Arabella B. Buckley.

The Fairy-Land of Science online

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wonderful way to the insects which visit it, both so as to
provide them with honey, and at the same time to make them
unconsciously do it good service.

And so we learn that even among insects and flowers, those who do
most for others, receive most in return. The bee and the flower
do not either of them reason about the matter, they only go on
living their little lives as nature guides them, helping and
improving each other. Think for a moment how it would be, if a
plant used up all its sap for its own life, and did not give up
any to make the drop of honey in its flower. The bees would soon
find out that these particular flowers were not worth visiting,
and the flower would not get its pollen-dust carried, and would
have to do its own work and grow weakly and small. Or suppose on
the other hand that the bee bit a hole in the bottom of the
flower, and so got at the honey, as indeed they sometimes do;
then she would not carry the pollen-dust, and so would not keep
up the healthy strong flowers which make her daily food.

But this, as you see, is not the rule. On the contrary, the
flower feeds the bee, and the bee quite unconsciously helps the
flower to make its healthy seed. Nay more; when you are able to
read all that has been written on this subject, you will find
that we have good reason to think that the flowerless plants of
the Coal Period have gradually put on the beautiful colours,
sweet scent, and graceful shapes of our present flowers, in
consequence of the necessity of attracting insects, and thus we
owe our lovely flowers to the mutual kindliness of plants and

And is there nothing beyond this? Surely there is. Flowers and
insects, as we have seen, act without thought or knowledge of
what they are doing; but the law of mutual help which guides them
is the same which bids you and me be kind and good to all those
around us, if we would lead useful and happy lives. And when we
see that the Great Power which rules over our universe makes each
work for the good of all, even in such humble things as bees and
flowers; and that beauty and loveliness come out of the struggle
and striving of all living things; then, if our own life be
sometimes difficult, and the struggle hard to bear, we learn from
the flowers that the best way to meet our troubles is to lay up
our little drop of honey for others, sure that when they come to
sip it they will, even if unconsciously, give us new vigour and
courage in return.

And now we have arrived at the end of those subjects which we
selected out of the Fairy-land of Science. You must not for a
moment imagine, however, that we have in any way exhausted our
fairy domain; on the contrary, we have scarcely explored even the
outskirts of it. The "History of a Grain of Salt," "A
Butterfly's Life," or "The Labours of an Ant," would introduce us
to fairies and wonders quite as interesting as those of which we
have spoken in these Lectures. While "A Flash of Lightning," "An
Explosion in a Coal-mine," or "The Eruption of a Volcano," would
bring us into the presence of terrible giants known and dreaded
from time immemorial.

But at least we have passed through the gates, and have learnt
that there is a world of wonder which we may visit if we will;
and that it lies quite close to us, hidden in every dewdrop and
gust of wind, in every brook and valley, in every little plant or
animal. We have only to stretch out our hand and touch them with
the wand of inquiry, and they will answer us and reveal the fairy
forces which guide and govern them; and thus pleasant and happy
thoughts may be conjured up at any time, wherever we find
ourselves, by simply calling upon nature's fairies and asking
them to speak to us. Is it not strange, then, that people should
pass them by so often without a thought, and be content to grow
up ignorant of all the wonderful powers ever active in the world
around them?

Neither is it pleasure alone which we gain by a study of nature.
We cannot examine even a tiny sunbeam, and picture the minute
waves of which it is composed, travelling incessantly from the
sun, without being filled with wonder and awe at the marvellous
activity and power displayed in the infinitely small as well as
in the infinitely great things of the universe. We cannot become
familiar with the facts of gravitation, cohesion, or
crystallization, without realizing that the laws of nature are
fixed, orderly, and constant, and will repay us with failure or
success according as we act ignorantly or wisely; and thus we
shall begin to be afraid of leading careless, useless, and idle
lives. We cannot watch the working of the fairy "life" in the
primrose or the bee, without learning that living beings as well
as inanimate things are governed by these same laws of nature;
nor can we contemplate the mutual adaptation of bees and flowers
without acknowledging that it teaches the truth that those
succeed best in life who, whether consciously or unconsciously,
do their best for others.

And so our wanderings in the Fairy-land of Science will not be
wasted, for we shall learn how to guide our own lives, while we
cannot fail to see that the forces of nature, whether they are
apparently mechanical, as in gravitation or heat; or intelligent,
as in living beings, are one and all the voice of the Great
Creator, and speak to us of His Nature and His Will.

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Online LibraryArabella B. BuckleyThe Fairy-Land of Science → online text (page 14 of 14)