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

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nothing is left of them but blackened posts. But the moisture
which comes out of the poor tree in steam blows so hard against
the lava round that it can never touch the tree, and a round hole
is left in the middle of the lava where the tree was. Sometimes,
too, the lava will spit out liquid fire among the branches of the
trees, which hangs down afterwards from them in tassels of slag,
and yet, by the very same means, the steam in the branches will
prevent the liquid fire burning them off, or doing anything but
just scorch the bark.

But I can tell you a more curious story still. The lava stream,
you must know, is continually sending out little jets of gas and
steam: some of it it may have brought up from the very inside of
the earth; most of it, I suspect, comes from the damp herbage and
damp soil over which it runs. Be that as it may, a lava stream
out of Mount Etna, in Sicily, came once down straight upon the
town of Catania. Everybody thought that the town would be
swallowed up; and the poor people there (who knew no better) began
to pray to St. Agatha--a famous saint, who, they say, was martyred
there ages ago--and who, they fancy, has power in heaven to save
them from the lava stream. And really what happened was enough to
make ignorant people, such as they were, think that St. Agatha had
saved them. The lava stream came straight down upon the town
wall. Another foot, and it would have touched it, and have begun
shoving it down with a force compared with which all the
battering-rams that you ever read of in ancient histories would be
child's toys. But lo and behold! when the lava stream got within
a few inches of the wall it stopped, and began to rear itself
upright and build itself into a wall beside the wall. It rose and
rose, till I believe in one place it overtopped the wall and began
to curl over in a crest. All expected that it would fall over
into the town at last: but no, there it stopped, and cooled, and
hardened, and left the town unhurt. All the inhabitants said, of
course, that St. Agatha had done it: but learned men found out
that, as usual Madam How had done it, by making it do itself. The
lava was so full of gas, which was continually blowing out in
little jets, that when it reached the wall, it actually blew
itself back from the wall; and, as the wall was luckily strong
enough not to be blown down, the lava kept blowing itself back
till it had time to cool. And so, my dear child, there was no
miracle at all in the matter; and the poor people of Catania had
to thank not St. Agatha, and any interference of hers, but simply
Him who can preserve, just as He can destroy, by those laws of
nature which are the breath of His mouth and the servants of His

But in many a case the lava does not stop. It rolls on and on
over the downs and through the valleys, till it reaches the sea-
shore, as it did in Hawaii in the Sandwich Islands this very year.
And then it cools, of course; but often not before it has killed
the fish by its sulphurous gases and heat, perhaps for miles
around. And there is good reason to believe that the fossil fish
which we so often find in rocks, perfect in every bone, lying
sometimes in heaps, and twisted (as I have seen them) as if they
had died suddenly and violently, were killed in this very way,
either by heat from lava streams, or else by the bursting up of
gases poisoning the water, in earthquakes and eruptions in the
bottom of the sea. I could tell you many stories of fish being
killed in thousands by earthquakes and volcanos during the last
few years. But we have not time to tell about everything

And now you will ask me, with more astonishment than ever, what
possible use can there be in these destroying streams of fire?
And certainly, if you had ever seen a lava stream even when cool,
and looked down, as I have done, at the great river of rough black
blocks streaming away far and wide over the land, you would think
it the most hideous and the most useless thing you ever saw. And
yet, my dear child, there is One who told men to judge not
according to the appearance, but to judge righteous judgment. He
said that about matters spiritual and human: but it is quite as
true about matters natural, which also are His work, and all obey
His will.

Now if you had seen, as I have seen, close round the edges of
these lava streams, and sometimes actually upon them, or upon the
great bed of dust and ashes which have been hurled far and wide
out of ancient volcanos, happy homesteads, rich crops, hemp and
flax, and wheat, tobacco, lucerne, roots, and vineyards laden with
white and purple grapes, you would have begun to suspect that the
lava streams were not, after all, such very bad neighbours. And
when I tell you that volcanic soils (as they are called), that is,
soil which has at first been lava or ashes, are generally the
richest soils in the world--that, for instance (as some one told
me the other day), there is soil in the beautiful island of
Madeira so thin that you cannot dig more than two or three inches
down without coming to the solid rock of lava, or what is harder
even, obsidian (which is the black glass which volcanos sometimes
make, and which the old Mexicans used to chip into swords and
arrows, because they had no steel)--and that this soil, thin as it
is, is yet so fertile, that in it used to be grown the grapes of
which the famous Madeira wine was made--when you remember this,
and when you remember, too, the Lothians of Scotland (about which
I shall have to say a little to you just now), then you will
perhaps agree with me, that Lady Why has not been so very wrong in
setting Madam How to pour out lava and ashes upon the surface of
the earth.

For see--down below, under the roots of the mountains, Madam How
works continually like a chemist in his laboratory, melting
together all the rocks, which are the bones and leavings of the
old worlds. If they stayed down below there, they would be of no
use; while they will be of use up here in the open air. For, year
by year--by the washing of rain and rivers, and also, I am sorry
to say, by the ignorant and foolish waste of mankind--thousands
and millions of tons of good stuff are running into the sea every
year, which would, if it could be kept on land, make food for men
and animals, plants and trees. So, in order to supply the
continual waste of this upper world, Madam How is continually
melting up the under world, and pouring it out of the volcanos
like manure, to renew the face of the earth. In these lava rocks
and ashes which she sends up there are certain substances, without
which men cannot live--without which a stalk of corn or grass
cannot grow. Without potash, without magnesia, both of which are
in your veins and mine--without silicates (as they are called),
which give flint to the stems of corn and of grass, and so make
them stiff and hard, and able to stand upright--and very probably
without the carbonic acid gas, which comes out of the volcanos,
and is taken up by the leaves of plants, and turned by Madam How's
cookery into solid wood--without all these things, and I suspect
without a great many more things which come out of volcanos--I do
not see how this beautiful green world could get on at all.

Of course, when the lava first cools on the surface of the ground
it is hard enough, and therefore barren enough. But Madam How
sets to work upon it at once, with that delicate little water-
spade of hers, which we call rain, and with that alone, century
after century, and age after age, she digs the lava stream down,
atom by atom, and silts it over the country round in rich manure.
So that if Madam How has been a rough and hasty workwoman in
pumping her treasures up out of her mine with her great steam-
pumps, she shows herself delicate and tender and kindly enough in
giving them away afterwards.

Nay, even the fine dust which is sometimes blown out of volcanos
is useful to countries far away. So light it is, that it rises
into the sky and is wafted by the wind across the seas. So, in
the year 1783, ashes from the Skaptar Jokull, in Iceland, were
carried over the north of Scotland, and even into Holland,
hundreds of miles to the south.

So, again, when in the year 1812 the volcano of St. Vincent, in
the West India Islands, poured out torrents of lava, after mighty
earthquakes which shook all that part of the world, a strange
thing happened (about which I have often heard from those who saw
it) in the island of Barbados, several hundred miles away. For
when the sun rose in the morning (it was a Sunday morning), the
sky remained more dark than any night, and all the poor negroes
crowded terrified out of their houses into the streets, fancying
the end of the world was come. But a learned man who was there,
finding that, though the sun was risen, it was still pitchy dark,
opened his window, and found that it was stuck fast by something
on the ledge outside, and, when he thrust it open, found the ledge
covered deep in soft red dust; and he instantly said, like a wise
man as he was, "The volcano of St. Vincent must have broken out,
and these are the ashes from it." Then he ran down stairs and
quieted the poor negroes, telling them not to be afraid, for the
end of the world was not coming just yet. But still the dust went
on falling till the whole island, I am told, was covered an inch
thick; and the same thing happened in the other islands round.
People thought--and they had reason to think from what had often
happened elsewhere--that though the dust might hurt the crops for
that year, it would make them richer in years to come, because it
would act as manure upon the soil; and so it did after a few
years; but it did terrible damage at the time, breaking off the
boughs of trees and covering up the crops; and in St. Vincent
itself whole estates were ruined. It was a frightful day, but I
know well that behind that How there was a Why for its happening,
and happening too, about that very time, which all who know the
history of negro slavery in the West Indies can guess for
themselves, and confess, I hope, that in this case, as in all
others, when Lady Why seems most severe she is often most just and

Ah! my dear child, that I could go on talking to you of this for
hours and days! But I have time now only to teach you the
alphabet of these matters--and, indeed, I know little more than
the alphabet myself; but if the very letters of Madam How's book,
and the mere A, B, AB, of it, which I am trying to teach you, are
so wonderful and so beautiful, what must its sentences be and its
chapters? And what must the whole book be like? But that last
none can read save He who wrote it before the worlds were made.

But now I see you want to ask a question. Let us have it out. I
would sooner answer one question of yours than tell you ten things
without your asking.

Is there potash and magnesia and silicates in the soil here? And
if there is, where did they come from? For there are no volcanos
in England.

Yes. There are such things in the soil; and little enough of
them, as the farmers here know too well. For we here, in Windsor
Forest, are on the very poorest and almost the newest soil in
England; and when Madam How had used up all her good materials in
making the rest of the island, she carted away her dry rubbish and
shot it down here for us to make the best of; and I do not think
that we and our forefathers have done so very ill with it. But
where the rich part, or staple, of our soils came from first it
would be very difficult to say, so often has Madam How made, and
unmade, and re-made England, and sifted her materials afresh every
time. But if you go to the Lowlands of Scotland, you may soon see
where the staple of the soil came from there, and that I was right
in saying that there were atoms of lava in every Scotch boy's
broth. Not that there were ever (as far as I know) volcanos in
Scotland or in England. Madam How has more than one string to her
bow, or two strings either; so when she pours out her lavas, she
does not always pour them out in the open air. Sometimes she
pours them out at the bottom of the sea, as she did in the north
of Ireland and the south-west of Scotland, when she made the
Giant's Causeway, and Fingal's Cave in Staffa too, at the bottom
of the old chalk ocean, ages and ages since. Sometimes she
squirts them out between the layers of rock, or into cracks which
the earthquakes have made, in what are called trap dykes, of which
there are plenty to be seen in Scotland, and in Wales likewise.
And then she lifts the earth up from the bottom of the sea, and
sets the rain to wash away all the soft rocks, till the hard lava
stands out in great hills upon the surface of the ground. Then
the rain begins eating away those lava-hills likewise, and
manuring the earth with them; and wherever those lava-hills stand
up, whether great or small, there is pretty sure to be rich land
around them. If you look at the Geological Map of England and
Ireland, and the red spots upon it, which will show you where
those old lavas are, you will see how much of them there is in
England, at the Lizard Point in Cornwall, and how much more in
Scotland and the north of Ireland. In South Devon, in Shropshire-
-with its beautiful Wrekin, and Caradoc, and Lawley--in Wales,
round Snowdon (where some of the soil is very rich), and, above
all, in the Lowlands of Scotland, you see these red marks, showing
the old lavas, which are always fertile, except the poor old
granite, which is of little use save to cut into building stone,
because it is too full of quartz--that is, flint.

Think of this the next time you go through Scotland in the
railway, especially when you get near Edinburgh. As you run
through the Lothians, with their noble crops of corn, and roots,
and grasses--and their great homesteads, each with its engine
chimney, which makes steam do the work of men--you will see rising
out of the plain, hills of dark rock, sometimes in single knobs,
like Berwick Law or Stirling Crag--sometimes in noble ranges, like
Arthur's Seat, or the Sidlaws, or the Ochils. Think what these
black bare lumps of whinstone are, and what they do. Remember
they are mines--not gold mines, but something richer still--food
mines, which Madam How thrust into the inside of the earth, ages
and ages since, as molten lava rock, and then cooled them and
lifted them up, and pared them away with her ice-plough and her
rain-spade, and spread the stuff of them over the wide carses
round, to make in that bleak northern climate, which once carried
nothing but fir-trees and heather, a soil fit to feed a great
people; to cultivate in them industry, and science, and valiant
self-dependence and self-help; and to gather round the Heart of
Midlothian and the Castle Rock of Edinburgh the stoutest and the
ablest little nation which Lady Why has made since she made the
Greeks who fought at Salamis.

Of those Greeks you have read, or ought to read, in Mr. Cox's
Tales of the Persian War. Some day you will read of them in their
own books, written in their grand old tongue. Remember that Lady
Why made them, as she has made the Scotch, by first preparing a
country for them, which would call out all their courage and their
skill; and then by giving them the courage and the skill to make
use of the land where she had put them.

And now think what a wonderful fairy tale you might write for
yourself--and every word of it true--of the adventures of one atom
of Potash or some other Salt, no bigger than a needle's point, in
such a lava stream as I have been telling of. How it has run
round and round, and will run round age after age, in an endless
chain of change. How it began by being molten fire underground,
how then it became part of a hard cold rock, lifted up into a
cliff, beaten upon by rain and storm, and washed down into the
soil of the plain, till, perhaps, the little atom of mineral met
with the rootlet of some great tree, and was taken up into its sap
in spring, through tiny veins, and hardened the next year into a
piece of solid wood. And then how that tree was cut down, and its
logs, it may be, burnt upon the hearth, till the little atom of
mineral lay among the wood-ashes, and was shovelled out and thrown
upon the field and washed into the soil again, and taken up by the
roots of a clover plant, and became an atom of vegetable matter
once more. And then how, perhaps, a rabbit came by, and ate the
clover, and the grain of mineral became part of the rabbit; and
then how a hawk killed that rabbit, and ate it, and so the grain
became part of the hawk; and how the farmer shot the hawk, and it
fell perchance into a stream, and was carried down into the sea;
and when its body decayed, the little grain sank through the
water, and was mingled with the mud at the bottom of the sea. But
do its wanderings stop there? Not so, my child. Nothing upon
this earth, as I told you once before, continues in one stay.
That grain of mineral might stay at the bottom of the sea a
thousand or ten thousand years, and yet the time would come when
Madam How would set to work on it again. Slowly, perhaps, she
would sink that mud so deep, and cover it up with so many fresh
beds of mud, or sand, or lime, that under the heavy weight, and
perhaps, too, under the heat of the inside of the earth, that Mud
would slowly change to hard Slate Rock; and ages after, it may be,
Madam How might melt that Slate Rock once more, and blast it out;
and then through the mouth of a volcano the little grain of
mineral might rise into the open air again to make fresh soil, as
it had done thousands of years before. For Madam How can
manufacture many different things out of the same materials. She
may have so wrought with that grain of mineral, that she may have
formed it into part of a precious stone, and men may dig it out of
the rock, or pick it up in the river-bed, and polish it, and set
it, and wear it. Think of that--that in the jewels which your
mother or your sisters wear, or in your father's signet ring,
there may be atoms which were part of a live plant, or a live
animal, millions of years ago, and may be parts of a live plant or
a live animal millions of years hence.

Think over again, and learn by heart, the links of this endless
chain of change: Fire turned into Stone--Stone into Soil--Soil
into Plant--Plant into Animal--Animal into Soil--Soil into Stone--
Stone into Fire again--and then Fire into Stone again, and the old
thing run round once more.

So it is, and so it must be. For all things which are born in
Time must change in Time, and die in Time, till that Last Day of
this our little earth, in which,

"Like to the baseless fabric of a vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all things which inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like an unsubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind."

So all things change and die, and so your body too must change and
die--but not yourself. Madam How made your body; and she must
unmake it again, as she unmakes all her works in Time and Space;
but you, child, your Soul, and Life, and Self, she did not make;
and over you she has no power. For you were not, like your body,
created in Time and Space; and you will endure though Time and
Space should be no more: because you are the child of the Living
God, who gives to each thing its own body, and can give you
another body, even as seems good to Him.


You want to know why I am so fond of that little bit of limestone,
no bigger than my hand, which lies upon the shelf; why I ponder
over it so often, and show it to all sensible people who come to
see me?

I do so, not only for the sake of the person who gave it to me,
but because there is written on it a letter out of Madam How's
alphabet, which has taken wise men many a year to decipher. I
could not decipher that letter when first I saw the stone. More
shame for me, for I had seen it often before, and understood it
well enough, in many another page of Madam How's great book. Take
the stone, and see if you can find out anything strange about it.

Well, it is only a bit of marble as big as my hand, that looks as
if it had been, and really has been, broken off by a hammer. But
when you look again, you see there is a smooth scraped part on one
edge, that seems to have been rubbed against a stone.

Now look at that rubbed part, and tell me how it was done.

You have seen men often polish one stone on another, or scour
floors with a Bath brick, and you will guess at first that this
was polished so: but if it had been, then the rubbed place would
have been flat: but if you put your fingers over it, you will
find that it is not flat. It is rolled, fluted, channelled, so
that the thing or things which rubbed it must have been somewhat
round. And it is covered, too, with very fine and smooth
scratches or grooves, all running over the whole in the same line.
Now what could have done that?

Of course a man could have done it, if he had taken a large round
stone in his hand, and worked the large channellings with that,
and then had taken fine sand and gravel upon the points of his
fingers, and worked the small scratches with that. But this stone
came from a place where man had, perhaps, never stood before,--ay,
which, perhaps, had never seen the light of day before since the
world was made; and as I happen to know that no man made the marks
upon that stone, we must set to work and think again for some tool
of Madam How's which may have made them.

And now I think you must give up guessing, and I must tell you the
answer to the riddle. Those marks were made by a hand which is
strong and yet gentle, tough and yet yielding, like the hand of a
man; a hand which handles and uses in a grip stronger than a
giant's its own carving tools, from the great boulder stone as
large as this whole room to the finest grain of sand. And that is

That piece of stone came from the side of the Rosenlaui glacier in
Switzerland, and it was polished by the glacier ice. The glacier
melted and shrank this last hot summer farther back than it had
done for many years, and left bare sheets of rock, which it had
been scraping at for ages, with all the marks fresh upon them.
And that bit was broken off and brought to me, who never saw a
glacier myself, to show me how the marks which the ice makes in
Switzerland are exactly the same as those which the ice has made
in Snowdon and in the Highlands, and many another place where I
have traced them, and written a little, too, about them in years
gone by. And so I treasure this, as a sign that Madam How's ways
do not change nor her laws become broken; that, as that great
philosopher Sir Charles Lyell will tell you, when you read his
books, Madam How is making and unmaking the surface of the earth
now, by exactly the same means as she was making and unmaking ages
and ages since; and that what is going on slowly and surely in the
Alps in Switzerland was going on once here where we stand.

It is very difficult, I know, for a little boy like you to
understand how ice, and much more how soft snow, should have such
strength that it can grind this little stone, much more such
strength as to grind whole mountains into plains. You have never
seen ice and snow do harm. You cannot even recollect the Crimean
Winter, as it was called then; and well for you you cannot,
considering all the misery it brought at home and abroad. You
cannot, I say, recollect the Crimean Winter, when the Thames was
frozen over above the bridges, and the ice piled in little bergs
ten to fifteen feet high, which lay, some of them, stranded on the
shores, about London itself, and did not melt, if I recollect,
until the end of May. You never stood, as I stood, in the great
winter of 1837-8 on Battersea Bridge, to see the ice break up with
the tide, and saw the great slabs and blocks leaping and piling
upon each other's backs, and felt the bridge tremble with their
shocks, and listened to their horrible grind and roar, till one
got some little picture in one's mind of what must be the breaking
up of an ice-floe in the Arctic regions, and what must be the
danger of a ship nipped in the ice and lifted up on high, like
those in the pictures of Arctic voyages which you are so fond of
looking through. You cannot recollect how that winter even in our
little Blackwater Brook the alder stems were all peeled white, and
scarred, as if they had been gnawed by hares and deer, simply by
the rushing and scraping of the ice,--a sight which gave me again
a little picture of the destruction which the ice makes of quays,
and stages, and houses along the shore upon the coasts of North
America, when suddenly setting in with wind and tide, it jams and
piles up high inland, as you may read for yourself some day in a
delightful book called Frost and Fire. You recollect none of
these things. Ice and snow are to you mere playthings; and you
long for winter, that you may make snowballs and play hockey and
skate upon the ponds, and eat ice like a foolish boy till you make
your stomach ache. And I dare say you have said, like many
another boy, on a bright cheery ringing frosty day, "Oh, that it
would be always winter!" You little knew for what you asked. You
little thought what the earth would soon be like, if it were
always winter,--if one sheet of ice on the pond glued itself on to
the bottom of the last sheet, till the whole pond was a solid
mass,--if one snow-fall lay upon the top of another snow-fall till
the moor was covered many feet deep and the snow began sliding
slowly down the glen from Coombs's, burying the green fields,
tearing the trees up by their roots, burying gradually house,
church, and village, and making this place for a few thousand
years what it was many thousand years ago. Good-bye then, after a
very few winters, to bees, and butterflies, and singing-birds, and
flowers; and good-bye to all vegetables, and fruit, and bread;
good-bye to cotton and woollen clothes. You would have, if you
were left alive, to dress in skins, and eat fish and seals, if any
came near enough to be caught. You would have to live in a word,
if you could live at all, as Esquimaux live now in Arctic regions,
and as people had to live in England ages since, in the times when
it was always winter, and icebergs floated between here and
Finchampstead. Oh no, my child: thank Heaven that it is not
always winter; and remember that winter ice and snow, though it is
a very good tool with which to make the land, must leave the land
year by year if that land is to be fit to live in.

I said that if the snow piled high enough upon the moor, it would
come down the glen in a few years through Coombs's Wood; and I
said then you would have a small glacier here--such a glacier (to
compare small things with great) as now comes down so many valleys
in the Alps, or has come down all the valleys of Greenland and
Spitzbergen till they reach the sea, and there end as cliffs of
ice, from which great icebergs snap off continually, and fall and
float away, wandering southward into the Atlantic for many a
hundred miles. You have seen drawings of such glaciers in Captain
Cook's Voyages; and you may see photographs of Swiss glaciers in
any good London print-shop; and therefore you have seen almost as
much about them as I have seen, and may judge for yourself how you
would like to live where it is always winter.

Now you must not ask me to tell you what a glacier is like, for I
have never seen one; at least, those which I have seen were more
than fifty miles away, looking like white clouds hanging on the
gray mountain sides. And it would be an impertinence--that means
a meddling with things which I have no business--to picture to you
glaciers which have been pictured so well and often by gentlemen
who escape every year from their hard work in town to find among
the glaciers of the Alps health and refreshment, and sound
knowledge, and that most wholesome and strengthening of all
medicines, toil.

So you must read of them in such books as Peaks, Passes, and
Glaciers, and Mr. Willes's Wanderings in the High Alps, and
Professor Tyndall's different works; or you must look at them (as
I just now said) in photographs or in pictures. But when you do
that, or when you see a glacier for yourself, you must bear in
mind what a glacier means--that it is a river of ice, fed by a
lake of snow. The lake from which it springs is the eternal snow-
field which stretches for miles and miles along the mountain tops,
fed continually by fresh snow-storms falling from the sky. That
snow slides off into the valleys hour by hour, and as it rushes
down is ground and pounded, and thawed and frozen again into a
sticky paste of ice, which flows slowly but surely till it reaches
the warm valley at the mountain foot, and there melts bit by bit.
The long black lines which you see winding along the white and
green ice of the glacier are the stones which have fallen from the
cliffs above. They will be dropped at the end of the glacier, and
mixed with silt and sand and other stones which have come down
inside the glacier itself, and piled up in the field in great
mounds, which are called moraines, such as you may see and walk on
in Scotland many a time, though you might never guess what they

The river which runs out at the glacier foot is, you must
remember, all foul and milky with the finest mud; and that mud is
the grinding of the rocks over which the glacier has been crawling
down, and scraping them as it scraped my bit of stone with pebbles
and with sand. And this is the alphabet, which, if you learn by
heart, you will learn to understand how Madam How uses her great
ice-plough to plough down her old mountains, and spread the stuff
of them about the valleys to make rich straths of fertile soil.
Nay, so immensely strong, because immensely heavy, is the share of
this her great ice-plough, that some will tell you (and it is not
for me to say that they are wrong) that with it she has ploughed
out all the mountain lakes in Europe and in North America; that
such lakes, for instance, as Ullswater or Windermere have been
scooped clean out of the solid rock by ice which came down these
glaciers in old times. And be sure of this, that next to Madam
How's steam-pump and her rain-spade, her great ice-plough has had,
and has still, the most to do with making the ground on which we

Do I mean that there were ever glaciers here? No, I do not.
There have been glaciers in Scotland in plenty. And if any Scotch
boy shall read this book, it will tell him presently how to find
the marks of them far and wide over his native land. But as you,
my child, care most about this country in which you live, I will
show you in any gravel-pit, or hollow lane upon the moor, the
marks, not of a glacier, which is an ice-river, but of a whole sea
of ice.

Let us come up to the pit upon the top of the hill, and look
carefully at what we see there. The lower part of the pit of
course is a solid rock of sand. On the top of that is a cap of
gravel, five, six, ten feet thick. Now the sand was laid down
there by water at the bottom of an old sea; and therefore the top
of it would naturally be flat and smooth, as the sands at
Hunstanton or at Bournemouth are; and the gravel, if it was laid
down by water, would naturally lie flat on it again: but it does
not. See how the top of the sand is dug out into deep waves and
pits, filled up with gravel. And see, too, how over some of the
gravel you get sand again, and then gravel again, and then sand
again, till you cannot tell where one fairly begins and the other
ends. Why, here are little dots of gravel, six or eight feet
down, in what looks the solid sand rock, yet the sand must have
been opened somehow to put the gravel in.

You say you have seen that before. You have seen the same curious
twisting of the gravel and sand into each other on the top of
Farley Hill, and in the new cutting on Minley Hill; and, best of
all, in the railway cutting between Ascot and Sunningdale, where
upon the top the white sand and gravel is arranged in red and
brown waves, and festoons, and curlicues, almost like Prince of
Wales's feathers. Yes, that last is a beautiful section of ice-
work; so beautiful, that I hope to have it photographed some day.

Now, how did ice do this?

Well, I was many a year before I found out that, and I dare say I
never should have found it out for myself. A gentleman named
Trimmer, who, alas! is now dead, was, I believe, the first to find
it out. He knew that along the coast of Labrador, and other cold
parts of North America, and on the shores, too, of the great river
St. Lawrence, the stranded icebergs, and the ice-foot, as it is
called, which is continually forming along the freezing shores,
grub and plough every tide into the mud and sand, and shove up
before them, like a ploughshare, heaps of dirt; and that, too, the
ice itself is full of dirt, of sand and stones, which it may have
brought from hundreds of miles away; and that, as this ploughshare
of dirty ice grubs onward, the nose of the plough is continually
being broken off, and left underneath the mud; and that, when
summer comes, and the ice melts, the mud falls back into the place
where the ice had been, and covers up the gravel which was in the
ice. So, what between the grubbing of the ice-plough into the
mud, and the dirt which it leaves behind when it melts, the
stones, and sand, and mud upon the shore are jumbled up into
curious curved and twisted layers, exactly like those which Mr.
Trimmer saw in certain gravel-pits. And when I first read about
that, I said, "And exactly like what I have been seeing in every
gravel-pit round here, and trying to guess how they could have
been made by currents of water, and yet never could make any guess
which would do." But after that it was all explained to me; and I
said, "Honour to the man who has let Madam How teach him what she
had been trying to teach me for fifteen years, while I was too
stupid to learn it. Now I am certain, as certain as I can be of
any earthly thing, that the whole of these Windsor Forest Flats
were ages ago ploughed and harrowed over and over again, by ice-
floes and icebergs drifting and stranding in a shallow sea."

And if you say, my dear child, as some people will say, that it is
like building a large house upon a single brick to be sure that
there was an iceberg sea here, just because I see a few curlicues
in the gravel and sand--then I must tell you that there are
sometimes--not often, but sometimes--pages in Madam How's book in
which one single letter tells you as much as a whole chapter; in
which if you find one little fact, and know what it really means,
it makes you certain that a thousand other great facts have
happened. You may be astonished: but you cannot deny your own
eyes, and your own common sense. You feel like Robinson Crusoe
when, walking along the shore of his desert island, he saw for the
first time the print of a man's foot in the sand. How it could
have got there without a miracle he could not dream. But there it
was. One footprint was as good as the footprints of a whole army
would have been. A man had been there; and more men might come.
And in fear of the savages--and if you have read Robinson Crusoe
you know how just his fears were--he went home trembling and
loaded his muskets, and barricaded his cave, and passed sleepless
nights watching for the savages who might come, and who came after

And so there are certain footprints in geology which there is no
mistaking; and the prints of the ice-plough are among them.

For instance:- When they were trenching the new plantation close
to Wellington College station, the men turned up out of the ground
a great many Sarsden stones; that is, pieces of hard sugary sand,
such as Stonehenge is made of. And when I saw these I said, "I
suspect these were brought here by icebergs:" but I was not sure,
and waited. As the men dug on, they dug up a great many large
flints, with bottle-green coats. "Now," I said, "I am sure. For
I know where these flints must have come from." And for reasons
which would be too long to tell you here, I said, "Some time or
other, icebergs have been floating northward from the Hog's Back
over Aldershot and Farnborough, and have been trying to get into
the Vale of Thames by the slope at Wellington College station; and
they have stranded, and dropped these flints." And I am so sure
of that, that if I found myself out wrong after all I should be at
my wit's end; for I should know that I was wrong about a hundred
things besides.

Or again, if you ever go up Deeside in Scotland, towards Balmoral,
and turn up Glen Muick, towards Alt-na-guisach, of which you may
see a picture in the Queen's last book, you will observe standing
on your right hand, just above Birk Hall, three pretty rounded
knolls, which they call the Coile Hills. You may easily know them
by their being covered with beautiful green grass instead of
heather. That is because they are made of serpentine or volcanic
rock, which (as you have seen) often cuts into beautiful red and
green marble; and which also carries a very rich soil because it
is full of magnesia. If you go up those hills, you get a glorious
view--the mountains sweeping round you where you stand, up to the
top of Lochnagar, with its bleak walls a thousand feet
perpendicular, and gullies into which the sun never shines, and
round to the dark fir forests of the Ballochbuie. That is the arc
of the bow; and the cord of the bow is the silver Dee, more than a
thousand feet below you; and in the centre of the cord, where the
arrow would be fitted in, stands Balmoral, with its Castle, and
its Gardens, and its Park, and pleasant cottages and homesteads
all around. And when you have looked at the beautiful
amphitheatre of forest at your feet, and looked too at the great
mountains to the westward, and Benaun, and Benna-buird and Benna-
muicdhui, with their bright patches of eternal snow, I should
advise you to look at the rock on which you stand, and see what
you see there. And you will see that on the side of the Coiles
towards Lochnagar, and between the knolls of them, are scattered
streams, as it were, of great round boulder stones--which are not
serpentine, but granite from the top of Lochnagar, five miles
away. And you will see that the knolls of serpentine rock, or at
least their backs and shoulders towards Lochnagar, are all
smoothed and polished till they are as round as the backs of
sheep, "roches moutonnees," as the French call ice-polished rocks;
and then, if you understand what that means, you will say, as I
said, "I am perfectly certain that this great basin between me and
Lochnagar, which is now 3000 feet deep of empty air was once
filled up with ice to the height of the hills on which I stand--
about 1700 feet high--and that that ice ran over into Glen Muick,
between these pretty knolls, and covered the ground where Birk
Hall now stands."

And more:- When you see growing on those knolls of serpentine a
few pretty little Alpine plants, which have no business down there
so low, you will have a fair right to say, as I said, "The seeds
of these plants were brought by the ice ages and ages since from
off the mountain range of Lochnagar, and left here, nestling among
the rocks, to found a fresh colony, far from their old mountain

If I could take you with me up to Scotland,--take you, for
instance, along the Tay, up the pass of Dunkeld, or up Strathmore
towards Aberdeen, or up the Dee towards Braemar,--I could show you
signs, which cannot be mistaken, of the time when Scotland was,
just like Spitzbergen or like Greenland now, covered in one vast
sheet of snow and ice from year's end to year's end; when glaciers
were ploughing out its valleys, icebergs were breaking off the icy
cliffs and floating out to sea; when not a bird, perhaps, was to
be seen save sea-fowl, not a plant upon the rocks but a few
lichens, and Alpine saxifrages, and such like--desolation and cold
and lifeless everywhere. That ice-time went on for ages and for
ages; and yet it did not go on in vain. Through it Madam How was
ploughing down the mountains of Scotland to make all those rich
farms which stretch from the north side of the Frith of Forth into
Sutherlandshire. I could show you everywhere the green banks and
knolls of earth, which Scotch people call "kames" and "tomans"--
perhaps brought down by ancient glaciers, or dropped by ancient
icebergs--now so smooth and green through summer and through
winter, among the wild heath and the rough peat-moss, that the old
Scots fancied, and I dare say Scotch children fancy still, fairies
dwelt inside. If you laid your ear against the mounds, you might
hear the fairy music, sweet and faint, beneath the ground. If you
watched the mound at night, you might see the fairies dancing the
turf short and smooth, or riding out on fairy horses, with green
silk clothes and jingling bells. But if you fell asleep upon the
mounds, the fairy queen came out and carried you for seven years
into Fairyland, till you awoke again in the same place, to find
all changed around you, and yourself grown thin and old.

These are all dreams and fancies--untrue, not because they are too
strange and wonderful, but because they are not strange and
wonderful enough: for more wonderful sure than any fairy tale it
is, that Madam How should make a rich and pleasant land by the
brute force of ice.

And were there any men and women in that old age of ice? That is
a long story, and a dark one too; we will talk of it next time.


You asked if there were men in England when the country was
covered with ice and snow. Look at this, and judge for yourself.

What is it? a piece of old mortar? Yes. But mortar which was
made Madam How herself, and not by any man. And what is in it? A
piece of flint and some bits of bone. But look at that piece of
flint. It is narrow, thin, sharp-edged: quite different in shape
from any bit of flint which you or I ever saw among the hundreds
of thousands of broken bits of gravel which we tread on here all
day long; and here are some more bits like it, which came from the
same place--all very much the same shape, like rough knives or
razor blades; and here is a core of flint, the remaining part of a
large flint, from which, as you may see, blades like those have
been split off. Those flakes of flint, my child, were split off
by men; even your young eyes ought to be able to see that. And
here are other pieces of flint--pear-shaped, but flattened, sharp
at one end and left rounded at the other, which look like spear-
heads, or arrow-heads, or pointed axes, or pointed hatchets--even
your young eyes can see that these must have been made by man.
And they are, I may tell you, just like the tools of flint, or of
obsidian, which is volcanic glass, and which savages use still
where they have not iron. There is a great obsidian knife, you
know, in a house in this very parish, which came from Mexico; and
your eye can tell you how like it is to these flint ones. But
these flint tools are very old. If you crack a fresh flint, you
will see that its surface is gray, and somewhat rough, so that it
sticks to your tongue. These tools are smooth and shiny: and the
edges of some of them are a little rubbed from being washed about
in gravel; while the iron in the gravel has stained them reddish,
which it would take hundreds and perhaps thousands of years to do.
There are little rough markings, too, upon some of them, which, if
you look at through a magnifying glass, are iron, crystallised
into the shape of little seaweeds and trees--another sign that
they are very very old. And what is more, near the place where
these flint flakes come from there are no flints in the ground for
hundreds of miles; so that men must have brought them there ages
and ages since. And to tell you plainly, these are scrapers such
as the Esquimaux in North America still use to scrape the flesh
off bones, and to clean the insides of skins.

But did these people (savages perhaps) live when the country was
icy cold? Look at the bits of bone. They have been split, you
see, lengthways; that, I suppose, was to suck the marrow out of
them, as savages do still. But to what animal do the bones
belong? That is the question, and one which I could not have
answered you, if wiser men than I am could not have told me.

They are the bones of reindeer--such reindeer as are now found
only in Lapland and the half-frozen parts of North America, close
to the Arctic circle, where they have six months day and six
months night. You have read of Laplanders, and how they drive
reindeer in their sledges, and live upon reindeer milk; and you
have read of Esquimaux, who hunt seals and walrus, and live in
houses of ice, lighted by lamps fed with the same blubber on which
they feed themselves. I need not tell you about them.

Now comes the question--Whence did these flints and bones come?
They came out of a cave in Dordogne, in the heart of sunny
France,--far away to the south, where it is hotter every summer
than it was here even this summer, from among woods of box and
evergreen oak, and vineyards of rich red wine. In that warm land
once lived savages, who hunted amid ice and snow the reindeer, and
with the reindeer animals stranger still.

And now I will tell you a fairy tale: to make you understand it
at all I must put it in the shape of a tale. I call it a fairy
tale, because it is so strange; indeed I think I ought to call it
the fairy tale of all fairy tales, for by the time we get to the
end of it I think it will explain to you how our forefathers got
to believe in fairies, and trolls, and elves, and scratlings, and
all strange little people who were said to haunt the mountains and
the caves.

Well, once upon a time, so long ago that no man can tell when, the
land was so much higher, that between England and Ireland, and,
what is more, between England and Norway, was firm dry land. The
country then must have looked--at least we know it looked so in
Norfolk--very like what our moors look like here. There were
forests of Scotch fir, and of spruce too, which is not wild in
England now, though you may see plenty in every plantation. There
were oaks and alders, yews and sloes, just as there are in our
woods now. There was buck-bean in the bogs, as there is in
Larmer's and Heath pond; and white and yellow water-lilies, horn-
wort, and pond-weeds, just as there are now in our ponds. There
were wild horses, wild deer, and wild oxen, those last of an
enormous size. There were little yellow roe-deer, which will not
surprise you, for there are hundreds and thousands in Scotland to
this day; and, as you know, they will thrive well enough in our
woods now. There were beavers too: but that must not surprise
you, for there were beavers in South Wales long after the Norman
Conquest, and there are beavers still in the mountain glens of the
south-east of France. There were honest little water-rats too,
who I dare say sat up on their hind legs like monkeys, nibbling
the water-lily pods, thousands of years ago, as they do in our
ponds now. Well, so far we have come to nothing strange: but now
begins the fairy tale. Mixed with all these animals, there
wandered about great herds of elephants and rhinoceroses; not
smooth-skinned, mind, but covered with hair and wool, like those
which are still found sticking out of the everlasting ice cliffs,
at the mouth of the Lena and other Siberian rivers, with the
flesh, and skin, and hair so fresh upon them, that the wild wolves
tear it off, and snarl and growl over the carcase of monsters who
were frozen up thousands of years ago. And with them, stranger
still, were great hippopotamuses; who came, perhaps, northward in
summer time along the sea-shore and down the rivers, having spread
hither all the way from Africa; for in those days, you must
understand, Sicily, and Italy, and Malta--look at your map--were
joined to the coast of Africa: and so it may be was the rock of
Gibraltar itself; and over the sea where the Straits of Gibraltar
now flow was firm dry land, over which hyaenas and leopards,
elephants and rhinoceroses ranged into Spain; for their bones are
found at this day in the Gibraltar caves. And this is the first
chapter of my fairy tale.

Now while all this was going on, and perhaps before this began,
the climate was getting colder year by year--we do not know how;
and, what is more, the land was sinking; and it sank so deep that
at last nothing was left out of the water but the tops of the
mountains in Ireland, and Scotland, and Wales. It sank so deep
that it left beds of shells belonging to the Arctic regions nearly
two thousand feet high upon the mountain side. And so

"It grew wondrous cold,
And ice mast-high came floating by,
As green as emerald."

But there were no masts then to measure the icebergs by, nor any
ship nor human being there. All we know is that the icebergs
brought with them vast quantities of mud, which sank to the
bottom, and covered up that pleasant old forest-land in what is
called boulder-clay; clay full of bits of broken rock, and of
blocks of stone so enormous, that nothing but an iceberg could
have carried them. So all the animals were drowned or driven
away, and nothing was left alive perhaps, except a few little
hardy plants which clung about cracks and gullies in the mountain
tops; and whose descendants live there still. That was a dreadful
time; the worst, perhaps, of all the age of Ice; and so ends the
second chapter of my fairy tale.

Now for my third chapter. "When things come to the worst," says
the proverb, "they commonly mend;" and so did this poor frozen and
drowned land of England and France and Germany, though it mended
very slowly. The land began to rise out of the sea once more, and
rose till it was perhaps as high as it had been at first, and
hundreds of feet higher than it is now: but still it was very
cold, covered, in Scotland at least, with one great sea of ice and
glaciers descending down into the sea, as I said when I spoke to
you about the Ice-Plough. But as the land rose, and grew warmer
too, while it rose, the wild beasts who had been driven out by the
great drowning came gradually back again. As the bottom of the
old icy sea turned into dry land, and got covered with grasses,
and weeds, and shrubs once more, elephants, rhinoceroses,
hippopotamuses, oxen--sometimes the same species, sometimes
slightly different ones--returned to France, and then to England
(for there was no British Channel then to stop them); and with
them came other strange animals, especially the great Irish elk,
as he is called, as large as the largest horse, with horns
sometimes ten feet across. A pair of those horns with the skull
you have seen yourself, and can judge what a noble animal he must
have been. Enormous bears came too, and hyaenas, and a tiger or
lion (I cannot say which), as large as the largest Bengal tiger
now to be seen in India.

And in those days--we cannot, of course, exactly say when--there
came--first I suppose into the south and east of France, and then
gradually onward into England and Scotland and Ireland--creatures
without any hair to keep them warm, or scales to defend them,
without horns or tusks to fight with, or teeth to worry and bite;
the weakest you would have thought of the beasts, and yet stronger
than all the animals, because they were Men, with reasonable
souls. Whence they came we cannot tell, nor why; perhaps from
mere hunting after food, and love of wandering and being
independent and alone. Perhaps they came into that icy land for
fear of stronger and cleverer people than themselves; for we have
no proof, my child, none at all, that they were the first men that
trod this earth. But be that as it may, they came; and so cunning
were these savage men, and so brave likewise, though they had no
iron among them, only flint and sharpened bones, yet they
contrived to kill and eat the mammoths, and the giant oxen, and
the wild horses, and the reindeer, and to hold their own against
the hyaenas, and tigers, and bears, simply because they had wits,
and the dumb animals had none. And that is the strangest part to
me of all my fairy tale. For what a man's wits are, and why he
has them, and therefore is able to invent and to improve, while
even the cleverest ape has none, and therefore can invent and
improve nothing, and therefore cannot better himself, but must
remain from father to son, and father to son again, a stupid,
pitiful, ridiculous ape, while men can go on civilising
themselves, and growing richer and more comfortable, wiser and
happier, year by year--how that comes to pass, I say, is to me a
wonder and a prodigy and a miracle, stranger than all the most
fantastic marvels you ever read in fairy tales.

You may find the flint weapons which these old savages used buried
in many a gravel-pit up and down France and the south of England;
but you will find none here, for the gravel here was made (I am
told) at the beginning of the ice-time, before the north of
England sunk into the sea, and therefore long, long before men
came into this land. But most of their remains are found in caves
which water has eaten out of the limestone rocks, like that famous
cave of Kent's Hole at Torquay. In it, and in many another cave,
lie the bones of animals which the savages ate, and cracked to get
the marrow out of them, mixed up with their flint-weapons and bone
harpoons, and sometimes with burnt ashes and with round stones,
used perhaps to heat water, as savages do now, all baked together
into a hard paste or breccia by the lime. These are in the water,
and are often covered with a floor of stalagmite which has dripped
from the roof above and hardened into stone. Of these caves and
their beautiful wonders I must tell you another day. We must keep
now to our fairy tale. But in these caves, no doubt, the savages
lived; for not only have weapons been found in them, but actually
drawings scratched (I suppose with flint) on bone or mammoth
ivory--drawings of elk, and bull, and horse, and ibex--and one,
which was found in France, of the great mammoth himself, the
woolly elephant, with a mane on his shoulders like a lion's mane.
So you see that one of the earliest fancies of this strange
creature, called man, was to draw, as you and your schoolfellows
love to draw, and copy what you see, you know not why. Remember
that. You like to draw; but why you like it neither you nor any
man can tell. It is one of the mysteries of human nature; and
that poor savage clothed in skins, dirty it may be, and more
ignorant than you (happily) can conceive, when he sat scratching
on ivory in the cave the figures of the animals he hunted, was
proving thereby that he had the same wonderful and mysterious
human nature as you--that he was the kinsman of every painter and
sculptor who ever felt it a delight and duty to copy the beautiful
works of God.

Sometimes, again, especially in Denmark, these savages have left
behind upon the shore mounds of dirt, which are called there
"kjokken-moddings"--"kitchen-middens" as they would say in
Scotland, "kitchen-dirtheaps" as we should say here down South--
and a very good name for them that is; for they are made up of the
shells of oysters, cockles, mussels, and periwinkles, and other
shore-shells besides, on which those poor creatures fed; and
mingled with them are broken bones of beasts, and fishes, and
birds, and flint knives, and axes, and sling stones; and here and
there hearths, on which they have cooked their meals in some rough
way. And that is nearly all we know about them; but this we know
from the size of certain of the shells, and from other reasons
which you would not understand, that these mounds were made an
enormous time ago, when the water of the Baltic Sea was far more
salt than it is now.

But what has all this to do with my fairy tale? This:-

Suppose that these people, after all, had been fairies?

I am in earnest. Of course, I do not mean that these folk could
make themselves invisible, or that they had any supernatural
powers--any more, at least, than you and I have--or that they were
anything but savages; but this I do think, that out of old stories
of these savages grew up the stories of fairies, elves, and
trolls, and scratlings, and cluricaunes, and ogres, of which you
have read so many.

When stronger and bolder people, like the Irish, and the
Highlanders of Scotland, and the Gauls of France, came northward
with their bronze and iron weapons; and still more, when our own
forefathers, the Germans and the Norsemen, came, these poor little
savages with their flint arrows and axes, were no match for them,
and had to run away northward, or to be all killed out; for people
were fierce and cruel in those old times, and looked on every one
of a different race from themselves as a natural enemy. They had
not learnt--alas! too many have not learned it yet--that all men
are brothers for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. So these poor
savages were driven out, till none were left, save the little
Lapps up in the north of Norway, where they live to this day.

But stories of them, and of how they dwelt in caves, and had
strange customs, and used poisoned weapons, and how the elf-bolts
(as their flint arrow-heads are still called) belonged to them,
lingered on, and were told round the fire on winter nights and
added to, and played with half in fun, till a hundred legends
sprang up about them, which used once to be believed by grown-up
folk, but which now only amuse children. And because some of
these savages were very short, as the Lapps and Esquimaux are now,
the story grew of their being so small that they could make
themselves invisible; and because others of them were (but
probably only a few) very tall and terrible, the story grew that
there were giants in that old world, like that famous Gogmagog,
whom Brutus and his Britons met (so old fables tell), when they
landed first at Plymouth, and fought him, and threw him over the
cliff. Ogres, too--of whom you read in fairy tales--I am afraid
that there were such people once, even here in Europe; strong and
terrible savages, who ate human beings. Of course, the legends
and tales about them became ridiculous and exaggerated as they
passed from mouth to mouth over the Christmas fire, in the days
when no one could read or write. But that the tales began by
being true any one may well believe who knows how many cannibal
savages there are in the world even now. I think that, if ever
there was an ogre in the world, he must have been very like a
certain person who lived, or was buried, in a cave in the
Neanderthal, between Elberfeld and Dusseldorf, on the Lower Rhine.
The skull and bones which were found there (and which are very
famous now among scientific men) belonged to a personage whom I
should have been very sorry to meet, and still more to let you
meet, in the wild forest; to a savage of enormous strength of limb
(and I suppose of jaw) likewise

"like an ape,
With forehead villainous low,"

who could have eaten you if he would; and (I fear) also would have
eaten you if he could. Such savages may have lingered (I believe,
from the old ballads and romances, that they did linger) for a
long time in lonely forests and mountain caves, till they were all
killed out by warriors who wore mail-armour and carried steel
sword, and battle-axe, and lance.

But had these people any religion?

My dear child, we cannot know, and need not know. But we know
this--that God beholds all the heathen. He fashions the hearts of
them, and understandeth all their works. And we know also that He
is just and good. These poor folks were, I doubt not, happy
enough in their way; and we are bound to believe (for we have no
proof against it), that most of them were honest and harmless
enough likewise. Of course, ogres and cannibals, and cruel and
brutal persons (if there were any among them), deserved
punishment--and punishment, I do not doubt, they got. But, of
course, again, none of them knew things which you know; but for
that very reason they were not bound to do many things which you
are bound to do. For those to whom little is given, of them shall
little be required. What their religion was like, or whether they
had any religion at all, we cannot tell. But this we can tell,
that known unto God are all His works from the creation of the
world; and that His mercy is over all His works, and He hateth
nothing that He has made. These men and women, whatever they
were, were God's work; and therefore we may comfort ourselves with
the certainty that, whether or not they knew God, God knew them.

And so ends my fairy tale.

But is it not a wonderful tale? More wonderful, if you will think
over it, than any story invented by man. But so it always is.
"Truth," wise men tell us, "is stranger than fiction." Even a
child like you will see that it must be so, if you will but
recollect who makes fiction, and who makes facts.

Man makes fiction: he invents stories, pretty enough, fantastical
enough. But out of what does he make them up? Out of a few
things in this great world which he has seen, and heard, and felt,
just as he makes up his dreams. But who makes truth? Who makes
facts? Who, but God?

Then truth is as much larger than fiction, as God is greater than
man; as much larger as the whole universe is larger than the
little corner of it that any man, even the greatest poet or
philosopher, can see; and as much grander, and as much more
beautiful, and as much more strange. For one is the whole, and
the other is one, a few tiny scraps of the whole. The one is the
work of God; the other is the work of man. Be sure that no man
can ever fancy anything strange, unexpected, and curious, without
finding if he had eyes to see, a hundred things around his feet
more strange, more unexpected, more curious, actually ready-made
already by God. You are fond of fairy tales, because they are
fanciful, and like your dreams. My dear child, as your eyes open
to the true fairy tale which Madam How can tell you all day long,
nursery stories will seem to you poor and dull. All those
feelings in you which your nursery tales call out,--imagination,
wonder, awe, pity, and I trust too, hope and love--will be called
out, I believe, by the Tale of all Tales, the true "Marchen allen
Marchen," so much more fully and strongly and purely, that you
will feel that novels and story-books are scarcely worth your
reading, as long as you can read the great green book, of which
every bud is a letter, and every tree a page.

Wonder if you will. You cannot wonder too much. That you might
wonder all your life long, God put you into this wondrous world,
and gave you that faculty of wonder which he has not given to the
brutes; which is at once the mother of sound science, and a pledge
of immortality in a world more wondrous even than this. But
wonder at the right thing, not at the wrong; at the real miracles
and prodigies, not at the sham. Wonder not at the world of man.
Waste not your admiration, interest, hope on it, its pretty toys,
gay fashions, fine clothes, tawdry luxuries, silly amusements.
Wonder at the works of God. You will not, perhaps, take my advice
yet. The world of man looks so pretty, that you will needs have
your peep at it, and stare into its shop windows; and if you can,
go to a few of its stage plays, and dance at a few of its balls.
Ah--well--After a wild dream comes an uneasy wakening; and after
too many sweet things, comes a sick headache. And one morning you
will awake, I trust and pray, from the world of man to the world
of God, and wonder where wonder is due, and worship where worship
is due. You will awake like a child who has been at a pantomime
over night, staring at the "fairy halls," which are all paint and
canvas; and the "dazzling splendours," which are gas and oil; and
the "magic transformations," which are done with ropes and
pulleys; and the "brilliant elves," who are poor little children
out of the next foul alley; and the harlequin and clown, who
through all their fun are thinking wearily over the old debts
which they must pay, and the hungry mouths at home which they must
feed: and so, having thought it all wondrously glorious, and
quite a fairy land, slips tired and stupid into bed, and wakes
next morning to see the pure light shining in through the delicate
frost-lace on the window-pane, and looks out over fields of virgin
snow, and watches the rosy dawn and cloudless blue, and the great
sun rising to the music of cawing rooks and piping stares, and
says, "This is the true wonder. This is the true glory. The
theatre last night was the fairy land of man; but this is the
fairy land of God."


What do you want to know about next? More about the caves in
which the old savages lived,--how they were made, and how the
curious things inside them got there, and so forth.

Well, we will talk about that in good time: but now--What is that
coming down the hill?

Oh, only some chalk-carts.

Only some chalk-carts? It seems to me that these chalk-carts are
the very things we want; that if we follow them far enough--I do
not mean with our feet along the public road, but with our
thoughts along a road which, I am sorry to say, the public do not
yet know much about--we shall come to a cave, and understand how a
cave is made. Meanwhile, do not be in a hurry to say, "Only a
chalk-cart," or only a mouse, or only a dead leaf. Chalk-carts,
like mice, and dead leaves, and most other matters in the universe
are very curious and odd things in the eyes of wise and reasonable
people. Whenever I hear young men saying "only" this and "only"
that, I begin to suspect them of belonging, not to the noble army
of sages--much less to the most noble army of martyrs,--but to the
ignoble army of noodles, who think nothing interesting or
important but dinners, and balls, and races, and back-biting their
neighbours; and I should be sorry to see you enlisting in that
regiment when you grow up. But think--are not chalk-carts very
odd and curious things? I think they are. To my mind, it is a
curious question how men ever thought of inventing wheels; and,
again, when they first thought of it. It is a curious question,
too, how men ever found out that they could make horses work for
them, and so began to tame them, instead of eating them, and a
curious question (which I think we shall never get answered) when
the first horse-tamer lived, and in what country. And a very
curious, and, to me, a beautiful sight it is, to see those two
noble horses obeying that little boy, whom they could kill with a
single kick.

But, beside all this, there is a question, which ought to be a
curious one to you (for I suspect you cannot answer it)--Why does
the farmer take the trouble to send his cart and horses eight
miles and more, to draw in chalk from Odiham chalk-pit?

Oh, he is going to put it on the land, of course. They are
chalking the bit at the top of the next field, where the copse was

But what good will he do by putting chalk on it? Chalk is not
rich and fertile, like manure, it is altogether poor, barren
stuff: you know that, or ought to know it. Recollect the chalk
cuttings and banks on the railway between Basingstoke and
Winchester--how utterly barren they are. Though they have been
open these thirty years, not a blade of grass, hardly a bit of
moss, has grown on them, or will grow, perhaps, for centuries.

Come, let us find out something about the chalk before we talk
about the caves. The chalk is here, and the caves are not; and
"Learn from the thing that lies nearest you" is as good a rule as
"Do the duty which lies nearest you." Let us come into the
grubbed bit, and ask the farmer--there he is in his gig.

Well, old friend, and how are you? Here is a little boy who wants
to know why you are putting chalk on your field.

Does he then? If he ever tries to farm round here, he will have
to learn for his first rule--No chalk, no wheat.

But why?

Why, is more than I can tell, young squire. But if you want to
see how it comes about, look here at this freshly-grubbed land--
how sour it is. You can see that by the colour of it--some black,
some red, some green, some yellow, all full of sour iron, which
will let nothing grow. After the chalk has been on it a year or
two, those colours will have all gone out of it; and it will turn
to a nice wholesome brown, like the rest of the field; and then
you will know that the land is sweet, and fit for any crop. Now
do you mind what I tell you, and then I'll tell you something
more. We put on the chalk because, beside sweetening the land, it
will hold water. You see, the land about here, though it is often
very wet from springs, is sandy and hungry; and when we drain the
bottom water out of it, the top water (that is, the rain) is apt
to run through it too fast: and then it dries and burns up; and
we get no plant of wheat, nor of turnips either. So we put on
chalk to hold water, and keep the ground moist.

But how can these lumps of chalk hold water? They are not made
like cups.

No: but they are made like sponges, which serves our turn better
still. Just take up that lump, young squire, and you'll see water
enough in it, or rather looking out of it, and staring you in the

Why! one side of the lump is all over thick ice.

So it is. All that water was inside the chalk last night, till it
froze. And then it came squeezing out of the holes in the chalk
in strings, as you may see it if you break the ice across. Now
you may judge for yourself how much water a load of chalk will
hold, even on a dry summer's day. And now, if you'll excuse me,
sir, I must be off to market.

Was it all true that the farmer said?

Quite true, I believe. He is not a scientific man--that is, he
does not know the chemical causes of all these things; but his
knowledge is sound and useful, because it comes from long
experience. He and his forefathers, perhaps for a thousand years
and more, have been farming this country, reading Madam How's
books with very keen eyes, experimenting and watching, very
carefully and rationally; making mistakes often, and failing and
losing their crops and their money; but learning from their
mistakes, till their empiric knowledge, as it is called, helps
them to grow sometimes quite as good crops as if they had learned
agricultural chemistry.

What he meant by the chalk sweetening the land you would not
understand yet, and I can hardly tell you; for chemists are not
yet agreed how it happens. But he was right; and right, too, what
he told you about the water inside the chalk, which is more
important to us just now; for, if we follow it out, we shall
surely come to a cave at last.

So now for the water in the chalk. You can see now why the chalk-
downs at Winchester are always green, even in the hottest summer:
because Madam How has put under them her great chalk sponge. The
winter rains soak into it; and the summer heat draws that rain out
of it again as invisible steam, coming up from below, to keep the
roots of the turf cool and moist under the blazing sun.

You love that short turf well. You love to run and race over the
Downs with your butterfly-net and hunt "chalk-hill blues," and
"marbled whites," and "spotted burnets," till you are hot and
tired; and then to sit down and look at the quiet little old city
below, with the long cathedral roof, and the tower of St. Cross,
and the gray old walls and buildings shrouded by noble trees, all
embosomed among the soft rounded lines of the chalk-hills; and
then you begin to feel very thirsty, and cry, "Oh, if there were
but springs and brooks in the Downs, as there are at home!" But
all the hollows are as dry as the hill tops. There is not a
brook, or the mark of a watercourse, in one of them. You are like
the Ancient Mariner in the poem, with

"Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink."

To get that you must go down and down, hundreds of feet, to the
green meadows through which silver Itchen glides toward the sea.
There you stand upon the bridge, and watch the trout in water so
crystal-clear that you see every weed and pebble as if you looked
through air. If ever there was pure water, you think, that is
pure. Is it so? Drink some. Wash your hands in it and try--You
feel that the water is rough, hard (as they call it), quite
different from the water at home, which feels as soft as velvet.
What makes it so hard?

Because it is full of invisible chalk. In every gallon of that
water there are, perhaps, fifteen grains of solid chalk, which was
once inside the heart of the hills above. Day and night, year
after year, the chalk goes down to the sea; and if there were such
creatures as water-fairies--if it were true, as the old Greeks and
Romans thought, that rivers were living things, with a Nymph who
dwelt in each of them, and was its goddess or its queen--then, if
your ears were opened to hear her, the Nymph of Itchen might say
to you -

So child, you think that I do nothing but, as your sister says
when she sings Mr. Tennyson's beautiful song,

"I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles."

Yes. I do that: and I love, as the Nymphs loved of old, men who
have eyes to see my beauty, and ears to discern my song, and to
fit their own song to it, and tell how

"'I wind about, and in and out,
With here a blossom sailing,
And here and there a lusty trout,
And here and there a grayling,

"'And here and there a foamy flake
Upon me, as I travel
With many a silvery waterbreak
Above the golden gravel,

"'And draw them all along, and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.'"

Yes. That is all true: but if that were all, I should not be let
to flow on for ever, in a world where Lady Why rules, and Madam
How obeys. I only exist (like everything else, from the sun in
heaven to the gnat which dances in his beam) on condition of
working, whether we wish it or not, whether we know it or not. I
am not an idle stream, only fit to chatter to those who bathe or
fish in my waters, or even to give poets beautiful fancies about
me. You little guess the work I do. For I am one of the
daughters of Madam How, and, like her, work night and day, we know
not why, though Lady Why must know. So day by day, and night by
night, while you are sleeping (for I never sleep), I carry,
delicate and soft as I am, a burden which giants could not bear:
and yet I am never tired. Every drop of rain which the south-west
wind brings from the West Indian seas gives me fresh life and
strength to bear my burden; and it has need to do so; for every
drop of rain lays a fresh burden on me. Every root and weed which
grows in every field; every dead leaf which falls in the highwoods
of many a parish, from the Grange and Woodmancote round to
Farleigh and Preston, and so to Brighton and the Alresford downs;-
-ay, every atom of manure which the farmers put on the land--foul
enough then, but pure enough before it touches me--each of these,
giving off a tiny atom of what men call carbonic acid, melts a
tiny grain of chalk, and helps to send it down through the solid
hill by one of the million pores and veins which at once feed and
burden my springs. Ages on ages I have worked on thus, carrying
the chalk into the sea. And ages on ages, it may be, I shall work
on yet; till I have done my work at last, and levelled the high
downs into a flat sea-shore, with beds of flint gravel rattling in
the shallow waves.

She might tell you that; and when she had told you, you would
surely think of the clumsy chalk-cart rumbling down the hill, and
then of the graceful stream, bearing silently its invisible load
of chalk; and see how much more delicate and beautiful, as well as
vast and wonderful, Madam How's work is than that of man.

But if you asked the nymph why she worked on for ever, she could
not tell you. For like the Nymphs of old, and the Hamadryads who
lived, in trees, and Undine, and the little Sea-maiden, she would
have no soul; no reason; no power to say why.

It is for you, who are a reasonable being, to guess why: or at
least listen to me if I guess for you, and say, perhaps--I can
only say perhaps--that chalk may be going to make layers of rich
marl in the sea between England and France; and those marl-beds
may be upheaved and grow into dry land, and be ploughed, and
sowed, and reaped by a wiser race of men, in a better-ordered
world than this: or the chalk may have even a nobler destiny
before it. That may happen to it, which has happened already to
many a grain of lime. It may be carried thousands of miles away
to help in building up a coral reef (what that is I must tell you
afterwards). That coral reef may harden into limestone beds.
Those beds may be covered up, pressed, and, it may be, heated,
till they crystallise into white marble: and out of it fairer
statues be carved, and grander temples built, than the world has
ever yet seen.

And if that is not the reason why the chalk is being sent into the
sea, then there is another reason, and probably a far better one.
For, as I told you at first, Lady Why's intentions are far wiser
and better than our fancies; and she--like Him whom she obeys--is
able to do exceeding abundantly, beyond all that we can ask or

But you will say now that we have followed the chalk-cart a long
way, without coming to the cave.

You are wrong. We have come to the very mouth of the cave. All
we have to do is to say--not "Open Sesame," like Ali Baba in the
tale of the Forty Thieves--but some word or two which Madam Why
will teach us, and forthwith a hill will open, and we shall walk
in, and behold rivers and cascades underground, stalactite pillars
and stalagmite statues, and all the wonders of the grottoes of
Adelsberg, Antiparos, or Kentucky.

Am I joking? Yes, and yet no; for you know that when I joke I am
usually most in earnest. At least, I am now.

But there are no caves in chalk?

No, not that I ever heard of. There are, though, in limestone,
which is only a harder kind of chalk. Madam How could turn this
chalk into hard limestone, I believe, even now; and in more ways
than one: but in ways which would not be very comfortable or
profitable for us Southern folk who live on it. I am afraid that-
-what between squeezing and heating--she would flatten us all out
into phosphatic fossils, about an inch thick; and turn Winchester
city into a "breccia" which would puzzle geologists a hundred
thousand years hence. So we will hope that she will leave our
chalk downs for the Itchen to wash gently away, while we talk
about caves, and how Madam How scoops them out by water
underground, just in the same way, only more roughly, as she melts
the chalk.

Suppose, then, that these hills, instead of being soft, spongy
chalk, were all hard limestone marble, like that of which the font
in the church is made. Then the rainwater, instead of sinking
through the chalk as now, would run over the ground down-hill, and
if it came to a crack (a fault, as it is called) it would run down
between the rock; and as it ran it would eat that hole wider and
wider year by year, and make a swallow-hole--such as you may see
in plenty if you ever go up Whernside, or any of the high hills in
Yorkshire--unfathomable pits in the green turf, in which you may
hear the water tinkling and trickling far, far underground.

And now, before we go a step farther, you may understand, why the
bones of animals are so often found in limestone caves. Down such
swallow-holes how many beasts must fall: either in hurry and
fright, when hunted by lions and bears and such cruel beasts; or
more often still in time of snow, when the holes are covered with
drift; or, again, if they died on the open hill-sides, their bones
might be washed in, in floods, along with mud and stones, and
buried with them in the cave below; and beside that, lions and
bears and hyaenas might live in the caves below, as we know they
did in some caves, and drag in bones through the caves' mouths;
or, again, savages might live in that cave, and bring in animals
to eat, like the wild beasts; and so those bones might be mixed
up, as we know they were, with things which the savages had left
behind--like flint tools or beads; and then the whole would be
hardened, by the dripping of the limestone water, into a paste of
breccia just like this in my drawer. But the bones of the savages
themselves you would seldom or never find mixed in it--unless some
one had fallen in by accident from above. And why? (For there is
a Why? to that question: and not merely a How?) Simply because
they were men; and because God has put into the hearts of all men,
even of the lowest savages, some sort of reverence for those who
are gone; and has taught them to bury, or in some other way take
care of, their bones.

But how is the swallow-hole sure to end in a cave?

Because it cannot help making a cave for itself if it has time.

Think: and you will see that it must be so. For that water must
run somewhere; and so it eats its way out between the beds of the
rock, making underground galleries, and at last caves and lofty
halls. For it always eats, remember, at the bottom of its
channel, leaving the roof alone. So it eats, and eats, more in
some places and less in others, according as the stone is harder
or softer, and according to the different direction of the rock-
beds (what we call their dip and strike); till at last it makes
one of those wonderful caverns about which you are so fond of
reading--such a cave as there actually is in the rocks of the
mountain of Whernside, fed by the swallow-holes around the
mountain-top; a cave hundreds of yards long, with halls, and
lakes, and waterfalls, and curtains and festoons of stalactite
which have dripped from the roof, and pillars of stalagmite which
have been built up on the floor below. These stalactites (those
tell me who have seen them) are among the most beautiful of all
Madam How's work; sometimes like branches of roses or of grapes;
sometimes like statues; sometimes like delicate curtains, and I
know not what other beautiful shapes. I have never seen them, I
am sorry to say, and therefore I cannot describe them. But they
are all made in the same way; just in the same way as those little
straight stalactites which you may have seen hanging, like
icicles, in vaulted cellars, or under the arches of a bridge. The
water melts more lime than it can carry, and drops some of it
again, making fresh limestone grain by grain as it drips from the
roof above; and fresh limestone again where it splashes on the
floor below: till if it dripped long enough, the stalactite
hanging from above would meet the stalagmite rising from below,
and join in one straight round white graceful shaft, which would
seem (but only seem) to support the roof of the cave. And out of
that cave--though not always out of the mouth of it--will run a
stream of water, which seems to you clear as crystal, though it is
actually, like the Itchen at Winchester, full of lime; so full of
lime, that it makes beds of fresh limestone, which are called
travertine--which you may see in Italy, and Greece, and Asia
Minor: or perhaps it petrifies, as you call it, the weeds in its
bed, like that dropping-well at Knaresborough, of which you have
often seen a picture. And the cause is this: the water is so
full of lime, that it is forced to throw away some of it upon
everything it touches, and so incrusts with stone--though it does
not turn to stone--almost anything you put in it. You have seen,
or ought to have seen, petrified moss and birds' nests and such
things from Knaresborough Well: and now you know a little, though
only a very little, of how the pretty toys are made.

Now if you can imagine for yourself (though I suppose a little boy
cannot) the amount of lime which one of these subterranean rivers
would carry away, gnawing underground centuries after centuries,
day and night, summer and winter, then you will not be surprised
at the enormous size of caverns which may be seen in different
parts of the world--but always, I believe, in limestone rock. You
would not be surprised (though you would admire them) at the
caverns of Adelsberg, in Carniola (in the south of Austria, near
the top of the Adriatic), which runs, I believe, for miles in
length; and in the lakes of which, in darkness from its birth
until its death, lives that strange beast, the Proteus a sort of
long newt which never comes to perfection--I suppose for want of
the genial sunlight which makes all things grow. But he is blind;
and more, he keeps all his life the same feathery gills which
newts have when they are babies, and which we have so often looked
at through the microscope, to see the blood-globules run round and
round inside. You would not wonder, either, at the Czirknitz
Lake, near the same place, which at certain times of the year
vanishes suddenly through chasms under water, sucking the fish
down with it; and after a certain time boils suddenly up again
from the depths, bringing back with it the fish, who have been
swimming comfortably all the time in a subterranean lake; and
bringing back, too (and, extraordinary as this story is, there is
good reason to believe it true), live wild ducks who went down
small and unfledged, and come back full-grown and fat, with water-
weeds and small fish in their stomachs, showing they have had
plenty to feed on underground. But--and this is the strangest
part of the story, if true--they come up unfledged just as they
went down, and are moreover blind from having been so long in
darkness. After a while, however, folks say their eyes get right,
their feathers grow, and they fly away like other birds.

Neither would you be surprised (if you recollect that Madam How is
a very old lady indeed, and that some of her work is very old
likewise) at that Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, the largest cave in
the known world, through which you may walk nearly ten miles on
end, and in which a hundred miles of gallery have been explored
already, and yet no end found to the cave. In it (the guides will
tell you) there are "226 avenues, 47 domes, 8 cataracts, 23 pits,
and several rivers;" and if that fact is not very interesting to
you (as it certainly is not to me) I will tell you something which
ought to interest you: that this cave is so immensely old that
various kinds of little animals, who have settled themselves in
the outer parts of it, have had time to change their shape, and to
become quite blind; so that blind fathers and mothers have blind
children, generation after generation.

There are blind rats there, with large shining eyes which cannot
see--blind landcrabs, who have the foot-stalks of their eyes (you
may see them in any crab) still left; but the eyes which should be
on the top of them are gone. There are blind fish, too, in the
cave, and blind insects; for, if they have no use for their eyes
in the dark, why should Madam How take the trouble to finish them

One more cave I must tell you of, to show you how old some caves
must be, and then I must stop; and that is the cave of Caripe, in
Venezuela, which is the most northerly part of South America.
There, in the face of a limestone cliff, crested with enormous
flowering trees, and festooned with those lovely creepers of which
you have seen a few small ones in hothouses, there opens an arch
as big as the west front of Winchester Cathedral, and runs
straight in like a cathedral nave for more than 1400 feet. Out of
it runs a stream; and along the banks of that stream, as far as
the sunlight strikes in, grow wild bananas, and palms, and lords
and ladies (as you call them), which are not, like ours, one foot,
but many feet high. Beyond that the cave goes on, with
subterranean streams, cascades, and halls, no man yet knows how
far. A friend of mine last year went in farther, I believe, than
any one yet has gone; but, instead of taking Indian torches made
of bark and resin, or even torches made of Spanish wax, such as a
brave bishop of those parts used once when he went in farther than
any one before him, he took with him some of that beautiful
magnesium light which you have seen often here at home. And in
one place, when he lighted up the magnesium, he found himself in a
hall full 300 feet high--higher far, that is, than the dome of St.
Paul's--and a very solemn thought it was to him, he said, that he
had seen what no other human being ever had seen; and that no ray
of light had ever struck on that stupendous roof in all the ages
since the making of the world. But if he found out something
which he did not expect, he was disappointed in something which he
did expect. For the Indians warned him of a hole in the floor
which (they told him) was an unfathomable abyss. And lo and
behold, when he turned the magnesium light upon it, the said abyss
was just about eight feet deep. But it is no wonder that the poor
Indians with their little smoky torches should make such mistakes;
no wonder, too, that they should be afraid to enter far into those
gloomy vaults; that they should believe that the souls of their
ancestors live in that dark cave; and that they should say that
when they die they will go to the Guacharos, as they call the
birds that fly with doleful screams out of the cave to feed at
night, and in again at daylight, to roost and sleep.

Now, it is these very Guacharo birds which are to me the most
wonderful part of the story. The Indians kill and eat them for
their fat, although they believe they have to do with evil
spirits. But scientific men who have studied these birds will
tell you that they are more wonderful than if all the Indians'
fancies about them were true. They are great birds, more than
three feet across the wings, somewhat like owls, somewhat like
cuckoos, somewhat like goatsuckers; but, on the whole, unlike
anything in the world but themselves; and instead of feeding on
moths or mice, they feed upon hard dry fruits, which they pick off
the trees after the set of sun. And wise men will tell you, that
in making such a bird as that, and giving it that peculiar way of
life, and settling it in that cavern, and a few more caverns in
that part of the world, and therefore in making the caverns ready
for them to live in, Madam How must have taken ages and ages, more
than you can imagine or count.

But that is among the harder lessons which come in the latter part
of Madam How's book. Children need not learn them yet; and they
can never learn them, unless they master her alphabet, and her
short and easy lessons for beginners, some of which I am trying to
teach you now.

But I have just recollected that we are a couple of very stupid
fellows. We have been talking all this time about chalk and
limestone, and have forgotten to settle what they are, and how
they were made. We must think of that next time. It will not do
for us (at least if we mean to be scientific men) to use terms
without defining them; in plain English, to talk about--we don't
know what.


You want to know, then, what chalk is? I suppose you mean what
chalk is made of?

Yes. That is it.

That we can only help by calling in the help of a very great giant
whose name is Analysis.

A giant?

Yes. And before we call for him I will tell you a very curious
story about him and his younger brother, which is every word of it

Once upon a time, certainly as long ago as the first man, or
perhaps the first rational being of any kind, was created, Madam
How had two grandsons. The elder is called Analysis, and the
younger Synthesis. As for who their father and mother were, there
have been so many disputes on that question that I think children
may leave it alone for the present. For my part, I believe that
they are both, like St. Patrick, "gentlemen, and come of decent
people;" and I have a great respect and affection for them both,
as long as each keeps in his own place and minds his own business.

Now you must understand that, as soon as these two baby giants
were born, Lady Why, who sets everything to do that work for which
it is exactly fitted, set both of them their work. Analysis was
to take to pieces everything he found, and find out how it was
made. Synthesis was to put the pieces together again, and make
something fresh out of them. In a word, Analysis was to teach men
Science; and Synthesis to teach them Art.

But because Analysis was the elder, Madam How commanded Synthesis
never to put the pieces together till Analysis had taken them
completely apart. And, my child, if Synthesis had obeyed that
rule of his good old grandmother's, the world would have been far
happier, wealthier, wiser, and better than it is now.

But Synthesis would not. He grew up a very noble boy. He could
carve, he could paint, he could build, he could make music, and
write poems: but he was full of conceit and haste. Whenever his
elder brother tried to do a little patient work in taking things
to pieces, Synthesis snatched the work out of his hands before it
was a quarter done, and began putting it together again to suit
his own fancy, and, of course, put it together wrong. Then he
went on to bully his elder brother, and locked him up in prison,
and starved him, till for many hundred years poor Analysis never
grew at all, but remained dwarfed, and stupid, and all but blind
for want of light; while Synthesis, and all the hasty conceited
people who followed him, grew stout and strong and tyrannous, and
overspread the whole world, and ruled it at their will. But the
fault of all the work of Synthesis was just this: that it would
not work. His watches would not keep time, his soldiers would not
fight, his ships would not sail, his houses would not keep the
rain out. So every time he failed in his work he had to go to
poor Analysis in his dungeon, and bully him into taking a thing or
two to pieces, and giving him a few sound facts out of them, just
to go on with till he came to grief again, boasting in the
meantime that he and not Analysis had found out the facts. And at
last he grew so conceited that he fancied he knew all that Madam
How could teach him, or Lady Why either, and that he understood
all things in heaven and earth; while it was not the real heaven
and earth that he was thinking of, but a sham heaven and a sham
earth, which he had built up out of his guesses and his own

And the more Synthesis waxed in pride, and the more he trampled
upon his poor brother, the more reckless he grew, and the more
willing to deceive himself. If his real flowers would not grow,
he cut out paper flowers, and painted them and said that they
would do just as well as natural ones. If his dolls would not
work, he put strings and wires behind them to make them nod their
heads and open their eyes, and then persuaded other people, and
perhaps half-persuaded himself, that they were alive. If the hand
of his weather-glass went down, he nailed it up to insure a fine
day, and tortured, burnt, or murdered every one who said it did
not keep up of itself. And many other foolish and wicked things
he did, which little boys need not hear of yet.

But at last his punishment came, according to the laws of his
grandmother, Madam How, which are like the laws of the Medes and
Persians, and alter not, as you and all mankind will sooner or
later find; for he grew so rich and powerful that he grew careless
and lazy, and thought about nothing but eating and drinking, till
people began to despise him more and more. And one day he left
the dungeon of Analysis so ill guarded, that Analysis got out and
ran away. Great was the hue and cry after him; and terribly would
he have been punished had he been caught. But, lo and behold,
folks had grown so disgusted with Synthesis that they began to
take the part of Analysis. Poor men hid him in their cottages,
and scholars in their studies. And when war arose about him,--and
terrible wars did arise,--good kings, wise statesmen, gallant
soldiers, spent their treasure and their lives in fighting for
him. All honest folk welcomed him, because he was honest; and all
wise folk used him, for, instead of being a conceited tyrant like
Synthesis, he showed himself the most faithful, diligent, humble
of servants, ready to do every man's work, and answer every man's
questions. And among them all he got so well fed that he grew
very shortly into the giant that he ought to have been all along;
and was, and will be for many a year to come, perfectly able to
take care of himself.

As for poor Synthesis, he really has fallen so low in these days,
that one cannot but pity him. He now goes about humbly after his
brother, feeding on any scraps that are thrown to him, and is
snubbed and rapped over the knuckles, and told one minute to hold
his tongue and mind his own business, and the next that he has no
business at all to mind, till he has got into such a poor way that
some folks fancy he will die, and are actually digging his grave
already, and composing his epitaph. But they are trying to wear
the bear's skin before the bear is killed; for Synthesis is not
dead, nor anything like it; and he will rise up again some day, to
make good friends with his brother Analysis, and by his help do
nobler and more beautiful work than he has ever yet done in the

So now Analysis has got the upper hand; so much so that he is in
danger of being spoilt by too much prosperity, as his brother was
before him; in which case he too will have his fall; and a great
deal of good it will do him. And that is the end of my story, and
a true story it is.

Now you must remember, whenever you have to do with him, that
Analysis, like fire, is a very good servant, but a very bad
master. For, having got his freedom only of late years or so, he
is, like young men when they come suddenly to be their own
masters, apt to be conceited, and to fancy that he knows
everything, when really he knows nothing, and can never know
anything, but only knows about things, which is a very different
matter. Indeed, nowadays he pretends that he can teach his old
grandmother, Madam How, not only how to suck eggs, but to make
eggs into the bargain; while the good old lady just laughs at him
kindly, and lets him run on, because she knows he will grow wiser
in time, and learn humility by his mistakes and failures, as I
hope you will from yours.

However, Analysis is a very clever young giant, and can do
wonderful work as long as he meddles only with dead things, like
this bit of lime. He can take it to pieces, and tell you of what
things it is made, or seems to be made; and take them to pieces
again, and tell you what each of them is made of; and so on, till
he gets conceited, and fancies that he can find out some one Thing
of all things (which he calls matter), of which all other things
are made; and some Way of all ways (which he calls force), by
which all things are made: but when he boasts in that way, old
Madam How smiles, and says, "My child, before you can say that,
you must remember a hundred things which you are forgetting, and
learn a hundred thousand things which you do not know;" and then
she just puts her hand over his eyes, and Master Analysis begins
groping in the dark, and talking the saddest nonsense. So beware
of him, and keep him in his own place, and to his own work, or he
will flatter you, and get the mastery of you, and persuade you
that he can teach you a thousand things of which he knows no more
than he does why a duck's egg never hatches into a chicken. And
remember, if Master Analysis ever grows saucy and conceited with
you, just ask him that last riddle, and you will shut him up at

And why?

Because Analysis can only explain to you a little about dead
things, like stones--inorganic things as they are called. Living
things--organisms, as they are called--he cannot explain to you at
all. When he meddles with them, he always ends like the man who
killed his goose to get the golden eggs. He has to kill his
goose, or his flower, or his insect, before he can analyse it; and
then it is not a goose, but only the corpse of a goose; not a
flower, but only the dead stuff of the flower.

And therefore he will never do anything but fail, when he tries to
find out the life in things. How can he, when he has to take the
life out of them first? He could not even find out how a plum-
pudding is made by merely analysing it. He might part the sugar,
and the flour, and the suet; he might even (for he is very clever,
and very patient too, the more honour to him) take every atom of
sugar out of the flour with which it had got mixed, and every atom
of brown colour which had got out of the plums and currants into
the body of the pudding, and then, for aught I know, put the
colouring matter back again into the plums and currants; and then,
for aught I know, turn the boiled pudding into a raw one again,--
for he is a great conjurer, as Madam How's grandson is bound to
be: but yet he would never find out how the pudding was made,
unless some one told him the great secret which the sailors in the
old story forgot--that the cook boiled it in a cloth.

This is Analysis's weak point--don't let it be yours--that in all
his calculations he is apt to forget the cloth, and indeed the
cook likewise. No doubt he can analyse the matter of things: but
he will keep forgetting that he cannot analyse their form.

Do I mean their shape?

No, my child; no. I mean something which makes the shape of
things, and the matter of them likewise, but which folks have lost
sight of nowadays, and do not seem likely to get sight of again
for a few hundred years. So I suppose that you need not trouble
your head about it, but may just follow the fashions as long as
they last.

About this piece of lime, however, Analysis can tell us a great
deal. And we may trust what he says, and believe that he
understands what he says.


Think now. If you took your watch to pieces, you would probably
spoil it for ever; you would have perhaps broken, and certainly
mislaid, some of the bits; and not even a watchmaker could put it
together again. You would have analysed the watch wrongly. But
if a watchmaker took it to pieces then any other watchmaker could
put it together again to go as well as ever, because they both
understand the works, how they fit into each other, and what the
use and the power of each is. Its being put together again
rightly would be a proof that it had been taken to pieces rightly.

And so with Master Analysis. If he can take a thing to pieces so
that his brother Synthesis can put it together again, you may be
sure that he has done his work rightly.

Now he can take a bit of chalk to pieces, so that it shall become
several different things, none of which is chalk, or like chalk at
all. And then his brother Synthesis can put them together again,
so that they shall become chalk, as they were before. He can do
that very nearly, but not quite. There is, in every average piece
of chalk, something which he cannot make into chalk again when he
has once unmade it.

What that is I will show you presently; and a wonderful tale hangs
thereby. But first we will let Analysis tell us what chalk is
made of, as far as he knows.

He will say--Chalk is carbonate of lime.

But what is carbonate of lime made of?

Lime and carbonic acid.

And what is lime?

The oxide of a certain metal, called calcium.

What do you mean?

That quicklime is a certain metal mixed with oxygen gas; and
slacked lime is the same, mixed with water.

So lime is a metal. What is a metal? Nobody knows.

And what is oxygen gas? Nobody knows.

Well, Analysis, stops short very soon. He does not seem to know
much about the matter.

Nay, nay, you are wrong there. It is just "about the matter" that
he does know, and knows a great deal, and very accurately; what he
does not know is the matter itself. He will tell you wonderful
things about oxygen gas--how the air is full of it, the water full
of it, every living thing full of it; how it changes hard bright
steel into soft, foul rust; how a candle cannot burn without it,
or you live without it. But what it is he knows not.

Will he ever know?

That is Lady Why's concern, and not ours. Meanwhile he has a
right to find out if he can. But what do you want to ask him

What? Oh! What carbonic acid is. He can tell you that. Carbon
and oxygen gas.

But what is carbon?

Nobody knows.

Why, here is this stupid Analysis at fault again.

Nay, nay, again. Be patient with him. If he cannot tell you what
carbon is, he can tell you what is carbon, which is well worth
knowing. He will tell you, for instance, that every time you
breathe or speak, what comes out of your mouth is carbonic acid;
and that, if your breath comes on a bit of slacked lime, it will
begin to turn it back into the chalk from which it was made; and
that, if your breath comes on the leaves of a growing plant, that
leaf will take the carbon out of it, and turn it into wood. And
surely that is worth knowing,--that you may be helping to make
chalk, or to make wood, every time you breathe.

Well; that is very curious.

But now, ask him, What is carbon? And he will tell you, that many
things are carbon. A diamond is carbon; and so is blacklead; and
so is charcoal and coke, and coal in part, and wood in part.

What? Does Analysis say that a diamond and charcoal are the same


Then his way of taking things to pieces must be a very clumsy one,
if he can find out no difference between diamond and charcoal.

Well, perhaps it is: but you must remember that, though he is
very old--as old as the first man who ever lived--he has only been
at school for the last three hundred years or so. And remember,
too, that he is not like you, who have some one else to teach you.
He has had to teach himself, and find out for himself, and make
his own tools, and work in the dark besides. And I think it is
very much to his credit that he ever found out that diamond and
charcoal were the same things. You would never have found it out
for yourself, you will agree.

No: but how did he do it?

He taught a very famous chemist, Lavoisier, about ninety years
ago, how to burn a diamond in oxygen--and a very difficult trick
that is; and Lavoisier found that the diamond when burnt turned
almost entirely into carbonic acid and water, as blacklead and
charcoal do; and more, that each of them turned into the same
quantity of carbonic acid, And so he knew, as surely as man can
know anything, that all these things, however different to our
eyes and fingers, are really made of the same thing,--pure carbon.

But what makes them look and feel so different?

That Analysis does not know yet. Perhaps he will find out some
day; for he is very patient, and very diligent, as you ought to
be. Meanwhile, be content with him: remember that though he
cannot see through a milestone yet, he can see farther into one
than his neighbours. Indeed his neighbours cannot see into a
milestone at all, but only see the outside of it, and know things
only by rote, like parrots, without understanding what they mean
and how they are made.

So now remember that chalk is carbonate of lime, and that it is
made up of three things, calcium, oxygen, and carbon; and that
therefore its mark is CaCO(3), in Analysis's language, which I
hope you will be able to read some day.

But how is it that Analysis and Synthesis cannot take all this
chalk to pieces, and put it together again?

Look here; what is that in the chalk?

Oh! a shepherd's crown, such as we often find in the gravel, only
fresh and white.

Well; you know what that was once. I have often told you: --a
live sea-egg, covered with prickles, which crawls at the bottom of
the sea.

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