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Astronomers have long had under their observation' a set of peculiar objects, apparently within the limits of our star-system, and called nebulæ, from their filmy cloud-like appearance. There is one of magnificent appearance in the girdle of the constellation Andromeda, and another still more splendid in the sword-hilt of Orion, both visible to the naked eye." Some of these objects are of irregular form, stretching like a fragment of semi-pellucid membrane over the sky, with patches of brighter matter scattered irregularly throughout their extent. In others, the bright patches are of greater intensity, so as to have the decided appearance of gatherings of the matter towards a particular point. Others there are in which these bright parts seem nearly disengaged from the surrounding thin matter, or only, bedded on a slight background composed of it. In a fourth class, we see detached masses, approaching more or less to a spherical form, and with various measures of comparative brightness towards the centre, until they resemble a star with only a slight bur around it.
When telescopes of high powers were applied to these bodies, many of them were resolved into dense clusters of stars ; but others could not thus be resolved, and had such a peculiar appearance, that it was surmised they were not starry masses, but patches of diffused matter in the course of being condensed to stars and systems. This surmise was readily supported by many, on the belief that such uncondensed suns were likely to exist, and that the hypothesis furnished a ready basis whereon to found the history and connection of the solar system. But in 1846, the powerful telescope of Lord Rosse showed that one of the most marked of these nebulæ (that in Orion) did really consist of an immense irregular mass of stars, undiscernible before, from its being situated so remotely in the depth of the starry spaces. It has consequently been pronounced as extremely doubtful if there are any masses of diffused, or, properly speaking, nebulous matter in the regions of space.
The discovery, however it may affect theories, infinitely exalts our conceptions of the magnitude and extent of the material universe. "It teaches us to regard the farthest and filmiest speck which the most powerful telescope can descry, as a mass of worlds, melted by distance into a dim light, but comprising individualities as perfect, and at the same time as progressive in their natures, as our own. “ What mean, for instance,” says Professor Nichol in a recent work, “those dim spots 'which, unknown before, loom in greater and greater numbers on the horizon of every new instrument, unless they are gleams it is obtaining, on its own frontier, of a mighty infinitude beyond, also studded with glories, and infolding what is seen as a minute and subservient part? Yes; even the six-feet mirror, after its powers of distinct vision are exhausted, becomes in its turn simply as the child gazing on these mysterious lights with as ful and hopeless wonder. I shrink below the conception that hereeven at this threshold of the attainable—bursts forth on my mind! Look at a cloudy speck in Orion, visible, without aid, to the well-trained eye; that is a stellar universe of majesty altogether transcendent, lying at the verge of what is known. Well
, if any of these lights from afar, on which the six-feet mirror is now casting its longing eye, resemble in character that spot, the systems from which they come are situated so deep in space, that no ray from them could reach our earth until after travelling through the intervening abysses during centuries whose number stuns the imagination. There must be some regarding which that faint illumination informs us, not of their present existence, but only that assuredly they were, and sent forth into the infinite the rays at present reaching us, at an epoch farther back into the past than this momentary lifetime of maan, by at least thirty millions of years!”
Such are the more prominent and marvellous revelations of the telescope-an instrument without which we of the present age would have known as little of the actual configuration of the heavenly bodies, as did the earliest eye that was turned heavenward. The nearer orbs would still have been regarded as mere brilliant specks—“lamps set in the upper firmament;" while the more distant and minute would have remained for ever unknown. The eye of the most enlightened philosopher, without its aid, is of as little avail as that of the untutored peasant; it cannot dwell longer on the glare of the sun, or pierce farther into the profundities of space. In fact, for all that we know of the actual appearance of the heavenly hosts of their satellites, belts, surface-irregularities, and so forth-we are indebted to the magic lenses and reflectors of the astronomical telescope. Nor is man in possession of all that he will yet know of the heavenly bodies ; for so enticing is the pursuit, that from the time of Galileo downwards, observers have never flagged, either as regards the improvement of the instrument, or as concerns its application to farther discoveries. Nor a more ennobling function could they well perform; for, throwing altogether aside the importance of the telescope in a practical point of view, it is not too much to assert, that it has been no insignificant auxiliary to the cause of intellectual and religious advancement. It has extended the boundaries of science; trained, like all other instruments requiring delicate manipulation, to habits of caution and precision; expanded the mental grasp commensurate with the scope of its observation; and by its revelations, infinitely exalted our conceptions of the Divine Architect, who has created and arranged in such perfect order and harmony the innumerable systems of the universe.
1. BOUT thirty years ago there lived, in a wild district of the south of Ireland, a widow named Cronin and her family, consisting of two sons and a daughter. She
was what is called “well to do in the world,” being in possession of a small farm, stocked with three cows and some sheep, and for which she paid merely a nominal rent.
"At the time our tale commences, her eldest son James was 3 ten years old, his brother Daniel nine, and little Ellen six.
One fine morning in the month of May, Mrs Cronin and her children had finished their breakfast of milk and potatoes, and the pig was enjoying his, consisting of the skins, politely given to him on the floor, when the mother addressed her eldest boy: “ Come, Jemmy, 'tis time for you to be off to yer school.”.
"I wont mind going to-day, mother; 'tis Inchigulah fair, and I want to see the fun."
"Oh, thin, the never a step you'll go to the fair to-day. Is it to be kilt entirely you want in the fight they'll have wid the Kilmichael boys ?”
“That's the very reason I want to go ;" and the undutiful boy prepared to move in the forbidden direction.
His mother did not exert her authority to restrain him, but turning to her youngest son, who was leaning against the door,' lazily biting a straw, “ Dan,” said she, “ you'll be a good boy, Í
know, and go to school to-day; and next day I go to Macroom, I'll bring you a fine new cloth cap to wear to chapel on Sunday, and Jim will have to go in his dirty ould caubeen, because he wont do my bidding."
James turned round, his face flushed with anger. “ Mother," said he, “that's always yer way: you care more about Dan than
you do about me.
“Thin keep him, and make much of him, for it's little of me you'll see this day;" and off he set, leaving his mother in a most unenviable state of mind. She was far from meaning what she said when she spoke of preferring Dan to James; on the contrary, her eldest son was her favourite, and having spoiled him in infancy by foolish indulgence, she now tried to govern his wayward temper by exciting the fiendish passion of jealousy, The result of this most pernicious plan will be seen in the sequel.
II. At that time the hedge-schools were the only means of education which the country afforded; and wild and uncouth as were both masters and scholars, and primitive as was their place of assembly-for, as the poet says,
“Its roof was the heaven, its wall was the hill”— yet a considerable share of learning was often acquired by the pupils, more, perhaps, than in some polished seminaries. To one of these schools Mrs Cronin sent her children as regularly as she could induce them to go, and thither Daniel and his little sister proceeded this morning.
Mister Dogherty's rustic establishment was rather' a favourable specimen of its class. Some of the head boys were well versed in the higher branches of arithmetic, could write "copperplate," and the broad Doric intonation of their reading was abundantly compensated, at least in the opinion of most of their auditors, by the gallant speed and reckless rapidity with which the most jaw-breaking polysyllables were cleared in a flying gallop. True, this sporting pace constantly left both reader and hearers perfectly innocent of the meaning of the text. But this was a trife, and Irishmen never stick at trifles.
“Why, thin, Dan, it's time for you,” said Mister Dogherty, as the boy entered the school; “and where's James this fine morn
He's gone to Inchigulah fair. though my mother tould him “Oh, it's like him, the young scamp! Never fear, when I catch him to-morrow I'll wattle him well, to tache him obedience in future."
The scholars were now examined on the subject of their lessons, and having acquitted themselves very much to Mister Dogherty's satisfaction, he proceeded, as was not unusual with him, to tell them one of his drollest stories.
The happy frame of mind in which the recital never failed to put the worthy master, was quickly disturbed by sounds of clamour and crying among the more juvenile of his pupils. Seizing his formidable wattle (Anglice, cane), he loudly demanded what was the matter.
“ It's little Ellen Cronin, sir, that's roaring because Dan is pinching her, and saying his mother doesn't care about her, and that he's the white-headed boy at home."
• Come up here, Dan.” The summons was slowly and sulkily obeyed. “ Take that, sir," said the master, giving him a few smart blows," and I hope 'twill tache you to have more nature for yer sister. 'Twas one mother bore you both, and in place of tormenting, you ought to love one another.” He then dismissed the school, and little Ellen, glancing fearfully at Dan, went up to a pleasant-looking boy of twelve years old, named John M‘Carthy, who, taking her hand, said kindly, “Never fear, Aileen, Dan shan't touch you: I'll walk home with you to yer mother's door."
The children then dispersed in different directions, Dan walking gloomily apart, and John talking cheerfully to Ellen till they reached her home.
They found Mrs Cronin in a state of fretful anxiety about James, who had not yet made his appearance. Several of the neighbours were passing on their return from the fair, driving a few lambs, or a cow, or a pig before them. One man, who was trying to quicken the pace of a peculiarly refractory specimen of the last-named animal, was accosted by the widow.
“God save you, Jerry!”
was, ma'am, a power and all of people in it, but there wasn't to say much in the way of buying and selling.'
“Would you see that gorsoon of mine anywhere there?"
“ I did thin, ma'am, see him in the thick of all the fun; for there was a dickens of a scrimmage between the Walshes and Cotters; and never fear, Jemmy was wheeling his bit of a stick, and shouting for the bare life as well as the best.”
“Oh yea, wisha! I wouldn't doubt him: he's an active boy anyway.” And, strange to say, a kind of pleased pride at her son's courage and daring spirit mingled with anger at his disobedience and fears for his safety. “ Was he hurt at all, Jerry ?"
Myself didn't see; for as I had this slip bought, I thought 'twas better to make the best of my way home without waiting to see how 'twould end.” Then giving the pig a significant cut