“Science,” said the Observer, “is a great thing and applicable to almost every line of endeavor. You can kill people in a scientific manner—witness the late Madame Borgia and others. You can shoe a horse scientifically, beg scientifically or hypnotize a squalling infant into innocuous quietude by the aid of science. Marconi has signalled across the ocean; Santos-Dumont has navigated the air and Austria has proven her neutrality in the Spanish-American war by scientific means. But there is one thing which Science cannot tackle with any degree of success, and that is the weather problem.
“The gift of weather prophecy goes with rheumatism and not with government appointment. The barometer and the anemometer are not in it with a touch of gout, a sailor’s superstitions or a farmer’s instinct, and, until the Department of Agriculture realizes this, the weather forecast will have no practical value except as an interesting bit of fiction.
“I once heard of a man who was ‘salivated’ in a quicksilver mine, and who, as a result, turned into a living barometer. If his head was clear and his feet were heavy, it was a sure sign of rain in Summer or frost in Winter. If, on the contrary, he seemed depressed mentally and yearned for exercise, a rise in temperature and fair weather were in order. He amassed a large fortune in making weather bets, but one day when the thermometer was down below zero, he stepped on a tack and all the mercury ran out of his heel. After that he lost all his money betting with a neighbor who had a rheumatic left joint, and died of grief in abject poverty.
“The only way by which the government may hope to secure competent weather prognostigators is in the establishment of regular training schools for its prophets. The candidate should be examined as to fitness, just as the applicant for a West Point cadetship. He should possess inherited tendencies toward rheumatism as a primary qualification. Then, after serving three years before the mast and putting in an equal period of active labor on a farm, he would be able to turn out correct forecasts with no other apparatus than a set of signal flags, a typewriter and a hektograph.
“It wouldn’t be scientific,” concluded the Observer, reflectively, “because he couldn’t explain his deductions on a basis of dynamic pressure, electrical disturbances, or velocity of air currents. But it would be a safe tip for the city man to get out his umbrella, mackintosh and overshoes and for the farmer to cover up his hay, if the rain flag were seen to float on the weather pole.”
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[Illustration: “Fate has posted a great big placard over the Hall of Fame.”]
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“Oh yes! Steve White was a great man,” said the Observer, as he chalked his cue and reflectively gazed at the balls, “but he was born in that class. If he hadn’t been, Stephen Mallory White would probably have cut no greater figure in the world than any other man.