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Madam How and Lady Why, or First Lessons in Earth Lore for Children by Charles Kingsley

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This etext was prepared by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk
from the 1889 Macmillan and Co. edition.



My dear boys,--When I was your age, there were no such children's
books as there are now. Those which we had were few and dull, and
the pictures in them ugly and mean: while you have your choice of
books without number, clear, amusing, and pretty, as well as
really instructive, on subjects which were only talked of fifty
years ago by a few learned men, and very little understood even by
them. So if mere reading of books would make wise men, you ought
to grow up much wiser than us old fellows. But mere reading of
wise books will not make you wise men: you must use for
yourselves the tools with which books are made wise; and that is--
your eyes, and ears, and common sense.

Now, among those very stupid old-fashioned boys' books was one
which taught me that; and therefore I am more grateful to it than
if it had been as full of wonderful pictures as all the natural
history books you ever saw. Its name was Evenings at Home; and in
it was a story called "Eyes and no Eyes;" a regular old-fashioned,
prim, sententious story; and it began thus:-

"Well, Robert, where have you been walking this afternoon?" said
Mr. Andrews to one of his pupils at the close of a holiday.

Oh--Robert had been to Broom Heath, and round by Camp Mount, and
home through the meadows. But it was very dull. He hardly saw a
single person. He had much rather have gone by the turnpike-road.

Presently in comes Master William, the other pupil, dressed, I
suppose, as wretched boys used to be dressed forty years ago, in a
frill collar, and skeleton monkey-jacket, and tight trousers
buttoned over it, and hardly coming down to his ancles; and low
shoes, which always came off in sticky ground; and terribly dirty
and wet he is: but he never (he says) had such a pleasant walk in
his life; and he has brought home his handkerchief (for boys had
no pockets in those days much bigger than key-holes) full of

He has got a piece of mistletoe, wants to know what it is; and he
has seen a woodpecker, and a wheat-ear, and gathered strange
flowers on the heath; and hunted a peewit because he thought its
wing was broken, till of course it led him into a bog, and very
wet he got. But he did not mind it, because he fell in with an
old man cutting turf, who told him all about turf-cutting, and
gave him a dead adder. And then he went up a hill, and saw a
grand prospect; and wanted to go again, and make out the geography
of the country from Cary's old county maps, which were the only
maps in those days. And then, because the hill was called Camp
Mount, he looked for a Roman camp, and found one; and then he went
down to the river, saw twenty things more; and so on, and so on,
till he had brought home curiosities enough, and thoughts enough,
to last him a week.

Whereon Mr. Andrews, who seems to have been a very sensible old
gentleman, tells him all about his curiosities: and then it comes
out--if you will believe it--that Master William has been over the
very same ground as Master Robert, who saw nothing at all.

Whereon Mr. Andrews says, wisely enough, in his solemn old-
fashioned way, -

"So it is. One man walks through the world with his eyes open,
another with his eyes shut; and upon this difference depends all
the superiority of knowledge which one man acquires over another.
I have known sailors who had been in all the quarters of the
world, and could tell you nothing but the signs of the tippling-
houses, and the price and quality of the liquor. On the other
hand, Franklin could not cross the Channel without making
observations useful to mankind. While many a vacant thoughtless
youth is whirled through Europe without gaining a single idea
worth crossing the street for, the observing eye and inquiring
mind find matter of improvement and delight in every ramble. You,
then, William, continue to use your eyes. And you, Robert, learn
that eyes were given to you to use."

So said Mr. Andrews: and so I say, dear boys--and so says he who
has the charge of you--to you. Therefore I beg all good boys
among you to think over this story, and settle in their own minds
whether they will be eyes or no eyes; whether they will, as they
grow up, look and see for themselves what happens: or whether
they will let other people look for them, or pretend to look; and
dupe them, and lead them about--the blind leading the blind, till
both fall into the ditch.

I say "good boys;" not merely clever boys, or prudent boys:
because using your eyes, or not using them, is a question of doing
Right or doing Wrong. God has given you eyes; it is your duty to
God to use them. If your parents tried to teach you your lessons
in the most agreeable way, by beautiful picture-books, would it
not be ungracious, ungrateful, and altogether naughty and wrong,
to shut your eyes to those pictures, and refuse to learn? And is
it not altogether naughty and wrong to refuse to learn from your
Father in Heaven, the Great God who made all things, when he
offers to teach you all day long by the most beautiful and most
wonderful of all picture-books, which is simply all things which
you can see, hear, and touch, from the sun and stars above your
head to the mosses and insects at your feet? It is your duty to
learn His lessons: and it is your interest. God's Book, which is
the Universe, and the reading of God's Book, which is Science, can
do you nothing but good, and teach you nothing but truth and
wisdom. God did not put this wondrous world about your young
souls to tempt or to mislead them. If you ask Him for a fish, he
will not give you a serpent. If you ask Him for bread, He will
not give you a stone.

So use your eyes and your intellect, your senses and your brains,
and learn what God is trying to teach you continually by them. I
do not mean that you must stop there, and learn nothing more.
Anything but that. There are things which neither your senses nor
your brains can tell you; and they are not only more glorious, but
actually more true and more real than any things which you can see
or touch. But you must begin at the beginning in order to end at
the end, and sow the seed if you wish to gather the fruit. God
has ordained that you, and every child which comes into the world,
should begin by learning something of the world about him by his
senses and his brain; and the better you learn what they can teach
you, the more fit you will be to learn what they cannot teach you.
The more you try now to understand THINGS, the more you will be
able hereafter to understand men, and That which is above men.
You began to find out that truly Divine mystery, that you had a
mother on earth, simply by lying soft and warm upon her bosom; and
so (as Our Lord told the Jews of old) it is by watching the common
natural things around you, and considering the lilies of the
field, how they grow, that you will begin at least to learn that
far Diviner mystery, that you have a Father in Heaven. And so you
will be delivered (if you will) out of the tyranny of darkness,
and distrust, and fear, into God's free kingdom of light, and
faith, and love; and will be safe from the venom of that tree
which is more deadly than the fabled upas of the East. Who
planted that tree I know not, it was planted so long ago: but
surely it is none of God's planting, neither of the Son of God:
yet it grows in all lands and in all climes, and sends its hidden
suckers far and wide, even (unless we be watchful) into your
hearts and mine. And its name is the Tree of Unreason, whose
roots are conceit and ignorance, and its juices folly and death.
It drops its venom into the finest brains; and makes them call
sense, nonsense; and nonsense, sense; fact, fiction; and fiction,
fact. It drops its venom into the tenderest hearts, alas! and
makes them call wrong, right; and right, wrong; love, cruelty; and
cruelty, love. Some say that the axe is laid to the root of it
just now, and that it is already tottering to its fall: while
others say that it is growing stronger than ever, and ready to
spread its upas-shade over the whole earth. For my part, I know
not, save that all shall be as God wills. The tree has been cut
down already again and again; and yet has always thrown out fresh
shoots and dropped fresh poison from its boughs. But this at
least I know: that any little child, who will use the faculties
God has given him, may find an antidote to all its poison in the
meanest herb beneath his feet.

There, you do not understand me, my boys; and the best prayer I
can offer for you is, perhaps, that you should never need to
understand me: but if that sore need should come, and that poison
should begin to spread its mist over your brains and hearts, then
you will be proof against it; just in proportion as you have used
the eyes and the common sense which God has given you, and have
considered the lilies of the field, how they grow.



You find it dull walking up here upon Hartford Bridge Flat this
sad November day? Well, I do not deny that the moor looks
somewhat dreary, though dull it need never be. Though the fog is
clinging to the fir-trees, and creeping among the heather, till
you cannot see as far as Minley Corner, hardly as far as Bramshill
woods--and all the Berkshire hills are as invisible as if it was a
dark midnight--yet there is plenty to be seen here at our very
feet. Though there is nothing left for you to pick, and all the
flowers are dead and brown, except here and there a poor half-
withered scrap of bottle-heath, and nothing left for you to catch
either, for the butterflies and insects are all dead too, except
one poor old Daddy-long-legs, who sits upon that piece of turf,
boring a hole with her tail to lay her eggs in, before the frost
catches her and ends her like the rest: though all things, I say,
seem dead, yet there is plenty of life around you, at your feet, I
may almost say in the very stones on which you tread. And though
the place itself be dreary enough, a sheet of flat heather and a
little glen in it, with banks of dead fern, and a brown bog
between them, and a few fir-trees struggling up--yet, if you only
have eyes to see it, that little bit of glen is beautiful and
wonderful,--so beautiful and so wonderful and so cunningly
devised, that it took thousands of years to make it; and it is
not, I believe, half finished yet.

How do I know all that? Because a fairy told it me; a fairy who
lives up here upon the moor, and indeed in most places else, if
people have but eyes to see her. What is her name? I cannot
tell. The best name that I can give her (and I think it must be
something like her real name, because she will always answer if
you call her by it patiently and reverently) is Madam How. She
will come in good time, if she is called, even by a little child.
And she will let us see her at her work, and, what is more, teach
us to copy her. But there is another fairy here likewise, whom we
can hardly hope to see. Very thankful should we be if she lifted
even the smallest corner of her veil, and showed us but for a
moment if it were but her finger tip--so beautiful is she, and yet
so awful too. But that sight, I believe, would not make us proud,
as if we had had some great privilege. No, my dear child: it
would make us feel smaller, and meaner, and more stupid and more
ignorant than we had ever felt in our lives before; at the same
time it would make us wiser than ever we were in our lives before-
-that one glimpse of the great glory of her whom we call Lady Why.

But I will say more of her presently. We must talk first with
Madam How, and perhaps she may help us hereafter to see Lady Why.
For she is the servant, and Lady Why is the mistress; though she
has a Master over her again--whose name I leave for you to guess.
You have heard it often already, and you will hear it again, for
ever and ever.

But of one thing I must warn you, that you must not confound Madam
How and Lady Why. Many people do it, and fall into great mistakes
thereby,--mistakes that even a little child, if it would think,
need not commit. But really great philosophers sometimes make
this mistake about Why and How; and therefore it is no wonder if
other people make it too, when they write children's books about
the wonders of nature, and call them "Why and Because," or "The
Reason Why." The books are very good books, and you should read
and study them: but they do not tell you really "Why and
Because," but only "How and So." They do not tell you the "Reason
Why" things happen, but only "The Way in which they happen."
However, I must not blame these good folks, for I have made the
same mistake myself often, and may do it again: but all the more
shame to me. For see--you know perfectly the difference between
How and Why, when you are talking about yourself. If I ask you,
"Why did we go out to-day?" You would not answer, "Because we
opened the door." That is the answer to "How did we go out?" The
answer to Why did we go out is, "Because we chose to take a walk."
Now when we talk about other things beside ourselves, we must
remember this same difference between How and Why. If I ask you,
"Why does fire burn you?" you would answer, I suppose, being a
little boy, "Because it is hot;" which is all you know about it.
But if you were a great chemist, instead of a little boy, you
would be apt to answer me, I am afraid, "Fire burns because the
vibratory motion of the molecules of the heated substance
communicates itself to the molecules of my skin, and so destroys
their tissue;" which is, I dare say, quite true: but it only
tells us how fire burns, the way or means by which it burns; it
does not tell us the reason why it burns.

But you will ask, "If that is not the reason why fire burns, what
is?" My dear child, I do not know. That is Lady Why's business,
who is mistress of Mrs. How, and of you and of me; and, as I
think, of all things that you ever saw, or can see, or even dream.
And what her reason for making fire burn may be I cannot tell.
But I believe on excellent grounds that her reason is a very good
one. If I dare to guess, I should say that one reason, at least,
why fire burns, is that you may take care not to play with it, and
so not only scorch your finger, but set your whole bed on fire,
and perhaps the house into the bargain, as you might be tempted to
do if putting your finger in the fire were as pleasant as putting
sugar in your mouth.

My dear child, if I could once get clearly into your head this
difference between Why and How, so that you should remember them
steadily in after life, I should have done you more good than if I
had given you a thousand pounds.

But now that we know that How and Why are two very different
matters, and must not be confounded with each other, let us look
for Madam How, and see her at work making this little glen; for,
as I told you, it is not half made yet. One thing we shall see at
once, and see it more and more clearly the older we grow; I mean
her wonderful patience and diligence. Madam How is never idle for
an instant. Nothing is too great or too small for her; and she
keeps her work before her eye in the same moment, and makes every
separate bit of it help every other bit. She will keep the sun
and stars in order, while she looks after poor old Mrs. Daddy-
long-legs there and her eggs. She will spend thousands of years
in building up a mountain, and thousands of years in grinding it
down again; and then carefully polish every grain of sand which
falls from that mountain, and put it in its right place, where it
will be wanted thousands of years hence; and she will take just as
much trouble about that one grain of sand as she did about the
whole mountain. She will settle the exact place where Mrs. Daddy-
long-legs shall lay her eggs, at the very same time that she is
settling what shall happen hundreds of years hence in a stair
millions of miles away. And I really believe that Madam How knows
her work so thoroughly, that the grain of sand which sticks now to
your shoe, and the weight of Mrs. Daddy-long-legs' eggs at the
bottom of her hole, will have an effect upon suns and stars ages
after you and I are dead and gone. Most patient indeed is Madam
How. She does not mind the least seeing her own work destroyed;
she knows that it must be destroyed. There is a spell upon her,
and a fate, that everything she makes she must unmake again: and
yet, good and wise woman as she is, she never frets, nor tires,
nor fudges her work, as we say at school. She takes just as much
pains to make an acorn as to make a peach. She takes just as much
pains about the acorn which the pig eats, as about the acorn which
will grow into a tall oak, and help to build a great ship. She
took just as much pains, again, about the acorn which you crushed
under your foot just now, and which you fancy will never come to
anything. Madam How is wiser than that. She knows that it will
come to something. She will find some use for it, as she finds a
use for everything. That acorn which you crushed will turn into
mould, and that mould will go to feed the roots of some plant,
perhaps next year, if it lies where it is; or perhaps it will be
washed into the brook, and then into the river, and go down to the
sea, and will feed the roots of some plant in some new continent
ages and ages hence: and so Madam How will have her own again.
You dropped your stick into the river yesterday, and it floated
away. You were sorry, because it had cost you a great deal of
trouble to cut it, and peel it, and carve a head and your name on
it. Madam How was not sorry, though she had taken a great deal
more trouble with that stick than ever you had taken. She had
been three years making that stick, out of many things, sunbeams
among the rest. But when it fell into the river, Madam How knew
that she should not lose her sunbeams nor anything else: the
stick would float down the river, and on into the sea; and there,
when it got heavy with the salt water, it would sink, and lodge,
and be buried, and perhaps ages hence turn into coal; and ages
after that some one would dig it up and burn it, and then out
would come, as bright warm flame, all the sunbeams that were
stored away in that stick: and so Madam How would have her own
again. And if that should not be the fate of your stick, still
something else will happen to it just as useful in the long run;
for Madam How never loses anything, but uses up all her scraps and
odds and ends somehow, somewhere, somewhen, as is fit and proper
for the Housekeeper of the whole Universe. Indeed, Madam How is
so patient that some people fancy her stupid, and think that,
because she does not fall into a passion every time you steal her
sweets, or break her crockery, or disarrange her furniture,
therefore she does not care. But I advise you as a little boy,
and still more when you grow up to be a man, not to get that fancy
into your head; for you will find that, however good-natured and
patient Madam How is in most matters, her keeping silence and not
seeming to see you is no sign that she has forgotten. On the
contrary, she bears a grudge (if one may so say, with all respect
to her) longer than any one else does; because she will always
have her own again. Indeed, I sometimes think that if it were not
for Lady Why, her mistress, she might bear some of her grudges for
ever and ever. I have seen men ere now damage some of Madam How's
property when they were little boys, and be punished by her all
their lives long, even though she had mended the broken pieces, or
turned them to some other use. Therefore I say to you, beware of
Madam How. She will teach you more kindly, patiently, and
tenderly than any mother, if you want to learn her trade. But if,
instead of learning her trade, you damage her materials and play
with her tools, beware lest she has her own again out of you.

Some people think, again, that Madam How is not only stupid, but
ill-tempered and cruel; that she makes earthquakes and storms, and
famine and pestilences, in a sort of blind passion, not caring
where they go or whom they hurt; quite heedless of who is in the
way, if she wants to do anything or go anywhere. Now, that Madam
How can be very terrible there can be no doubt: but there is no
doubt also that, if people choose to learn, she will teach them to
get out of her way whenever she has business to do which is
dangerous to them. But as for her being cruel and unjust, those
may believe it who like. You, my dear boys and girls, need not
believe it, if you will only trust to Lady Why; and be sure that
Why is the mistress and How the servant, now and for ever. That
Lady Why is utterly good and kind I know full well; and I believe
that, in her case too, the old proverb holds, "Like mistress, like
servant;" and that the more we know of Madam How, the more we
shall be content with her, and ready to submit to whatever she
does: but not with that stupid resignation which some folks
preach who do not believe in lady Why--that is no resignation at
all. That is merely saying -

"What can't be cured
Must be endured,"

like a donkey when he turns his tail to a hail-storm,--but the
true resignation, the resignation which is fit for grown people
and children alike, the resignation which is the beginning and the
end of all wisdom and all religion, is to believe that Lady Why
knows best, because she herself is perfectly good; and that as she
is mistress over Madam How, so she has a Master over her, whose
name--I say again--I leave you to guess.

So now that I have taught you not to be afraid of Madam How, we
will go and watch her at her work; and if we do not understand
anything we see, we will ask her questions. She will always show
us one of her lesson books if we give her time. And if we have to
wait some time for her answer, you need not fear catching cold,
though it is November; for she keeps her lesson books scattered
about in strange places, and we may have to walk up and down that
hill more than once before we can make out how she makes the glen.

Well--how was the glen made? You shall guess it if you like, and
I will guess too. You think, perhaps, that an earthquake opened

My dear child, we must look before we guess. Then, after we have
looked a little, and got some grounds for guessing, then we may
guess. And you have no ground for supposing there ever was an
earthquake here strong enough to open that glen. There may have
been one: but we must guess from what we do know, and not from
what we do not.

Guess again. Perhaps it was there always, from the beginning of
the world? My dear child, you have no proof of that either.
Everything round you is changing in shape daily and hourly, as you
will find out the longer you live; and therefore it is most
reasonable to suppose that this glen has changed its shape, as
everything else on earth has done. Besides, I told you not that
Madam How had made the glen, but that she was making it, and as
yet has only half finished. That is my first guess; and my next
guess is that water is making the glen--water, and nothing else.

You open your young eyes. And I do not blame you. I looked at
this very glen for fifteen years before I made that guess; and I
have looked at it some ten years since, to make sure that my guess
held good. For man after all is very blind, my dear boy, and very
stupid, and cannot see what lies under his own feet all day long;
and if Lady Why, and He whom Lady Why obeys, were not very patient
and gentle with mankind, they would have perished off the face of
the earth long ago, simply from their own stupidity. I, at least,
was very stupid in this case, for I had my head full of
earthquakes, and convulsions of nature, and all sorts of prodigies
which never happened to this glen; and so, while I was trying to
find what was not there, I of course found nothing. But when I
put them all out of my head, and began to look for what was there,
I found it at once; and lo and behold! I had seen it a thousand
times before, and yet never learnt anything from it, like a stupid
man as I was; though what I learnt you may learn as easily as I

And what did I find?

The pond at the bottom of the glen.

You know that pond, of course? You don't need to go there? Very
well. Then if you do, do not you know also that the pond is
always filling up with sand and mud; and that though we clean it
out every three or four years, it always fills again? Now where
does that sand and mud come from?

Down that stream, of course, which runs out of this bog. You see
it coming down every time there is a flood, and the stream fouls.

Very well. Then, said Madam How to me, as soon as I recollected
that, "Don't you see, you stupid man, that the stream has made the
glen, and the earth which runs down the stream was all once part
of the hill on which you stand." I confess I was very much
ashamed of myself when she said that. For that is the history of
the whole mystery. Madam How is digging away with her soft spade,
water. She has a harder spade, or rather plough, the strongest
and most terrible of all ploughs; but that, I am glad to say, she
has laid by in England here.

Water? But water is too simple a thing to have dug out all this
great glen.

My dear child, the most wonderful part of Madam How's work is,
that she does such great things and so many different things, with
one and the same tool, which looks to you so simple, though it
really is not so. Water, for instance, is not a simple thing, but
most complicated; and we might spend hours in talking about water,
without having come to the end of its wonders. Still Madam How is
a great economist, and never wastes her materials. She is like
the sailor who boasted (only she never boasts) that, if he had but
a long life and a strong knife, he would build St. Paul's
Cathedral before he was done. And Madam How has a very long life,
and plenty of time; and one of the strongest of all her tools is
water. Now if you will stoop down and look into the heather, I
will show you how she is digging out the glen with this very mist
which is hanging about our feet. At least, so I guess.

For see how the mist clings to the points of the heather leaves,
and makes drops. If the hot sun came out the drops would dry, and
they would vanish into the air in light warm steam. But now that
it is dark and cold they drip, or run down the heather-stems, to
the ground. And whither do they go then? Whither will the water
go,--hundreds of gallons of it perhaps,--which has dripped and run
through the heather in this single day? It will sink into the
ground, you know. And then what will become of it? Madam How
will use it as an underground spade, just as she uses the rain (at
least, when it rains too hard, and therefore the rain runs off the
moor instead of sinking into it) as a spade above ground.

Now come to the edge of the glen, and I will show you the mist
that fell yesterday, perhaps, coming out of the ground again, and
hard at work.

You know of what an odd, and indeed of what a pretty form all
these glens are. How the flat moor ends suddenly in a steep
rounded bank, almost like the crest of a wave--ready like a wave-
crest to fall over, and as you know, falling over sometimes, bit
by bit, where the soil is bare.

Oh, yes; you are very fond of those banks. It is "awfully jolly,"
as you say, scrambling up and down them, in the deep heath and
fern; besides, there are plenty of rabbit-holes there, because
they are all sand; while there are no rabbit-holes on the flat
above, because it is all gravel.

Yes; you know all about it: but you know, too, that you must not
go too far down these banks, much less roll down them, because
there is almost certain to be a bog at the bottom, lying upon a
gentle slope; and there you get wet through.

All round these hills, from here to Aldershot in one direction,
and from here to Windsor in another, you see the same shaped
glens; the wave-crest along their top, and at the foot of the
crest a line of springs which run out over the slopes, or well up
through them in deep sand-galls, as you call them--shaking
quagmires which are sometimes deep enough to swallow up a horse,
and which you love to dance upon in summer time. Now the water of
all these springs is nothing but the rain, and mist, and dew,
which has sunk down first through the peaty soil, and then through
the gravel and sand, and there has stopped. And why? Because
under the gravel (about which I will tell you a strange story one
day) and under the sand, which is what the geologists call the
Upper Bagshot sand, there is an entirely different set of beds,
which geologists call the Bracklesham beds, from a place near the
New Forest; and in those beds there is a vein of clay, and through
that clay the water cannot get, as you have seen yourself when we
dug it out in the field below to puddle the pond-head; and very
good fun you thought it, and a very pretty mess you made of
yourself. Well: because the water cannot get though this clay,
and must go somewhere, it runs out continually along the top of
the clay, and as it runs undermines the bank, and brings down sand
and gravel continually for the next shower to wash into the stream

Now think for one moment how wonderful it is that the shape of
these glens, of which you are so fond, was settled by the
particular order in which Madam How laid down the gravel and sand
and mud at the bottom of the sea, ages and ages ago. This is what
I told you, that the least thing that Madam How does to-day may
take effect hundreds and thousands of years hence.

But I must tell you I think there was a time when this glen was of
a very different shape from what it is now; and I dare say,
according to your notions, of a much prettier shape. It was once
just like one of those Chines which we used to see at Bournemouth.
You recollect them? How there was a narrow gap in the cliff of
striped sands and gravels; and out of the mouth of that gap, only
a few feet across, there poured down a great slope of mud and sand
the shape of half a bun, some wet and some dry, up which we used
to scramble and get into the Chine, and call the Chine what it was
in the truest sense, Fairyland. You recollect how it was all
eaten out into mountain ranges, pinnacles, steep cliffs of white,
and yellow, and pink, standing up against the clear blue sky; till
we agreed that, putting aside the difference of size, they were as
beautiful and grand as any Alps we had ever seen in pictures. And
how we saw (for there could be no mistake about it there) that the
Chine was being hollowed out by the springs which broke out high
up the cliff, and by the rain which wore the sand into furrowed
pinnacles and peaks. You recollect the beautiful place, and how,
when we looked back down it we saw between the miniature mountain
walls the bright blue sea, and heard it murmur on the sands
outside. So I verily believe we might have done, if we had stood
somewhere at the bottom of this glen thousands of years ago. We
should have seen the sea in front of us; or rather, an arm of the
sea; for Finchampstead ridges opposite, instead of being covered
with farms, and woodlands, and purple heath above, would have been
steep cliffs of sand and clay, just like those you see at
Bournemouth now; and--what would have spoilt somewhat the beauty
of the sight--along the shores there would have floated, at least
in winter, great blocks and floes of ice, such as you might have
seen in the tideway at King's Lynn the winter before last,
growling and crashing, grubbing and ploughing the sand, and the
gravel, and the mud, and sweeping them away into seas towards the
North, which are now all fruitful land. That may seem to you like
a dream: yet it is true; and some day, when we have another talk
with Madam How, I will show even a child like you that it was

But what could change a beautiful Chine like that at Bournemouth
into a wide sloping glen like this of Bracknell's Bottom, with a
wood like Coombs', many acres large, in the middle of it? Well
now, think. It is a capital plan for finding out Madam How's
secrets, to see what she might do in one place, and explain by it
what she has done in another. Suppose now, Madam How had orders
to lift up the whole coast of Bournemouth only twenty or even ten
feet higher out of the sea than it is now. She could do that
easily enough, for she has been doing so on the coast of South
America for ages; she has been doing so this very summer in what
hasty people would call a hasty, and violent, and ruthless way;
though I shall not say so, for I believe that Lady Why knows best.
She is doing so now steadily on the west coast of Norway, which is
rising quietly--all that vast range of mountain wall and iron-
bound cliff--at the rate of some four feet in a hundred years,
without making the least noise or confusion, or even causing an
extra ripple on the sea; so light and gentle, when she will, can
Madam How's strong finger be.

Now, if the mouth of that Chine at Bournemouth was lifted twenty
feet out of the sea, one thing would happen,--that the high tide
would not come up any longer, and wash away the cake of dirt at
the entrance, as we saw it do so often. But if the mud stopped
there, the mud behind it would come down more slowly, and lodge
inside more and more, till the Chine was half filled-up, and only
the upper part of the cliffs continue to be eaten away, above the
level where the springs ran out. So gradually the Chine, instead
of being deep and narrow, would become broad and shallow; and
instead of hollowing itself rapidly after every shower of rain, as
you saw the Chine at Bournemouth doing, would hollow itself out
slowly, as this glen is doing now. And one thing more would
happen,--when the sea ceased to gnaw at the foot of the cliffs
outside, and to carry away every stone and grain of sand which
fell from them, the cliffs would very soon cease to be cliffs; the
rain and the frost would still crumble them down, but the dirt
that fell would lie at their feet, and gradually make a slope of
dry land, far out where the shallow sea had been; and their tops,
instead of being steep as now, would become smooth and rounded;
and so at last, instead of two sharp walls of cliff at the Chine's
mouth, you might have --just what you have here at the mouth of
this glen,--our Mount and the Warren Hill,--long slopes with
sheets of drifted gravel and sand at their feet, stretching down
into what was once an icy sea, and is now the Vale of Blackwater.
And this I really believe Madam How has done simply by lifting
Hartford Bridge Flat a few more feet out of the sea, and leaving
the rest to her trusty tool, the water in the sky.

That is my guess: and I think it is a good guess, because I have
asked Madam How a hundred different questions about it in the last
ten years, and she always answered them in the same way, saying,
"Water, water, you stupid man." But I do not want you merely to
depend on what I say. If you want to understand Madam How, you
must ask her questions yourself, and make up your mind yourself
like a man, instead of taking things at hearsay or second-hand,
like the vulgar. Mind, by "the vulgar" I do not mean poor people:
I mean ignorant and uneducated people, who do not use their brains
rightly, though they may be fine ladies, kings, or popes. The
Bible says, "Prove all things: hold fast that which is good." So
do you prove my guess, and if it proves good, hold it fast.

And how can I do that?

First, by direct experiment, as it is called. In plain English--
go home and make a little Hartford Bridge Flat in the stable-yard;
and then ask Mrs. How if she will not make a glen in it like this
glen here. We will go home and try that. We will make a great
flat cake of clay, and put upon it a cap of sand; and then we will
rain upon it out of a watering-pot; and see if Mrs. How does not
begin soon to make a glen in the side of the heap, just like those
on Hartford Bridge Flat. I believe she will; and certainly, if
she does, it will be a fresh proof that my guess is right. And
then we will see whether water will not make glens of a different
shape than these, if it run over soils of a different kind. We
will make a Hartford Bridge Flat turned upside down--a cake of
sand with a cap of clay on the top; and we will rain on that out
of our watering-pot, and see what sort of glens we make then. I
can guess what they will be like, because I have seen them--steep
overhanging cliffs, with very narrow gullies down them: but you
shall try for yourself, and make up your mind whether you think me
right or wrong. Meanwhile, remember that those gullies too will
have been made by water.

And there is another way of "verifying my theory," as it is
called; in plain English, seeing if my guess holds good; that is,
to look at other valleys--not merely the valleys round here, but
valleys in clay, in chalk, in limestone, in the hard slate rock
such as you saw in Devonshire--and see whether my guess does not
hold good about them too; whether all of them, deep or shallow,
broad or narrow, rock or earth, may not have been all hollowed out
by running water. I am sure if you would do this you would find
something to amuse you, and something to instruct you, whenever
you wish. I know that I do. To me the longest railroad journey,
instead of being stupid, is like continually turning over the
leaves of a wonderful book, or looking at wonderful pictures of
old worlds which were made and unmade thousands of years ago. For
I keep looking, not only at the railway cuttings, where the bones
of the old worlds are laid bare, but at the surface of the ground;
at the plains and downs, banks and knolls, hills and mountains;
and continually asking Mrs. How what gave them each its shape:
and I will soon teach you to do the same. When you do, I tell you
fairly her answer will be in almost every case, "Running water."
Either water running when soft, as it usually is; or water running
when it is hard--in plain words, moving ice.

About that moving ice, which is Mrs. How's stronger spade, I will
tell you some other time; and show you, too, the marks of it in
every gravel pit about here. But now, I see, you want to ask a
question; and what is it?

Do I mean to say that water has made great valleys, such as you
have seen paintings and photographs of,--valleys thousands of feet
deep, among mountains thousands of feet high?

Yes, I do. But, as I said before, I do not like you to take my
word upon trust. When you are older you shall go to the
mountains, and you shall judge for yourself. Still, I must say
that I never saw a valley, however deep, or a cliff, however high,
which had not been scooped out by water; and that even the
mountain-tops which stand up miles aloft in jagged peaks and
pinnacles against the sky were cut out at first, and are being cut
and sharpened still, by little else save water, soft and hard;
that is, by rain, frost, and ice.

Water, and nothing else, has sawn out such a chasm as that through
which the ships run up to Bristol, between Leigh Wood and St.
Vincent's Rocks. Water, and nothing else, has shaped those peaks
of the Matterhorn, or the Weisshorn, or the Pic du Midi of the
Pyrenees, of which you have seen sketches and photographs. Just
so water might saw out Hartford Bridge Flat, if it had time
enough, into a labyrinth of valleys, and hills, and peaks standing
alone; as it has done already by Ambarrow, and Edgbarrow, and the
Folly Hill on the other side of the vale.

I see you are astonished at the notion that water can make Alps.
But it was just because I knew you would be astonished at Madam
How's doing so great a thing with so simple a tool, that I began
by showing you how she was doing the same thing in a small way
here upon these flats. For the safest way to learn Madam How's
methods is to watch her at work in little corners at commonplace
business, which will not astonish or frighten us, nor put huge
hasty guesses and dreams into our heads. Sir Isaac Newton, some
will tell you, found out the great law of gravitation, which holds
true of all the suns and stars in heaven, by watching an apple
fall: and even if he did not find it out so, he found it out, we
know, by careful thinking over the plain and commonplace fact,
that things have weight. So do you be humble and patient, and
watch Madam How at work on little things. For that is the way to
see her at work upon all space and time.

What? you have a question more to ask?

Oh! I talked about Madam How lifting up Hartford Bridge Flat.
How could she do that? My dear child, that is a long story, and I
must tell it you some other time. Meanwhile, did you ever see the
lid of a kettle rise up and shake when the water inside boiled?
Of course; and of course, too, remember that Madam How must have
done it. Then think over between this and our next talk, what
that can possibly have to do with her lifting up Hartford Bridge
Flat. But you have been longing, perhaps, all this time to hear
more about Lady Why, and why she set Madam How to make Bracknell's

My dear child, the only answer I dare give to that is: Whatever
other purposes she may have made it for, she made it at least for
this--that you and I should come to it this day, and look at, and
talk over it, and become thereby wiser and more earnest, and we
will hope more humble and better people. Whatever else Lady Why
may wish or not wish, this she wishes always, to make all men wise
and all men good. For what is written of her whom, as in a
parable, I have called Lady Why?

"The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His
works of old.

"I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the
earth was.

"When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were
no fountains abounding with water.

"Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought

"While as yet He had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the
highest part of the dust of the world.

"When He prepared the heavens, I was there: when He set a compass
upon the face of the depth:

"When He established the clouds above: when He strengthened the
fountains of the deep:

"When He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not
pass His commandment: when He appointed the foundations of the

"Then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him: and I was daily
His delight, rejoicing always before Him:

"Rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth; and my delights
were with the sons of men.

"Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are
they that keep my ways."

That we can say, for it has been said for us already. But beyond
that we can say, and need say, very little. We were not there, as
we read in the Book of Job, when God laid the foundations of the
earth. "We see," says St. Paul, "as in a glass darkly, and only
know in part." "For who," he asks again, "has known the mind of
the Lord, or who hath been His counsellor? . . . For of Him, and
through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for
ever and ever. Amen." Therefore we must not rashly say, this or
that is Why a thing has happened; nor invent what are called
"final causes," which are not Lady Why herself, but only our
little notions of what Lady Why has done, or rather what we should
have done if we had been in her place. It is not, indeed, by
thinking that we shall find out anything about Lady Why. She
speaks not to our eyes or to our brains, like Madam How, but to
that inner part of us which we call our hearts and spirits, and
which will endure when eyes and brain are turned again to dust.
If your heart be pure and sober, gentle and truthful, then Lady
Why speaks to you without words, and tells you things which Madam
How and all her pupils, the men of science, can never tell. When
you lie, it may be, on a painful sick-bed, but with your mother's
hand in yours; when you sit by her, looking up into her loving
eyes; when you gaze out towards the setting sun, and fancy golden
capes and islands in the clouds, and seas and lakes in the blue
sky, and the infinite rest and peace of the far west sends rest
and peace into your young heart, till you sit silent and happy,
you know not why; when sweet music fills your heart with noble and
tender instincts which need no thoughts or words; ay, even when
you watch the raging thunderstorm, and feel it to be, in spite of
its great awfulness, so beautiful that you cannot turn your eyes
away: at such times as these Lady Why is speaking to your soul of
souls, and saying, "My child, this world is a new place, and
strange, and often terrible: but be not afraid. All will come
right at last. Rest will conquer Restlessness; Faith will conquer
Fear; Order will conquer Disorder; Health will conquer Sickness;
Joy will conquer Sorrow; Pleasure will conquer Pain; Life will
conquer Death; Right will conquer Wrong. All will be well at
last. Keep your soul and body pure, humble, busy, pious--in one
word, be good: and ere you die, or after you die, you may have
some glimpse of Me, the Everlasting Why: and hear with the ears,
not of your body but of your spirit, men and all rational beings,
plants and animals, ay, the very stones beneath your feet, the
clouds above your head, the planets and the suns away in farthest
space, singing eternally,

"'Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power,
for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are
and were created."'


So? You have been looking at that beautiful drawing of the ruin
of Arica in the Illustrated London News: and it has puzzled you
and made you sad. You want to know why God killed all those
people--mothers among them, too, and little children?

Alas, my dear child! who am I that I should answer you that?

Have you done wrong in asking me? No, my dear child; no. You
have asked me because you are a human being and a child of God,
and not merely a cleverer sort of animal, an ape who can read and
write and cast accounts. Therefore it is that you cannot be
content, and ought not to be content, with asking how things
happen, but must go on to ask why. You cannot be content with
knowing the causes of things; and if you knew all the natural
science that ever was or ever will be known to men, that would not
satisfy you; for it would only tell you the CAUSES of things,
while your souls want to know the REASONS of things besides; and
though I may not be able to tell you the reasons of things, or
show you aught but a tiny glimpse here and there of that which I
called the other day the glory of Lady Why, yet I believe that
somehow, somewhen, somewhere, you will learn something of the
reason of things. For that thirst to know WHY was put into the
hearts of little children by God Himself; and I believe that God
would never have given them that thirst if He had not meant to
satisfy it.

There--you do not understand me. I trust that you will understand
me some day. Meanwhile, I think--I only say I THINK--you know I
told you how humble we must be whenever we speak of Lady Why--that
we may guess at something like a good reason for the terrible
earthquakes in South America. I do not wish to be hard upon poor
people in great affliction: but I cannot help thinking that they
have been doing for hundreds of years past something very like
what the Bible calls "tempting God"--staking their property and
their lives upon the chances of no earthquakes coming, while they
ought to have known that an earthquake might come any day. They
have fulfilled (and little thought I that it would be fulfilled so
soon) the parable that I told you once, of the nation of the Do-
as-you-likes, who lived careless and happy at the foot of the
burning mountain, and would not be warned by the smoke that came
out of the top, or by the slag and cinders which lay all about
them; till the mountain blew up, and destroyed them miserably.

Then I think that they ought to have expected an earthquake.

Well--it is not for us to judge any one, especially if they live
in a part of the world in which we have not been ourselves. But I
think that we know, and that they ought to have known, enough
about earthquakes to have been more prudent than they have been
for many a year. At least we will hope that, though they would
not learn their lesson till this year, they will learn it now, and
will listen to the message which I think Madam How has brought
them, spoken in a voice of thunder, and written in letters of

And what is that?

My dear child, if the landlord of our house was in the habit of
pulling the roof down upon our heads, and putting gunpowder under
the foundations to blow us up, do you not think we should know
what he meant, even though he never spoke a word? He would be
very wrong in behaving so, of course: but one thing would be
certain,--that he did not intend us to live in his house any
longer if he could help it; and was giving us, in a very rough
fashion, notice to quit. And so it seems to me that these poor
Spanish Americans have received from the Landlord of all
landlords, who can do no wrong, such a notice to quit as perhaps
no people ever had before; which says to them in unmistakable
words, "You must leave this country: or perish." And I believe
that that message, like all Lady Why's messages, is at heart a
merciful and loving one; that if these Spaniards would leave the
western coast of Peru, and cross the Andes into the green forests
of the eastern side of their own land, they might not only live
free from earthquakes, but (if they would only be good and
industrious) become a great, rich, and happy nation, instead of
the idle, and useless, and I am afraid not over good, people which
they have been. For in that eastern part of their own land God's
gifts are waiting for them, in a paradise such as I can neither
describe nor you conceive;--precious woods, fruits, drugs, and
what not--boundless wealth, in one word--waiting for them to send
it all down the waters of the mighty river Amazon, enriching us
here in the Old World, and enriching themselves there in the New.
If they would only go and use these gifts of God, instead of
neglecting them as they have been doing for now three hundred
years, they would be a blessing to the earth, instead of being--
that which they have been.

God grant, my dear child, that these poor people may take the
warning that has been sent to them; "The voice of God revealed in
facts," as the great Lord Bacon would have called it, and see not
only that God has bidden them leave the place where they are now,
but has prepared for them, in their own land, a home a thousand
times better than that in which they now live.

But you ask, How ought they to have known that an earthquake would

Well, to make you understand that, we must talk a little about
earthquakes, and what makes them; and in order to find out that,
let us try the very simplest cause of which we can think. That is
the wise and scientific plan.

Now, whatever makes these earthquakes must be enormously strong;
that is certain. And what is the strongest thing you know of in
the world? Think . . .


Well, gunpowder is strong sometimes: but not always. You may
carry it in a flask, or in your hand, and then it is weak enough.
It only becomes strong by being turned into gas and steam. But
steam is always strong. And if you look at a railway engine,
still more if you had ever seen--which God forbid you should--a
boiler explosion, you would agree with me, that the strongest
thing we know of in the world is steam.

Now I think that we can explain almost, if not quite, all that we
know about earthquakes, if we believe that on the whole they are
caused by steam and other gases expanding, that is, spreading out,
with wonderful quickness and strength. Of course there must be
something to make them expand, and that is HEAT. But we will not
talk of that yet.

Now do you remember that riddle which I put to you the other day?-
-"What had the rattling of the lid of the kettle to do with
Hartford Bridge Flat being lifted out of the ancient sea?"

The answer to the riddle, I believe, is--Steam has done both. The
lid of the kettle rattles, because the expanding steam escapes in
little jets, and so causes a LID-QUAKE. Now suppose that there
was steam under the earth trying to escape, and the earth in one
place was loose and yet hard, as the lid of the kettle is loose
and yet hard, with cracks in it, it may be, like the crack between
the edge of the lid and the edge of the kettle itself: might not
the steam try to escape through the cracks, and rattle the surface
of the earth, and so cause an EARTHQUAKE?

So the steam would escape generally easily, and would only make a
passing rattle, like the earthquake of which the famous jester
Charles Selwyn said that it was quite a young one, so tame that
you might have stroked it; like that which I myself once felt in
the Pyrenees, which gave me very solemn thoughts after a while,
though at first I did nothing but laugh at it; and I will tell you

I was travelling in the Pyrenees; and I came one evening to the
loveliest spot--a glen, or rather a vast crack in the mountains,
so narrow that there was no room for anything at the bottom of it,
save a torrent roaring between walls of polished rock. High above
the torrent the road was cut out among the cliffs, and above the
road rose more cliffs, with great black cavern mouths, hundreds of
feet above our heads, out of each of which poured in foaming
waterfalls streams large enough to turn a mill, and above them
mountains piled on mountains, all covered with woods of box, which
smelt rich and hot and musky in the warm spring air. Among the
box-trees and fallen boulders grew hepaticas, blue and white and
red, such as you see in the garden; and little stars of gentian,
more azure than the azure sky. But out of the box-woods above
rose giant silver firs, clothing the cliffs and glens with tall
black spires, till they stood out at last in a jagged saw-edge
against the purple evening sky, along the mountain ranges,
thousands of feet aloft; and beyond them again, at the head of the
valley, rose vast cones of virgin snow, miles away in reality, but
looking so brilliant and so near that one fancied at the first
moment that one could have touched them with one's hand. Snow-
white they stood, the glorious things, seven thousand feet into
the air; and I watched their beautiful white sides turn rose-
colour in the evening sun, and when he set, fade into dull cold
gray, till the bright moon came out to light them up once more.
When I was tired of wondering and admiring, I went into bed; and
there I had a dream--such a dream as Alice had when she went into
Wonderland--such a dream as I dare say you may have had ere now.
Some noise or stir puts into your fancy as you sleep a whole long
dream to account for it; and yet that dream, which seems to you to
be hours long, has not taken up a second of time; for the very
same noise which begins the dream, wakes you at the end of it:
and so it was with me. I dreamed that some English people had
come into the hotel where I was, and were sleeping in the room
underneath me; and that they had quarrelled and fought, and broke
their bed down with a tremendous crash, and that I must get up,
and stop the fight; and at that moment I woke and heard coming up
the valley from the north such a roar as I never heard before or
since; as if a hundred railway trains were rolling underground;
and just as it passed under my bed there was a tremendous thump,
and I jumped out of bed quicker than I ever did in my life, and
heard the roaring sound die away as it rolled up the valley
towards the peaks of snow. Still I had in my head this notion of
the Englishmen fighting in the room below. But then I recollected
that no Englishmen had come in the night before, and that I had
been in the room below, and that there was no bed in it. Then I
opened my window--a woman screamed, a dog barked, some cocks and
hens cackled in a very disturbed humour, and then I could hear
nothing but the roaring of the torrent a hundred feet below. And
then it flashed across me what all the noise was about; and I
burst out laughing and said "It is only an earthquake," and went
to bed

Next morning I inquired whether any one had heard a noise. No,
nobody had heard anything. And the driver who had brought me up
the valley only winked, but did not choose to speak. At last at
breakfast I asked the pretty little maid who waited what was the
meaning of the noise I heard in the night, and she answered, to my
intense amusement, "Ah! bah! ce n'etait qu'un tremblement de
terre; il y en a ici toutes les six semaines." Now the secret was
out. The little maid, I found, came from the lowland far away,
and did not mind telling the truth: but the good people of the
place were afraid to let out that they had earthquakes every six
weeks, for fear of frightening visitors away: and because they
were really very good people, and very kind to me, I shall not
tell you what the name of the place is.

Of course after that I could do no less than ask Madam How, very
civilly, how she made earthquakes in that particular place,
hundreds of miles away from any burning mountain? And this was
the answer I THOUGHT she gave, though I am not so conceited as to
say I am sure.

As I had come up the valley I had seen that the cliffs were all
beautiful gray limestone marble; but just at this place they were
replaced by granite, such as you may see in London Bridge or at
Aberdeen. I do not mean that the limestone changed to granite,
but that the granite had risen up out of the bottom of the valley,
and had carried the limestone (I suppose) up on its back hundreds
of feet into the air. Those caves with the waterfalls pouring
from their mouths were all on one level, at the top of the
granite, and the bottom of the limestone. That was to be
expected; for, as I will explain to you some day, water can make
caves easily in limestone: but never, I think, in granite. But I
knew that besides these cold springs which came out of the caves,
there were hot springs also, full of curious chemical salts, just
below the very house where I was in. And when I went to look at
them, I found that they came out of the rock just where the
limestone and the granite joined. "Ah," I said, "now I think I
have Madam How's answer. The lid of one of her great steam
boilers is rather shaky and cracked just here, because the granite
has broken and torn the limestone as it lifted it up; and here is
the hot water out of the boiler actually oozing out of the crack;
and the earthquake I heard last night was simply the steam
rumbling and thumping inside, and trying to get out."

And then, my dear child, I fell into a more serious mood. I said
to myself, "If that stream had been a little, only a little
stronger, or if the rock above it had been only a little weaker,
it would have been no laughing matter then; the village might have
been shaken to the ground; the rocks hurled into the torrent; jets
of steam and of hot water, mixed, it may be, with deadly gases,
have roared out of the riven ground; that might have happened
here, in short, which has happened and happens still in a hundred
places in the world, whenever the rocks are too weak to stand the
pressure of the steam below, and the solid earth bursts as an
engine boiler bursts when the steam within it is too strong." And
when those thoughts came into my mind, I was in no humour to jest
any more about "young earthquakes," or "Madam How's boilers;" but
rather to say with the wise man of old, "It is of the Lord's
mercies that we are not consumed."

Most strange, most terrible also, are the tricks which this
underground steam plays. It will make the ground, which seems to
us so hard and firm, roll and rock in waves, till people are sea-
sick, as on board a ship; and that rocking motion (which is the
most common) will often, when it is but slight, set the bells
ringing in the steeples, or make the furniture, and things on
shelves, jump about quaintly enough. It will make trees bend to
and fro, as if a wind was blowing through them; open doors
suddenly, and shut them again with a slam; make the timbers of the
floors and roofs creak, as they do in a ship at sea; or give men
such frights as one of the dock-keepers at Liverpool got in the
earthquake in 1863, when his watchbox rocked so, that he thought
some one was going to pitch him over into the dock. But these are
only little hints and warnings of what it can do. When it is
strong enough, it will rock down houses and churches into heaps of
ruins, or, if it leaves them standing, crack them from top to
bottom, so that they must be pulled down and rebuilt.

You saw those pictures of the ruins of Arica, about which our talk
began; and from them you can guess well enough for yourself what a
town looks like which has been ruined by an earthquake. Of the
misery and the horror which follow such a ruin I will not talk to
you, nor darken your young spirit with sad thoughts which grown
people must face, and ought to face. But the strangeness of some
of the tricks which the earthquake shocks play is hardly to be
explained, even by scientific men. Sometimes, it would seem, the
force runs round, making the solid ground eddy, as water eddies in
a brook. For it will make straight rows of trees crooked; it will
twist whole walls round--or rather the ground on which the walls
stand--without throwing them down; it will shift the stones of a
pillar one on the other sideways, as if a giant had been trying to
spin it like a teetotum, and so screwed it half in pieces. There
is a story told by a wise man, who saw the place himself, of the
whole furniture of one house being hurled away by an earthquake,
and buried under the ruins of another house; and of things carried
hundreds of yards off, so that the neighbours went to law to
settle who was the true owner of them. Sometimes, again, the
shock seems to come neither horizontally in waves, nor circularly
in eddies, but vertically, that is, straight up from below; and
then things--and people, alas! sometimes--are thrown up off the
earth high into the air, just as things spring up off the table if
you strike it smartly enough underneath. By that same law (for
there is a law for every sort of motion) it is that the earthquake
shock sometimes hurls great rocks off a cliff into the valley
below. The shock runs through the mountain till it comes to the
cliff at the end of it; and then the face of the cliff, if it be
at all loose, flies off into the air. You may see the very same
thing happen, if you will put marbles or billiard-balls in a row
touching each other, and strike the one nearest you smartly in the
line of the row. All the balls stand still, except the last one,
and that flies off. The shock, like the earthquake shock, has run
through them all; but only the end one, which had nothing beyond
it but soft air, has been moved; and when you grow old, and learn
mathematics, you will know the law of motion according to which
that happens, and learn to apply what the billiard-balls have
taught you, to explain the wonders of an earthquake. For in this
case, as in so many more, you must watch Madam How at work on
little and common things, to find out how she works in great and
rare ones. That is why Solomon says that "a fool's eyes are in
the ends of the earth," because he is always looking out for
strange things which he has not seen, and which he could not
understand if he saw; instead of looking at the petty commonplace
matters which are about his feet all day long, and getting from
them sound knowledge, and the art of getting more sound knowledge

Another terrible destruction which the earthquake brings, when it
is close to the seaside, is the wash of a great sea wave, such as
swept in last year upon the island of St. Thomas, in the West
Indies; such as swept in upon the coast of Peru this year. The
sea moans, and sinks back, leaving the shore dry; and then comes
in from the offing a mighty wall of water, as high as, or higher
than, many a tall house; sweeps far inland, washing away quays and
houses, and carrying great ships in with it; and then sweeps back
again, leaving the ships high and dry, as ships were left in Peru
this year.

Now, how is that wave made? Let us think. Perhaps in many ways.
But two of them I will tell you as simply as I can, because they
seem the most likely, and probably the most common.

Suppose, as the earthquake shock ran on, making the earth under
the sea heave and fall in long earth-waves, the sea-bottom sank
down. Then the water on it would sink down too, and leave the
shore dry; till the sea-bottom rose again, and hurled the water up
again against the land. This is one way of explaining it, and it
may be true. For certain it is, that earthquakes do move the
bottom of the sea; and certain, too, that they move the water of
the sea also, and with tremendous force. For ships at sea during
an earthquake feel such a blow from it (though it does them no
harm) that the sailors often rush upon deck fancying that they
have struck upon a rock; and the force which could give a ship,
floating in water, such a blow as that, would be strong enough to
hurl thousands of tons of water up the beach, and on to the land.

But there is another way of accounting for this great sea wave,
which I fancy comes true sometimes.

Suppose you put an empty india-rubber ball into water, and then
blow into it through a pipe. Of course, you know, as the ball
filled, the upper side of it would rise out of the water. Now,
suppose there were a party of little ants moving about upon that
ball, and fancying it a great island, or perhaps the whole world--
what would they think of the ball's filling and growing bigger?

If they could see the sides of the basin or tub in which the ball
was, and were sure that they did not move, then they would soon
judge by them that they themselves were moving, and that the ball
was rising out of the water. But if the ants were so short-
sighted that they could not see the sides of the basin, they would
be apt to make a mistake, because they would then be like men on
an island out of sight of any other land. Then it would be
impossible further to tell whether they were moving up, or whether
the water was moving down; whether their ball was rising out of
the water, or the water was sinking away from the ball. They
would probably say, "The water is sinking and leaving the ball

Do you understand that? Then think what would happen if you
pricked a hole in the ball. The air inside would come hissing
out, and the ball would sink again into the water. But the ants
would probably fancy the very opposite. Their little heads would
be full of the notion that the ball was solid and could not move,
just as our heads are full of the notion that the earth is solid
and cannot move; and they would say, "Ah! here is the water rising
again." Just so, I believe, when the sea seems to ebb away during
the earthquake, the land is really being raised out of the sea,
hundreds of miles of coast, perhaps, or a whole island, at once,
by the force of the steam and gas imprisoned under the ground.
That steam stretches and strains the solid rocks below, till they
can bear no more, and snap, and crack, with frightful roar and
clang; then out of holes and chasms in the ground rush steam,
gases--often foul and poisonous ones--hot water, mud, flame,
strange stones--all signs that the great boiler down below has
burst at last.

Then the strain is eased. The earth sinks together again, as the
ball did when it was pricked; and sinks lower, perhaps, than it
was before: and back rushes the sea, which the earth had thrust
away while it rose, and sweeps in, destroying all before it.

Of course, there is a great deal more to be said about all this:
but I have no time to tell you now. You will read it, I hope, for
yourselves when you grow up, in the writings of far wiser men than
I. Or perhaps you may feel for yourselves in foreign lands the
actual shock of a great earthquake, or see its work fresh done
around you. And if ever that happens, and you be preserved during
the danger, you will learn for yourself, I trust, more about
earthquakes than I can teach you, if you will only bear in mind
the simple general rules for understanding the "how" of them which
I have given you here.

But you do not seem satisfied yet? What is it that you want to

Oh! There was an earthquake here in England the other night,
while you were asleep; and that seems to you too near to be
pleasant. Will there ever be earthquakes in England which will
throw houses down, and bury people in the ruins?

My dear child, I think you may set your heart at rest upon that
point. As far as the history of England goes back, and that is
more than a thousand years, there is no account of any earthquake
which has done any serious damage, or killed, I believe, a single
human being. The little earthquakes which are sometimes felt in
England run generally up one line of country, from Devonshire
through Wales, and up the Severn valley into Cheshire and
Lancashire, and the south-west of Scotland; and they are felt more
smartly there, I believe, because the rocks are harder there than
here, and more tossed about by earthquakes which happened ages and
ages ago, long before man lived on the earth. I will show you the
work of these earthquakes some day, in the tilting and twisting of
the layers of rock, and in the cracks (faults, as they are called)
which run through them in different directions. I showed you some
once, if you recollect, in the chalk cliff at Ramsgate--two set of
cracks, sloping opposite ways, which I told you were made by two
separate sets of earthquakes, long, long ago, perhaps while the
chalk was still at the bottom of a deep sea. But even in the
rocky parts of England the earthquake-force seems to have all but
died out. Perhaps the crust of the earth has become too thick and
solid there to be much shaken by the gases and steam below. In
this eastern part of England, meanwhile, there is but little
chance that an earthquake will ever do much harm, because the
ground here, for thousands of feet down, is not hard and rocky,
but soft--sands, clays, chalk, and sands again; clays, soft
limestones, and clays again--which all act as buffers to deaden
the earthquake shocks, and deaden too the earthquake noise.

And how?

Put your ear to one end of a soft bolster, and let some one hit
the other end. You will hear hardly any noise, and will not feel
the blow at all. Put your ear to one end of a hard piece of wood,
and let some one hit the other. You will hear a smart tap; and
perhaps feel a smart tap, too. When you are older, and learn the
laws of sound, and of motion among the particles of bodies, you
will know why. Meanwhile you may comfort yourself with the
thought that Madam How has (doubtless by command of Lady Why)
prepared a safe soft bed for this good people of Britain--not that
they may lie and sleep on it, but work and till, plant and build
and manufacture, and thrive in peace and comfort, we will trust
and pray, for many a hundred years to come. All that the steam
inside the earth is likely to do to us, is to raise parts of this
island (as Hartford Bridge Flats were raised, ages ago, out of the
old icy sea) so slowly, probably, that no man can tell whether
they are rising or not. Or again, the steam-power may be even now
dying out under our island, and letting parts of it sink slowly
into the sea, as some wise friends of mine think that the fens in
Norfolk and Cambridgeshire are sinking now. I have shown you
where that kind of work has gone on in Norfolk; how the brow of
Sandringham Hill was once a sea-cliff, and Dersingham Bog at its
foot a shallow sea; and therefore that the land has risen there.
How, again, at Hunstanton Station there is a beach of sea-shells
twenty feet above high-water mark, showing that the land has risen
there likewise. And how, farther north again, at Brancaster,
there are forests of oak, and fir, and alder, with their roots
still in the soil, far below high-water mark, and only uncovered
at low tide; which is a plain sign that there the land has sunk.
You surely recollect the sunken forest at Brancaster, and the
beautiful shells we picked up in its gullies, and the millions of
live Pholases boring into the clay and peat which once was firm
dry land, fed over by giant oxen, and giant stags likewise, and
perhaps by the mammoth himself, the great woolly elephant whose
teeth the fishermen dredge up in the sea outside? You recollect
that? Then remember that as that Norfolk shore has changed, so
slowly but surely is the whole world changing around us. Hartford
Bridge Flat here, for instance, how has it changed! Ages ago it
was the gravelly bottom of a sea. Then the steam-power
underground raised it up slowly, through long ages, till it became
dry land. And ages hence, perhaps, it will have become a sea-
bottom once more. Washed slowly by the rain, or sunk by the dying
out of the steam-power underground, it will go down again to the
place from whence it came. Seas will roll where we stand now, and
new lands will rise where seas now roll. For all things on this
earth, from the tiniest flower to the tallest mountain, change and
change all day long. Every atom of matter moves perpetually; and
nothing "continues in one stay." The solid-seeming earth on which
you stand is but a heaving bubble, bursting ever and anon in this
place and in that. Only above all, and through all, and with all,
is One who does not move nor change, but is the same yesterday,
to-day, and for ever. And on Him, my child, and not on this
bubble of an earth, do you and I, and all mankind, depend.

But I have not yet told you why the Peruvians ought to have
expected an earthquake. True. I will tell you another time.


You want to know why the Spaniards in Peru and Ecuador should have
expected an earthquake.

Because they had had so many already. The shaking of the ground
in their country had gone on perpetually, till they had almost
ceased to care about it, always hoping that no very heavy shock
would come; and being, now and then, terribly mistaken.

For instance, in the province of Quito, in the year 1797, from
thirty to forty thousand people were killed at once by an
earthquake. One would have thought that warning enough: but the
warning was not taken: and now, this very year, thousands more
have been killed in the very same country, in the very same way.

They might have expected as much. For their towns are built, most
of them, close to volcanos--some of the highest and most terrible
in the world. And wherever there are volcanos there will be
earthquakes. You may have earthquakes without volcanos, now and
then; but volcanos without earthquakes, seldom or never.

How does that come to pass? Does a volcano make earthquakes? No;
we may rather say that earthquakes are trying to make volcanos.
For volcanos are the holes which the steam underground has burst
open that it may escape into the air above. They are the chimneys
of the great blast-furnaces underground, in which Madam How pounds
and melts up the old rocks, to make them into new ones, and spread
them out over the land above.

And are there many volcanos in the world? You have heard of
Vesuvius, of course, in Italy; and Etna, in Sicily; and Hecla, in
Iceland. And you have heard, too, of Kilauea, in the Sandwich
Islands, and of Pele's Hair--the yellow threads of lava, like fine
spun glass, which are blown from off its pools of fire, and which
the Sandwich Islanders believed to be the hair of a goddess who
lived in the crater;--and you have read, too, I hope, in Miss
Yonge's Book of Golden Deeds, the noble story of the Christian
chieftainess who, in order to persuade her subjects to become
Christians also, went down into the crater and defied the goddess
of the volcano, and came back unhurt and triumphant.

But if you look at the map, you will see that there are many, many
more. Get Keith Johnston's Physical Atlas from the schoolroom--of
course it is there (for a schoolroom without a physical atlas is
like a needle without an eye)--and look at the map which is called
"Phenomena of Volcanic Action."

You will see in it many red dots, which mark the volcanos which
are still burning: and black dots, which mark those which have
been burning at some time or other, not very long ago, scattered
about the world. Sometimes they are single, like the red dot at
Otaheite, or at Easter Island in the Pacific. Sometimes the are
in groups, or clusters, like the cluster at the Sandwich Islands,
or in the Friendly Islands, or in New Zealand. And if we look in
the Atlantic, we shall see four clusters: one in poor half-
destroyed Iceland, in the far north, one in the Azores, one in the
Canaries, and one in the Cape de Verds. And there is one dot in
those Canaries which we must not overlook, for it is no other than
the famous Peak of Teneriffe, a volcano which is hardly burnt out
yet, and may burn up again any day, standing up out of the sea
more than 12,000 feet high still, and once it must have been
double that height. Some think that it is perhaps the true Mount
Atlas, which the old Greeks named when first they ventured out of
the Straits of Gibraltar down the coast of Africa, and saw the
great peak far to the westward, with the clouds cutting off its
top; and said that it was a mighty giant, the brother of the
Evening Star, who held up the sky upon his shoulders, in the midst
of the Fortunate Islands, the gardens of the daughter of the
Evening Star, full of strange golden fruits; and that Perseus had
turned him into stone, when he passed him with the Gorgon's Head.

But you will see, too, that most of these red and black dots run
in crooked lines; and that many of the clusters run in lines

Look at one line: by far the largest on the earth. You will
learn a good deal of geography from it.

The red dots begin at a place called the Terribles, on the east
side of the Bay of Bengal. They run on, here and there, along the
islands of Sumatra and Java, and through the Spice Islands; and at
New Guinea the line of red dots forks. One branch runs south-
east, through islands whose names you never heard, to the Friendly
Islands, and to New Zealand. The other runs north, through the
Philippines, through Japan, through Kamschatka; and then there is
a little break of sea, between Asia and America: but beyond it,
the red dots begin again in the Aleutian Islands, and then turn
down the whole west coast of America, down from Mount Elias (in
what was, till lately, Russian America) towards British Columbia.
Then, after a long gap, there are one or two in Lower California
(and we must not forget the terrible earthquake which has just
shaken San Francisco, between those two last places); and when we
come down to Mexico we find the red dots again plentiful, and only
too plentiful; for they mark the great volcanic line of Mexico, of
which you will read, I hope, some day, in Humboldt's works. But
the line does not stop there. After the little gap of the Isthmus
of Panama, it begins again in Quito, the very country which has
just been shaken, and in which stand the huge volcanos Chimborazo,
Pasto, Antisana, Cotopaxi, Pichincha, Tunguragua,--smooth cones
from 15,000 to 20,000 feet high, shining white with snow, till the
heat inside melts it off, and leaves the cinders of which the
peaks are made all black and ugly among the clouds, ready to burst
in smoke and fire. South of them again, there is a long gap, and
then another line of red dots--Arequiba, Chipicani, Gualatieri,
Atacama,--as high as, or higher than those in Quito; and this,
remember, is the other country which has just been shaken. On the
sea-shore below those volcanos stood the hapless city of Arica,
whose ruins we saw in the picture. Then comes another gap; and
then a line of more volcanos in Chili, at the foot of which
happened that fearful earthquake of 1835 (besides many more) of
which you will read some day in that noble book The Voyage of the
Beagle; and so the line of dots runs down to the southernmost
point of America.

What a line we have traced! Long enough to go round the world if
it were straight. A line of holes out of which steam, and heat,
and cinders, and melted stones are rushing up, perpetually, in one
place and another. Now the holes in this line which are near each
other have certainly something to do with each other. For
instance, when the earth shook the other day round the volcanos of
Quito, it shook also round the volcanos of Peru, though they were
600 miles away. And there are many stories of earthquakes being
felt, or awful underground thunder heard, while volcanos were
breaking out hundreds of miles away. I will give you a very
curious instance of that.

If you look at the West Indies on the map, you will see a line of
red dots runs through the Windward Islands: there are two
volcanos in them, one in Guadaloupe, and one in St. Vincent (I
will tell you a curious story, presently, about that last), and
little volcanos (if they have ever been real volcanos at all),
which now only send out mud, in Trinidad. There the red dots
stop: but then begins along the north coast of South America a
line of mountain country called Cumana, and Caraccas, which has
often been horribly shaken by earthquakes. Now once, when the
volcano in St. Vincent began to pour out a vast stream of melted
lava, a noise like thunder was heard underground, over thousands
of square miles beyond those mountains, in the plains of Calabozo,
and on the banks of the Apure, more than 600 miles away from the
volcano,--a plain sign that there was something underground which
joined them together, perhaps a long crack in the earth. Look for
yourselves at the places, and you will see that (as Humboldt says)
it is as strange as if an eruption of Mount Vesuvius was heard in
the north of France.

So it seems as if these lines of volcanos stood along cracks in
the rind of the earth, through which the melted stuff inside was
for ever trying to force its way; and that, as the crack got
stopped up in one place by the melted stuff cooling and hardening
again into stone, it was burst in another place, and a fresh
volcano made, or an old one re-opened.

Now we can understand why earthquakes should be most common round
volcanos; and we can understand, too, why they would be worst
before a volcano breaks out, because then the steam is trying to
escape; and we can understand, too, why people who live near
volcanos are glad to see them blazing and spouting, because then
they have hope that the steam has found its way out, and will not
make earthquakes any more for a while. But still that is merely
foolish speculation on chance. Volcanos can never be trusted. No
one knows when one will break out, or what it will do; and those
who live close to them--as the city of Naples is close to Mount
Vesuvius--must not be astonished if they are blown up or swallowed
up, as that great and beautiful city of Naples may be without a
warning, any day.

For what happened to that same Mount Vesuvius nearly 1800 years
ago, in the old Roman times? For ages and ages it had been lying
quiet, like any other hill. Beautiful cities were built at its
foot, filled with people who were as handsome, and as comfortable,
and (I am afraid) as wicked, as people ever were on earth. Fair
gardens, vineyards, olive-yards, covered the mountain slopes. It
was held to be one of the Paradises of the world. As for the
mountain's being a burning mountain, who ever thought of that? To
be sure, on the top of it was a great round crater, or cup, a mile
or more across, and a few hundred yards deep. But that was all
overgrown with bushes and wild vines, full of boars and deer.
What sign of fire was there in that? To be sure, also, there was
an ugly place below by the sea-shore, called the Phlegraen fields,
where smoke and brimstone came out of the ground, and a lake
called Avernus over which poisonous gases hung, and which (old
stories told) was one of the mouths of the Nether Pit. But what
of that? It had never harmed any one, and how could it harm them?

So they all lived on, merrily and happily enough, till, in the
year A.D. 79 (that was eight years, you know, after the Emperor
Titus destroyed Jerusalem), there was stationed in the Bay of
Naples a Roman admiral, called Pliny, who was also a very studious
and learned man, and author of a famous old book on natural
history. He was staying on shore with his sister; and as he sat
in his study she called him out to see a strange cloud which had
been hanging for some time over the top of Mount Vesuvius. It was
in shape just like a pine-tree; not, of course, like one of our
branching Scotch firs here, but like an Italian stone pine, with a
long straight stem and a flat parasol-shaped top. Sometimes it
was blackish, sometimes spotted; and the good Admiral Pliny, who
was always curious about natural science, ordered his cutter and
went away across the bay to see what it could be. Earthquake
shocks had been very common for the last few days; but I do not
suppose that Pliny had any notion that the earthquakes and the
cloud had aught to do with each other. However, he soon found out
that they had, and to his cost. When he got near the opposite
shore some of the sailors met him and entreated him to turn back.
Cinders and pumice-stones were falling down from the sky, and
flames breaking out of the mountain above. But Pliny would go on:
he said that if people were in danger, it was his duty to help
them; and that he must see this strange cloud, and note down the
different shapes into which it changed. But the hot ashes fell
faster and faster; the sea ebbed out suddenly, and left them
nearly dry, and Pliny turned away to a place called Stabiae, to
the house of his friend Pomponianus, who was just going to escape
in a boat. Brave Pliny told him not to be afraid, ordered his
bath like a true Roman gentleman, and then went into dinner with a
cheerful face. Flames came down from the mountain, nearer and
nearer as the night drew on; but Pliny persuaded his friend that
they were only fires in some villages from which the peasants had
fled, and then went to bed and slept soundly. However, in the
middle of the night they found the courtyard being fast filled
with cinders, and, if they had not woke up the Admiral in time, he
would never have been able to get out of the house. The
earthquake shocks grew stronger and fiercer, till the house was
ready to fall; and Pliny and his friend, and the sailors and the
slaves, all fled into the open fields, amid a shower of stones and
cinders, tying pillows over their heads to prevent their being
beaten down. The day had come by this time, but not the dawn--for
it was still pitch dark as night. They went down to their boats
upon the shore; but the sea raged so horribly that there was no
getting on board of them. Then Pliny grew tired, and made his men
spread a sail for him, and lay down on it; but there came down
upon them a rush of flames, and a horrible smell of sulphur, and
all ran for their lives. Some of the slaves tried to help the
Admiral upon his legs; but he sank down again overpowered with the
brimstone fumes, and so was left behind. When they came back
again, there he lay dead, but with his clothes in order and his
face as quiet as if he had been only sleeping. And that was the
end of a brave and learned man--a martyr to duty and to the love
of science.

But what was going on in the meantime? Under clouds of ashes,
cinders, mud, lava, three of those happy cities were buried at
once--Herculaneum, Pompeii, Stabiae. They were buried just as the
people had fled from them, leaving the furniture and the
earthenware, often even jewels and gold, behind, and here and
there among them a human being who had not had time to escape from
the dreadful deluge of dust. The ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii
have been dug into since; and the paintings, especially in
Pompeii, are found upon the walls still fresh, preserved from the
air by the ashes which have covered them in. When you are older
you perhaps will go to Naples, and see in its famous museum the
curiosities which have been dug out of the ruined cities; and you
will walk, I suppose, along the streets of Pompeii and see the
wheel-tracks in the pavement, along which carts and chariots
rumbled 2000 years ago. Meanwhile, if you go nearer home, to the
Crystal Palace and to the Pompeian Court, as it is called, you
will see an exact model of one of these old buried houses, copied
even to the very paintings on the wells, and judge for yourself,
as far as a little boy can judge, what sort of life these
thoughtless, luckless people lived 2000 years ago.

And what had become of Vesuvius, the treacherous mountain? Half
or more than half of the side of the old crater had been blown
away, and what was left, which is now called the Monte Somma,
stands in a half circle round the new cone and new crater which is
burning at this very day. True, after that eruption which killed
Pliny, Vesuvius fell asleep again, and did not awake for 134
years, and then again for 269 years but it has been growing more
and more restless as the ages have passed on, and now hardly a
year passes without its sending out smoke and stones from its
crater, and streams of lava from its sides.

And now, I suppose, you will want to know what a volcano is like,
and what a cone, and a crater, and lava are?

What a volcano is like, it is easy enough to show you; for they
are the most simply and beautifully shaped of all mountains, and
they are alike all over the world, whether they be large or small.
Almost every volcano in the world, I believe, is, or has been
once, of the shape which you see in the drawing opposite; even
those volcanos in the Sandwich Islands, of which you have often
heard, which are now great lakes of boiling fire upon flat downs,
without any cone to them at all. They, I believe, are volcanos
which have fallen in ages ago: just as in Java a whole burning
mountain fell in on the night of the 11th of August, in the year
1772. Then, after a short and terrible earthquake, a bright cloud
suddenly covered the whole mountain. The people who dwelt around
it tried to escape; but before the poor souls could get away the
earth sunk beneath their feet, and the whole mountain fell in and
was swallowed up with a noise as if great cannon were being fired.
Forty villages and nearly 3000 people were destroyed, and where
the mountain had been was only a plain of red-hot stones. In the
same way, in the year 1698, the top of a mountain in Quito fell in
in a single night, leaving only two immense peaks of rock behind,
and pouring out great floods of mud mixed with dead fish; for
there are underground lakes among those volcanos which swarm with
little fish which never see the light.

But most volcanos as I say, are, or have been, the shape of the
one which you see here. This is Cotopaxi, in Quito, more than
19,000 feet in height. All those sloping sides are made of
cinders and ashes, braced together, I suppose, by bars of solid
lava-stone inside, which prevent the whole from crumbling down.
The upper part, you see, is white with snow, as far down as a line
which is 15,000 feet above the sea; for the mountain is in the
tropics, close to the equator, and the snow will not lie in that
hot climate any lower down. But now and then the snow melts off
and rushes down the mountain side in floods of water and of mud,
and the cindery cone of Cotopaxi stands out black and dreadful
against the clear blue sky, and then the people of that country
know what is coming. The mountain is growing so hot inside that
it melts off its snowy covering; and soon it will burst forth with
smoke and steam, and red-hot stones and earthquakes, which will
shake the ground, and roars that will be heard, it may be,
hundreds of miles away.

And now for the words cone, crater, lava. If I can make you
understand those words, you will see why volcanos must be in
general of the shape of Cotopaxi.

Cone, crater, lava: those words make up the alphabet of volcano
learning. The cone is the outside of a huge chimney; the crater
is the mouth of it. The lava is the ore which is being melted in
the furnace below, that it may flow out over the surface of the
old land, and make new land instead.

And where is the furnace itself? Who can tell that? Under the
roots of the mountains, under the depths of the sea; down "the
path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not
seen: the lion's whelp hath not trodden it, nor the fierce lion
passed by it. There He putteth forth His hand upon the rock; He
overturneth the mountain by the roots; He cutteth out rivers among
the rocks; and His eye seeth every precious thing"--while we, like
little ants, run up and down outside the earth, scratching, like
ants, a few feet down, and calling that a deep ravine; or peeping
a few feet down into the crater of a volcano, unable to guess what
precious things may lie below--below even the fire which blazes
and roars up through the thin crust of the earth. For of the
inside of this earth we know nothing whatsoever: we only know
that it is, on an average, several times as heavy as solid rock;
but how that can be, we know not.

So let us look at the chimney, and what comes out of it; for we
can see very little more.

Why is a volcano like a cone?

For the same cause for which a molehill is like a cone, though a
very rough one; and that the little heaps which the burrowing
beetles make on the moor, or which the ant-lions in France make in
the sand, are all something in the shape of a cone, with a hole
like a crater in the middle. What the beetle and the ant-lion do
on a very little scale, the steam inside the earth does on a great
scale. When once it has forced a vent into the outside air, it
tears out the rocks underground, grinds them small against each
other, often into the finest dust, and blasts them out of the hole
which it has made. Some of them fall back into the hole, and are
shot out again: but most of them fall round the hole, most of
them close to it, and fewer of them farther off, till they are
piled up in a ring round it, just as the sand is piled up round a
beetle's burrow. For days, and weeks, and months this goes on;
even it may be for hundreds of years: till a great cone is formed
round the steam vent, hundreds or thousands of feet in height, of
dust and stones, and of cinders likewise. For recollect, that
when the steam has blown away the cold earth and rock near the
surface of the ground, it begins blowing out the hot rocks down
below, red-hot, white-hot, and at last actually melted. But
these, as they are hurled into the cool air above, become ashes,
cinders, and blocks of stone again, making the hill on which they
fall bigger and bigger continually. And thus does wise Madam How
stand in no need of bricklayers, but makes her chimneys build

And why is the mouth of the chimney called a crater?

Crater, as you know, is Greek for a cup. And the mouth of these
chimneys, when they have become choked and stopped working, are
often just the shape of a cup, or (as the Germans call them)
kessels, which means kettles, or caldrons. I have seen some of
them as beautifully and exactly rounded as if a cunning engineer
had planned them, and had them dug out with the spade. At first,
of course, their sides and bottom are nothing but loose stones,
cinders, slag, ashes, such as would be thrown out of a furnace.
But Madam How, who, whenever she makes an ugly desolate place,
always tries to cover over its ugliness, and set something green
to grow over it, and make it pretty once more, does so often and
often by her worn-out craters. I have seen them covered with
short sweet turf, like so many chalk downs. I have seen them,
too, filled with bushes, which held woodcocks and wild boars.
Once I came on a beautiful round crater on the top of a mountain,
which was filled at the bottom with a splendid crop of potatoes.
Though Madam How had not put them there herself, she had at least
taught the honest Germans to put them there. And often Madam How
turns her worn-out craters into beautiful lakes. There are many
such crater-lakes in Italy, as you will see if ever you go there;
as you may see in English galleries painted by Wilson, a famous
artist who died before you were born. You recollect Lord
Macaulay's ballad, "The Battle of the Lake Regillus"? Then that
Lake Regillus (if I recollect right) is one of these round crater
lakes. Many such deep clear blue lakes have I seen in the Eifel,
in Germany; and many a curious plant have I picked on their
shores, where once the steam blasted, and the earthquake roared,
and the ash-clouds rushed up high into the heaven, and buried all
the land around in dust, which is now fertile soil. And long did
I puzzle to find out why the water stood in some craters, while
others, within a mile of them perhaps, were perfectly dry. That I
never found out for myself. But learned men tell me that the
ashes which fall back into the crater, if the bottom of it be wet
from rain, will sometimes "set" (as it is called) into a hard
cement; and so make the bottom of the great bowl waterproof, as if
it were made of earthenware.

But what gives the craters this cup-shape at first?

Think--While the steam and stones are being blown out, the crater
is an open funnel, with more or less upright walls inside. As the
steam grows weaker, fewer and fewer stones fall outside, and more
and more fall back again inside. At last they quite choke up the
bottom of the great round hole. Perhaps, too, the lava or melted
rock underneath cools and grows hard, and that chokes up the hole
lower down. Then, down from the round edge of the crater the
stones and cinders roll inward more and more. The rains wash them
down, the wind blows them down. They roll to the middle, and meet
each other, and stop. And so gradually the steep funnel becomes a
round cup. You may prove for yourself that it must be so, if you
will try. Do you not know that if you dig a round hole in the
ground, and leave it to crumble in, it is sure to become cup-
shaped at last, though at first its sides may have been quite
upright, like those of a bucket? If you do not know, get a trowel
and make your little experiment.

And now you ought to understand what "cone" and "crater" mean.
And more, if you will think for yourself, you may guess what would
come out of a volcano when it broke out "in an eruption," as it is
usually called. First, clouds of steam and dust (what you would
call smoke); then volleys of stones, some cool, some burning hot;
and at the last, because it lies lowest of all, the melted rock
itself, which is called lava.

And where would that come out? At the top of the chimney? At the
top of the cone?

No. Madam How, as I told you, usually makes things make
themselves. She has made the chimney of the furnace make itself;
and next she will make the furnace-door make itself.

The melted lava rises in the crater--the funnel inside the cone--
but it never gets to the top. It is so enormously heavy that the
sides of the cone cannot bear its weight, and give way low down.
And then, through ashes and cinders, the melted lava burrows out,
twisting and twirling like an enormous fiery earth-worm, till it
gets to the air outside, and runs off down the mountain in a
stream of fire. And so you may see (as are to be seen on Vesuvius
now) two eruptions at once--one of burning stones above, and one
of melted lava below.

And what is lava?

That, I think, I must tell you another time. For when I speak of
it I shall have to tell you more about Madam How, and her ways of
making the ground on which you stand, than I can say just now.
But if you want to know (as I dare say you do) what the eruption
of a volcano is like, you may read what follows. I did not see it
happen; for I never had the good fortune of seeing a mountain
burning, though I have seen many and many a one which has been
burnt--extinct volcanos, as they are called.

The man who saw it--a very good friend of mine, and a very good
man of science also--went last year to see an eruption on
Vesuvius, not from the main crater, but from a small one which had
risen up suddenly on the outside of it; and he gave me leave (when
I told him that I was writing for children) to tell them what he

This new cone, he said, was about 200 feet high, and perhaps 80 or
100 feet across at the top. And as he stood below it (it was not
safe to go up it) smoke rolled up from its top, "rosy pink below,"
from the glare of the caldron, and above "faint greenish or
blueish silver of indescribable beauty, from the light of the
moon." But more--By good chance, the cone began to send out, not
smoke only, but brilliant burning stones. "Each explosion," he
says, "was like a vast girandole of rockets, with a noise (such as
rockets would make) like the waves on a beach, or the wind blowing
through shrouds. The mountain was trembling the whole time. So
it went on for two hours and more; sometimes eight or ten
explosions in a minute, and more than 1000 stones in each, some as
large as two bricks end to end. The largest ones mostly fell back
into the crater; but the smaller ones being thrown higher, and
more acted on by the wind, fell in immense numbers on the leeward
slope of the cone" (of course, making it bigger and bigger, as I
have explained already to you), and of course, as they were
intensely hot and bright, making the cone look as if it too was
red-hot. But it was not so, he says, really. The colour of the
stones was rather "golden, and they spotted the black cone over
with their golden showers, the smaller ones stopping still, the
bigger ones rolling down, and jumping along just like hares." "A
wonderful pedestal," he says, "for the explosion which surmounted
it." How high the stones flew up he could not tell. "There was
generally one which went much higher than the rest, and pierced
upwards towards the moon, who looked calmly down, mocking such
vain attempts to reach her." The large stones, of course, did not
rise so high; and some, he says, "only just appeared over the rim
of the cone, above which they came floating leisurely up, to show
their brilliant forms and intense white light for an instant, and
then subside again."

Try and picture that to yourselves, remembering that this was only
a little side eruption, of no more importance to the whole
mountain than the fall of a slate off the roof is of importance to
the whole house. And then think how mean and weak man's
fireworks, and even man's heaviest artillery, are compared with
the terrible beauty and terrible strength of Madam How's artillery
underneath our feet.

/ | \
/ | \
A /---+---\ E
/ | \
/-----+-----\ E
Ground / | B \ Ground
---------/ | \------------
| D | | D | D |
| | | | |

Now look at this figure. It represents a section of a volcano;
that is, one cut in half to show you the inside. A is the cone of
cinders. B, the black line up through the middle, is the funnel,
or crack, through which steam, ashes, lava, and everything else
rises. C is the crater mouth. D D D, which looks broken, are the
old rocks which the steam heaved up and burst before it could get
out. And what are the black lines across, marked E E E? They are
the streams of lava which have burrowed out, some covered up again
in cinders, some lying bare in the open air, some still inside the
cone, bracing it together, holding it up. Something like this is
the inside of a volcano.


Why, you ask, are there such terrible things as volcanos? Of what
use can they be?

They are of use enough, my child; and of many more uses, doubt
not, than we know as yet, or ever shall know. But of one of their
uses I can tell you.

They make, or help to make, divers and sundry curious things, from
gunpowder to your body and mine.

What? I can understand their helping to make gunpowder, because
the sulphur in it is often found round volcanos; and I know the
story of the brave Spaniard who, when his fellows wanted materials
for gunpowder, had himself lowered in a basket down the crater of
a South American volcano, and gathered sulphur for them off the
burning cliffs: but how can volcanos help to make me? Am I made
of lava? Or is there lava in me?

My child, I did not say that volcanos helped to make you. I said
that they helped to make your body; which is a very different
matter, as I beg you to remember, now and always. Your body is no
more you yourself than the hoop which you trundle, or the pony
which you ride. It is, like them, your servant, your tool, your
instrument, your organ, with which you work: and a very useful,
trusty, cunningly-contrived organ it is; and therefore I advise
you to make good use of it, for you are responsible for it. But
you yourself are not your body, or your brain, but something else,
which we call your soul, your spirit, your life. And that "you
yourself" would remain just the same if it were taken out of your
body, and put into the body of a bee, or of a lion, or any other
body; or into no body at all. At least so I believe; and so, I am
happy to say, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand nine hundred
and ninety-nine people out of every million have always believed,
because they have used their human instincts and their common
sense, and have obeyed (without knowing it) the warning of a great
and good philosopher called Herder, that "The organ is in no case
the power which works by it;" which is as much as to say, that the
engine is not the engine-driver, nor the spade the gardener.

There have always been, and always will be, a few people who
cannot see that. They think that a man's soul is part of his
body, and that he himself is not one thing, but a great number of
things. They think that his mind and character are only made up
of all the thoughts, and feelings, and recollections which have
passed through his brain; and that as his brain changes, he
himself must change, and become another person, and then another
person again, continually. But do you not agree with them: but
keep in mind wise Herder's warning that you are not to "confound
the organ with the power," or the engine with the driver, or your
body with yourself: and then we will go on and consider how a
volcano, and the lava which flows from it, helps to make your

Now I know that the Scotch have a saying, "That you cannot make
broth out of whinstones" (which is their name for lava). But,
though they are very clever people, they are wrong there. I never
saw any broth in Scotland, as far as I know, but what whinstones
had gone to the making of it; nor a Scotch boy who had not eaten
many a bit of whinstone, and been all the better for it.

Of course, if you simply put the whinstones into a kettle and
boiled them, you would not get much out of them by such rough
cookery as that. But Madam How is the best and most delicate of
all cooks; and she knows how to pound, and soak, and stew
whinstones so delicately, that she can make them sauce and
seasoning for meat, vegetables, puddings, and almost everything
that you eat; and can put into your veins things which were
spouted up red-hot by volcanos, ages and ages since, perhaps at
the bottom of ancient seas which are now firm dry land.

This is very strange--as all Madam How's doings are. And you
would think it stranger still if you had ever seen the flowing of
a lava stream.

Out of a cave of slag and cinders in the black hillside rushes a
golden river, flowing like honey, and yet so tough that you cannot
thrust a stick into it, and so heavy that great stones (if you
throw them on it) float on the top, and are carried down like
corks on water. It is so hot that you cannot stand near it more
than a few seconds; hotter, perhaps, than any fire you ever saw:
but as it flows, the outside of it cools in the cool air, and gets
covered with slag and cinders, something like those which you may
see thrown out of the furnaces in the Black Country of
Staffordshire. Sometimes these cling together above the lava
stream, and make a tunnel, through the cracks in which you may see
the fiery river rushing and roaring down below. But mostly they
are kept broken and apart, and roll and slide over each other on
the top of the lava, crashing and clanging as they grind together
with a horrid noise. Of course that stream, like all streams,
runs towards the lower grounds. It slides down glens, and fills
them up; down the beds of streams, driving off the water in
hissing steam; and sometimes (as it did in Iceland a few years
ago) falls over some cliff, turning what had been a water-fall
into a fire-fall, and filling up the pool below with blocks of
lava suddenly cooled, with a clang and roar like that of chains
shaken or brazen vessels beaten, which is heard miles and miles
away. Of course, woe to the crops and gardens which stand in its
way. It crawls over them all and eats them up. It shoves down
houses; it sets woods on fire, and sends the steam and gas out of
the tree-trunks hissing into the air. And (curiously enough) it
does this often without touching the trees themselves. It flows
round the trunks (it did so in a wood in the Sandwich Islands a
few years ago), and of course sets them on fire by its heat, till

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