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being then about equal to the faint stars near it. It remains thus obscured for only a few minutes, and then begins to brighten again, and in about four and a balf hours more resumes its former brilliancy. This phenomenon is very easily observed, for, as will be seen by consulting our little map, Algol can be readily found, and its changes are

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so rapid that under favorable circumstances it can be seen in the course of a single night to run through the whole gamut. Of course, no optical instrument whatever is needed to enable one to see these changes of Algol for it is plainly visible to the naked eye throughout, but it will be found interesting to watch the star with an opera-glass. Its periodic time from minimum to minimum is two days, twenty hours, and forty-nine minutes, lacking a few seconds. Any one can calculate future minima for himself by adding the periodic time above given to the time of any observed minimum. For instance, there will be a minimum on November 12th at about 11.15 P. M., then the next minimum will occur two days, twenty hours and forty-nine minutes later, or at 8.04 P. M., on November 15th.

While spots upon its surface may be the cause of the variations in the light of Mira, it is believed that the more rapid changes of Algol may be due to another cause ; namely, the existence of a buge, dark body revolving swiftly around it at close quarters in an orbit whose plane is directed edgewise toward the earth, so that at regular intervals this dark body causes a partial eclipse of Algol. Notwithstanding the attacks that have been made upon this theory, it seems to hold its ground, and it will probably continue to find favor as a working hypothesis until some fresh light is cast upon the problem. It hardly needs to be said that the dark body in question, if it exists, must be of enormous size, bearing no such insignificant proportion to the size of Algol as the earth does to the sun, but being rather the rival in bulk of its shining brother-a blind companion, an extinguished sun.

There was certainly great fitness in the selection of the little group of stars of which this mysterious Algol forms the most conspicuous member, to represent the awful head of the Gorgon carried by the victorious Perseus for the confusion of his enemies. In a darker age than ours the winking of this demon star must have seemed a prodigy of sinister import.

Turn now to the bright star Algenib, or Alpha Persei. You will find with the glass an exceedingly attractive spectacle there. In my note-book I find this entry, made while sweeping over Perseus for materials for this article : “The field about Alpha is one of the finest in the sky for an opera-glass. Stars conspicuously ranged in curving lines and streams. A host follows Alpha from the east and south.” The picture above will give the reader some notion of the exceeding beauty of this field of stars, and of the singular manner in which they are grouped, as it were, behind their leader. A field-glass increases the beauty of the scene.

The reader will find a starry cluster marked on Map 4 as the “Great Cluster.” This object can be easily detected by the naked eye, resembling a wisp of luminous cloud. It marks the hand in which Perseus clasps his diamond sword, and, with a telescope of medium power, it is one of the most marvelously beautiful objects in the sky -a double swarm of stars, bright enough to be clearly distinguished from one another, and yet so numerous as to dazzle the eye with their lively beams. An opera-glass does not possess sufficient power to "resolve" this cluster, but it gives a startling suggestion of its half-hidden magnificence, and the observer will be likely to turn to it again and again with increasing admiration. Sweep from this to Alpha Persei and beyond to get an idea of the procession of suns in the Milky-Way. The nebulous-looking cluster marked 34 M appears with an opera-glass like a faint comet.

Next look at Cassiopeia, which is distinctly marked out by the zigzag row of stars so well described by Aratus. Here the Milky-Way is so rich that the observer bardly needs any guidance ; he is sure to stumble upon interesting sights for himself. The five brightest stars

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are generally represented as indicating the outlines of the chair or throne in which the queen sits, the star Zeta (5) being in her head. Look at Zeta with a good field-glass, and you will see a singular and brilliant array of stars near it in a broken half-circle, which may suggest the notion of a crown. Near the little star Kappa («) in the map will be seen a small circle and the figures 1572. This shows the spot where the famous temporary star, which has of late been frequently referred to as the “Star of Bethlehem," appeared. It was seen in 1572, and carefully observed by the famous astronomer Tycho Brahe. It seems to have suddenly burst forth with a brilliancy that outshone every other star in the heavens, not excepting Sirius itself. But its supremacy was short-lived. In a few months it had sunk to the second magnitude. It continued to grow fainter, exhibiting some remarkable changes of color in the mean time, and in less than a year and a half it had disappeared. It has never been seen since. But in 1264, and again in 945, a star is said to have suddenly blazed out near that point in the heavens. There is no certainty about these earlier apparitions, but, assuming that they are not apocryphal, they might possibly indicate that the star seen by Tycho was a periodical one, its period considerably exceeding three hundred years. Carrying this supposed period back, it was found that an apparition of this star might have occurred about the time of the birth of Christ. It did not require a very prolific imagination to suggest its identity with the so-called star of the Magi, and hence the legend of the Star of Bethlehem and its impending reappearance of which we have heard so much of late. It will be observed, from the dates given above, that, even supposing them to be correct, no definite period is indicated for the reappearances of the star. In one case the interval is three hundred and eight years, and in the other three hundred and nineteen years. In short, there are too many suppositions and assumptions involved to allow of any credence being given to the theory of the periodicity of Tycho's wonderful star. At the same time, nobody can say it is impossible that the star should appear again, and so it may be interesting for the reader to know where to look for it.

Many of the most beautiful sights of this splendid constellation are beyond the reach of an opera-glass, and reserved for the grander powers of the telescope.

We will pause but a minute with Cepheus, for the old king's constellation is comparatively dim in the heavens, as his part in the dramatic story of Andromeda was contemptible, and he seems to have got among the stars only by virtue of his relationship to more interesting persons. He does possess one gem of singular beauty—the star Mu, which may be found about half-way from Alpha to the group of stars in the king's head, named Zeta (S), Epsilon (e), and Delta (8), and a little southwest of a line joining them. It is the so-called “Garnet Star,” thus named by William Herschel, who advises the observer,

in order to appreciate its color, to glance from it to Alpha Cephei, which is a wbite star. Mu is variable, changing from the fourth to the sixth magnitude in a long period of five or six years. Its color is changeable, like its light. Sometimes it is of a deep garnet hue, and at other times it is orange-colored. Upon the whole, it appears of a deeper red than any other star visible to the naked eye.

If you have a good field-glass, try its powers upon the star Delta (8) Cephei. This is a double star, the components being about fortyone seconds of arc apart, the larger of four and one half magnitude, and the smaller of the seventh magnitude. The latter is of a beautiful blue color, while the larger star is yellow or orange. With a good eye, a steady hand, and a clear glass, magnifying not less than six diameters, you can separate them, and catch the contrasted tints of their light. Besides being a double star, Delta is variable.

ABOUT THE WEDDING-RING.

By D. R. MCANALLY.

F all the ornaments with which vanity, superstition, and affection

history than the finger-ring. From the earliest times the ring has been a favorite ornament, and the reasons for this general preference shown for it over other articles of jewelry are numerous and cogent. Ornaments whose place is on some portion of the apparel, or in the hair, must be laid aside with the clothing or head-dress ; are thus easily lost and often not at once missed. Pins, brooches, buckles, clasps, buttons, all sooner or later become defective in some part, and are liable to escape from an owner unconscious of the defect in the mechanism. The links of a necklace in time become worn, and the article is taken off to be mended ; the spring or other fastening of a bracelet is easily broken, and the bracelet vanishes. With regard to ornaments fastened to parts of the savage body, mutilation is necessary, the ear must be bored, the nose be pierced, the cheeks or lips be slit, and, even after these surgical operations are completed, the articles used for adornment are generally inconvenient, and sometimes, by their weight or construction, are extremely painful.

In striking contrast with decorations worn on the clothing, in the hair, round the neck and arms, or pendent from the ears, lips, and nose, is the finger-ring, the model of convenience. It is seldom lost, for it need not be taken off ; requires no preparatory mutilation of the body, is not painful, is always in view, a perpetual reminder, either of the giver, or of the purpose for which it is worn.

The popularity of the ring must, therefore, be in large measure due to its convenience, and that this good quality was early learned may be inferred from the Hebrew tradition, which attributes the invention of this ornament to Tubal-Cain, the “ instructor of every artificer in brass and iron.” The barbaric lover, in choosing a token for his mistress, was doubtless actuated, like the lover of to-day, by the wish to be kept in remembrance, and the proverbial saying, “Out of sight, out of mind,” being as true in savage as in civilized times, he sought for a memento which should be always in view, never laid aside, not in danger of being lost—which, in short, should become a part of herself, mutely reminding her of him, and presenting a silent remonstrance when her affections went astray. For the purposes of a lovegift, he could find nothing more suitable than the ring. And when the agonies of courtship finally settled into the steady troubles of matrimony, it was not remarkable that this token of affection should remain on the finger of the bride, or be removed, to be succeeded by another of a similar kind.

The uses of the finger-ring have been many and diverse. Originally purely for ornament, it became a signet for kings and a warrant for their messengers ; to civil officers it was once an emblem of office, and to ecclesiastics an indispensable portion of the episcopal costume. It was once worn by physicians to prevent contagion, and by patients to cure disease ; the timorous wore it as a charm against evil spirits, and the ambitious clung to it as a talisman, giving the wearer success over his enemies. But as a love-token, and a symbol of marriage, the use of the ring is so general, and of so long standing, as to dwarf into insignificance its employment in all other directions.

At what period it came into play as a recognized factor in the marriage ceremony, it is impossible to say. The Hebrews used it in very early ages, and probably borrowed the custom from the Egyptians, among whom the wedding-ring was known—a circle, in the language of hieroglyphics, being the symbol of eternity, and the embodiment of the circle readily symbolizing the hypothetical duration of wedded love. The Greeks used wedding-rings, so did the Romans, both putting them on the forefinger-by-the-way, a practice followed by the mediæval painters, many of whom represent the Virgin's ring on her forefinger. In the East, where the popular estimate of woman is low, the use of the wedding-ring has not been common, though occasionally the favorite wife of an Oriental monarch would receive from her master a ring as a mark of his favor. The conclusion, therefore, is safe that, with increase of respect for the institution of marriage, come also increased respect for and use of the ring as a token of the alliance.

During a part of the middle ages, this respect showed itself in a peculiar way, custom demanding that the wedding-ring should cost as much as the bridegroom could afford to pay; and there are records in Germany and France, during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, of many large investments made in this direction by grooms eager to

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