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THE CORNU AMMONIS. Aunt. Well, my boys, I am come to look at the treasures we found at the quarry, and see what use you have made of them.
Charles.-Why we've been expecting you, Aunt, every day, to see the grotto we have built, such a splendid grotto !-Go and get all ready, Lewis!
Lewis.-Yes, and mind you don't tell!
Charles.- Now, aunt, we'll go; but remember we hav'nt had time to roof it in properly yet, it would'nt do for a rainy day, and the gravel walk to it is not finished, but you'll never guess what is inside!
Aunt.-It really is a capital grotto, you dear little workmen-Yes, I see!-periwinkle and fern, and violets, amonget the old shells, and the white flints look very pretty indeed, and boughs of lilac and laburnum to roof in the top; now I must peep in, and see what is this something white inside.
This was answered by a bound and a merry laugh from sister Fanny, who had been coaxed into sitting motionless for a very short time, with her doll, in such an attitude as would best set off the canopy her brothers had built.
Fanny.—Now, Aunty, let us have a walk, for I am so tired of sitting still, and we have been working so hard at the grotto to get it ready for you to see.
Charles.—And we have been to the common to dig up these fern-roots. Those long leaves are so pretty, are they not?
Aunt.-- They are, indeed; and they are old friends to the shells and flints. When these were in the ocean, as I told you, ferns such as these were growing on the banks.
Lewis.—There you are getting so very deep, Aunty ! why shells might be buried and remain the same, but ferns, if I were to gather a leaf it would fade and die before to-morrow; so how could it remain perfect for many years ?
Aunt.-If you will come home with me, I will show you the impression of a fern leaf, exactly like the one I held in my hand, on a rock that has been dug from the earth, many hundred yards deep.
But I see you do not know what to do with your greatest treasure, the cornu ammonis, which you were at so much trouble to bring home: now I dare say you would not mind giving it to me, and carrying it home for me?
All.–O no, dear Aunt, that we will! you are quite welcome to it, for it is too large for a rockery, and too low for a seat; but I wonder what beauty you can see in it.
Fanny.--I like its name at any rate-cornu ammonis sounds so grand.
Aunt.—You need not laugh, boys; I think with Fanny it is a capital name, and the words mean Jupiter's Horn. Look at these flutings, diminishing gradually till they reach the centre.
Charles. — Yes, but it looks
more as if it had been carved by somebody out of yellow stone, than like a shell, and it is heavy as sone, I am sure.
Aunt.—You are right. It is stone now, but once it was inhabited by a living creature, whose comfort and and happiness were well provided for.
Charles.—What! -a creature lived in this lump of stone! I should like to break it and get a glimpse at the cornu ammonis.
Aunt.—That would be of no avail-he has been dead thousands of years—but he was a fellow worth knowing, I can tell you.
Charles.—And how did you manage to make his acquaintance, aunt?
Aunt.-Why chiefly through the members of his family who are living now. They are a most ancient family. I assure you we human beings are creatures of yesterday, compared with the cornu ammonis. But now we have reached home-I thank
for carrying my heavy treasure; put it there till I find a proper place for it. And now as a reward, I will show you the cabinet you have so often longed to peep into. Now I cannot have all the drawers opened at once.
Fanny.-Show us first the relations of the cornu ammonis, please, aunt.
Aunt.-His descendants are known by the name of nautilus, and I think you will say they have improved in their appearance.
Fanny.-O! how beautiful, how lovely! Why this can't be a shell, it must be made of paper. I hardly dare touch it, it is so delicate.
Lewis.—Why it's as light as a feather, and I can almost see through it, and how prettily it is ribbed in and out.
Charles.-Yes, this is an improvement on that yellow stone one.
Aunt. —And yet that stone, or the shell round it, was once as light as this, but the shell has disappeared, leaving its mould on the stone, so we have the pattern of the shell, not the shell itself. Now look at this nautilus, equally elegant, but made of more enduring material. You see this is smooth, formed of porcelain shell as it is called, and covered with beautiful columns like mother of pearl. Take care how you hold it.
Lewis.-Oh aunt! I am so sorry! it's broken, it has come in two!
Charles. —Now we can see what is inside. What are these curious little compartments for? I suppose they are the rooms the nautilus lives in, and a sort of door or pipe runs through them all. He must be a little fellow to get through that door. I wish we could see him alive. Did you ever see a nautilus, aunt?
Aunt. — No. The nautilus likes a warm climate ; he is to be seen on the Mediteranean sometimes,, floating on the sea.
Charles.- O how I should like to see him! Aunt.—But he is very difficult to catch, as when he is: alarmed, he has the power of drawing himself into his. shell, and sinking himself down, down to the bottom
of the sea.
Charles.—Like the man in the diving-bell. What a clever little fellow.
Aunt.—Yes ; and he can remain there as long as he likes. He can do by instinct what the most scientific man would fail in.
Charles.—What do you mean by instinct, aunt ?
Aunt.— Instinct is the wonderful knowledge God has given to each creature, for its own preservation and happiness; and the more you know the more astonished you will be, at the minute care and attention with which our heavenly Father has provided for the wants of every living thing he has made. And we know, too, that the same care and lovingkindness was extended over His creation, ages before we appeared to enjoy His bounty, and adore and praise Him for it. We find in these ammonites that have been buried during countless ages, the same wonderful apparatus that we see in the nautilus, that sails in the seas at this present time. Lewis.- What apparatus
you mean, aunt? Aunt.--I mean this tube called siphuncle, which runs as you say through all the rooms in his house, but this is only his diving apparatus. He lives in the space above this aperture. These are air chambers; but he has the power of filling the tube with fluid. When he wishes to rise to the surface, that is when the sea is very calm, he has the power of discharging the fluid from the tube, and so making his shell light enough to rise to the top, and when he wishes to retire to his rocky bed, how do you think he manages ?
Lewis.- I suppose he fills his siphuncle again, and so makes it heavier, and down he goes.
Aunt.—Here is a drawer full of the early ancestors of the nautilus.
Lewis.—Oh aunt! these have no pretty colours ; they are a dull looking set.
Aunt.— They have lost their colours with age. These are fossils; but doubtless they sailed gaily in their native seas; here you see they are curled in all kinds of beautiful shapes, and at last we come to the Orthoceras, which is quite straight, but yet furnished with air chambers and a siphuncle or tube.
Fanny.—Now aunt, I want very much to peep into this large drawer—full of pieces of dirty coal, I declare.
Aunt.--Now look at this flat piece of coal, do you see anything upon it ?
Lewis.— Yes, a print as it were, of a leaf of fern, and here is another, almost exactly like those I have gathered on the common. Oh, you said you would show me a fern embedded in stone, but this is coal.
Aunt.-And in this drawer behold the same impression in yellow stone. Now can you doubt that this was a living fern. Look at all the little seeds at the back of the leaf, and notice how perfect it is, not the least shrivelled-yet both these have been embedded in the earth many thousand feet.
Lewis.—Well! I do wonder how these living plants can grow deep down in the earth-I cannot understand it.
Aunt.--I told you the shells we carried home the other day were once swimming in a sea, and that the chalk, in which they are imbedded, was that sea
grew on the banks of that sea, and the rivers with their land deposits, have turned into sandstone, and coloured rocks, and have preserved the ferns and many other plants as fresh as you see them. Coal is supposed to be the remains of submerged forests.
Fanny.-Why, it's like magic! forests turned into coal !--and rivers into rocks, and seas into chalk !