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An ingenious projector, named Edward Heming, obtained letters patent, conveying to him for a term of years the exclusive right of lighting up London. He undertook for a moderate consideration to place a light before every tenth door on moonless nights, from Michaelmas to Lady Day, and from six to twelve of the clock.
Those who now see the capital all the year round, from dusk to dawn, blazing with a splendour compared with which the illuminations for La Hogue and Blenheim would have looked pale, may perhaps smile to think of Heming's lanterns, which glimmered feebly before one house in ten, during a small part of one night in three. But such was not the feeling of his contemporaries. His scheme was enthusiastically applauded, and furiously attacked. The friends of improvement extolled him as the greatest of all the benefactors of his city. “What,” they asked, “were the boasted inventions of Archimedes when compared with the achievement of the man who had turned the shades of night into the clearness of noontide ?"
In spite of these eloquent praises, the cause of night was not left undefended. There were fools in that age who opposed the introduction of what was called the new light as vigorously as fools in our age have opposed the introduction of vaccination and railroads; as vigorously as the fools of an age before the dawn of history doubtless opposed the introduction of the plough and of alphabetical writing. Many years after the date of Heming's patent there were extensive districts in which no lamp was seen.
106.—THE STORY OF HORATIUS.
(Lars Porsena, King of Etruria, marched to besiege Rome, and
would have taken it, had not his advance been foiled by three brave men, who kept him and his army at bay whilst the bridge behind them was being cut down.]
But meanwhile, axe and lever
Have manfully been plied;
Above the boiling tide.
Loud cried the fathers all.
Back, ere the ruin fall ! ”
Back darted Spurius Lartius;
Herminius darted back :
They felt the timbers crack.
And on the farther shore
They would have crossed once more.
But with a crash like thunder
Fell every loosened beam,
Lay right athwart the stream :
Rose from the walls of Rome, As to the highest turret-tops
Was splashed the yellow foam.
And, like a horse unbroken
When first he feels the rein, The furious river struggled hard,
And tossed his tawny mane,
Rejoicing to be free,
Rushed headlong to the sea.
Alone stood brave Horatius,
But constant still in mind; Thrice thirty thousand foes before,
And the broad flood behind. 6 Down with him!” cried false Sextus,
With a smile on his pale face. “Now yield thee ! ” cried Lars Porsena,
“Now yield thee to our grace!"
Round turned he, as not deigning
Those craven ranks to see; Nought spake he to Lars Porsena,
To Sextus nought spake he:
But he saw on Palatinus
The white porch of his home; And he spake to the noble river
That rolls by the towers of Rome.
“ O Tiber! Father Tiber!
To whom the Romans pray,
Take thou in charge this day!
The good sword by his side,
Plunged headlong in the tide.
No sound of joy or sorrow
Was heard from either bank; But friends and foes in dumb surprise, With parted lips and straining eyes,
Stood gazing where he sank; And when above the surges
They saw his crest appear, All Rome sent forth a rapturous cry, And even the ranks of Tuscany
Could scarce forbear to cheer.
But fiercely ran the current,
Swollen high by months of rain : And fast his blood was flowing,
And he was sore in pain,
And heavy with his armour,
And spent with changing blows : And oft they thought him sinking,
But still again he rose.
Never, I ween, did swimmer,
In such an evil case,
Safe to the landing-place:
By the brave heart within,
Bare bravely up his chin.
“ Curse on him ! ” quoth false Sextus;
Will not the villain drown? But for this stay, ere close of day
We should have sacked the town!” “Heaven help him!” quoth Lars Porsena,
“And bring him safe to shore; For such a gallant feat of arms
Was never seen before."
And now he feels the bottom;
Now on dry earth he stands;
To press his gory hands;
And noise of weeping loud,
Borne by the joyous crowd.