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lightning-cleft trees were merely dismembered,
but the shrubs were killed. Was it by the
sudden destruction of their leaves, their respiratory
organs? Or was it by decomposing their
sap, or their cambium? The poison of serpents,
it has been ascertained, acts by dissolving the
blood, and it may be that lightning has similar
effects upon the vegetable and animal victims it

As yet we know nothing satisfactory respecting
the nature of death by lightning. Physiologists
present us with nothing better than guesses,
A story has been imported into books of a case
in which a man, struck by lightning, appeared to
have had his skull crushed in, as if by a blow from
a bludgeon; but the liabilities to error are too
great for such a statement to be received without
strong proofs. Trees are cleft, because whilst the
globules are close packed and jammed together,
the rubbing amongst them causes a sudden
explosion or expansion of them . After this kind of death,
decomposition, it has been said by some, takes
place slowly; and others say it appears rapidly.
One of the more probable of the guesses is the
notion that death is caused by the burning of the
oxygen in the lungs. I may throw out another:
paralysis is one of the most frequent effects of
lightning. These strokes of paralysis affect not
merely legs and arms, they attack the nerves of
hearing and seeing. The shock of the lightning
has only, then, to paralyse the respiratory nerves
and reach the spot of grey matter, which is their
centre (but the size of a pin's head), and which
is called upon the Continent the vital knot, to
produce instant death.

Many cases have occurred of persons being
struck by lightning without their being aware of
it. Thomas Oliver, a Cornish farmer, being
thrown down upon the ground, in 1752, after
lying insensible for a quarter of an hour, on
coming to himself, asked, "Who knocked me
down?" "I heard nothing, and I saw nothing,"
has been the testimony of many persons of
different periods and nations on recovering from
their swoon. Nor is the explanation of this
strange fact far off. Light, it has been
ascertained, travels eighty thousand leagues per
second; and lightning much faster. Measured
by the musical notes its vibrations produced,
Professor Wheatstone's wheel performed eight
hundred revolutions per second, and, of course,
to the eye, its spokes were invisible; but an
electric flash revealed them as if standing still!
The result of philosophical experiments respecting
the time which sensations take on their
way along the nerves to the brain, although we
say "quick as thought" show that they are
comparatively very slow. The experiments are far
from being satisfactory, owing to the shortness
of the nerves; but there can be no doubt of the
relative results: that sensation travels six or
eight times more slowly than sound, which is
seventy or eighty times slower than light, the
vastly swift one far outsped by lightning. When,
therefore, lightning kills, it strikes unseen, and
the sound following it, the thunder, may, without
any stretch of imagination, be deemed the
requiem of its victims.


"HE a making of gold! well, I'm sure; but
it's always the way; them as has orchards
has apples given 'em. A dean making gold!
plague take him! I wonder if good luck ever
came to a poor verger? I wonder how many
years I might have sat puffing at fires and holding
up bottles to the light before I had found
out how to make gold? And won't the dean's
daughter queen it now? Get off the grass
there, you brats!"

Those words issued from the mouth of a
crabbed verger of Salisbury Cathedral, one
March day, in the year 1787, about half an hour
before the bell sounded for afternoon service.
The envious verger's mind ran on a tavern
rumour he had just heard that Dean Price had,
after years of chemical experiments, at last
actually hit upon the way of making gold, and
indeed had even been lately summoned to
London to explain to King George himself the
extraordinary and invaluable discovery. He had
been shaking up his rusty black-tufted gown on
his shoulders as he passed through a low battlemented
gateway, and as he entered the quiet
cathedral close he half unconsciously uttered
these expressions of querulous envy, ending
abruptly with that denunciation of some playing
children that served as an outvent of his spite.

Yet it was a tranquil spot, full of sleepy
happiness, that gardened square that girded round
that monument of a dead world's adorationthe
old cathedral. If the red brick houses, bound
with white limestone, had been embalmed, they
could not have looked more still and dead. The
soft sunshine lay asleep on the broad squares
of close-cropped and orderly grass; no breeze
stirred the young leaves in the canon's gardens,
or shook down a pink leaf from the apricot
bloom. The feet of tlie awestruck children in
a distant corner of the cathedral gravel-walk
yielded no sound, or one so soft that it was
overpowered by the cawing of the rooks, as in
the fussy agitation of nest-building time they
fluttered and toppled about the budding boughs
of the great elms, with a ceaseless noise that had
for many a year lulled fat canons to after-dinner
naps, sounder even than those of their Sunday

High up in the soft warm spring air, above the
high grey roof of the nave, rose the spire, like a
fountain that some magic had petrified and fixed
there for ever. In foreign cities, cathedrals
might be found more loaded with grotesque
ornament, more beautiful in detail, more abounding
in architectural ingenuities and eccentricities,
but nowhere a spire so exquisite in
proportions, or a Christian temple with which
time and man had dealt so gently. Clean cut
and sharp as a casket rose the grey walls of the
choir from the fresh green turf. One might