Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/86

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76
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

to meet an emergency, when a ring of the proper kind could not be procured in time. In parts of Ireland, however, there is a current belief that a ring of gold must be used, and jewelers in the country-towns not infrequently hire gold rings to peasants, to be returned after the ceremony.

Blessing the ring gives it no small share of sanctity, and old missals contain explicit directions as to the manner in which this ceremony must be carried out. In the church-service as performed in the villages of England, the ring is frequently placed in the missal, the practice being, no doubt, a relic of the blessing once thought indispensable. The German peasant-women continue to wear the wedding-ring of the first husband, even after a second marriage, and a recent book of German travels mentions a peasant wearing, at one time, the wedding-rings of four "late lamenteds." An instance is known of a woman of German birth, who, after the death of her husband in a Western State, had the misfortune to lose her ring. She at once bought another, had it blessed, and wore it instead of the former, deeming it unlucky to be without a wedding-ring. Among the same class of people, stealing a wedding-ring is thought to bring evil on the thief, while breaking the emblem of marriage is a sure sign of speedy death to one or both of the contracting parties.


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THE CHEMISTRY OF "OYSTER-FATTENING."

By W. O. ATWATER,

PROFESSOR OF CHEMISTRY IN WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY.

NOT every lover of the oyster knows that the size and plumpness which are so highly prized in the great American bivalve, and which are so attractive in specimens on the half-shell or in the stew as to lead the average man to pay a considerable extra price for extra size, are not entirely natural; and even those who do know that the majority of the oysters in the market are artificially swollen by introducing water into the tissues are not all aware that the process by which this is done is closely analogous to that by which the food in our own bodies is conveyed through the walls of the stomach and other parts of the digestive apparatus and poured into the blood and lymph to do its work of nourishment.

Physiologists are, I believe, agreed that the passage of the digested food through the walls of the alimentary canal in man and other animals is, in large part, due to osmose or dialysis, and that the operation of this physical law is a very common one in the animal body. But the quantitative study of the chemical changes involved is generally rendered difficult or impossible by the very fact of their taking place in living animals where the application of chemical analysis is impossible. An opportunity is, however, offered by the oyster, which, since