Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/246

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seat and toward the door, to see what had happened there, but had scarcely risen when another concussion and a mighty detonation came. I supposed that a very heavy piece of artillery had been discharged in the street, just in the rear of the house. Before I could reach the door, but a few feet away, there came another detonation and another terrific jar, which shook, as the others had done, the house to its foundations. The three reports were in such rapid succession as to be almost simultaneous, but thought was quicker than they, and leaped from supposition to supposition in an instant. The last concussion dissolved my doubts as to the origin of those that had preceded it, and I at once looked in the direction in which I knew the powder-mills to lie.

A spectacle of exquisite beauty and sublimity met my eyes, which will abide in my memory forever. I can hardly expect to convey to the reader the impression which it made upon me. Towering in the heavens, sharply defined against the deep-blue sky, was a column of dazzling white, perhaps a mile in height, and a thousand feet in diameter. Its sides were evenly cut and in perfect symmetry through the whole length of the marvelous column, till they spread out on either side at the top in a broad, palm-like canopy. The mid-day sun was shining upon it, and lighting it up with an unearthly splendor, while it seemed to stand almost over us. We gazed awe-struck and entranced upon it, and could easily think of that pillar of cloud that, in the olden time, stood in its awful majesty in front of the camp of Israel.

It was so vast that it seemed close at hand, although it was three miles away. We watched it silently till it slowly changed its form, and gradually drifted in great cumulous clouds away. It was a vision of singular and glorious beauty, such as I never expect to see again.

In this instance three buildings had been destroyed. The shock of the explosions was exceedingly marked and peculiar, different from any thing that I had previously known. It had a sort of pervasive character that suggested the cause as being immediately at hand. My first impression was not of something at a distance, but rather of the jar of a heavy body falling within four or five feet of where we were sitting, and, when it was repeated, of a cannon discharged close by the house. It seemed to be underneath and all around—to fill the very earth and air.

This pervasive character of the shock is very remarkable. It is the same in all that I have heard. It seems to be felt scarcely more violently in the immediate vicinity of the place where it occurred than miles away. In this case we were between three and four miles off, and yet the explosion could scarcely have been more startling and severely felt, or have seemed nearer, to those who were within a few rods of the place. Indeed, on certain occasions, the violence of the shock is felt much more at a distance than close at hand. In one instance that I