| Madam How and Lady Why|
|by Charles Kingsley|
|Introduces children to geology through conversations about earthquakes, volcanoes, coral reefs, and so on. Encourages children to wonder about the distinctive features of the landscape around them and how they came to be the way they are. Ages 10-14 |
OW you want to know what I meant when I talked of a bit of lime
going out to sea, and forming part of a coral island, and then of
a limestone rock, and then of a marble statue. Very good. Then
look at this stone.
What a curious stone! Did it come from any place near here?
No. It came from near Dudley, in Staffordshire, where the soils
are worlds on worlds older than they are here, though they were
made in the same way as these and all other soils. But you are
not listening to me.
Why, the stone is full of shells, and bits of coral; and what are
these wonderful things coiled and tangled together, like the
snakes in Medusa's hair in the picture? Are they snakes?
If they are, then they must be snakes who have all one head; for
see, they are joined together at their larger ends; and snakes
which are branched, too, which no snake ever was.
 Yes. I suppose they are not snakes. And they grow out of a
flower, too; and it has a stalk, jointed, too, as plants sometimes
are; and as fishes' backbones are, too. Is it a petrified plant or
No; though I do not deny that it looks like one. The creature
most akin to it which you ever saw is a star-fish.
What! one of the red star-fishes which one finds on the beach?
Its arms are not branched.
No. But there are star-fishes with branched arms still in the
sea. You know that pretty book (and learned book, too), Forbes'
"British Star-fishes"? You like to look it through for the sake of
the vignettes,—the mermaid and her child playing in the sea.
 Oh yes, and the kind bogie who is piping while the sandstars
dance; and the other who is trying to pull out the star-fish which
the oyster has caught.
Yes. But do you recollect the drawing of the Medusa's head, with
its curling arms, branched again and again without end? Here it
is. No, you shall not look at the vignettes now. We must mind
business. Now look at this one; the Feather-star, with arms
almost like fern-fronds. And in foreign seas there are many other
branched star-fish beside.
But they have no stalks?
Do not be too sure of that. This very feather-star, soon after it
is born, grows a tiny stalk, by which it holds on to corallines
and sea-weeds; and it is not till afterwards that it breaks loose
from that stalk, and swims away freely into the wide water. And
in foreign seas there are several star-fish still who grow on
stalks all their lives, as this fossil one did.
How strange that a live animal should grow on a stalk, like a
Not quite like a flower. A flower has roots, by which it feeds in
the soil. These things grow more like sea-weeds, which have no
roots, but only hold on to the rock by the foot of the stalk, as a
ship holds on by her anchor. But as for its being strange that
live animals should grow on stalks, if it be strange it is common
enough, like many far stranger things. For under the water are
millions on millions of
 creatures, spreading for miles on miles,
building up at last great reefs of rocks, and whole islands, which
all grow rooted first to the rock, like sea-weeds; and what is
more, they grow, most of them, from one common root, branching
again and again, and every branchlet bearing hundreds of living
creatures, so that the whole creation is at once one creature and
many creatures. Do you not understand me?
Then fancy to yourself a bush like that hawthorn bush, with
numberless blossoms, and every blossom on that bush a separate
living thing, with its own mouth, and arms, and stomach, budding
and growing fresh live branches and fresh live flowers, as fast as
the old ones die: and then you will see better what I mean.
Yes; but not more wonderful than your finger, for it, too, is made
up of numberless living things.
My finger made of living things?
What else can it be? When you cut your finger, does not the place
And what is healing but growing again? And how could the atoms of
your finger grow, and make fresh skin, if they were not each of
them alive? There, I will not puzzle you with too much at once;
you will know more about all that some day. Only remember
that there is nothing wonderful in the world outside you but has
its counterpart of something just as wonderful, and perhaps more
wonderful, inside you. Man is the microcosm, the little world,
said the philosophers of old; and philosophers nowadays are
beginning to see that their old guess is actual fact, and true.
But what are these curious sea-creatures called, which are
animals, yet grow like plants?
They have more names than I can tell you, or you remember. Those
which helped to make this bit of stone are called coral-insects:
but they are not really insects, and are no more like insects than
you are. Coral-polypes is the best name for them, because they
have arms round their mouths, something like a cuttle-fish, which
the ancients called Polypus. But the animal which you have seen
likest to most of them is a sea-anemone.
 Look now at this piece of fresh coral—for coral it is, though not
like the coral which your sister wears in her necklace. You see
it is full of pipes; in each of those pipes has lived what we will
call, for the time being, a tiny sea-anemone, joined on to his
brothers by some sort of flesh and skin; and all of them together
have built up, out of the lime in the sea-water, this common
house, or rather town, of lime.
But is it not strange and wonderful?
Of course it is: but so is everything when you begin to look into
it; and if I were to go on, and tell you what sort of young ones
these coral-polypes have, and what becomes of them, you would hear
such wonders, that you would be ready to suspect that I was
inventing nonsense, or talking in my dreams. But all that belongs
to Madam How's deepest book of all, which is called the
BOOK OF KIND; the book which children cannot understand, and in which
only the very wisest men are able to spell out a few words, not
knowing, and of course not daring to guess, what wonder may come
Now we will go back to our story, and talk about how it was made,
and how the stalked star-fish, which you mistook for a flower,
ever got into the stone.
Then do you think me silly for fancying that a fossil star-fish
was a flower?
I should be silly if I did. There is no silliness in
 not knowing
what you cannot know. You can only guess about new things, which
you have never seen before, by comparing them with old things,
which you have seen before; and you had seen flowers, and snakes,
and fishes' backbones, and made a very fair guess from them.
After all, some of these stalked star-fish are so like flowers,
lilies especially, that they are called Encrinites; and the whole
family is called Crinoids, or lily-like creatures,
from the Greek
work krinon, a lily; and as for corals and corallines, learned
 men, in spite of all their care and shrewdness, made mistake after
mistake about them, which they had to correct again and again,
till now, I trust, they have got at something very like the truth.
No, I shall only call you silly if you do what some little boys
are apt to do—call other boys, and, still worse, servants or poor
people, silly for not knowing what they cannot know.
But are not poor people often very silly about animals and plants?
The boys at the village school say that slowworms are poisonous;
is not that silly?
Not at all. They know that adders bite, and so they think that
slowworms bite too. They are wrong; and they must be told that
they are wrong, and scolded if they kill a slowworm. But silly
they are not.
But is it not silly to fancy that swallows sleep all the winter at
the bottom of the pond?
I do not think so. The boys cannot know where the swallows go;
and if you told them—what is true—that the swallows find their
way every autumn through France, through Spain, over the Straits
of Gibraltar, into Morocco, and some, I believe, over the great
desert of Zahara into Negroland: and if you told them—what is
true also—that the young swallows actually find their way into
Africa without having
 been along the road before; because the old
swallows go south a week or two first, and leave the young ones to
guess out the way for themselves:—if you told them that, then
they would have a right to say, "Do you expect us to believe that?
That is much more wonderful than that the swallows should sleep in
But is it?
Yes; to them. They know that bats, and dormice, and other things
sleep all the winter: so why should not swallows sleep? They see
the swallows about the water, and often dipping almost into it.
They know that fishes live under water, and that many insects—like May-flies and caddis-flies and water-beetles—live sometimes
in the water, sometimes in the open air; and they cannot know—you
do not know—what it is which prevents a bird living under
water. So their guess is really a very fair one; no more silly
than that of the savages, who when they first saw the white men's
ships, with their huge sails, fancied they were enormous sea-birds; and when they heard the cannons fire, said that the ships
spoke in thunder and lightning. Their guess was wrong, but not
silly; for it was the best guess they could make.
But I do know of one old woman who was silly. She was a boy's
nurse, and she gave the boy a thing which she said was one of the
snakes which St. Hilda turned into stone; and told him that they
 plenty of them at Whitby, where she was born, all coiled up;
but what was very odd, their heads had always been broken off. And
when he took it to his father, he told him it was only a fossil
shell—an Ammonite. And he went back and laughed at his nurse,
and teased her till she was quite angry.
Then he was very lucky that she did not box his ears, for that was
what he deserved. I dare say that, though his nurse had never
heard of Ammonites, she was a wise old dame enough, and knew a
hundred things which he did not know, and which were far more
important than Ammonites, even to him.
Because if she had not known how to nurse him well, he would
perhaps have never grown up alive and strong. And if she had not
known how to make him obey and speak the truth, he might have
grown up a naughty boy.
But was she not silly?
 No. She only believed what the Whitby folk, I understand, have
some of them believed for many hundred years. And no one can be
blamed for thinking as his forefathers did, unless he has cause to
Surely she might have known better?
How? What reason could she have to believe the Ammonite was a
shell? It is not the least like cockles, or whelks, or any shell
she ever saw.
What reason either could she have to guess that Whitby cliff had
once been coral-mud at the bottom of the sea? No more reason, my
dear child, than you would have to guess that this stone had been
coral-mud likewise, if I did not teach you so,—or rather, try to
make you teach yourself so.
No. I say it again. If you wish to learn, I will only teach you
on condition that you do not laugh at, or despise, those good and
honest and able people who do not know or care about these things,
because they have other things to think of: like old John out
there ploughing. He would not believe you—he would hardly
believe me—if we told him that this stone had been once a swarm
of living things, of exquisite shapes and glorious colours. And
yet he can plough and sow, and reap and mow, and fell and strip,
and hedge and ditch, and give his neighbours sound advice, and
take the measure of a man's worth from ten minutes' talk, and say
his prayers, and keep
 his temper, and pay his debts,—which last
three things are more than a good many folks can do who fancy
themselves a whole world wiser than John in the smock-frock.
Oh, but I want to hear about the exquisite shapes and glorious
Of course you do, little man. A few fine epithets take your fancy
far more than a little common sense and common humility; but in
that you are no worse than some of your elders. So now for the
exquisite shapes and glorious colours. I have never seen them:
though I trust to see them ere I die. So what they are like I can
only tell from what I have learnt from Mr. Darwin, and Mr.
Wallace, and Mr. Jukes, and Mr. Gosse, and last, but not least,
from one whose soul was as beautiful as his face, Lucas Barrett,—too soon lost to science,—who was drowned in exploring such a
coral-reef as this stone was once.
Then there are such things alive now?
Yes, and no. The descendants of most of them live on, altered by
time, which alters all things; and from the beauty of the children
we can guess at the beauty of their ancestors; just as from the
coral-reefs which exist now we can guess how the coral-reefs of
old were made. And that this stone was once part of a coral-reef
the corals in it prove at first sight.
And what is a coral-reef like?
You have seen the room in the British Museum
 full of corals,
madrepores, brain-stones, corallines, and sea-ferns?
Then fancy all those alive. Not as they are now, white stone:
but covered in jelly; and out of every pore a little polype, like
a flower, peeping out. Fancy them of every gaudy colour you
choose. No bed of flowers, they say, can be more brilliant than
the corals, as you look down on them through the clear sea.
Fancy, again, growing among them and crawling over them, strange
sea-anemones, shells, star-fish, sea-slugs, and sea-cucumbers with
feathery gills, crabs, and shrimps, and hundreds of other animals,
all as strange in shape, and as brilliant in colour. You may let
your fancy run wild. Nothing so odd, nothing so gay, even entered
your dreams, or a poet's, as you may find alive at the bottom of
the sea, in the live flower-gardens of the sea-fairies.
There will be shoals of fish, too, playing in and out, as strange
and gaudy as the rest,—parrot-fish who browse on the live coral
with their beak-like teeth, as cattle browse on grass; and at the
bottom, it may be, larger and uglier fish, who eat the crabs and
shell-fish, shells and all, grinding them up as a dog grinds a
bone, and so turning shells and corals into fine soft mud, such as
this stone is partly made of.
But what happens to all the delicate little corals if a storm
 What, indeed? Madam How has made them so well and wisely, that,
like brave and good men, the more trouble they suffer the stronger
they are. Day and night, week after week, the trade-wind blows
upon them, hurling the waves against them in furious surf,
knocking off great lumps of coral, grinding them to powder,
throwing them over the reef into the shallow water inside. But
the heavier the surf beats upon them, the stronger the polypes
outside grow, repairing their broken houses, and building up fresh
coral on the dead coral below, because it is in the fresh sea-water that beats upon the surf that they find most lime with which
to build. And as they build they form a barrier against the surf,
inside of which, in water still as glass, the weaker and more
delicate things can grow in safety, just as these very Encrinites
may have grown, rooted in the lime-mud, and waving their slender
arms at the bottom of the clear lagoon. Such mighty builders are
these little coral polypes, that all the works of men are small
compared with theirs. One single reef, for instance, which is
entirely made by them, stretches along the north-east coast of
Australia for nearly a thousand miles. Of this you must read some
day in Mr. Jukes's "Voyage of H.M.S. Fly." Every island
throughout a great part of the Pacific is fringed round each with
its coral-reef, and there are hundreds of islands of strange
shapes, and of Atolls,
 as they are called, or ring-islands, which
are composed entirely of coral, and of nothing else.
A ring-island? How can an island be made in the shape of a ring?
Ah! it was a long time before men found out that riddle. Mr.
Darwin was the first to guess the answer, as he has guessed many
an answer beside. These islands are each a ring, or nearly a ring
of coral, with smooth shallow water inside: but their outsides
run down, like a mountain wall, sheer into seas hundreds of
fathoms deep. People used to believe, and reasonably enough, that
the coral polypes began to build up the islands from the very
bottom of the deep sea.
But that would not account for the top of them being of the shape
of a ring; and in time it was found out that the corals would not
build except in shallow water, twenty or thirty fathoms deep at
most, and men were at their wits' ends to find out the riddle.
Then said Mr. Darwin, "Suppose one of those beautiful South Sea
Islands, like Tahiti, the Queen of Isles, with its ring of coral reef all round its shore, began sinking slowly under the sea. The
land, as it sunk, would be gone for good and all: but the coral reef round it would not, because the coral polypes would build up
and up continually upon the skeletons of their dead parents, to
get to the surface of the water, and would keep close to the top
outside, however much the land sunk inside; and
 when the island
had sunk completely beneath the sea, what would be left? What
must be left but a ring of coral-reef, around the spot where the
last mountain peak of the island sank beneath the sea?" And so
Mr. Darwin explained the shapes of hundreds of coral islands in
the Pacific; and proved, too, some strange things besides. He
proved (and other men, like Mr. Wallace, whose excellent book on
the East Indian islands you must read some day, have proved in
other ways) that there was once a great continent, joined perhaps
to Australia and to New Guinea, in the Pacific Ocean, where is now
nothing but deep sea, and coral-reefs which mark the mountain
ranges of that sunken world.
But how does the coral ever rise above the surface of the water
and turn into hard stone?
Of course the coral polypes cannot build above the high-tide mark;
but the surf which beats upon them piles up their broken fragments
just as a sea-beach is piled up, and hammers them together with
that water hammer which is heavier and stronger than any you have
ever seen in a smith's forge. And then, as is the fashion of
lime, the whole mass sets and becomes hard, as you may see mortar
set; and so you have a low island a few feet above the sea. Then
sea-birds come to it, and rest and build; and seeds are floated
thither from far lands; and among them almost
always the cocoa-nut, which loves to grow by the
sea-  shore ,
and groves of cocoa
palms grow up upon the lonely isle. Then, perhaps, trees and
bushes are drifted thither before the trade-wind; and entangled in
their roots are seeds of other plants, and eggs or cocoons of
insects; and so a few flowers and a few butterflies and beetles
set up for themselves upon the new land. And then a bird or two,
caught in a storm and blown away to sea finds shelter in the
cocoa-grove; and so a little new world is set up, in which (you
must remember always) there are no four-footed beasts, nor snakes,
nor lizards, nor frogs, nor any animals that cannot cross the sea.
And on some of those islands they may live (indeed there is reason
to believe they have lived), so long, that some of them have
changed their forms, according to the laws of Madam How, who
sooner or later fits each thing exactly for the place in which it
is meant to live, till upon some of them you may find such strange
and unique creatures as the famous cocoa-nut crab, which learned
men call Birgus latro. A great crab he is, who walks upon the
tips of his toes a foot high above the ground. And because he has
often nothing to eat but cocoa-nuts, or at least they are the best
things he can find, cocoa-nuts he has learned to eat, and after a
fashion which it would puzzle you to imitate. Some say that he
climbs up the stems of the cocoa-nut trees, and pulls the fruit
down for himself; but that, it seems, he does not usually
What he does is this: when he finds a fallen cocoa-nut, he begins
tearing away the thick husk and fibre with his strong claws; and
he knows perfectly well which end to tear it from, namely, from
the end where the three eye-holes are, which you call the monkey's
face, out of one of which you know, the young cocoa-nut tree would
burst forth. And when he has got to the eye-holes, he hammers
through one of them with the point of his heavy claw. So far, so
good: but how is he to get the meat out? He cannot put his claw
in. He has no proboscis like a butterfly to insert and suck with.
He is as far off from his dinner as the fox was when the stork
offered him a feast in a long-necked jar. What then do you think
he does? He turns himself round, puts in a pair of his hind
pincers, which are very slender, and with them scoops the meat out
of the cocoa-nut, and so puts his dinner into his mouth with his
hind-feet. And even the cocoa-nut husk he does not waste; for he
lives in deep burrows which he makes, like a rabbit; and being a
luxurious crab, and liking to sleep soft in spite of his hard
shell, he lines them with a quantity of cocoa-nut fibre, picked
out clean and fine, just as if he was going to make cocoa-nut
matting of it. And being also a clean crab, as I hope you are a
clean little boy, he goes down to the sea every night to have his
bath and moisten his gills, and so lives happy all his days, and
 gets so fat in his old age that he carries about his body nearly a
quart of pure oil.
That is the history of the cocoa-nut crab. And if any one tells
me that that crab acts only on what is called "instinct"; and does
not think and reason, just as you and I think and reason, though
of course not in words as you and I do: then I shall be inclined
to say that that person does not think nor reason either.
Then were there many coral-reefs in Britain in old times?
Yes, many and many, again and again; some whole ages older than
this, a bit of which you see, and some again whole ages newer.
But look: then judge for yourself. Look at this geological map.
Wherever you see a bit of blue, which is the mark for limestone,
you may say, "There is a bit of old coral-reef rising up to the
surface." But because I will not puzzle your little head with too
many things at once, you shall look at one set of coral-reefs
which are far newer than this bit of Dudley limestone, and which
are the largest, I suppose, that ever were in this country; or, at
least, there is more of them left than of any others.
Look first at Ireland. You see that almost all the middle of
Ireland is coloured blue. It is one great
sheet of old coral-reef
and coral-mud, which is now called the carboniferous limestone.
You see red and purple patches rising out of it,
 islands I suppose they were, of hard and ancient rock, standing up
in the middle of the coral sea.
But look again, and you will see that along the west coast of
Ireland, except in a very few places, like Galway Bay, the blue
limestone does not come down to the sea; the shore is coloured
purple and brown, and those colours mark the ancient rocks and
high mountains of Mayo and Galway and Kerry, which stand as
barriers to keep the raging surf of the Atlantic from bursting
inland and beating away, as it surely would in course of time, the
low flat limestone plain of the middle of Ireland. But the same
coral-reefs once stretched out far to the westward into the
Atlantic Ocean; and you may see the proof upon that map. For in
the western bays, in Clew Bay with its hundred islands, and Galway
Bay with its Isles of Arran, and beautiful Kenmare and beautiful
Bantry, you see little blue spots, which are low limestone
islands, standing in the sea, overhung by mountains far aloft.
You have often heard of those islands in Kenmare Bay talked of, and
how some whom you know go to fish round them by night for turbot
and conger; and when you hear them spoken of again, you must
recollect that they are the last fragments of a great fringing
coral-reef, which will in a few thousand years follow the fate of
the rest, and be eaten up by the waves, while the mountains of
hard rock stand round them still unchanged.
 Now look at England, and there you will see patches at least of a
great coral-reef which was forming at the same time as that Irish
one, and on which perhaps some of your schoolfellows have often
stood. You have heard of St. Vincent's Rocks at Bristol, and the
marble cliffs, 250 feet in height, covered in part with rich wood
and rare flowers, and the Avon running through the narrow gorge,
and the stately ships sailing far below your feet from Bristol to
the Severn sea. And you may see, for here they are, corals from
St. Vincent's Rocks, cut and polished, showing too that they also,
like the Dudley limestone, are made up of corals and of coral-mud.
Now, whenever you see St. Vincent's Rocks, as I suspect you very
soon will, recollect where you are, and use your fancy, to paint
for yourself a picture as strange as it is true. Fancy that those
rocks are what they once were, a coral-reef close to the surface
of a shallow sea. Fancy that there is no gorge of the Avon, no
wide Severn sea—for those were eaten out by water ages and ages
afterwards. But picture to
your-  self the coral sea reaching away
to the north, to the foot of the Welsh mountains; and then fancy
yourself, if you will, in a canoe, paddling up through the coral-reefs, north and still north, up the valley down which the Severn
now flows, up through what is now Worcestershire, then up through
Staffordshire, then through Derbyshire, into Yorkshire, and so on
through Durham and Northumberland, till you find yourself stopped
by the Ettrick hills in Scotland; while all to the westward of
you, where is now the greater part of England, was open sea. You
may say, if you know anything of the geography of England,
"Impossible! That would be to paddle over the tops of high
mountains; over the top of the Peak in Derbyshire, over the top of
High Craven and Whernside and Pen-y-gent and Cross Fell, and to
paddle too over the Cheviot Hills, which part England and
Scotland." I know it, my child, I know it. But so it was once on
a time. The high limestone mountains which part Lancashire and
Yorkshire—the very chine and backbone of England—were once
coral-reefs at the bottom of the sea. They are all made up of the
carboniferous limestone, so called, as your little knowledge of
Latin ought to tell you, because it carries the coal; because the
coalfields usually lie upon it. It may be impossible in your
eyes: but remember always that nothing is impossible with God.
But you said that the coal was made from plants
 and trees, and did
plants and trees grow on this coral-reef?
That I cannot say. Trees may have grown on the dry parts of the
reef, as cocoa-nuts grow now in the Pacific. But the coal was not
laid down upon it till long afterwards, when it had gone through
many and strange changes. For all through the chine of England,
and in a part of Ireland too, there lies upon the top of the
limestone a hard gritty rock, in some places three thousand feet
thick, which is commonly called "the mill-stone grit." And above
that again the coal begins. Now to make that 3,000 feet of hard
rock, what must have happened? The sea-bottom must have sunk,
slowly no doubt, carrying the coral-reefs down with it, 3,000 feet
at least. And meanwhile sand and mud, made from the wearing away
of the old lands in the North must have settled down upon it. I
say from the North—for there are no fossils, as far as I know, or
sign of life, in these rocks of mill-stone grit; and therefore it
is reasonable to suppose that they were brought from a cold
current at the Pole, too cold to allow sea-beasts to live,—quite
cold enough, certainly, to kill the coral insects, who could only
thrive in warm water coming from the South.
Then, to go on with my story, upon the top of these mill-stone
grits came sand and mud, and peat, and trees, and plants, washed
out to sea, as far as we can guess, from the mouths of vast rivers
 the West, rivers as vast as the Amazon, the
Mississippi, or the Orinoco are now; and so in long ages, upon the
top of the limestone and upon the top of the mill-stone grit, were
laid down those beds of coal which you see burnt now in every
But how did the coral-reefs rise till they became cliffs at
Bristol and mountains in Yorkshire?
The earthquake steam, I suppose, raised them. One earthquake
indeed, or series of earthquakes, there was, running along between
Lancashire and Yorkshire, which made that vast crack and upheaval
in the rocks, the Craven Fault, running, I believe, for more than
a hundred miles, and lifting the rocks in some places several
hundred feet. That earthquake helped to make the high hills which
overhang Manchester and Preston, and all the manufacturing county
of Lancashire. That earthquake helped to make the perpendicular
cliff at Malham Cove, and many another beautiful bit of scenery.
And that and other earthquakes, by heating the rocks from the
fires below, may have helped to change them from soft coral into
hard crystalline marble as you see them now, just as volcanic heat
has hardened and purified the beautiful white marbles of
Pentelicus and Paros in Greece, and Carrara in Italy, from which
statues are carved unto this day. Or the same earthquake may have
heated and hardened the limestones simply by grinding and
squeezing them; or they may have been heated and
 hardened in the
course of long ages simply by the weight of the thousands of feet
of other rock which lay upon them. For pressure, you must
remember, produces heat. When you strike flint and steel
together, the pressure of the blow not only makes bits of steel
fly off, but makes them fly off in red-hot sparks. When you
hammer a piece of iron with a hammer, you will soon find it get
quite warm. When you squeeze the air together in your pop-gun,
you actually make the air inside warmer, till the pellet flies
out, and the air expands and cools again. Nay, I believe you
cannot hold up a stone on the palm of your hand without that stone
after a while warming your hand, because it presses against you in
trying to fall, and you press against it in trying to hold it up.
And recollect above all the great and beautiful example of that
law which you were lucky enough to see on the night of the 14th of
November 1867, how those falling stars, as I told you then, were
coming out of boundless space, colder than any ice on earth, and
yet, simply by pressing against the air above our heads, they had
their motion turned into heat, till they burned themselves up into
trains of fiery dust. So remember that wherever you have pressure
you have heat, and that the pressure of the upper rocks upon the
lower is quite enough, some think, to account for the older and
lower rocks being harder than the upper and newer ones.
 But why should the lower rocks be older and the upper rocks newer?
You told me just now that the high mountains in Wales were ages
older than Windsor Forest, upon which we stand: but yet how much
lower we are here than if we were on a Welsh mountain.
Ah, my dear child, of course that puzzles you, and I am afraid it
must puzzle you still till we have another talk; or rather it
seems to me that the best way to explain that puzzle to you would
be for you and me to go a journey into the far west, and look into
the matter for ourselves; and from here to the far West we will
go, either in fancy or on a real railroad and steamboat, before we
have another talk about these things.
Now it is time to stop. Is there anything more you want to know?
for you look as if something was puzzling you still.
Were there any men in the world while all this was going on?
I think not. We have no proof that there were not: but also we
have no proof that there were; the cave-men, of whom I told you,
lived many ages after the coal was covered up. You seem to be
sorry that there were no men in the world then.
Because it seems a pity that there was no one to see those
beautiful coral-reefs and coal-forests.
No one to see them, my child? Who told you that? Who told you
there are not, and never have been any
 rational beings in this
vast universe, save certain weak, ignorant, short-sighted
creatures shaped like you and me? But even if it were so, and no
created eye had ever beheld those ancient wonders, and no created
heart ever enjoyed them, is there not One Uncreated who has seen
them and enjoyed them from the beginning? Were not these
creatures enjoying themselves each after their kind? And was
there not a Father in Heaven who was enjoying their enjoyment, and
enjoying too their beauty, which He had formed according to the
ideas of His Eternal Mind? Recollect what you were told on
Trinity Sunday—That this world was not made for man alone: but
that man, and this world, and the whole Universe was made for God;
for He created all things, and for His pleasure they are, and were
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics