Page images

beautiful country, visited the mines, went down the shafts by endless perpendicular ladders, and examined the veins and workings with the manager, who had great confidence in its value, and was a large shareholder. “Here,” said Geach, "you can see the vein of lead ore. It is very valuable, and extends to an unknown depth. This is not a probability, it is a certainty.” And so I was persuaded to buy shares in lead-mines, and gradually had a large portion of my capital invested in them.

But here again, neither I nor Geach, nor hardly one in England, knew of the insidious foe that in a remote part of the world was preparing the way for the ruin of English leadmining. This was twofold: the great development of mining in Spain by English capitalists; and, more important still, the enormous amount of silver-mining in Nevada, United States, where the ore contained lead and silver combined, so that as the works extended large quantities of lead accumulated as a kind of waste product, and much of this was exported to Europe, and so lowered the price of lead that most of the British lead-mines became unprofitable. About 1870 the price of lead began to fall, and has continued to fall, as has silver, ever since. The result of all this was that by 1880 a large part of the money I had earned at the risk of health and life was irrecoverably lost.

While these continued misfortunes were in progress I was involved in two other annoyances, causing anxiety and worry for years, as well as a very large money loss. The first was with a dishonest builder, who contracted to build my house at Grays, and who was paid every month according to the proportion of the work done. One day, when the house was little more than half finished, he did not appear to pay his men, and as they would not continue to work without their money I paid them. He did not appear the next week, and sent no excuse, so the architect gave him notice that I should complete the building myself, and that, according to the agreement, he would be responsible for any cost beyond the contract price. After a few weeks he appeared, and wanted to go on, but that we declined. The house cost me somewhat

more than the contract price, and when it was finished I sent him word he could have his ladders, scaffold-poles, boards, etc., though, according to the agreement, they were to be my property on his failure to finish the building.

I soon found, however, that he had not paid for a large portion of the materials, and bills kept coming in for months afterwards for bricks, timber, stone, iron-work, etc., etc. The merchants who had trusted him found that he had no effects whatever, as he lived as a lodger with his father; and from all I heard, was accustomed to take contracts in different places round London, and by not paying for any materials that he could get on credit, make a handsome profit. But the height of his impudence was to come. About five years after the house was finished, I received a demand through a lawyer for (I think) between £800 and £900 damages for not allowing this man to finish the house! I wrote, refusing to pay a penny. Then came a notice of an action at law; and I was obliged to put it in a lawyer's hands. All the usual preliminaries of interrogatories, affidavits, statements of claim, replies, objections, etc., etc., were gone through, and on every point argued we were successful, with costs, which we never got. The case was lengthened out for two or three years, and then ceased, the result being that I had to pay about £100 law costs for what was merely an attempt to extort money. That was my experience of English law, which leaves the honest man in the power of the dishonest one, mulcts the former in heavy expenses, and is thus the very antithesis of justice.

The next matter was a much more serious one, and cost me fifteen years of continued worry, litigation, and persecution, with the final loss of several hundred pounds. And it was all brought upon me by my own ignorance and my own faultignorance of the fact so well shown by the late Professor de Morgan-that “paradoxers," as he termed them, can never be convinced, and my fault in wishing to get money by any kind of wager. It constitutes, therefore, the most regrettable incident in my life. As many inaccurate accounts have been published, I will now state the facts, as briefly as possible, from documents still in my possession.

In Scientific Opinion of January 12, 1870, Mr. John Hampden (a relative of Bishop Hampden) challenged scientific men to prove the convexity of the surface of any inland water, offering to stake £500 on the result. It contained the following words : “He will acknowledge that he has forfeited his deposit if his opponent can exhibit, to the satisfaction of any intelligent referee, a convex railway, river, canal, or lake.” Before accepting this challenge I showed it to Sir Charles Lyell, and asked him whether he thought I might accept it. He replied, “Certainly. It may stop these foolish people to have it plainly shown them.” I therefore wrote accepting the offer, proposing Bala lake, in North Wales, for the experiment, and Mr. J. H. Walsh, editor of the Field, or any other suitable person, as referee. Mr. Hampden proposed the Old Bedford canal in Norfolk, which, near Downham Market, has a stretch of six miles quite straight between two bridges. He also proposed a Mr. William Carpenter (a journeyman printer, who had written a book upholding the "flat earth” theory) as his referee; and as Mr. Walsh could not stay away from London more than one day, which was foggy, I chose Mr. Coulcher, a surgeon and amateur astronomer, of Downham Market, to act on my behalf, Mr. Walsh being the umpire and referee.

The experiment finally agreed upon was as follows: The iron parapet of Welney bridge was thirteen feet three inches above the water of the canal. The Old Bedford bridge, about six miles off, was of brick and somewhat higher. On this bridge I fixed a large sheet of white calico, six feet long and three feet deep, with a thick black band along the centre, the lower edge of which was the same height from the water as the parapet of Welney bridge ; so that the centre of it would be as high as the line of sight of the large six-inch telescope I had brought with me. At the centre point, about three miles from each bridge, I fixed up a long pole with two red discs on it, the upper one having its centre the same height above the water as the centre of the black band and of the telescope, while the second disc was four feet lower down. It is evident that if the surface of the water is a perfectly straight

line for the six miles, then the three objects—the telescope, the top disc, and the black band—being all exactly the same height above the water, the disc would be seen in the telescope projected upon the black band; whereas, if the six-mile surface of the water is convexly curved, then the top disc would appear to be decidedly higher than the black band, the amount due to the known size of the earth being five feet eight inches, which amount will be reduced a little by refraction to perhaps about five feet.

[blocks in formation]

Fig 2. The above diagrams illustrate the experiment made. The curved line in Fig. 1, and the straight line in Fig. 2, show the surface of the canal on the two theories of a round or a flat earth. A and C are the two bridges six miles apart, while B is the pole midway with two discs on it, the upper disc, the telescope at A, and the black line on the bridge at C, being all exactly the same height above the water. If the surface of the water is truly flat, then on looking at the mark C with the telescope A, the top disc B will cover that mark. But if the surface of the water is curved, then the upper disc will appear above the black mark, and if the disc is more than four feet above the line joining the telescope and the black mark, then the lower disc will also appear above the black mark. Before the experiment was made a diagram similar to this was submitted to Mr. 'Hampden, his referee Mr. Carpenter, and Mr. Walsh, and all three agreed that it showed clearly what should be seen in the two cases, while

the former declared their firm belief that Fig. 2 showed what would be seen.

When the pole was set up and the mark put upon the bridge, Mr. Carpenter accompanied me, and saw that their heights above the water were the same as that of the telescope resting on the parapet of the bridge. What was seen in the large telescope was sketched by Mr. Coulcher and signed by Mr. Carpenter as correct, and is shown in the following diagram which was reproduced in the Field newspaper (March 26, 1870), and also in a pamphlet by Carpenter himself. But

"Signed by Mr. Carpenter."-Dr. Coulcher's Report.


he declared that this proved nothing, because the telescope was not levelled, and because it had no cross-hair!

At his request to have a spirit-level in order to show if there was any “fall” of the surface of water, I had been to King's Lynn and borrowed a good Troughton's level from a surveyor there. This I now set up on the bridge at exactly the same height above the water as the other telescope, and having levelled it very accurately and called Mr. Carpenter to see that the bubble was truly central and that the least movement of the screws elevating or depressing it would cause the bubble to move away, I adjusted the focus on to the distant bridge, and showing also the central staff and its two discs.

« EelmineJätka »