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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/537

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SUDDEN WHITENING OF THE HAIR.

a workman falling with him was impaled upon a strong iron spike supporting the scenery. In ten minutes or so they reached the ground, the workman dead, the singer dazed, but able to thank Heaven on his knees for his escape; and then the awe-stricken people saw that the black-haired deity had become transformed into a white-haired mortal, whose youthful features formed a strange contrast to their venerable-looking crown.

Staff-surgeon Parry, while serving in India during the Mutiny, saw a strange sight. Among the prisoners taken in a skirmish at Chamda was a sepoy of the Bengal army. He was brought before the authorities, and put to the question. Fully alive to his position, the Bengalee stood almost stupefied with fear, trembling greatly, with horror and despair plainly depicted on his countenance. While the examination was proceeding, the by-standers were startled by the sergeant in charge of the prisoner exclaiming, "He is turning gray!" All eyes were turned on the unfortunate man, watching with wondering interest the change coming upon his splendid, glossy, jet-black locks. In half an hour they were of a uniform grayish hue.

Some years ago a young lady who was anxiously awaiting the coming of her husband-elect, received a letter conveying the sad tidings of his shipwreck and death. She instantly fell to the ground insensible, and so remained for five hours. On the following morning, her sister saw that her hair, which had been previously of a rich brown color, had become as white as a cambric handkerchief, her eyebrows and eyelashes retaining their natural color. After a while the whitened hair fell off, and was succeeded by a new growth of gray. This case coming under the observation of Dr. Erasmus Wilson, shattered his unbelief in the possibility of the sudden conversion of the hair from a dark color to snow-white. No man knows more about the hair than Dr. Wilson; but he is at a loss to explain the phenomenon quite to his own satisfaction. "If," says he, "it be established that the hair is susceptible of permeation by fluids derived from the blood—a transmission of fluids from the blood-vessels of the skin into the substance of the hair really occurs, the quantity and nature being modified by the peculiarity of constitution or state of health of the individual—it follows that such fluids, being altered in their chemical qualities, may possess the power of impressing new conditions on the structure into which they enter. Thus, if they contain an excess of salts of lime, they may deposit salts of lime in the tissue of the hair, and so produce a change in its appearance from dark to gray." Then he tells us: 'The phenomenon may be the result of electrical action; it may be the consequence of a chemical alteration wrought in the very blood itself, or it may be a conversion for which the tissue of the hair is chiefly responsible." So many "may-bes" from such an authority prove that the mystery of the sudden whitening of the hair is yet unsolved. It is likely to remain unsolved, since the doctor—more modest than