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/wjAYERNS, especially those which are situated in limestone, commonly IHl present the formations called stalactites, from a Greek word signi$1 fying distillation or dropping. The manner of their production ♦ admits of a very plain and simple explanation. They proceed from + water trickling through the roofs containing carbonate of lime, i held in solution by carbonic acid. Upon exposure to the air the carbonic acid is gradually disengaged, and a pellicle of lime is deposited. The process proceeds, drop after drop, and eventually, descending points hanging from the roof are formed, resembling icicles, which are composed of concentric rings of transparent pellicles of lime, presenting a very peculiar appearance, and, from their connection with each other, producing a variety of singular shapes. These descending points are the stalactites properly so called, from which the stalagmites are to be distinguished, which cover the floors of caverns with conical inequalities. These are produced by the evaporation of the larger drops which have fallen to the bottom, and are stalactites rising upwards from the ground. Frequently, in the course of ages, the ascending and descending points have been so increased as to meet together, forming natural columns, a series of which bears a striking resemblance to the pillars and arches of Gothic architecture.

The amount of this disposition which we find in caverns capable of producing it, is, in fact, enormous, and gives us an impressive idea of their extraordinary antiquity. The grotto of Antiparos—one of the islands of the Grecian Archipelago—is particularly celebrated on account of the size and diversity of form of these deposits. It extends nearly a thousand feet beneath the surface, in primitive limestone, and is accessible by a narrow entrance which is often very steeply inclined, but divided by level landing places. After a series of descents, the traveler arrives at the Great Hall, ■as it is called, the sides and roof of which are covered with immense incrustations of calcareous matter. The purity of the surrounding stone, and the thickness of the roof in which the unfiltered water can deposit all impure admixtures, give to its stalactites a beautiful whiteness. Tall pillars stand in many places free, near each other, and single groups cf stalagmites form figures so strongly resembling plants, that Tournefort endeavored to prove from them a vegetable nature in stone. The remark of that intelligent traveler is an amusing example of over confidence:— "Once again I repeat it, it is impossible this should be done by the

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droppings of water, as is pretended by those who go about to explain the formation of congelations in grottoes. It is much more probable that these other congelations we speak of, and which hang downwards or rise out different ways, were produced by one principle, namely, vegetation."

The sight of the whole is described, by those who have visited this cavern, as highly imposing. In the middle of the Great Hall, there is a remarkably fine and large stalagmite, more than twenty feet in diameter, and twenty-four feet high, termed the Altar, from the circumstance of the Marquis de Nointel, the ambassador from Louis XIV. to the Sultan, having caused high mass to be celebrated here in the year 1673. The ceremony was attended by five hundred persons; the place was illuminated by a hundred large wax torches; and four hundred lamps burned in the grotto, day and night, for the three days of the Christmas festival. This cavern was known to the ancient Greeks, but seems to have been completely lost sight of till the seventeenth century.




gHROUGH the blue and frosty heav-
Christmas stars were shining bright;
Glistening lamps throughout the city
Almost matched their gleaming
While the winter snow was lying,
And the winter winds were sighing,
Long ago, one Christmas night.

While, from every tower and steeple.
Pealing bells were sounding clear,

Never with such tones of gladness,
Save when Christmas time is near,

Many a one that night was merry
Who had toiled through all the year.

That night saw old wrongs forgiven:
Friends, long parted, reconciled;

Voices all unused to laughter,
Mournful eyes that rarely smiled,

Trembling hearts that feared the morrow,
From their anxious thoughts beguiled.

Rich and poor felt love and blessing
From the gracious season fall;

Joy and plenty in the cottage,
Peace and feasting in the hall;

And the voices of the children
Ringing clear above it all!

Yet one house was dim and darkened,
Gloom, and sickness, and despair,

Dwelling in the gilded chambers,
Creeping up the marble stair;

Even stilled the voice of mourning,
For a child lay dying there.

Silken curtains fell around him,
Velvet carpets hushed the tread;

Many costly toys were lying,
All unheeded, by his bed;

And his tangled golden ringlets
Were on downy pillows spread.

The skill of all that mighty city
To save one little life was vain;

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One little thread from being broken,
One fatal word from being spoken;

Nay, his very mother's pain,
And the mighty love within her,

Could not give him health again.

So she knelt there still beside him,
She alone with strength to smile,

Promising that he should suffer
No more in a little while,

Murmuring tender song and story,
Weary hours to beguile.

Suddenly an unseen Presence

Checked those constant moaning cries, Stilled the little heart's quick fluttering,

Raised those blue and wondering eyes, Fixed on some mysterious vision

With a startled, sweet surprise.

For a radiant angel hovered,

Smiling, o'er the little bed;
White his raiment, from his shoulders

Snowy, dove-like pinions spread,
And a star-like light was shining

In a glory round his head.

While, with tender love, the angel,

Leaning o'er the little neBt,
In his arms the sick child folding,

Laid him gently on his breast,
Sobs and wailings told the mother

That her darling was at rest.

So, the angel, slowly rising,

Spread his wings, and through the air, Bore the child, and while he held him

To his heart with loving care, Placed a branch of crimson roses,

Tenderly beside him there.

While the chill, thus clinging, floated
Toward the mansions of the blest,

Gazing from his shining guardian,
To the flowers upon his breast,

Thus the angel spake, still smiling
On the little heavenly guest:

"Know dear little one, that heaven
Does no earthly thing disdain—

Man's poor joys find there an echo

Just as surely as his pain; Love, on earth so feebly striving,

Lives divine in heaven again!

"Once in that great town below us,

In a poor and narrow street, Dwelt a little sickly orphan;

Gentle aid, or pity sweet, Never in life's rugged pathway

Guided his poor tottering feet.

"All the striving, anxious forethought That should only come with age,

Weighed upon his baby spirit,

Showed him soon life's sternest page.

Grim want was his nurse, and sorrow
Was his only heritage.

"All too weak for childish pastimes,

Drearily the hours sped;
On his hands, so small and trembling.

Leaning his poor aching head,
Or through dark and painful hours

Lying helpless on his bed.

"Dreaming strange and longing fancies

Of cool forests far away; And of rosy, happy children,

Laughing merrily at play, Coming home through green lanes, bearing

Trailing boughs of blooming May.

"Scarce a glimpse of azure heaven Gleamed above that narrow street.

And the sultry air of summer

(That you call so warm and sweet)

Fevered the poor orphan, dwelling la that crowded alley's heat.

"One bright day, with feeble footsteps
Slowly forth he tried to crawl,

Through the crowded city's pathways,
Till he reached the garden wall;

Where 'mid princely halls and mansions
Stood the lordliest of all.

"There were trees with giant branches, Velvet glades where shadows hide;

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