An Unclassified Philosopher

SKIRTING the northern limit of Manhattan Island lies a large tract of land, several miles in area ; bounded on the north by Westchester County, and on the south, east, and west by the Bronx and Harlem rivers. This region is a terra incognita to most New Yorkers, or only vaguely known to them as “ over the bridge.” It is popularly supposed to be given over to the ravages of malarial fevers and the mural advertising agent. Unfortunates to whom cheap rents are an object reluctantly succumb to the necessity of residing there; and if of sanguine dispositions pretend to be interested in the cultivation of the small intervals of rock and rubbish which usually segregate their dwellings. Though incorporated by act of the legislature into the city, it is neither town nor country, and possesses the defects of both without the offsetting excellences of either. It has avenues and streets, of course ; but the avenues are country roads, and the streets quagmires. These roadways, ungraded, unsewered, and unpaved, the ward statesman regards with tender solicitude as furnishing a large and lucrative field of operations in the line of contracts and “ sessments; ” which “sessments” the local lawyer, in turn, finds equal pleasure and profit in petitioning the courts to vacate. Having exhausted the possibilities of plunder in the city proper, the statesman turns with avidity to the wide expanses of the “ ’Nexed Deestrick,” there to make the wilderness blossom with drainpipes and paving-stones at the expense of the taxpayer. Trains run through it to and from the city at infrequent intervals, with a maximum of noise and a minimum of convenience. In summer the mosquito is a burden, and in winter the ultrapontane enjoys his diurnal malaria in ever-recurring alternations.

But notwithstanding the manifold demerits of this suburban Nazareth, it bids fair to become celebrated in after ages as the home of a genius, whose researches and discoveries are destined to revolutionize the world of thought; to disprove the Mosaic cosmogony and the Darwinian hypothesis; to overthrow, in short, all former theories and speculations as to the nature and history of the planet on which we live, and generally, quoting his own language, “ to prove that in the whole universe there is not a mystery which the free, untrammeled brain cannot cope with and master.”

On Third, or, as it is named in high latitudes, Fordham, Avenue, between 172d and 173d streets, surrounded by vacant lots of low-lying, marshy land, stands a small frame building, square, flat-roofed, and evidently of home construction. The ground floor is occupied as a store, and the remaining parts are used for dwelling purposes. The front of the house is decorated with signboards, large and small, announcing to all and sundry that building and carpentering in every branch are promptly attended to; that orders for coal and wood are taken ; and that all persons desiring to buy or hire houses, or needing the services of a real-estate agent or auctioneer, can be accommodated on inquiry within. On the hall door, by the side of the store, is a modest nickel plate bearing the legend “ Nichols.”

This unpretending structure is, in fact, the residence of Professor Henry Nichols, the pioneer of the new departure in cosmic philosophy, whose life and opinions form the subject of this paper. On fine summer evenings, a short, strongly-built man may be seen busily engaged in repairing fences and outhouses, or adding contrivances for comfort and convenience to the lowly domicile just described. He has a freshcolored face, steel-blue eyes, regular features, and a high forehead, rendered more noticeable by a slight baldness. The fringe of curly hair, tawny in color, and the full beard and mustaches of the same hue, which surround his face, unmistakably betoken a Saxon ancestry, while the rough shirt and overalls in which he is clad testify to narrow circumstances and a life of toil. That is the professor. The scene is strongly illustrative of the truth of the adage that a prophet is without honor in his own country. The professor, however, bears the res angusta domi with sufficient stoicism, and accepts poverty, neglect, and ridicule with equal fortitude, as the natural lot of one who has chosen to devote his life to the study of abstract problems in the midst of a gainsaying and money-making generation.

As he justly remarks of himself and those whom he regards as his legitimate predecessors in the particular department of human knowledge to which his labors are directed, “ There have been three stages in the line of planetary development. The first was ushered in by Galileo, who passes before us eyeless and with severed thumb; the second by Columbus, dishonored and in chains ; the third by Professor Nichols, the White Slave. The first,” he says, — and this brings us to what may be called the fundamental truth on which his system of philosophy is based, — “ the first proved that the earth moves, the second that the earth is round, and the third that the earth is alive.”

Alive, that is to say, not in the figurative sense in which we describe a street as being alive with people, but literally as being “ a living, breathing creature, the same as ourselves and all animated nature : ” subject, therefore, of course, to croup, the measles, and other infantile disorders in its tender years, and to rheumatism and paralysis, or their equivalent forms of cosmic decrepitude, in its senility.

Many years ago the professor’s observation of certain natural phenomena led him to regard with suspicion the universally prevalent view that the earth is a sphere of inorganic matter, without life and without function. The more he pondered, the more decided became his belief that this theory was founded in crass ignorance, or willful blindness to the facts of the case. He finally settled down to the mature and unalterable conviction that our planet is not a mere insensate mass, kept in motion, if at all, by the operation of some extraneous force, but a living, sentient organism of flesh and blood, bone and sinew, nerve and brain, with respiratory organs and a digestive apparatus; entertaining likes and dislikes, governed by principles and prejudices, exercising will power; and passing, or destined to pass, as do all other organisms, through the various stages of birth, growth, maturity, decadence, and death.

This important point settled to his own satisfaction, the professor, after the approved scientific method, began his lifelong quest of facts and arguments in support of his theory. These he found, and still finds, ready to his hand. Difficulties arise but to be met, and objections to be answered. The questions of shallow-minded critics serve only to elicit more irrefragable proofs of the truth of his momentous discovery. Stumblingblocks become stepping-stones. Weapons of destruction are by him seized and transformed into elements of defense. The fact must be stubborn and unwieldy indeed that he cannot mould to fit some niche in the superstructure of his analogies and evidences.

Now when a man discovers, or thinks that he discovers, anything, the first impulse that seizes him is to write a book about it. If he be of more than ordinary strength of mind, he casts the thought behind him, as a suggestion of Satan. In most cases, alas, he weakly yields to the temptation, and becomes a man with a message. The world is usually tolerant of him, and consents to be button-holed with a sort of pitying resignation, allowing the strong extenuating circumstances to plead in mitigation of its otherwise sweeping sentence of condemnation.

It is greatly to the professor’s credit that he has not written a book. The author of such a startling innovation on all preconceived views might well be excused for, and perhaps even justified in, writing not only a book, but a whole library. All the more is his abstinence in this respect worthy the highest commendation. He has, however, prepared a lecture ; which lecture he has on more than one occasion delivered before favored audiences, with the most gratifying results so far as regards the reception of his message, but, sad to say, with ridiculously inadequate pecuniary returns. Indeed, to the shame of science and civilization be it said, enough hearers at twenty-five cents a head could not be procured to pay expenses.

This fact does not trouble him. He was not even daunted by the lamentable deficit of thirty dollars which on one inauspicious night yawned between the receipts at the door and the rent of the hall. Some day the scientific men of the world will throw off the slumberous apathy which now dulls their mental vision, and awake to the importance of the professor’s great discovery. Then fortunes will be made, and he will be at at the making. Not that he longs for money itself. Far otherwise. He would even now willingly cede two thirds of the net profits derivable therefrom to any enterprising financial agent with foresight and capital enough to bring him properly before the public.

In truth, all he desires is $20,000 as a fund for organizing an expedition to the North Pole, for the purpose of investigating some points respecting his theory, the importance of which will hereafter appear, and which, once settled, will remove it from the realm of speculation, and place it upon a basis of indubitable fact.

The professor is not an educated man, in the ordinary sense of the term. As he observes, “ For thirty years I have studied but one book. It has one leaf and no cover. It is the Book of Nature.”

Indeed, his active and adventurous career has precluded familiarity with the study and the class-room.

“ At the age of thirteen years,” he once said to me, “ I sailed from New York city to London, England. From London I went round the Cape of Good Hope, and thence round Cape Horn to St. Catherine’s, Brazil. Thus, before I reached my fifteenth year, I accomplished the feat of sailing clean around the world, having crossed the same meridian of longitude I started from. I returned into the Pacific Ocean by way of Cape Horn, and remained in the different whaling-grounds in the South Pacific for six years.”

The professor subsequently served in the Union navy during the war. At its close he invested his prize money in some small building speculations in New York; bought a farm in the country with the proceeds ; sold it at a loss ; reduced his means still further by an unsuccessful attempt to establish a lucrative retail grocery business ; and finally spent the remnant in eking out the scanty pittance he received from an up-town horse railroad as a car-conductor.

It will readily be conceived that he has had but little time to devote to studies, which are, after all, but the raw materials of education. He has reached a like, or even higher, level of culture by methods quite independent of the schools. When, therefore, he says “ I prove” this or that fact connected with his theory, it will be understood that he ignores altogether the musty rules of logic formulated by Whately or Jevons. He knows and cares nothing for syllogisms in Barbara or Cesarea; nor do meaningless terms, such as “ ambiguous middle,” or “ illicit process of the major,” mar the serene confidence with which he asserts the absolute inexpugnability of his conclusions.

Hypercritics may cavii at the professor’s diction (which the present writer has striven to preserve) as being archaic and even faulty in grammatical construction. But what it loses in polish it gains in homely vigor. One cannot have everything.

Some time ago the professor adopted the calling of a jobbing carpenter, in which capacity he has on several occasions visited me to execute needed repairs about the house.

“ I have written a lecture,” he remarked, on one of these occasions, “ in which I prove that the astronomers, geologists, and other learned men of the day are all wrong.”

“ Indeed ! ” I said.

“ I have stood on the back platform of my car,” he continued, “and argued with lawyers, doctors, and other prominent men, until I ’ve made them tremble like a leaf.”

I could readily believe it. “ What is the subject ? ” I ventured to ask.

“ I prove by analogy,” said he, “ that the planet on which we live is an animal, — a living, breathing creature, the same as ourselves and all animated nature.”

In answer, probably, to my surprised and incredulous stare, he went on, ore rotundo, and apparently quoting from the lecture in question : —

“ My first proof is in breathing. I will commence with the smallest insect known to man of which the habits have been studied. It is called the minute insect. It is born, matures, bears young, and passes away in the space of one minute. It breathes so rapidly as to be past counting. A man breathes eighteen times in a minute. The smallest species of whale breathes five times in a minute. The largest species, known as the right whale of the Antarctic Ocean, breathes once in three minutes. The planet on which we live breathes twice in twenty-four hours, — which is proven by the rise and fall of the tides.”

Now I never was strong on tides. Any schoolboy could rout me, horse, foot, and artillery, on the subject of tides. Still, I had some vague and shadowy notions that the moon, somehow or another, had entire charge of tidal routes and connections. But the professor undeceived me.

“ Nonsense ! ” said he. “ That the tides are not caused by the moon’s attraction is plain. We see often both the sun and the moon on the same side of the earth, and at the same time a dead low tide.”

I could not perceive the force of this argument, but, as I said before, I knew so little about tides, any way, that I felt sure he must be right.

“ Then what does cause the tides ? ” I asked.

“ The ebb and flow of the tides,” answered the professor, sententiously, “ is caused by expansion and contraction, by absorption and ejection, by the steady and regular breathing of the planet, in fact. We are taught by the philosophers,” he added contemptuously, “ that the tide commences at the equator, and flows north and south to the extreme turning-points twice a day. If this were the case, we could cast a ship loose from her moorings at high water, and by the turn of the tide she would be two thousand miles away.”

Here again my lamentable ignorance of tidal matters moved me to take refuge in a hypocritical “ Precisely.”

“ Now it is not so,” said the professor, relentlessly pursuing the aforementioned philosophers.

I had feared it all along.

“ The tide,” he resumed, “ rises on both and all sides of the earth at one and the same time. Muscat, near the northern extremity of the Arabian Sea, has high water at the same hour as Rio Janeiro, on the western shore of the Atlantic : the one being in a northern, the other in a southern latitude; the one in east, the other in west longitude. Refute it, if you can. You have the means at hand, — the ocean telegraph.”

Here the professor looked at me as though he thought I had the ocean telegraph concealed somewhere about my person.

“ Just so,” I murmured, absently: “fifty cents a word, address included; words containing over ten letters charged as two.”

“ Which proves,” said the professor triumphantly, “that the tide is caused by a regular contraction, and expansion of the earth from a common centre.”

“ But why don’t we feel it on the land also?” I inquired.

“ If you look at the map,” he replied, “ you will see that on both sides of and below Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope this planet is all water as far down as the Antarctic Circle. This corresponds to the abdomen and flexible parts of our bodies; while the upper half of the planet is firmly knit together, and formed of hard, solid material, and corresponds in a wonderful degree with the upper and more bony parts of our bodies, which from the chest up are composed of compact, firm-set bones.”

“ What has all that to do with my question?” I meekly suggested.

“ It has all to do with it,” said the professor firmly. “ When we breathe, the expanding and contracting motion is plainly seen and felt in the flexible part of the body, but in the upper, or fixed, bony part it is scarcely perceptible, It is so with the huge creature, called a planet, on which we live. The operation of respiration is clearly visible on the water, or flexible part of its body ; but on the land, or bony part, not at all. Again, when we breathe, our lower rib bones contract and expand much more than do those higher up. So with the earth. Consequently, if the southern parts of Africa and South America and the islands of the South Pacific did not expand with the rise of the tide, they would be submerged and covered with water every time our planet breathed.”

“ But what does it breathe through ? ” I asked. “ Has it a mouth ? ”

“ Of course it has,” retorted the professor testily, and as if losing patience at such senseless questions, — “at the North Pole. The great polar opening, or, as I will live to prove, the mouth of the earth, is at least one hundred miles in circumference. There is not in the whole universe any animate creature but has an opening near the top or upper end through which to breathe.”

A light broke in on me.

“ Oh ! Symmes’ Hole ! ” I exclaimed.

“What is that?” said the professor, but with no answering look of recognition on his face.

Then I perceived that he was unaware that on one point, at least, of his discovery he had been forestalled. I instantly thought of Adams and Leverrier, and of Wallace and Darwin, who, each unknown to the other, had reached similar conclusions from independent investigations. The professor, however, had the advantage over his illustrious predecessor in that his discovery was not of a mere isolated, unrelated fact, but of one link in a chain of analogies, reaching and affecting even the remotest members of the planetary and stellar systems.

“ How do you account,” said I, presently, returning to the professor’s last proposition, “ for the huge masses of ice accumulated in the vicinity of the Pole, or, as you would probably say, the throat of the earth ? Would they not tend to produce bronchial affections ? ”

“ How do you account,” retorted the professor, using the Socratic method against me with crushing effect, “ for the ice that clogs a man’s beard on a cold winter’s day ? It is congealed breath, of course. There is not a phenomenon in nature,” he continued, with the air of one defying contradiction, “ which does not find a place in my theory, and prove the truth of it. Name one,” he added, with a magnanimous flourish.

“ The aurora borealis,” I suggested at a venture, prompted probably by its connection with the immediate subject of his remarks, — the polar regions.

“ I have stood on my car,” answered the professor, speaking in parables, “ and have seen an angry dog following it for blocks, his eyes emitting sparks of fire.”

“ Then the aurora borealis is ” —

“ The flashing of the eyes of the planet in moments of anger or excitement.”

“ And pray, what are the eyes of the planet ? ”

“ The magnetic pole.”

“ But did not Ross, or McClintock, or some one, discover and locate the magnetic pole ? ” I inquired, helplessly.

“ They did nothing of the sort,” returned the professor, with indignant emphasis. And then he went on, and attacked their statements and demolished their conclusions with such vigor that I began to doubt whether those hardy navigators had ever been inside the Arctic Circle at all.

“ Thunder and lightning! ” I exclaimed.

The professor regarded me dubiously for a moment, but becoming satisfied that my remark was the indication of a genuine desire for further information, and not a mere frivolous exclamation of surprise or incredulity, he resumed with zest his expository labors, — “ tracing out the analogies,” as he termed it.

“ I have stroked the back of a cat in the dark,” said he, adopting his favorite method of teaching by similitudes, and it crackled and sparkled like thorns on a fire. Now what caused that ? ”

“ Electricity, I suppose.”

“ Exactly; which proves to a certainty that thunder and lightning are the latent electricity of the earth’s living body developed by friction.”

And so on, through the whole constitution and course of nature, the professor traveled, marshaling every conceivable terrestrial phenomenon into line, to add its mite of testimony to the infallibility of his system.

Cast into the alembic of his philosophy, Hecla, Etna, and Vesuvius were, of course, transmuted into running sores, through which the earth’s bad humors and waste tissues were discharged. Earthquakes reappeared as stomachic or intestinal commotions attendant upon the outbreak of more or less violent choleraic symptoms. Trees and other vegetation became invested with new interest as the hair of the planet. Tornadoes and wind storms revealed their real character as neuralgic affections, — a sort of jumping toothache, as it were. Changes in the weather reflected the varying moods and caprices of the planet, or its hygienic condition, as, for instance, a cold summer indicated that the earth was suffering from dumb ague or defective circulation, or was passing through a fit of the blues by reason of the coldness or unfriendliness on the part of the sun or some one of the other planets whose friendship or good opinion the earth values. Fog and rain were perspiration, and quicksands and other like spots the pores of the earth, through which even nourishment could be administered by absorption, should it at any time, by reason of extreme debility or from any other cause, be incapacitated from taking food in the normal way.

It may be here remarked that the professor prefers to wait until he shall have visited the North Pole before pronouncing definitely upon the nature of the earth’s food supply and its manner of feeding. He is inclined to think, however, judging from the habits of the whale in this respect, that the earth is constantly taking in food in large quantities by suction, — star dust, gases, clouds, and any stray meteorites that may happen athwart Symmes’ Hole in the course of their wanderings through immensity.

“ I suppose,” observed the professor, regarding me with indulgent pity, — “I suppose you don’t know what causes the extreme high tides and the tidal wave.”

He did not even condescend to await my reply.

“ Let any sensitive person walk from Harlem Bridge to the City Hall,” he went on, preserving, as he did on all occasions, the manner of one delivering a set oration, and never permitting the dignity of his theme to suffer by lapses into mere colloquial talk, “ and there is not a feeling to which the human breast is heir that is not called in play: compassion, veneration, fear, wonder at the many works of art which meet the eye in every direction. But of all emotions, the deepest and most powerful is that roused by the sight of a beautiful woman. The beholder, were it not ill-mannered, would be riveted to the spot he stands upon. He instinctively heaves a long deep-drawn sigh, which penetrates to his utmost being. This is love and veneration that needs no prompting. It is a worship which comes unbidden and spontaneous.”

The illustration was somewhat obscure, and I failed to see the drift of it.

The professor at once proceeded to illumine me.

“ It is so with the planet on which we live. Astronomers know by the planets when the tidal wave is about to be raised, and they foretell its coming in time to warn us. They see the effect, but look not deep enough to discover the cause. If they could but grasp the fact that these planets are living creatures, the same as ourselves, they would at once perceive that they were drawn towards each other by affinity, — by feelings of mutual affection and desire; and that when the emotions of the earth, approaching another planet, are so stirred, this great long-drawn breath upheaves the mighty deep and causes the tidal wave.”

This was, to use the language of the late lamented Dominie Sampson, PROdigious. The earth, careering through the illimitable ether in the rôle of a love-lorn suitor, its midriff heaving with amorous sighs, is, truly, a stupendous spectacle, wonderful to gods and men. Perhaps, even, were our gross ears attuned to sphere harmonies, we might hear it (or him) pouring out a woful ballad to its (or his) mistress’ eyebrow, “ Thou art so near and yet so far,” or words to that effect.

The conception, taken merely as a flight of fancy, is not unworthy of Rabelais or Swift. But when we consider that the professor has unearthed a natural phenomenon on which the further claim, “founded on fact,” may fairly stand, then only do its true dimensions become discernible. It stands alone in the annals of speculation.

But the professor goes further. Aided by the touchstone of his great discovery, he assigns to man a place in the economy of nature lowlier even than the very modest one accorded to him by Mr. Darwin and the evolutionists.

“ What are the human race, viewed in the light of your theory?” I asked.

“ Parasites, insects, diseases of the planet,”answered the professor. “There is not an animal in existence, be it large or small, that does not breed and sustain swarms of parasitic insects.”

“ Larger fleas have little fleas
Upon their legs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas,
And so ad infinitum,”

I quoted.

“ That’s the point,” said the professor, “ and it proves what I say beyond a doubt. Men and women, as well as all other animals, were generated in the first instance by the heat of the sun from the decomposing gases of the earth’s body, just the same as maggots, worms, flies, and such-like truck. When I was in the South Pacific, I there discovered floating worlds. In other words, I learned the fact that some of the whales of the Pacific Ocean have inhabitants on them. I saw one whale, in particular, which had its back entirely covered with little shell huts and carbuncles, covered all round about and filled with millions of small insects of as great a variety as there are of animals on this earth. As we killed this whale, we had a good opportunity of observing these island insects, which were of so many varieties of form that it is needless to enter into details. But I trace the analogy farther. You must know that the whale goes down and stays beneath the surface of the water fifteen minutes. During the time it is down in the deep, dark water, away from the sun, it is a change in the insects’ lives equal to a night-time ; being day-time with them while above the water in full view of the sun. At night when the sun is set, it amounts to a change of season in their short lives, equal to a winter in our much longer lives. But,” continued the professor, with the manner of one having vast reserves to draw upon, “ the proof by analogy in breathing is not the only one I have. My second proof is in ages. Thus: —

“ The minute insect lives one minute.

“ A man lives from sixty to seventy years.

“ An elephant lives three hundred years, — which is known to be a fact.

“ The large arctic whale lives from one thousand to fifteen hundred years, — which is not known, and never will be. For if you should fence in a whale in order to find out his age, it would be like fencing in a planet or boxing up a man where he could not breathe. The whale would cease to exist for want of breathing-room.”

I was ready, if necessary, to assure him that I had no such intention.

“ But I can prove by analogy,” said he, “ by the large trees of California, which are known to be over three thousand years old, that it must take ages for so large a monster as a whale to mature. Such a vast mass of flesh and blood could not accumulate in less than several hundred years.”

“ By the way, professor,” said I, deferentially breaking the thread of his discourse, “ I see that you include the elephant in this second scale of comparison, and not in the first. How often does it breathe per minute ? ”

“ I do not know,” said the professor sadly. “ I once applied for the post of lecturer in Barnum’s show, solely for the purpose of studying the habits of the elephant, and more particularly with reference to its breathing. But influence was brought to bear against me, and some one else got the place.

“ Through this analogy in ages,” resumed the professor, continuing his exposition, “ I prove by an easy process that our planet is in the decline of life. In this way : A child when first born is little more than flesh, the bones being so soft and moist that the body can be twisted into almost any shape. As it advances in life, it expands and enlarges until it reaches its prime. In the decline of life the flesh becomes drier and drier, and the skin recedes and contracts, and the bones project, until there is nothing left of the once beautiful creature but withered parchment and sapless bone. Now, the flesh of the planet upon which we live is water. It is a well-established fact that slowly and by degrees the water upon the earth is drying up. Rivers at the present day, with hardly an exception, are much lower than they used to be in days gone by ; and history shows that all ancient cities whereof a record has been kept, which were built close to the sea, are now a long way from it. The city of Rome was built at the water’s edge, but is now some three miles distant from it. The conclusion is irresistible that the flesh of the earth is gradually withering, and that it is surely nearing a flesldess and sapless old age. My next proof is in heat.”

“ How many proofs have you in all?” I inquired anxiously.

“ Eight,” returned the professor solemnly, “ and they are all equally conclusive.”

I was paying him by the hour, — but no matter.

“ My third proof,” he went on, “ is in heat. The heat in the minute insect is hardly perceptible. A man’s blood is warm. The blood of the smallest species of whale is very hot. The blood of the large arctic whale is liquid fire. It may not be out of place here to give some proof as to how I came by this knowledge.”

He then proceeded to describe the capture of a large whale in the South Pacific, at which he assisted; relating with great circumstantiality the various incidents of the chase, and how, when the harpooner struck the coup de grace, “ the blood spirted forth with such force as to wet all hands to the skin.”

“ The men,” added the professor, with some pardonable pride, “ immediately washed the blood off their faces, advising me to do the same. But this was too good a chance to let go by. I had been told that it would burn my skin, and I was determined on proving it.”

He succeeded.

“In three minutes the blood was so hot that it began to peel up like a thousand wafers, burning my face as if a mustard-plaster had been applied to it for half an hour, so that I really thought the skin would come off. The red spots were on my face for days.

“ The blood of the planet ” said the professor, resuming the orderly statement of his argument, “is fire, so dense as to melt the solid rocks, which is proven by rocks of fire being thrown from volcanoes, which are found in all latitudes, ejecting from time to time streams of red-hot lava. There is a river of fire in the Sandwich Islands, flowing from an immense gaping chasm, or hideous fire-pit, twelve hundred feet deep and fifteen miles in circumference, and containing more than 328,000 square yards of convulsed torrents of matter in igneous fusion, constantly boiling and spouting, rolling in all directions, like waves of a disturbed sea ; this cauldron has been in an active state as far back as the memory of man reaches. Some time ago, it took to running a river of fire thirty miles long, two hundred yards wide, and from ten to twenty feet deep, the end of the river emptying into the sea. I hold that this is the place where the earth’s waste and burnt-out tissues are discharged. It is in exact proportion, as regards time, quantity, quality, and consequences. During seasons of what may be called choleraic activity, our stomachs shake and our breathing is affected. So with the earth. While the river of fire was running most violently, the whole of the Mediterranean Sea was shaken throughout its length and breadth, and on some of the islands cities and villages were entirely destroyed. The Mediterranean Sea is almost on the opposite side of the earth from where the river of fire was.”

“ Then you claim that the earth has organs and members the same as other animals?” I asked, again interrupting the current of his remarks. “ Has it a brain ? ”

“ Certainly it has.”

“ Where is it located ? ”

“ Ask the parasite on the whale’s body where the whale’s brain is. Of course it cannot tell you.”

“ But how do you reconcile the earth’s unchanging orbit round the sun with that exercise of will power and freedom of choice which seems to be inseparable from the idea of a being possessing a brain ? ”

“ Easily,” said the professor. “ Some men are steady and homelike in their habits. So methodical are they in their goings and comings that they are as regular as clockwork. Other men are wild and roving in their natures. They are born travelers, and are just as likely to be seen in the middle of Africa as on Broadway. Just so it is with the planets. Some are steady-going, quiet, and domesticated, like our own. Others are wild and erratic, like the comets, coming and going no man knows whence or whither.”

But space forbids that I should so much as enumerate the professor’s other proofs, to say nothing of giving detailed statements of them, even though they be, as he asserted, “ equally conclusive ” with those cited.

Enough has been shown, albeit in a fragmentary and imperfect manner, to indicate the existence of a mine of scientific treasure, of untold richness and of unknown extent. If the professor’s conclusions be correct, startling — nay, appalling — contingencies may at any moment arise, the outcome of which it is impossible even to conjecture. Suppose, for instance, the earth should suddenly, in a fit of pique, sever its connection with the solar system, and, running amuck through the abysm of space, come to an untimely and violent end, in a disgraceful affray with some disreputable gang of planetary marauders infesting the far outskirts of stellar civilization.

But the imagination shrinks back aghast from the awful possibilities indicated by the professor’s revelations. That way madness lies.

Questions, too, nearer home may be raised, which, though now apparently remote, may at any time become urgent and burning ones. Take, for example, the case of coal mines and other subterranean excavations. If it should hereafter appear that they penetrate beyond the callous epidermis, and enter the sensitive regions of the terrene ganglia, would not the intervention of Mr. Bergh and the S. P. C. A. become imperatively necessary ?

But it is needless to multiply instances. At all events, the duty of the scientific world is clear. It should at once organize another expedition to the North Pole for the purpose of discovering the mouth, and if possible the ears, of the earth. That accomplished, communications might be opened, a conference arranged, and such assurances extracted from the earth as would serve to quiet the apprehensions and relieve the suspense created by the contemplation of the fathomless abyss over which we hang, helpless and blindfold.

Frederick D. Storey.