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Frictional Electricity From "The Saturday Evening Post."   By: (1841-1915)

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By Max Adeler

Reprinted by permission of the author, Charles Heber Clark, from "The Saturday Evening Post."

I happened to visit the accident ward of St. Paracelsus' Hospital because a friend of mine who is interested in the Flower Mission asked me to stop there during my afternoon walk and give a few flowers to the sufferers.

When I had arranged the last half dozen of the roses in a vase upon the little stand by the bedside of one bruised and battered patient, he looked at me gratefully, and said:

"Oh, thank you, sir! And would you mind, sir, stopping for a bit of talk? I'm so lonely and miserable."

I sat upon the chair by the bed and with my hand smoothed the counterpane, while the patient asked me:

"Do I really look like a burglar, sir, do you think?"

I hesitated to reply as I examined his face. It was really covered with bandages, but his nose seemed swollen and there were bruises about both eyes.

"I don't wonder you don't like to speak your mind when you see me here a broken wreck, smashed all up and not looking a bit like myself, sir. But if you would see me well and strong and all fixed up for going to church you'd say right off that I don't favor no burglar in looks."

I asked the unfortunate man his name.

"Mordecai Barnes, sir, and I'm a journeyman plumber, sir, with a good character, and don't take no second place in that business with no man. How did I get here? What banged me all up into a shame and a disgrace like this? Well, I'll tell you, sir, if you have the patience to listen, for it does me good to talk who has been used so hard, and can get no attention from the nurses or nobody in this here asylum. Do you understand about frictional electricity, sir? No? I thought not; and well had it been for me, for this shattered hulk that you see a lying here, if I had never heard of it neither! I'll tell you how it was, sir. My mate, George Watkins, and there ain't no better man nowheres if you go clear round the globe George Watkins is one of these men with inquiring minds, always a hungering for knowledge, and so George off he goes week after week to the lectures up at the Huxley Institute. You know it; in that yallow building over by Nonpareil Square. And George often he told me about the wonderful things he learned there, and among others he was fond of explaining to me about frictional electricity.

"It seems, sir, for you may not know it any" more'n I knowed it until George explained it to me, that there's three different kinds of electricity. There's the kind you make with a steam engine, and the kind you make with acid, and the kind you make with friction. Well, sir, would you believe or, let me say first, have you ever rubbed a black cat on the back in a dark room and seen the sparks fly? Of course, and, sir, I know it's almost beyond belief, but, positive, they told George Watkins, my mate, up at the Huxley Institute, that them sparks and the aurora borealis that you see sometimes a lighting up the heavens is one and the same thing! Wonderful, isn't it, sir, that Science should discover that a black cat is some kind of kin to the aurora borealis? But George says that's what they said, for the aurora borealis is caused by the earth a rolling around and rubbing the air just as the sparks is caused by stroking the cat's back.

"And George he says that this here frictional electricity is the only kind that'll cure pain. The steam engine kind won't do it, and the acid kind won't do it, but the frictional kind'll do it every time if you only know how to apply it.

"Well, sir, now I pass to the sorrerful part of my story. There is a girl named Bella Dougherty that does housework for a man named Muffitt, and a mighty nice girl she is; or, I used to think her nice. Maybe you know where Mr. Muffitt lives, on 149th Street, just above Parvin Street, the third house on the left with white shutters.

"Anyhow, I got to be fond of Bella and often used to set and talk with her in the evenings in Mr... Continue reading book >>

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