|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 HIDDEN LIGHT
 THERE were plenty of gold-green beetles in the forest. Their
violet-colored cousins also held royal state there; and
scarlet or yellow with black trimmings was the uniform of
many a gay troop that careered in splendor through the
vine-hung aisles of the hot, damp woods. But clinging to the
gray bark of some tree, or lying concealed among the damp
leaves in a swamp, was the gayest and fairest of them all,
if the truth be told.
A little blackish-brown bug, dingy and hairy, not pleasant
to look upon, you will say; surely not related to such
winged splendors as play in the sunlight. Yet he is true
first cousin to the green and gold, or to the royal violet;
has as fair a title to a place in your regard, and will
prove it, if you will only wait his time. He is like those
plain people whom we pass every day without
 notice, until
some great trial or difficulty calls out a hidden power
within them, and they flash into greatness in some noble
action, and prove their kinship to God.
We need not wait long; for as soon as the sun has set, our
dull, blackish bug unfolds his wings and reveals his latent
glory. He becomes a star, a spark from the sun's very self.
If you can prevail upon him to condescend to attend you, you
may read or write by his light alone.
But come with me to this Indian's hut, where instead of
lamp, candle, or torch, three or four of these luminous
insects make all the dwelling bright. See the Indian hunter
preparing for a journey, or a raid upon the forest beasts,
by fastening to his hands and feet the little lantern-flies
that shall make the pathway light before him.
When the Indian wants his brilliant little servants, he goes
out on some little hillock, waving a lighted torch and
calling them by name, "cucuie, cucuie;" and quickly they
crowd around him in troops.
And here I must tell you a little Japanese story. The young
lady fire-fly is courted by her many
 suitors, who themselves
carry no light. She is shy and reserved. She will not accept
the attentions; but when so importuned that she sees no
other escape, she cries, "Let him who really loves me, go
bring me a light like my own, as a proof of his affection."
Then the daring lovers rush blindly at the nearest fire or
candle, and perish in the flame.
But to return to the Indian. Not only do his lantern-flies
illuminate his path, but they go on before him, like an
advance guard, to clear the road of its infecting
mosquitoes, gnats, and other troublesome insects, which they
seize and devour on the wing.
No harm would the Indian do to his little torch-bearer; for,
besides the service he renders, does he not embody a portion
of the sun god, the holy fire? And there are times, when,
with reverent awe, these simple forest children think they
see in the cucuie the souls of their departed friends.
And now if we leave the forest and enter the gay ball-room
of some tropical city, we shall find that the cucuie is a
cosmopolitan, at home alike in palace and in hut, in forest
and city. Not
 only does he, as a wise little four-year-old
friend of mine said, "light the toads to bed," but,
restrained by invisible folds of gauze, he flutters in the
hair of the fairest ladies, and rivals those earth-stars the
But it is hardly fair to show only the bright side, even of
a cucuie; and in justice I must tell that the sugar-planters
see with dismay their little torches among the canes. For
although mosquitoes and gnats will do for food in the
forests where sugar is not to be had, who would taste them
when a field of cane is all before you, where to choose?
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