Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

ette."

Lavoisier, and see the experiments. Ber- result of combustion ; no difficult matter thollet had already arrived, as we have in this case, inasmuch as the result is a said, but Priestley was yet absent. solid.

It was evening. A large argand lamp, We shall not entrap the reader, against having its rays cast downward by a shade, his knowledge and will giving him a chemplayed upon some diamonds laid on a piece ical lecture in the place of a biographical of black paper, ready to be sacrificed to incident; but it will be at least worth Lavoisier's splendid though exquisite dis- while to make him aware of some of the covery

great points of philosophy developed by “ It is well Robespierre does not know the subject of our memoir. of this,” said Berthollet, a smile lighting. While Lavoisier and Berthollet were up his large featares, which seemed as if thus engaged, the bell rang, and immedithey had been chiseled out of a rock; ately afterward Priestley was introduced. cor it would make work for the Louis “ Mon ami," said Lavoisier, going to

meet him, and grasping his hand, “why “We chemists are not high game enough so late ?" for the monsters,” replied Lavoisier. Priestley trembled, and was pale ; his “ These are indeed fearful times ! Ugh!" coat, too, was torn; he sank into a chair, continued he, shuddering, “ what the end and for a time could find no words. When will be I know not."

at last he spoke, Priestley explained that “ It seems," replied Berthollet, smiling, he had been lost in a crowd of revolution" that some sort of revolutionary infection ary miscreants, who were parading the is in the air: even you, my friend, are streets with a model of the guillotine. struck with the malady.”

Such wild revels were frequent at the time. Indeed, few persons have been more Bands of savage creatures, after glutting revolutionary than Lavoisier in his own their eyes with the sanguinary scenes of a way; he revolutionized the wholo domains wholesale execution, would parade the of chemistry; he reduced the nomencla- streets of an evening, calling at the guinture of that science to a system, and gave guettes, and quaffing strong drinks ; carryus most of the names by which chemical ing with them a model of the guillotine, substances are at the present time known. which every now and then they would set

“I shall not wait longer for Priestley," down, and display its mechanism to all who at length said Lavoisier ; “I am impatient contributed a sou. It was dangerous for a to show you my experiment:" and, saying well-dressed person to be in the streets at this, he made arrangements for burning a this time. Rags and drunkenness were piece of iron wire in oxygen gas. Every the only claims on the respect of these deitinerant chemical lecturer performs the praved wretches, the sans culottes," as experiment now, because it is so brilliant. they gloried in being called. The performance of it by Lavoisier, in the While Priestley was yet explaining the presence of his friend Berthollet, marked cause of his absence, the ignoble throng the downfall of a theory. It was one of surged by. Hoarsely they yelled the revothe capital discoveries of Lavoisier, that lutionary street cries of the day : when a body was burned and the results of les rois,” “A bas les aristocrats," " Vive combustion collected, they were heavier la Louisette,"

,” “ A bas les philosophes." than the body consumed ; from which it is “ Ah! is it come to this ?" ejaculated quite clear that combustion cannot depend Lavoisier faintly, as he heard the latter upon the loss of a something which phi- exclamation, a new one to the revolutionlosophers called “phlogiston,” but that it ary vocabulary. was attended with the gain of something. Apparently, a sufficiently large crowd So Lavoisier proceeded to weigh his iron had now come together to give hopes of a wire ; he then burned it, and weighed the plentiful harvest of sous to the bearers of

the guillotine. The crowd stopped near • The instrument of death invented by Dr. where the philosophers were assembled. Guillotin, and now universally known as the The hateful machine was placed on the guillotine, was for a time denominated the Louis- ground; the mock executioner raised the ette, because it was the deputy Louis who first knife, and, instead of letting it fall immemade himself acquainted with its capabilities, and furnished a report upon them to the Nadiately, gave out the first line of a revolutional Assembly.

tionary song, while one of the party went

" A bas

round for contributions, as the proprietor might have escaped; but, actuated by a of a punch-raree-show does in our own noble and generous sentiment, he determstreets. Amid shouts of wild laughter, ined to give himself up-not to the officers and abuse of all that is great and good, of justice, for justice was not then in the the words of a song written in honor of the French dominions—but to the officers of guillotine fell on the ear.

the monster Robespierre. “ I wish those ruffians would pass on," His wife's father, M. Paulzé, happened remarked Lavoisier, losing his patience, to be in the power of Robespierre at the as they continued the revolutionary air. time when Lavoisier escaped : the latter But the men had other ends in view. no sooner became acquainted with this

The cry of“ Farmer-general! Diamond circumstance, than he determined at once philosopher!" rose on the breeze, and the to surrender himself, lest his absence might crowd surged on.

give color to the charge against him and So, by some means or another, the out- his father-in-law, and lest the latter might side myrmidons of Robespierre had made be unduly prejudiced. themselves acquainted with what Lavoisier Revealing his place of concealment, was about. The three philosophers ex- therefore, Lavoisier was seized by the trichanged glances ominously. To have the umvirate, along with twenty-seven others, reputation of riches was, at the times of all of whom had been fermiers-general which we speak, a cause of political sus

before the Revolution. A great cry was picion. Lavoisier saw that he was com now being made against the peculation of promised.

these same officials ; and notwithstanding Escape while you may,” said Berthol- the office had been abolished by the Revolet, addressing him.

lution, and that none but an unprincipled “What matter ?" replied Lavoisier. tyrant would have judged people for retro“ If they set their minds upon having my spective offenses in a case like this, Robespoor fortune, have it they will, whether I pierre was not a man to be restrained by escape or not. I have never heeded riches, such scruples. The fermiers-general were save for the power they gave me of aiding rich; that was enough. others. I have used them to accumulate So Lavoisier was sent to prison, in facts. Now in future, if God will, I will company with the other twenty-seven. earn my bread as an apothecary, and work He was brought to a mock trial and conout theories by reflection.”

demned; but the frivolous charge on which Poor Lavoisier! So soon as he per- he was to die proclaims, better than a ceived himself to be compromised, he took whole treatise, the integrity of his preit as a matter of course that he should lose vious life. If the reader of this can divest all the wealth he had, and be obliged to himself of the knowledge for one moment recommence the world at the age of fifty of the fact that the axe of the guillotine is He anticipated nothing worse : why should poised aloft, waiting for a victim; if he he? What wrong had he done? Many can drive out from the recesses of memory days, however, had not passed before a recollections of this fearful time, and carry different train of feelings came across him. himself ideally back into the council It was the custom of the myrmidoms of chamber of the horrid triumvirate, where Robespierre at that period to circulate the nature of Lavoisier's derelictions were prejudicial reports against those whom gravely set forth, he may indulge a passing they had already doomed to destruction. smile. Fancy a man, retired from busiVague rumors came to Lavoisier's ear of ness many years, gravely brought to trial malversations committed while he was for having watered his tobacco some ten fermier-general. True, conscience ac years ago! Yet so it was; no graver quitted him of the charge ; but what mat- charge than this could be brought against tered whether true or false, provided Lavoisier by those who, depend upon it, Robespierre and his confederates had de- said the worst they were able about him. termined to have him? In an evil moment, For this he died, on the 8th of May, 1794. Lavoisier escaped and hid himself

, which It was dangerous to stand up and speak only seemed to give probability to the well of a man in those days; nevertheless, charges brought against him. The minions the citizen Hallé did so. He boldly imof Robespierre were still on his track, but pugned the right of trying a man on a could not discover him; indeed, Lavoisier | retrospective charge ; but he did it un

[ocr errors]

nace.

availingly. He then, when the trial was and day he must be on the alert to note over and the sentence passed, invoked any threatening change in the symptoms the mercy of the triumvirate. Alas! of his patient. We have seen one of the they had none. He set forth Lavoisier's curious bulletins which this public funcdiscoveries, his many acts of benev- tionary presents to his government, and olence, his charity, and his other excellent it recorded in the most minute manner the qualities; but all in vain-Lavoisier was fluctuations in the interesting case under to die.

his care. The philosopher did not murmur; he But there are other functionaries who submitted himself to the impending fate reap the harvest of their daily bread, " in with meekness. One request he made, the sweat of their brow," from off the and only one; any individual a shade less same hot field of labor. There is a whole vile than Robespierre would have granted population of stalwart guides, unreclaimedit.

looking savages as they are, who may

be “Let me live a few more days,” said said to live upon ashes, and to tread their he, " to see the result of some experiments daily path over the heated crust of a furnow going on."

A sobering calling this, a solem“ Bah!" replied Coffinhall, the president nizing engagement! Nay, but you know of the judicial conclave, who had been sit- not a Neapolitan, if you think thus. His ting on the mock trial,“ the republic doesn't spirits run up in heat and in fiery danger, want philosophers. Away with him!” like the quicksilver in a thermometer,

Thus mournfully ended the mortal ca until they reach the boiling point of true reer of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier.

Neapolitan luxury. “Ah, signora mio! your excellency has come at the very mo

ment of such happiness! Vesuvius is ASCENDING MOUNT VESUVIUS.

mad to-night! For your precious life,

excellency, spring upon my beautiful THERE is an official personage at Na- mule. He is the famous Gennaro, sign

ples whose duties are of a somewhat ora mia ! He glories in a grand erupremarkable nature. He has to hand in a tion; he is my friend, my own life, my daily report respecting the state of health, Gennaro! Mount, signora mia." not of the “body politic,” with its fever Of course one cannot resist such burnsymptoms, its painful delirium, or the ing language as this, illustrated by the dull lethargy and indifference which fol- fiery flashes of a Neapolitan eye, and the low such accessions of disease, but of the native eloquence of a southern action. mighty Vesuvius himself! It is his re You are instantly on Gennaro's back; and sponsible duty to feel, as it were, the Matteo is right; he is a very fine, trustbeating pulse of the volcano; to lay his worthy fellow, tough in limb and sure of feeble hand as upon the heaving heart of foot. How carefully he picks his footing the giant, and to ascertain whether the on the scrambling path, struggling upward forces of nature be working regularly and over blocks of lava, wild as the bed of a smoothly, or whether, fierce and inter- mountain torrent, the dead and fixed tide mittent, they betoken the wild disturbance of a past eruption. Then up comes Matof fever. Campanelli is a man of expe- teo to your side, and chronicles the fearful rience, and when he pronounces on the history of the mountain : “ This was the varying symptoms of the wondrous case tide, signor, that overwhelmed Pompeii; before him, and issues his daily bulletins, that was the river that poured down upon they may say that he can form a good Torre del Greco.”. Still Gennaro strug“diagnosis” of disease. But when he gles upward, only trying to crop surreptistands on the crumbling edge of the fiery tiously a few tempting sprouts of the facrater, when he feels the hot and sul mous vine, whose rich juice bears a name phureous breath of the volcano, and notes so irreverent that we hesitate to write it. the convulsive heavings of the internal At last we reach the hermitage, a little malady, he knows well that there is but desolate lodge in the black and burning one Power that can control such mighty wilderness. Within dwells a civil old forces, and that only he who creates can Franciscan monk, who acts hermit in the hold or heal. But it is Campanelli's waste; but there is rather too bright a duty to watch, to listen, and to feel. Night I sparkle in his eye for a mortified and

VOL. XI.-19

[graphic][merged small]

chastened anchorite. Besides, we doubt | party, on joining their friends, have many if the fasting anchorites of old kept a civilities and bravadoes to exchange. couple of such well-fed and insolent cats But now begin the true difficulties of the in their narrow cell as has the hermit of ascent, and now Matteo is in his fiery Vesuvius. There is a dog besides ; but element. He shouts, he gathers around he has an altogether inferior standing in him a whole troop of subsidiary guides, he the establishment, a submissive member collects chaises à portcurs for the less roof the laity, evidently completely domi- bust of our party, he fastens leather straps neered over by the pampered cats. While to his own belt and to the bclts of his men, we are almost fighting with these last in- for the panting gentlemen to drag and dividuals for the possession of our cold hang upon. And now we are off again. fowls and sandwiches, Gennaro and his col. Mounted on a straight-backed wooden leagues are rolling luxuriously in the ashes chair, bound between two poles, up into outside, sending up volumes of dust as the air you go, on the shoulders of now black as suot. However, they are soon four, now six, screaming, struggling portupon their legs again, and carry us kindly ers. But soon the sides of the cone. to the grand bivouac for the mules, within shaped mountain become so almost imthe sharp and jagged walls of the old cra- practicably steep, that at last no fewer ter. This extinct crater is like some gi- than eight get a grasp at you, plunging gantic broken shell, which has long ago into black dusty mold a foot deep at every exploded, and Nung far and wide its death- step, and sliding backward a foot more. dispensing contents. Within its shivered | The blocks of cinder-like lava, hanging hollow there is already a considerable en- loosely together, are now like the broken campment of mules ; and Gennaro and his rocks on a storm-swept shore. You feel

for

[ocr errors]

as if the chair must be dislocated, and sides. Matteo again seizes your arm, your own joints also. Coraggio, corag- he knows what is coming; it is an awful gio," (Courage,) shout the gasping burden- explosion, like the blowing up of a citabearers, in mutual exhortation ; and down del, and a burst of flame tears its way up comes a porter between two huge cinders, into the air from the unknown depths of and your equipage suddenly becomes lop- the burning mine. Explosion rapidly folsided. “Coraggio," again vociferate the low's explosion, and your only way of dark wrestlers; and you are scarcely counting time is by those mighty minuterighted, before down go three, four, six; guns of the mountain. Between you and and if you gaspingly plead," Aspettate !" the acting cone, a broad canal of liquid (Wait a bit !) down they all lie together, lava heaves and surges on in slow and wallowing in the ashes, dark, wild, and slime-like flow. Now a great black rock, picturesque, while you sit up in the cen- undermined by the current, is separated ter of this singular group on your high- from the shore, and borne heavily onward, backed chair.

grating, and crunching, and moaning, as Now is your moment to glance over it is ground against the banks of the red your shoulder down upon the strange and river. Shall we say what scene of unbeautiful world below. There lies that speakable awe seems to be represented peerless bay, taking its evening rest under before the eye at this fearful moment? the pearly touch of the sunset sky. There Need we say how solemnly sounds the that resplendent chain of islands gleams language in the awakened ear: Who out of the fading distance in all the hues i can dwell with everlasting burnings ?" of the dying dolphin. There, headland Ah, sinner! heedest thou not the threat of beyond headland flushes and fades by the fire which shall never be quenched ?" turns, until, overcome by the crimson Then, come and stand where I stand, glory of the sunset, they drop off into beside this lake burning with fire and faint and dreamy sleep. There is the brimstone, where “the smoke" seems shining city drawing its glittering lines of to “rise up for ever and ever.” Como white along the margin of the blue sea. and stand where I stand, where the meImmediately beneath you lie, in dark con- phitic smell of the sulphur, and the hot fusion, the hardened waves of a once escape of the pent-up gases, are like to gleaming tide. Before and behind you, take away one's breath; where the face dragged by one guide, and propelled by an is scorched and the hair shriveled by the other, the excited strangers reel and wres- fierce reflection, and the feet are burned tle up the steep. The short-lived twilight by the heated crust. soon withdraws, and leaves the scene to Enough, Matteo: we have done and the fierce fires which are waiting to glare dared enough.” forth upon earth, sea, and sky. The Nay, pardon, but 'cellenza may safely cloud of smoke over the mountain rolls approach nearer to the edge of the flowoff in writhing folds of red, rent at inter ing lava. He will answer for 'cellenza's vals by sudden bursts of flame. Long invaluable safety. Ah! think, would he stripes which, in the brightness of an —he, Matteo, who had lived a whole life Italian day, had only looked like wreaths of eruptions - would he risk 'cellenza's of curling smoke down the sides of the precious life? Pardon—'cellenza's hand.” great cone, now confess their veiled life, And so we leap-over a rock of cooled and become paths of fire. And now Mat. lava? Nay, but over a narrow chasmteo seizes your arm, and looks full in your a cleft, which, red and burning, carries face, to see how you brook the wondrous eye and mind down into the heart of the scene which is about to burn its life-long living volcano a fiery gulf, which no stamp upon your mind. Yes; you are “deep-sea lead” would fathom. on the edge of a rent and shivered basin, “ Now, then, Matteo, that will do ;" encumbered with its own seared frag- and so, turning our back unwillingly upon ments. From its midst rises a smaller this scene of indescribable magnificence, cone, the living, acting crater, ever feed- we rapidly plunge down through the deep ing its own growth with the red-hot stones ashes, until we rejoin Gennaro and his which it fings up from its burning lips, friends at the grand encampment of the which dart up into the sky, and then fall, mules, our route marked by a long line like a shower of red meteors, upon its of flashing and flaring torches.

« VorigeDoorgaan »