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A terrible light burst upon Shafto. lie felt as if a cold hand seized bis heart, and with a mortal faiutneas coming over him, and great drops standing icily on his forehead, he withdrew a step or two, and leaned heavily on the back of Nelly's chair.
It seemed to him afterwards that there had been ages of thought, of agony, in that minute; his love rose up blind and awful in its strength, and threatened shipwreck of lion >ur and duty. 15ut it was too dark for Nelly to see his face, and he made no outward sign of suffering. He only said, in a tender, repressed voice, —
"Nelly, was . ... his name Dennis Kilconrcy V"
"Yes 1 O Shafto, did you know him in India? Was he married? Was he well? Did he seem happy? Oh forgive me, dear, dear Shafto, but if you knew how long it was since I heard his name, even. O Dennis, Dennis!"
Unhappy Shafto! Listening, patient and wistful, to this outburst, hearing that voice, thrilled with fond passion, beholding, even through the night, those suddenly radiant eyes, trembling under that small hand that clasped his arm so tiglitly for another's sake, as it had never done for bis own: he lost his last shred of comfort.
No, Nelly was not undemonstrative, when she had anything to demonstrate, as she never had had, never would have, now for him. And yet, yet — but for this bitter chance, tliis lightning flash which bared the desolate path of duty so plain before him, she might have been his and have learned, by degrees, to be comforted, and forget the other.
These waters of Marah almost choked hia speech: hut he drove them back manfully, and answered with simple conscientiousness, "Yes. I knew him a little. lie was not married, nor a bit likely to be. He was not quite well when I last saw him, but he was getting better. I was with him the night before I left — I little thought •"
His voice failed him suddenly, he went away from her, and stood leaning liis hands on the stone balustrade, with his face turned up to the night sky. There were no tears in his eyes to dim the radiance of the starlight, nor any passionate outcries on his lips. And as to what was in his heart then, that was between himBelf and God, for no one else ever knew it.
He came back presently; Nelly, who had been reproaching herself for her selfish outburst, put her hand in his, and
looking up at him, said falteringly, "I am so sorry. I beg your pardon."
Those eyes, that voice, so full of hia rival, with <jnly pity to spare for him, made him hard for a moment, but the next he rebuked himself sternly, and answered with a kind sad smile, —
"No, my darling, I beg yours for leaving you when you were so ill; but — but I've got rather a headache," added he, piteously, trying to excuse his shaken voice, "I'm knocked up with the journey. I think."
"Poor Shafto!" said she compassionately, putting her hand on his head, which he had bent down to her; but he drew back sharply, with an inarticulate sound of pain, and suggested, if she was better, they should go back to the drawing-room. He took her to her seat, and then, going up to a group of men gathered round some Indian photographs he had brought home, asked, "Can any one tell me when the Calcutta mail goes out? Is this week's gone?"
"Doesn't go till Friday. But I say, Elphinstone," added the speaker, staring at him," What on earth is the matter? You look as if you had seen a ghost."
"I'm all right. At least, I've a headache, that's all," he answered, wearily.
"Perhaps Miss Western"
'' Let Miss Western alone, and me too," said Shnfto with sudden sternness, turning on his heels, and going off.
"Nelly," said Mrs. Wroughton, later in the evening, "AV'hat have you been doin<* to your victim? He looks so pale, and heavy-eyed, and the picture of misery. What a tyrant you must be I"
Nelly explained wearily how the song had affected her, and Shafto had guessed the cause.
"A nice little incident for him to dream upon," remarked her friend drily; I wonder how many men would st;ind such a thing. A brilliant, uncomfortable, unsatisfactory creature like your Dennis, for instance I''
"That he — isn't my Dennis now should prevent your blaming him," returned Nelly calmly, but with very white lips.
Elphinstone's " good-night " was tranquil as usual; but after he had said it, and let go her hand, he took it again, and added unreasonably, "O Nelly I" much as she had said, an hour before. " O Dennis I" and looked at her with quite a new profundity of expression.
He was a passive and abstracted host in the smoking-room that night, and when he went to his own apartment, took pen and paper with an air of melancholy resolution.
But he could not write — not nt once, with all that tumult within him, with that great bitter rebellious wonder at the uselessness of his lore gnawing at his heart. "I waa so happy before," he thought. I didn't try to love her, and I do love her so." He leaned his hot head on his hands, and looked over the gardens and woods and fields, bathed in starlight, with sore regret. Their pleasure was spoiled to him, most likely forever, as, indeed, the pleasure of every thing was.
"I suppose I was too happy," said Shafto, mournfully.
"But I did believe I could make her happy too. Well, I may do that yet, thank God 1 in another way. And — poor Kilcourcy as well."
It was a little struggle to speak thus kindly of his rival, his conqueror, but somehow the recollection of Dennis's faint hand and fevered eyes made it easier.
"Yes," added he, after some serious reflection, '• I'll write to him at once. But I'll be the same to her, and say nothing till I hear from him, or he comes; because if he should have changed, she would be as forlorn, and want me to comfort her as much as ever, poor little girl! Not that he will be changed I How could he be!"
So Shafto sat down, and wrote many letters, and flung them aside, and it was not till the morning light reddened the window panes, and dazzled his tired eyes, and the birds sang their matins outsid», that he had produced a satisfactory epistle. He had little gift of composition, and feeling how much of his darling's happiness hung on this issue, trembled lest his own want of tact should ruin all.
'•dear Kilcodbot, — You will be surprised to hear from me; but you will soon understand the reason. You remember the story you told me that night: I have met the young lady you epoke of, and in my opinion she has not forgotten you. If you love her the same as ever — and I would not write this if I did not believe it — come home. With regard to money matters, it happens that I am now in search of some gentleman to live at my place in Sussex, air the house, and look after the farm and shooting. The man who is there at present, Mnjor Anson, who receives five hundred a year from me, has come into money and a house of his own. If you will not mind taking such a thing, which
rrhaps you will not for another person's sake, think you would like the neighbourhood — there is good hunting aad shooting, and I know Miss Western thinks it pretty. L><> not wait to
write, if you can accept my offer, but come home immediately.
"This matter, as you will understand, must be between ourselves whatever the result. I hope you have quite recovered from your illness by this time. Believe me, yours truly,
•• Shafto Elphisstonr."
He despatched this missive of doom by a groom, and having renewed big toilette, went down to breakfast.
From The Gentleman's Magazine THE POSSIBILITIES OF A COMETAlir COLLISION.
A Few weeks ago nervous Britain was thrown into a state of wild excitement, by the announcement that a comet was on its way towards our system, and would encounter the earth full tilt on the 12th of the coming August. The statement came from sober Switzerland; it was reported to have been made upon the authority of an astronomer of high repute; there was in it some slight internal evidence of circumstantiality — enough to commend it to those not deeply versed in astronomic lore; and so, with that faith in astronomical predictions which the general accuracy of such forecasts has inspired, the public, or a very large section of it, accepted the warning as reliable in so far as the actual encounter was concerned, and set itself wondering what might be the possible consequences of the threatened collision. According to their lights folks were reassured or doubted, or were alarmed, or were indifferent. Those who had learnt to regard comets as airy nothings treated the report with contempt; those who retained the ancient and classical dread of a bearded star were dispirited, and in some cases addressed themselves to astronomical authorities in the hope of receiving information ex cathedrd to allay their fears. They were not disappointed; the authorities were enabled to contradict the alarming report on all its essential points, and to offer a feasible suggestion as to the harmless circumstances out of which, by enormous exaggeration, it had been concocted. The reasonable explanation was that the canard had been generated from the facts that the earth encounters a meteor stream on or about the date referred to, and that meteors are in some manner allied to comets, perhaps very intimately, inasmuch as certain meteor streams have been discovered to occupy and course around the orbits of certain comets; and it has even been surn .:-••• 1 that what is solid in a comet is merely a swarm of meteoric particles. In the actual case in question it is known that a comet which itself passed in sight of us in the year 1862 haa its path strewed with meteoric particles, as with debris that it has left behind it. The earth intersects this path every llth of August, and some of these particles then plunge into our atmosphere, and are kindled into visibility, giving rise to the luminous meteors of that date, which have long been known in tradition-loving Ireland as St. Lawrence's fiery tears. So that on that critical date we do encounter the trail (not the tail, for comets do not trail their tails) of a comet — with what harmless consequences we all know; and it is conceivable that the report to which we have alluded grew out of some simple announcement of this circumstance. It may be suspected that since each year we cross the comet's path we may one day fall foul of the body itself: Bo we may, but it will not be this year, nor in the life-time of any one who now reads these remarks, for the last approach was in the year 1862, and, since the comet's period of revolution round its vast orbit is 113 years, it will not come near us again till the year 1975, and the odds against the probability of an encounter even then are enormous.
We have, therefore, little to fear from that comet, though we do actually run across the path it traverses. But Kepler declared that space was as full of comets as the sea is of fishes; and, consideritig the infinity of space, his metaphor may not be so far overdrawn as, apart from this consideration, we might be disposed to regard it. Arago, indeed, endorsed the Keplerian assertion Bo far as to estimate that the number of cometary bodies which in their orbital journeys pass through the solar system amounts to over seventeen millions. Clearly this plenitude must induce some risk of an earth-and-comet collision, for we know of no provision of nature for warding off such an encounter, though we may suppose provisions to exist for rendering it innocuous if by any chance it should occur. But the chances of occurrence are feeble indeed. The illustrious French astronomer whose name we have just mentioned calculated the probabilities of an encounter for a hypothetical comet a quarter the diameter of the earth in size, and supposed to approach the sun within the earth's orbit: and he found that the odds against the meeting were 281 millions to one. The assumed small diameter of the comet referred of course to the nucleus,
or supposed solid part; the nebulous surrounding which commonly streams off to form the customary tail might have a vastly greater size, and the probabilities of encountering it would be correspondingly increased. But we may dismiss at once any apprehensions of danger from a swish of a comet's caudal appendage, for there is little doubt that we have repeatedly received this, the latest instance having occurred but a few years ago. The great comet of 1861 is fully believed to have dragged his tail over us on Sunday, the 30th of June in that year, when we were only two-thirds the tail's length from the nucleus. This fact was first deduced by calculation, and it has received curious confirmation from observations that have subsequently come to hand; for an Australian observer, viewing the comet at a time corresponding to our afternoon (when it was night with him), saw the branches or sideboundaries of the tail widen out; and on the same evening, a few hours later, two English observers saw the closing-up or the narrowing of the tail-cone; these effects being those which considerations of perspective would lead us to refer to an approach to ua and a rccedence from us. It is reasonable to conclude that the whole earth actually passed through, and was for a time enveloped by, the tail at about sunset on the day in question. We are not aware that any consequences injurious to man or appreciable by him followed from the encounter; we had not even a trace of anything similar to the dry fogs of 1783 and 18151, which were at one time regarded as due to cometary exhalations gathered in some such conflict as that here alluded to.
Arago was not the only astronomer who had the curiosity to compute the probabilities or the improbabilities of a cometary collision. Olbers made a somewhat similar calculation, taking for granted that every year two comets come within the sphere which coalesces with the earth's orbit, and assuming the comets to have au average diameter of one-fifth that of the earth; and he arrived at the conclusion that our globe would collide with one such wanderer once in the course of 219 millions of years. He went so far as to point out that the most likely comet to run into us was the famous little one known as Encke'.-<, which visits our skies every threeand-a-quarter years, and list paid its respects to us six months ago.
Small as is the chance of a collision, it nevertheless exists; and in the face of the possibility speculative philosophers have not hesitated to credit a comet with causing some of the convulsions that have in remote ages so distorted and overturned the surface of the earth. "When we contemplate," said a prize essayist* on comets, writing in 1828, " the broken and lacerated appearance which the map of the •world exhibits; when we consider the irregularity and confusion characterizing
As we are dealing rather with what is carious than what is important, we remark by the way that Lalande's memoir embodying his calculations created a furore in France in 1773, the year of its production. It was to have been read to the Academy of Sciences. It was not read; but its purport was bruited the next day,
the constitution of its crust; when we re-1 and of course misunderstood. Lalande fleet upon the discovery of jiumerous j was declared to have announced a comet
plants and animals, in every d fferent climate and situation, buried under the surface ; — we can hardly entertain a doubt that tremendous convulsions have taken place upon the earth, attributable to sudden inundations from the ocean; and that event, of whose occurrence, geography, geology, and natural history combine to furnish evidence, the universal tradition of every people, however barbarous, seems to confirm. It has been supposed that the deluges which are said to have taken place at different periods in the history of the world may have been occasioned by the collision of comets; and it cannot be denied that, on reflecting with attention upon the various circumstances by which those deluges are still recorded, the supposition does not seem destitute of foundation." They who resorted to this supposition did so because they failed to discover ia the earth itself any disturbing cause of sufficient power to produce the enormous changes that have been brought about — notably those by which the ocean was caused to cover and leave its remains upon high lands and mountains. They argued that a deluge might be produced either by the actual collision or by the near approach of the comet; the writer
that was to destroy the world in a year, a month, ay, in a week. Such a panic was raised that the police authorities had to demand of the astronomer a prompt and reassuring explanation. This wa-> at once given and published in the Gazette dt France; but it was of small avail; he was inundated with letters and anxious inquiries, and he determined upon giving full publicity to his calculations; whether these sufficed to allay the public fears the historian does not inform us.
From the foregoing statements it will have been gleaned that a surpassingly high tide is one of the conceivable consequences, not of an actual collision with, but of mere approach to a comet. Olbers calculated what would be the tidal effect of the foremeutioned comet of Encke if it should approach — as some day it may, supposing it does not suffer dissipation, as returning comets hitherto appear to have done — as near to us as the moon. And it was found that if its attraction should equal that of the earth the waters of the ocean would be elevated 13,000 feet, overtopping every European mountain except Mont Blanc, and leaving only the-inhabitants of the Andes and the Himalayas to repeople the globe. This seems very ter
just quoted favoured the former hypothe-! rible; happily the fearful result is derived sis, believing that the latter was insuffi- j from data containing one unjustifiable asciect to account for the manifested effects, sumption, that which we have italicized in
The famous Lalande, however, had previously shown that if a comet as heavy as the earth were to come within six times the distance of the moon, it would exert such a powerful attraction upon the waters of our globe as to pull up a tidal wave "2,000 toises above the ordinary sea level,
the last sentence. In this case, as in others we have cited, the mass of the hypothetically colliding or endangering comet has been fixed far beyond the probable limits. By mass we do not mean bulk, but weight or attractive power. There are no grounds for assuming an ordinary masses, that is to say they are very light — the heaviest of them is only a fortieth the weight of the earth, while the lightest is but a two-hnndredth. Had the comet •which traversed them been of any respectable weight he would have made havoc among them and bouleversed their motions. But it was a case of locomotive and cow, and it was " bad for the coo." Although in mere size the comet was reckoned to be abont ten times as large as the greatest of the Jovian satellites, yet its mass was so paltry that it produced no effect whatever upon these little moons, but, on the other band, was itself enormously influenced by their primary, having been held captive for four months under Jupiter's sway, and in the end completely diverted from its former orbit and seat off upon another and a totally different one.
and thus inundate all the continents of the'comet's mass to be at all comparable to world." In this calculation it was sup- that of the earth. We are not aware that posed that the comet might remain long any actual determination of this datum enough over one region of the earth to has ever been made, but it has been proved overcome the inertia of the waters, a con- that the quantity must be insignificantly dition which another calculator, Du Se- small. This we know from the oft-cited jour, showed to be almost impossible, case of the comet of 1770, known as 'Lexell's which twice went right into Jupiter's
• David Milne, A.M., F.R.S.E., afterwards David system, actually getting entangled, so to Milne-llomo.authorof numerous memoir* on earth- speak, among his four moons. Now these rekVic^4& thou|h they range from 2,000 to
burgh. '3,400 miles in diameter, have very small
There is another fact in connection with this comet which still more closely concerns our present discussion. On the 1st of July, 1770, it actually approached the earth within six times the distance of the moon. Now if the comet had been as great in weight-mass as the earth, Laplace has shown that it would at this distance have so disturbed the earth's orbital motion as to have lengthened the sidereal year by two hours and forty-seven minutes. But it ia known that this period does oot differ now by Bo much as two seconds from what it was before the comet came near us, and two seconds is but the five-thousandth part of two hours fortyseven minutes; and since the comet did not produce .one-five-thousandth of the effect that it would have had it equalled the earth in mass, it is inferable that its mass was not equal to one-five-thousandth of that of the earth. This deduction tends to set at naught the alarming conclusions before alluded to which were arrived at by assuming a comet's weight to be nearly equal to that of our globe.
But there are comets and comets, and it may be urged that we cannot conclude they are all alike small and gravitationally powerless. Lezell's, however, was, to say the least, a fair sample. When it came nearest to us the measured diameter of its sphere of nebulosity (for it had no tail) was 59,000 miles, or five times the size of the moon. Its nucleus, which was very bright, had a tenth of this diameter, or nearly 6,000 miles. The memorable comet of 1858, (Donati's) vast and brilliant as Wm its vaporous surrounding, was corporeally smaller than Lexell'a. Its solid (V) portion, its nucleus, was measured, and found to be at most only 500 miles in
diameter, or about one-sixteenth that of the earth. Its volume would thus comprise sixty-five millions of cubic miles of matter, about one-eightieth of the volume of the moon; and if the comet was not composed of denser or heavier matter than our satellite, its mass or weight would be one-eightieth of the moon's, and its gravitational effect, at the same distance, as small in proportion. Had either this comet or Lexell's come as close to us as the moon it would scarcely have exercised any appreciable influence on the tides or any other phenomenon or condition which can be affected merely by the mass or gravitational power of a proximate body. Certainly the comet in either case could not have made us its prisoner and carried us away into infinite space, or led us inwards to make fuel for the sun, or to be cindered by close contiguity to the luminary; and this was of old one of the dreaded consequences of a cometary approach. But may not a comet itself be such a fiery furnace as to affect us scorchingly, if it should but pass near us Y We are hardly prepared to answer this question, in the present state of our knowledge. If only a good comet would make its appearance, no doubt some information would be speedily acquired concerning its thermal conditions; for in recent years an instrument has been used for measuring the radiant heat of the moon and stars, which no one had thought of applying when last a bearded star visited us. We allude to the thermo-electric pile — the thermometer, for such it is, is so wonderfully sensitive that it will detect differences of temperature amounting only to a few millionths of a Fahrenheit degree. If another Donati would but exhibit itself we should doubtless soon have grounds for fairly judging whether a comet be an accumulation of hot combusting matter, or merely a body of cool substance glowing by some such property as phosphorescence. This, however, we have learnt within the past four years, thanks to the revelations of the spectroscope : that the light of several small comets • which have appeared within this period has been identical with that emitted by the highly heated vapour of carbon. This shows cometary matter, so far, to be largely carbonaceous. But how comes the carbon into a state of apparently hot vapour? Some comets, it ia true, have been known to approach the sun sufficiently near to acquire the fervent heat requisite to .vaporize carbon; but this could hardly have been the case with the comets in question. The difficulty is removed if we assume that the