And now we have been so long hunting out, testing and weighing our aerial ocean, that scarcely any time is left us to speak of its movements or the pleasant breezes which it makes for us in our country walks. Did you ever try to run races on a very windy day? Ah! then you feel the air strongly enough; how it beats against your face and chest, and blows down your throat so as to take your breath away; and what hard work it is to struggle against it! Stop for a moment and rest, and ask yourself, what is the wind? Why does it blow sometimes one way and sometimes another, and sometimes not at all?
Wind is nothing more than air moving across the surface of the earth, which as it passes along bends the tops of the trees, beats against the houses, pushes the ships along by their sails, turns the windmill, carries off the smoke from cities, whistles through the keyhole, and moans as it rushes down the valley. What makes the air restless? why should it not lie still all round the earth?
It is restless because, as you will remember, its atoms are kept pressed together near the earth by the weight of the air above, and they take every opportunity, when they can find more room, to spread out violently and rush into the vacant space, and this rush we call a wind.
Imagine a great number of active schoolboys all crowded into a room till they can scarcely move their arms and legs for the crush, and then suppose all at once a large door is opened. Will they not all come tumbling out pell-mell, one over the other, into the hall beyond, so that if you stood in their way you would most likely be knocked down? Well, just this happens to the air-atoms; when they find a space before them into which they can rush, they come on helter-skelter, with such force that you have great difficulty in standing against them, and catch hold of something to support you for fear you should be blown down.
But how come they to find any empty space to receive them? To answer this we must go back again to our little active invisible fairies the sunbeams. When the sun-waves come pouring down upon the earth they pass through the air almost without heating it. But not so with the ground; there they pass down only a short distance and then are thrown back again. And when these sun-waves come quivering back they force the atoms of the air near the earth apart and make it lighter; so that the air close to the surface of the heated ground becomes less heavy than the air above it, and rises just as a cork rises in water. You know that hot air rises in the chimney; for if you put a piece of lighted paper on the fire it is carried up by the draught of air, often even before it can ignite. Now just as the hot air rises from the fire, so it rises from the heated ground up into higher parts of the atmosphere. and as it rises it leaves only thin air behind it, and this cannot resist the strong cold air whose atoms are struggling and trying to get free, and they rush in and fill the space.