|The Story Book of Science|
|by Jean Henri Fabre|
|The wonders of plant and animal life told with rare literary charm by Uncle Paul in conversations with three children. Besides such stories as the ants' subterranean city, the spider's suspension bridge, and the caterpillars' processing, he unlocks the mystery behind thunder and lightning, clouds and rain, the year and its seasons, and volcanoes and earthquakes. Ages 9-12 |
OW, that day, Mother Ambroisine was very tired. She had
taken down from their shelves kettles, saucepans, lamps,
candlesticks, casseroles, pans, and lids. After having
rubbed them with fine sand and ashes, then washed them well,
she had put the utensils in the sun to dry them thoroughly.
They all shone like a mirror. The kettles particularly were
superb with their rosy reflections; one might have said that
tongues of fire were shining inside them. The candlesticks
were a dazzling yellow. Emile and Jules were lost in
"I should like to know what they make kettles of, they shine
so," remarked Emile. "They are very ugly outside, all black,
daubed with soot; but inside, how beautiful they are!"
"You must ask Uncle," replied his brother.
"Yes," assented Emile.
No sooner said than done: they went in search of their
uncle. He did not have to be entreated; he was happy
whenever there was an opportunity to teach them something.
"Kettles are made of copper," he began.
"And copper?" asked Jules.
"Copper is not made. In certain countries, it is found
already made, mixed with stone. It is one of the substances
that it is not in the power of man
 to make. We use these
substances as God has deposited them in the bosom of the
earth for purposes of human industry; but all our knowledge
and all our skill could not produce them.
"In the bosom of mountains where copper is found, they
hollow out galleries which go down deep into the earth.
There workmen called miners, with lamps to light them,
attack the rock with great blows of the pick, while others
carry the detached blocks outside. These blocks of stone in
which copper is found are called ore. In furnaces made for
the purpose they heat the ore to a very high temperature.
The heat of our stove, when it is red-hot, is nothing in
comparison. The copper melts, runs, and is separated from
the rest. Then, with hammers of enormous weight, set in
motion by a wheel turned by water, they strike the mass of
copper which, little by little, becomes thin and is hollowed
into a large basin.
"The coppersmith continues the work. He takes the shapeless
basin and, with little strokes of the hammer, fashions it on
the anvil to give it a regular shape."
"That is why coppersmiths tap all day with their hammers,"
commented Jules. "I had often wondered, when passing their
shops, why they made so much noise, always tapping, without
any stop. They were thinning the copper; shaping it into
saucepans and kettles."
Here Emile asked: "When a kettle is old, has holes in it and
can't be used, what do they do with it? I heard Mother
Ambroisine speak of selling a worn-out kettle."
 "It is melted, and another new kettle made out of the
copper," replied Uncle Paul.
"Then the copper does not wear away?"
"It wears away too much, my friend: some of it is lost when
they rub it with sand to make it shine; some is lost, too,
by the continual action of the fire; but what is left is
"Mother Ambroisine also spoke of recasting a lamp which had
lost a foot. What are lamps made of?"
"They are of tin, another substance that we find ready-made
in the bosom of the earth, without the power of producing it
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics