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Jane Marcet

The Air and the Bellows

T HE next day Willy told his Mamma how clever Ann had been, to find out a way of blowing the weathercock, which did not tire any one. "But, Mamma," said he, "what a great deal of wind there must be in the bellows, for if you blow ever so much, there is always some wind left in the bellows; and yet it is not very big. I wonder it can hold so much!"

His Mamma took up a bellows and showed him a large hole in the middle of the back; she then began to open the bellows to blow, and she told Willy to put his hand close to the hole, to feel if any wind came out of it.

"No, Mamma," said he, "there is something like a little door inside the hole, which stops the wind from coming out. But it feels to my hand as if the wind was getting in at that hole; and it looks as if it pushed the little door back, that it might get in."

"It is just so," said his Mamma; "look now how big the bellows is, while I hold the two handles apart, and let the wind get in."

"Oh yes," said Willy, "it is quite full of wind; now blow Mamma, and I know where the wind will get out."

His Mother then closed the bellows, by bringing the two handles together, and Willy held his hand at the mouth, and felt the wind come out there.

He stood still a little while to think, and then said,—"So, all the wind is not in the bellows at once; but every time you blow, first it gets in at the great hole in the middle, and then it gets out at the little hole in the spout. But when you squeeze the handles of the bellows together to make the wind come out, why does it not come out of the great hole as well as at the little one?"

"Because the door at the great hole shuts, and will not let the air come out."

"But it opens to let it come in; why should it not open to let it go out?"

His Mamma then made him feel the little door, and showed him that it could open only inwards and not outwards; so that when the air got in it could not get out again that way. When the bellows was closed, the air was therefore obliged to go out through the spout.

"What is the air, Mamma, you are talking about? Is it the same as the wind?"

"It is the same thing, my dear, only when it blows about, it is called wind, and when it is still and quiet it is called air."

"Then wind is air moving about," said Willy. "And when I blowed the weathercock with my mouth, did air come out of my mouth, as it does out of the bellows?"

"Yes, my dear."

"And how did it get into my mouth, Mamma?"

"It gets in when your mouth is open."

Then Willy began blowing with all his might; and pointing to his puffed up cheeks, he said, "Do they not look as full of wind as the bellows? I think, Mamma, my mouth is like a bellows."

"Except," said she, "that the air goes in and comes out by the same opening."

"And a great hole it is, Mamma," said Willy, opening his mouth as wide as he could; "there is room for the air to go in and to come out too."

"It does not go in and come out at the same time," said his Mother.

She then made Willy observe how he breathed, and he said, "I feel the air going into my mouth, and it gets down here, Mamma," said he, putting his hand upon his stomach, "and swells me out like the bellows."

"But while you were speaking," said she, "the air came out again. You do not feel swelled out with air now, do you?"

"No, Mamma; then it got out very slyly, without my knowing it."

"Breathe again," said she, "very slowly and rather hard."

Willy opened his mouth as wide as he could, and sucked the air down his throat; and when he could hold the breath in no longer, he observed how it came back again out of his mouth, and he held his hand to his mouth to feel the air coming out.

"You do right to feel it," said his Mother, "for you cannot see it."

"Why cannot we see air and wind, Mamma? I can see every thing else; and I am sure air must be a thing, I feel it so well; and it is so strong when it moves about and makes a great wind, that sometimes it blows down large trees. It must be much stronger than the gardener, for you know he cannot pull down a great tree by himself; and yet I cannot see it: it is very odd that I cannot see such a strong thing."

"And such a great thing too," said his Mother; "for wherever you go there is air."

"Is there?" said Willy. "When I go out and feel it move, I know there is wind; but when the air is still, I cannot tell whether there is any air in the room or not: how can I, Mamma? for I cannot see it."

"You can tell, because you breathe it; if there was no air in the room, when you opened your mouth to breathe, no air would go into your mouth and down your throat into your body, and you could not breathe."

"Then I should do without breathing."

"Oh no, you could not; you could not live without breathing."

"But, Mamma, I never breathed till you bid me, that I know of. Oh yes," continued he, "I remember that when I run very fast, I must stop to breathe; but when I am at play without running, I never stop to breathe."

"No, but you breathe without stopping. Try to keep your mouth shut, so that the air can neither get in nor out of it."

Willy did so; but in a few instants he breathed again with a long sigh, saying, "Oh, Mamma, I could hold my mouth shut no longer; I felt as if I was choking."

"Well, then, you see, Willy, it is much more easy to breathe than not to breathe."

"Only, Mamma, I did not know that I breathed; it is very funny to breathe without knowing it."

"You did not observe  that you breathed. I have often told you that you must observe; that is, take notice, when you wish to know any thing."

"Well, now I will observe how I breathe," said Willy; and he stood still watching his breath for about a minute, and then said, "But do I always breathe, Mamma?"

"Yes," replied she, "always; after running you breathe harder, because you cannot breathe much whilst you are running, so you make up for it by breathing more as soon as you stop."

"Well, I will try," said he; and off he set galloping to the end of a long corridor, and back again, as fast as he could go. When he returned he was quite out of breath, and could not speak for gasping.

"Now observe, Willy," said his Mother, "how quick and hard you breathe to make up for the little breath you could take whilst running."

"Oh, but I forgot to observe whether I stopped breathing whilst I was running." And off he went again to the end of the corridor. His Mother was glad to see him run about, for she thought it was not good for little children to remain still long together, talking and thinking, without moving about. As soon as he returned, and had taken breath, "I have observed, Mamma," said he, "as well as I could,—but while I ran so fast I could not observe much,—but I am sure I cannot breathe a great deal, for it seemed as if I did not breathe at all till I got to the end of the corridor. And do you breathe, Mamma? and does Papa, and every body breathe?"

"Yes, every body."

Willy then looked in his Mamma's face while she was working, and said, "Ah, Mamma, I see you breathe: I don't mean that I see the air that goes in and comes out of your mouth, for you know I cannot see that; but I see your neck move up and down, as if you were swallowing air down your throat into your body, and letting it come out again. But, Mamma," said Willy, "we cannot breathe when we are asleep."

"Yes, we do; we breathe without observing it. Look at Carlo there asleep upon the rug; does not he breathe?"

"Oh, yes, he does indeed; I see his body move every time the air goes in and out. I did not know dogs breathed."

"Yes," replied she, "all animals breathe."

"What, horses, and cows, and dogs, and cats, and ducks, and hens, and——"

"Oh, Willy," said his Mother, interrupting him, "you will never have finished if you name all the animals that breathe."

"You know, Mamma, that I don't know the names of all the animals that are alive; you say that there are a great many I never saw."

"True, but I think I should be tired of hearing you repeat the names of all those you have seen."

"Well, then, Mamma, shall I tell you the name of some things that cannot breathe?"

"Oh dear no, Willy, that would be longer still; there are so many things. Trees cannot breathe, and tables, and chairs, and houses cannot breathe."

"Oh, now, Mamma, you know I did not mean such things as those; I meant animals that cannot breathe."

"But you said things,"  said his Mother, smiling; "and you know that there are a great number of things which are not animals."

"Well, Mamma, I will tell you what I meant,—it was fishes; and fishes must be animals, because they are alive when they are in the water: and I am sure they move about fast enough, for you know how they swim away when Papa wants to catch them with his fishing-rod."

"But fishes breathe, Willy."

"How can they breathe under the water, Mamma? for don't you remember when Dicky fell into the water under the ice, he said he was choked because he could not breathe?"

"That is true," replied she; "when Dicky opened his mouth to breathe, water got in instead of air, and he could not breathe. But when fishes want to breathe, they can swim up to the top of the water, pop their little heads out into the air, and breathe. Besides," continued his Mother, "fishes can breathe under the water; they want very little air; and there is enough air in the water for them, though there was not for Dicky."

"Well," said Willy, "I wish I could but see the air we breathe."

"It is only losing time, Willy, to wish what cannot be done. It is impossible to see it; but when it moves and makes a wind, you can feel it, and you can hear it too; will not that satisfy you?"

"Oh," said Willy, "I forgot you could hear it; but it makes a great noise sometimes. Ann said last night, 'How the wind does roar!' "

"That, I suppose," said his Mother, "was because she thought the noise the wind made was like the roaring of a wild beast. When the wind pushes through the trees, we say sometimes that it whistles, because it makes a noise like whistling."

"And once," said Willy, "I remember, when it came through a crack in the window, I thought it was somebody singing very softly out of doors; but Ann said it was only the wind getting into the room through the crack: then I might have said the wind sings."

"But, Willy," said his Mamma, "we have been talking a very long time to-day, and if you are not tired of asking questions, I am tired of answering them. So go to Ann, and ask her to take you into the Park for a good run."

"Good-by, Mamma!" said Willy; and off he went with a hop, skip, and a jump.