Slike strani

genius that, no doubt, he had something that would surprise them.

John Collins was more like Benjamin than any other boy in Boston, and he was his most intimate companion. John was talented, and a great reader. He had a craving thirst for knowledge, and used his leisure moments to improve his mind. He frequently discussed profitable subjects with Benjamin, who enjoyed his company very much for this reason. In their tastes, love of books, and high aims, they were suited to each other. Benjamin thought as highly of John as John did of Benjamin.

When the time for trying the other device arrived, Benjamin appeared on the scene with a new kite.

"A kite!" exclaimed John Collins, in surprise. "I see it now. That is simple." He saw at once that Benjamin was going to make a sail of his kite, and cross the pond.

""Twill hinder more than it will help, I think," remarked one of the boys.

"We shall know whether it will or not, very soon," responded another. "Ben isn't hindered very often."

While this parleying was going on, Benjamin was disrobing and getting ready for the trial.

"Fred, you carry my clothes around to the other side of the pond, and I will swim across," said Benjamin, as he sent his kite up into the air.

"All right," answered Fred; "I will do it to the best of my ability; and will be there to see you land." So saying he caught up the clothes and started off upon the run.

The kite was high up in the air, when, holding the string with both hands, Benjamin dropped into the water upon his back, and at once began to skim the surface. Without an effort on his part, not so much as the moving of a muscle, the sailing kite pulled him along faster than his arms and feet could have done, in the old way of swimming.

"That is better than the paddles and sandals," shouted John Collins, who was intensely interested in the simplicity

of the method. "Ben is only a ship, now, and the kite is his sail. Nobody but him would have ever thought of such a thing."

"Not much skill in that way of swimming," suggested another youth; "nor much fatigue, either. Nothing to do but to keep on breathing and swim."

"He must

"And hold on to the kite," added another. not let go of his sail; he and his kite must be close friends."

The boys kept up their watch and conversation while Benjamin crossed the pond, which he accomplished in a few minutes. Dressing himself, while Fred drew in his kite, he hastened to join his companions and receive their congratulations. The boys were extravagant in their expressions of delight, and some of them predicted that so "cute" a mode of swimming would become universal, while others thought that the lack of skill in the method would lead many to discard it. Benjamin said:

indeed, and I could swim

"The motion is very pleasant all day without becoming fatigued. But there is no skill in it, as you say."

Benjamin expressed no opinion as to the adoption of the method by others, and the boys separated to tell the story of Benjamin's exploits on the water over town. Many years afterwards, when Benjamin was a public man, famous in his own country and Europe, he wrote to a Frenchman by the name of Dubourg, of both of these experiments as follows:

"When I was a boy, I made two oval palettes, each about ten inches long and six broad, with a hole for the thumb, in order to retain it fast in the palm of my hand. They much resembled a painter's palettes. In swimming, I pushed the edges of these forward, and I struck the water with their flat surfaces as I drew them back. I remember I swam faster by means of these palettes, but they fatigued. my wrists. I also fitted to the soles of my feet a kind of sandals; but I was not satisfied with them, because I

observed that the stroke is partly given by the inside of the feet and the ankles, and not entirely with the soles of the feet.

[blocks in formation]

"You will not be displeased if I conclude these hasty remarks by informing you that, as the ordinary method of swimming is reduced to the act of rowing with the arms and legs, and is consequently a laborious and fatiguing operation when the space of water to be crossed is considerable, there is a method in which a swimmer may pass to great distances with much facility, by means of a sail. This discovery I fortunately made by accident, and in the following manner.

"When I was a boy I amused myself one day with flying a paper kite; and, approaching the bank of a pond, which was nearly a mile broad, I tied the string to a stake, and the kite ascended to a very considerable height above the pond, while I was swimming. In a little time, being desirous of amusing myself with my kite, and enjoying at the same time the pleasure of swimming, I returned; and loosing from the stake the string with the little stick which was fastened to it, went again into the water, where I found that, lying on my back and holding the stick in my hands, I was drawn along the surface of the water in a very agreeable manner. Having then engaged another boy to carry my clothes around the pond, to a place which I pointed out to him on the other side, I began to cross the pond with my kite, which carried me quite over without the least fatigue, and with the greatest pleasure imaginable. I was only obliged occasionally to halt a little in my course, and resist its progress, when it appeared that, by following too quick, I lowered the kite too much; by doing which occasionally, I made it rise again. I have never since that time practised this singular mode of swimming, though I think it not impossible to cross in this manner from Dover to Calais. The packet-boat, however, is still preferable.”

Doctor Franklin wrote another long letter to a man in mature life, advising him to learn to swim. The man was not inclined to do it on account of his age, whereupon Doctor Franklin wrote:

"I cannot be of opinion with you, that it is too late in life for you to learn to swim. The river near the bottom of your garden affords a most convenient place for the purpose. And, as your new employment requires your being often on the water, of which you have such a dread, I think you would do well to make the trial; nothing being so likely to remove those apprehensions as the consciousness of an ability to swim to the shore in case of an accident, or of supporting yourself in the water till a boat could come to take you up."

It is probable that Benjamin's experiment with his kite. in swimming was the seed-thought of his experiment in drawing lightning from the clouds with a kite, thirty years thereafter, an experiment that startled and electrified the scientific world. The story is a familiar one, and should

be repeated here.

He believed that lightning and electricity were identical. Experiments for six years had led him to this conclusion. But how could he prove it? He conceived the idea of an electrical kite by which he could settle the truth or falsity of his theory. Having prepared the kite, he waited for a thunder-shower; nor did he wait long. Observing one rising, he took the kite, and with his son, twenty-one years of age, stole away into a field near by, where there was an old cowshed. He had not informed any one but his son of his purpose, because he wished to avoid ridicule in case the experiment proved a failure.

The kite was sent up in season for the coming storm to catch, and, with intense anxiety, Franklin held the string, which was hempen, except the part in the hand, which was silk. He was so confident of success that he brought along with him a Leyden bottle, in which to collect electric

fluid from the clouds for a shock. It was a moment of great suspense. His heart beat like a trip-hammer. At first a cloud seemed to pass directly over the kite, and the thunder rattled, and the lightnings played around it, and yet there was no indication of electricity. His heart almost failed him. But in silence he continued the experiment as the storm increased and drew nearer, and the artillery of heaven grew louder and more vivid. Another moment, and he beheld the fibres of the hempen cord rise as the hair of a person does on the insulated stool. What a moment it was! The electric fluid was there! His experiment was successful! Electricity and lightning are identical! Pen nor poesy can describe his emotion. Eagerly he applied his knuckles to the key, attached to the extremity of the hempen cord, and drew a spark therefrom. His joy was immeasurable! Another spark, and then another, and still another, until further confirmation was unnecessary! The Leyden bottle was charged with the precious fluid, from which both father and son received a shock as unmistakable as that from his electric battery at home. Franklin's fame was secured throughout the world. He went home with feelings of indescribable satisfaction.

Doctor Franklin was a very modest man, and he wrote a letter to Peter Collinson, member of the Royal Society of London, dated Philadelphia, October 16, 1752, describing the experiment without even hinting that he was the experimenter. As that letter described his electrical kite, and his method of using it, we insert it here :—

"As frequent mention is made in public papers from Europe of the success of the Philadelphia experiment for drawing the electric fire from clouds by means of pointed rods of iron erected on high buildings, etc., it may be agreeable to the curious to be informed that the same experiment has succeeded in Philadelphia, though made in a different and more easy manner, which is as follows:

"Make a small cross of two light strips of cedar, the arms

« PrejšnjaNaprej »