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assault. He vowed to go and make his
horse drink on the altar of Saint Peter's at
Rome; and in order to open the road to
the West, he besieged Belgrade, defended
by Huniade, the hero of Hungary. Pope
Calixtus the Third, so terribly menaced
by earthly powers, conceived himself also
menaced from the sky by the comet shaped
like a scimetar; and using against these
two redoubtable enemies the only arms that
remained in his power, he excommunicated
at one blow both the Turks and the comet.
It is related that this was the occasion of his
instituting the Angelus, a prayer to be
recited at noon, to the sound of bells, in all
the churches of Catholicity. Turks and
Christians, terrified by the same comet,
hesitated long before they attacked each
other; at last a great battle was fought
before the walls of Belgrade; the struggle
lasted a couple of days, in which forty thousand
combatants were slain. The mendacious
comet, which, by its form, seemed to presage
the victory of the Crescent, had given a false
prognostic; for the Cross remained master
of the field.

An obstinate persuasion has long taken
root that comets were the cause of the
plagues which, at certain epochs, have
depopulated the world. Thus, Gregory, an
English astronomer, wrote in seventeen
hundred and two, that the apparitions of comets
are always followed by great evils. Even in
eighteen hundred and twenty-nine, Doctor
Forster, a physician of some note, published
his opinion that, "It is certain that the most
unhealthy periods are precisely those during
which some great comet has shown itself;
that the appearances of these stars have been
accompanied by earthquakes, volcanic
eruptions, and atmospheric commotions, whilst
not a single comet has been detected during
healthy periods."

Arago does not deny that a planet, like
the earth, whose mass is superior to that of
the comets, may not attract to itself and
entirely appropriate the extreme portions of
the tails of comets, even although in its
annual course it remained always far distant
from them; but he takes pains to acquit
these stars of pernicious influences. In his
opinion, they cannot be the cause of heat or
cold; nor of tempests, nor of hurricanes, nor of
earthquakes, nor of volcanic eruptions, nor of
violent hailstorms, nor of heavy snow, nor of
abundant rain, nor of overflowing of rivers,
nor of droughts, nor of famines, nor of thick
clouds of flies or locusts, nor of epidemics, nor
of epizootics, nor of the plague, with which
Doctor Forster charges them. According
to that illustrious astronomer, neither the
celebrated dry fog which lasted for a whole
month in seventeen hundred and eighty-three
nor even that of eighteen hundred and
thirty-one, was produced by the tail of a
comet; although several authors have
endeavoured to establish the connection between
the latter mist and the invasion of cholera
into Europe.

If comets have hitherto done us no good,
we are not likely to be the losers in the end
by waiting patiently; for Monsieur Babinet
announces, in one of his discourses, that
astronomical science will be indebted to them
for the most unexpected progress: "Already,"
he declares, "with the perturbations of the
motion of Encke's comet, the planet Mercury
has been weighed. By and by, the weight
of the earth, already known, will be verified
by means of Biela's comet. Faye's comet
will one day tell us the mass of Mars.
Finally, Monsieur S├ęguin has entertained
and encouraged the hope that the comets,
continually traversing at hazard all the
regions which surround the sun, will reveal to
us, by the derangements which their courses
experience, the existence and the quantity of
that chaotic matter which circulates with the
planets around our central star and which
furnishes us with those curious meteoric
masses so justly called aerolites or stones
fallen from the sky."


WHEN Sir Willoughby Monke of Hardington
and Frogholmes died, he left two daughters
co-heiresses. The estates, each lying in
a different county, were not to be dismembered
for equal division, but to be drawn by
lot according to his will.

Cecily, the elder daughter, got Hardington
in Yorkshire; Frogholmes, left to Eliza,
the younger, was in the Fens of Lincolnshire.
Within eighteen months of their
father's death both the heiresses married,
bestowing name and fortune on their
respective husbands, for the name of Monke
was to go always with the property which
was strictly entailed on any children that the
sisters might bear. The marriages were
equally discreet and common-place. Mr.
Percival and Mr. Cholmondeley became
Monkes without hesitation, and entered on
the regency of their wives' estates with sedate
satisfaction and the general good opinion of
their neighbours. Their known wealth
notwithstanding, the sisters had never been
popular or much sought after.

They were plain young women; short and
inelegant in figure, and with ordinary
blunt features, small eyes, scanty light
hair and indifferent complexions. They had
received narrow educations even for that
time, and had no natural enlargement of
mind to make up for defects of training.
They had, however, a few decided opinions;
amongst which were these: Hardington and
Frogholmes were the finest estates in the
kingdom; Monke was the most distinguished
name in the red books; Cecily and Eliza
Monke were the most to be envied of all the
heiresses in the whole wide world. With

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