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A PINCH OF SALT.
“Salt is good."-S. Yark ix. 50.
THE servant of the great chemist he digs into the bowels of the earth, Berzelius was once approached by one and fashions the hidden treasures into of his countrymen with the question, bright ornaments and useful tools, or he " What is that chemistry, by which they transforms even the worthless sand and say your master has made himself so the shapeless clay into costly wares of famous ?” “I will tell you," was the brilliant splendor. But a few years pass ready answer. “First, I have to fetch away, and his beautiful handiwork all manner of things in large vessels; changes in shape and in color; a centhen he pours them into bottles, and at tury more, and they crumble into dust. last into quite small phials ; when he His magnificent temples, his lofty walls, has done that, he pours them all once his graceful bridges, his proud monumore into two big buckets, which I ments that were to give immo tality carry out and empty into the river. to his name and his deeds—they all That is chemistry."
succumb, sooner or later, to the silent The popular idea of the science is not but unfailing efforts of Nature to reclaim much clearer in our day. The name her own children. What the waters of conjures up, in many minds, a large la- the ocean and the winds of heaven have boratory, with quaint retorts and vile left undestroyed, falls under the unseen smells, or at best a huge factory send- attacks of frost and rain and heat. As ing forth clouds of disgusting smoke. worms feed under the green turf on his In many a lively imagination the chem- body, fearfully and wonderfully made ist is still surrounded by stuffed mon- though it was, so tiny lichens and misters and bottled infants, after the man- nute mosses consume, little by little, his ner of Hogarth's admirable etching, obelisks and his pyramids. Diminutive and his labors are looked upon with seeds, flying unseen through the air, timid admiration and doubtful wonder; come and nestle in the cracks and crerfor the alchemist has not yet entirely ices of his castles and palaces, and strike faded away into a myth, and the Black their frail roots in the rents of his masArt has still its votaries in our midst. sive walls, while treacherous ivy sends Few among us ar really aware how its tendrils into every cleft of the ruin. deeply and practically the chemist's Insects, creeping about by night, underscience affects our daily life and contrib- mine the foundations of colossal strucutes to our happiness upon earth. tures, and animal-life teems ere long
And yet he has a duty to perform among the débris of his loftiest edifices. which ranks but little below the very The trees he has planted and the anihighest that falls to the lot of man here mals he has raised, return to the dust below. He is the self-appointed guard- from whence they sprang; the wood he ian of the indestructible part of our has carved with cunning craft, decays globe. Man glories in his absolute sway into impalpable powder; the metals he over all Nature, whose gifts he employs has wrought into shapes of wondrous for his pleasure, and whose creatures beauty, are eaten up by rust, and the he treats as his vassals. But his domin- very stones he has piled up in lofty ion is of short duration, and soon Nature structures, are consumed by wind and resumes her own sway again, unimpeded weather. by his hand. He wrests massive rocks And whither go all these fading, fleetfrom her bosom, and tears gigantic trees ing elements, which thus continually from their ancient homes, and changes pass from his sight, and return, as he them into houses and palaces and ships; calls it, to the bosom of their mother Nature? The chemist alone can answer while to damp air, it oxydizes quickly the question; for he alone watches them and changes into a white powder ! forever, and never for a moment fails to While its near cousins, gold and silver, trace them to their new home, though sink quickly to the bottom of a vessel they assume, with Protean power, a filled with water, Sodium, on the conthousand new forms, and defy him, for trary, floats like a very gnome of the a time, by their incessant and marvel- mountains, and the little silvery globes, lous changes.
in which it is ordinarily seen, swim But his power is greater yet. For merrily for a while on the surface. But this knowledge of the eternal duration after a few moments, they begin to glow of the elements in nature endows him and to shine like liquid fire, and now with a power that might almost be perform a dance so weird and wild that called creative; for though he may not it startles us by its strange, fantastic absolutely produce them out of naught, figures. The smooth surface of the walike the one great Creator above us, he ter becomes the well-polished floor of a can at least make them assume the form ball-room, on which the bright pearls which he wishes. He can take the dust, of shining metal perform their quaint that seems worthless, and endow it with dance like enchanted princesses dressed priceless value; he can gather impalpa- in silver robes. If you attempt to hold ble powder and hardly perceptible va- the lovely little dames by force, they por, and bid them combine in a form know at once how to escape from your that shall rejoice our eye by its beauty, violence and to regain their liberty. and prove itself a blessing like few A beautiful bluish flame begins to surothers to all mankind. One of the most round the little globules, and a few striking instances of this power is the moments after the metal has vanished. manner in which his science transforms No trace is left, and only the peculiar an unsightly gift of nature into the most smell of the water betrays their secret : precious boon that man receives at her they have sought refuge in the friendly hands--a little gray substance into a element, and water, the stanch enemy priceless crystal, far more valuable than of fire from of old and ever ready to all the most costly jewels he possesses, conquer it by its own power, has been and indispensable to his very existence forced by the little magicians to burn, upon earth.
for a little while, in a bright, flickering This precious treasure is a little square- flame, before it could afford them a new fashioned grain, of gray color, born far home and safe shelter. down in the darkest recesses of the Nor is the other ancestor of the tiny earth, in times when fierce fires raged grain less odd in its nature. While below; and there it has lain for thou- every other substance on earth has some sands of years, along with countless lit- shape and form of its own, by which it tle grains of like shape, never seeing a may be known, and even water, though beautiful flower by its side or hearing ever changing and restless, never fails the sweet notes of a bird as it sings of to fashion itself in lovely globules, spring and budding love. Its ancestors Chlorine has no form or substance of its were two strange beings, that have but Like a prince of the air, it passes quite lately become known to us : unheeded through the atmosphere, visimetal with a silver sheen and a gas of ble only as a faint, yellowish-green vayellowish-green color. The former is por. You catch it and imprison it in a perhaps the oddest of its kind. Other glass, you compress it by all the means metals are heavy and hard ; this is so at your disposal with terrible force, and light that it swims on the water, and so at last it comes down, reluctantly, in the soft that it can be cut with a knife and shape of a bubbling liquid.
But rekneaded with the hand. Other metals lieve it for a moment of the enormous resist all impressions from without; this pressure, and it rises instantly again as is so yielding that if exposed for a little a vapor, and escapes from your grasp.
Unfit to be breathed by man or beast, the surface; and the sea is filled with whom it would smother in a few mo- it, from the topmost wave to the botments, it yet is not merely fatal to life, tomless abyss. For the unsightly grain, but has its good use in the wonderful little noticed by careless man, and taken household of nature, where every atom as a matter of course by most of us, is finds its noble vocation, and serves its the great guardian of health throughout great though often unseen purpose to our world ; without it the waters of the the glory of the Most High. Chlorine earth would soon stink with corruption has been endowed with a truly wonder- and all flesh would be foul with decay; 'ful power of combining with all other without it the plants would no longer elements without exception, and hence deck the land with their beauty, and becomes of vast importance to the
man would die a death of misery and chemist and the manufacturer. But it unspeakable horror. Hence, the mercy serves us most faithfully where danger of the Creator has scattered it broadthreatens us most nearly, and carries off, cast over our domain, and we have but with unfailing fidelity, the death-bring- to stretch out our hand to gather the ing gases of wells and neglected cellars, precious gift from on high. and purifies our sick-rooms ard hospi- Far away, in Eastern Europe, the tals.
traveller comes upon a long, low range These two strange beings, the flitting of hills, stretching from east to west, gas with its repulsive color and fatal which enclose, with their soft outlines breath, and the quaint metal whose and well-wooded slopes, a lovely valley, merry dance forces water to turn into dotted here and there with smaller hills fire, seek each other, throughout nature, and little knolls. A cluster of low but with unceasing longing. And yet, when- well-kept houses lies towards the openever they meet, they embrace each other ing, from hich he approaches the plain, only for a moment, and for their own and the eye wanders freely beyond them destruction, The bright silvery sub- into distant lowlands.
It is a busy stance has no sooner been breathed upon scene to which he comes, and men are by the foul gas, than it vanishes as if moving briskly about through the narby magic, and all that remains of the row streets and the countless paths that two is a tiny crystal of white color and lead over the common. They wear a silvery sheen. You examine it closely, strange costume of sombre black, and and you find that it resembles a hollow have thick leather aprons tied on behind cube; every minute particle of the grain instead of in front; but they look cheeris clear and transparent, like the most ful and happy, and many a merry song perfect of crystals, and it is only when and sweet carol is heard far and near. many are lying close to each other that The traveller engages one of these men, the broken rays of light give them a who all greet him with a pious wish pure, white hue. The poisonous power for his soul's welfare, to show him tbe of chlorine and the fiery nature of sodi- way into the mysterious world below, um have utterly disappeared, and in of which he has heard much; and soon their stead man is presented by his he finds himself arrayed in a white blouse beneficent mother Nature with a little and black velvet cap, such as are kept grain of salt, without which his life ready for visitors, at the mouth of a would be a burden and happiness upon
shaft which seems to lead down to the carth forever out of question !
very bowels of the earth. When his eye Fortunately, Nature is as bountiful as has become somewhat better accustomshe is wise, and hence the indispensable ed to the dim light of the candle stuck grain of salt is provided by her with in his hat, he notices that wooden rails such a lavish hand, that it may be found are laid all the way down the gentlyin immense quantities all over the earth. inclined plane; and he is invited to The land hides it in its dark caves, and mount a wooden contrivance, wondrousholds it forth in large shining masses on ly like the hobby. horse of our happy
childhood. The miner sits down before the apparently unfathomable darkness him ; the horse-- a sausage, it is called below. All of a sudden he sees bright in local parlance-starts with alarming lights before him, and, dazzled and surswiftness on the smooth, oiled rails, and prised, he enters a vast cathedral, the his right hand, armed with a stout, walls of which shine and shimmer all leathern gauntlet, grasps frantically the around in fanciful, fitting lights, as the rope that runs along the wall, to check light of torches and candles fall upon the painful velocity. At last the two the bright masses of salt; there is the horsemen are stopped, by reaching a altar with its colossal cross, and at the piece of level ground, and the traveller side the organ and choir; here also finds himself in a vast, subterranean statues and images abound on all sides, corridor, cut out of the live salt. Huge and even human worshippers, kneeling blocks of the precious material are lying down in silent adoration, are cut out in about, some colorless, some shining in the yielding material. He has little beautiful though subdued blue; the relish, perhaps, for the vast ball-room, roof rises high above him, and looks with its orchestra on high and its brilgray and grim in the dim light, and on liant chandeliers, glittering and glistenhis right the vaulted ceiling rests on ing like the fairest of crystals, and bedgigantic pillars, in which each tiny grain chambers with mocking couches; for shines brightly and sparkles as the light the whole upper world is repeated here falls upon it; and yet they all hold so below in grotesque caricature. firmly to each other that there is no Gradually the passages become lower; danger of their ever giving way and the ceiling sinks more and more on the proving faithless to their trust. A lit- left, and at last the traveller is forced to tle further on the miners are hard at bend, until he fairly creeps along on all work; they attack the mountain-side fours. But suddenly he sees before him by cutting out immense blocks in tbe a fairy scene: dark waters, sparkling shape of huge casks; then water is bright in the light of torches fastened poured down the furrows, and allowed to the glistening walls. Like a vast to remain standing there a few days, so black mirror, the subterranean lake, as to soften the rock ; at the proper silent and motionless, stretches far into time wedges are driven in, wbich soon the endless darkness. Never has wing swell in the water and blast out, as it of bird dipped its feathers into the were, without further help from human mysterious water; never has a breath hands, the great blocks in the desired of air ruffled its placid, patient surface. form. As the traveller wanders on Like walls of iron, the rocks of salt rise through the long dark passages, with all around in grim solemnity, and hold statues in niches and holy images at the restless element bound in eternal the corners, he passes large vaulted silence and peace. The scene is beautirooms, dark caves, and huge recesses, ful, and yet fearful in its utter loneliness that seem to have no end, and at times and death-like stillness. he comes upon stairs, cut in the rock, A few shells and débris of marinewhich he has to descend cautiously, so plants are found on the banks of the smooth and slippery is the material of black tarn, but they belong to generawhich they are formed. Every now and tions as old as the Deluge. No life has then he sees, at a distance, a bell-shaped ever been known to grace the lake. shaft, from the top of which hangs a Only ages and ages ago, when the wafrail ladder, free in the air, swaying and ters that now rest deep below the world swinging to and fro with the cold cur- of men, were purling merrily down the rents that blow here perpetually; and mountain-side, they bore with them the he looks with wonder and fear at the tiny houses of friendly animals; and in poor miner, who trembles and crosses their wanderings through the hidden himself piously, as be sets foot on the depths of the earth, carried them with slim rounds and descends slowly into them to their silent home. At the further 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 deposits Poland's early kings, to whom Heaven of the kind. Bergen in Norway, and vouchsafed, 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 alsubjects. 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 her 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.
to be a costly jewel. of salt more than seventy-five miles It was of no 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 har- 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 even 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