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A pamphlet has just been published by Mr. Luntley, with a frontispiece of a very new kind of balloon, in form not unlike two bagpipes of the early Italian shepherds, sewed together. It is to be of prodigious magnitude. The principle of propulsion will be that of the screw; but the balloon is to be its own screw, and work itself, by rotation, through the air. A wheel and strap are to give the rotary motion ; and the inventor is convinced that one end of the bagpipe (or queer curled point) will propel, and the other attract the air in its embrace, which will enable the aëronaut to advance in any direction he pleases. His power is to be derived from steam ; and the weight of cargo he expects to be able to carry (besides the weight of his machine and apparatus) is the moderate amount of twenty-seven tons—about the weight of six full-grown elephants, with their “ castles.”
Well, we take our breath after all this ; but, supported by the opinion of many scientific men of various periods, and by the scientific triumphs accomplished in our own time, we venture to indulge a hope of flying, some day, whither we list (with a reasonable recollection that even ships at sea cannot leave port in an adverse storm, and that very few birds can fly against a strong wind); but we do not think the day has yet arrived ; and we confess to a somewhat uncomfortable sensation at the idea of “ going up” in company with a cargo of twenty-seven tons.
T is a difficult puzzle to reconcile the existence of cer
tain superstitions that continue to have wide influence with the enlightenment of the nineteenth century. When we have read glowing paragraphs about the wonderful progress accomplished by the present generation ; when we have regarded the giant machinery in operation for the culture of the people—moved, in great part, by the collective power of individual charity; when we have examined the stupendous results of human genius and ingenuity which are now laid bare to the lowliest in the realm ; we turn back, it must be confessed, with a mournful despondency, to mark the debasing influence of the old superstitions which have survived to the present time.
The superstitions of the ancients formed part of their religion. They consulted oracles as now men pray. The stars were the arbiters of their fortunes. Natural phenomena, as lightning and hurricanes, were, to them, awful expressions of the anger of their particular deities. They had their dies atri and their dies albi ; the former were marked down in their calendars with a black character, to denote ill-luck, and the latter were painted in white characters to signify bright and propitious days. They followed
the finger-posts of their teachers. Faith gave dignity to the tenets of the star-gazer and fire-worshipper.
The priests of old taught their disciples to regard six particular days in the year as days fraught with unusual danger to mankind. Men were enjoined not to let blood on these black days, nor to imbibe any liquid. It was devoutly believed that he who ate goose on one of these black days would surely die within forty more ; and that any little stranger who made his appearance on one of the dies atri would surely die a sinful and violent death. Men were further enjoined to let blood from the right arm seventh or fourteenth of March ; from the left arm on the eleventh of April ; and from either arm on the third or sixth of May, that they might avoid pestilential diseases. These barbaric observances, when brought before people in illustrations of the mental darkness of the ancients, are considered at once to be proof positive of their abject condition. We thereupon congratulated ourselves upon living in the nineteenth century, when such foolish superstitions are laughed at; and perhaps our vanity is not a little flattered by the contrast which presents itself, between our own highly cultivated condition, and the wretched state of our ancestors.
Yet Mrs. Flimmins will not undertake a sea-voyage on a Friday ; nor would she on any account allow her daughter Mary to be married on that day of the week. She has great pity for the poor Red Indians who will not do certain things while the moon presents a certain appearance, and who attach all kinds of powers to poor dumb brutes; yet if her cat purrs more than usual, she accepts the warning, and abandons the trip she had promised herself on the morrow.
Miss Nippers subscribes largely to the fund for eradicating superstitions from the minds of the wretched inhabitants of Kamschatka; and while she is calculating the advantages to be derived from a mission to the South Sea Islands, to do
away with the fearful superstitious reverence in which those poor
dear islanders hold the native flea : a coal pops from her fire, and she at once augurs from its shape, an abundance of money that will enable her to set her pious undertaking in operation; but on no account will she commence collecting subscriptions for the anti-drinking-slavegrown-sugar-in-tea society, beeause she has always remarked that Monday is her unlucky day. On a Monday her poodle died, and on a Monday she caught that severe cold at Brighton, from the effects of which she is afraid she will
Mrs. Carmine is a very strong-minded woman.
Her unlucky day is Wednesday. On a Wednesday she first caught that flush which she has never been able to chase from her cheeks, and on one of these fatal days her Maria took the scarlet fever. Therefore, she will not go to a pic-nic on a Wednesday, because she feels convinced that the day will turn out wet, or that the wheel will come off the carriage. Yet the other morning, when a gipsy was caught telling her eldest daughter her fortune, Mrs. Carmine very properly reproached the first-born for her weakness, in giving any heed to the silly mumblings of the old woman. Mrs. Carmine is considered to be a woman of uncommon acuteness. She attaches no importance whatever to the star under which a child is born,-does not think there is a pin to choose between Jupiter and Neptune; and she has a positive contempt for ghosts; but she believes in nothing that is begun, continued, or ended on a Wednesday.
Miss Crumple, on the contrary, has seen many ghosts,in fact, is by this time quite intimate with one or two of the mysterious brotherhood; but at the same time she is at a loss to understand how any woman in her senses,
can believe Thursday to be a more fortunate day than Wednesday, or why Monday is to be black-balled from the Mrs. Jones's calendar. She can stąte, on her oath, that the ghost of her old schoolfellow, Eliza Artichoke, appeared at her bedside on a certain night, and she distinctly saw the mole on its left cheek, which poor Eliza, during her brief career, had vainly endeavoured to eradicate, with all sorts of poisonous things. The ghost, moreover, lisped,—so did Eliza! This was all clear enough to Miss Crumple, and she considered it a personal insult for anybody to suggest that her vivid apparitions existed only in her own over-wrought imagination. She had an affection for her ghostly visitors, and would not hear a word to their disparagement.
The unearthly warnings which Mrs. Piptoss had received had well-nigh spoilt all her furniture. When a relative dies, the fact is not announced to her in the commonplace form of a letter, no, an invisible sledge-hammer falls upon her Broadwood, and an invsible power upsets her lootable, all the doors of her house unanimously blow open, or a coffin flies out of the fire into her lap.
Mrs. Grumple, who is a very economical housewife, looks forward to the day when the moon re-appears, on which occasion she turns her money, taking care not to look at the pale lady through glass. This observance, she devoutly believes, will bring her good fortune. When Miss Caroline has a knot in her lace, she looks for a present; and when Miss Amelia snuffs the candle out, it is her faith that the act defers her marriage for a twelvemonth. Any young lady who dreams the same dream two consecutive Fridays, will tell you that her visions will “come true.”
Yet these are exactly the ladies, who most deplore the