+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

galleries, on the same level. The whole place
was most eloquent to the olfactory nerves of
coal-tar, pitch, resin, turpentine, &c. A light
sprinkling of sawdust completed the furnishing
of this hall, in which one of the most
extraordinary of all our modern discoveries
(provided it prove thoroughly efficient) was
about to be subjected to trial.

Mr. Diggs having planted his foreman at
one horn of the crescent of chairs, and dragging
his wife (whose thoughts of her handsome
bonnet and shawl were written in shady lines
all over her face) to a dirty-seated bench, on
the other, he darted straight across to the
scene of action, and without a moment's
hesitation or ceremony, ascended the lecturer's
stage, and diving with nose and hands into
the model of the ship's hull, began to explore
its contents.

The hold, and, indeed, all the interior of
the hull, he found to be full of patent firewood,
for the rapid kindling of fire, each
separate piece being sufficient to light an
ordinary fire; but here, there was nothing
else. He passed on to the model-house;
opened the door, and looked in. Here, also,
he found a quantity of patent fire-wood, lying
on both floors. A trap door was left open in
the roof to allow of the escape of the smoke.
Mr. Diggs now descended from the little stage,
and advanced to the door of the house which
was to be set on fire. He entered the doorway,
and immediately found himself in a dark
chamber filled with charred planks, pitched
planks, cross-pieces of new wood, blackened
beams, and a variety of hangings and festoons
made of shavings saturated with coal-tar, resin,
and turpentine. A staircase, or, rather, a
broad charred ladder, led up to the first floor.
Mr. Diggs forthwith ascended, and stepped
upon a flooring perfectly black; in fact, the
whole room seemed made of charcoal, with
here and there a new plank laid across, or
slanting upwards, smeared with coal-tar, and
adorned like the ground-floor, with shavings
steeped in resin, pitch, turpentine, and other
combustible matter. "Well," thought Mr.
Diggs, "at all events, there'll be flames
enough." A second charred ladder formed a
staircase leading to the top floor; but this
was so dilapidated and rotten from recent
burning, that our sceptical sugar-baker could
venture to do no more than clamber up, and
rest his chin on the blackened boards of the
floor above, in which position he clung by the
smutty tips of his fingers, and stared around,
above him, and on all sides. He then slowly
descended, and as he made his way out of the
front door, he hugged himself with the firm
belief that if the house were fairly set on fire
(as he determined it should be), and the flames
were allowed to get into full play, nothing could
stop them till they had burned the house to
the ground, and communicated with the brick
buildingwhen the regular fire-engines, with
their torrents of water, would, of course, be
sent for, with all imaginable speed.

Meantime, a considerable number of people
of all ranks had assembled, many of them of
the aristocratic class, to judge by the row of
liveries, coachmen, and footmen, who lined
one of the side galleries. Mrs. Diggs
comforted herself with the sight of many elegantly-
dressed ladies, who seated themselves on the
chairs and benches in front of the little stage,
or platform. Perhaps the smoke and smuts
might not be so very bad, after all, or might
be driven back by the wind. Of this it was
rational to entertain some hopes, as the whole
building was in a thorough draught, evinced
by many a sneeze and cough,—a condition
some of the visitors thought very unnecessary
to be endured before the conflagration

Mr. Phillips now ascended the platform,
and commenced his brief lecture. He said he
had no sort of intention to undervalue the
real service of water in cases of fire, but only
to show that water was by no means the most
efficient agent. The more active part of fire
was flame; all fire commenced with flame,
and upon this, when at a great height, water
in any portable quantities, was comparatively
powerless. Moreover, there were many
materials, forming the staple commodity of
various trades, which, being ignited, not only
defied the power of water, but their state of
combustion was actually increased by the
application of water. This was the case with
oil or turpentine, when on fire, with tar, gas,
ardent spirits, &c. Every distiller must know
thisand so must every sugar-baker.

Mr. Diggs suddenly shifted his pose from
the right to the left leg; but said nothing.
This was not the point at issue.

In illustration of his last remark, Mr.
Phillips called upon his audience to imagine
the hull of the model ship to be a ship at sea
with a large crew, many passengers, and a
valuable cargo on board,—part of the cargo
consisting of highly combustible materials.
The ship takes fire! The alarm is given, all
hands called on deck, the fire-engine got out,
the pumps set to work! But before this has
been done, it happens that a cask of spirits of
turpentine has taken fire! (So saying, Mr.
Phillips sets light to a quantity of spirits of
turpentine in an iron vessel in the ship). The
flames rise rapidly!—terrificallythey ascend
the fore-rigging, which, being all tarred, is
quickly in a blaze! Now all is dismay and
confusion, more especially among the passengers.
Some of these, however, retain sufficient
presence of mind to be able to assist the
sailors in pumping. They drench the ship
with water,—they pour a continual stream
from the engine upon the flames of the
turpentine! (At these words Mr. Phillips dips
a jug in a bucket of water, and pours it upon
the flames.) But it only increases them—(it
does so)—more water is dashed upon the
flames by the men (Mr. Phillips suits the
action to the word) and by the boldest of the
passengers, but with no better result. Now,