Now there may be plenty of animals to be found with more brilliant abilities and livelier imagination than the Snail, but for gravity of demeanour and calmness of nerve who is his equal? And if a sound judgment be not behind such outward signs, there is no faith to be put in faces!
Accordingly, Sir Helix Hortensis--so let us call him, for that is his scientific name--made no answer at first to the wailings of the Oak. Three times he crawled round it, leaving three fresh traces of his transit, before he spoke, his horns turning hither and thither as those wonderful eyes at the end strove to take in the full state of the case. And his are not the eyes, you know, which waste their energies in scatter-brained staring. He keeps them cool in their cases till there is something to be looked at, and then turns them inside out to do their work.
And thus he looked, and he looked, and he looked, while the children went on shouting, and the plank went on see-sawing, and the Tree went on groaning; and as he looked, he considered.
"Have you anything to say?" at last inquired the Oak, who had had long experience of Sir Helix's wisdom.
"I have," answered the Snail. "You don't know your own value, that's all."
"Ask the see-sawers my value!" exclaimed the prostrate Tree, bitterly. "One up at the stars, another beyond the world! What am _I_ doing meanwhile?"
"Holding them both up, which is more than they can do for themselves," muttered the Snail, turning round to go back to the grass.
"But--but--stop a moment, dear Sir Helix; the see-sawers don't think that," argued the Tree.
"They're all light-minded together, and don't think," sneered the Snail. "Up in the sky one minute, down in the dust the next. Never you mind that. Everybody can't play at high jinks with comfort, luckily for the rest of the world. Sit fast, do your duty, and have faith. While they are going flightily up and down, your steady balance is the saving of both."
THE STORY OF A STONE
By David Starr Jordan
Once on a time, a great many years ago, so many years that if your father should give you a dollar for every year you could buy up the whole town you live in and have enough left to pay the National Debt; in those old days when the great Northwest consisted only of a few hills, ragged and barren, and full of copper and quartz; in the days when the Northern Ocean washed the crest of Mount Washington and wrote its name upon the Pictured Rocks, and the tide of the Pacific swept over Plymouth Rock and surged up against Bunker Hill; when the Gulf of Mexico rolled its warm and shallow waters as far north as Escanaba and Eau Claire; in fact, an immensely long time ago--there lived somewhere in Oconto County, Wisconsin, a little jelly-fish. It was a curious creature, about the shape of half an apple, and the size of a cat's thimble, and it floated around in the water and ate little things and opened and shut its umbrella, pretty much as jelly-fishes do in the ocean now.
It had a great many little feelers that hung down all around like so many mites of snakes, and so it was named Medusa, after that lady in the old times who wore snakes instead of hair, and who felt so badly because she couldn't do them up. Well, our little Medusa floated around and opened and shut her umbrella for a long time--a month, or a year, perhaps--we don't know how long. Then, one morning, down among the sea-weeds, she laid a whole lot of tiny eggs, transparent as crab-apple jelly and much smaller than a dew-drop on the end of a pine-leaf. Now she leaves the scene, and our story henceforth concerns only one of these eggs.
Well, one day, the sun shone down into the water--the same sun that shines through your window now--and a little fellow whom we will call Favosites, because that was his name, woke up inside of the egg and came out into the great world. He was only a wee bit of floating jelly, shaped like a cartridge pointed at both ends. He had at his sides an immense number of little paddles that went flapping, flapping all the time, keeping him constantly in motion, whether the little fellow wanted to go or not. So he kept scudding along in the water, dodging from right to left, to avoid the ungainly creatures that wanted to eat him. There were crabs and clams, of a fashion that neither you nor I will ever see alive.
There were huge animals with great eyes, savage jaws and long feelers, that sat in the end of a long, round shell and glowered at him, and smaller ones of the same kind that looked like lobsters in a dinner-horn.
But none of these got the little fellow, else I should not have any story to tell.
At last, having paddled about long enough, he thought of settling in life. So he looked around until he found a flat bit of shell that just suited him, when he sat down upon it, and grew fast, like old Holger Danske, in the Danish myth. Only, unlike Holger, he didn't go to sleep, but proceeded to make himself at home. So he made an opening in his upper side, and rigged for himself a mouth and a stomach, and put a whole row of feelers out, and began catching little worms and floating eggs and bits of jelly and bits of lime,--everything he could get,--and cramming them into his little stomach.
He had a great many curious ways, but the funniest of all was what he did with the bits of lime. He kept taking them in and tried to wall himself up inside with them, as a person would stone a well or as though a man should swallow pebbles and stow them away in his feet and all around under the skin, till he had filled himself full.
But little Favosites became lonesome all alone on the bottom of that old ocean, among so many outlandish neighbors; and so, one night, when he was fast asleep, and dreaming as only a coral animal can dream, there sprouted out of his side, where his sixth rib would have been if he had had so many, another little Favosites, who very soon began to eat worms and wall himself up as if for dear life. Then, from these two another and another little bud came out, and another and another little Favosites was formed, and they all kept growing up higher and higher, and cramming themselves fuller and fuller of limestone, till at last there were so many of them, and they were so crowded together, that there wasn't room for them to grow round; so they had to grow six-sided, like the cells in a honeycomb.
Once in a while, some one in the company would get mad because the others got all of the lime, or would feel uneasy at sitting still so long and swallowing stones, and would secede from the little union, without as much as saying "Good-bye," and would sail around like the old Medusa, and would lay more eggs, which would hatch out into more Favosites.
Well, the old ones died or swam away or were walled up, and new ones filled their places, and the colony thrived for a long time, and had accumulated quite a stock of lime. But, one day, there came a freshet in the Menomonee River, and piles of dirt and sand and ground-up iron ore were brought down, and all the little Favosites'
mouths were filled with it. They didn't like the taste of iron, so they all died; but we know that their house was not spoiled, for we have it here. So the rock-house they were making was tumbled about in the dirt, and the rolling pebbles knocked the corners off, and the mud worked its way into the cracks and destroyed its beautiful whiteness.
There it lay for ages, till the earth gave a great, long heave, that raised the rest of Wisconsin out of the ocean, and the mud around our Favosites' house packed and dried into hard rock and closed it in; and so it became part of the dry land. There it lay, imbedded in the rock for centuries and centuries.
Then, the time of the first fishes came, and the other animals looked on them in awe and wonder as the Indians eyed Columbus. They were like the gar-pike in our Western rivers, only much larger,--as big as a stove-pipe,--and with a crust as hard as a turtle's shell.
Then there came sharks, of strange forms, savage and ferocious, with teeth like bowie-knives. But the time of the old fishes came and went, and many more times came and went, but still Favosites lay in the ground.
Then came the long, hot, wet summer, when the mists hung over the earth so thick that you might almost have cut them into chunks with a knife, like a loaf of gingerbread; and great ferns and rushes, big as an oak and tall as a steeple, grew over the land. Huge reptiles with jaws like a front door, and teeth like cross-cut saws, and little reptiles with wings like bats, crawled and swam and flew.
But the ferns died, and the reptiles died, and the rush-trees fell into the swamps, and the Mississippi, now become quite a river, covered them up, and they were packed away under great layers of clay and sand, till at last they were turned into coal, and wept bitter tears of petroleum. But all the while Favosites lay in the rock at Oconto.
Then the mists cleared up and the sun shone and the grass began to grow, and strange animals began to come and feed upon it. They were funny little zebra horses, no bigger than a Newfoundland dog, and great hairy elephants, and hogs with noses so long they could sit on their hind legs and root, and lots of still stranger creatures that no man ever saw alive. But still Favosites lay in the ground.
So the long, long summer passed by, and the autumn, and the Indian summer; and at last the great winter came, and it snowed and snowed, and it was so cold that the snow wasn't off by the Fourth of July; and then it snowed and snowed till the snow never went off at all; and then it got so cold that it snowed all the time, till the snow covered all the animals, and then the trees, and then the mountains. Then it would thaw a little, and streams of water would run over the snow; then it would freeze again, and pack it into solid ice. Still it went on, snowing and thawing and freezing till the ice was a mile deep over Wisconsin, and the whole United States was one great skating rink.
So it kept on for about a million years, until once when the spring came and the south winds blew, it began to thaw up. Then the ice came sliding down from the mountains and hills, tearing up rocks little and big, from the size of a chip to the size of a meeting house, crushing forests as you would crush an egg-shell, and wiping out rivers as you would wipe out a chalk-mark. So it came pushing, thundering, grinding along slowly enough, but with tremendous force, this mile-deep glacier, like an immense plow drawn by a million oxen.
So the ice plowed across Oconto County, and little Favosites was rooted out from the quiet place where he had lain so long; but, by good fortune, he happened to slip into a crevice in the ice, where he wasn't much crowded, else he would have been ground to powder, as most of his relatives were, and I shouldn't have had this story to tell.
Well, the ice slid along, melting all the while, and making great torrents of water which, as they swept onward, covered land with clay and pebbles, till at last it came to a great swamp, overgrown with tamarac and cedar. Here it stopped and melted, and all the rocks and stones and dirt it had carried with it, little Favosites and all, were dumped into one great heap.
Ages after, a farmer in Grand Chote, Michigan, plowing up his clover field, to sow for winter wheat, picked up a curious bit of "petrified honeycomb," and gave it to the schoolboys to take to their teacher, to hear what he would say about it. And now you have read what he said.
HOW THE STONE-AGE CHILDREN PLAYED
By Charles C. Abbott
Not long since I wandered along a pretty brook that rippled through a narrow valley. I was on the lookout for whatever birds might be wandering that way, but saw nothing of special interest. So, to while away the time, I commenced geologizing; and, as I plodded along my lonely way, I saw everywhere traces of an older time, when the sparkling rivulet that now only harbors pretty salamanders was a deep creek, tenanted by many of our larger fishes.
How fast the earth from the valley's slopes may have been loosened by frost and washed by freshets, and carried down to fill up the old bed of the stream, we will not stop to enquire; for older traces of this older time were also met with here. As I turned over the loose earth by the brook-side, and gathered here and there a pretty pebble, I chanced upon a little arrow-point.
Whoever has made a collection, be it of postage stamps or birds'
eggs, knows full well how securing one coveted specimen but increases eagerness for others; and so it was with me that pleasant afternoon. Just one pretty arrow-point cured me of my laziness, banished every trace of fatigue, and filled me with the interest of eager search; and I dug and sifted and washed the sandy soil for yards along the brook-side, until I had gathered at least a score of curious relics of the long-departed red men, or rather of the games and sports and pastimes of the red men's hardy and active children.
For centuries before Columbus discovered San Salvador, the red men (or Indians as they are usually called) roamed over all the great continent of North America, and, having no knowledge of iron as a metal, they were forced to make of stone or bone all their weapons, hunting and household implements. From this fact they are called, when referring to those early times, a stone-age people, and so, of course, the boys and girls of that period were stone-age children.
But it is not to be supposed that because the children of savages they were altogether unlike the youngsters of to-day. In one respect, at least, they were quite the same--they were very fond of play.
Their play, however, was not like the games of to-day. We might, perhaps, call the principal game of the boys "Playing Man," for the little stone implements that were their toys were only miniatures of the great stone axes and long spear-points of their fathers.
In one particular these old-time children were really in advance of the youngsters of to-day; they not only did, in play, what their parents did in earnest, but they realized, in part, the results of their playful labor. A good old Moravian missionary who labored hard to convert these Indians to Christianity, says: "Little boys are frequently seen wading in shallow brooks, shooting small fishes with their bows and arrows." Going-a-fishing, then, as now, was good fun; but to shoot fishes with a bow and arrow is not an easy thing to do, and this is one way these stone-age children played, and played to better advantage than most of my young-readers can.
Among the stone-age children's toys that I gathered that afternoon was a very pretty stone hatchet, very carefully shaped, and still quite sharp. It has been worked out from a porphyry pebble, and in every way, except size, is the same as hundreds that are still to be found lying about the fields.
No red man would ever deign to use such an insignificant looking axe, and so we must suppose it to have been a toy hatchet for some little fellow that chopped away at saplings, or, perhaps knocked over some poor squirrel or rabbit; for our good old Moravian friend, the missionary, also tells us that "the boys learn to climb trees when very young, both to catch birds and to exercise their sight, which by this method is rendered so quick that in hunting they see objects at an amazing distance." Their play, then, became an excellent schooling for them; and if they did nothing but play it was not a loss of time.
Several little arrow-points I also found in the valley. The axe was not far away, and both it and they may have belonged to the same bold and active young hunter. All of these arrow-points are very neatly made.
The same missionary tells us that these young red men of the forest "exercise themselves very early with bows and arrows, and in shooting at a mark. As they grow up they acquire a remarkable dexterity in shooting birds, squirrels, and small game."
Every boy remembers his first pen-knife, and, whether it had one or three blades, was proud enough of it; but how different the fortune of the stone-age children, in this matter of a pocket-knife, which was doubtless a piece of flint chipped into a shape that might be used as a knife.
I have found scores of such knives in the fields that extend along the little valley, and a few came to light in my search that afternoon in the brook-side sands and gravel. So, if this chipped flint is a knife, then, as in modern times, the children were whittlers.
Of course, our boys nowadays would be puzzled to cut a willow whistle or mend the baby's go-cart with such a knife as this; but still, it will not do to despise stone cutlery. There is a big canoe in one of the Government buildings that is sixty feet long.
That boat was made in quite recent times, and only stone knives and hatchets were used in the process.