|The Stories Mother Nature Told Her Children|
|by Jane Andrews|
|Mother Nature unfolds some of her most precious secrets. She tells about amber, about the dragon-fly and its wonderful history, about water-lilies, how the Indian corn grows, what odd doings the Frost Giants engage in, about coral, and starfish, and coal mines, and many other things in which children take delight. Ages 7-10 |
THE STORY OF THE AMBER BEADS
 DO you know Mother Nature? She it is to whom God has given
the care of the earth, and all that grows in or upon it,
just as he has given to your mother the care of her family
of boys and girls.
You may think that Mother Nature, like the famous "old woman
who lived in the shoe," has so many children that she doesn't
know what to do. But you will know better when you become
acquainted with her, and learn how strong she is, and how
active; how she can really be in fifty places at once,
taking care of a sick tree, or a baby flower just born; and,
at the same time, building underground palaces, guiding the
 little travellers setting out on long journeys, and
sweeping, dusting, and arranging her great house,—the
earth. And all the while, in the midst of her patient and
never-ending work, she will tell us the most charming and
marvellous stories of ages ago when she was young, or of the
treasures that lie hidden in the most distant and secret
closets of her palace; just such stories as you all like so
well to hear your mother tell when you gather round her in
A few of these stories which she has told to me, I am about
to tell you, beginning with this one.
I know a little Scotch girl: she lives among the Highlands.
Her home is hardly more than a hut; her food, broth and
bread. Her father keeps sheep on the hillsides; and, instead
of wearing a coat, wraps himself in his plaid, for
protection from the cold winds that drive before them great
clouds of mist and snow among the mountains.
As for Jeanie herself (you must be careful to spell her name
with an ea, for that is Scotch fashion), her yellow hair is
bound about with a little snood; her face is browned by
 the weather; and her hands are hardened by work,
for she helps her mother to cook and sew, to spin and weave.
One treasure little Jeanie has which many a lady would be
proud to wear. It is a necklace of amber beads,—"lamour
beads," old Elsie calls them; that is the name they went by
when she was young.
You have, perhaps, seen amber, and know its rich, sunshiny
color, and its fragrance when rubbed; and do you also know
that rubbing will make amber attract things somewhat as a
magnet does? Jeanie's beads had all these properties, but
some others besides, wonderful and lovely; and it is of
those particularly that I wish to tell you. Each bead has
inside of it some tiny thing, incased
as if it had grown in
the amber; and Jeanie is never tired of looking at, and
wondering about, them. Here is one with a delicate bit of
ferny moss shut up, as it were, in a globe of yellow light.
In another is the tiniest fly,—his little wings outspread,
and raised for flight. Again, she can show us a bee lodged
in one bead that looks like solid honey, and a little
bright-winged beetle in another.
 This one holds two slender
pine-needles lying across each other, and here we see a
single scale of a pine-cone; while yet another shows an atom
of an acorn-cup, fit for a fairy's use. I wish you could see
the beads, for I cannot tell you the half of their beauty.
Now, where do you suppose they came from, and how did little
Scotch Jeanie come into possession of such a treasure?
All she knows about it is, that her grandfather,—old
Kenneth, who cowers now all day in the chimney-corner,—once,
years ago when he was a young lad, went down upon the
seashore after a great storm, hoping to help save something
from the wreck of the "Goshawk," that had gone ashore during
the night; and there among the slippery seaweeds his foot
had accidentally uncovered a clear, shining lump of amber,
in which all these little creatures were embedded. Now,
Kenneth loved a pretty Highland lass; and, when she promised
to be his bride, he brought her a necklace of amber beads.
He had carved them himself out of his lump of amber, working
carefully to save in each bead the prettiest insect or moss,
and thinking, while he toiled hour after
 hour, of the
delight with which he should see his bride wear them. That
bride was Jeanie's grandmother; and when she died last year,
she said, "Let little Jeanie have my lamour beads, and keep
them as long as she lives."
But what puzzled Jeanie was, how the amber came to be on the
seashore; and, most of all, how the bees and mosses came
inside of it. Should you like to know? If you would, that is
one of Mother Nature's stories, and she will gladly tell it.
Hear what she answers to our questions:—
"I remember a time, long, long before you were born,—long,
even, before any men were living upon the earth; then these
Scotch Highlands, as you call them, where little Jeanie
lives, were covered with forests. There were oaks, poplars,
beeches, and pines; and among them one kind of pine, tall
and stately, from which a shining yellow gum flowed, just as
you have seen little drops of sticky gum exude from our own
pine trees. This beautiful yellow gum was fragrant; and, as
the thousands of little insects fluttered about it in the
warm sunshine, they were
at-  tracted by its pleasant
odor,—perhaps, too, by its taste,—and once
alighted upon it,
they stuck fast, and could not get away; while the great
yellow drops oozing out surrounded, and at last covered,
them entirely. So, too, wind-blown bits of moss, leaves,
acorns, cones, and little sticks were soon securely imbedded
in the fast-flowing gum; and, as time went by, it hardened
and hardened more and more. And this is amber."
"That is well told, Mother Nature; but it does not explain
how Kenneth's lump of amber came to be on the seashore."
"Wait, then, for the second part of the story.
"Did you ever hear that, in those very old times, the land
sometimes sank down into the sea, even so deep that the
water covered the very mountain-tops; and then, after ages,
it was slowly lifted up again, to sink indeed, perhaps, yet
again and again?
"You can hardly believe it, yet I myself was there to see;
and I remember well when the great forests of the North of
Scotland—the oaks, the poplars,
and the amber-pines—were
lowered into the deep sea. There, lying at the bottom
 of the
ocean, the wood and the gum hardened like stone, and only
the great storms can disturb them as they lie half buried in
the sand. It was one of those great storms that brought
Kenneth's lump of amber to land."
If we could only walk on the bottom of the sea, what
treasures we might find!
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