of my first
stepping upon it was pure accident, as, indeed, are some of the
pleasantest turns in life. I remember one summer’s day, when the solid
cliffs seemed to be pulverizing under the heat, and the air-vessels in
exposed sheaves of bladderwrack were splitting and popping like crackers,
I found four or five specimens within a couple of hundred yards which I
have never since surpassed, seldom equalled. Two of these were _deep red_
choanites, conveying the idea, not of dull “oxide,” but that the animal’s
blood had suffused the agate; another was a particoloured madrepore,
another, a moss-jasper.

This bay, however, possesses peculiar advantages. In addition to the
fossils which drop from time to time out of its own overhanging cliffs,
it is fed in a remarkable manner from other sources.

       *       *       *       *       *

Until of late years, Sussex has been the usual resort of those who
desired to collect pebbles for the cabinet. The capabilities of this
coast vary with every twenty miles. The Brighton beach was once famous
for the supply of “landscape-pebbles;” but in the lapse of years its
fecundity has been sadly impaired. The best chance remaining now is
that of an occasional waif during the March winds on the sweep fronting
Brunswick Terrace, and for about half a mile toward Shoreham.

Bognor has long reefs of rock at low water, and, by the usual rule, it
ought to yield petrified sponges; for I think that, generally speaking,
the locality determines the animal. But the infirmity of the Bognor shore
is, that its pebbles are chafed and worn to skeletons by the furious
storms which assail this unprotected coast in winter. No fossil with a
delicate constitution can long withstand the effect of these gales and
plunging seas.

Off Beachey-head, in the other direction, is found a variety which I
have not met with elsewhere. The specimen shown to me was vermicular;
the creature, which had perhaps been a “sabella,” lying in distinct
coils, not unlike _macaroni_, in the blue agate. This pebble was a very
large and perfect one; and the man who had picked it up, and paid
perhaps half-a-guinea for the dressing of it, was desirous to realize a
five-pound note. I wish much that it had found its way to the British
Museum. There is no stone there resembling it.

At Deal and Ramsgate, “fortification-agates” may be readily met with,
and sometimes a bit of carnelian: but this last, bright and homogeneous,
is rare. The Hastings beach is mainly worn out. Aldborough, in Suffolk,
was wont to be famous for its coloured agates; and Fifeshire, and part
of Forfarshire, for eyed jaspers: but many years have gone by since I
visited either of these counties, and I would not venture to speak with
confidence concerning their actual beaches now.

Very good pebbles are picked up at Cromer; and, occasionally, carnelians,
both red and white. Felixstowe, a little lower down the coast than
Aldborough, abounds in yellow agates, some of them beautifully
translucent, and rivalling the carnelian in smoothness of texture. At
Scarborough, remarkable specimens both of the agates and jaspers are
obtained by those who know where to look for them. Filey has the same
charms for enticing strangers to wander onwards along its pretty coast.
Indeed, all the Yorkshire beaches deserve and will repay a visit, both in
fossils and transparencies.

Carnelians are peculiar stones as to their habits, if I may use such an
expression in speaking of inanimate substances. It were absurd to doubt
that plenty of them still haunt our English coast; but where they manage
to hide themselves has often perplexed me. The method of searching for
them is as follows. Instead of keeping the sun behind you, he should now
be full in front, like a candle in your eyes. But you must not look at
the sun: you must look along the surface of the beach; and whenever a
bit of carnelian peeps out from the shingle, you will at once descry it,
owing to the position of the great light.

I tried this once at Blackgang Chine for three-quarters of an hour,
and in the course of that time I filled both my waistcoat-pockets with
red bits. It is true, none of these were larger than pudding-raisins,
and some of them scarcely more brilliant; still, the search was very
diverting. If the shingle had not been unusually damp, I might have lain
down every now and then and looked along its surface; in which case I
should, doubtless, have succeeded better.

The mention of Blackgang leads me to speak of the Isle of Wight, as the
choicest storehouse for this kind of fossils in Britain.

       *       *       *       *       *

If it be true, as some geologists aver, that the pearly “Vectis” was
at one time joined on to our Hampshire coast, from which it afterwards
broke off like a loose morsel from the side of a cake, that would go far
to explain the abundance and beauty of its organisms. For, upon such
a separation from the mainland, the industrious sea would have great
opportunities of denuding the face of the cliffs and sucking the orifices
of the chines. Also, this circumambient sea is peculiar in its character
hereabouts; and the crystallizing waves impart an unusual lustre to
rolling agates and jaspers.

The beaches of the Wight are circumscribed in extent, which is a great
relief after the interminable ranges on the Sussex coast. The difference
is as great as that between a quiet forenoon spent in the museum in
Jermyn Street, and the laborious distractions experienced if we pass a
similar interval of time amidst the endless rooms and innumerable cases
on the first floor of the British Museum.

The village of Sandown, from the flag-staff on as far as Red Cliff and
Culver, exhibits a tempting and instructive shore. In winter, it is
better to commence at the dyke, and end with Red Cliff; but in summer,
you may walk the whole range with advantage. Here, a couple of hours may
be taken to as many miles; and if you do not shut your eyes, you must
fill your pockets. But look with resolution for good ones.

From Sandown to Shanklin, in the opposite direction, it is scarcely
inferior. It was once even better; but, lying so near at hand, it has
been unceasingly hunted over; and to look for a fine pebble there now, is
almost like hoping to find a hare sitting in your kitchen-garden. Many
tons’ weight of beautiful fossils have been gathered within the compass
of a morning’s walk here, in the last few years.

At the foot of Shanklin Chine occurs a singular collection of
limestone pebbles, siliceous within, which are well worth examining.
Extraordinarily-tinted choanites are here sometimes detected in the heart
of most unattractive and mis-shapen blocks. I once asked a successful
beaching lapidary there, how he _knew_ them? He declared that he did
not know them at all; but that whenever he saw fresh bonzes thrown up,
especially if with a deep-sea mark upon them, he would break them all,
and generally obtained a superb specimen among them. The objection to
this murderous process was, as he confessed, that some of the finest were
wont to be destroyed.

Latterly, I thought I discovered a way to recognize the presence of any
such choanite. It is to look closely for a peculiar depression in the
stone which is connected with the principal _air-hole_ belonging to the
fossil. But this method demands time and care.

Onwards to Luccombe, the beach disappears, owing, I imagine, to immovable
depth of sand. At Luccombe Chine, it partially revives: but do not linger
here. Go on to Bonchurch, and as you approach that lovely hillside,
rouse all your energies. Here comes in a mile of sand, small shingle,
and half-buried pebbles, which will put your skill to the test, if skill
you have. Look out for symptoms of the “tubular” structure, and diverge
now and then to the pools among those weedy rocks. Many a beautiful
“actinia” in flint lies there snug enough, wedged in a dark cranny,
and coated over with glutinous moss. You must really not be idle now.
Do not even light a cigar, but hammer and delve and scrape away; only
do not give in until you lay hold of something worth the while. Two
zoophytes, of the agatine-siliceous kind, were picked up on this spot
about a twelvemonth since, for which large sums of money were offered in
Ventnor the same day. For one of this sort, an American gentleman, not
long ago, gave eight pounds sterling. But there is in Brighton, or was
till very recently, a pebble from the Rottingdean beach, for which fifty
guineas have been offered to its possessor, and refused. I have not seen
it myself, but I am told that it is a spotted pyriform choanite; the
material, very beautiful agate.

At Ventnor, red gravel and diminutive carnelians, some of them not bigger
than pins’ heads, await the pebble-seeker. Occasionally an agate is found
here which is “chatoyant,” like an opal, but this is scarce.

I once tried the Freshwater strand, “ultima thule,” but I only met with
doubtful, ragged flints. The north side of the island presents on its
shores a surface chiefly of mud and estuary drift, delightful to solans
and sea-gulls, but not profitable for the cabinet of the mineralogist.

I ought here, in common gratitude, to say something of the beauties of
the Garden Isle. But, though some of the happiest hours of my life have
been passed there, I grudge to dilate upon the theme. I could not, if I
would, convey to a stranger a sense of the unutterable attachment which I
feel for its swelling downs and curling seaward bays. Much of the charm
of our old English scenery, which is fast disappearing elsewhere before
the railway and the canal, is still to be met with in this sequestered
island. Here are uncultivated rocky slopes, proffering rare wild-flowers;
ivy-mantled cliffs and moss-grown brambles; bays which in winter witness
the howling storm, and sometimes the fearful wreck, but in summer are
invested with the calm beauty of a moonlit lake. The inhabitants also,
many of them “aborigines,” have a primitive, unsophisticated character
in the inland villages; while, on the coast, this is chequered by that
roving disposition and semi-superstitious bent which are always to be
found among sailors.

Oddly enough, the story of a pebble illustrates this trait of character.
Some years ago, I was calling on a lapidary in Sandown who had done
a good deal work for me, and done it well. His account was settled,
and I was wishing him good morning, when he drew my attention to a
remarkably beautiful pebble, ready cut and polished, and begged my
acceptance of it. Now the stone, displayed on his board along with other
specimens, could not fail to sell; and was worth _to him_, I should say,
perhaps a sovereign. I was very unwilling to take it, but there was no
refusing without offending an old friend; so it went home in my pocket.
But somehow curiosity was stirred in my mind when reflecting on the
circumstance afterwards. Why should he wish to make me a present? Or,
allowing for goodwill taking so straightforward a course, why part with a
stone of so much moneyed value? A few days after I dropped in again. My
friend was out: but I found his wife, and stayed for a chat. Presently
I referred, quite cursorily, to the gift which her husband had made me,
“and,” said I, “I wish only it had been something of less value.” The
gentler sex are sometimes more communicative than their mates. “Ah! sir,”
replied Mrs. ⸺, “there was reason for giving you _that_, may be. Anyways,
I’m real glad that it’s gone from _us_.” “Indeed! how is that?” “Why,
that stone was an unlucky stone for us, and I wished it to go, somehow.”
Then I learned from her the following singular tale.

Two brothers, sea-faring men, were great friends of the lapidary and his
wife. One day, one of these brothers found this pebble on the beach, and
had it cut. It turned out, as I have said, a remarkably fine specimen. It
was what they call a “deep-sea” pebble, and the “choanite” of a reddish
hue lay exactly central in the bonze of white limestone. The sailors
were both of them quite fond of it: and when they went to sea again, the
handsome pebble went with them, and was laid “o’ nights” on a shelf by
the hammock.

Their boat was upset: one brother was drowned: the other righted the
craft and got to shore, not without difficulty. Several articles were
missing, having gone to the bottom; but the pebble was safe.

The survivor brought it back to the lapidary, and made him accept of
it, being unwilling to retain it himself. The lapidary took it, and
put it aside: but his better half found it out, and insisted that he
should neither sell it nor keep it. So, he _gave it away_. This stone I
afterwards parted with to a London collector: not wishing to preserve
so sad a reminiscence. I took a fossil in exchange, which I almost
immediately lost. So, nothing connected with the mysterious choanite was
“lucky.”

Perhaps every feature in “Vectis,” from the matted festoons on its
honey-combed rocks to the “witchery of its soft blue sky,” predisposes
a frequent visitor to approve also of its pebbles. But it is an
unprejudiced fact, that in texture and colour they excel those which are
found on the Sussex beaches. And while I think highly of our Devonshire
jaspers, I remember a jasper-agate, gathered some years ago at Sandown,
which might challenge all such stones of native growth in our London
museums, and bear away the palm.

Many a calm summer’s evening, many a stormy winter’s forenoon, have I
whiled away in absolute contentment on that most interesting shore. In
the hot noons of July the bathing is delicious; and after your bath, the
shadow cast by overhanging cliffs, and a fanning breeze from the sea,
make a ramble onwards irresistible. But I found winter as pleasant in its
way. When the gust roared, and chimneys smoked, and the heavens looked
dark and disturbed, it was inspiriting to go forth roughly clad, and to
watch the fitful changes where the weather-gleam strikes upon Culver;
or to mark how that treacherous mist would come creeping round Dunnose,
till the “white horses” rose on the sea, and the heavy squall which had
long been packing in the offing burst with a wild cry, driving in a yet
heavier element with tatters of oar-weed and splinters of broken dyke
against the face of the immovable cliff.

After passing Shanklin, the style of scenery as far as Luccombe and the
Fishers’ huts, is quaint and picturesque. Here the “Gault” makes its
appearance, and the hill-paths are in consequence slippery and dangerous.
After this, succeed several miles of fairy-like beauty. And then, the
stern grandeur of Black-gang, the coast-line trending away in a range
as savage as that of Calabria. And last, the chosen home of the poet,
sublime Freshwater, and rainbow-tinted Alum-Bay.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having said so much on the pleasure of beach-rambling, it may be well
to put tourists on their guard in two important particulars. The first
of these touches personal safety. No one should set out upon what may
prove a prolonged expedition without first ascertaining, _on Kalendar
authority_, the hours of the tide for that day. There are sundry points
on the coast of the Isle of Wight, for instance, where after a couple
of hours’ progress, on scientific thoughts intent, the pedestrian may
find himself hemmed in by a jutting precipice in front, while the
advancing tide behind has gradually cut off all hopes of a retreat on
“terra firma:” and as the face of the cliff is seldom such as admits of
being scaled, it will then fare badly with him if he be not “the king of
fishes.”

The other matter respects fatigue. Hearty exercise is desirable; not
so that which results in utter exhaustion. My own experience is as
follows:—I have climbed to the summit of Sca’ Fell, and then walked back,
footsore and fasting, to Keswick. I have swum a mile before breakfast. I
have ascended Mount Etna at midnight in December’s snow. But for sheer
fatigue, pulling at the muscles, and drying up the marrow, there is
nothing equal to ten miles of stiff shingle, while a foggy north-easter
currycombs your face, and perhaps your shoe-leather has been laid open by
the edge of an inauspicious flint.

If in addition to all this, forgetting “Cording,” you have sallied forth
_non bene relictâ parmulâ_, your condition is by no means enviable.
Therefore, whoever intends to go beaching in earnest should look to his
outer man, and carry with him certain creature-comforts, not omitting to
include in these a supply of good tobacco.

Yet one word more upon this head. Have a due regard to the well-being of
your eyes. They are, as you will not fail to acknowledge, the working
party on these occasions. Manage how you will, they _must_ be subjected
to a great stress and strain. Give them half an hour’s respite, if
possible, while you sit down and inhale the “weed.” It is unpleasant to
find, after too intense a service on the part of your “daylights,” as you
return homewards along the meadow-path, that a beach you have left two or
three miles behind you is all _coming back_, whether you like it or no,
upon your organs of vision.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the whole, summer is the most fruitful season for stocking a cabinet,
on account of the more powerful illumination cast upon the objects of
your search. But in winter the beach itself is very likely to be in
better condition, for it is oftener agitated, and many specimens will
come to the surface which in calmer weather lie buried under sand. It
is important to train yourself to attentive observation, and after long
habit the ear will listen intuitively.

If you hear the sea make a dull, booming noise during the night, be on
the look-out two or three tides later, when the first shingle now thrown
up has sifted and settled down. Large pebbles will then be found on the
top of all, the process being much like that which takes place on shaking
a basin of lump sugar.

But it will be well for you to be always on the alert. The seaside
elements must be coaxed and humoured, if you hope to get anything by
their agency. A beach itself is exceedingly capricious. On some days you
may walk for miles and remark nothing worth picking up; perhaps the next
day, over the same ground, so great will be the profusion of fossils as
to suggest the idea that since your last visit a petrified shoal had
returned to life, swum into the bay, and there been once more stifled in
gurgling lime, or liquid silex, and penetrated by the metallic “moss.”

“The sea yields its harvests without sowing or planting,” and
seaside scenery is exquisite if you have come upon it where it is
unsophisticated. Happily it is in such sequestered “Edens of the
_western_ wave” that the most desirable pebbles are met with. I have
gathered rare specimens where the dor-hawk was wheeling overhead, and
saucy sea-gulls screeching almost in my face; while a cunning crow would
watch from a projecting ledge of rock to see whether I was about to
capture, and afterwards throw away, anything which might serve him for a
luncheon.

The terraces of Margate and Ramsgate are invaluable to the tired artizans
of London seeking their well-earned recreation; but no poet could venture
to affirm of them what Scott said of “Brignall banks,” that they are
“wild and fair.” But quit these populous thoroughfares, and get away to
pearly Beachey Head, or roam the lone strands of Yorkshire or Devon,
or go and lose yourself among shadowy nooks and gleaming bays in the
sweetest of all islands, and you will possess the genuine colour and
scent, and music and mystery of the sea, as the Creator has framed and
blended that wondrous element.

You need not look for pebbles unless you like; sometimes it were
better not. But saunter down to the water’s crinkled edge, and inhale
that indescribable odour from old rock, slippery now with dulse and
ribbon-weed—Piesse and Lubin distil nothing to equal it—and con the page
in Nature’s volume which lies open before you; it will never give you a
head-ache, nor a heart-ache either.

Here, after presently stripping to the elbow, you may surprise a
hermit-crab, or catch the spotted “goby” in his dark saline pool, but
please let him go again; you ought to give him his freedom, if only out
of gratitude; for all this time your own tired body is being braced and
refreshed, and your mind, yesterday jaded and careworn, is winning back
its elasticity under a sense of blessed repose.

I will now mention some peculiarities in the nature of our beaches, which
I have noted from time to time in the book of my experience.

       *       *       *       *       *

A BEACH is supposed to be a permanent accumulation of pebbles and small
shingle, due to such cliffs or banks as are near at hand. And this
general definition would be so far scientifically correct, if nature
were stagnant like the surface of a deserted mill-pond. But, as Nature
is always at work, always shifting the scenes, the above definition,
although it sounds like a truism, does not hold good in either of its
clauses. The accumulation which we look upon is _not_ permanent, nor
is it always due to a neighbouring source. Sometimes the collection of
stones which we find heaped up in an immemorial bay has been washed
round—much of it, perchance, recently—from a distant quarter. And this
might be taking place under our very eyes, and we not know it, just as
we do not _see_ the grass grow. Except in very calm weather, beaches are
continually travelling, and they travel rapidly along certain lines of
coast, until they arrive at a terminal point or headland. To get round
this latter takes time, but they do get round it at last, with the help
of strong gales prevailing in one direction, and under the rushing tides
of an equinox. Now if we suppose a few acres of shingle to be once fairly
carried past such a promontory, and discharged into the curve of an
elliptical bay, they will be locked in, and may, perhaps, never get out
again.

I have myself no doubt that Sandown Beach is fed and replenished in this
manner: and the bay being deeply indented with the points of Culver and
Dunnose, prominent at opposite extremities, egress is difficult. Yet
most persons might naturally suppose that whatever they find on the
beach here is due to its overhanging cliffs.

Some of the best pebbles travel fast, and are, in fact, migratory, till
they reach such a “nidus” as I have described. This is owing to the
rounded form which fossils usually assume. Angular lumps rather remain
stationary. Jasper I suppose makes few excursions: while the agates and
oval choanites are continually on the move, and may have visited a dozen
different localities before they are picked up. I have hunted a bit of
yellow agate in this way for above a mile in the course of a few weeks,
dropping it again on purpose, and never finding it in the same place.

Beside the above real motion of a beach, there is an apparent total
change for a time which is by no means uncommon in exposed situations.

This is, when an inshore gale drifts the sand and conceals for a day or
two the entire mass of shingle. It is a provoking circumstance when it
occurs, but it seldom lasts long in its effects. The sudden re-appearance
of half a mile of solid beach, as if by magic, on a change of the wind,
has sometimes surprised me in spite of past experience.

In average weather, when a beach is not migrating, the rise and fall of
the pebbles in the same lines is very observable. The only change then
induced in a stratum of shingle is by the suck and draught of the sea.
This latter, however, is unceasing, as may readily be tested by bathers;
everything which you set your foot upon under the wave being in a gentle
rolling motion. It yields an amusing diversion in the water, to play the
pebbles about under one’s feet. The effect of it, however, is not so
quaint as that which I remember experiencing many years ago in Loch Long,
where are no pebbles, but plenty of mud. Here, wading out in the shallows
to arrive at swimming depth, I put one foot after the other on the backs
of some unsuspecting flounders lying on the sand, and laughed aloud at
the tickling sensation as they glided away from under me.

But all _motion_ is a source of interest and charm, especially while we
are on the sunny side of forty. I believe that this forms one feature of
delight in the capture of winged insects. Exquisite as is a good British
collection, the dry side of the science, whatever learned entomologists
may say, is not the most inviting, and would attract comparatively few
persons after a time.

In like manner, who would care for cover-shooting, if all were
sitting-shots? But the “runners” and “fliers” impart a zest.

Even here, my friends the seaside pebbles have a claim to please: for,
although inanimate, they are not altogether devoid of motion, as I think
I have shown.



CHAPTER V.

    CONCERNING CERTAIN PETRIFIED ZOOPHYTES, NOW GENERALLY SUPPOSED
    TO BE EXTINCT.


The petrifaction of an animal form or structure has always appeared to
me a most singular process in Nature. The change of such substances as
cellular tissue, or fish-bone, or cartilage, or a light, leathery skin,
into minerals such as silex and agate, seems at first like magic. Scott,
when describing the “foliaged tracery” in the east oriel of Melrose
Abbey, tells his reader:

    “Thou wouldst have thought some fairy’s hand
    ’Twixt poplars straight the osier wand
    In many a freakish knot had twined,
    Then framed a spell when the work was done,
    And changed the willow wreaths to stone.”

But there is no magic in Nature; and when we meet with undoubted
phenomena, however strange they may appear, in any department of her
realm, we must behave ourselves like matter-of-fact persons and set
about accounting for them logically. In a genuine petrifaction there
are two ways of doing this, or, in other words, there are two different
modes in which Nature may have acted so as to produce the result which
we are considering. One of these is that of a simple _substitution_; the
particles of one substance being gradually removed, and those of another
taking their place. This must have been the process which obtained in
many well-known instances: as, for example, when the thin, leathery shell
or husk of an echinus is found perfectly rendered, both as to its general
outline and minute markings, in solid flint or limestone. We feel quite
sure that the original husk has perished; but here is its second self.

The other mode is that of actual _transmutation_, wherein no part
of the original substance is destroyed or removed, but its physical
conditions undergo a total change, by means of either infiltration,
or crystallization, or perhaps both of them combined. This process
has obtained in such cases as a petrified shark’s tooth, or a fossil
trilobite from the Wenlock.

The tooth, which was once bone, is now a kind of metallic stone: the
trilobite once, as we suppose, shell and cartilage, is now a something
between limestone and cast-iron. And this change is very wonderful; but,
as was said above, there is no magic in it, no more than in the hardening
of an infant’s skull, or the solidifying of the arm and leg-bones by the
absorption of phosphate of lime. Besides, the stone and metal now present
are still something different from what we ordinarily mean by those
terms: the petrified tooth is not like a flint-stone, neither could you
cut horse-shoe nails out of the trilobite.

In fact, every _real_ process has a character of its own: a something
which distinguishes it from any other, despite of general resemblances up
to a certain point.

Petrifaction, then, being assumed, as an operation which has really taken
place after one way or another, it falls next to be considered, what
was the original nature of these fossils? I mean the objects which we
find thus preserved in our seaside pebbles. What was the department in
Creation to which they belonged? Was it _animal_ or _vegetable_ before it
thus became altogether _mineral_?

For myself, I will at once say that I have no doubt it was animal; but
not an animal of a very high order. The specimens which I now possess,
and which are all of them chosen, some of them _rare_, I should assign
to such creatures as the “zoophytes” or “polyps,” both radiated and
globular. And I know of nothing, among many hundreds of specimens
gathered from a dozen different beaches, which presents the evidence of
having belonged to vegetable organization, with the exception of sundry
varieties of petrified wood, which speak for themselves, and could not be
mistaken by anybody.

I will now state two or three reasons, which to my own mind are
conclusive, for the above decision.

In the first place, then, the structures here perpetuated in stone are
of great delicacy, and they have been immersed in ancient seas, as is
testified by the localities in which they are obtained. Now vegetable
structure as fine as this, if immersed long enough for any such change
to come in question, must have utterly perished by maceration, and then
the petrifaction could not have taken place. I know that part of the
stem (and I think fruit) of one species of “conifer” has been found in
the Isle of Wight in the condition of a fossil; but this belonged to a
hardy class of plants, and the lobes or plates which composed its bark
and husk are themselves highly siliceous, to say nothing of the presence
of iron in the rind of most of these stems. So that the process would be
a long one, and the fibrous material of the tree would stand it well. But
in these pebbles some of the threads or tubes run from the size of small
twine to that of the rays in a spider’s web; and no vegetable substance
with which I am acquainted, excepting the filaments of “asbestos” (which
is a vegetating _mineral_) in rock-crystal, could abide and retain its
form, so as to allow of the changes by infiltration or otherwise which
have passed upon the original structure.

If it be said in reply to this, that we have the exquisitely delicate
“dendritic” markings, as of leaves and filaments of shrubs or sea-weed,
in the heart of the white chalcedony “mocha-stones” from the East, the
answer is evident: these are not _really_ vegetable traces, but only
_resemble_ such in their configuration and colours. They are simply
shoots and ramifications of a metal,—as iron or manganese. Those in the
“weed-agate” of India, which exactly resemble sprays of fine sea-weed,
are produced by “delessite.”

Indeed, it is both diverting and instructive to observe how Nature
permits, and even seems to abound in, curious coincidences and striking
resemblances between things of entirely diverse character. The dried
polyp, called “encrinoid echinoderm,” bears a wonderful likeness to one
species of Indian corn. (See the plate at p. 137 of Mr. Rymer Jones’s
beautiful work on “The Animal Kingdom.”) And the other day, when I was
enjoying a leisure hour in the British Museum, I suddenly remarked that
the “carapace” (back-shell) of the splendid fossil specimen of the
“Holoptychius nobilissimus” in one of the cases might serve for a sketch
of the back of a _capercailzie_, where the grey and purple feathers
overlap one another. Yet here is no _real_ connection whatever. Only Dame
Nature had gone to play.

_Secondly._ The preservation of these “polyp” forms, in the manner in
which they _have_ been preserved, seems to me to be due to a feature
or circumstance which is strictly animal and not vegetable. I refer to
the fact of the creature, while it was alive, _inhabiting a house_, a
house built by himself, or emanating from his own substance. For, just
as we could know but little of the existence or habits of “shell-fish,”
were it not for their _shells_, so I think we may assume that the
_choanite_ must, when alive, have dwelt in a tough, horny “coperculum,”
answering to the shape of his body and the number of his “polyps” (if
he was a _compound_ creature), because otherwise he would have been
like a jelly-fish or naked slug, and his “polypary” could not have been
preserved in a stony fossil. Of course, whatever was merely flesh,
or adipose matter, has long since perished; but the _house_ or shell
in which it whilome dwelt remains. Thus, the “echinus” built himself
a _dome_, such a residence as a _hedgehog_ would require to live
comfortably in, and through the various orifices of which his spines
could be protruded at pleasure. The “ammonite,” being shaped like a
_snake_, preferred living in a shell of that form, where the creature
when coiled up was safe. The “alcyonite” had a more exquisite taste in
house-building, answering, we may be sure, to the complex and beautiful
structure with which the great Creator had endowed him. His home was a
palace, containing long galleries and secret doors and wheel-windows; and
here some of the delicate tubes are fringed at their extremities like the
petals of a flower.

The antiquity of these formations may be very great, we can scarcely
tell how far removed from our own era. For, while the zoophyte itself is
of a perishable nature, we are acquainted with no substance more durable
(if we except the gems) than that calcareous matter of which these tubes
and plates were formed, when once it has been subjected to processes of
infiltration by crystallizing mineral and metallic oxides.

Now, I think this argument a very strong one; in fact, although simple,
almost unanswerable. For no _plant_ dwells thus in a house. We have the
plant itself, but nothing more; and if this be not capable, and I hold it
to be incapable, of sustaining the most vehement mineralizing process in
the crucible of Nature, its history must be a brief one, and excepting in
the dark “lithographs” of the coal-measures, its memory must pass away. I
have already allowed an exceptionable case in favour of the _conifers_,
which, be it observed, nowise resemble anything portrayed in siliceous
pebbles, and it is remarkable how much this class of plants predominates
in the COAL.

I have always been suspicious of what are called “vegetable
petrifactions.” I examined those at Tivoli, near Rome, in the year 1845,
and I made up my mind that they are simple _incrustations_. In like
manner, many of the buildings at Pæstum are constructed with a kind
of “travertine” taken from the bed of a neighbouring river, and which
rapidly incrusts any solid objects submitted to the action of its waters.
But the truth is, the vegetable pipe or “straw” remains for a while,
owing to the silex which entered into its composition while the plant
was growing. After some years the _straw_ decays, and there is a hole or
depression in that part of the pillar or pediment. On the other hand, a
calcareous “menstruum,” imbibing silex and iron, hardens into a substance
which, like the best mortar or cement used in building, will sometimes
outlast even the blocks of limestone or oolite which it was put to bind
together.

_Thirdly._ Animal organization, such even as these polyps possessed,
renders the phenomena much more intelligible. Our best authorities in
such matters tell us that “_insects_ have neither lungs nor branchiæ;
but in them the air passes into _a system of tubes_, whose structure
resembles that of an elastic webbing.” And again, “The _annelids_
possess an _uninterrupted circulation_.” And again, “In the ‘Nymphon’
and ‘Pycnogonum’ molluscs, which are crustaceans having considerable
resemblance to certain of our field spiders, the intestine _penetrates to
the very extremities_ of the feet and claws.”—_Animal Kingdom._ Now here
are cited some of the very desiderata which I should have named, had I
been asked what conditions were needed _à priori_ for such petrifactions
to occur. I will only add, under this head, that a fine _annelid_ occurs
in the blue agate off Eastbourne; that a “myriapod,” which is among the
chromo plates of this volume, has all the characteristics of _insect_
life and motion; and that a _spider_ is the nearest thing I know of, in
some respects, to what the “choanite” must have been when that mollusc
condensed himself from a cylinder to a sphere. Perhaps, however, the
strongest clause in this part of the argument may be drawn from the
“sponges.” Here the creature itself, wonderful to relate, is a _viscous
fluid_, and the intricate mansion which he inhabits is a globose,
horny skeleton, perforated with endless small tubes opening into wider
galleries. There was, however, in the perfect animal, I am assured, one
main central cavity, which gave strength and unity to the entire fabric
by the plan of its walls, and, perhaps, by a main valve. Throughout the
whole of this hydraulic system the sea-water, on the circulation of which
the zoophyte depended for life and health, could be pumped to and fro
at pleasure. And, evidently, when the “habitat” of such a creature was
suddenly invaded by a siliceous crystalline solution, extinction of the
animal and a petrifying investment of his abode would be simultaneous.

_Lastly._ If the objects here petrified had been vegetable in their
extraction, should we not, with the aid of the microscope, be able to
identify them? But this I have never yet succeeded in doing; yet all
the petrified “woods” are well known. I have myself obtained slabs of
the “acacia” from the coast of South Devon; of the “beech,” in Sussex;
of coniferous wood almost everywhere. And, what is more to the purpose,
though the petrifaction in such cases is deep and perfect, no one looking
upon it could doubt for a moment that the original structure had been
that of wood from a forest-tree. Agatized as it is, and penetrated here
and there by metallic colours, and shot with rays of jasper, the lines in
its fabric reveal _the texture of wood_.

I may mention here, that every one who walks our beaches, with a view to
the collection of fossil specimens, will do well to carry in his or her
pocket a good lens, of large external diameter; mine measures about two
inches across, and I may truly say it has saved me a world of trouble,
besides affording me much satisfaction at odd moments in the scrutiny of
pebbles of different kinds and textures.

Before closing this chapter I may be permitted to draw the reader’s
attention to a theory held by the late Dr. Mantell. I cannot, at this
moment, lay my hand upon the volume in which it occurs, but I am pretty
sure it will be found in his “Geology of the Isle of Wight:” a book
which, for elegance of composition, and sound information, can hardly
be too much commended; though a resident lapidary in Sandown _did_ once
say to me, while thumbing the pages of a well-worn copy, “Ah, sir!
if the Doctor had come _here_ and stayed a week instead of listening
only to what those fellows told him in Ryde, I could have shown him
something which he doesn’t seem to know, as to how the bit of coast runs
hereabouts.” Dr. Mantell’s idea was this: he held that when a mollusc
was subjected to the first stage in the petrifying process, there was,
in the dying of the creature, some effusion of blood (or _quasi_-blood),
and that this, being the very pith and strength of the animal’s system,
would, in many cases, tinge the future stone indelibly. He carried this
notion so far as to assign some dark blotches, apparent in the masonry of
a wall, to such a source as being their most probable cause; and he gave
to the thing itself the graphic title of _Molluskite_. In this view I
will only add that I am inclined to agree with him; and in my “myriapod,”
already referred to, there is a blood-red spot which pierces through the
stone, appearing on both sides, and which I at first supposed to be a
piece of “shell-lac,” but I now rather regard it as the trace left of
himself by some marauding “pholas,” who, after drilling a hole through
the solid pebble, found his own grave there.



CHAPTER VI.

    ON THE LITORAL LABOURS OF THE OCEAN, AND ON SEASIDE SPORTS.


The more I consider the various phenomena occurring from time to time
on the dry land, and the more opportunity I have of observing for
myself simple facts in geology, the more I am struck at once with the
truthfulness and the _unexpectedness_—if I may use such a word—of the
assertion which Moses makes in the 1st chapter of Genesis, that the
appearance of the “dry land” was due to “the gathering together of the
waters unto one place.”

The assertion has an unexpected (_à priori_) character; for continents
and tracts of dry land do not, on the face of them, suggest the idea of
any recent presence of incumbent masses of salt water—perhaps miles in
depth. But it is eminently truthful, for it is a key to many an abstruse
problem in Nature, and a confirmation of every sound and enlarged view of
the past history of this globe.

The ocean has been busily at work—in old times, inland; in later times,
coastwise; in all times subterraneously. This last point is proved by
the volcanoes, and that in a twofold argument. Such volcanoes as are
now extinct, are so because they have lost all communication with the
sea; such of them as are active, are so because they draw supplies of
salt-water from the nearest part of the ocean, and this they can only do
subterraneously.

But in speaking of the labours of the ocean, I shall confine myself to
the seashore, as the scope of this little volume does not go beyond
that region. The point where sea and land meet is the critical point
for all observers of Nature. Here the disciple of geology should serve
his apprenticeship, and if he cannot accumulate facts, and glean a kind
of inspiration here, he cannot do so anywhere. Moreover here, better,
we think, than in any inland scenery, Man can muse and meditate. That
ever-varying curved line of moisture on the shore depicts the fluctuating
changes which momentarily visit his “little day;” the tide running in
is the flood of his early life; the tide running out is the ebb of his
declining years; the vast sweep of the coast, backed by the upland
ranges and everlasting hills, and itself only lost to sight in the far
horizon, tells of a steadfast future, an immutable eternity.

Above all, those who desire to note epochs in the flight of Time, and
to set up way-marks in the Earth’s chronology, must study the line of
the sea-coast, the ancient and the modern, for here, if anywhere, the
dial-plate is uncovered, and the shadow of the gnomon may be traced
through some seconds of the enormous day which has witnessed the
existence of the heavens and the earth.

I have already, in my opening chapter, remarked how the sea brings down,
in the course of ages, many a pebbly beach from cliff and causeway. But
I am far from assuming, therefore, that _all_ the pebbles of a beach
come from the land. The usual bottom of the sea is, indeed, no pebbly
shore; but there are many submerged rocks of sandstone and oolite, out of
whose ribs and crevices, from time to time, fossils may be washed, just
as our own chalk-cliffs, the main resort of the siliceous pebbles, were
themselves laid down in deep seas. And the salt water, which is always
acting gradually to dissolve certain rocks, when it removes portions
of these from the edges and promontories, will occasionally bring their
contents to shore. But these results, although interesting to those who
maybe searching after pebbles (and a deep-sea pebble is a prize), were
not what I pointed at when I spoke of the labours of the ocean.

I have frequently walked the shore, and observed the colour of the waves,
after what is termed a “ground swell,” which had lasted, perhaps, for
thirty or forty hours. The cerulean hue is then gone, and to it has
succeeded, in certain localities, an opaque chalky tinge, showing that
the water is now heavily charged with lime. Also fragments of shells
rolled together are united with heavy masses of sand, and sometimes of
broken pumice-stone, and a kind of rough marl is rapidly formed, and
left on the beach. After a gale, and succeeding “swell,” I have met with
these imperfect boulders, varying in size from that of a man’s fist to
some larger than his head. At the same time, any low ranges of littoral
rocks become crusted over with the superabundant lime, being more than
the waves will long hold in solution; and a coating is thus given to such
rocks which is sometimes as hard as is the native limestone itself, a
few weeks’ exposure to the sun and air sufficing to effect this.

Some fourteen years ago, I had an opportunity, when in Sicily, of
examining a portion of the coast between Messina and Catania, and I
regret that I did not avail myself of it more heartily. But I have
seen M. Quatrefage’s book on this subject, and his observations, most
carefully and laboriously conducted, may almost be said to close
that part of the subject, as far as any prospect of eliciting fresh
information is concerned. I think he measured some of the long reefs,
and the evident increase _by incrustation_ extended for many miles of
the coast-line, and was of considerable thickness. I have observed the
same “masonic” phenomenon off the coast of St. Andrews, in Fifeshire,
when swimming out among the weedy rocks, and afterwards climbing to the
shore. I then thought it was the work of marine insects, as I had heard
of molluscs building causeways of tubes of limestone, but I incline now
to think it was the sea doing it, as they say, at _first-hand_. The sea,
however, does a great deal in the same line at second-hand, by means,
chiefly, of two species of zoanthoid polyps. Of these little creatures,
one kind constructs the bases of coral islands, and another the summits
(at the least) of the madrepore reefs. It is impossible to doubt that by
labours so patiently carried on, and so widely diffused, some beneficent
purpose is aimed at and attained by Providence. Perhaps they operate,
finally, to warn the shipping of adventurous merchants from entering
certain dangerous bays and straits; and if the humble madrepore has got
a bad name through this, as though he had made the danger, he certainly
suffers unjustly, for what real difference, as to ultimate and assured
safety, can a few inches more of water in such places make? Far better
to raise an impassable bar across the way at once, and proclaim, “no
thoroughfare!”

Then the ocean supplies a great market, much the greatest in the world. I
do not know the proportion of persons in Central Europe who live on fish
to those who live on meat, but I think, in both Northern and Southern
Europe, the former exceed the latter. In Connemara, on the western coast
of Ireland, and in the Scotch highlands of Argyle and Inverness, fish is
decidedly the staple article of diet, as far as animal food is concerned.
I believe the same is true of Cornwall and part of Devon. The herring,
the pilchard, the haddock, the cod, and the salmon—to say nothing of the
sole and other flat-fish—feed millions of persons, and, with the help of
oatmeal, barley-cakes, and (in a good year) potatoes, feed them well.
Shell-fish are also no mean item, and are sometimes the most refreshing
of all dishes, especially at the supper-table. Now the sea, it must
be remembered, does all this for man without harrowing, ploughing, or
sowing. The fisherman’s net may be said to _reap_, that is all.

Again, if jewels be of any real value, what is the value (among such)
of a collar of faultless pearls? what is there among minerals, so pure,
so exquisitely beautiful, whether we regard their tint or their form?
These are the spontaneous production of a humble shell-fish; some say, an
offering from the creature when he has been wounded. If so, men may here
learn a lesson in kind, and return good for evil to those who persecute
them.

Again, the ocean is _our_ defence: long may it prove so!

    “Britannia needs no bulwark,
    No towers along the steep,
    Her march is o’er the mountain wave,
    Her home is on the deep.”

No doubt, since man is a creature who _lives_ upon the dry land, the
land is on the whole the most valuable; but what would the land be
without the sea? Nay, to go no further, how could we exist in summer and
autumn, if deprived of the sea-breezes? For myself, though naturally fond
of field-sports, and delighting in botanical and entomological pursuits,
I know of no treat equal to that of a seaside ramble in the month, say,
of September or October.

Now let us consider how very little mischief the ocean does us. Much
fewer people die of what are called “casualties” by sea, than of those by
land. The truth is, we always hear of such as are lost at sea, because
of the loss of _the ship_, which involves a question of insurance-money;
but of deaths inland, especially in far countries, and if belonging to
strange peoples or savage tribes, we perchance scarce hear at all. YEH,
the Chinese Commissioner, killed, it was said, 70,000 persons in the
course of his brief career, for _political_ reasons. How long would it
take for 70,000 persons to perish by storms or accidents at sea, in the
usual course of things, in one small part of the globe?

A wreck, it must be allowed, is a terrible thing; but so is a house on
fire, or a flood up the country.

The sea, moreover, labours to help the land in other ways, some of them
singular enough. Many thousands of poor unproductive acres have, in these
last ten years, been rendered rich and fertile by supplies of GUANO. And
whence did we get the guano? why, from the _sea-fowl_, and from a barren
rock in the bosom of the seas! This is no trifling benefit to reap from
the “desert sea.”

What a beautiful thing is _glass_, and how indispensable it has become to
us! Perhaps no other material can be insured to be _perfectly_ clean and
pure for drinking out of. For many years our glass-works depended mainly
upon a constant supply of _kelp_ from the Orkneys, and even now they
cannot dispense with the sea-sand.

The porcelain mills in Staffordshire and elsewhere are very glad to
obtain a cartload of pebbles from the beach. These go to the “crushing”
department; and if among them there are, as there are pretty sure to
be, a dozen lumps of chalcedony, the material of the next batch of
teacups will be unusually fine, provided some one who understands them
_picks_ the stones first. Indeed, if I had no preferable occupation in
this world, I have often thought I would collect the rough agates and
chalcedonies from sundry localities I wot of, and fabricate a _biscuit_
of my own, as the king of Saxony does at Meissen. But though I have not
the leisure for this, others may have; and so I mention it here.

Especially I incline to think that a splendid kind of “Wedgewood” ware
would result from the crushing of certain jaspers, for I suppose their
colours would not fade in the furnace.

Then, the seaside visit, I must not omit to mention, can be enlivened
by sundry local pursuits and amusements. Besides the pleasures of a
sailing-boat, and a run with the “dredge” and the “dipping-net,” there
is the exciting march of the Shrimper, knee-deep in the wave, pushing
the hoop-net before him, and every now and then halting to fill his
front pocket with the silvery jumpers. If there are rocks near at hand,
there will be _lobster-pots_ to visit; and the habits and deportment of
a live lobster are among the most curious in creation. In agility and
cunning he surpasses even a salmon. Also, for the benefit of those who at
all regard what they eat—and he who disregards it is a goose—I may just
venture to hint that a _real_ lobster-salad (London confectioners have a
way of selling _sham_ ones,) is a dish worthy their serious attention:
Barclay’s stout being not a bad accompaniment.

But the above will sound to some persons too “Epicurean.” O gentle
reader, do you love moonlight? and if you have ever admired the
reflection of that planet in a lake or river, what will you say to it
when you contemplate it in Sandown Bay? Culver on one side, looking
as if it were of green glass, and the cliffs of Shanklin on the other
resembling walls and pillars of porphyry! Or is your taste for the
sterner beauty of storms and angry seas? Then visit Blackgang Chine
late in winter, and you may “sup full of horrors.” The appearance of
the waves below, as they come in over that fatal “race,” and the aspect
of the earth and the heavens above, when the lightning darts from “St.
Catherine’s head” and sweeps like a destroying Angel down the chasm of
the Chine, yield together perhaps the grandest picture of desolation and
terror that English scenery ever shows.

There are persons still living who are unwilling _to speak_ of the
fearful tempest they witnessed on that coast when the Clarendon was lost.

Lastly, to return to our “pebbles,” the sea is an indefatigable agent in
the partly mechanical, partly chemical, work of infiltration; a process
to which both the fine texture and varied colours of these agatized
fossils are mainly due.

But of this I must treat in the chapter which follows.

Enough, for the present, of the ocean itself—of its labours and its
sports. But, as some readers love _a comparison_, and hold that every
theme grows dull without this, I will quote from the lips of a great
traveller, whom it was once my luck to meet, his opinion of the rival
claims of the Desert, to that admiration which we islanders lavish on
the heaving Ocean and the winding Shore. I cannot pretend to remember
his very words; but he was eloquent as the son of Laertes, and he
made me long to visit the East. He said that the Desert was “another
world,” more marvellous than this of our land and sea: it was a home
and a domain, like the former; yet was it waste and boundless as the
latter. I asked about the _sands_. “Vast, beyond computation.” “And the
material?” “Powdered quartz, all of it. Quartz mountains, crushed, and
pulverized, and sifted!” The reddish hue is from the peroxide of iron.
No particle of anything like organized matter has ever been detected in
its composition. The caravan-camels which drop and die daily on their hot
march, as they have done for centuries, leave their skeletons, after the
vulture’s inquest is over, to bleach upon the surface; and, in the course
of a season or two, these bones must turn to an impalpable powder: but
that does not mix with the sand, or phosphate of lime would at once be
found on analyzing it.

Then he spoke of the sunrise, and the glowing sunset; and of the
delicious hours of night; and of tent-life in the Desert; and of
wandering Arabs, who revere the grave and silent man; and of the charms
of an encampment in some green “oasis;” and then, strongest commendation
of all, he said, “I am going back, among the children of the Desert!”



CHAPTER VII.

    CONCERNING CERTAIN NATURAL PHENOMENA.—ORIGIN OF THE
    DIAMOND.—FORMATION AND COLOURING OF GEMS.—INFILTRATION
    OF PEBBLES.—CAUSE OF TRANSPARENCY.—INTEGRITY OF THE
    FOSSIL-NODULES.—THEORY OF THE SHATTERED FLINTS.—CONCLUDING
    OBSERVATIONS.


The charm which wins and rivets our attention in such pursuits as those
of Geology or Mineralogy, is not that the phenomena which we meet with
are capable of being classified, and of forming a scientific system.
All this is, no doubt, one day instructive and interesting; but it was
an afterthought, the result of experiment. The first charm lay in that
silent mystery which broods over every part of creation, a veil as yet
unpenetrated by Science: it lay in our instinctive consciousness that
Nature, in what are, perhaps, her simplest movements, still transcends
all the master-pieces of Art.

Take, for instance, the crystalline gems. These are the most remarkable
substances with which we are acquainted; they are also among the most
simple. Chemically speaking, the metals and gases may claim to be
regarded as simpler bodies; but then it must be remembered that we do not
meet with them in nature thus unmixed. Gases vary, both in volume and
character, every instant; and ordinary metallic ores are penetrated and
disguised by foreign matter; whereas faultless crystals, once perfected,
appear to be unalterable.

Some of these, as the DIAMOND, would almost seem to be an elementary
substance; and yet this can hardly be the actual case. The philosophical
account of a crystal, as “some substance, all the particles of which,
being free to move, have been operated upon in the way of a chemical,
perhaps an electrical change,” certainly makes against it; for, according
to this definition, such “substance” is a first desideratum, without
which we cannot have the “crystal.” Thus, oxygen and hydrogen, blended
together in certain definite proportions, yield the fluid substance,
WATER; and the “crystal” of water is ICE. In like manner, common white
carbonate of lime, and the fluor spars, whose ingredients we know, are
in daily process of formation.

The philosophical idea, so accurately expressed in the above definition,
is, doubtless, correct, if once we assume a past history for some
substance, and take the crystal before us as its result. But, whether all
bodies which we now meet with under the form of crystals _have, in point
of fact, had such a history_, is quite another question.

The diamond is universally held to be pure CARBON crystallized. Its high
refraction indicated this to Newton long ago; and the proof has since
been given twofold: for the diamond scales off and evaporates under
intense heat, and its dust has _carbonized_ iron-filings, turning them
into steel.

Further, this carbon is supposed to be of vegetable origin; and, if so,
it would seem to follow that there must have been plants, and perhaps
coal-strata, before there could be any diamonds.

But _what was the process_ actually carried out in nature? No one has
hitherto succeeded in obtaining this gem, answering to the conditions of
a “brilliant” in water, lustre, and weight, by any attempted method,
from the base of carbon. The French chemists have now, for some years
past, been experimenting upon _boron_, by means of the voltaic battery;
and they have, it seems, taken out of the crucible sundry small, pale
crystals, which are found to be nearly as hard as adamantine spar (a
variety of _corundum_); but they cannot show, as the fruit of their
labours, a diamond weighing one carat, and worth, according to the
tariff, eight pounds sterling in the market of Europe. Indeed, if this
boron be a mineral intermediate between carbon and silex, their gems will
assuredly partake of the character of rock-crystal, a stone which has no
affinity with the diamond whatever.

The process of Nature, therefore, being unknown, if indeed it ever took
place, the question fairly arises—whether diamond be a derived crystal,
or itself an original type of created matter. Or it might be put thus:
“If diamond be the purest form of carbon known, what is carbon then but
diamond debased?”

Neither does this exhaust the argument. The ruby owns a matrix: the pearl
grows in the mother-of-pearl. What is the nature of the diamond-rock? Is
it a dark conglomerate? or is it diaphanous?

We know how diamonds are obtained: how they are picked out of the
crevices of certain rocks, and washed out of the sands of certain
rivers—in the Carnatic, and Brazil, and Borneo; but we do not seem to be
much nearer to the history of their parentage.

Again, _what is_ their “crust” or coating with which they are always
found enveloped? Is it an integral part of the stone, or is it
adventitious? In the best diamonds this crust is of a greenish hue.

Some say that while the gem itself has _positive_ electricity, its crust
shows _negative_. If this be so, the last question is answered—the crust
in that case cannot be an integral part of the stone. The only absolute
reason I know of for concluding the diamond to be a _derived_ substance
is, that it is laminar. The Eastern lapidaries, as it is well known, will
sometimes _divide_ a stone by striking it a sharp blow in the cleavage.

After all, the most extraordinary property of the diamond, as pure
carbon, is its weight. It is fifty times the weight of refined charcoal.
How was the element of carbon condensed and inspissated thus? Was it by
the action of LIGHT? This is the vegetable analogy; as we see in the
case of all growing plants: did it hold here?

       *       *       *       *       *

If we were to inquire how oriental sapphires, including the ruby, the
blue sapphire, the emerald, and the amethyst, are formed from CLAY, that
clay which exists in the granite rocks, the difficulty would be nearly as
great. We do not know at all.

But there is some satisfaction in having undoubted proof of the nature of
their “base.” And the obvious evidence upon this point is very simple,
and prior to that of chemical analysis. My own attention was first
drawn to it many years ago, in a casual remark made by a friend. We
were handling some crystals of the _white_ sapphire, a stone of little
value. “These look very like glass,” said I. “Yes, but you may always
tell them from glass by their _coldness_. Touch one with your tongue.”
Then followed the inquiry. “And why is it so much colder than glass is?”
“Because the ‘base’ of the sapphire is CLAY, and clay is a very cold
substance.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Let us now pass on to consider the question of COLOUR. In the existing
varieties of gems, we have all the colours of the _spectrum_ perpetuated
and vivid.

What is the source of these colours? And how are they blended with the
solid crystal?

There seems to be no reason for doubting that the immediate source or
cause of colour is the presence of some oxidized metal. All the colours
which Nature has impressed appear, as far as we can trace them, to be
due to such a presence. Opaline tints, and those of the “cat’s eye,”
are an exception; being the perceptible result of a peculiar texture
and configuration; so also are the iridescent hues on a _soap-bubble_,
which are probably caused by polarized light. But it is _a metal_ which
makes the bark of certain trees and shrubs to glisten; aided, in the case
of the birch and wheat-stubble, by particles of silex. It is a metal,
absorbed from juices of the soil, which gives their tints to flowers, and
their deep tinge to fruits. It is a metal which dyes the plumes of the
king-fisher; and the gleaming scales of the dragon-fly and diamond-beetle
owe their brilliancy to metallic lustre. Why should this all-pervading
law vary in the crystals?

We know that metals proper affect crystalline forms, assuming them
spontaneously; and we know that the gems have come in contact with
metals. _Iron_, whose rust is of a reddish hue, enters into many of them;
and in the _red_ stones it is said to be abundant.

Probably, the finer permanent tints are due to _gold_, in infinitesimal
proportions. Professor Faraday has said that the ruby-tinted glass
called “Bohemian” derives its colour from gold in a pure form, finely
attenuated, and not from any chemical combination of that substance.

A white diamond has far more lustre than one which is yellow or
violet-tinted. But in all the sapphires, the deeper the hue, the more
brilliant and valuable the stone. Hence the technical term for the
colour of a diamond is its _water_. In all these gems the hues (whatever
their origin) are homogeneously united with the crystal; and the _modus
operandi_ of Nature is a profound secret.

       *       *       *       *       *

When we descend in the mineralogical scale, and come to such stones as
agates and jaspers, the process which has been followed seems quite
capable of being traced—for its antiquity is not so great. The colours
which we now find in pebbles more or less opaque, though occasionally
lively, exist under very different conditions from those by which they
reside in the crystalline gems. It is necessary, however, to consider
first, the origin and nature of _pebbles_ as distinguished from casual
fragments of stone.

This was long held to be one of Nature’s riddles; but as soon as it was
experimentally dealt with, it met with a solution in some of its most
difficult points.

It was early decided that pebbles are _distinct formations_, complete
in themselves, except in so far as they have been worn away by gradual
attrition. The first difficulty was, how to account for the great
hardness of many of our seaside specimens. Although for the most part
inclosing an “organism,” which must have been that of some zoophyte,
they show no traces, in their present compact texture, of the soft and
yielding consistency they must at that time have possessed. The matrix
in which they lie, and from which they drop as the ripe nuts fall from a
hazel-bush, is seldom or never of so hard a substance as are the pebbles
themselves; in many cases the difference is as great as between the teeth
and gums of a living mammal.

But the evidence of the inclosed organism is conclusive as to a past
history; and in all mixed pebbles—and ninety-nine out of a hundred of
ours are mixed—it is quite certain that an _impregnation_, or an actual
_infiltration_, has taken place.

Either a fluid menstruum, usually siliceous, must have enveloped and
saturated the animal form, or there was actual injection of chalcedony
and limestone, in a soft state, into the tubes and cells of the skeleton
first, and afterwards into the pores and crevices of the new stone.
Frequently both processes have obtained. The only alternative, viz. that
which suggests that composite pebbles, revealing in their structure
distinct traces of animal or vegetable organization, _may have been_
formed thus at first, like the coloured prints in a book, I consider
to be untenable. One might as readily credit a spontaneous growth of
almond-cakes or oyster-patties by some sudden spasmodic effort of our
present sea and land.

Impregnation has, no doubt, been always going on.

A French _savant_, M. Reaumur, above a century ago, wrote as follows:—“By
a coarse operation emery is reduced to powder and suspended in water
for several days; but nature may go much further than this, for the
particles which water detaches from hard stones, by simple attrition,
are of an almost inconceivable degree of fineness. Water thus impregnated
contributes to the formation of pebbles by petrifying the stone, as it
were, a second time. Stones already formed, but having as yet a spongy
texture, acquire a flinty hardness by impregnation with this crystalline
fluid.”[3]

From such a source, as he supposes, has arisen the close texture of
Egyptian pebbles, coloured jaspers, and even agates. If he means to
include the _homogeneous_ agates, which are alike free from sparry
crystals, metallic scum, and all traces of organized matter, I do not
agree with him. But in the case of _mixed_ chalcedonic pebbles, among
which may be classed our pretty Isle of Wight specimens, no doubt such
impregnation took place, and was followed by a further process of
infiltration. For when the flint-nodules, _impregnated_ as above, were
still soft—soft enough we know they were to take delicate impressions of
the spines of the echinus—chalcedony, in a semi-fluid or viscous state,
would pass through the pores of the flint, because the former is the
finer substance of the two. And after such infiltration, the entire lump
would harden, resisting, for the most part, further change. And this
would be the pebble as we now find it.

In the “Geological Museum,” now open in Jermyn Street, there is a case
(on the first floor) where the nature of infiltration is well shown in
some jasper-agates. It will readily be seen here that each internal layer
has been formed in succession _from without_, the centre of the pebble
filling up last. In another case (labelled “Silica”), on the opposite
side of this room, are some “choanites” and “sponges” presented by the
author.

Those latter will be found worthy of ten minutes’ inspection, even as
seen through the plate of glass which serves to protect them. They are
selected, not as being the finest specimens in his cabinet, but as
illustrating, each of them, a particular animal, or a peculiar _position_
of one in the fossil state. They are, however, very good specimens,
much above the average; and if any one became missing, it could never
be exactly replaced, though you should search the world over. Nature
does not stamp the same “medal” _twice_. Any person who, after examining
these, likes to start a theory of his own to account for their forms
and colours, has my full permission to do so. But one word I would say
in friendly warning, seeing that theories do abound. The Chinese, that
ancient and wise people, have a theory that “asbestos” cloth may have
been manufactured “of the hair of certain rats that lived in the flames
of certain volcanoes.” It were monstrous to doubt it.

In my beach-rambles I have often picked up and examined globes of
sandstone which were partially chalcedonized, and that by evident
infiltration. The lapidaries call these “sand-agates,” and reject them
as unfit for the wheel; and so they are at present, but it would be
instructive to meet with some of them twenty years hence, after they had
undergone a more confirmed treatment at the hands of Dame Nature.

The well-known specimens of “petrified wood,” common on our coasts, and
occurring in some beautiful varieties of beech and acacia in the bays of
South Devon, are a further example of infiltration; but the process here
must have been somewhat different.

The presence of metallic particles, what lapidaries term the “moss,” in
many of our agates, argues an impregnating fluid, thoroughly charged with
mineral matter. In most cases this fluid was a ferruginous stream, such
as may often be seen issuing from some hidden reservoir, and trickling
down the face of a cliff of gault or greensand. This tinges everything
that lies in its path with an indelible red stain; it then oozes on
through the shingle, and reaches the verge of the sand. The nearest pool
becomes saturated between tides, and the suspended crystals of salt,
which are of a penetrating character (as the state of your beaching-boots
will soon inform you), enter into chemical combination with the metallic
rust, and help to conduct its particles into the heart of many a
limestone pebble.

Dark inland pebbles, on the other hand, will discharge much of the oxide
which they have imbibed, and may be observed to brighten and improve
their complexions after a few months’ sponging and tossing in the purer
sea-water.

Some of our handsomer pebbles, when cut in two, reveal blotches of metal,
which are glossy after polishing on the wheel. This metal is occasionally
native iron. The darker varieties of “moss” contain a good deal of
manganese, and some silver.

From what has been said about impregnation, we may readily conclude
that the _colours_ found in our agate-pebbles have been chemically
inwrought, and that the symmetrical _patterns_, over which these
colours are disposed, are not due to a succession of “layers,” as in
the ribbon-jaspers and Scotch pebbles, but must be referred to the
organization of some extinct zoophyte, whose skeleton is preserved in the
existing fossil.

The cause of translucency, or even _transparency_, in some pebbles is, no
doubt, to be sought in their finer and more even texture, but especially
in the latter quality. Sir Isaac Newton was of opinion that the opacity
of certain substances is simply a result of their cross-grained
composition. He held that in a transparent body the particles must be
regularly and evenly disposed at equal intervals, so that a ray of light
entering such a substance would pass steadily on, according to the known
laws of gravity and motion, meeting with no obstruction beyond that of
the homogeneous density of the medium which it had to traverse. Whereas,
in opaque bodies, he supposes these constituent particles to be unevenly
disposed, and that the ray which enters at the surface is, as it were,
pushed about and thrust aside, and at length lost to sight.

The purity of spring-water, when undisturbed, illustrates this beautiful
theory of the great philosopher; and, among solid substances, good
glass, especially plate-glass which, after fusing in the furnace, has
been carefully run and settled in the frames. It may also be simply shown
in the act of wetting or steeping certain dry substances. Thus, stout
writing-paper, owing to its cross texture, is opaque when dry; but if we
immerse a sheet of it in oil, and then hold it up to the light, we find
it has become transparent. For the smooth medium thus imbibed has entered
its pores, and _equalized_ the general texture.

We find also a striking argument for the probable truth of Newton’s
eagle-eyed conclusion in certain minerals which possess double refraction.

ICELAND SPAR, one of these, is perhaps the most perfectly transparent
solid with which we are acquainted. Now, Iceland Spar _transmits_ both
the rays, as we see in the twofold image which is presented to us. But
TOURMALINE is opaque, even the red specimens looking almost black; and
we find that Tourmaline _absorbs_ one of the two rays of polarized
light. This singular stone polarizes a beam of light if it enter in any
direction but that of the longer axis.

No solid with which we are acquainted is absolutely transparent. And
there is no perfect _reflector_ known. The best-polished surface
_absorbs nearly one-half_ of that quantity of light which strikes upon it.

As to our seaside pebbles, the most compact of them are even _visibly_
porous. Cut through the hardest jasper, and polish one face till it
shines like a steel mirror, and then hold it so as to reflect the light,
you will at once discern numerous minute specks or flaws on this surface,
as if the point of a needle or graving-tool had been busily at work upon
it. These specks have always been there. They are _air-holes_, and in the
case of a fossil-pebble were, some of them, doubtless, connected with the
position which the animal occupied just before he died. These air-holes
must have traversed this hard stone in every direction, for, cut the
pebble how you will, you meet with them. Others again, incomparably
more numerous, but which can scarcely be discerned without the aid of a
powerful microscope, are the true _pores_ belonging to this apparently
impenetrable substance.

I have found that the action of daylight tells even upon polished agates
after a time. Some of the spots and markings in the finest stones grow
fainter in the course of many years. Others appear to deepen. This is, no
doubt, a change resulting from the oxygen, contained in a beam of light,
acting readily upon carbon, silex, and other substances. And it furnishes
an independent argument for concluding that the visible beauty of these
formations, in perpetuating a coloured pattern, has been due rather to
mixed _chemical_ processes than to pure crystallography.

The fossil nodules, mostly siliceous, which we find upon a sea-beach, are
_integral_ specimens. It never but once happened to me to meet with what
appeared to be _two_ choanites in the same pebble, and I incline now to
believe that this was in fact _one_ choanite who had _divided_ himself
after the manner of the Luidia. But even supposing that here were,
indeed, a pair of perfect animals, when it is considered that this was
one single instance, occurring among more than a thousand picked up by
me, in which the choanites were always solitary, such an exception may be
almost said to prove the rule.

The late lamented Hugh Miller has stated the like fact concerning his
Morayshire and Cromarty icthyolites. At pp. 194, 195, of his “Cruise of
the Betsy,” he remarks that “the limestone nodules take very generally
the _form_ of the fish which they inclose; they are stone coffins
carefully moulded to express the outline of the corpses lying within.”
Then, after observing that the shape of the stone conforms to the
attitude of the fish in every instance, he goes on to state that “the
_size_ of the fish regulates that of the nodule. The coffin is generally
as good a fit in size as in form; and the bulk of the nodule bears almost
always a definite proportion to the amount of animal round which it had
formed.”

He then gives, in his usual clear and graphic language, the following
remarkable statement, the result of direct experiment.

“When a calcareous earth, mixed up with sand, clay, and other extraneous
matters, was deposited on some of the commoner molluscs of our shores,
it was universally found that the mass, incoherent everywhere else,
had acquired a solidity wherever it had been penetrated by the animal
matter of the molluscs. Each animal, in proportion to its size, was found
to retain, as in the fossiliferous spindles of the Old Red Sandstone,
its coherent nodule around it. Here the animal matter gave solidity to
the lime in contact with it. But in the _natural_ phenomenon of the
icthyolite beds, there was yet a further point, for in these the animal
matter must have possessed such _an affinity_ for the mineral, as to
form, in an argillaceous compound, a centre of attraction powerful
enough to draw together the lime diffused throughout the mass.”

Hugh Miller concludes the above passage by saying that “it still remains
for the geologic chemist to discover on what principle masses of animal
matter should form the attracting nuclei of limestone nodules.”

Upon which last remark, I would suggest that the principle of the “law
of definite proportions,” established by Dalton, and fully borne out
by all succeeding experiments in chemistry, appears to meet the case,
geologically as well as chemically, in every respect. For such a law must
of course obtain, whether the chemical ingredients be present in the
forms of mineral, vegetable, or animal life; in fact, we have never known
the law to vary. It holds for the compounded elements which we term AIR
and WATER; it holds for the crystals; it holds for vascular and cellular
tissues; why should it fail when the further instance of a mollusc or a
zoophyte is in question?

I see no reason to doubt that the blood, muscle, membrane, or adipose
matter of any animal have their due respective affinities for the
different substances of the mineral creation.

No doubt, however, electricity, as an active cause, bears directly upon
all such phenomena.

I remember many years since being greatly perplexed with the _discovery_
(as I then thought it) that in certain parts of the Isle of Wight, and
along the Dorsetshire coast, the rows of dark flints imbedded in the
upper chalk of the cliff-ranges were all _broken_; broken _small_, so
that if one were taken out of its chalk socket it crumbled in your hand.
Often and often, I turned this fact over in my mind, and sought some
apparent way to account for it. But I think I now see one way to account
for it; and which may perhaps be judged worthy of acceptance, until a
better solution is hit upon. In Dr. Hook’s experiment with that once
common household implement, the “flint and steel,” he found that the
_sparks_ which “fly” upon collision taking place are minute spherules of
metal. And further, that this metal was now not _steel_ any longer, but
iron; the fragments struck off _having lost their polarity_ in the moment
of contact with the flint.

This experiment shows that silex possesses some remarkable affinity for
the magnetic fluid, since in this case it had robbed the steel of it,
for those spherules would not answer to the magnet. May not, therefore,
the rows of flints in the cliff have attracted the lightning in severe
thunderstorms, and been shivered by the blow? This would not necessarily
hurl the chalk down.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Arabs have a proverb which says, “Under the lamp it is dark.”
Certainly, the chief mystery of every animated creature seems to reside
_in its life_, and _Life_ is like a burning lamp. Once the life extinct,
we can anatomize and analyze, and arrive at many partial conclusions;
but, meanwhile, the life has departed, and we do not know what that was.
The nearest thing to its likeness is _expression_; and animals rank high
in the scale of being, according as they command and impart expression.
A dog or horse have a great deal; a bird some; a reptile or insect,
absolutely none to our eyes.

With these latter, however, their _habits_, while alive, take the
place of any more intelligent expression; especially some of their
more excited movements. We know by the _sound_, when a snake is angry;
and as to motion, the attack of a provoked hornet is a startling thing
to witness. Ordinarily speaking, however, all their habits tend to
concealment; no doubt, for the sake of safety. I believe no one ever
sees the Sphynx-moth, called a “Death’s-head” (_Acherontia Atropos_), on
the wing. Yet we discern many others which, like it, fly in the hours of
dusk. But this insect whirls through the air like a stone from a sling.
It has never yet, in my experience as a naturalist, been my lot to meet
with the burrowing insect called an Ant-lion. Only twice in my life have
I encountered a slow-worm in the woods of Devon and the Isle of Wight.
And to instance the case of a far commoner creature, how seldom does it
happen to any one to take the large dragon-fly behind his green leaf!

       *       *       *       *       *

And yet the problems of inanimate matter are perhaps the most difficult
to solve. They have deeply exercised philosophers in every age of the
world.

“All things considered,” says Newton, “I think it probable that God,
in the beginning, formed matter in solid, hard, impenetrable, movable
particles; of such sizes and figures, and with such other properties
as most conduced to the end for which He formed them. And that these
primitive particles, being solids, are incomparably harder than any of
the sensible porous bodies compounded of them; even so hard as never to
wear, or break in pieces; no other power being able to divide what God
made one in the first Creation. While these corpuscles remain entire,
they may compose bodies of one and the same matter and texture in all
ages; but should they wear away or break in pieces, the nature of things
depending on them would be changed. Water and earth composed of old worn
particles and fragments of particles, would not be of the same nature
and texture now with water and earth composed of entire particles at the
beginning. And therefore, that Nature may be lasting, the changes of
corporeal things are to be placed only in the various separations and new
associations of these permanent corpuscles.”

So wrote the man, “Qui genus humanum ingenio superavit,” who at the age
of twenty-four had already invented the Fluxional Calculus, discovered
the Decomposition of Light, and enunciated and proved, in a series of
lemmas, the law of Universal Gravitation.

       *       *       *       *       *

But soft! What is this which steals upon our senses through bobbing
apple-blossoms at the open casement? It is the delicious, oystery smell
of the Sea, as the afternoon tide runs in with a sound like that of
fairy-bells upon the sand and rock and loose shingle.

That scent, and sight, and sound, are altogether irresistible. We throw
aside Dr. Buckland and Hugh Miller, clap on a “wide-awake,” rush down
at once by the zig-zag path, and madly catch up a bunch of dripping
tangle, and kick a hole in the moist sand, and presently find that our
“Balmorals” are ancle-deep in the brine of a nimble wave.

And now I descry a faint purplish hue upon the red beach which lies at
the foot of Culver. To-morrow, we will breakfast early, and hunt up a
score of pebbles before the day grows hot.

[3] “Mémoires de l’Académie des Sciences.” Anno, 1721.



CHAPTER VIII.

    PNEUMATICS AND HYDRAULICS.—POWER OF THE WIND.—POWER OF THE
    WAVES, AND VELOCITY ACQUIRED BY THE WATER.—OCCASIONAL HEIGHT
    OF TIDES.—TIDAL WAVE.—CURRENTS.—TIDAL PHENOMENA ON THE ISLE OF
    WIGHT.—VARIATIONS IN THE COAST-LINE.


The elemental powers which are constantly at work in Nature all around
us are upon a vast scale; a scale, in fact, which is immeasurable by
us, except when observed under certain favourable circumstances. As our
practical ideas of locomotion are immensely surpassed by the speed of the
Earth’s rotation on her axis, which is at the equator rather more than
1000 miles an hour, and yet far more surpassed by the rate at which she
moves in her orbit round the Sun, which exceeds 20,000 miles an hour, so
also our experience of a puff of wind on the hillside, or a dash of water
in our face, when a slanting shower or the spray from a cataract salutes
us, gives us no conception of the stupendous powers which are exerted
when the sea, convulsed by a storm, rages along some unprotected coast.

Once in my life, I remember being knocked down by a blast of wind; and
several times, as I suppose has happened to many persons, I have been
_floored_ by an unexpected billow while bathing. I always made this
reflection at the moment: “Its power is not known: it has floored _me_
easily enough, but perhaps it would have felled an ox.”

But a wave impelled by the gale, which could take an ox off his legs,
is nothing at all. What is the measure of force actually applied when a
stout ship is shivered on a lee shore? No one knows. When the Clarendon,
West-Indiaman, struck on that fatal “race” off Blackgang Chine, she went
utterly to pieces _within seven minutes_! Yet, what a delicate thing is
AIR! What a yielding thing is WATER! But then the air and water threw her
_on a lee shore_.

Observations, carefully made at the right time and place, enlighten
our ignorance upon all these matters. Air, delicate as it seems, when
compressed, explodes in the roar of the thunder; and water is almost
_in_compressible, and therefore its blow will knock down _anything_.

Let us speak first of the power of the WIND. The sands of the Desert, as
has been said, are powdered quartz and quartz is a heavy substance; but
when a strong wind ploughs the surface of the Desert at an angle, these
Sands are lifted, and made to gyrate in spiral folds, and a huge column
is formed—perhaps a hundred and fifty feet in height—and this monstrous
trunk is presently carried along at whirlwind speed; and if it meet a
party of travellers, they will be overwhelmed and buried.

It may be said that the sand is in very minute particles; and this is
true. But if they are, therefore, the more easy to disturb and to catch
up aloft, they are all the more difficult to bind together in a spiral
form, and to hurry along the desert unbroken.

The power of the wind, especially when it comes in sudden gusts, and with
a whirling motion, against timber-trees and the upper parts of buildings,
is only too well known; on wide, exposed plains, its fury, in the early
part of the year, sometimes brings destruction to everything within its
range. But it is on the open sea, where the hurricane, once let loose
from heaven, can sweep, unchecked, perhaps for hundreds of miles, that
the latent forces of this unseen element are revealed in all their terror
and majesty. For here the wind not only has free scope, but it also finds
another element, fluid but incompressible, to obey its impulse and follow
in the course which it takes. If the WIND be like a wild spirit, the
WATER is a mighty, irresistible body, endowed with motion by the other,
and capable of any work, from the drowning of a sea-gull to the wrecking
of a stately ship.

The waves which roll in from the open sea, when the tide is _making_, are
the most powerful. Fortunately, these do not reach the shore with quite
the same force which they exert at the distance of some miles from it;
but in exposed situations, their altitude and momentum are very great.
The billows of the Atlantic which break on the western coast of Ireland
run from thirty feet to fifty feet in height, and they arrive on that
coast with an impetus which has (up to a certain point) been gaining
strength, perhaps for half the time of a tide. It was this fearful onset,
from a foe that never slumbered, which broke up and rendered useless the
eastern extremity of the great Submarine Electric Telegraph Cable between
Ireland and America.

It has now been decided that when stormy winds prevail long in one
direction, another and peculiar force is given to the waves on which
they operate. For the wind, by pressing long _on the side_ of a wave,
changes its form from that of an upright ridge (_i.e._ with _vertical_
axis) to one which has a stoop or bend, sometimes of great inclination.
Such a wave will come in upon the shore with far greater momentum, for
its _velocity_ has been enormously increased, while its _bulk_ is nowise
diminished. The speed which the water acquires under the influence of a
prolonged sou’-wester on the coasts of Sussex and Hampshire, although
there the gale has only traversed the breadth of the Channel, is very
notable at times. At Lowestoft and at Peterhead, easterly points of land,
the danger of the winds from the North Sea is proportionally far greater,
as a larger body of water has been continuously acted upon. For it must
always be remembered that a wave at sea is simply an _oscillation_ of
the water which rises and falls in that place. The identical wave does
not pass on to the shore, though it appears to do so; it is the _motion_
which is propagated, and, as it were, handed on, like an electric shock
through the successive plates of a battery. Now this motion _increases_
with the onward career of the gale. “Vires acquirit eundo.” And when the
mass of the fluid over which the wind is blowing has once been agitated,
and the equilibrium of its upper layers been thoroughly disturbed, if the
current of air not only continue, but wax stronger and stronger, there
scarcely seems any limit to the momentum which the rolling wave may thus
acquire. The arithmetic of a few facts upon this subject will, however,
give us some idea of what that momentum must be on certain occasions.

It has been found, by experiment, that the velocity imparted to an
incoming wave sometimes equals _seventy feet in a second of time_. Now
this would give nearly one mile in a minute, if it were a projectile in
free space; but the case here is, of course, different, since the wave
is only a portion of the mass to which it belongs, and no individual
wave travels very far. Still, the amount of rush and pressure which are
exerted is altogether stupendous. Probably the _breakers_, which in an
enduring storm rise against a lighthouse in the open sea, are among the
strongest instances with which we are acquainted, and, next to these, I
suppose, the billows off the Cape of Good Hope. But we may take those on
the Irish coast, westward, as a well-known sample. I have often watched
these—once in a gale of wind—and I have seen, in one as yet _unbroken_
wave, a body of water which I should compute roughly at two hundred tons’
weight, and as having, at the moment, a velocity of not less than sixty
feet in the second, discharge itself upon the reef of rock. On such
occasions, if you happen to stand on the shore, you will feel the ground
_vibrate_ apparently, though the sensation is probably electrical. But
let any one consider the conditions of the wave cited above, and reckon
what is _the force of the blow_ at the moment of impact. I have no doubt
it would knock down a good strong house, if delivered against the upright
face of it.

One winter, when I was at Sandown, in the Isle of Wight, a spot
frequently mentioned in these pages, I found I was _utterly unable_
to traverse the bit of open road reaching from the Fort to the point
where the lane turns off to Yaverland. Yet I had on at the time a stout
Cording’s waterproof, with sleeves, and a slouched hat tied under my
chin, and held a powerful oaken stick in my hand to help me win my way.
In fact, it was a trial of dynamics between me and the gale, whether
this “body,” acted on by a continuous muscular force, in nearly a right
line, could be propelled through that resisting medium. I am sorry to
say, it could _not_; but, in the attempt, it lost a neck-button from its
coat, and was within an ace of being blown into the hedge, like a certain
“man in Thessaly, wondrous wise,” whom we have heard tell of in our
childhood.

This storm held on for seven or eight hours, and as the sea rose many
feet higher than usual under its influence, when the tide was well
in, the strife of elements, and their combined assault upon the works
of men’s hands were truly grand. A breach was made through the solid
causeway, compact long ago of clay, and gravel, and boulders of flint,
and guarded seaward by dykes of timber. This breach was effected, I have
no doubt, by the _stroke_ of the wave, as the sword of Roland is said
to have cut through the rock in the fight of Roncesvalles. A wall of
stout masonry, not above five feet in height, and supported behind by
earthworks, so as to resemble an escarpment, yielded before the weight
of water, as a pane of plate-glass would give way at the charge of a
locomotive engine. Some twenty yards’ length of it was rent and thrown
down. On examining this fragment afterwards, I found that the materials
of the wall were solid blocks and angular bits of Wenlock limestone, and
the cement used of the strongest. I believe, however, if it had been
three times as strong a barrier, those waves would have levelled it.

I subsequently witnessed in that very neighbourhood a yet more furious
tempest of wind, but had no opportunity of measuring its effects.

At Eastbourne, about two years age, I made acquaintance with a phenomenon
in this line which was altogether new to my experience. We had a
tremendous gale late in the autumn of 1857. I cannot exactly cite the
quarter from which the wind blew, as I do not accurately know the points
of the compass in their bearing on the town and bay; but the storm seemed
to beat in from the south-east, as it faced the Marine Esplanade. I went
forth, with perhaps a score of others, to gaze upon this magnificent
“encountering shock” of earth, air, and water. We were all of us drenched
to the skin by the dashing spray, and occasionally well-nigh swept off
our legs by the gust; but we held on stoutly, _till_ something saluted
those nearest the beach, which rendered a retreat imperative. This was
not the salt spray, nor the rattling hail neither, but a cloud of
“skirmishers” in the shape of _pebbles and gravel_ from the strand below.
The sea had actually lifted the surface of the bed of beach, and whirled
aloft some bushels of its solid contents. A coast-guard told me next day,
that he saw a “flight” of pebbles, some of them as big as hens’ eggs, at
least thirty feet high in the air; and he added, that if the direction
of the wind had changed a little, every pane of glass on the ground and
first-floor of the Esplanade must have been shivered to atoms. As it was,
of course much damage was done to windows and sashes; but not by the
actual pebbles.

After this gale had subsided, I ascertained by personal inspection that
some hundred tons’ weight of solid shingle had been moved along the shore
a distance of a quarter of a mile, in the space of a few hours. This was
by the sidelong _drag_ of the tide.

The village of Seaford, on this same line of coast, had long been in
great danger of being swept away by the tide. Its outworks and very
standing ground were perceptibly yielding, season after season.

About eight years ago, the inhabitants took the alarm, and drew up a
remonstrance and petition, which were duly forwarded to the authorities.
Proper officers were deputed to go down from London and report; and
the result of their representations was that an able engineer from
head-quarters was empowered “videre ne quid Respublica detrimenti
capiat;” or, in the modern vernacular, to see that the Queen’s lieges in
Seaford suffered no wrong.

The remedy hit upon was simple and forcible; but, assuredly, it was an
instance of what is called “Hobson’s choice.” The engineer said, “There
is only one thing to be done; a solid breakwater must be formed west
of the town, to break the rush of the sea and divert the course of the
current. We will throw down a section of the chalk-cliff; that will
make a mound, on which works of masonry, if necessary, can be erected
afterwards.”

This was done about two miles east of Newhaven, by firing an enormous
charge of gunpowder in chambers drilled in the limestone. I went over
from Brighton to witness it, and the sight was a striking one, as soon
as the smoke and dust consequent on the explosion had cleared away. The
operation, neatly conducted with an electric battery, proved successful;
and its result, in the amount of chalk thrown down on the beach, was
judged sufficient for the time.

But for this “pièce de resistance,” Seaford might by this be in a fair
way to furnish to future generations a gigantic specimen of a marine
fossil.

The danger to Seaford arose not from storms or any casual visitations,
but from the steady continuous action of the tide encroaching on the
line of coast where the town stands. Whether the chalky breakwater above
described will long suffice to counteract this elemental mischief may be
doubted. If after a while it should prove inadequate, the operation will
have to be repeated on a larger scale.

The height of the tides at sea is always known; and it varies little,
depending upon astronomical causes, chiefly on the attraction exercised
by the moon. But on shore, and inland in certain rivers, the case is
widely different. Here the land itself, with its rocks and embankments,
introduces artificial conditions which influence the local tides in an
extraordinary manner. Thus, at Chepstow, by the Castle rock, the rise
of a spring-tide is sometimes as much as _sixty feet perpendicular_. In
Mount’s Bay, Cornwall, it is fully _forty feet_; while in the north of
Scotland on the coast, it does not average more than _ten_.

The tides have other variations beside this of local magnitude; and one
of these, which takes place along our southern coast, is interesting and
important, but was little known till the Admiralty surveyors went to
work. It may be briefly described as follows.

As far as Scilly Isles and the Lizard’s Point, the great tidal wave,
which twice in every twenty-four hours flows in from the Atlantic,
maintains pretty nearly the same level on the opposite shores; and this
continues as far as Exmouth on the Devon coast, and St. Malo on that of
Brittany. But when this great wave reaches the “Needles” which form the
westerly point of the Isle of Wight, it divides into two very unequal
portions. Of these, the southern and larger portion sweeps round the
base of the island, passing Freshwater and Chale and Blackgang, and
then rounding St. Catherine’s promontory and running up to Dunnose with
scarcely-diminished velocity; but the northern and smaller half enters
the Solent, and owing, it is supposed, to the resistance of two shores
(by _friction_) to its progress, advances but slowly, and does not arrive
at Southampton Water before the other has made Dunnose and is filling
Sandown Bay with a _back_-stream. This causes many differences in the
amount of water at almost any given moment on the two sides of the Isle
of Wight, north and south; and it gives rise to many curious varieties
of tides, real or apparent. In one spot near Shanklin, my attention was
frequently drawn to the fact of a partial tide suddenly _flowing_, for
perhaps the space of an hour, during the time of ebb.

But this is not the only “water-company” here at work, nor is the above
the only class of phenomena resulting from such agency. Beside the
_tide-wave_ there is the Ocean-_current_, which is quite a distinct
thing. This current is due to a branch of the Gulf-stream; and it flows
here from west to east, and from south to north. That is to say, after
leaving Newfoundland, so much of it as actually reaches Britain would run
up St. George’s channel northwards, and up the English channel eastwards.
And although the velocity of this current is but trifling, yet, owing
to its unceasing action in one direction, its effects are remarkable.
Moreover, it is not affected by the waves; whether the sea be sleeping in
a calm or tossed with storms, the motion of the current is the same. The
only change as yet observed is when its waters come to the surface and
have their temperature lowered by a chill wind; for, this gulf-stream is
itself a river of _warm water_, though its bottom and banks are of the
same element _cold_.

Thus, between tide-waves and currents, changes are going on continually
both in the volume and the physical constitution of the sea-water.
And this, which might at first on a hasty glance look like casual and
unimportant variation, when we come to consider it attentively, is found
to be an arrangement fraught with wisdom and beneficence; for it insures
continual variations of temperature, it attracts the purifying storms,
restores the elastic spring of the atmosphere, and provides for weary
man a healthy tonic breeze when he rambles along the beach or scales the
face of the cliff. Without the motion imparted by the tides, the sea
would probably become putrid. Now the tides depend upon the MOON; yet
how seldom do we think of her invaluable services, when we gaze upon her
pale face! An Italian once told me that he “loved the moon, adored the
moon, never tired of looking at the moon.” And the Padishah,[4] I have
heard say, prefers “moon-faced” ladies for his soft companions; but I
doubt whether either the pensive Italian or the glittering lord of the
Bosphorus ever bestowed five minutes’ thought on the mighty phenomenon of
the TIDES.

There are other changes in what may be termed the tidal “high-water
mark,” due to the lapse of ages, which the sea has chronicled on the face
of many a shore and cliff. It is well known that the coast-line, in this
and other countries, has experienced many alterations as to its level. In
some places, the ocean has apparently encroached upon the land; in many
others, it has receded. One striking _index_ of this latter, and which
may be implicitly trusted as proving the fact, occurs where the waters
have retired from their former level, and have left exposed to view the
remains of an ancient _beach_. Thus, between Brighton and Ovedean, is
found what goes by the name of the “Elephant-bed,” because such fossil
bones lie among the pebbles in this part of the cliff. The entire stratum
undoubtedly was at one time a beach. Similar phenomena have been traced
along the coast-lines of Arbroath and Cromarty shires.

Elsewhere, the sea has gained upon the land; undermining the friable
sandstone cliffs, and, as it were, melting down the headlands, so as to
change the outline of the coast. But in these latter instances, although
“terra firma” has given way, it may be doubted whether the water itself
has _risen_. Wherever it has indubitably done so, to the extent _e.g._ of
submerging a village, I should apprehend the presence of volcanic agency.

[4] Sultan, “Father of the Faithful.”



CHAPTER IX.

    GEOLOGY LIES AT THE BOTTOM OF EARTHLY THINGS.


There seems to be no strong reason for doubting that every elementary
substance of which we have any knowledge was _separated_ at the first
from that crude mass called “the earth,” and which, along with “the
heaven,” God created in the beginning.

For, after that first assertion, we read of continued acts of
“separation” by an Almighty _fiat_. Thus light is separated from
darkness; waters from waters; water from earth. And by a like analogy we
may suppose that the “firmament” or atmosphere, the lower part of which
we breathe, was also eliminated in its component gases from the primitive
shapeless bulk of matter.

If we take forty-five miles as the average height of this atmosphere
above the surface of our globe, it is proportionately, like the thin rind
upon an apple, or the bloom upon a peach; and may very well have come
forth without any violence done to nature, or any waste of her resources,
from the womb of the earth.

OXYGEN is a gas universally diffused, for without a large supply of it
human beings and all the mammals, birds, and reptiles, would die. But
oxygen is not a more _simple_ element than CARBON or SILICON; and silicon
is almost as universal, for it enters largely into the composition of all
known rocks, excepting coal, limestone, and rock-salt.

Then, beside silicon and carbon, there is BORON, and many others, all of
which will combine permanently with the principal gases, and which we
may, therefore, fairly suppose did so in the beginning.

The oxygen which we breathe enters into composition with almost all known
substances. It constitutes about one-fifth of the atmosphere, perhaps
eight-ninths of the water, and helps chemically to compound all forms of
earth and rock, and all the metals save five. Now this proclaims at once
a _kindred_ element, and does not look like a substance made independent
of all the others at the first. Even _potash_ and _soda_, which were long
called “fixed alkalis,” having resisted all attempts to decompose them,
yielded at last to a galvanic process, and were found to be compound;
oxygen, in both cases, having united itself intimately with a metallic
base.

It is probable, therefore, that every substance which we can handle, or
of which we can recognize the presence by a chemical test, was as truly
a part of the chaotic Earth as was the clay or the granite. The gaseous
atmosphere or “firmament” was eliminated by an act of creation from
the torpid mass, the waters were drawn off and gathered together, the
rocks consolidated, the metals precipitated, most of the crystals were
probably perfected by galvanic operations. But there is nothing, from
the crystallized blocks of the mountains to the salt held in solution in
the sea, from the heavy rain-cloud which darkens the sky to the gossamer
films of vapour which fringe the outermost edge of our atmosphere,
which was not actually present as an existing particle when the Earth,
“_Mother_-Earth,” was made. And the EARTH, as we see, could very well
furnish all these concomitant and subsidiary elements, without being
impoverished at all. Indeed, as far as experiments and investigations
proper have gone, we have as yet only touched the _surface_ of our
globe. The deepest mine which men have ever sunk into the bowels of the
earth bears in its depth the same proportion to the earth’s radius, as
a _line_, or one-eighth of an inch, bears to the height of the monument
at London Bridge. Some of the exposed strata of rock, allowing for the
_tilting-up_ of their edges, certainly reveal a deeper sample than this;
but still, it is like the prick of a pin on the hide of a rhinoceros;
it does not even penetrate the creature’s folded hide; but of what lies
_within_ it tells us nothing.

Mr. Baily’s successful attempt at “weighing the Earth,” which, with
consummate patience and skill, he brought to a termination in his house
in Tavistock Square, has established the physical fact that this planet
is not “a hollow sphere,” as some persons had supposed, but _solid_,
probably to its very centre, and of considerable specific gravity. Here
is a mighty mass of Matter; it may be, as Dr. Whewell has argued, the
_greatest mass_ (in solid contents) in our Solar system. What do we
know of its interior construction, economy, and arrangement? Nothing,
except that all obey the _laws_ established by the Creator, whether
those of gravitation, cohesive attraction, or chemical combination. The
“statistical report” is wanting, especially in such departments as those
of the Trap and Volcanic lavas.

The amount of SALT in the ocean is a circumstance which geologists have
not, I think, sufficiently considered. This salt, if precipitated,
would, it is believed, yield a solid range of mountains equal to that
of the entire Himalaya. Now, mighty rivers run into the sea, as those
of La Plata, Amazons, Mississippi, St. Lawrence, Orinoko, and many
others; but _none of these rivers are salt_; they are enormous bodies of
fresh water. How, then, does the ocean maintain everywhere its saline
character unimpaired? not to ask, whence did so much salt come? There
is, indeed, a hill of salt in Spain, and there are mines of rock-salt
in Poland and Hungary; but the _effort_ which was made, so to speak,
when the proportion now existing in the ocean was squeezed out of the
huge terrestrial sponge, must far have exceeded that of any subsequent
addition or contribution.

The ocean itself, as _girding_ this globe, is a prodigious mass of water,
indeed. But, if we remember the size of the globe itself, as given by
its diameter, Ocean appears like a rain-pond. For, if we call its average
depth five miles—and it cannot be more than this, may be much less—such
a watery envelope would be represented in its proportion to the solid
sphere which it surrounds, by a coating of varnish of the thickness of
this paper lying on a globe which is twenty feet in diameter.

The COAL-MEASURES are also a remarkable item in the list of substances
met with in beds and ranges, and claiming to be considered as rocks—for
the coal is a _petrifaction_, perhaps a partial _crystallization_—but due
to the deposition of vegetable matter, subjected afterwards to enormous
hydrostatic pressure. We have no true estimate of their amount as yet,
for fresh mines are being continually discovered; but here seems to
consist the chief proportion of CARBON, as developed in this part of the
visible creation.

CHALK constitutes one-eighth part of the crust of this globe. The mass
of this must have been thrown up _at once_, when the atmosphere was
eliminated, and the waters separated, and the sphere became condensed
and solid. It is a “carbonate of lime” in its chemical description, and
there is abundance of the limestone-rock all over the world; but it is
very difficult to extract from this, in any quantity, the soft, friable,
slightly unctuous mineral which goes by the name of chalk (Latin, “calx”).

The METALS exist in the rocks, generally some distance down in the
earth’s interior. Their amount, in some instances, is very great indeed.
The only one which is rarely met with on our globe, and then in small
grains, is the NATIVE IRON, _i.e._ iron in its _pure_ state. This want,
however, could not have been recognized if we had not happened to find
the substance in question in those blocks of meteoric iron, and in the
small meteoric stones which have, from time to time, fallen to the
surface of the earth during atmospheric storms, and, probably, owing to
astronomical disturbances. For, of the iron, in its mixed conditions
of different ores, we have an abundant supply. It is a singular fact,
that the _native gold_, both in pure grains or flakes, and in solid
“nuggets,” appears now to be the more prevalent form of that ponderous
and imperishable substance. The ranges of quartz-rock in many chains of
mountains are certainly thickly sown with seeds and nodules of fine gold.

I may mention here, as an interesting circumstance to mineralogists and
collectors of fossil pebbles, that the “native iron,” which is so scarce
on the surface of the ground, is met with, from time to time, along with
_manganese_, in the heart of siliceous pebbles. But I have never seen it
where there is not the presence of some animal organism.

Now all these _solids_, gold, iron, chalk, coal, salt—and I select
incongruous items on purpose—are as truly portions of the earth’s mass
as are the granite and slate, the sandstones and clays. And _so are
also_ the flowing waters and the suspended clouds; and _so are also_ the
component elements of these—oxygen, hydrogen, and the rest. It is, all
of it, MATTER; it all obeys the law of gravitation, and it needs just as
much to be taken into account, in a geological scheme or system, as the
upheaving of granite rocks, the flux of lavas, or the icthyolite beds
amidst the semi-crystalline ranges of the Old Red Sandstone formation.

Consequently I have found, as has partly I trust been shown in the
preceding pages, that even to handle and pronounce upon a pebble, such
an one as we can pick up on the sea-shore any summer’s day, _all these
elements_ must be taken into the account.

In a “moss-agate,” for instance, I discover—

_First._ A sandy cuticle, which we will rub off, as it is like the dust
on your drawing-room table, a real thing, but out of place.

_Secondly._ Siliceous matter.

_Thirdly._ A purer form of this in chalcedony.

_Fourthly._ The “moss,” which is a metal proper, tinged by _oxidation_.
[N.B. Here is oxygen inside a pebble!]

_Fifthly._ The whole or a part of some extinct animal’s petrified
structure.

_Sixthly._ One thing more, _sometimes_ a drop of water.

_Seventhly and lastly._ Air, permeating the stone in fine pores and
channels, one of the largest of which was in some cases a breathing-hole
used by the zoophyte before he drew his last gasp.

Who shall therefore say that a PEBBLE from the sea-shore has nothing
remarkable in it or about it, merely because the passing schoolboy can
pick it up if he pleases, and, without looking at it for a moment, can
fling it at the head of a gull, or dash it to atoms against a larger
stone? It is a microcosm in itself; and if it lead us on to further
inquiry and patient thought, it will amply repay our trouble, though we
_have_ loitered away a summer morn or an autumn evening among the Pebbles
of the Beach.



CHAPTER X.

    GUESSES AT THE PROBABLE FEATURES OF A PAST SCENE.—WHAT WAS THE
    EARTH’S _COMMENCING_ ROTATION.—LAW OF THE TIDES AT SUCH A TIME,
    AND CORRESPONDING ACTION OF THE SEA UPON THE LAND.—ORIGINAL
    CHARACTER OF THESE FOSSIL FORMS.


Whatever may be thought of the apparent scope or tendency of some of the
geological theories which are rife in the present day, no person who has
really considered the subject in its principal bearings has any doubt
that the surface of our globe, both as to the land and the water, was
once very different from what it is now. All sound argument must allow
this to be possible: all careful investigation pronounces it to be the
fact.

There are potent “menstrua” and mighty furnaces in the laboratory of
Nature; and while the actual _amount_ of MATTER in existence has, we
suppose, never varied since the original creative act which gave birth to
“the heaven and the earth,” the conditions, sensible or chemical, under
which that matter presents itself have altered from century to century
and from moment to moment.

It is impossible to deem otherwise, if we believe that the “laws” which
are established now in this creation were established then.

Let us take, for instance, the law of Universal Gravitation, that law by
which the heavenly bodies move in their orbits, and a seconds’ pendulum
measures _time_ at the surface of our Earth.

We feel assured that this law has never varied; but it is almost equally
certain that it must have _begun_ to operate _under different conditions_
from those which obtain at this day.

Newton, who always maintained that the commencing axillary movement of
the Earth was due to an impulse from the hand of the Creator when He
launched it into space,[5] and who declared that without this he could in
no way account for its having rotatory motion at all, was nevertheless
willing to allow that the time occupied in the first rotation may not
have been, as now, twenty-four hours, but possibly an entire year. And
as the Earth, once projected, would fulfil, according to the Law of
Gravity, the conditions of “a body falling through space,” we find that
taking the nth term (2_n_-1) of the arithmetical series … 1. 3. 5. 7. …
(2_n_-1) … where the successive terms represent the _velocities_ acquired
in successive annual periods, about 183 such terms must elapse before
365 rotations would be accomplished within the space of one year, or,
in other words, the rotation of the earth be _diurnal_, as at present.
This point of speed once reached, the centrifugal and centripetal forces
balanced one another, and the axillary movement became steady.

Of course, in the above hypothesis, the assuming of one year for the
first period is arbitrary; it may have been more, it may have been less;
but within certain limits there is no absolute reason for supposing that
it was a span of twenty-four hours, as now. _Revelation_ nowhere asserts
such a dogma.

_Supposing_, then, amid confessed ignorance as to how the fact stood,
that the Earth’s early times of rotation were far longer than now, and
taking, say, _one year_ as the first period, how would this influence
other features in a scene which has now long gone by? How would it
influence the Tides of the Ocean?

Assuming a correspondingly slow motion of the Moon in her orbit, we
should, it seems, have in the lapse of the first year _one_ rotation
of the Earth and _two Tides_ of the Ocean; in the second year, _three_
rotations of the Earth and _six Tides_ answering to them; and so on.

Now these flowing Tides would, in fact, have been vast _inundations_,
the sea rising steadily for many months together; and in like manner the
prolonged ebb which followed upon each flood would have given rise to a
_subsidence_ and to the deposition of such particles of mud, lime, silex,
&c., as the waters then held in solution after their visiting the higher
land.

And thus we see at once, without going further, that the agency exerted
by the ocean in ancient times may probably have been different from and
greater than any with which we are now actually acquainted, save in the
account given to us, in the inspired Record, of the Deluge in the days of
Noah.

When such mighty agencies were in operation, it is not unreasonable to
suppose that great changes took place in the way of partial extinction of
animal life, and the substitution of new forms to fill up the apparent
gap left by the perishing creatures. The contents of the upper chalk, of
the greensand, gault, and sandstones, as has already been observed, point
to such revolutions and cycles in the history of animated nature.

MAN, who is himself an evident exception to all this, may perhaps, _as_
an exception, be said to prove that such had been the rule. For, it must
be remembered, _all_ the creatures were pre-Adamitic. Not only those
vast saurians and mammals, whose fossil remains we have exhumed, and
cannot contemplate without wonder, were prior to our race in their actual
possession of the domain of the earth’s surface, but every bird, reptile,
fish, and zoophyte were certainly made before the man. Now, as the man
came last in order, but first in dignity, created in his Maker’s image,
and endowed with dominion over all the works of His hand, there was no
longer place or argument for extinction, substitution, or change, among
the creatures. _Death_ was excluded, and could not enter into the world,
unless by a moral delinquency of the chiefest creature.

But already it is probable, although he perhaps knew it not, Man stood,
even in the day of his innocence and happiness, in the midst indeed of a
blooming creation, but upon the crust of a fossil world.

Moreover, we know from Scripture that minerals find metals abounded;
so that the presence of these near the Earth’s surface ought not to be
referred (as by some they have been) to the epoch of Noah’s Deluge. “Gold
and bdellium and the onyx-stone” were already in the “land of Havilah;”
and Tubal-Cain was “an artificer in brass and iron,” which must therefore
have been exposed in veins of the upper rocks.

And if the Earth already showed her nuggets of gold and lumps of onyx,
it is not likely that she was deficient in beautiful fossils. Certainly,
such substances as manganese and native iron did not find their way into
the heart of siliceous pebbles in _modern_ times.

       *       *       *       *       *

But it by no means follows from the above, that all these fossil forms
belonged to creatures whose species are wholly extinct. Indeed, in some
instances, this cannot be allowed for a moment. Probably, the “choanite”
is extinct. I doubt whether the “ventriculite” be so. Dr. Mantell was
pleased to assume that this last-mentioned zoophyte _grew_—like one of
the “mushroom” class of plants—rooted to one spot. There is no evidence
for this whatever, and my impression leans another way. In the class of
marine “Acrita” termed _Acalephæ_, there is a family which bears the
name of _Rhizostoma_. These animals are composed mainly of a large,
mushroom-shaped, gelatinous disc, and of a supporting central pedicle.
In structure and function this latter organ much resembles the root of a
plant; and, no doubt, it absorbs nourishment by seizing upon the minute
animalculæ which abound in the water where the “rhizostome” is floating
about. The entire animal is very like a toadstool, or “agaricus,” in
form; but for all that, he does not grow, as a plant, in one spot, but
is always sailing about by means of his large disc above-mentioned.
His general appearance closely resembles that of a “ventriculite” from
the flint; and I think it a probable guess to assign them to the same
species.

The “branching alcyonite,” on the other hand, did, I imagine, grow, like
a Coral or “Encrinite,” in one place; and I suppose it was much like an
ice-plant in form, but that it had the power of drawing back at will all
its branches and suckers—which were, in fact, the creature’s arms and
tentacles—into the root or bulb which formed its base. The “sponges,” a
large family, we know are not extinct; and the conformation of the living
individuals fully bears out all the marvels which have been predicated of
the fossil animal. I have handled these creatures, fresh from the sea,
at Brighton; and I had an unpleasant consciousness, while holding one in
my hand, that the round, greenish, jelly-like bush was only his _house_;
but that the gummy fluid, which held possession of it after squirting
out the sea-water, was the individual himself, though independent of the
accessories of bone and muscle. This kind of “sponge” floats about: there
is another, well-known among submerged rocks, which is fixed, and grows.
I believe the fossil specimens to have belonged to the migratory class.

I once picked up, near Hove, a pebble which contained a fragment of the
lungs of a tortoise; the elevated ridges, and depressed pulmonary cells,
appeared to have left their peculiar structure in the flint. I have
mislaid this specimen, and so cannot give a sketch of it here.

The “holothurida,” or “sea-cucumber,” is found occasionally in the Isle
of Wight, beautifully fossilized. A specimen was shown to me, from the
beach near Chale; it was a _variety_, but unquestionably of this class of
animals.

A fossil, figured in one of the “chromo-plates” to this volume, has
obtained the name of a “troglodyte;” I do not know why. I suspect it was
one of the “asteridæ” when alive, but that in the death-struggle, the
long arms collapsed and twisted together.

I have frequently found what I believe to have been some such organ as
the stomach of a star-fish in the centre of hard pebbles. The form was
always pentagonal, like the corolla of certain flowers pressed flat.

The “myriapod,” depicted in Plate V., I should at once conclude to have
been a marine insect, answering to some of our “scolopendridæ,” if the
_head_ were not lacking. But since the back or spine in this fossil is
all in one piece, and there are no lateral plates or divisions for the
several pairs of feelers, it may be, in accordance with such a frame,
that the head fitted on without the apparent juncture of a neck; and if
so, this may be an entire insect. It is right however to add, that I feel
some doubts about this.

The Plate VI. contains a figure of a fossil to which I have attached the
name of “Spindle-choanite.” In fact, the specimen, until cut in twain,
was fusiform; and, I have no doubt, a complete animal.

The choanite from Eastbourne, _uncut_, Pl. IV., portrays a creature who,
I think, expired in a vehement struggle. This would keep him on the
surface of the siliceous flood; and it would harden, for the most part,
beneath him, leaving his limbs sprawled out on the top of the pebble, as
now seen. The beautiful “pyriform” specimen, Pl. VI., shows a similar
struggle, amidst liquid agate and manganese. In the large Actinia, or
“star-choanite,” portrayed in the frontispiece, the happy animal died
quite quietly; and that is why his fossil mummy is of such a noble size
and development.

The figure called “Nondescript,” Pl. IV., I do not think represents any
complete animal, but a part of the organization of one. I have traced
its likeness, in the “Animal Kingdom,” by T. Rymer Jones; and think it
not improvable that a woodcut at p. 364 of that most interesting volume
depicts, in the _arms_ of one of the “Brachiopoda,” in that “calcareous
loop” with its curved “crura,” the exact structure which, in the living
animal, served to open or shut the bivalve shell, but in the fossil
specimen looks like a miniature-painting on ivory, to perpetuate some
curious organism in the liveliest colours of the pallet. “Terebratula
Chilensis” is Mr. Rymer Jones’s animal; and in the very vicinity where
I found my fossil in question, I have since obtained, in a flint pebble
from the cliff, a beautifully petrified “Pecten” (same species of shell)
in agate.

       *       *       *       *       *

I might multiply remarks and instances such as these; but it is not
needed. Every one will form their own opinion, in collecting fossil
pebbles, as to what the _originals_ were; but I think they will generally
agree with me, that while our living individuals differ in many points,
still we have mostly types of the same species actually existing in our
present seas.

What all connoisseurs, and even amateurs, should do, is to preserve
every remarkable specimen they may obtain, along with an accurate note
of where they got it. It is a great pity that, among so many persons
who have at once discernment and a liking for this branch of Mineralogy,
there are so few who will be at the trouble of what lawyers call “taking
minutes” of the evidence which comes before them in the course of the
pursuit. I have looked over several fair enough collections made by
amateurs; but, with one exception, I never knew an instance in which
the collector could tell me, with any degree of certainty, from what
particular beach he had gathered this or that specimen. Of course, when
a scientific investigation is proposed, such omission renders the most
valuable part of the collection comparatively useless. For the locality
is all-important. A pebble may thus be always traced to its geological
“home” or birthplace. It can only have had one of three sources: either
it was first dropped _here_, where you find it; or, it is a “travelled”
pebble, having come round from some distant beach; or, it is an offering
from the deep sea. The latter case is of exceedingly rare occurrence, and
need hardly be taken into account; nevertheless, for truth’s sake, and to
include all possible varieties, I cite it here.

A genuine deep-sea pebble is a waif which I have only twice, as yet,
met with in my sea-side experience. One of these was, I think, fished up
in a dredging-net; the other was thrown on the beach during a storm. In
both instances, the fossil was a “choanite,” and bore the marks of having
been washed out of a limestone rock. The age of such fossil could not
have been less than 4000 years, the date of Noah’s deluge, for obvious
reasons; but it may have been considerably greater.

If there were any known method of softening these pebbles to a
consistency like that of melted glue, we might learn something concerning
their past history; but I am not aware of the existence of any such
process at present. _Silex_, once hardened into the condition in which
we meet with it, is a most intractable substance to deal with; and the
very fact of its having at one time been viscous, renders it highly
improbable that, in the course of nature, its texture will ever assume a
plastic character again. Moreover, while the majority of our flints are
concretions, there are some which are semi-crystalline. These latter,
it is evident, cannot now advance to the stage of perfect crystals; but
neither can they retrograde: the next change which awaits so hard a
substance must be, to crumble away.

Sometimes, on our beaches, hollow globes of flint are picked up,
which, when you break them open, are found to be full of a white,
powdery substance, like the chemist’s magnesia. This is much the same
as the “rock-milk” of mineralogists, a very fine deposition of lime,
occasionally met with in beds of the chalk strata, and considered to be
a result of some filtering process, when the water, after being long
pent up, had escaped by small crevices. But in the flint-globes no such
straining can have taken place; and in sundry specimens which I have
examined, I generally came to the conclusion that some conchiferous
animal had been inclosed in the nodule, and his shell had afterwards
broken and been pulverized. Sometimes I found within the “rock-milk” a
dark-brown, carbonaceous spot; this would be the creature’s body, as Dr.
Mantell supposes of his “molluskite.” The cavity is never quite filled
up. I imagine many of these “powder-horns” to be altogether modern in
their date.

A much more curious phenomenon than the above occurs from time to time
in solid agate-pebbles, which, when picked up, are found to contain in a
central chamber, visible to the eye, a drop of water. These are scarce,
and fetch a high price at the museums. As much as twenty pounds has been
more than once given for an undoubted specimen. How the above-mentioned
singular effect was arrived at, has, I believe, never been explained; at
least, not so as to satisfy a close reasoner. The same _lusus naturæ_
is met with, I think more frequently, in rock-crystal and in the dark
fluor-spars.

The last apparent animal organism which I shall notice, as having more
than once occurred to me as a _possible_ explanation of the patterns
disclosed in certain sections of agate-pebbles, is that of some
creature’s “ovary.” The eggs of the whelk, and those of the cuttle-fish,
are deposited in clusters, like some of the “grapes” on sea-weed. I have
found, in some of the Isle of Wight pebbles, a conformation closely
resembling this, but on a much smaller scale. That the original substance
was part of an animal, I have no doubt whatever; and the arrangement of
the lobes or spherules, composing the mass, more resembles that of the
spawn of the above-named fishes than anything else which I am acquainted
with. Still, resemblance is not identity. The thing may be only a curious
coincidence, resulting from some unexplained freak of nature; as when
she carved the profile of Napoleon’s face in the outline of a part of
Mont Blanc, and also (quite as distinctly) in that of a hill which
overlooks the town of Belfast.

[5] See his Letter to Dr. Burnet.



REFERENCES TO THE CHROMO-PLATES.


In the frontispiece is represented the polished section of a pebble which
the author picked up on the beach at Bonchurch, in the Isle of Wight.
This is an unusually large and perfect specimen, the body of the Choanite
lying nearly central. The pebble contains one or two blotches of _native
iron_. The “cuticle” is uninjured.


PLATE I.

Fig. 1. This is a slice from a lump of “conglomerate” found on the beach
at Sidmouth. The _white_ parts are sections of the nodules of quartz, the
_red_ and _yellow_ are jasper.

Fig. 2. A section of an “Alcyonite” from the bay of Sandown. It formed
part of a large pebble.


PLATE II.

Fig. 1. This is, I have no doubt, a fossil “Actinia.” I have often
looked on the exact living resemblance of it at the fish-house in the
“Zoological Gardens,” where it is fond of clinging like a limpet against
the vertical pane of glass in an aquarium.—(_Found in Sandown Bay._)

Fig. 2. I suppose this half of a pebble to represent the internal
structure of some creature which dwelt in a bivalve shell.—(_Sandown
Bay._)


PLATE III.

Fig. 1. This sponge, a faultless specimen of the kind, is from the
Brighton beach. It was the first pebble I ever picked up there.

Fig. 2. The body and arms of this Choanite are in white Agate; the
remainder of the stone is a dark moss, formed chiefly of _Manganese_, and
surrounded by a yellow flinty rim.—(_Brighton Beach._)


PLATE IV.

Fig. 1. A Nondescript: but, probably, the creature was of the vermicular
kind.—(_Brighton Beach._)

Fig. 2. A handsome Choanite, uncut, but polished over, so as to show the
points of some of the feelers.—(_Found at Eastbourne._)


PLATE V.

Fig. 1. An “Eyed” Jasper, from the beach near Shoreham. It contains
yellow “oxide of iron,” and some dark green flint.

Fig. 2. A “Myriapod.” This fossil is a very handsome one, and I have
another, closely resembling it, from the same locality, in Sandown Bay.
The dark, reddish spot, is of the nature of _Molluskite_.


PLATE VI.

Fig. 1. A Spindle, or _Fusiform_ Choanite, when the pebble was entire.
I do not possess a more perfect specimen: the Chalcedony is remarkably
fine, and the “oxide” of a rich tint.—(_Sandown Bay._)

Fig. 2. Pyriform Choanite, uncut. Here, again, the creature lies over the
surface; and, as I conceive, from the position which it occupies, was
swimming for its life.—(_Found at Rottingdean._)


PLATE VII.

Fig. 1. An “Asterid.” This is different from all the other creatures in
these fossils. Its position in the heart of a solid limestone pebble is
singular.—(_Beach at Hove._)

Fig. 2.—“Terebratula.” The entire pebble was formed inside of a
“Pecten”-shell, and _inside the pebble_ lies this formation, which was a
living organism connected with the hinge.—(_Beach near Luccombe._)


EXPLANATION OF CERTAIN TERMS used in this Volume.

    “Hard:” that which will cut or scratch other substances.

        _Example._—A diamond will cut glass.

    “Tough:” tenacious; whose particles are difficult to separate
    from one another.

        _Example._—Jasper, though not nearly so _hard_, is more
        “tenacious” than diamond.

    “Transparent:” through which we can see objects.

    “Translucent:” through which we see light.

    “Opaque:” through which we can see nothing.

    “Brilliant:” reflecting or refracting the light in rays and
    flashes.

    “Vitreous:” glassy in its texture.

    “Conchoidal:” convex, like the outside of a shell.

    “Momentum:” the result of the combined weight and velocity of a
    body in motion.


GEOLOGICAL STRATA referred to in this Volume, arranged in their
_descending_ order.

    _Names of Strata._    _Mineral products._

    Lava                  Pumice-stone, which is its froth or scum.

    Granite               Corundum, sapphires, felspar.

    Old Red Sandstone     Fossil ichthyolites.

    Carboniferous Series  Coal, lignites, jet.

    New Red Sandstone     Jaspers, fossilized wood.

    Lias of the Oolite    Fossil “Saurians.”

    Wealden               Fossil reptiles and mammals.

    Gault               } Crystals, flint-nodules, choanites,
    Greensand           }   echini, cray-fish, lignites.
    Chalk               }

    Tertiary Sands      } Amber, carnelians, fossil shells.
    Clays               }


GLOSSARY of GASES, MINERALS, GEMS, CRYSTALS, and FOSSILS, named in this
Volume.


_Simple Substances._

    Oxygen: a gas.

    Silicon      }
    Boron        } Elements allied to the gases.
    Carbon       }

    Alumina      }
    Magnesia     } Soluble in acids.
    Sulphur      }

    Manganese    }
    Iron         } Metals.
    Gold         }

    “Steel” is Iron which has been “carbonized.”


_Derived or Compounded._

    Diamond      }
    Sapphire     }
    Ruby         }
    Emerald      }
    Topaz        }
    Amethyst     }
    Aquamarine   } These are termed “gems” or “precious stones.”
    Garnet       }
    Pearl        }
    Turquoise    }
    Jargoon      }
    Onyx         }
    Sardonyx     }

    Quartz       }
    Rock-crystal }
    Tourmaline   } These are crystallizations.
    Spar         }
    Asbestos     }

    Jasper       }
    Chalcedony   }
    Agate        }
    Carnelian    } These are concretions.
    Flint        }
    Bloodstone   }
    Moss-agate   }
    Weed-agate   }
    Mocha-stone  }

    Jet          }
    Amber        }
    Clay         } These are exudations, depositions, or fossils.
    Chalk        }
    Coal         }

    Rock-salt: a chloride of sodium.

    Kaolin: this is from “felspar.”

    Echinus       }
    Ammonite      } These are fossil
    Alcyonite     }   animals, for
    Troglodyte    }   the most part
    Choanite      }   belonging to
    Ventriculite  }   extinct species
    Icthyolite    }   of “zoophytes.”
    Cray-fish     }
    Sharks’ teeth }

    Sand of the Desert: this is powdered quartz.

    Sand of the Sea-shore: sandstone dust, mixed and penetrated with salt.

    Sea-weed: a compound of vegetable carbon, salt, and siliceous
    particles.


MINERALOGICAL AND CHEMICAL KEY to the GLOSSARY.

    OXYGEN. This is a pure gas, and the most universally diffused
    substance in nature.

    SILICON }
    CARBON  } These elements will combine permanently with the
    BORON   } principal gases.

    ALUMINA  } These elements, when dissolved in certain acids,
    MAGNESIA } yield a _colourless_ solution.
    SULPHUR  }

    MANGANESE } These elements, dissolved in acids, yield a _coloured_
    IRON      } solution.
    GOLD      }

    DELESSITE is a chloride of iron.

    SILICA comprises only 2 species:—1. Quartz; 2. Opal.

    From _Quartz_, come

    Rock-crystal }
    Cairn-gorums } which are “_vitreous_,”
    Sand         }

    and

    Chalcedony   }
    Agate        }
    Onyx         }
    Carnelian    } which are “_concretions_.”
    Sard         }
    Bloodstone   }
    Jasper       }
    Flints       }

    _Opal_ is a “hydrate” of SILICA, containing 7 per cent. of water.

    Precious, or “noble.”
    Iridescent.
    Common (colourless).

    “_Silicates._”

    Of Alumina           { Feldspar.
                         { Kaolin.

                         { Emerald.
    Of do. with Glucina  { Beryl
                         { Garnet
                         { Pyrope, or “precious garnet.”

                         { Chrysolite.
    Of Magnesia          { Meerschaum.
                         { Asbest.

    Of do. with Fluorine { Topaz.
                         { Tourmaline.

    Of do. with Zircon   { Jargoon, or “Hyacinth.”

    The colour of “emerald” is
    due to the oxide of chrome;
    that of “beryl” to the oxide
    of iron.

    CARBON comprises only 2 species:—1. Diamond; 2. Graphite.

    “Diamond” is a perfect crystallization,
    and is the hardest
    substance known.

    “Graphite” (sometimes called
    “Black-lead”) is a carbonate
    of iron. The iron, however,
    enters in very small quantities,
    and is now supposed to
    be _accidental_. “Graphite”
    is a concretion, and is never
    met with in the form of
    crystals.

    “_Carburets._”

    Of Hydrogen      { Bitumen.
                     { Coal.

    Bituminized wood is Lignite, which, when very compact, is Jet.

    “Amber” is a vegetable resin. It is obtained from rivers in Sicily, and
    from mines in Russia.

    “Carbonates” of Lime { Limestone.
                         { Calc-spar.
                         { Chalk.

    The “marbles” of Paros and Carrara are _crystalline_ Limestone:
    those of Siena are _compact_ Limestone.

    ALUMINA comprises 2 species:—1. Corundum; 2. Sapphire.

    1. “Corundum” is a very hard crystal, the common type of all the
    Sapphires.

    2. Oriental “Sapphires.” These embrace 6 kinds.

    The blue Sapphire.
     ”  red or “Ruby.”
     ”  green or Emerald.
     ”  purple or Amethyst.
     ”  golden or Topaz.
     ”  sea-green or Aquamarine.

    These are pure Alumina.

    “Emery” is a coarse variety of Corundum.

    “_Aluminates._”

    Of Magnesia { Spinel ruby.
                { Balas do.

    A Phosphate of Alumina and Magnesia } Turquoise.

    The “Spinel” ruby is scarlet; the “Balas,” of a faint pink. The
    “Oriental” ruby alone has the “pigeon’s blood” hue.


_Localities of sundry “Fossils.”_

               (Name of Fossil.)        (Proper locality.)

           { Galerites Albogalerus }  Found in the Upper Chalk, and,
    Echini { Ananchytes Ovatus     }    occasionally, in the Greensand.
           { Cor Anguinum          }

    Ammonite                          The Lias.

    Alcyonite                      }
    Troglodyte                     }  The Chalk.
    Choanite                       }
    Ventriculite                   }

    Ichthyolite                       The Old Red Sandstone.

    Cray-fish                         The Gault.

    Shark’s teeth                     The Tertiary Strata.


[Illustration: Plate I.

Fig. 1. Fig. 2.]

[Illustration: Plate II.

Fig. 1. Fig. 2.]

[Illustration: Plate III.

Fig. 1. Fig. 2.]

[Illustration: Plate IV.

Fig. 1. Fig. 2.]

[Illustration: Plate V.

Fig. 1. Fig. 2.]

[Illustration: Plate VI.

Fig. 1. Fig. 2.]

[Illustration: Plate VII.

Fig. 1. Fig. 2.]



GENERAL INDEX.

(_Alphabetically arranged._)


    Acalephæ, 167

    Actinia (_passim_).

    Agate (_passim_).

    Alcyonite (_passim_).

    Alumina, 6

    Amber, 15

    Amethyst, 8

    Ammonite, 19

    Aquamarine, 33

    Asbestos, 121


    Balas (ruby), 184

    Beryl, 8

    Bitumen, 184

    Bloodstone, 43

    Boron, 183

    Bort, 24


    Cairngorum, 36

    Calc-spar, 184

    Carbon, 112

    Chalcedony (_passim_).

    Chalk (_passim_).

    Choanite (_passim_).

    Chrysolite, 8

    Clay, 9

    Coal, 10

    Coal-tar, 24

    Cockle, 3

    Corundum, 24

    Cray-fish, 21

    Crystal, 33


    Delessite, 87, 183

    Diamond, 112


    Echinus, 19

    Emerald, 8

    Emery, 24


    Felspar, 9

    Flint (_passim_).

    Fluorine, 183

    Fossils (_passim_).


    Garnet, 183

    Gault, 19

    Gems (_passim_).

    Glucina, 183

    Gold, 157

    Granite, 5

    Graphite, 184

    Greensand (_passim_).


    Hyacinth, 8


    Ice, 110

    Icthyolite, 127

    Iron, 11


    Jargoon, 8

    Jasper (_passim_).

    Jet, 15


    Kaolin, 8


    Lava, 181

    Lias, 181

    Lignite, 184

    Limestone (_passim_).


    Magnesia, 183

    Manganese, 183

    Meerschaum, 183

    Mocha-stone, 38

    Molluskite, 95

    Moss-agate (_passim_).


    Onyx, 8

    Oolite, 181

    Opal, 8

    Oxygen (_passim_).


    Pearl, 8

    Pebble (_passim_).

    Pecten Jacobæa, 171

    Pholas Dactylus, 95

    Pumice, 181

    Pyrope, 183


    Quartz (_passim_).


    Razor-shell, 3

    Rhizostoma, 167

    Rock-crystal (_passim_).

    Rock-milk, 174

    Rock-salt, 155

    Rotten-stone, 26

    Ruby, 8


    Salt, 155

    Sand (_passim_).

    Sapphire, 8

    Sardonyx, 8

    Saurians, 14

    Seaweed (_passim_).

    Sharks’ tooth, 21

    Silicon, 152

    Spar (_passim_).

    Spinel (ruby), 184

    Steel, 129

    Sulphur, 183


    Terebratula, 171

    Tertiary (strata), 181

    Topaz, 8

    Tourmaline, 124

    Troglodyte, 169

    Turquoise, 8


    Ventriculite, 167


    Wealden, 9

    Weed-agate, 87

    Whelk, 175


    Zircon, 183

    Zoophyte (_passim_).

Woodfall and Kinder, Printers, Angel Court, Skinner Street, London.



POPULAR NATURAL HISTORY.


Messrs. Routledge, Warne, and Routledge

Have much pleasure in announcing that they have purchased from Mr. LOVELL
REEVE his series of works on

POPULAR NATURAL HISTORY,

And in order to make them more generally known, they have published them,
bound in cloth, at per volume,

SEVEN SHILLINGS AND SIXPENCE, COLOURED.


CONTENTS OF THE SERIES.

    1. BRITISH BIRDS’ EGGS. By R. LAISHLEY. Twenty Plates.

    2. HISTORY OF BRITISH CRUSTACEA. By ADAM WHITE, F.L.S. Twenty
    Plates.

    3. POPULAR GREENHOUSE BOTANY. By AGNES CATLOW. Twenty Plates.

    4. POPULAR FIELD BOTANY. By AGNES CATLOW. Twenty Plates.

    5. POPULAR GEOGRAPHY OF PLANTS. Edited by Dr. DAUBENY. Twenty
    Plates.

    6. HISTORY OF BRITISH MOSSES. By R. M. STARK. Twenty Plates.

    7. HISTORY OF PALMS. By Dr. B. SEEMANN, F.L.S. Twenty Plates.

    8. HISTORY OF BRITISH SEAWEEDS. By Dr. LANDSBOROUGH. Twenty
    Plates.

    9. POPULAR BRITISH CONCHOLOGY. By G. B. SOWERBY, F.L.S. Twenty
    plates.

    10. POPULAR BRITISH ORNITHOLOGY. By P. H. GOSSE. Twenty Plates.

    11. HISTORY OF THE MAMMALIA. By ADAM WHITE, F.L.S. Sixteen
    Plates.

    12. POPULAR MINERALOGY. By HENRY SOWERBY. Twenty Plates.

    13. HISTORY OF THE AQUARIUM. By G. B. SOWERBY, F.L.S. Twenty
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    14. HISTORY OF MOLLUSCA. By MARY ROBERTS. Eighteen Plates.

    15. POPULAR GARDEN BOTANY. By AGNES CATLOW. Twenty Plates.

    16. POPULAR ECONOMIC BOTANY. By T. C. ARCHER. Twenty Plates.

    17. HISTORY OF BRITISH FERNS. By T. MOORE, F.L.S. Twenty-two
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    18. HISTORY OF BRITISH LICHENS. By W. L. LINDSAY, M.D.
    Twenty-two Plates.

    19. POPULAR PHYSICAL GEOLOGY. By J. B. JUKES, F.R.S. Twenty
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    20. HISTORY OF ZOOPHYTES. By Dr. LANDSBOROUGH. Twenty Plates.

    21. POPULAR BRITISH ENTOMOLOGY. By MARIA E. CATLOW. Sixteen
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    22. POPULAR HISTORY OF BIRDS. By ADAM WHITE, F.L.S. Twenty
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    23. POPULAR SCRIPTURE ZOOLOGY. By MARIA E. CATLOW. Sixteen
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    24. THE WOODLANDS. By MARY ROBERTS. Twenty Plates.

“A popular series of scientific treatises, which, from the simplicity
of their style, and the artistic excellence and correctness of their
numerous illustrations, has acquired a celebrity beyond that of any other
series of modern cheap works.”—_Standard._

LONDON: ROUTLEDGE, WARNE, AND ROUTLEDGE, FARRINGDON STREET.





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