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that needle will move. Upon this fact,—
this property,—the electric telegraph is
constructed. The instrument is far more simple
than a clock, and it does neither more nor
less than thisit holds a poised needle, and
first breaks and then reconnects the electric
current; first cuts (as it were) and then
re-joins the wire; and, as this interruption, this
violence, is done to its free progress, the
Spirit, before unseen, manifests itself, and
either attracts or repulses the needle. And not
the needle only, but a hundred needles if they
be connected with the so broken wire, with
the so interrupted race of the Spirit round
and round along the wires and through the
earth. This, the Spirit will do, early and late,
day and night, with speed never flagging, on
and on, so long as wires stand true and there
is earth for them to rest upon.

The mystery, then,—the secret of the electric
telegraph,—is simply this. Two handles
serve to break and to re-unite the current of
the Electric Spirit; each breakage causes a
needle, swinging above the handles, to move.
Another similar needle, miles away, moves at
the same instant, in the same way. Different
amounts of motion of this needle are under-
stood to indicate certain letters; and thus
the telegraph people talk to one another, by
spelling what they have to say, letter by

Theirs is a new calling, and a curious one,
too. They hear the strangest and earliest of
news. With hands upon the two handles of
the instrument, and a sharp eye upon the
dial, the work goes on;—it would be in silence,
but for the noise made by the instrument.
"Jerk! jerk!" go the handles—"Chop!
chop! chip-chop!" are the sounds heard in
response, as a little cylinder moves, and metal
meets metal, to break and re-complete the
circuit. At all the chief railway stations,
on all the chief lines, with one or two
exceptions, there are telegraph clerks day and
night on duty, ready to indicate the approach
or departure of trains, the safe arrival
of packets in port, or the sailing of ships
on their voyage; to forward newspaper
dispatches, and trade advices; to send up the
prices of corn, and to send down the quotations
of consols and railway stock; to give
orders for tracking thieves, or stopping
runaway young ladies; to call doctors to the
sick, and relatives to dying beds; to tell how
much may be bid for a house at an auction;
to let anxious papas know that their families
have been increased, and that mamma and
the new arrival are "as well as can be
expected;" and to tell anxious wives that
voyaging husbands "had a bad passage,—too
tired to come up to-night."

Few of the thousands who have read
telegraphic dispatches in the papers and in other
shapes, have, perhaps, been behind the scenes
in a telegraphic office; for it is necessary to
keep such places free from intrusion. Could
they be entered, there is much to excite
surprise and wonder, not so much in the means by
which the work is done, as in the curiously
instantaneous results. In the telegraphic
room at Tollbridge, for instance, the central
station of the South-Eastern Company's
system of telegraphs, we find the
superintendent of that system, Mr. C. V. Walker,
seated before a very business-like, but in no
way remarkable, table, covered with papers.
The apartment is small; for science, here
again, claims but little house-room. Upon
the shelf, are a few specimens of parts of
apparatus. On one side of the wall, run numerous
electric wires, concentrating above a kind of
side-board or counter, on which there stand
a row of the telegraph instruments, looking,
at the first glance, not unlike the
counter-fittings of a very gay public-house; on closer
observation, like the fronts of little mahogany
churches, with very large clocks. Under this
counter you may see a number of galvanic
batterieswooden troughs filled with alternate
plates of copper and zinc, buried in sand that
has been saturated with sulphuric acid and
water. These batteries generate the electro-
galvanic fluid that is to be sent on its eternal
round through wire and earth, the interruption
of which is to set the needle in motion,
that messages may be read between Tonbridge
and London or Dover, or any other station on
the line.

"Let us get Dover to read us some lines of
'Household Words,' " said Mr. Walker to his
assistant, on the morning of our visit to him
at Tonbridge. The clerk went to the little
mahogany church front.

"Call Dover," said Mr. Walker. Jerk,
jerkchop, chop. Dover called.

"Dover answers: 'Go on,'" said the clerk.

"Tell him to ring our bell," said Mr.

In an instant, the alarum in the Tollbridge
room was in a whirl of noisy excitement,
ringing in a most determined and peremptory
way. The Electric Spirit had been stopped in
its circular chase; had pounced upon the
piece of soft iron close by the point of breakage
had magnetised it, drawn it from its
place as a boy's toy loadstone draws a toy
swan round a basin of water; and, by so
drawing it, released a little spring that set
our bell ringing.

The bell having done its work, the
Superintendent, Mr. Walker, gave another hint:

"Let Dover read the first article in number

"Jerk, jerk; chop, chop, chip-chop. In
half a second, as it seemed, the direction was
given. We took also, a number thirty-three,
that was upon the table, to see fair-play; the
clerk, before the little mahogany church front,
stood watching the needle to read off what
Dover might say. As word followed word, at
the end of each, he moved the handles, to
give the signal that he understood what was

Wave, wave, went the needle; jerk, jerk,

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