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I think he has done just that in these two Arabella stories. I look forward to Arabella three , Hamilton Wende! Standard Posted by brendad Posted on September 21, Posted under Books. Comments Leave a comment. Life of Chaz Welcome to My Life. Cristian Mihai. BeaconLit The yearly literary festival in the heart of Buckinghamshire. Indeed, just as we should all be [Pg 33] frozen to death if the sun were cold, so we should all be burnt up with intolerable heat if his fierce rays fell with all their might upon us.

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But we have an invisible veil protecting us, made—of what do you think? Of those tiny particles of water which the sunbeams draw up and scatter in the air, and which, as we shall see in Lecture IV. We have now learnt something of the distance, the size, the light, and the heat of the sun—the great source of the sunbeams. But we are as yet no nearer the answer to the question, What is a sunbeam? Now suppose I wish to touch you from this platform where I stand, I can do it in two ways. Firstly, I can throw something at you and hit you—in this case a thing will have passed across the space from me to you.

Or, secondly, if I could make a violent movement so as to shake the floor of the room, you would feel a quivering motion; and so I should touch you across the whole distance of the room. But in this case no thing would have passed from me to you but a movement or wave , which passed along the boards of the floor. Again, if I speak to you, how does the sound reach your ear? Not by anything being thrown from my mouth to your ear, but by the motion of the air.

Timeless Arabella

When I speak I agitate the air near my mouth, and that makes a wave in the air beyond, and that one, another, and another as we shall see more fully in Lecture VI. Thus we see there are two ways of touching anything at a distance; 1st, by throwing some thing at it and hitting it; 2nd, by sending a movement or wave across to it, as in the case of the quivering boards and the air. Now the great natural philosopher Newton thought that the sun touched us in the first of these ways, and that sunbeams were made of very minute atoms of matter thrown out by the sun, and making a perpetual cannonade on our eyes.

It is easy to understand that this would make us see light and feel heat, just as a blow in the eye makes us see stars, or on the body makes it feel hot: and for a long time this explanation was supposed to be the true one. But we know now that there are many facts which cannot be explained on this theory, though we cannot go into them here. What we will do, is to try and understand what now seems to be the true explanation of a sunbeam.

About the same time that Newton wrote, a Dutchman, named Huyghens, suggested that light comes from the sun in tiny waves, travelling across space much in the same way as ripples travel across a pond. The only difficulty was to explain in what substance these waves could be travelling: not through water, for we know that there is no water in space—nor through air, for the air stops at a comparatively short distance from our earth. There must then be something filling all space between us and the sun, finer than either water or air. And now I must ask you to use all your imagination, for I want you to picture to yourselves something [Pg 35] quite as invisible as the Emperor's new clothes in Andersen's fairy-tale, only with this difference, that our invisible something is very active; and though we can neither see it nor touch it we know it by its effects.

You must imagine a fine substance filling all space between us and the sun and the stars. A substance so very delicate and subtle, that not only is it invisible, but it can pass through solid bodies such as glass, ice, or even wood or brick walls. This substance we call "ether. Now if you can imagine this ether filling every corner of space, so that it is everywhere and passes through everything, ask yourselves, what must happen when a great commotion is going on in one of the large bodies which float in it?

When the atoms of the gases round the sun are clashing violently together to make all its light and heat, do you not think they must shake this ether all around them? And then since the ether stretches on all sides from the sun to our earth and all other planets, must not this quivering travel to us, just as the quivering of the boards would from me to you?

Take a basin of water to represent the ether, and take a piece of potassium like that which we used in our last lecture, and hold it with a pair of nippers in the middle of the water. You will see that as the potassium hisses and the flame burns round it, they will make waves which will travel all over the water to the edge of the basin [Pg 36] and you can imagine how in the same way waves travel over the ether from the sun to us.

Arabella Stuart

Straight away from the sun on all sides, never stopping, never resting, but chasing after each other with marvellous quickness, these tiny waves travel out into space by night and by day. When our spot of the earth where England lies is turned away from them and they cannot touch us, then it is night for us, but directly England is turned so as to face the sun, then they strike on the land, and the water, and warm it; or upon our eyes, making the nerves quiver so that we see light.

Look up at the sun and picture to yourself that instead of one great blow from a fist causing you to see stars for a moment, millions of tiny blows from these sun-waves are striking every instant on your eye; then you will easily understand that this would cause you to see a constant blaze of light. But when the sun is away, if the night is clear we have light from the stars. Do these then too make waves all across the enormous distance between them and us?

Certainly they do, for they too are suns like our own, only they are so far off that the waves they send are more feeble, and so we only notice them when the sun's stronger waves are away. A, Hole in the shutter. B, Wire placed in the beam of light. S S, Screen on which the dark and light bands are caught. But perhaps you will ask, if no one has ever seen these waves nor the ether in which they are made, what right have we to say they are there?

Strange as it may seem, though we cannot see them we have measured them and know how large they are, and how many can go into an inch of space.

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For as these tiny waves are running on straight forward through the room, if we put something in their way, they will have to run [Pg 37] round it; and if you let in a very narrow ray of light through a shutter and put an upright wire in the sunbeam, you actually make the waves run round the wire just as water runs round a post in a river; and they meet behind the wire, just as the water meets in a V shape behind the post. Now when they meet, they run up against each other, and here it is we catch them.

For if they meet comfortably, both rising up in a good wave, they run on together and make a bright line of light; but if they meet higgledy-piggledy, one up and the other down, all in confusion, they stop each other, and then there is no light, but a line of darkness. And so behind your piece of wire you can catch the waves on a piece of paper, and you will find they make dark and light lines one side by side with the other, and by means of these bands it is possible to find out how large the waves must be.

This question is too difficult for us to work [Pg 38] it out here, but you can see that large waves will make broader light and dark bands than small ones will, and that in this way the size of the waves may be measured. And now how large do you think they turn out to be? So very, very tiny that about fifty thousand waves are contained in a single inch of space! I have drawn on the board the length of an inch, [5] and now I will measure the same space in the air between my finger and thumb. Within this space at this moment there are fifty thousand tiny waves moving up and down!

I promised you we would find in science things as wonderful as in fairy tales. Are not these tiny invisible messengers coming incessantly from the sun as wonderful as any fairies? We must next try to realize how fast these waves travel. You will remember that an express train would take years to reach us from the sun; and even a cannon-ball would take from ten to thirteen years to come that distance. Well, these tiny waves take only seven minutes and a half to come the whole 91 millions of miles. And remember, this movement is going on incessantly, and these waves are always following one after the other so rapidly that they keep up a perpetual cannonade upon the pupil of your eye.

So fast do they come that about billion waves enter your eye in one [Pg 39] single second. D E, Window-shutter. F, Round hole in it. A B C, Glass prism. M N, Wall. But we do not yet know all about our sunbeam. See, I have here a piece of glass with three sides, called a prism. If I put it in the sunlight which is streaming through the window, what happens? I can make it long or short, as I turn the prism, but the colours always remain arranged in the same way.

Here at my left hand is the red, beyond it orange, then yellow, green, blue, indigo or deep blue, and violet, shading one into the other all along the line. We have all seen these colours dancing on the wall when the sun has been shining brightly on the cut-glass pendants of the chandelier, and you may see them still more distinctly if you let a ray of light into a darkened room, and pass it through the prism as in the diagram Fig.

Do they come from the glass? No; for you will remember to have seen them in the rainbow, and in the soap-bubble, and even in a drop of dew or the scum on the top of a pond. This beautiful coloured line is only our sunbeam again, which has been split up into many colours by passing through the glass, as it is in the rain-drops of the rainbow and the bubbles of the scum of the pond.

Till now we have talked of the sunbeam as if it were made of only one set of waves, but in truth it is made of many sets of waves of different sizes, all travelling along together from the sun. These various waves have been measured, and we know that the waves which make up red light are larger and more lazy than those which make violet light, so that there are only thirty-nine thousand red waves in an inch, while there are fifty-seven thousand violet waves in the same space. How is it then, that if all these different waves, making different colours, hit on our eye, they do not always make us see coloured light?

Because, unless they are interfered with, they all travel along together, and you know that all colours, mixed together in proper proportion, make white. I have here a round piece of cardboard, painted with the seven colours in succession several times over. When it is still you can distinguish them all apart, but when I whirl it quickly round—see! In the same way light looks white to you, because all the different [Pg 41] coloured waves strike on your eye at once.

You can easily make one of these cards for yourselves, only the white will always look dirty, because you cannot get the colours pure. A, Cardboard painted with the seven colours in succession. B, Same cardboard spun quickly round.

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Now, when the light passes through the three-sided glass or prism, the waves are spread out, and the slow, heavy, red waves lag behind and remain at the lower end R of the coloured line on the wall Fig. And now you are very likely eager to ask why the quick waves should make us see one colour, and the slow waves another. This is a very difficult question, for we have a great deal still to learn about the effect of light on the eye. But you can easily imagine that colour is to our eye much the same as music is to our ear.

You know we can distinguish different notes when the air-waves play slowly or quickly upon the drum of the ear as we shall see in Lecture VI. Do you think we have now rightly answered the question—What is a sunbeam? We have seen that it is really a succession of tiny rapid waves, travelling from the sun to us across the invisible substance we call "ether," and keeping up a constant cannonade upon everything which comes in their way. We have also seen that, tiny as these waves are, they can still vary in size, so that one single sunbeam is made up of myriads of different-sized waves, which travel all together and make us see white light; unless for some reason they are scattered apart, so that we see them separately as red, green, blue, or yellow.

How they are scattered, and many other secrets of the sun-waves, we cannot stop to consider now, but must pass on to ask—. They do two things—they give us light and heat. It is by means of them alone that we see anything. When the room was dark you could not distinguish the table, the chairs, or even the walls of the room. Because they had no light-waves to send to your eye. But as the sunbeams began to pour in at the window, the waves played upon the things in the room, and when they hit them they bounded off them back to your eye, as a wave of the sea bounds back from a rock and strikes against a passing boat.

Then, when they fell upon your eye, they entered it and excited the retina, and the nerves, and the image of the chair or the table was carried to your brain. Look around at all the things in this room. Is it not strange to think [Pg 43] that each one of them is sending these invisible messengers straight to your eye as you look at it; and that you see me, and distinguish me from the table, entirely by the kind of waves we each send to you?

Some substances send back hardly any waves of light, but let them all pass through them, and thus we cannot see them. A pane of clear glass, for instance, lets nearly all the light-waves pass through it, and therefore you often cannot see that the glass is there, because no light-messengers come back to you from it. Thus people have sometimes walked up against a glass door and broken it, not seeing it was there. Those substances are transparent which, for some reason unknown to us, allow the ether waves to pass through them without shaking the atoms of which the substance is made.

In clear glass, for example, all the light-waves pass through without affecting the substance of the glass; while in a white wall the larger part of the rays are reflected back to your eye, and those which pass into the wall, by giving motion to its atoms lose their own vibrations. Into polished shining metal the waves hardly enter at all, but are thrown back from the surface; and so a steel knife or a silver spoon are very bright, and are clearly seen.

Quicksilver is put at the back of looking-glasses because it reflects so many waves. It not only sends back those which come from the sun, but those, too, which come from your face. So, when you see yourself in a looking-glass, the sun-waves have first played on your face and bounded off from it to the looking-glass; then, when they strike the looking-glass, they are thrown back again on to the retina of your eye, and [Pg 44] you see your own face by means of the very waves you threw off from it an instant before.

But the reflected light-waves do more for us than this. They not only make us see things, but they make us see them in different colours. What, you will ask, is this too the work of the sunbeams? Certainly; for if the colour we see depends on the size of the waves which come back to us, then we must see things coloured differently according to the waves they send back. For instance, imagine a sunbeam playing on a leaf: part of its waves bound straight back from it to our eye and make us see the surface of the leaf, but the rest go right into the leaf itself, and there some of them are used up and kept prisoners.

The red, orange, yellow, blue, and violet waves are all useful to the leaf, and it does not let them go again. But it cannot absorb the green waves, and so it throws them back, and they travel to your eye and make you see a green colour. So when you say a leaf is green, you mean that the leaf does not want the green waves of the sunbeam, but sends them back to you.

In the same way the scarlet geranium rejects the red waves; this table sends back brown waves; a white tablecloth sends back nearly the whole of the waves, and a black coat scarcely any. This is why, when there is very little light in the room, you can see a white tablecloth while you would not be able to distinguish a black object, because the few faint rays that are there, are all sent back to you from a white surface. Is it not curious to think that there is really no such thing as colour in the leaf, the table, the coat, or the geranium flower, but we see them of different [Pg 45] colours because, for some reason, they send back only certain coloured waves to our eye?

Wherever you look, then, and whatever you see, all the beautiful tints, colours, lights, and shades around you are the work of the tiny sun-waves. Again, light does a great deal of work when it falls upon plants. Those rays of light which are caught by the leaf are by no means idle; we shall see in Lecture VII. We all know that a plant becomes pale and sickly if it has not sunlight, and the reason is, that without these light-waves it cannot get food out of the air, nor make the sap and juices which it needs.

When you look at plants and trees growing in the beautiful meadows; at the fields of corn, and at the lovely landscape, you are looking on the work of the tiny waves of light, which never rest all through the day in helping to give life to every green thing that grows. So far we have spoken only of light; but hold your hand in the sun and feel the heat of the sunbeams, and then consider if the waves of heat do not do work also. There are many waves in a sunbeam which move too slowly to make us see light when they hit our eye, but we can feel them as heat, though we cannot see them as light.

The simplest way of feeling heat-waves is to hold a warm iron near your face. You know that no light comes from it, yet you can feel the heat-waves beating violently against your face and scorching it. Now there are many of these dark heat-rays in a sunbeam, and it is they which do most of the work in the world. In the first place, as they come quivering to the earth, it is they which shake the water-drops apart, so that these are carried up in the air, as we shall see in the next lecture. And then remember, it is these drops, falling again as rain, which make the rivers and all the moving water on the earth.

So also it is the heat-waves which make the air hot and light, and so cause it to rise and make winds and air-currents, and these again give rise to ocean-currents. It is these dark rays, again, which strike upon the land and give it the warmth which enables plants to grow. It is they also which keep up the warmth in our own bodies, both by coming to us directly from the sun, and also in a very roundabout way through plants. You will remember that plants use up rays of light and heat in growing; then either we eat the plants, or animals eat the plants and we eat the animals; and when we digest the food, that heat comes back in our bodies, which the plants first took from the sunbeam.

Breathe upon your hand, and feel how hot your breath is; well, that heat which you feel, was once in a sunbeam, and has travelled from it through the food you have eaten, and has now been at work keeping up the heat of your body. But there is still another way in which these plants may give out the heat-waves they have imprisoned. You will remember how we learnt in the first lecture that coal is made of plants, and that the heat they give out is the heat these plants once took in.

Think how much work is done by burning coals. Not only are our houses warmed by coal fires and lighted by coal gas, but our steam-engines and machinery work [Pg 47] entirely by water which has been turned into steam by the heat of coal and coke fires; and our steamboats travel all over the world by means of the same power. In the same way the oil of our lamps comes either from olives, which grow on trees; or from coal and the remains of plants and animals in the earth. Even our tallow candles are made of mutton fat, and sheep eat grass; and so, turn which way we will, we find that the light and heat on our earth, whether they come from fires, or candles, or lamps, or gas, and whether they move machinery, or drive a train, or propel a ship, are equally the work of the invisible waves of ether coming from the sun, which make what we call a sunbeam.

Lastly, there are still some hidden waves which we have not yet mentioned, which are not useful to us either as light or heat, and yet they are not idle. Before I began this lecture, I put a piece of paper, which had been dipped in nitrate of silver, under a piece of glass; and between it and the glass I put a piece of lace.

Look what the sun has been doing while I have been speaking. It has been breaking up the nitrate of silver on the paper and turning it into a deep brown substance; only where the threads of the lace were, and the sun could not touch the nitrate of silver, there the paper has remained light-coloured, and by this means I have a beautiful impression of the lace on the paper. I will now dip the impression into water in which some hyposulphite of soda is dissolved, and this-will "fix" the picture, that is, prevent the sun acting upon it any more; then the picture will remain distinct, and I can pass it round to you all.

In any toyshop you can buy this prepared paper, and set the chemical waves at work to make pictures. Only you must remember to fix it in the solution afterwards, otherwise the chemical rays will go on working after you have taken the lace away, and all the paper will become brown and your picture will disappear. And now, tell me, may we not honestly say, that the invisible waves which make our sunbeams, are wonderful fairy messengers as they travel eternally and unceasingly across space, never resting, never tiring in doing the work of our world? Little as we have been able to learn about them in one short hour, do they not seem to you worth studying and worth thinking about, as we look at the beautiful results of [Pg 49] their work?

The ancient Greeks worshipped the sun, and condemned to death one of their greatest philosophers, named Anaxagoras, because he denied that it was a god. We can scarcely wonder at this when we see what the sun does for our world; but we know that it is a huge globe made of gases and fiery matter, and not a god. We are grateful for the sun instead of to him, and surely we shall look at him with new interest, now that we can picture his tiny messengers, the sunbeams, flitting over all space, falling upon our earth, giving us light to see with, and beautiful colours to enjoy, warming the air and the earth, making the refreshing rain, and, in a word, filling the world with life and gladness.

D id you ever sit on the bank of a river in some quiet spot where the water was deep and clear, and watch the fishes swimming lazily along? When I was a child this was one of my favourite occupations in the summer [Pg 51] -time on the banks of the Thames, and there was one question which often puzzled me greatly, as I watched the minnows and gudgeon gliding along through the water. Why should fishes live in something and be often buffeted about by waves and currents, while I and others lived on the top of the earth and not in anything?

I do not remember ever asking anyone about this; and if I had, in those days people did not pay much attention to children's questions, and probably nobody would have told me, what I now tell you, that we do live in something quite as real and often quite as rough and stormy as the water in which the fishes swim. The something in which we live is air, and the reason that we do not perceive it, is that we are in it, and that it is a gas and invisible to us; while we are above the water in which the fishes live, and it is a liquid which our eyes can perceive.

But let us suppose for a moment that a being, whose eyes were so made that he could see gases as we see liquids, was looking down from a distance upon our earth. He would see an ocean of air, or aerial ocean, all round the globe, with birds floating about in it, and people walking along the bottom, just as we see fish gliding along the bottom of a river.

It is true, he would never see even the birds come near to the surface, for the highest-flying bird, the condor, never soars more than five miles from the ground, and our atmosphere, as we shall see, is at least miles high. So he would call us all deep-air creatures, just as we talk of deep-sea animals; and if we can imagine that he fished in this air-ocean, and could pull one of us out of it into space, he would find that we should [Pg 52] gasp and die just as fishes do when pulled out of the water.

He would also observe very curious things going on in our air-ocean; he would see large streams and currents of air, which we call winds , and which would appear to him as ocean-currents do to us, while near down to the earth he would see thick mists forming and then disappearing again, and these would be our clouds. From them he would see rain, hail and snow falling to the earth, and from time to time bright flashes would shoot across the air-ocean, which would be our lightning.

Nay even the brilliant rainbow, the northern aurora borealis, and the falling stars, which seem to us so high up in space, would be seen by him near to our earth, and all within the aerial ocean. But as we know of no such being living in space, who can tell us what takes place in our invisible air, and we cannot see it ourselves, we must try by experiments to see it with our imagination, though we cannot with our eyes.

First, then, can we discover what air is? At one time it was thought that it was a simple gas and could not be separated into more than one kind. But we are now going to make an experiment by which it has been shown that air is made of two gases mingled together, and that one of these gases, called oxygen , is used up when anything burns, while the other nitrogen is not used, and only serves to dilute the minute atoms of oxygen. I have here a glass bell-jar, with a cork fixed tightly in the neck, and I place the jar over a pan of water, while on the water floats a plate with [Pg 53] a small piece of phosphorus upon it.

You will see that by putting the bell-jar over the water, I have shut in a certain quantity of air, and my object now is to use up the oxygen out of this air and leave only nitrogen behind. To do this I must light the piece of phosphorus, for you will remember it is in burning that oxygen is used up. I will take the cork out, light the phosphorus, and cork up the jar again.


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These fumes are phosphoric acid, which is a substance made of phosphorus and oxygen. Our fairy force "chemical attraction" has been at work here, joining the phosphorus and the oxygen of the air together. Now, phosphoric acid melts in water just as sugar does, and in a few minutes these fumes will disappear. They are beginning to melt already, and the water from the pan is rising up in the bell-jar. Why is this? Consider for a moment what we have done.

First, the jar was full of air, that is, of mixed oxygen and nitrogen; then the phosphorus used up the oxygen, making white fumes; afterwards, the water sucked up these fumes; and so, in the jar now nitrogen is the only gas left, and the water has risen up to fill all the rest of the space that was once taken up with the oxygen. We can easily prove that there is no oxygen now in the jar. I take out the cork and let a lighted taper down into the gas.

If there were any oxygen the taper would burn, but you see it goes out directly, proving that all the oxygen has been used up by the phosphorus. When this experiment is made very accurately, we find that for every pint of oxygen in air there are four pints of nitrogen, so that the active oxygen-atoms are scattered about, floating in the sleepy, inactive nitrogen.

It is these oxygen-atoms which we use up when we breathe. If I had put a mouse under the bell-jar, instead of the phosphorus, the water would have risen just the same, because the mouse would have breathed in the oxygen and used it up in its body, joining it to carbon and making a bad gas, carbonic acid, which would also melt in the water, and when all the oxygen was used, the mouse would have died.

Do you see now how foolish it is to live in rooms that are closely shut up, or to hide your head under the bedclothes when you sleep? You use up all the oxygen-atoms, and then there are none left for you to breathe; and besides this, you send out of your mouth bad fumes, though you cannot see them, and these, when you breathe them in again, poison you and make you ill. Perhaps you will say, If oxygen is so useful, why is not the air made entirely of it? But think for a moment. If there was such an immense quantity of oxygen, how fearfully fast everything would burn!

Our bodies would soon rise above fever heat from the quantity of oxygen we should take in, and all fires and [Pg 55] lights would burn furiously. In fact, a flame once lighted would spread so rapidly that no power on earth could stop it, and everything would be destroyed. So the lazy nitrogen is very useful in keeping the oxygen-atoms apart; and we have time, even when a fire is very large and powerful, to put it out before it has drawn in more and more oxygen from the surrounding air.

Often, if you can shut a fire into a closed space, as in a closely-shut room or the hold of a ship, it will go out, because it has used up all the oxygen in the air. So, you see, we shall be right in picturing this invisible air all around us as a mixture of two gases. But when we examine ordinary air very carefully, we find small quantities of other gases in it, besides oxygen and nitrogen.

First, there is carbonic acid gas. This is the bad gas which we give out of our mouths after we have burnt up the oxygen with the carbon of our bodies inside our lungs; and this carbonic acid is also given out from everything that burns. If only animals lived in the world, this gas would soon poison the air; but plants get hold of it, and in the sunshine they break it up again, as we shall see in Lecture VII. Secondly, there are very small quantities in the air of ammonia , or the gas which almost chokes you in smelling-salts, and which, when liquid, is commonly called "spirits of hartshorn.

Lastly, there is a great deal of water in the air, floating about as invisible vapour or water-dust, and this we shall speak of in the next [Pg 56] lecture. Still, all these gases and vapours in the atmosphere are in very small quantities, and the bulk of the air is composed of oxygen and nitrogen. Having now learned what air is, the next question which presents itself is, Why does it stay round our earth? You will remember we saw in the first lecture, that all the little atoms of a gas are trying to fly away from each other, so that if I turn on this gas-jet the atoms soon leave it, and reach you at the farther end of the room, and you can smell the gas.

Why, then, do not all the atoms of oxygen and nitrogen fly away from our earth into space, and leave us without any air? Have you forgotten our giant force, "gravitation," which draws things together from a distance? This force draws together the earth and the atoms of oxygen and nitrogen; and as the earth is very big and heavy, and the atoms of air are light and easily moved, they are drawn down to the earth and held there by gravitation. But for all that, the atmosphere does not leave off trying to fly away; it is always pressing upwards and outwards with all its might, while the earth is doing its best to hold it down.

The effect of this is, that near the earth, where the pull downward is very strong, the air-atoms are drawn very closely together, because gravitation gets the best in the struggle. But as we get farther and farther from the earth, the pull downward becomes weaker, and then the air-atoms spring farther apart, and the air becomes thinner. Suppose that the lines in this diagram represent layers of air. Near the earth we [Pg 57] have to represent them as lying closely together, but as they recede from the earth they are also farther apart.

But the chief reason why the air is thicker or denser nearer the earth, is because the upper layers press it down. If you have a heap of papers lying one on the top of the other, you know that those at the bottom of the heap will be more closely pressed together than those above, and just the same is the case with the atoms of the air. Only there is this difference, if the papers have lain for some time, when you take the top ones off, the under ones remain close together. But it is not so with the air, because air is elastic, and the atoms are always trying to fly apart, so that directly you take away the pressure they spring up again as far as they can.

I have here an ordinary pop-gun. If I push the cork in very tight, and then force the piston slowly inwards, I can compress the air a good deal. Now I am forcing the atoms nearer and nearer together, but at [Pg 58] last they rebel so strongly against being more crowded that the cork cannot resist their pressure. She's got this fear of sexuality, fear of giving herself away. When the work opens, Matteo, an impoverished army officer whom she has rejected after a flirtation, has developed an attachment to her that is turning into obsession.

It's possible that childhood memories informed his portrait of Arabella's own dreadful parents. The father, Waldner, a retired soldier, is a compulsive gambler, who has run through the family fortunes. Adelaide, his wife, is self-dramatising and given to consulting quack fortune-tellers. Arabella, being of marriageable age, is effectively to be prostituted to the highest bidder to salvage the financial mess.

The person most drastically affected, however, is their younger daughter Zdenka. To avoid the cost of "bringing out" two daughters in society, she has been raised as a boy and renamed Zdenko. Zdenka has also fallen in love with Matteo, to whom she is sending secret love letters in Arabella's name. Arabella longs to escape - "She's dreaming about being freed, but she doesn't know what that is," says Mussbach.

Her potential liberator does turn up, though he is not quite the man expected.


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  • Waldner, in desperation, has written to Mandryka, a rich, former army crony, retired to Croatia, enclosing a portrait of Arabella, in the hope of arousing his interest. The elder Mandryka is long dead but the portrait has the desired effect on his nephew, a widower of the same name. Given that Jochanaan pushes Salome into necrophilia, while Orest arrives to enact Elektra's violent fantasies, Mussbach's idea of freedom is questionable, though Mandryka, like the other two, is very much a catalyst that forces the family to implode.

    Zdenka, sensing that Arabella will choose him over Matteo, has sex with the latter in a darkened room, pretending to be her sister. Arabella, meanwhile, sees Mandryka as "the right man", the partner she has longed for. The concept of the right man - der Richtige in German - remains the most discussed aspect of the opera. Many have assumed Strauss and Hofmannsthal equated der Richtige with the romantic notion that each of us has a specific partner appointed for us by destiny. Mussbach is predictably more equivocal.

    Mandryka is similarly living in an illusory world.