Rollo's Experiments
by Jacob Abbott
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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1839,


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.


















One day, when Rollo was about seven years old, he was sitting upon the steps of the door, and he heard a noise in the street, as of some sort of carriage approaching. A moment afterwards, a carryall came in sight. It drove up to the front gate, and stopped. Rollo's father and mother and his little brother Nathan got out. His father fastened the horse to the post, and came in.

When Rollo first heard the noise of the carryall, he was sitting still upon the steps of the door, thinking. He was thinking of something that Jonas, his father's hired boy, had told him about the sun's shining in at the barn door. There was a very large double door to Rollo's father's barn, and as this door opened towards the south, the sun used to shine in very warm, upon the barn floor, in the middle of the day.

Rollo and Jonas had been sitting there husking some corn,—for it was in the fall of the year;—and as it was rather a cool autumnal day, Rollo said it was lucky that the sun shone in, for it kept them warm.

"Yes," said Jonas; "and what is remarkable, it always shines in farther in the winter than it does in the summer."

"Does it?" said Rollo.

"Yes," said Jonas.

"And what is the reason?" asked Rollo.

"I don't know," said Jonas, "unless it is because we want it in the barn more in the winter than we do in the summer."

"Ho!" said Rollo; "I don't believe that is the reason."

"Why not?" said Jonas.

"O, I don't believe the sun moves about in the heavens, to different places, only just to shine into barn doors."

"Why, it keeps a great many farmers' boys more comfortable," said Jonas.

"Is it so in all barns?" asked Rollo.

"I suppose so," said Jonas.

After some further conversation on the subject, the boys determined to watch the reflection of the sun's beams upon the barn floor for a good many days, and to mark the place that it came in to, at noon every day, with a piece of chalk. It was only a few minutes before the carryall came up, that they had determined upon this, and had marked the place for that day; and then Rollo had come out of the barn, and was sitting upon the door step, thinking of the subject, when his reflections were interrupted in the manner already described.

So, when Rollo saw his father getting out of the carryall, he ran to meet him, and called out to him, talking very loud and rapidly,

"Father, Jonas says that the sun shines farther in, upon the barn floor, in winter than in summer;—does it, do you think?"

But this was not a proper time for Rollo to bring up his philosophical question. His father had a carpet bag and several packages in his hands, and he was also conducting Rollo's mother in, and thinking about the horse and carryall. So he told Rollo that he must not speak to him then, for he could not attend to him.

Rollo then walked along back into the yard, and began to think of the subject of the sun's shining in at the south door. He looked up towards the sun, and began to consider what sort of a change in its place, at noon, on different days, would be necessary in order to account for its shining in more at south doors and windows, on some days, than on others. He reflected that if the sun were exactly overhead, at noon, it could not shine in at any doors at all; for the rays would then strike perpendicularly down the sides of the houses. While he was standing thus, lost in thought, looking up to the sun, with his arm across his forehead, to shelter his eyes a little from the dazzling rays, he suddenly felt the pressure of two soft hands upon his ears, as of somebody who had come up behind him. He turned round, and found his cousin Lucy standing there.

Lucy asked him what he was thinking of, and he told her. He then took Lucy into the barn, and showed her the chalk mark upon the floor. She looked on with a good deal of interest, and said she thought it was an excellent plan; and she wished there was a great barn with a south floor at their house. Lucy knew more about the subject than Rollo did, and she gave him some explanations about it. "You see," said she, "that the sun rises in the east every morning, and comes up higher and higher, every hour, till noon; and then it begins to go down again, and at last it sets in the west. But, at some times in the year, it comes up higher at noon than it does at other times, and so it does not shine so much into the door."

"It shines more, you mean," said Rollo.

"No," said Lucy; "not so much. In the winter the sun moves around by the south, and keeps pretty low all day, and of course shines farther into doors and windows."

Then, after a moment's pause, she added,

"If we should mark the place on the floor all the year round, we should find what time the sun is farthest to the south."

"So we should," said Rollo.

"It would be in the winter," said Lucy.

"Yes," said Rollo; "in the middle of the winter exactly."

"Yes," said Lucy; "and in the middle of the summer it would be nearest overhead."

"Jonas and I will try it," said Rollo.

"I can try it in the house," said Lucy, "where the sun shines in at my chamber window."

"O no," said Rollo; "that won't do."

"Why not?" said Lucy.

"Because the window does not come down to the floor, and so does not let the sun in enough."

"O, that makes no difference," said Lucy; "we have nothing to do with the bottom of the door; you only mark where it shines in the farthest, and that place is made by the top of the door, for it shines in farthest by the top of the door."

"Well," said Rollo, "I don't know but that the house will do; but then you can't chalk on the carpet."

"Chalk on the carpet?" said Lucy.

"Yes, to mark the place."

"No," said Lucy, thinking; "but I can mark it some other way."

"How?" asked Rollo.

"Why, I can put a pin in," said Lucy.

"O dear," said Rollo, with a laugh, "put a pin in! That's no way to mark a shadow."

"It isn't a shadow," said Lucy.

"Yes, it is," said Rollo.

"No," said Lucy; "a shadow is dark, and this is bright."

"Yes," said Rollo, "this is a bright shadow; some shadows are bright, and some are dark."

"O Rollo!" said Lucy; and she turned away from him, a little out of humor.

The truth was, that Rollo and Lucy were getting decidedly into a dispute. From the sublime heights of practical astronomy, they had fallen, by a sad and very rapid descent, to a childish altercation. Rollo had a very high idea of the superior facilities afforded by Jonas's barn floor for observing the daily changes in the sun's meridian altitude, and he did not like the idea of Lucy's finding that she had equally good opportunities for observation at her home. Lucy was a little fretted at Rollo's captious spirit; but then her mind soon became unruffled again, and she turned back towards Rollo, and said, as they walked along the yard,

"I don't think the sunshine on the floor is a shadow, Rollo; but then I don't see why a shadow would not do, just as well."

"How?" said Rollo.

"Why, look there at the shadow of that post,—that would do."

She pointed to a post with a rounded top upon it, which stood by the side of the garden gate. The shadow, clear, distinct, and well defined, was projected upon the walk; and Lucy told Rollo that they might mark the place where the top of that shadow came every day, and that that would do just as well.

"But how could we mark it?" said Rollo.

"Why, we could drive a little stake unto the ground."

"O, that would not do," said Rollo. "People would trip over them, and break them down. They would be exactly in the walk."

Lucy saw that this would be a difficulty, and, for a moment, seemed to be at a loss. At length, she said,

"We might go somewhere else, then, where the people would not come."

"But what should we do for a post?" said Rollo.

"Could not we get Jonas to drive a tall stake down?" said Lucy.

"Yes," said Rollo; "I suppose so."

The children went out into the garden to find a good smooth place, and while they were walking about there, Rollo's mother came out, and they told her the whole story. She seemed quite interested in the plan, and told them of a better way than any that they had thought of.

"You see," said she, "that the height of the stake or pole that makes the shadow is not material; for the shadow of a small one will vary just as much, in proportion to its length, as that of a long one will. So, instead of taking a wooden stake, out of doors, you might take a large pin, and drive it down a little way into the window sill, in the house. Then you can mark the shadow with a pen, very exactly."

"So we can," said Lucy, clapping her hands.

"And you might put a piece of white paper, or a card down first," continued Rollo's mother, "and drive the pin through that, and then mark the places where the end of the shadow comes every day, directly on the card, with a fine pen. Thus you could be a great deal more exact than you can in chalking upon a barn floor."

Rollo asked his mother if she would not be kind enough to help them fix their apparatus; but she said she would give them particular directions, though she should prefer letting them do the whole themselves, and then, if they met with any difficulties, they might come and report them to her, and she would tell them how to surmount them. So she recommended to them to go and find a blank card, or piece of white pasteboard, or of stiff white paper, as big as a common card. "Then," said she, "choose some window where the sun shines in at noon, and put the card down upon the sill, and drive the pin down through it. But you must not drive the pin through the middle of the card, for the shadow will always be off to the north of the pin, and therefore the pin may be pretty near the south end of the card. Then the shadow will be more likely to come wholly upon the card, even when it is longest. You had better place the card in such a position, too, that its sides shall lie in the direction of north and south. Then the shadow at noon will lie along exactly in the middle of it. You must get a large and stout pin, too; and drive it in firmly, a little way, with a small hammer. It will be well, too, to drive another smaller pin into the other end of the card, so as to keep it fixed in its north and south position."

"How can we know when it is north and south, exactly?" said Lucy.

"You cannot do it exactly," said Rollo's mother; "but you can get it pretty near. One way is to borrow father's little compass, and adjust it by that. Another way is to see when it is exactly twelve o'clock by the clock, and then the shadow of the pin will of itself be about north.

"Then you might move the north end of the card until the shadow is brought exactly into the middle of the card, and then put the other pin in, and fix it in that place. Then if you make a mark along where the shadow comes, that mark will be a north and south line, and you can mark the place where the shadow of the pin's head crosses that line, when it crosses it every day at noon."

The children said that they believed they understood the directions, and they determined to try the plan. They thought they would fix two cards, one at Rollo's house, and one at Lucy's; and they immediately went off in pursuit of blank cards and big pins.


One afternoon, Rollo saw his father coming out into the garden, with a little saw and a knife, and a small pot of paint in his hands.

"Father," said he, "are you going to prune your trees now?"

"Yes," said his father.

"Then, shall I go and get my wheelbarrow?"

"Yes," replied his father, again.

So Rollo ran off after his wheelbarrow. It had been arranged, between him and his father that morning, that they should work in the garden an hour or two in the afternoon, and that Rollo should pick up all the cuttings from the trees, and wheel them away, and then, when they were dry, make a bonfire with them.

Rollo found his wheelbarrow in its proper place, and trundled it along into the garden.

"Father," said he, "what trees are you going to prune first?"

"O, I am going to begin at the back side of the garden, and prune them all, advancing regularly to the front."

"What is the saw for?" said Rollo.

"To saw off the large branches, that I can't cut off easily with a knife."

"But I should not think you would want to saw off any large branches, for so you will lose all the apples that would grow on them next year."

"Why, sometimes, the branches are dead, and then they would do no good, but only be in the way."

"But do they do any hurt?" said Rollo.

"Why, they look badly."

"But, I mean, would they do any actual hurt to the tree?"

"Why, I don't know," said his father; "perhaps they would not. At any rate, if I cut them off pretty close to the living part of the tree, the bark will then gradually extend out over the little stump that I leave, and finally cover it over, and take it all in, as it were."

By this time, Rollo and his father had reached the back side of the garden, and his father showed him the place where he had cut off a limb the year before, and he saw how the fresh young bark had protruded itself all around it, and was spreading in towards the centre so as to cover it over. Rollo then saw that it was better that all old dead limbs should be cut off.

"That's curious," said Rollo.

"Yes, very curious," said his father. "A tree will take in, and cover up, almost any thing that is fastened to the wood, in the same manner."

"Will it?" said Rollo.

"Yes," said his father. "If you drive a nail into a tree, the bark will, after a time, cover it over entirely. Sometimes people find things in old trees, which were put upon them when they were young."

"How big things?" said Rollo.

"O, I don't know exactly how big. The tree will make an effort to enclose any thing small or large. Only, if it is very large, it will take a great while to enclose it, and it might be so large that it never could enclose it."

"Well, father, how large must it be so that the tree never could enclose it?"

"O, I don't know, exactly. Once I saw a tree that was growing very near a rock. After a time it came in contact with it, and it grew and pressed against it, until the rock crowded into the wood. Then the bark began to protrude in every direction along the rock, as if it was making an effort to spread out and take the rock all in. But I don't think it will ever succeed; for the rock was part of a ledge in a pretty large hill."

"What a silly tree!" said Rollo.

"Father, I believe I will try the experiment some time," continued Rollo, after a pause.

"Very well," said his father.

"What shall I put into the tree?" asked Rollo.

"You might put in a cent," said his father, "and then, if it should get fairly enclosed, I presume the tree will keep it safe for you a good many years."

Rollo determined to do it. "Then," said he, "I shall never be out of money, and that will be excellent." His father told him that he must make a small cleft in the bark and wood, with a chisel and mallet, and then drive the cent in, edgewise, a little way.

So Rollo got his chisel and mallet, and inserted the cent according to his father's directions, and by that time there were a good many branches and twigs on the ground, which his father had taken off from the trees, and so he began to pick them up, and put them into his wheelbarrow.

They went on working together for some time, and talking while they worked. Rollo was continually asking his father questions, and his father sometimes answered them, and sometimes did not, but was silent and thoughtful, as if he was thinking of something else. But whether he got answers or not, Rollo went on talking.

"Father," said Rollo, at length, after a short pause, during which he had been busily at work putting twigs into his wheelbarrow, "Henry has got a very interesting book."

His father did not answer.

"I think it is a very interesting book indeed. Should not you like to read it, father?"

His father was just then reaching up very high to saw off a pretty large limb, and he paid no attention to what Rollo was saying. So Rollo went on talking half to himself—

"One story is about Aladdin and his lamp. If he rubbed his lamp, he could have whatever he wished; something would come, I have forgotten what its name was, and bring him whatever he asked for."

Just then, down came the great branch which his father had been sawing off, falling from its place on the tree to the ground.

Rollo looked at it a moment, and then, when his father began sawing again, he said,

"Should not you like such a lamp, father?"

"Such a lamp as what, my son?" said his father.

"Why, such a one as Aladdin's."

"Aladdin's! why, what do you know of Aladdin's lamp?"

"Why, I read about it in Henry's story book," said Rollo. "I just told you, father."

"Did you?" said his father. "Won't you just hand me up the paint brush?"

"Well, father," said Rollo, as he handed him the brush, "don't you wish you had an Aladdin's lamp?"

"No, not particularly," said his father.

"O father!" exclaimed Rollo, with surprise, "I am sure I do. Don't you wish I had such a lamp, father?"

"No," said his father.

"Why, father, I really think I could do some good with it. For instance, I could just rub my lamp, and then have all your trees pruned for you, at once, without any further trouble."

"But that would not be worth while; for you might have a much larger and better garden than this made at once, with thousands of trees, bearing delicious fruit; and ponds, and waterfalls, and beautiful groves."

"O, so I could," said Rollo.

"And, then, how soon do you think you should get tired of it, and want another?"

"O, perhaps, I should want another pretty soon; but then I could have another, you know."

"Yes, and how long do you think you could find happiness, in calling beautiful gardens into existence, one after another?"

"O, I don't know;—a good while."

"A day?"

"O, yes, father."

"A week?"

"Why, perhaps, I should be tired in a week."

"Then all your power of receiving enjoyment from gardens would be run out and exhausted in a week; whereas mine, without any Aladdin's lamp, lasts me year after year, pleasantly increasing all the time without ever reaching satiety."

"What is satiety, father?"

"The feeling we experience when we have had so much of a good thing that we are completely tired and sick of it. If I should give a little child as much honey as he could eat, or let him play all the time, or buy him a vast collection of pictures, he would soon get tired of these things."

"O father, I never should get tired of looking at pictures."

"I think you would," said his father.

Here the conversation stopped a few minutes, while Rollo went to wheel away a load of his sticks. Before he returned, he had prepared himself to renew his argument. He said,

"Father, even if I did get tired of making beautiful gardens, I could then do something else with the lamp, and that would give me new pleasure."

"Yes, but the new pleasure would be run out and exhausted just as soon as the pleasure of having a garden would have been; so that you would, in a short time, be satiated with every thing, and become completely wretched and miserable."

"But, father," said Rollo, after being silent a little while, "I don't think I should get tired of my beautiful gardens very soon: I don't think I should get tired even of looking at pictures of them."

"Should you like to try the experiment?"

"Yes, sir," said Rollo, very eagerly.

Rollo's father had a great many books of pictures and engravings of various kinds in his library; and sometimes he used to allow the children to see them, but only a very few at a time. They had not yet seen them all. He only allowed them to see them as fast as they had time to examine them thoroughly, and read about them and understand them. But now he said to Rollo,

"I could let you have all the books of prints and engravings I have got, and see them all at one time, and that would be giving you Aladdin's lamp, exactly, so far as my pictures are concerned."

"Well," said Rollo, clapping his hands.

"But then, in a short time, you would get tired of looking at them; you would become satiated, and would in fact spoil the whole pleasure by attempting to enjoy it too fast. But then I think it would perhaps do you good."

"How, father?"

"Why, by teaching you the value of moderation, and the uselessness of Aladdin's lamps in all human enjoyments. It would be a very valuable experiment in intellectual philosophy, which I think it very probable might be of use to you. So, if you please, you may try it."

"Well, father, I am sure I should like to see the pictures."

"That is all settled then," said his father; "some day you shall."


Rollo was coming home one morning after having been away on an errand, and he saw a large wood pile near Farmer Cropwell's door. Now it happened that Rollo had once been on a journey pretty far back into the country; it was at the time when Jonas told him and Lucy the stories related in the book called "Jonas's Stories." On that journey, Jonas had one day told him that the sap of the maple-tree was sweet, and had let him taste of some, where it oozed out at the end of the log. Seeing Farmer Cropwell's wood pile reminded Rollo of this; and he thought he would look at the ends of all the logs, and see if he could not find some drops of sweet sap there.

But he could not, for two reasons: none of those trees were maple-trees, and then, besides, they were all dry. There was no sap in them of any kind; at least, not enough to ooze out. While Rollo was looking there, one of Farmer Cropwell's large boys came out with an axe in his hand. He rolled out a pretty large log of wood, though it was not very long, and struck his axe into the end of it, as if he was going to split it.

"I don't believe you can split that great log," said Rollo.

"I don't expect to do it with the axe," said the boy, as he left the axe sticking in the log.

"How then?" said Rollo.

"I have got beetle and wedges here, round behind the wood pile."

So the boy went to another side of the wood pile, and brought a large beetle and an iron wedge. When he got back to his log, he started out the axe which he had left sticking into it. Then Rollo saw that the axe had made a little indentation, or cleft, in the wood. He put the point of the wedge into this cleft, and drove it in a very little, with a few light blows with the axe. Then he took the great heavy beetle, and began driving the wedge in, with very heavy blows.

Presently, Rollo saw a little crack beginning to extend out each side from the wedge. The crack ran along across the end of the log, and thence down the side, and grew wider and wider every moment. At last, the wedge was driven in as far as it would go, and still the log was not split open.

"Now stop," said Rollo; "I will put a stick in, and keep the crack open, while you drive the wedge in, in another place."

"O, that won't do," said the boy; "a stick would not keep it open."

"Why not?" said Rollo.

"Because it is not solid enough; the sides of the cleft draw together very hard. They would crush the stick."

Here Rollo put his hand into his pocket, and drew out a walnut, and he asked the boy if it would crack a walnut.

"Try it," said the boy.

So Rollo put the walnut into the crack. He slipped it along until he got it to a place where the crack was just wide enough to receive it, and hold it steady. He left it there, and then the boy began to knock out the wedge.

He struck it first upon one side, and then upon the other, and thus gradually worked it out. The walnut was crushed all to pieces. The boy then drove in the wedge again, so as to open the log as it was before. He then went to the place where he had got the beetle and wedge at first, and brought a large wooden wedge which he had made before, and began to put that into the crack, not very far from the iron wedge.

"This will keep it open," said he.

"Yes, I think it will," said Rollo. "But put it up close to the iron wedge."

"No," said the boy; "for then I can't knock the iron wedge out."

So the boy put the large wooden wedge in, at a little distance from the iron one, and drove it in rather gently with the beetle. This opened the cleft a little more, so that the iron wedge came out pretty easily.

"I don't see what makes the sides of the logs draw together so hard," said Rollo.

"O, they can't help it," said the boy.

"That is no reason," rejoined Rollo. "I should think that, after the log is once split open, it would stay so. If I split a piece of wood in two with my knife, the pieces don't try to come together again."

So Rollo began to examine the log, and to look into the cracks, to see if he could find out what it was that made the parts draw together so hard as to crush the walnut. Presently, he observed that the log was not split open from end to end. The crack commenced at one end, and extended nearly towards the other, but not quite; so that at this other end the log was solid and whole, just as it always had been. So Rollo perceived that the two halves being joined and held together firmly here, they could only be separated at the other end by the wedge springing them open, and, of course, by their elasticity they tended to spring together again. Then besides, he saw, by looking into the crack, a great number of splinters, large and small, which extended obliquely from one side to the other, and bound the two sides strongly towards each other.

By this time the boy had got the wedge knocked out.

"It is strange," said Rollo, "that such a small wedge will split such a tough and solid log."

"O, not very strange," said the boy. "You see," he continued, taking up the wedge, and pointing to the several parts as he explained them, "you see here at this part, where it enters the wood it is sharp, and the sides spread out each way, so that, when I drive it in, they force the wood apart."

"Why don't they have the back of the wedge wider still? and then it would force the wood open farther; and then you would not have to put in a wooden wedge afterwards,—so," he added, making a sign with his fingers. He put the tips of his fingers together, and then separated his hands, so as to represent a very blunt-shaped wedge.

"Then it would not drive in so easily," answered the boy. "Perhaps I could not drive it in at all, if it was so blunt."

"They might have the wedge longer then," said Rollo, "and then it would be just as tapering, and yet it would be a great deal broader at the back, because the back would be farther off."

"That would make the wedge a great deal too heavy. It would not drive."

"Why, yes, it would," said Rollo.

"No, it would not," said the boy. "It would be just like a shoemaker's lap-stone; pounding it would hardly move it."

Rollo did not understand what the boy meant by what he said about the shoemaker's lap-stone; so he paused a moment, and presently he said,

"I don't think it would make any difference, if it was heavy. And, besides, it might be made of wood, and that wouldn't be heavy."

"O, wood wouldn't do," said the boy.

Now it happened that while they had been talking, the boy had gone on driving in his wooden wedge into the cleft that the iron one had made, and it had been gradually splitting the log open more and more. So that just as the boy was saying that "a wooden wedge wouldn't do," Rollo was actually seeing with his own eyes that it would do; for at that moment the boy gave the last blow, and the halves of the log came apart and fell over, one to one side, and the other to the other.

"Why, there," said Rollo, "you have split the log open with a wooden wedge."

"O, that is because I had an iron one in first," said the boy.

"What difference does that make?" said Rollo.

"A great deal of difference," said the boy.

"But what difference?" persisted Rollo.

"I don't know exactly what difference," said the boy; "only I know you can't do any thing with a wooden wedge until you have first opened a seam with an iron one."

Rollo was confident that it could not possibly make any difference whether a wooden wedge was used first or last. The boy was sure that it did, though he could not tell why. Finally, they determined to try it; so the boy struck his axe into the end of the next log, and then attempted to drive in his wooden wedge. But he did not succeed at all. The wedge would not stay. Rollo told him that he did not strike hard enough. Then he struck harder, but it did no good. The wedge dropped out the moment he let go of it, and on taking it up, they found that the edge of it was bruised and battered; so that even Rollo gave up all hopes of making it enter.

"Ah!" said the boy, taking up the wedge, and looking at it, "now I know what the reason is. It is the edge."

"Where?" said Rollo. "Let me see."

"Why, when there is no crack," said the boy, "you see the edge of the wedge comes against the solid wood, and when I drive, it only bruises and batters it; but the iron is hard, and goes in. But then, when a crack is made, the wedge can go in easily; for the edge does not touch; then only the sides rub against the wood."

"How?" said Rollo. "I don't understand."

"I'll show you in a minute," said the boy. So he took the iron wedge, and went to work driving it into the log. It soon began to make a crack, which ran along the log, and opened wider and wider. When, at length, it was pretty wide, he put the wooden wedge in, and he showed Rollo that the edge of the wedge did not now have to force its way, but went easily into the crack, and only the sides came in contact with the two parts of the log which it was separating.

"That's curious," said Rollo.

"Yes," said the boy.

"I wish I had a little beetle and wedge," said Rollo. "I have got a hammer. That would do for a beetle, if I only had a wedge."

"O, a hammer won't do," said the boy.

"Why not? Would not an axe do as well as a beetle?"

"No," said the boy, "it would spoil the axe and the wedge too."

"How?" asked Rollo.

"Why, it would bruise it all up,—hard iron knocking against the hard iron."

"Would it?" said Rollo.

"Yes," replied the farmer's boy; "it would spoil the head of the axe, and the head of the wedge too."

"Is that the reason why they make a wooden beetle?"

"Yes," said the boy; "and they put iron rings around the ends to keep the wood from being bruised and battered."

"O, I wish I had a little beetle and wedge!" said Rollo.

"Perhaps you might make one."

"O, I could not make an iron wedge—nor the beetle rings."

"No, but you might make wedges of wood,—pretty hard wood; that would do to split up pieces of pine boards, and then you would not need any rings to your beetle."

"Jonas can help me," said Rollo.

"Yes," said the boy; "Jonas will know all about it."

So Rollo set out to go home, full of the idea of making a wooden beetle and wedge, so as to split up pieces of boards. He determined, in case he should succeed, to make a smaller one still for Thanny.


When Rollo got home, he looked about for Jonas every where, but could not find him. He went around the house and yard, calling "Jonas! Jonas!" very loud. Presently Nathan came out to the door, and told him that his mother wanted to see him. So Rollo went in to his mother.

"You ought not to make such a noise," said she, "calling Jonas. You disturb us all."

"But, mother," said he, "I want to find him very much."

"No doubt," said his mother; "but you must find him with your eyes, not with your tongue."

"Why, mother," said Rollo, laughing, "what do you mean by that?"

"Boys very generally have a habit of trying to find people with their tongues, that is, by calling them; but it is a very bad habit. You see," she continued, "there are five or six persons now in and about the house, and if you go around calling out for Jonas, you disturb us all; but if you go about quietly, and look for him, you do not disturb any body."

"But then it is not so easy to find him by looking for him," said Rollo.

"Why not?" asked his mother.

"Because," said Rollo, "I can call out for him, in a moment, in the yard, and then if he is any where within hearing, he answers; and so I know where he is. But it would take me some time to go to all the places that are within hearing."

"True," said his mother, "I see it is more trouble to find any body with your eyes, than with your voice; but then it is so much pleasanter for all the rest of us, that you must submit to it."

So Rollo went away again to look for Jonas. He inquired of Dorothy in the kitchen, and she told him that she saw Jonas going out towards the barn a few minutes before. So Rollo went off in pursuit of him.

He found him at work in a little back room in the barn, looking over some harnesses.

"What are you doing, Jonas?" said Rollo.

"I am overhauling these harnesses, to get them all ready for winter."

"For winter?" said Rollo.

"Yes," replied Jonas; "they are sleigh-harnesses."

"Well, Jonas," said Rollo, "I wanted to see you about a beetle and wedge. Do you think you could help me about making a little beetle and wedge?"

"I can help you by my advice," said Jonas.

"O, but I want you to help me make them."

Then Jonas asked Rollo what made him think of a beetle and wedge; and Rollo told him of the conversation he had held with the farmer's boy. Then Jonas talked a long time about it, giving him particular advice and direction about the plan, though he said he could not himself go and help him then, for he could not leave his harnesses.

The advice which Jonas gave him was, substantially, this:—

"The boy was right in what he said about the necessity of having iron wedges, to split up large logs of hard wood; but you had better have short pieces of pine boards for your logs, and then wedges of hard wood will do instead of iron; for hard wood is so much more solid than pine, that I think wedges of it will answer very well. There are some pieces of walnut under the bench, which will do finely, and I will give you one of them."

"I'll go, now, and get it," said Rollo.

"No," said Jonas, "not yet; let me tell you about making the beetle."

So Rollo stood in the door way, waiting to hear what Jonas had to say about the beetle, but evidently quite impatient to go.

"If you make your wedges of hard wood, it will not be necessary to have iron rings to your beetle, because it will not get battered much, in driving wooden wedges. Now you must go to the wood pile, and look out a piece of round wood, about as large round as my arm, and bore a hole in it."

"A hole in it!" said Rollo.

"Yes, a small auger hole, to put the handle into. Then you must put the wood into the saw-horse, and saw off the ends, at a little distance from the hole, so that, when the handle is put in, it will be like a mallet."

"A mallet!" said Rollo. "But I wanted a beetle."

"Well, a mallet is a small beetle, without rings."

"Is it?" said Rollo, thoughtfully.

"Yes," replied Jonas; "and if you work slowly and carefully, I think you can make a pretty good one yourself."

Rollo thought so too, and away he ran to make the experiment. Under the great work bench, he found, among a quantity of boards and bits of wood, a number of long bars of walnut, which Jonas had split out from the wood pile to keep for handles. He took one of these, and carried it off to the shed, to look for the saw and the hatchet.

The first thing was, as he supposed, to saw off a piece of the wood just long enough for a wedge. But in this he was mistaken. In doing any piece of work of this kind, it is always very important to consider which part it is best to do first. Rollo did not think of this, and so he marked off a piece of the walnut wood about long enough for a wedge, and then sawed it off.

"Now," said he, "I must make the sides smooth, and sharpen it."

So he took the piece of wood in his hand, and put one end of it down upon a large log of wood, and then attempted to smooth and sharpen it, as he had seen Jonas sharpen a stake. But he could not succeed very well. The wood was very hard, and he could not cut it. Then it was so short that it was almost impossible to hold it. At almost every blow of the hatchet it slipped out of his hand; and then, besides, he was very much afraid of cutting his fingers; so that, after working laboriously for some time, he came back to Jonas in despair, holding his wedge in his hands, which, however, instead of being properly sharpened, was only rounded off a little at the corners.

"O dear me!" said he to Jonas, as he came up to him with the intended wedge in his hands, "I can't make a wedge at all. It's no use to try." Then he explained to Jonas the difficulties that he had met with.

"True," said Jonas; "I see. I advise you to give it up."

"Yes," said Rollo, "the wood is so hard."

"O, no," said Jonas; "that is no great trouble—you could easily manage that."

"But then I can't hold it."

"That is of no consequence either. I could tell you a way to hold it well enough."

"What is the reason, then, why you think I had better give up?"

"Because you have not patience enough."

Rollo stood silent and thoughtful as Jonas said this, with his piece of wood in one hand, and his hatchet in the other.

"It takes a great deal of patience to make a thing which we never made before."

"Why?" said Rollo.

"O, because there are always unforeseen difficulties. We don't know exactly how to do it, and are apt to make mistakes; and so we spoil some of our work, and this makes us impatient and fretful."

"But I could not help coming to you," said Rollo, "when I found I could not sharpen my wedge."

"I did not blame you for coming to me," said Jonas.

"But you said I was impatient."

"Yes, but not for coming to me—I judged by your looks and tone of voice. Now if you can keep good-natured and pleasant, so as to go on steadily and patiently, difficulties or no difficulties, I will help you by my advice; otherwise, I think you had better give up the plan."

Rollo stood a few minutes leaning on the door, and swinging it back and forth a little. He seemed to be in doubt whether to be good-natured or not. At length, the better feelings triumphed, and he said,

"Well, Jonas I will try. How can I hold my wedge while I sharpen it?"

"You must not saw it off until it is all sharpened and smoothed. By that means, you see, the long end of the stick, that you make it from, will serve for a handle."

"So it will," said Rollo; "I never thought of that."

So Rollo went off in pursuit of the stick from which he had sawed off his first wedge, intending to make another upon the end of it, and then saw it off when it was all ready.

He found that now he could hold his wood very easily, and there was no danger of cutting his fingers. So he could strike much heavier blows. He soon sharpened his wedge, and then carried it to Jonas to ask him if he thought it would do.

"No," said Jonas, "I don't think it will do, very well."

"Won't it?" asked Rollo, looking somewhat disappointed.

"Why, you see the sides are not smooth; and then you have not sharpened it uniformly. You have cut away more at the corners than you have in the middle, so that it is thicker in the middle. That is the way that boys always sharpen wedges."

"Why do they?" asked Rollo.

"I suppose it is because it is easier to cut away at the edges, and so they get more off there. Now you had better get your wedge as true, and perfect, and smooth as you can, before you saw it off. It will be a great deal pleasanter to work with a good wedge than with a poor one, and so you had better take pains with it, and make as perfect a one as you can, if you make any."

"But, Jonas," said Rollo, "I can smooth it and finish it, after I get it sawed off."

"Not half as easily as you can now," said Jonas.

During all this time Jonas kept on with his own work; and now he said no more, and seemed disposed to leave Rollo to his own decision.

Rollo walked slowly back to the shed. He longed to have his wedge done; but then Jonas had often told him before, that if he was attempting to make any thing, it was best to take pains with it, and make it as complete and perfect as possible, and then he would prize it more, and take more pleasure in it, when it was done. Rollo knew that this was good advice, though, like almost all other boys, he was always in such a hurry to finish any thing that he undertook, and to have it ready for use, that he did not like to take the necessary pains.

On reflection, however, he concluded to take Jonas's advice; and he accordingly began to smooth the sides of his wedge again with the hatchet. He did it slowly and carefully; and after some time he found that he had got the wedge into a much more perfect shape than before. He then carried it to Jonas again.

Now Jonas approved it very much, but told him that he had better smooth it a little more with his knife before sawing it off. Rollo did so; and then he carried it back to the horse, and sawed it off at the right distance, and it made an excellent wedge. The edges, at the head of the wedge, were left somewhat rough by the saw. These, however, he trimmed off with his knife, and then carried the wedge to Jonas.

"Very well," said Jonas; "now you want one more."

"One more?" said Rollo. "No, I want my beetle next."

"No," said Jonas, "one more wedge. Make all your wedges first."

"Why, Jonas, you see, if I make my beetle next, I can try it with this wedge, and then I can make another, if I want it, afterwards."

"No," replied Jonas, "that is not a good way. You ought to finish up your apparatus all complete, before you try it at all. Then you will take a great deal more pleasure in trying it. Besides, if you get to work splitting up your wood, you will not want to leave it, and go to making a new wedge then. Now is the time to do it."

Rollo felt very desirous to make his beetle first, so as "just to try it a little," as he said. Still, he had so often found, when he had not followed Jonas's advice, that he was sorry for it afterwards, that he concluded to make another wedge now. He accordingly went to work again, and having learned how to do it by his practice upon the first one, he succeeded very easily, and finished it much quicker than he did before.

Then he went to work upon his beetle. He selected a round stick of wood, of about the right size, and then examined it carefully to find the part which was most uniform and regular in its shape; and he bored a hole for the handle in the middle of this part. He made his handle of pine wood, for this was much easier to cut, and Jonas told him he thought it would do nearly as well. When the handle was finished, he drove it into the hole, and then he sawed off the ends of the stick of wood at the right distances from the hole. He first took pains to measure on each side, so as to have the distances exactly the same.

When this was done, he had quite a pretty little mallet. That is, it was made very much like a carpenter's mallet; still, as a mallet is made chiefly for the purpose of driving a chisel, and this was, on the other hand, only intended to be used for splitting wood with a wedge, Jonas told him he thought it would be strictly proper to call it a little beetle. He worked so slowly and carefully, however, in doing all this, that the afternoon had entirely passed away when he got the beetle and the wedges done; and just when he was thinking that he was ready to try them, he saw Dorothy at the kitchen door, ringing the bell to call him in to tea.


When play time came the next day, Rollo ran after Nathan to show him his beetle and wedges, and to get him to go out and see him 'split' with them. Nathan trotted along after him, very much pleased.

Rollo had his beetle in one hand, and his two wedges in the other, and, as he walked along, he looked over his shoulder towards Nathan, who was following him, and talked to him by the way, explaining to him something about his beetle and wedges.

"You see I am going to split, Thanny. I am going to split some kindling wood for Dorothy. I shall put my wedges into the wood, and then drive them in with my beetle, and that will make the wood split open more and more; and perhaps I will let you split a little, Thanny."

By this time Rollo had got out to the shed, and he put his beetle and wedges down upon the floor, while he went away to get some boards to split. There were some old boards behind the barn, which Jonas told him were to be split up to burn, and from these he chose one, which was not very long, and dragged it to the shed. He placed this upon the saw-horse, and then sawed off a piece from one end, about as long as he thought it would be well to have the sticks of kindling wood. After he had sawed off one piece, he was going to split it up, but then he reflected that it would be more systematic and workmanlike to finish his sawing first. So he sawed off another, and another piece, until the board was all sawed up into short pieces. He placed these together neatly in a pile, and then taking one of them, he sat down upon the floor, with Thanny, and prepared to try his beetle and wedges.

"Now," said Rollo, "I think I must have a knife,—some old knife or other,—to make a little place to drive my wedge in. Thanny, why can't you go and ask Dorothy to let me have a knife? Come, that's a good boy."

So Nathan got up off of the floor, where he had been sitting by Rollo's side, and went in for a knife. In a few minutes he came out, and asked Rollo if a broken one would do. He had brought out a broken knife. The handle was whole and strong, but the blade was broken in two, about in the middle.

"Why, yes," said Rollo, taking the knife and looking at it, "I believe that will do.

"Yes," he continued, "I shall like this better, for I can keep this all the time, with my wedges. And besides, I believe that I can drive it better."

So Rollo held the edge of the knife to the end of the board, and then drove it in a little way, with his little beetle. This made a small opening or cleft in the angle or edge of the board at one end. Then he began to drive in his wooden wedge, telling Nathan to look carefully and see when it began to split. Nathan stood near him, stooping down, with his hands upon his knees, and looking on with great attention.

Rollo drove in his wedge, and it proceeded admirably. The wood soon began to crack, and the crack gradually extended almost to the end of the board. When he had driven it in pretty far, he told Nathan to see how he was going to manage with his second wedge. He was now very glad that he had followed Jonas's advice, and made the second wedge before trying the first. He inserted the second wedge in the crack, and drove it in. This forced the wood open more, and loosened the first wedge, so that he could easily get it out again, and very soon the board was split entirely in two. Nathan was very much delighted with the whole operation.

In the same manner, Rollo split two or three other pieces off from his board, and then Nathan wanted him to let him split one. Rollo was at first somewhat unwilling to let his little beetle go out of his hand at all, he was so interested in using it; but considering that it would give Nathan a good deal of pleasure, he concluded to let him try it once.

"I will start it for you, Thanny," said he. And he accordingly made a small cleft by driving in his knife; and then he inserted the wedge, and drove that in too, just far enough to start the crack, and enable the wood to retain the wedge. Nathan then took the beetle, and pounded away.

He found that he could not strike such heavy blows as Rollo could, and yet the wedge gradually penetrated farther and farther, and the crack opened wider and wider, to Nathan's great delight. Rollo was himself gratified to see how much his little brother was pleased with his beetle and wedges. When the first wedge was driven fully in, he handed him the other, and showed him how to insert that into the crack made by the first wedge, at a little distance from it. Nathan then drove in the second wedge, and this soon finished the work, for it split the piece off entirely, and Nathan took it up, and looked at it, very much pleased at what he had done.

"Now," said Rollo, "give me the beetle again."

"No," said Nathan, "I want to split some more."

"O, no," said Rollo, in a tone of good-humored expostulation; "no; it is my beetle and wedge. I let you have it to split one stick off; but now you ought to let me have it again, immediately."

"No," said Nathan, "I want to split some more."

Rollo took up the two wedges, and would not let Nathan have them, and Nathan held the beetle away behind him so that Rollo should not have that. Thus they seemed to be in inextricable difficulty. Rollo did not know what to do.

"Nathan," said he, at length, after a pause, "give me my beetle."

"No," said Nathan, "I want to split."

"O, dear me!" said Rollo, with a sigh.

At first, he thought that he would take the beetle away from Nathan by force; but he reflected in a moment that this would be wrong, and so finally he concluded to go and state the case to his mother.

So he rose, and began to walk away, saying,

"Well, Nathan, I mean to go and tell mother, that you won't let me have my beetle."

Then Nathan, whose conscience secretly reproved him for what he was doing, pulled the beetle round from behind him, and threw it down upon the floor, where Rollo had been sitting. This was wrong. It was a very ill-natured way of giving it up. If he was satisfied that he was wrong, he ought to have handed it to Rollo pleasantly. Instead of that, he threw it down, with a sullen look, and sat still.

Then Rollo, thinking that it was now no longer necessary to go and trouble his mother with the difficulty, began to return. As he came back, he said, in a kind and soothing tone,

"Now, you are a good boy, Nathan. That is right—to give me back my beetle. Now I will let you split again, some time."

But Rollo was mistaken in supposing that Nathan was a good boy. Boys are not good until their hearts are right. When a child has something which he ought not to have, it is not enough for him to throw it down upon the floor, sullenly, because he is afraid to have his father or mother told that he has got it. He ought to give it up pleasantly, and feel that it is right that he should do so. If Nathan had said to himself, "I ought not to keep this beetle, for it is not mine—it is Rollo's; he made it, and he has been kind enough to lend it to me, and now I ought to be willing to give it back to him pleasantly again;" and then had given it to him with a pleasant countenance,—that would have been really being a good boy. But to throw it down in a pet, because he was afraid to have Rollo complain to his mother, was very far from being like a good boy.

However, it was very kind in Rollo to speak soothingly and pleasantly to Nathan; though, if he had reflected how much goodness depends upon the state of the heart, he would not have supposed that Nathan was yet a good boy. In fact, when he saw that Rollo was coming back again, and was not going to his mother, after standing still, looking quite sullen for a moment, he suddenly stooped down, seized Rollo's knife, and ran off with it out into the yard.

Rollo instantly pursued him, calling out, "Nathan! bring back my knife; Nathan! Nathan! give me my knife."

Nathan, however, ran on, though Rollo ran the fastest, and was rapidly overtaking him; and just at the instant before he reached him, Nathan's foot tripped; he fell, and as he threw forward his hands to try to save himself, they came down upon the ground, and his forehead struck the corner of the knife blade. He immediately screamed out with pain and terror. Dorothy, alarmed by his cries, came out, took him up in her arms, and carried him into the house.

She took him to the table, and began to bathe the wounded forehead in cold water. This was what she always did when the children got cut or scratched, or hurt in any such way. It prevents inflammation. She saw that Nathan was not hurt much, though he continued to cry very loud. His crying was, however, partly from pain, and partly from vexation.

In a few minutes, Rollo's mother came down stairs to see what was the matter. Rollo thought that his mother might suppose that he had hurt Nathan, and so he began to explain at once how it happened. But his mother held up her hand to him, as a signal for him to be silent. She knew that it was then no time to ascertain the facts.

She came up and looked at Nathan's forehead a moment, and she saw that it was not much hurt. Besides, she knew, by the sound of Nathan's cries, that they did not proceed from much pain. She therefore said to him, gently,

"Stop crying, Nathan!"

Now Nathan knew that his mother did not tell him not to cry, except when she was sure that he could control himself if he chose to do so; and he also knew that she punished him if he did not obey. So he began immediately to repress his sobs and cries, and very soon became still. She then put a small plaster, of some sort, upon his forehead, and then carried him up stairs and laid him on the bed.

"There," said she, "Thanny, lie still there a little while, till your forehead has done aching, and you get pleasant again; then you may get up, and come to me."

Then she went to her work again, and Rollo came and stood by her side, and told her the whole story.

"Nathan did wrong," said she; "but it would have been better for you not to have run after him."

"Why, mother," said Rollo, "he was running away with my knife; and I can't split at all without my knife. One thing I know,—I shall not let him split any more with my beetle and wedges."

"That would be one way to treat him," said his mother; "but there is another thing you might do, if you chose."

"What, mother?" asked Rollo.

"Why, make him a beetle and wedge, for his own."

"Why, mother!" said Rollo, with surprise.

"Yes," said she. "You might make him one. Think how pleased he would be with it. Then he could sit down with you, and you could both be splitting together."

"But, seems to me, mother, that that would be rewarding him for being a naughty boy."

"It would be so, if you were to make him a beetle and wedge, because he was a bad boy; but I proposed that you should make it for another reason, that is, to please him."

"But perhaps he would think I did it because he ran away with my knife," said Rollo.

"I don't think there is any danger that he would imagine that you did it as a reward for that," replied his mother.

Here Rollo paused a moment. He did not feel quite ready to undertake to make Nathan a beetle and wedges; but he did not know exactly how to reply to his mother's reasoning. At length he said, in a timid and hesitating voice,

"But, mother, it seems to me that it would be better to punish Nathan, rather than reward him, or do any thing which would seem like rewarding him for acting so."

"That may be true," said his mother. "And it is true, also, that if you should refuse to let him split wood any more with your wedges, it would be punishing him; while, on the other hand, if you should make him a little beetle and wedge of his own, it would be forgiving him. Now I do not say that he ought not to be punished; but which do you think is your duty towards him,—you, yourself, being only another child, a few years older than he,—to punish or to forgive?"

"Why,—to forgive,—I suppose," said Rollo, rather doubtfully.

"I am rather inclined to that opinion, myself," said his mother: "but you can do just as you please."

Rollo remained some minutes about his mother's chair, not knowing exactly what to do or say next. He sat down upon the floor, and began to play with some shreds of cloth which were lying there. Presently, he looked up and said,

"Mother, what was the reason why you would not let me tell you what was the matter with Nathan in the kitchen?"

"Because," said she, "he was crying then, and it is no time to learn how an injury happened, during the excitement of the moment. If you find Nathan crying out in the yard, for instance, and try to get him to tell you how he got hurt, you only make him cry the more. Get him quiet first, and then learn the story afterwards.

"Then, besides the difficulty of his speaking intelligibly," she continued, "at such a time, boys are very strongly tempted to misrepresent the facts, during the excitement of the first moments. They are very likely to be a little vexed or angry, and, under the influence of those feelings, not to give a correct and honest account. So that it is always best to put off inquiries till the trouble is all over."

Here Nathan came into the room. His forehead had ceased to give him pain, and so he had clambered down from the bed where his mother had placed him, and now came into the room, looking quiet and calm, though still not very happy.

Rollo went to him, and said, "Come, Nathan, now we will go down stairs to play again." And he began to lead him down stairs. As they walked along, Rollo said,

"I am going to make you a beetle and wedge for your own, Nathan, and then you and I can split together: only, it is not a reward, you must understand. It was wrong for you to keep my beetle, and run away with my knife, and you are sorry you did so, an't you, Nathan?"

"Yes," said Nathan.

"And you won't do so any more, will you, Nathan?"

"No," said Nathan, "I won't do so any more."

Whether Nathan was really sorry for what he had done, or whether he only said so because Rollo was going to make him a beetle, is very doubtful; though it is not impossible that he was a little sorry.

Rollo went down into the shed again with Nathan; and while he was at work making the new beetle and wedge, he let Nathan use his. The first piece of board had been split up; so he laid another one before Nathan, and gave him his beetle and wedges and knife, and then went away out to the barn to get some more wood for wedges, and an auger.

When he came back, he found Nathan standing at the shed door, with the little beetle in his hand, waiting for him. As Nathan saw Rollo coming, he called to him, saying,

"Come, Rollo, come and help me; the board won't split."

"What is the matter with it?" said Rollo.

"I don't know," said Nathan, "only it won't split."

So Rollo went in to see. He found that Nathan had gone to work wrong. Instead of trying to drive the wedge into the end of the board, so as to split it along the grain, he had made the cleft with the knife in the side of the board, and was attempting to drive it in there, as if he supposed he could split the board across the grain.

"Why, Nathan," said Rollo, "that isn't right. You can't split it across."

Then he put the wedge into the end, where it ought to be put, and set Nathan to driving it. Now it began to split at once; though Nathan could not see why the board should not split one way as well as the other.

Rollo himself did not understand it very well. Nathan asked him why it would not split the other way, and he said that that was across the grain. But when Nathan asked him what he meant by grain, he could not tell.

He took up the wood and examined it, and observed little lines and ridges, running along in the direction in which it would split; but at the ends of the board, where it had been sawed across the grain, it was rough. He determined to ask Jonas about it, or his father.

He then went to work, and made the wedges and a little beetle for Nathan. He made Nathan's beetle smaller than his own, because Nathan was not strong enough to strike hard with such a heavy beetle. He did not get it done in season to use that day; but, the next day, he and Nathan sat down upon the shed floor, and spent an hour in splitting up the boards. They split them all up into good, fine kindling wood. Then they piled the pieces up in a neat pile, and then brought Dorothy out to see them.

Dorothy seemed very much pleased, and promised the boys that, the next time she baked pies, she would kindle the fire in the oven with their kindling wood, and then she would bake them each a little apple turnover.

* * * * *

That evening, just before Rollo went to bed, he asked Jonas if he could tell him why boards would only split along the grain.

"Yes," said Jonas, "I think I can tell you. But do you know what the grain is?"

"No," said Rollo, "I don't know any thing about it."

"You know that boards are made from the stems of tall trees."

"Yes," said Rollo.

"Well, now when trees are growing, there are little channels running up and down from the roots to the branches."

"What are they for?" said Rollo.

"They are for the sap. The sap flows up and down in them. But then there are no channels across from one side of the tree to the other, because there is no sap to go across. The sap all has to go up from the roots to the branches; and so the channels must all be up and down the tree.

"Now," continued Jonas, "when they cut down the tree, the trunk will split easily, up and down, the way the channels and fibres all go; but it won't split easily across. And just so, when they saw it up into boards, the boards will all split lengthwise, from end to end, for this is the way the channels and fibres all lie; but it won't split across, for that would be across all the fibres, and the wood is made very strong in that direction, and it is well it is so."

"Why?" said Rollo.

"Because, if trees would split across, as easily as they do up and down, the first good wind would blow down all the forests in the world."

"O, Jonas!" exclaimed Rollo, "all the forests in the world?"

"Yes," replied Jonas, "if the wind blew all over the world."


One day, at eleven o'clock, Rollo, after having put away his books carefully into his desk, went out to play. It was a calm and pleasant autumnal day. Brown and yellow leaves were falling from the trees, and lying about the yard. Rollo found Nathan sitting upon the steps of the door which looked toward the garden yard. He felt satisfied and happy, for he had studied his lessons diligently, and, when he saw Nathan, he concluded to have a little play with him.

"Now, Nathan," said Rollo, "I will lie down upon the steps, and make believe I am a bear gone to sleep, and you come and poke me with your stick, and then I will growl at you."

"Well," said Nathan, "I will."

So Rollo laid down upon the steps, putting his arms upon the threshold of the door for a pillow, and his head upon his arms, and pretended to be asleep; but he did not look much as if he was asleep, after all, for he could not look quite sober. He tried to look sober; but there was a lurking smile upon his face, which made his countenance look quite different from that of a bear. Nathan came creeping along softly, and when he got near enough, he began to poke him with the end of his little whip-handle; then Rollo would start up and begin to growl, when Nathan would scamper away, shouting with laughter, Rollo after him, upon all-fours.

This play lasted several minutes, until at length Nathan spoiled it by punching Rollo too hard with his whip-handle. A great many plays are spoiled by roughness on the part of some who are engaged. Rollo, being hurt a little, got out of patience. He ought to have asked Nathan, pleasantly, not to punch him so hard. Instead of that, however, he declared that he would not play any more, and got up and went away. Nathan followed him, lashing the ground and the leaves with his whip.

They both went into a corner of the yard, where Rollo used to have his sand-garden. This sand-garden was made of clean sand, which Rollo and his cousin James once wheeled up from the brook; and then, after they had smoothed it out, and raked it over, they used to get plants and flowers, without any roots, and stick down, and then call it their garden. They used to water the plants, and so they could keep them green and bright for several days, which was long enough for them; for, after that, they generally preferred putting down fresh ones. But, now, the sand-garden had been for a long time neglected. The remains of some of the old plants were there, withered and dried, and the leaves of autumn were scattered over its surface.

Rollo began to rake off the leaves with his fingers, and then sat down, and went to digging a hole in the sand. It was very dry upon the top, but on digging down a little way, he found it damp, and so it would hold together pretty well, and he could pat it into any shape. A load of clean sand makes a very good place for children to play in, in a corner of a yard.

Rollo sat down on one side of the sand-garden, and Nathan on the other, and both busied themselves in digging and building little houses. They both became very much interested, and sat some time very still, until, at length, Rollo looked around to see what Nathan might be doing.

"What are you doing, Thanny?" said he.

"O, I'm making the sand run down through."

Rollo observed that Nathan had an old tin dipper, which he was holding up in one hand, and putting some dry sand into it with the other. There was a very small hole in the bottom of the dipper, for it was an old one which had been worn out and thrown away; and the sand ran out of this little hole in a fine stream, and it was this which interested Nathan so much.

"O, Nathan," said Rollo, "let me have the dipper."

"No," said Nathan, "I want it myself."

Rollo would not take it away from Nathan, though he wanted it very much indeed.

"Yes, Nathan," said he, "let me have the dipper, and I will make you an hour-glass out of it."

But Nathan said, "No, no," and moved away a little farther.

Rollo then remembered that such a little boy was generally not interested in any one thing very long, and that, if he should let Nathan alone, he would soon put the dipper down, and then he could have it without any difficulty. So he went on making houses in the sand, and in a few minutes Nathan put the dipper down. Then, soon after, Rollo took it up and put some dry sand into it, and he found that the sand would run very smoothly, in a fine stream, through a small hole there was in the bottom of it.

He determined to make an hour-glass of it. He had seen an hour-glass at his uncle George's. It was made of glass, big at the bottom and at the top, and narrow in the middle between the two. Through the narrow part in the middle, there was a very small hole, to let the sand run down through; and there was just sand enough put in to run through in an hour. So that, if a person should set the sand to running, he would know when an hour had expired, by observing when the sand had all run through.

Rollo thought that he could make an hour-glass; and he thought it would be a great convenience to him to have an hour-glass in the yard; because it often happened, when he came out to play, that his mother would tell him that he might stay out an hour; and then he had to go in very often to look at the clock, in order to know exactly when the hour had expired.

There were, however, so many little sticks and old leaves in the sand, that it kept getting continually clogged up, and at last Rollo began to get discouraged. He tried to pick out the little sticks; but he found he could not do that, and at last it occurred to him that probably Dorothy had some sand in the house that was cleaner.

He accordingly went in and asked her. She told him that he must wash his own sand, and that would make it clean.

"But haven't you got some that is clean already?" said he.

"Yes," said Dorothy; "but you will like your hour-glass better if you make it all yourself."

So Dorothy told him how to wash sand, for Rollo said that he did not know. She said he must put a little in a basin, and then pump water into it. "When the basin is nearly full of water, you must stir it round, and then pour off the water, and pump in more;—do this until the water comes off clear."

So Rollo took the basin which Dorothy gave him, and went out to his sand-garden, and put in a little sand. Then he went to the pump, and pumped water into it. Then he stirred it about with his hand. The water immediately became very turbid, and a great many little sticks and leaves came floating up to the surface. Rollo was surprised to find how rapidly the water separated the light things which would float upon the top, from the heavy sand which would sink to the bottom. He kept pouring off the water, and pumping in more, until at length no more sticks and leaves came off, and the water appeared pretty clear. Then he carried the sand away, and spread it out upon a clean board in the sun to dry.

While he was thus at work preparing the sand for his hour-glass, Jonas happened to come by, and asked Rollo what he was doing. Rollo told him that he was making an hour-glass. Jonas looked on for a few minutes, and then he told Rollo that he thought that was a pretty good plan. "And I am going to have a time-keeper, too," said he.

"Are you?" said Rollo. "What?"

"I am going to make a dial," said he.

"A dial!" said Rollo; "what, a real dial?"

Rollo had an idea that a dial was exceedingly complicated and difficult to make, or to understand; and, in fact, it is difficult to make one that shall be exact in its indications. He did not think it possible that Jonas could make one.

"Yes," said Jonas, "a real dial; and I have got a noon mark already."

"A noon mark!" said Rollo; "what is a noon mark?"

"It is a mark to show when it is exactly twelve o'clock."

"Let me go and see it," said Rollo, "while my sand is drying."

Rollo followed Jonas off into the barn, and when there, Jonas pointed to a small line which he had cut with his penknife upon the barn floor. It began at the foot of one of the posts, by the side of the door, and extended back into the barn exactly straight.

"Is that the noon mark?" said Rollo. He was surprised to see that a noon mark was nothing but a cut with a penknife upon a barn floor.

"Yes," said Jonas; "that is a meridian."

"A meridian!" said Rollo, looking upon it with an air of great curiosity and respect.

"Yes," said Jonas; "a line drawn exactly north and south, is called a meridian line; and that is exactly north and south."

"What do you call it a noon mark for?" said Rollo.

"Because," said Jonas, "the shadow of the edge of the door post will always be exactly upon it at noon. So that I can always tell now when it is noon, by the shadow of the post upon my noon mark, if the sun shines."

All this was very new and very curious to Rollo. He had never seen or heard of a noon mark before; and it seemed to him a very simple and beautiful way of knowing when it was noon. He asked Jonas how he found out about it, and Jonas told him that he had been reading about it in a book on astronomy.

"Your father let me have the book," said he; "and see my chalk marks for the sun's shadow."

Rollo looked, and found that Jonas had put down quite a number of chalk marks along in a line, where they had first began to mark the place where the shadow of the door reached into. Rollo and Lucy had forgotten all about their plan of making such a series of observations; but Jonas had gone on regularly, making a mark every Monday, at noon, precisely. As the sun, at that season of the year, was going round farther and farther to the south every week, it shone in farther and farther upon the floor, so that each chalk mark was farther in than the one made the week before.

In order to make his marks at the right time, Jonas wanted to know, every Monday, when it was precisely twelve o'clock, and this led him to make his noon mark, having seen the account of it in the book which Rollo's father had lent him. He learned there that the shadows of all upright objects are cast exactly north at twelve o'clock, or rather very nearly north; near enough for his purposes. Now, as the post of the barn door was upright, he knew that the shadow of it would be in the north and south line at noon. Of course, if he had a north and south line, or a meridian line, as it was called in the book, drawn upon the floor, he knew that he could tell when it was noon, by the shadow of the post coming then exactly upon that line. He explained this all to Rollo, and Rollo was very much pleased with it indeed. He determined to have a noon line somewhere in the house.

Rollo asked Jonas what was the way to draw a noon line. Jonas told him that there were several ways. One way, he said, was to observe some day, by the clock, when it was exactly noon, and then to mark, upon the barn floor, the line where the shadow of the edge of the post fell precisely at that moment. Another way was to get a compass needle, and put it down upon the floor, and then draw a north and south line precisely in the direction that the needle indicated. That would, of course, be a north and south line, because the compass needle always pointed north and south. He said that he adopted both these methods to make his noon line. First, he got a compass needle, which Rollo's father had lent him, and put that down upon the barn floor just at the foot of the door post, and observed the direction; and he also noticed when it was twelve, by the clock in the house, and he found that, when it was twelve by the clock, the shadow of the post came exactly to the line indicated by the direction of the compass needle; and so he knew that that was a correct meridian line.


That evening, Rollo told his father about his hour-glass, and also about Jonas's noon line. His father said it was very difficult to draw a meridian line.

"O no, father," said Rollo; "Jonas has drawn one, and he told me how, and it was a very easy way."

"Yes," said his father, "it is easy to draw something which you can call a noon mark; but it is a very difficult and delicate operation to do it with any considerable degree of exactness."

"I think that Jonas's is exact," said Rollo.

"It probably may be as exact as he could make it with his means and instruments; but there are a great many sources of error which he could not possibly have avoided."

"What?" asked Rollo.

"Why, in the first place, the clock is not exact. It is near enough to answer all the purposes of a family; but it may often be a minute or more out of the way. Then besides, while Jonas is going from the clock out to the barn, the shadow is slowly moving on, all the time; so that he cannot tell exactly where the shadow was, when it was precisely twelve by the clock.

"Then again, it is not always exactly noon when the shadow comes to the north and south line. It varies a little at different seasons of the year, though it is so near that we say, in general terms, that at noon all shadows of upright objects point to the north. Still, it is not precisely true, except on a very few days in the year. Then, again, the post of the barn door is not exactly upright."

"I thought they always made door posts exactly upright," said Rollo.

"They do make them as nearly upright as they can, with the common carpenters' instruments; but they are not exact. To set a post of any kind, with great precision, perpendicular to the horizon, would require very expensive mathematical instruments, and very laborious and nice observations. Then, again, if the clock had been exact, and the post perfectly upright, Jonas could not have marked the place of the shadow exactly. The shadow has not an exact and well-defined edge; and then, even while he was marking at one end, the shadow would be moving along at the other end, and so his noon mark would not be exactly straight."

"Why, father, he could make the mark right along quick."

"No matter how quick he might make it. It would take some time, wouldn't it?"

"Only a very little," said Rollo.

"And do you suppose the sun would stand still, even during that little time, so as to let the shadow remain stationary?

"However," continued his father, "I don't say this to disparage Jonas's noon mark. I dare say, it is accurate enough for his purposes. He only wants to know from it when it is time for him to come in to dinner, or something like that. I only want you to understand what exactness is, and to see, a little, how difficult it is to attain to any considerable degree of it, in such cases. So thus, it seems, that Jonas has got a sort of a dial?"

"Why, it only tells him what o'clock it is at one hour in the day," said Rollo. "But I think he might make it do for all the afternoon and forenoon."

"How?" inquired his father.

"Why, all he has got to do is to watch some day when it is nine o'clock, and ten o'clock, and so on, every hour; and then make a line where the shadow comes every hour, just as he did for twelve o'clock. Then he will have marks for every hour in the day, and when the shadow comes along to these marks, one after another, he will know what time it is."

"O, but the difficulty is," said his father, "that the shadow will not come to the same places, at the same hours, on different days. It will come to the meridian line, at twelve, always,—that is, nearly to it; but it will not come to any other lines regularly,—that is, if the object, which casts the shadow, is upright."

"Will any other kind of object carry the shadow regularly?" asked Rollo.

"Yes," said his father, "an object that leans over to the north, so as to point to the North Star. If you and Jonas could put a post into the ground so as to have it point to the North Star, then you could mark, all around it, the places to which the shadow would come for every hour in the day, and afterwards it would come to the same places regularly, or nearly so. It would be near enough for your purposes; and I don't know but that it would be quite a respectable dial for you."

Rollo then asked his father why it was that a post, which pointed to the North Star, would bring a shadow any more regularly to the hour marks, than an upright one would; but he said that Rollo did not know enough, yet, to understand the explanation, even if he were to try to explain it. "Therefore," said he, "you must wait until you study astronomy before you can expect to understand it; but you can now, in the mean time, make such a dial, if you wish to do it."

Rollo did wish to do it very much. He accordingly told Jonas all that his father had said. It seemed very strange to Jonas, that a post, pointing to the North Star, should have its shadows move round any more regularly than a post in any other position. He could not imagine what the North Star could have to do with the shadows. Still, he determined to try the experiment.

A few days after this, Jonas did try the experiment. He got two narrow boards, which were once pickets belonging to a picket fence, one end of each was sharp, so that it could be driven down into the ground. Then he selected a certain part of the yard, in a corner, where the dial would be out of the way, and yet the path to the barn led along pretty near it. The reason why Jonas got two boards was this: he knew that, if he drove only one stake into the ground, and inclined it towards the North Star, it would be very likely to get started out of its proper position; but if he had two, he could drive the second one down perpendicularly from the end of the first, and then nail the two ends together; and that would keep all steady.

After having got every thing ready, the boys waited till the evening before fixing up the dial, because they could not see the North Star in the day time. But when the evening came, they went out, and began their preparations. It was a clear and pretty cold evening, and the stars were out in thousands.

"Which is the North Star?" asked Rollo.

Jonas looked about a minute or two, saying, "Let me see—where's the Dipper? O, I see a part of it; the rest is down behind the barn. It was up high the last time I saw it."

"Where is the Dipper?" said Rollo, looking eagerly in the direction to which Jonas was turned.

"Come this way," said Jonas, "so as to be out of the way of the barn, and you can see it better."

So Jonas pointed out the Dipper to Rollo, with its square body, and long, bent handle. It was at first quite difficult for Rollo to see any thing that looked at all like a dipper; as it consisted only of stars, which it required some imagination to make look like one.

"The handle reaches almost down to the ground," said Rollo.

"Down to the horizon, you mean," said Jonas.

"Is that the horizon?" said Rollo.

"Yes," said Jonas, "where the earth and sky meet. Not long ago the Dipper handle was away up there," he continued, pointing up very high.

"Does the Dipper move?" said Rollo.

"Yes, it goes round and round the North Star, all the time. All the stars that are near the North Star keep going round and round it, once every day."

"And the rest of the stars," said Rollo, "do they go round too?"

"Yes," said Jonas; "only they are so far from the North Star, that they go in larger circles, and so go down below the horizon, and are out of sight sometimes. They come up in the east, like the sun, and go over and down in the west. But they don't go over straight," he added. "They don't come right up straight; and so go directly over. They slant away, off to the south, so as to keep always just so far from the North Star."

"That's curious," said Rollo.

"I think it is," said Jonas. "And they all go together; they don't move about among themselves, at all."

"Don't they?" said Rollo.

"No," said Jonas; "only there are a few wandering stars, that keep wandering about among the others. But the rest all keep exactly in their places, and all go round together; so they are called fixed stars."

"Show me one of the wandering stars," said Rollo.

"I don't know which they are," said Jonas, "only they are pretty bright ones."

"I guess that's one," said Rollo, pointing to a pretty bright star in the east.

"Perhaps it is," said Jonas.

"I wish I knew," said Rollo.

"I'll tell you how you can find out," said Jonas.

"How?" asked Rollo.

"Why, when you go into the house, take a piece of paper, and go to the window, and make some dots upon it, for all the stars around that one. Make the dots just in the places that the stars seem to be in. Then let them all go. They will rise more and more, and go overhead, and down in the west, and to-morrow night they will come up in the east again; and then you can look at them again, and see if the bright star has changed its place at all."

Rollo said that he meant to do that; and then he said that he began to feel cold, and wanted to go in. But Jonas told him that he ought to wait and help finish the dial.

So they went to the place which Jonas had selected, and Jonas, looking up first at the North Star, made a hole in the ground, with an iron bar, in an oblique direction, so that the bar should point pretty nearly to the North Star. Then he drove in one of his stakes in the same way. He then made a hole, perpendicularly, directly under the end of this inclined stake, and drove the other stake down into that. The two upper ends of the stakes were now together.

Then Jonas stooped down, so as to bring his eye near the edge of the inclined stake, at the lower end, so that he could "sight" along the edge of it, towards the star. He had previously cut a notch in it, so that he could get his eye down far enough to look directly along the edge. At the same time, Rollo took hold of the upper end, and stood ready to move it either way, as Jonas might direct, until it should point exactly towards the North Star.

"Down," said Jonas.

Then Rollo moved it a little down.

"Down more."

Rollo moved it farther.

"Up—up a little," added Jonas. "There—that will do. Now hold the two stakes firmly together, exactly so."

Then Jonas took some nails, which he had before provided, and nailed the tops of the stakes together, Rollo holding the axe up against them, on the opposite side. This supported the end of the inclined stake firmly, so that it could not move up or down. This was all that the boys wanted to do in the evening, and so they both went in.

The next day, Jonas sawed off the ends of both stakes where they projected beyond the junction; and then Rollo said he would watch the clock all day, and mark the place where the shadow came each hour, and drive a little stake down. "Then," said he, "our dial will be done."

"But what do you suppose is the reason," said Rollo, "that we must make it point to the North Star more than to any other?"

"I don't know," said Jonas, "unless it is because the North Star is the only one that keeps always in the same place. The rest move round and round every day. Those that are far enough from the North Star to go down below the horizon, rise and set; and those that are not far enough, go round and round in circles, in the open sky. But the North Star keeps still."

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