Read CHAPTER IV - EXPERIMENTS of Rollo's Philosophy, free online book, by Jacob Abbott, on

When Jonas had finished nailing down the corner, he said, “Now there are several experiments, which we can perform with the bellows.  I will be the professor, and you two shall be my class in philosophy, and I will direct you how to make the experiments.

“First,” said Jonas, “you, Rollo, may take hold of the nose of the bellows with your hand, in such a way as to put your thumb over the end of it, to stop it up, and then let Nathan try to blow.”

Rollo did so, and Nathan tried to blow.  He found that he could open the bellows very easily; but when he attempted to press the sides together again, he could not.  He crowded the handle belonging to the upper side down, as hard as he could, but it would not move.

“What makes it do so?” said Nathan.

“The air inside,” said Jonas.  “We have stopped up all the places, where it could get out.  The valve stops itself.  Rollo stops the nose with his thumb, and I have nailed the leather down close, about all the sides.  And so the air can’t get out, and that keeps you from bringing the sides together again.”

Nathan tried again with all his strength.  The sides came together very slowly.

“They’re coming,” said he.

“Yes,” said Jonas.  “They come a little, just as fast as the air can leak out through the little leaks all around.”

“I thought you stopped all the leaks,” said Nathan.

“Yes,” replied Jonas, “I stopped all the real leaks, but still I can’t make it perfectly tight.  Some air can escape between the leather and the nails all around, and just as fast as it can get out, so fast you can press the sides together, and no faster.”

Here Nathan tried again with all his strength; but he could only bring the sides together very slowly.

“Now comes the second experiment,” said Jonas.  “While Nathan is trying to press the two handles together, you, Rollo, may run your finger into the hole, and push up the valve a little.”

Rollo did so.  He pushed up the valve a little with his finger, and that allowed the air to escape through the opening.  The consequence was, that the bellows collapsed at once under the pressure which Nathan was exerting upon them.

“There,” said Jonas, “you see that when the air is kept in, you cannot bring the sides together; but when I let the air out, then they come together easily.”

“Yes,” said Nathan; “do it again, Rollo.”

So they performed the experiment again.  Nathan pulled the handles apart wide, while Rollo kept his thumb over the nose, to keep the air from issuing through.  Then Nathan tried to press them together; but he could not, until Rollo put his finger under, and pushed up the valve a little, and then they came together again very easily.

“The air is a real thing, I verily believe,” said Nathan.

“Yes,” said Rollo, “I know it is.  And now for the third experiment, Jonas.”

“The third experiment,” said Jonas, “is this.  Turn the bellows bottom upwards, and try to blow.”

Nathan did so.  He found that he could work the bellows easily ­too easily, in fact; but they did not blow.

“Hold your hand opposite the nose, and see if any wind comes,” said Jonas.

They did so; there was no wind, or rather scarcely any.

“The reason is,” said Jonas, “that, when the bellows are bottom upwards, the valve hangs down off from the hole all the time, and lets the air all out through the hole in the side; and it can come out more easily there than through the nose, and so it don’t blow well.”

“Well, Jonas,” said Rollo, “that’s a pretty good experiment; but what is the next?  Let me try the next.  Nathan, it is my turn.”

“The next experiment, which is the fifth, ­”

“No, the fourth,” said Nathan.

“The fourth, then,” said Jonas, “is to prove what I said to you ­that the air, which is blown out at the nose of the bellows, really comes in through the valve.  Let me see, ­I want something to make a smoke.”

“Will not paper do?” said Rollo.

“Yes,” said Jonas, “here is some brown paper, which will do.”  So Jonas rolled it up, and told Rollo to set it on fire, and then, when it was well burning, to step on it with his foot, and put the flame out.

Rollo did so, and the paper lay in a heap, making a great smoke upon the hearth, just before the fire.

“Now,” said Jonas, “put the bellows upon its edge, by the side of the paper, so as to have the valve near the smoke, and then hold still a minute, until the smoke comes up steadily by the valve.”

When this was done, Jonas told Nathan to take hold of the nose of the bellows, to steady it, so that Rollo could blow.  He then directed Rollo to lean the bellows over a little towards the smoke, so that the moving side should not rub upon the hearth, when he began to blow.

“Now,” he continued, “if you work the bellows, you will see that the smoke will be drawn in through the valve, and then will come out through the nose.”

This experiment succeeded perfectly well, only just in the midst of the interest that they felt, in seeing the smoke come pouring out through the nose, they heard a bell ring at the house.  They knew at once that this bell was for Rollo and Nathan; and so the two boys jumped up from the hearth, and ran out to see what was wanted.  They went through the shed into the barn, and thence on till they came to the great barn door, where they had come in.  There Rollo stopped, ­for he did not like to go out into the snow, ­and asked Dorothy, who was ringing the bell, what she wanted.

“Where’s Nathan?” said Dorothy.

“He’s here with me,” said Rollo.  Nathan was coming along, as fast as he could, through the barn.

“Do you want us?” said Rollo.

“No,” said Dorothy, “only we did not know where you were.  You may stay half an hour more, and then it will be nearly dinner time.”

Dorothy then went in, leaving the boys at the great barn door.  The door opened in such a direction, that the wind did not blow in; and Rollo and Nathan looked out for some time, watching the falling snow, and listening to the wind, as it roared through the tops of the trees.  At last, when they began to think of returning to the shop, Rollo said, ­

“O Nathan, let us go and hide, and then Jonas will not know where we are.”

“Well,” said Nathan, “we will.”

The boys accordingly began to look about the barn for a place to hide.  It was a large barn, with stalls for oxen and cows, and cribs for horses, and one or two calf-pens.  Then there was a granary in one corner, and a tool-room near it, and lofts and scaffolds above.  The boys found plenty of places to hide in, and it took them some time to decide which to choose.  At last, they found a good warm place, by some bundles of wheat straw, up in the barn chamber; and they amused themselves by choosing out large straws, and making tubes of them to blow through.  They called them their bellows.

They entirely forgot that they were hid from Jonas, for nearly half an hour; and then Rollo proposed that they should creep softly down, and see what Jonas was about.  So they went down stairs on tiptoe; Rollo first, and Nathan following.  They crept softly along to the door leading out into the shed, through which they had to pass in order to get to the shop; and Rollo was going to open this softly, when, to his surprise, he found it fastened.

“Why, Nathan,” said he, “this door is fastened.”

“How came it fastened?” said Nathan.

“I don’t know,” said Rollo, “unless Jonas fastened it.  I think he must have finished his work, and gone into the house; and so he has fastened this door.”

“And now he won’t come and find us,” said Nathan.

“No,” said Rollo, “and we must go out the front door.  And I don’t care much,” he continued, “for it is pretty near dinner time.”

The boys then went back to the front door of the barn, and, to their surprise and alarm, found that fastened too.

“What shall we do?” said Rollo; “Jonas has fastened us in.”  As Rollo said this, his face assumed an expression of great solicitude, and Nathan began to cry.

“Don’t cry, Nathan,” said he; “we can find some way to get out.  But I don’t see, I confess, what made Jonas lock us in.”

The truth was, that Jonas did not know that the boys were in the barn when he fastened it up.  As they did not come back after they had gone to answer the bell, he supposed that they had gone into the house; and when he was ready to come in himself, he shut and fastened the back doors of the barn, as he usually did when he left the shop.  He then came around to the front barn door, and although that was on the sheltered side, so that the wind did not blow in, he thought it possible that the wind might change, and so drive the snow in upon the barn floor; and therefore, to make all safe, he thought that he would shut them, too.  He accordingly shut the great doors, and put the fid into the staple.  The fid is a wooden pin, to be passed through the staple when the doors are shut, to fasten them.  The doors cannot be opened again until the fid is taken out.

Rollo went all around the barn, trying to find some place where he could get out; but he could not find any place at all.

“Let us go up stairs,” said he, at length, to Nathan.

“O, it will not do any good to go up stairs,” said Nathan.  “It would kill us to jump out the window.”

“I know we can’t jump out the window,” said Rollo, “but perhaps we can find out some way to get down.  O, there is a ladder; I remember now, Nathan, there is a ladder.  We can get down from the window by the ladder.”

“I shall be afraid to go down the ladder,” said Nathan.

“O no,” said Rollo, “I will go first, and see if it is safe.”

By this time they had reached the barn chamber.  There was a window in it, with glass, over the great barn door; but Rollo could not get it open.  He told Nathan that, if he could only get it open, and could find a long pole, he could reach it down, and knock the fid out, and so open the great doors.  But, with all his efforts, he could not raise the window.

There was another window, which had no glass, but was closed by a wooden shutter, which opened upon hinges like a door.  Rollo said he meant to open this window.  Now, it happened that this window was upon that side of the barn which was exposed to the wind and storm; and, the moment that Rollo had pushed open the shutter a little way, the wind forced it instantly from his hand, and slammed it back against the side of the barn, with great violence.  It almost pulled Rollo himself out of the window.

Nathan looked frightened.  Rollo himself looked somewhat astonished at such an unexpected effect; but presently said, ­

“Well, Nathan, I rather think that, if you had had hold of that shutter, you would have thought that air was a real thing.”

“O, that was the wind, Rollo; that was the wind,” said Nathan.

Rollo did not answer, but went to the ladder, which was standing up against the hay-loft.  It was a pretty long, but yet a very light ladder; and Rollo and Nathan succeeded, after some difficulty, in getting it down, and in running the end out of the window.  When the lower end reached the ground, the upper end was two or three feet above the bottom of the window; so that Rollo could easily get upon it to descend.  The wind and storm, which raged with great violence, were somewhat terrifying; but he knew that the ladder was secure, the upper part being confined in the window; and so he resolutely descended.  When he had fairly reached the ground, he looked up, with an expression of great satisfaction upon his countenance, and said, ­

“There! now, Nathan, for your turn.”

But Nathan was afraid to venture; and Rollo himself was half afraid to have him make the attempt.  While they were standing in this perplexity, Rollo heard a voice behind him, calling out, ­


Rollo turned, and saw Dorothy standing by the door.

“What are you doing, Rollo?” said Dorothy.

“I am trying to get Nathan out of the barn,” said Rollo.

“How came he in the barn?” said Dorothy.

“Why, Jonas locked us in, and I had to come down the ladder; but Nathan is afraid, and I can’t get him out.”

“Why don’t you go to the door, and let him right out?”

“O,” said Rollo, laughing, “I never thought of that.  Go down, Nathan,” he continued, “to the door, and I will go round and knock out the fid.”

So Nathan went down, and Rollo, meeting him there, knocked out the fid, and released him from his imprisonment.