Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 7.djvu/358

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344
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

lire. It was about 600 or 700 yards from where we sat, and the sound of the thunder was more like that of the rocket than that which usually accompanies electrical discharges. In fact, the cloud probably passed through the village rather than over it; and the discharges were necessarily short, close, and without prolonged reverberations, such as may occur when the stroke is high, partly in dry air, and several miles in length, the sound from which must reach the ear at different intervals of time, thus producing a continuous rolling noise.

We are here reminded of another thunder-shower, of peculiar features, which occurred in Brattleboro in November, 1860. It was on the day of the first election of Mr. Lincoln to the presidency. A pinetree was rent into fragments by it, and a passer-by, a voter, on seeing the extraordinary havoc that had been made, the white, shining splinters lying scattered over the ground, in all sizes, from the smallest sliver up to strips long enough for rails, exclaimed in great excitement: "The thing is all up now; for the old 'Rail-Splitter' is around at his work!" Even thunder-showers are wrested by some men into a political significance!

The circumstances of the case, however, would appear to have been these: A dense cloud, borne upon a low southwest surface-current of wind, was passing across the deep valley of the West River, half a mile or so from its mouth, when it was probably struck by a cool, dry mountain-breeze flowing down the valley. This breeze imparted new electricity to the cloud, which, being thus overcharged, gave out its surplus in a sudden shock, which took effect upon, a group of pines. Every drop of water of which the cloud was composed we may regard as a small Leyden jar, as it were, the united force of which proved sufficient to rend in pieces one of the pines in an instant of time. The tree was some seventy feet in height, two feet in diameter, and stood, not on the heights immediately under the cloud, but low down, within a few paces of the river. It was broken square off twenty or thirty feet from the top; and this top fell straight down and stood leaning against the shattered stump, showing that the trunk had been rent asunder so suddenly as to occasion no obstruction to its fall! There were but two discharges of electricity from this cloud; and soon afterward the weather cleared up from the northwest.

 
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THE AUSTRALIAN FEVER-TREE.[1]

DURING the present century, a great number of exotic plants and trees have been brought to Europe, or transplanted from their original habitat to other climes. In view of its usefulness, perhaps the blue-gum tree of Australia and Tasmania, belonging to the genus

  1. Translated from Das Ausland.