|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 stream that crept down from the hills,
three miles away, has worn a smooth bed for itself in the
gravel; has watered the farmer's fields, and turned the
wheel of the old grist-mill, where the miller tends the
stones that grind the farmer's corn. But down below here the
stream has something else to do. It has been working hard,
up and away from dam to dam again; and as always in life
there should be something besides business,—something
beautiful and peaceful,—so the stream has swept round this
corner, behind the wooded point of land which hides the
mill, and spread itself out in the hollow of Brown's meadow,
where farmer Brown says his grandfather used to tell him
some Indian wigwams stood when he was a boy. The land has
sunk since then, and there is something more beautiful than
Indian wigwams there now.
 Where the old squaws used to sit weaving baskets, and the
pappooses rolled and played, is now thick, black mud, in
which are great tangled roots, some of them bigger than my
All winter they lie there under the ice, while the children
skate over them. In the spring, when every thing stirs with
new life, they, too, must wake up: so, slowly and steadily,
they begin to put up long stems to reach the surface of the
water. Chambered stems they are, each having four passages
leading up to the air, and down to the root and black mud.
The walls of these chambers are brown and slimy, and each
stem bears at its top a slimy bud,—slimy on the outside,
brownish-green as it pushes up through the water; for this
outer coat is stout and waterproof, and can well afford to
be unpretending, since it carries something very precious
wrapped up inside.
Not days, but weeks,—even months, it is working upon this
hidden treasure before we shall see it. And the July
mornings have come while we wait.
Can you wake at three o'clock, children, and,
 while the
birds are singing their very best songs, go down the road
under the elms, across the little bridge, and through the
hemlock grove at the right? It is a mile to walk, and you
will not be there too early. The broad, smooth pond, that
the brook has made for its holiday pleasure, is at our feet.
At its bottom are the tangled roots; on the surface, among
the flat, green leaves, float those buds that have been so
long creeping towards the light.
One long, bright beam from the sun just rising smiles across
the meadow, and touches the folded buds. They must, indeed,
smile back in reply; so the thick sheath unfolds, and
behold! the whitest, fairest lily-cup floats on the water,
and its golden centre smiles back to the sun with many rays.
We watched only one, but perhaps none is willing to be
latest in greeting the sun, and the pond is already
half-covered with a snowy fleet of boats fit for the
fairies,—boats under full sail for fairy-land, laden with
beauty and fragrance.
And this is what the dark mud can send forth. This is one of
Mother Nature's hidden treasures.
 Perhaps she hides
something as white and beautiful in all that seems dark and
ugly, if only we will wait and watch for it, and be willing
to come at the very dawn of day to look for it.
The lilies will stay with us, now that at last they are
here, all through the rest of the summer, and even into the
warm, sunny days of earliest October; but it will be only a
few who stay so late as that. And where have the others
gone, meanwhile? You see there are no dead lilies floating,
folded and decaying, among the pads.
The stem that found its way so surely to the upper world
knows not less surely the way back again; and when its white
blossom has opened for the last time, and then wrapped its
green cloak about it again, not to be unfolded, the
chambered stem coils backward, and carries it safely to the
bottom, where its seed may ripen in the soft, dark mud, and
prepare for another summer.
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