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ALL the popular astrologers, and especially
those who "set figures" and design
hieroglyphics for the Almanacks, seem well agreed
that there is likely to be a greatly increased
demand for gunpowder before the present
year expires. Mr. Moore, particularly, in his
"Vox Stellarum," mysteriously conveys his
interpretations of the aspect of the political
heavens by two young damsels, dressed in
white, bearing a long tray, between them, on
their heads, on which there are things that look
like loaves of bread or pound-cakes, on which
birds of prey are descending; while a tomb
appears on the right, round which a lady in black,
two bald-headed gentlemen, and two working-
men are shedding tears, and on the left hand,
a chapter of the clergy display horror at the
sight of the invading birds; and a "speech"
issues from the mouth of the Dean, bearing
the words, "What audacity!" Wellwe
suppose we must call for our fowling-pieces
and powder flasks, and the sooner we have
them ready the better.

Under these circumstancesat the latent
probabilities of which we do not by any
means intend to jest, neither do we expect
to turn paleit has occurred to us that a
visit to a Mill for the manufacture of this
wonderful compound, might be a timely and
instructive occupation.

We confess that our previous impressions
of a Gunpowder Mill were of a tolerably
vague and ominous character. Gloomy
withal, and of no small peril to the visitor.
We pictured to our minds a huge and somewhat
pyramidal, structure, all black, with a
sort of iron-grated, prison-like porter's lodge,
where the adventurous visitor underwent a
preliminary examination, lest he should have
any combustible articles about him. Some
change of habiliments, also, we anticipated, as
with those who descend into a coal-mine.
Of the interior we had no notion, beyond the
expectation of a number of men and boys all
at work in a cloud of charcoal dust, very
busy in grinding and mixing brimstone and
saltpetre and "the rest of it;"—and having
become insensible to danger by the constant
habit of living in the midst of it, we imagined
them singing and whistling, and cracking
jokes with the usual hilarity of those not
over-numerous class of work-people, who are
always in full and regular work, with high
wages and short hours. How curiously at
variance with most of this, was the reality!

After several unsuccessful attempts to
effect an entrance into one of the mysterious
manufactoriesattributable solely to the
dangers of utter destruction that momentarily
hover over all works of this kind, and not in
the least from any want of courtesy in the
proprietorswe eventually obtained
permission to inspect the Mills of the Messrs.
Curtis of Hounslow, which are among the
largest works of the kind in Europe. A
very wet and unpromising morning did not
deter us; and, after a wet drive to the
station, a very wet journey down, and a storm
of rain in driving across to the works, in a
small, close-covered vehicle, very like a green
cartridge-box, obligingly sent from the Mills
to meet us, we were at length set down at a
quiet little low-roofed building, very much
resembling the house of an officer of the coastguard;
with an out-building or two,
corresponding to the residences of the boats' crews
in those localities. This was the office of the
superintendent, or manager, and the clerks.
At the back of it was the small private room
and office of the proprietors, who (it need hardly
be said) do not reside here. It is a place to
write in, read in, calculate in, to make money
in, to lunch inbut not to live in. The mind
is too little at rest for meditation or for sleep.
All the work-people also live as far off as they
conveniently can.

Having settled our plan of examination, we
issue from the office and pass down by the
side of a range of low-roofed, almost shed-like
buildings, with windows all along, the panes
of which are of paper in the place of glass
glass being a very fragile material in all cases
of a concussion of air. These are work-
shops; and, with other similar places, comprise
the cooper's shop, the turner's shop, the
mill-wright's shop, the carpenter's shop, and
(carefully closed in) the blacksmith's shop.
Steam power is used in such of these operations
as require it.

As we proceed along the open space
outside these shops, a strong smell of burning
wood assaults our nose, and a cloud of wood-
smoke makes our eyes water and smart.
We fancy at first that it issues from two or