"Then there is electricity,--the demon, the angel, the mighty physical

power, the all-pervading intelligence!" exclaimed Clifford. "Is that a

humbug, too? Is it a fact--or have I dreamt it--that, by means of

electricity, the world of matter has become a great nerve, vibrating

thousands of miles in a breathless point of time? Rather, the round

globe is a vast head, a brain, instinct with intelligence! Or, shall

we say, it is itself a thought, nothing but thought, and no longer the

substance which we deemed it!"

"If you mean the telegraph," said the old gentleman, glancing his eye

toward its wire, alongside the rail-track, "it is an excellent

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thing,--that is, of course, if the speculators in cotton and politics

don't get possession of it. A great thing, indeed, sir, particularly

as regards the detection of bank-robbers and murderers."

"I don't quite like it, in that point of view," replied Clifford. "A

bank-robber, and what you call a murderer, likewise, has his rights,

which men of enlightened humanity and conscience should regard in so

much the more liberal spirit, because the bulk of society is prone to

controvert their existence. An almost spiritual medium, like the

electric telegraph, should be consecrated to high, deep, joyful, and

holy missions. Lovers, day by, day--hour by hour, if so often moved to

do it,--might send their heart-throbs from Maine to Florida, with some

such words as these 'I love you forever!'--'My heart runs over with

love!'--'I love you more than I can!' and, again, at the next message

'I have lived an hour longer, and love you twice as much!' Or, when a

good man has departed, his distant friend should be conscious of an

electric thrill, as from the world of happy spirits, telling him 'Your

dear friend is in bliss!' Or, to an absent husband, should come tidings

thus 'An immortal being, of whom you are the father, has this moment

come from God!' and immediately its little voice would seem to have

reached so far, and to be echoing in his heart. But for these poor

rogues, the bank-robbers,--who, after all, are about as honest as nine

people in ten, except that they disregard certain formalities, and

prefer to transact business at midnight rather than 'Change-hours,--and

for these murderers, as you phrase it, who are often excusable in the

motives of their deed, and deserve to be ranked among public

benefactors, if we consider only its result,--for unfortunate

individuals like these, I really cannot applaud the enlistment of an

immaterial and miraculous power in the universal world-hunt at their

heels!"

"You can't, hey?" cried the old gentleman, with a hard look.

"Positively, no!" answered Clifford. "It puts them too miserably at

disadvantage. For example, sir, in a dark, low, cross-beamed, panelled

room of an old house, let us suppose a dead man, sitting in an

arm-chair, with a blood-stain on his shirt-bosom,--and let us add to

our hypothesis another man, issuing from the house, which he feels to

be over-filled with the dead man's presence,--and let us lastly imagine

him fleeing, Heaven knows whither, at the speed of a hurricane, by

railroad! Now, sir, if the fugitive alight in some distant town, and

find all the people babbling about that self-same dead man, whom he has

fled so far to avoid the sight and thought of, will you not allow that

his natural rights have been infringed? He has been deprived of his

city of refuge, and, in my humble opinion, has suffered infinite wrong!"