Injurious Air

: Fables For Children, Stories For Children, Natural Science Stori

In the village of Nikolskoe, the people went on a holiday to mass. In

the manor yard were left the cow-tender, the elder, and the groom. The

cow-tender went to the well for water. The well was in the yard itself.

She pulled out the bucket, but could not hold it. The bucket pulled away

from her, struck the side of the well, and tore the rope. The cow-tender

returned to the hut and said to the elder:

ndr! Climb down into the well,--I have dropped the bucket into


Aleksandr said:

"You have dropped it, so climb down yourself."

The cow-tender said that she did not mind fetching it herself, if he

would let her down.

The elder laughed at her, and said:

"Well, let us go! You have an empty stomach now, so I shall be able to

hold you up, for after dinner I could not do it."

The elder tied a stick to a rope, and the woman sat astride it, took

hold of the rope, and began to climb down into the well, while the elder

turned the well-wheel. The well was about twenty feet deep, and there

was less than three feet of water in it. The elder let her down slowly,

and kept asking:

"A little more?"

And the cow-tender cried from below:

"Just a little more!"

Suddenly the elder felt the rope give way: he called the cow-tender, but

she did not answer. The elder looked into the well, and saw the

cow-tender lying with her head in the water, and with her feet in the

air. The elder called for help, but there was nobody near by; only the

groom came. The elder told him to hold the wheel, and he himself pulled

out the rope, sat down on the stick, and went down into the well.

The moment the groom let the elder down to the water, the same thing

happened to the elder. He let go of the rope and fell head foremost upon

the woman. The groom began to cry, and ran to church to call the people.

Mass was over, and people were walking home. All the men and women

rushed to the well. They gathered around it, and everybody holloaed, but

nobody knew what to do. The young carpenter Ivan made his way through

the crowd, took hold of the rope, sat down on the stick, and told them

to let him down. Ivan tied himself to the rope with his belt. Two men

let him down, and the rest looked into the well, to see what would

become of Ivan. Just as he was getting near the water, he dropped his

hands from the rope, and would have fallen down head foremost, if the

belt had not held him. All shouted, "Pull him out!" and Ivan was pulled


He hung like dead down from the belt, and his head was drooping and

beating against the sides of the well. His face was livid. They took him

off the rope and put him down on the ground. They thought that he was

dead; but he suddenly drew a deep breath, began to rattle, and soon


Others wanted to climb down, but an old peasant said that they could not

go down because there was bad air in the well, and that that bad air

killed people. Then the peasants ran for hooks and began to pull out the

elder and the woman. The elder's mother and wife cried at the well, and

others tried to quiet them; in the meantime the peasants put down the

hooks and tried to get out the dead people. Twice they got the elder

half-way up by his clothes; but he was heavy, and his clothes tore and

he fell down. Finally they stuck two hooks into him and pulled him out.

Then they pulled out the cow-tender. Both were dead and did not revive.

Then, when they examined the well, they found that indeed there was bad

air down in the well.

This air is so heavy that neither man nor any animal can live in it.

They let down a cat into the well, and the moment she reached the place

where the bad air was, she died. Not only can no animal live there, even

no candle will burn in it. They let down a candle, and the moment it

reached that spot, it went out.

There are places underground where that air gathers, and when a person

gets into one of those places, he dies at once. For this purpose they

have lamps in the mines, and before a man goes down to such a place,

they let down the lamp. If it goes out, no man can go there; then they

let down fresh air until the lamp will burn.

Near the city of Naples there is one such cave. There is always about

three feet of bad air in it on the ground, but above it the air is good.

A man can walk through the cave, and nothing will happen to him, but a

dog will die the moment it enters.

Where does this bad air come from? It is made of the same good air that

we breathe. If you gather a lot of people in one place, and close all

the doors and windows, so that no fresh air can get in, you will get the

same kind of an air as in the well, and people will die.

One hundred years ago, during a war, the Hindoos captured 146 Englishmen

and shut them up in a cave underground, where the air could not get in.

After the captured Englishmen had been there a few hours they began to

die, and toward the end of the night 123 had died, and the rest came out

more dead than alive, and ailing. At first the air had been good in the

cave; but when the captives had inhaled all the good air, and no fresh

air came in, it became bad, just like what was in the well, and they


Why does the good air become bad when many people come together?

Because, when people breathe, they take in good air and breathe out bad