the fish, finished the meal, and removed the apparatus; and glass was found to have resulted from the nitre and sea-sand, vitrified by the heat.
Well, I have been a dozen times criticised by a number of wise men, in newspapers, who have said that this was a very idle tale, that there never was sufficient heat in a few bundles of sticks to produce vitrification,--glass-making.
I happened, two years ago, to meet, on the prairies of Missouri
, Professor Shepherd
, who started from Yale College, and like a genuine Yankee brings up anywhere where there is anything to do. I happened to mention this criticism to him. “Well,” says he, “a little practical life would have freed men from that doubt.”
Said he, “We stopped last year in Mexico
, to cook some venison.
We got down from our saddles, and put the cooking-apparatus on stones we found there; made our fire with the wood we got there, resembling ebony; and when we removed the apparatus there was pure silver gotten out of the embers by the intense heat of that almost iron wood.
Now,” said he, “that heat was greater than any necessary to vitrify the materials of glass.”
Why not suppose that Pliny's sailors had lighted on some exceedingly hard wood?
May it not be as possible as in this case?
So, ladies and gentlemen, with a growing habit of distrust of a large share of this modern and exceedingly scientific criticism of ancient records, I think we have been betraying our own ignorance, and that frequently, when the statement does not look, on the face of it, to be exactly accurate, a little investigation below the surface will show that it rests on a real truth.
Take, for instance, the English
proverb which was often quoted in my college days.
We used to think how little logic the common people had; and when we wanted to illustrate this in the school-room,--it was what was called a