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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/684

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

neath, suggested the bloom of a plum. As the day advanced, the southeastern heaven became more luminous, and the pale disk of the sun was at length seen struggling through drifting clouds. At ten o'clock the sun had become fairly victorious, the heather was adorned by pendent drops, while certain branching grasses, laden with liquid pearls, presented, in the sunlight, an appearance of exquisite beauty. Walking across the common to the Portsmouth road, my wife and I, on reaching it, turned our faces sunward. The smoke-like fog had vanished, but its disappearance was accompanied, or perhaps caused, by the coalescence of its minuter particles into little globules, visible where they caught the light at a proper angle, but not otherwise. They followed every eddy of the air, upward, downward, and from side to side. Their extreme mobility was well calculated to suggest a notion prevalent on the Continent, that the particles of a fog, instead of being full droplets, are really little bladders or vesicles. Clouds are supposed to owe their power of floatation to this cause. This vesicular theory never struck root in England; nor has it, I apprehend, any foundation in fact.

As I stood in the midst of these eddying specks, so visible to the eye, yet so small and light as to be perfectly impalpable to the skin both of hands and face, I remarked, "These particles must surely yield a bow of some kind." Turning my back to the sun, I stooped down so as to keep well within the layer of particles, which I supposed to be a shallow one, and looking toward the "Devil's Punch-Bowl," saw the anticipated phenomenon. A bow without color spanned the Punch-Bowl, and, though white and pale, was well defined and exhibited an aspect of weird grandeur. Once or twice I fancied a faint ruddiness could be discerned on its outer boundary. The stooping was not necessary, and as we walked along the new Portsmouth road, with the Punch-Bowl to our left, the white arch marched along with us. At a certain point we ascended to the old Portsmouth road, whence, with a flat space of very dark heather in the foreground, we watched the bow. The sun had then become strong, and the sky above us blue, nothing which could in any proper sense be called rain existing at the time in the atmosphere. Suddenly my companion exclaimed, "I see the whole circle meeting at my feet!" At the same moment the circle became visible to me also. It was the darkness of our immediate foreground that enabled us to see the pale, luminous band projected against it. We walked round Hind Head Common with the bow almost always in view. Its crown sometimes disappeared, showing that the minute globules which produced it did not extend to any great height in the atmosphere. In such cases, two shining buttresses were left behind, which, had not the bow been previously seen, would have lacked all significance. In some of the combes, or valleys, where the floating particles had collected in greater numbers, the end of the bow plunging into the combe emitted a light of more than the usual brightness.