Master Wilson, you are to understand,
had been at his uncle's,where he had staid rather too late,
and therefore his uncle ordered the Footman to light him home;
but Tom being a very courageous fellow, and a little obstinate, would walk home alone,
and in the dark; but just as he came into the marshy meadow, who should he almost overtake
but Jack with the Lanthorn, who he mistook for Goody Curtis, the chare-woman,
and thought she was lighting her way home from work.
Tom ran to overtake Dame Curtis, but Mr. Jack with his Lanthorn still kept out of reach,
and led my friend Tom out of the path, which he did not perceive till he had lost himself;
on which Tom ran, and Jack ran; Tom halloo'd, and Jack would not answer;
at last (splash) came Tom into Duckweed Pond, where he might have lain till this time,
if Mr Goodall had not heard him call out as he was riding by, and ran to his assistance.
This put all the company in good humour,
and Tom had good nature and good sense enough to join them in the laugh,
which being subsided, our Philosopher thus proceeded in his Lecture.
The Ignis Fatuus, Jack with a Lanthorn, or Will with the Wisp, as it is frequently called, says he,
is supposed to be only a fat, unctuous, and sulphureous vapour,
which in the night appears lucid, and being driven about by the air near the earth's surface,
is often mistaken for a light in a lanthorn, as my friend Master Wilson can testify.
Vapours of this kind are in the night frequently kindled in the air,
and some of them appear like falling stars, and are by ignorant people so called.
It may be here necessary to mention that beautiful phenomenon the Rainbow,
since it has the appearance of a meteor, though, in reality, it is none;
for the Rainbow is occasioned by the refraction or reflection of the sun's beams
from the very small drops of a cloud or mist seen in a certain angle made by two lines,
the one drawn from the sun, and the other from the eye of the spectator,
to those small drops in the cloud which reflect the sun's beams:
so that two persons looking on a Rainbow at the same time,
do not, in reality, see the same Rainbow.
There are other appearances in the atmosphere which ought to be taken notice of,
and these are the halo's, or circles, which sometimes seem to encompass the sun and moon,
and are often of different colours. These always appear in a rimy or frosty season,
and are therefore, we may suppose, occasioned by the refraction of light,
in the frozen particles in the air.
Here the Lecture would have ended, but a sudden clap of thunder
brought on fresh matter for meditation;
some of the company, and particularly the Ladies, endeavoured to avoid the lightning;
but Master Telescope, after the second clap, threw up the sash,
and assured the Ladies and Gentlemen there was no danger,
for that the clouds were very high in the air.
The danger in a thunder-storm, says he,
is in proportion to the violence of the tempest and the distance of the clouds;
but this tempest is not violent, and that the cloud is at a great distance,
or high in the air, you may know by the length of time there is
between your seeing the flash of lightning, and hearing the clap of thunder.
Look, see how the sky opens, to emit the fire,
presently you will hear the thunder;
for you know we see the fire from a gun
long before we hear the report!
There it is! and how tremendous!
These tempests always put me in mind of that beautiful passage in Shakespear's King Lear;
where when the good old King is out in a storm, and obliged to fly from his unnatural children,
----------Let the great gods,
That keep this dreadful thund'ring o'er our heads,
Find out their enemies now. Tremble, thou wretch
That hast within thee undivulged crimes
Unwhipt of justice! Hide thee, thou bloody hand;
Thou perjur'd, and thou similar of virtue,
That art incestuous! Caitiff, shake to pieces,
That under covert and convenient seeming
Has practis'd on man's life! Close pent-up guilt,
Rive your concealing continents, and ask
These dreadful summoners grace!--
This tempest will not give me leave to ponder
On things would hurt me more----
Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are,
That hide the pelting of this pitiless storm!
How shall your houseless heads, and unfed sides,
Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these?--O, I have ta'en
Too little care of this: Take physic, pomp!
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou may'st shake the superflux to them,
And shew the Heav'ns more just
(selected from The Newtonian System of Philosophy Adapted to the Capacities of young Gentlemen and Ladies, and familiarized and made entertaining by Objects with which they are intimately acquainted
, by Tom Telescope. Lecture III. Of the Air, Atmosphere, and Meteors)
Both his words and manner of speech seemed at first totally unfamiliar to me, and yet somehow they stirred memories - as an actor might be stirred by the forgotten lines of some role he had played far away and long ago.