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WATER

THERE are two primal necessities of human
life; good water and pure air. Yet, strangely
enough, these two things, which, it might
have been supposed, instinct itself would
have preserved to us intact, are most rarely
found in savage or in civilised life. To
confine ourselves to water, we find a striking
contrast between the ideal and the real,
between the typical image of purity and the
actual condition of our household water. If we
could analyse and test one half of the fluid
which enters into the composition and
preparation of our daily meals, we should
be as horrified as John Parry's immortal
boy was, when he sees the magnified
cheese-mite in the microscope, and hears that,
perhaps he has eaten thousands of them
in his life. A certain little pamphlet put
forth a few years ago, had a most terrifying
microscopic frontispiece, indicative of the
various confervæ and animalculæ found in
the supplies of the several water-companies
of London. It made one an antiteetotaller
for months after: magnifying every floating
grain of dust into a dusky rotifer, or a
twilight monad, and causing whole forests of
poison-fed confervæ to spring up, imaginatively,
if but an infinitesimal fraction of wood
had found its way into the glass. It was long
before the effect of that frontispiece wore
off; and never to this day, has a glass of
unaltered water been relished, or its purity
believed in.

The composition of water is unvarying.
One part of hydrogen and eight of oxygen
stand as the alpha and omega which bound
between them all the changes that may occur.
For whatever else may be found in water, is
but a foreign substance, changing its effects,
but not its nature. Whatsoever it may be,—
salts, sulphur, minerals, organic matter, alkalies
though altering the therapeutic character
and effects of the fluid, just as tea, sugar,
brandy, or Epsom salts might do, leaves the
element unchanged. Waters equally pure
and clear in appearance, differ strangely in
the nature and character of these adventitious
additions. One may have so much
carbonic acid held in solution in it, that
when you remove it by boiling, the lime
falls down. Another has common salt,
proved by a white deposit, when treated
with a salt of silver. A third, taken from
wells near sewers, near the sea, or near any
putrid place, will give a dense and ready
precipitate, showing the presence of organic
matter in solution; which, though efficacious
as food for plants, is most undesirable as
food for man. Waters vary also in
comparative weight, according to the
substances which they contain. Distilled water,
being water without any addition, is the
lightest of all; while stagnant water, full of
organic matter, of animalculæ, and of
vegetation, is the heaviest. Sea-water is heavy
in proportion to the salt which it contains.
Thus the Dead Sea, being the saltest, is
heavier than the Mediterranean, and this
than the Atlantic. Water from insoluble
rocks, as in Wales, is nearly as light and
pure as distilled water; that from chalk, as
about London, is heavier, but clear; and so
on, with all waters, according as they have
opportunities, or not, of dissolving substances
from the earth. In some of the rocky
districts in Derbyshire, medical men use the
natural water for their prescriptions, instead
of the distilled water of the laboratories.
They find the natural water almost as pure
and more aërated.

The ideal ot water is perfectly pure rain
water; such as it would be if condensed
directly from the clouds themselves, and
without passing through the lower strata of
the atmosphere. Collected originally by
means of evaporationby which evaporation
all the salts of the oceans, all the impurities
of the ponds, all the noxious gases, aud
hurtful substances have been left behindit
is watery perfection: soft, pure, aerated, and
bright. Water which has passed deep into the
ground, is liable to contain all that is soluble
there; but it is more brilliant. It nearly always
contains less inorganic matter, this being
destroyed by the action of the soil; it is
generally harder, refusing to pass over the
skin until softened with soap or alkali.
The well-water of towns is generally bad;
bad to the taste, and bad for the health;
though clear and bright. "It often has an oily
taste to the mouth," says Dr. Angus Smith,
"not from the existence of oil in it at all, but
because it has alkaline salts in solution,
imparting flatness or insipidity, and rendering

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