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rich and powerful, over Europe, though Henry VIII. about this very time, abolished the order in England. But their importance was yet sufficient to procure for them the cession of the island of Malta, where their numbers were soon recruited. Removed in some measure, however, from the sphere of Turkish and Egyptian operations, the knights came now into hostility with new enemies of their faith. The African coasts swarmed at this time, as they also did at a much later date, with pirates, who filled their coffers with gold, and their dungeons with captives, from the European states. In concert with the Emperor Charles, the Knights of Malta undertook a great expedition against the two Barbarossas, the most famous pirates of the day, who had gained sovereign power in Algiers and Tunis by expelling the rightful princes. Tunis and Goletta were conquered on this occasion, chiefly by the dauntless valour of the Knights of St John, and the rightful governments were re-established. But in a future expedition, the order lost a great force before Algiers, and a garrison of theirs was expelled with vast loss from Tripoli.
For the next half century, the knights waged incessant war with the piratical Mohammedans, both of Africa and the Turco-Grecian islands. The importance of their services to European commerce was fully shewn by the renewed attempts of the Ottoman Porte to suppress them. In 1565, one great attempt was made by 30,000 Turks on the island. The assault of the small fort of St Elmo will shew the bravery of the knights in a fair light :- At daybreak on the 16th of June, the Turkish galleys commenced a furious cannonade against the seaward rampart; and at the same time the land - batteries shattered into ruin the still remaining fortifications. This done, the Osmanlis entered the ditch to the sound of their proud but barbarous music; and, at the discharge of a signalgun, rushed impetuously to the assault, covered by 4000 arquebusiers and cross-bowmen, who, from their post in the trenches, shot down every Christian soldier who shewed himself in the breach. Behind that deadly gap stood the knights and their scant battalion, armed with pikes and spontoons, and forming, as it were, a living wall. Between every three soldiers stood a knight, the better to sustain the courage of those who had nothing of chivalrous renown to uphold them. In vain did the Turks dash themselves on this impenetrable phalanx. When swords and pikes were broken, the Christian soldiers grappled with their antagonists, and terminated the death-struggle with their daggers. The burning hoops were of eminent service in this combat; and the cries of the wretches whom they begirt, added greatly to the horror of the fight. It was a cheering circumstance to the defenders of the fort, that the conflict was maintained under the eyes of their friends in the Bourg, who, they feared, had begun to doubt their bravery. Amid the thunder of the artillery, and the groans of the dying, their ears were gladdened at intervals by encouraging shouts wafted across the haven from the distant ramparts; and the guns of Forts St Angelo and St Michael played incessantly, and with considerable effect, on the Turkish lines. At the end of six hours, the knights, covered with wounds, and blistered by the scorching rays of the sun, had the consolation to hear a retreat sounded from the enemy's trenches; and the Turks reluctantly retired, leaving behind them 2000 dead. When the last defender fell, the Turks became masters of St Elmo. But they were ultimately driven from the island, with a loss of 25,000 men.
The order was congratulated by all Europe on this occasion. For the next century, it continued to maintain maritime combats of lesser note, chiefly in contest with the African pirates. But its utility and its wealth gradually departed. The other powers of Europe became owners of great fleets, which reduced the galleys of St John to total insignificance; and there being no longer occasion for their services, the possessions of the knights slipped by degrees from their grasp. Besides, islands could no longer be wrested even from Mohammedans, or expeditions made against them : treaties and alliances bound both parties to peace. At length, in the time of the sixtyninth grand-master, Bonaparte appeared before Valetta, the Maltese capital, and, after a feeble show of opposition, took possession of the island. The inhabitants seem to have been utterly tired of the rule of the knights ; and the latter ceded Malta to the French, by a treaty which bound them at once to quit the isle. They received petty annuities in lieu of this their ancient possession.
The British expelled the French; but the knights returned to Malta no more. An attempt at the re-establishment of the order was made by Paul of Russia, which ended in nothing. Thus fell the renowned brotherhood of the Knights-Hospitallers of St John. The extent of their possessions at one time, as well as those of the Templars, is shewn by the numberless places, in Britain and elsewhere, to which they have permanently given names.
THERE formerly prevailed, and still to some extent prevails, a superstitious notion, that the position of minerals and hidden springs of water, and even stolen property, and the guilt of criminals, might be discovered by the use of a succulent elastic twig, which has thence received the name of the Divining-Rod. In the progress of knowledge, the use of this instrument as an aid to the inquiries of justice has been abandoned; but it is still employed in America, and other parts of the world, for the discovery of metals and water. More than one English writer has spoken highly of the esteem in which it has been held by the miners of Britain. In France, as lately as 1781, a volume was published, detailing six hundred experiments, made with all possible attention and circumspection, to ascertain the facts attributed to the divining-rod; by which is unfolded their resemblance to the admirable and uniform laws of electricity and magnetism. In America, there are many decided friends of the divining-rod, and the public journals of that country not unfrequently contain letters of respectable correspondents, stoutly maintaining its pretensions to truth and utility. It is also to America that we are indebted for the first attempt we are aware of to explain the phenomena which have given rise to the superstition. We allude to an article in a number of Professor Silliman's American Journal of Science, which we shall abridge for the instruction, and, we trust, the entertainment also, of our readers.
Those wishing to have a divining-rod, usually take a forked branch of any tree whose bark is smooth, and whose fibre is very elastic. The witch-hazel is in the highest esteem, not merely for its potent name, but also for the convenient size and ready forks of its plenteous branches, and the uncommon elasticity of its fibre. The peach and the cherry are often used. The limbs of the fork should be eighteen inches, or two feet in length, and of the diameter of a pipe-stem. When used, it is grasped at the extremity of each limb by the hands, the palms being turned upwards, and the fingers inwards, to the body. The rod is held loosely in this manner, until the diviner begins to apprehend the action of the hidden influence, when he tightens his grasp, and the limbs of the rod become bent from their middle to their lower extremities outward. The diviner, holding the twig carefully in this fashion, moves onward with a slow and creeping step. In due time, the head of the fork turns downwards, and, coming to point perpendicularly to the earth, is supposed to mark the site of the fountain or ore.
The action of the rod, under these circumstances, is a fact plain to the vision of every beholder. Those who hold it are oftentimes men in whose hands life, property, and reputation, might be intrusted; and no doubt they are wholly unconscious of the power which excites the action of the rod, and are themselves the greatest dupes to their art. Nor is this superstitious belief confined to the illiterate. It is by no means unusual for men of learning, in want of fountains for domestic use, to call for the demonstrations of the divining-rod, and occasionally to acknowledge its success.
While the diviner is prosecuting his search, the rod discovers its sensibility by the motion of the point from its vertical position downwards, through the arc of a semicircle, until it rests perpendicular to the earth, when the desired spot is considered as found. This motion, so far from being intended by the holder of the rod, is said to be made in opposition to the closest grasp his hands can give; so much so, that the green bark is generally ruptured, as it is fairly wrung from the rod in the contest between the force which bears the point of the rod down, and the pinching grasp of the diviner to prevent that motion. But the rod does not exhibit this mysterious action in the hands of every man. It is only with a few charmed individuals that it is supposed to move, not only involuntarily, but contrary to their best efforts. These few are of no peculiar age, constitution, or habits, to distinguish them from their fellow-men; though it may be observed, that no females have been known to possess the gift.
Diviners pretend to no change in their feelings during the action of the rod, and attribute the whole to the attracting influence of something unseen. The art is highly valued in the southern and western states of America, where water is neither abundant, in general, nor pure. Here the water-hunter obtains celebrity. He is sent for to a great distance, and performs wonders, with praiseworthy modesty, and for a moderate compensation. If he endeavour to extend his art to the discovery of metals, however, he is generally looked upon with some suspicion, notwithstanding a common belief that his ability equals his pretensions. This he turns to account, by declaring, when his rod fails to discover water, that the counteracting presence of some mineral must have caused his want of success.
The true secret of this remarkable delusion is explained in the following manner, by the American writer :In the year 1821, he visited the residence of a respectable farmer in Ohio, where he happened to notice a new well,