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ther end, to which the traveller is rowed large beds and boulders, stowed away in a crazy punt, a little chapel rises, between layers of clay and limestone, in unpretending and unhonored, and yet more or less regular shapes, and then of great import. It is devoted to the called rock-salt. Nearly every part of memory of the pious wife of one of our globe is endowed with vast cleposits Poland's early kings, to whom aven of the kind. Bergen in Norway, and vouchsafel, in 1252, the boon of be- Cardona in Spain, vie with each other stowing the knowledge of these won- in the abundance of their supply. In drous treasures ‘on her impoverished the latter place, a huge mountain of alsuljects. She was afar off in Hungary, most pure salt rises clear and sheer the legend says, and hearing there of from the plain, the whole mass shining the fearful suffering of her native land, brilliantly like a glacier in the sunlight, she was ordered, by hier patron-saint, to or glittering in a thousand hues and cast a precious ring, which she most shades, when day fades away. The salt valued of all her trinkets, into a deep here is so hard that it has to be blasted, well. She did it in simple faith, and, like real rock, with gunpowder, and the when she returned to her home at the chips are worked up by skilful bands foot of the Carpathian Mountains, some into snuff boxes, crosses, and rings. peasants brought her a piece of rock- Norwich, in England, boasts of a field salt, believing it to be a costly jewel. of salt more than seventy-five miles It was of 10 value in itself, but, oh long ; Salzburg proudly bears the name wonder ! in the heart of the transparent of its staple product; and Mexico and mass her ring lay imbedded. She un- Persia, the East and the West, are derstood the revelation from on high- all full of ample supplies, which, by ordered search to be made for more of God's providence, have been laid up in the shining substance, and thus were store for many generations to come. discovered the great mines of Wieliczka, Not in all parts of the world, howwhich have ever since been a source of ever, is salt found so pure as to be fit greater wealth than the richest mines for immediate consumption. Generof gold or of diamonds.
ally it is mixed up with clay and sand, Beyond the little chapel the work and then has to be purified by the aid begins once more, and miners are seen of water. Man leads the purifying elebusy loosening vast lumps of salt from ment down to the beds of rock-salt, the parent mass, blasting the less pure allows it to dissolve as much as it is material with powder, and cutting out capable of holding, and then raises it, the more valuable blocks carefully with by vast pump-works, once more to the chisel and chipping-knife. Others liar- surface of the earth. In vast kettles ness the twelve horses, that are kept and pans, beneath which huge fires below and have never seen the light of burn day and night, the brine is then heaven, to rude sledges, on which the evaporated, and white crystals of salt blocks are drawn to the foot of the remain, pure and unadulterated, at the shafts, that lead up to the world above; bottom and on the sides of the vessels. while still others are opening new pas
In other regions Nature is eren more sages or propping up dangerous places liberal, and saves man the necessity of with large wooden pillars. With a leading the water down to the depths feeling of pity for their hard work and in which salt is hidden. Large rivers thankfulness for the boon they bestow beneath the ground are led, by the upon mankind, the traveller passes hand that holds the earth in its grasp, them, returning their friendly greeting, over extensive deposits of salt, and then and gladly beholds once more, as he break forth as saline springs at the side rises to the top of the shaft, the bright of the mountain. Thus there is near light of day and the fresh air of the Minden, in Prussia, a well nearly two earth above,
thousand feet deep, which holds a waThus the salt is found crystallized in ter, the temperature of which exceeds
25° Réaumur, and which is, below, con- loose sand rules supreme, now treachertinually dissolving large blocks of salt, ously quiet, but sure to engulf the heedin order to gush forth above and bring less herdsman who puts his foot on the the precious gift up to the surface. glistening surface, and is swiftly sucked Germany boasts of not less than eighty in by the tricky soil; and now rising in such valuable springs; and our own large, deep-red clouds, which fill the country is most richly endowed in like valleys and level the ridges, till every manner, so that the two States of New landmark is effaced, and the whole vast York and Virginia could supply, if need region resembles a petrified occan of be, the whole of the Union with the salt blood-red waters. they require.
Who can describe the bitter, mournBrilliant as it appears in the shape of ful disappointment of the thirsty travelrock-salt, and pleasing as are the waters ler, who sees, at last, afar off, the welof saline springs to the eye, salt yet come glittering of waters, and hastens, presents itself, at times, under an aspect with renewed vigor and high hopes, much less inviting. No words can de towards the enchanted spot ? Enchantscribe the horror of the vast salt-plains, ed, indeed! For as he approaches, the which here and there interrupt the fairy spectacle strikes him with wonder beautiful carpet that covers the surface and sad misgivings. In the midst of of our earth. Thus there is a vast dis- the brown, desolate plain, a vast level trict in South America, extending over sheet of pure white stretches far and more than twenty thousand square miles, near; he draws nearer, with faltering, which forms one enormous group of des- doubtful step, and sees, at last, to his olate mountains, intersected with vast horror and dismay, that what he fandeserts, saline swamps, and dried-up cied a basin of cool, refreshing water, is salt-lakes, Currents of hot air meet nothing more than a white crust of salt. here from all parts of the compass, and Or, it may be, he descends, with eager with such vehemence and persistent expectation, the steps hewn in the prefury, as they rise incessantly from the cipitous walls of an ancient crater in heated, steaming soil, that no clouds South America, of which Darwin tells can be formed and no rain can fall from us, in order to reach the little circular the ever-serene sky.
lake, embosomed among rugged fields Even more fearful yet is an endless, of lava, and fringed with a border of lifeless plain in the heart of Persia, so bright-green, succulent plants. As he sterile and accursed that even saline looks down from the immense tuft craplants do not thrive here; but the salt ter, he sees the water clearly, and fanitself, as if in bitter mockery, fashions cies his ear even discerns the pleasant its crystals in the form of stems and splash against the modest beach ; but stalks, and covers the steppe with a when he reaches the lake and dips his carpet of unique vegetation, glittering parched lips into the liquid, he draws and glistening like an enchanted prairie back with dismay; for it is bitter and in the dazzling light of the Eastern sun. brackish, and unfit for the use of man. In the rare places, where the thick crust Other travellers tell us of the sad fate is broken and vegetation is favored by of black slaves who work in the saltnight-dews, a few straggling herbs and plains of the Sahara, collecting the salt grasses appear; but they are saturated from the surface, hundreds of miles with salt and soda, the sap tastes bitter away from the nearest oasis, and sure to and salty, and stalks and leaves alike perish by hunger and thirst, if the caraare covered with a thick incrustation van that is to bring them food and waof salt, as if with impalpable powder. ter should lose its way in the desert or They afford no nutriment to the herds, fall into the hands of merciless robbers. and soon give way again to the genuine Even Europe is not free from these salt-desert, where shepherd and flock unfortunate places, which seem to bear alike find their death. For here a light, the curse of Sodom and Gomorrah, and
Which teaches awful doubt.
have become what Zephaniah threatens, of salt, such as are found in the vast “ a breeding of nettles, and salt-pits, and steppes near the Caspian Sea and the a perpetual desolation.” Here nothing Aral, high above the surrounding coungrows but impoverished looking plants, try and far beyond the reach of supwith pale, bluish-green color and faded plies from a distance, is less clearly unblossoms, which give to the region an derstood. Some believe that they are air of overwhelming monotony and the beds of ancient oceans, from which ghastly sterility. The burning rays of the water has gradually evaporated, the sun are mercilessly reflected from leaving nothing but the bare bright the white crust of salt, which covers the crystal behind. This explanation may soil, with such fierceness, that the eyes apply to the Siberian salt-plains, which, are unable to bear the unearthly splen- like the Sahara, were no doubt once the dor, and the soil opens here and there bottoms of great oceans, drained by in huge cracks and crevices, burned, as some fearful upheaving of the ground it is, to the core, and but rarely re- or the breaking down of gigantic walls, freshed by scanty rain or nightly dew. which formerly held in the waters of the
How did these desolate lakes origi- enormous inland lakes. But with renate, and whence come the bubbling gard to others, springs, which so industriously bring up
None can reply-all secms eternal now. to their master the salt he needs for his The wilderress has a mysterious tongue, life? The question, for a long time, defied the wisest among men; but mod- Others think that the salt, which now ern science has solved the riddle, at glistens on the surface, once lay buried least with regard to the latter. We far below, and was raised, by volcanic know now that the water that comes in upheavings and fiery eruptions, in the the shape of snows and rains from the shape of boiling brine; the waters then skies and of the dew distilled near the evaporated, or were carried by rivers surface, slowly but surely finds its way, into the sea, and the salt remained through the porous crust of the earth, spread out on the low bottom of the down to the interior of mountains and steppes. But this theory would hardly far below the level of plains. It stops account for the strange fact, that the not till it meets with a layer of firm salt on these immense plains actually rock, which prevents it from sinking grows there; it is no sooner removed still lower; and here, on the unyielding by the hand of man, than it begins to stone, it forms, gradually, subterranean reappear, and ere long the crust is close lakes; the waters are not at rest yet, and compact once more.
This is the but silently and steadily keep on, dis- case with the terrible Desert of Dankali solving all that they can reach around in Abyssinia, where, for four days' jourthem, and thus they become saturated, ney, nothing is seen but a rank vegetanow with sulphur or salt, and now with tion of apparent plants, with their stems minerals of every kind. When map dis- and leaf-stalks, all of salt, and where no covers such a spot, he sinks a shaft to effort to clear the soil ever makes the the basin below, and at once the waters, slightest impression. The same has relieved of the pressure, leap up in wild been observed near the Salt Lake of joy at their return to the bright light Utah and on the banks of the Mingo from which they came, and rise as high, Lake in Texas, where the crust of salt once more, as the place where they first is so thick that it can be removed in entered the earth. Science tells us, of large blocks, and yet no diminution is course, that there must ever be found, ever observed. near such springs, large beds of salt; Where neither masses of rock-salt, and this has led, of late, to most valu- nor waters holding large quantities of able discoveries of immense deposits in salt, provide for the wants of man, he Germany and in France.
knows how to force the very plants that The origin of extensive surface-beds delight, like him, in the precious boon
of nature, to furnish him all he desires. Thousands of purple asters pcep out For it is not the miner alone who goes with their bright eyes, set in golden down into the deep of the earth to yellow, from the midst of dense clumps search for salt, but plants also send of reeds; luxuriant plantains overdown their roots, draw up the salt- shadow a host of minor plants of water, and deposit the proceeds in beau- strange and uncouth appearance, and a tiful crystals in their cells. There are variety of glaux spreads all around a few plants, altogether, which do not deep-green carpet, strewn with an abuncontain in their delicate tissues a cer- dance of small white flowers. Further tain quantity of salt, especially in the on, a quaint salicornia appears, in large stems and the branches, and leave it patches; its long-linked stem looks as behind in their ashes, when they are
if it would burst, filled, as it seems, to burned. Some cereals require it, there- overflowing with exuberant sap, and in fore, for their satisfactory growth, and the axes between the branches, lurk much salt is sown on the broad lands countless diminutive blossoms of bright of England and the fields of China; yellow. Even the grasses and reeds others, like asparagus and flax, do not which cover the marshy ground, when thrive at all without such aid. But the more closely examined, prove to be engrowth which surrounds salt-springs tirely different from all that grow on and the plants that love to dwell on the adjoining lands. seashore, delight in the little grains ; The flocks of birds who have left their even the lofty cocos-palm sends its homes in the far north, and now, with large oval fruit adrift, to seek some swift wings, move southward to more briny strand, where it may find a rich genial climes, might fancy they beheld soil and abundance of salt; and the here, once more, the shores on which careful husbandman of those regions, they last sought rest and repose. For when planting the nut that is to give here are the same flowers which they him his daily bread, drops a handful saw there, near the downs; the same of salt into the hole, to which he con- lowly herbs that love to be bathed daily fides the gigantic seed-corn.
in the briny waters, and the same reeds Here and there, in favored lands, you that grow there within reach of the unsee a vast, marshy meadow, spread out failing tides. For it is a salt-spring in beautiful luxuriance before your eye, which here wells up, and unable, at once, dotted with pretty copses of elders and to reach the lowlands by any other outwillows. Close by one of these groups let, has here formed a lake, and furof low, spreading trees, where the soil nished food to an exuberant vegetaalmost imperceptibly rises into a little tion. knoll, there gushes forth a clear, power- It is from these saline plants, growing ful spring, and forms, at its very birth, now near the shores of the ocean, and a large, circular basin, filled with trans- now far inland around merry springs, parent water. A rivulet runs from it that large provisions of salt are won by slowly but steadily, wanders, as if en- the aid of fire. The soda, or barile of joying the luxury of leisure, through commerce, comes almost exclusively level meadows, saturating the porous from the ashes of the saltwort, a plant soil on the right and the left, and at of grayish green color, with stems a foot last falls, at the edge of the high table- long, thickly set with prickly hair, and land, with merry laughter, into the with uncouth, swollen-looking leaves, lower plain, to bring its modest tribute ending in sharp, pointed thorns. The to the large river below.
Arabs hardly knew what a blessing they There are other meadows scattered bestowed upon mankind, when, upon over the plateau, but not one of them settling in Spain, they brought with can boast of the bright flowers and them not only their merino sheep, their waving grasses which here bud and cotton and sugar-cane, but also the unblossom forth in unwonted richness. sightly saltwort, from which they already
knew how to obtain the soda of our meat shalt thou season with salt; nei. day.
ther shalt thou suffer the salt of the corAnother salt-plant, the leafless glass- enant of thy God to be lacking from the wort, is eaten as a salad in England and meat-offering : with all thine offering the whole north of Europe; but the thou shalt offer salt.” The Aztecs of most curious of them all is perhaps the Mexico had a special goddess presiding variety known to our green-houses as the over the use of the indispensable condiice-plant. This strange-looking plant ment; the Chinese celebrate, to this is a treasure to the inhabitants of the day, an annual feast in honor of him Canary Islands, who raise it in large who first introduced it into general use; fields, pull it up when ready for use, and the old Egyptians, when they perburn it, and drive a most profitable formed the rites of their great festival trade with the soda they obtain from in honor of Neith, the mother of life, the ashes.
filled the lamps of their temples with It is, however, not the water only salt as well as with oil. which gives us salt, but we owe it also, Miraculous powers, also, seem to have at times, to the benevolence of fire. been buted to salt, from olden For, although the beautiful crystals do times; for the Hebrews used to rub not become volatile till they are heated new-born children with it, partly from to a white glow, they are still not un- a belief, sanctioned by Galen, that this frequently found among the strange hardened and strengthened their skin, medley of substances thrown out by vol- and partly from faith in its special blesscanoes. After an eruption, the cracks ing. Hence the prophet Ezekiel reand crevices of Mount Vesuvius are proaches the stubborn people, by sayoften covered with a thick crust of salt, ing: “Thou wast not salted at all, nor and the surface of petrified streams of
swaddled at all;" and even the early lava appears, at times, from the same Christians adhered to the old usage, for cause, as if thickly strewn with white they initiated young converts into the powder. In 1822, the salt cropped out mysteries of their faith by placing salt in such very large masses, that the in their mouth, as they did with infants greedy Government of Naples laid an
at the time of their baptism. embargo on the treasure, and obtained, It was but natural, therefore, that the through its own workmen, blocks of semi-sacred character of salt should lead twenty-four feet square from the vicini- soon to its being used in connection ty of the crater. The same takes place
with treaties and compacts to render occasionally at the foot of Mount Hecla,
them more binding. The Old Testain Iceland, and the industrious peasants ment is full of allusions to this ancient carry whole wagon-loads to their fields usage, and Moses already speaks of * a and their houses.
salt-covenant forever before the Lord Such is the history and the home of
unto thee and unto thy seed with thee." the precious little grain, which the Its power to protect against corruption world, from the beginning, has looked lent its symbolic force to stipulations upon with a feeling akin to awe and even among infidels, and few such comreverence. For while deeply grateful pacts were made without a plate of salt to the Giver of every good and perfect being placed ready at hand, from which gift for the tiny crystal, on which life
each of the contracting parties eat a few itself is dependent, men have ever felt
grains, instead of swearing an oath. that it was endowed also with a dread The Arabs of our day still enter into the power of final destruction. The an- most sacred treaty of friendship with cients had no doubt that salt was a
each other by pushing a piece of bread, direct gift of the gods, and hence they
strewn with salt, into each other's joined it, symbolically, to every sacri- mouth, and then call it a "salt-treaty." fice offered on holy altars; and Moses
The ancestral salt-cellar, that played so ordained that “every oblation of thy prominent a part in the household of