JUNO AND GEORGIE.
Juno's Way of Answering Questions.
MANY persons complain of children for asking so many questions about every thing they see and hear. They find it very difficult, too, sometimes, to answer the questions; and very often, when some poor little fellow, who is earnest to find out, as much as he can about the strange things that he sees and hears around him in the world so new that he finds himself living in, and which are all so wonderful to him, instead of getting kind and civil answers, and the help and information that he needs, he often meets with some harsh rebuff from an older brother or sister whom he is playing with, and who, having lived so much longer than he has, might, if they chose give him information which would afford him much satisfaction, and be very useful to him.
One excuse which older brothers and sisters sometimes make for their pettishness on these occasions is, that the children ask questions which they cannot answer. They don't know themselves, they say. But it will almost always be found in such cases that they know something more in respect to what the children ask about than the children themselves do, and if they would only tell that something, it would be all that would be required.
In fact, it is generally very easy to answer children's questions, no matter how difficult the questions themselves may seem to be, provided you only know the secret, which consists chiefly in this, namely: in being contented to give the children as little information on the point as they are contented to receive. When they come to us with an inquiry, what they desire in answer to it is, not a complete philosophical explanation of the subject, but one or two simple truths, just sufficient to extend their ideas and conceptions a little way.
Juno understood this, not theoretically, it is true, nor scientifically, as it is explained above, but practically, and by a sort of instinct. Thus there were a great many questions, which, if they had been brought by an educated man to some profound philosopher, would have puzzled the philosopher exceedingly, but which, when asked of Juno by Georgie, did not puzzle her at all, and she gave Georgie what he considered very full and satisfactory answers to them. For example, if Prof. Agassiz were to be asked to explain to an audience at a lecture what makes trees grow, he might find it very difficult to know what to say. But when Georgie came to Juno with that question, one day in the woods, she found no difficulty in it at all.
She was sitting upon a smooth log on the shady side of a copse of small firs, while Georgie was playing about among the tall trees which grew there in the forest. She herself was employed in sewing, her work-basket lying on the log by her side, while Georgie was amusing himself by riding about on the mossy ground, under the trees, upon a long spreading branch which he had found, and which served him for a horse. The spreading part of the branch, which dragged upon the ground behind him, was the horse's tail.
The horse pranced about a great deal, and his rider seemed to find some difficulty in controlling him, but at length Georgie brought him to a stand, and stopped to take breath.
A moment afterward he called out to
Juno, whose seat was at some little distance from where he was resting-
" Juno," said he, " do you know about trees ? "
" Yes," said Juno, " I know all about them."
"Then, what makes trees grow?" asked Georgie.
"The roots," said Juno.
Georgie looked up into the top of a tail tree that was standing near him, and then down upon the ground, where he saw the roots spreading about in all directions from the foot of the stem.
" And what makes the roots grow ?" asked Georgie.
"The sun and the rain," said Juno.
"Oh ! " said Georgie, speaking in a tone of satisfaction, as if now he understood the subject. His horse now all at once seemed to grow restive and impatient, and Georgie let him go, and for several minutes he raced about at full speed. Presently Georgie came to a halt again, and looked up into the top of the tree.
" Juno," said he, after a moment's pause, " what makes the branches grow ? "
" Buds," said Juno. " The branches begin in the little buds that come out on the tree when it is small, and then grow bigger and bigger-"
" Oh! " said Georgie, " now I understand it." So saying, he whipped up his horse, and went galloping round and round among the trees again.
Georgie liked to ask Juno questions, because she never rebuffed him, but always returned him some kind of an answer; and the answer always gave him some information, though usually very little. But a very little was all that he wanted each time. He could not have taken in a great deal, even if Juno had been able to offer it to him.
Presently he said he had rode horse-back long enough, and so he put his horse in the stable (a dark and very shady place under the firs of the little copse near Juno's log served for the stable) and then came and sat down by Juno's side.
" Juno," said he, " see how tall these trees are. What makes them grow so tall ? "
" Because they have been growing such a long time," said Juno; " they have been growing a great many years."
" A thousand years ? " asked Georgie.
" Guess again," said Juno.
"A hundred years," said Georgie, venturing another guess.
" That's about right," said Juno. " I suppose that some of the trees in these woods have been growing about a hundred years. That gives them time to grow very tall."
" How much do they grow every year? " asked Georgie.
" About so much," said Juno, " or so much, or so much," measuring different distances with her hands, from six inches to two feet. Juno did not know very definitely what the usual annual growth of forest trees was, but she had some vague and general ideas on the subject, and these she could communicate. This was just what Georgie wanted, for before he asked the question he had no ideas on the subject at all. For aught he knew about it, trees might shoot up half their whole height in a single year, and the other half the next year; or, like cornstalks, they might have grown their whole length in a single season.
Juno's answers to Georgie's questions were not always as brief as those she gave in this case. She made her answers long or short, and more or less explanatory, according to the circumstances of the case, and the state of mind Georgie was in on each occasion. When his mind was disengaged, and he was quiet and still, she made her explanations longer, though she was in all cases careful not to attempt too much at any one time. While he was prancing about on his horse, she gave very brief answers to the questions; but now that he was tired of riding, and was sitting quietly by her side, she was prepared to reply a little more fully to any inquiries that he might make. He sat musing for a little time, and then he said:
" Juno, what is the bark for on a tree ? "
"It is a kind of a coat for it," said Juno.
"Does it keep it warm in the winter?" asked Georgie.
" I should not wonder if it did," said Juno.
" And then, besides, the bark keeps the tree from getting hurt."
" Oh, Juno! " said Georgie, " a tree could not be hurt."
" Yes," said Juno; " there is one part of the tree which is very tender, the part right next to the bark, where all the growing of the tree is done. There is a new layer of wood begun every spring all around the outside of the tree, next to the bark. The new layer is very juicy and tender while it is growing, and if it were not covered over by the bark, the cattle in the woods would rub against it and spoil the growing."
Juno always had plenty of brief answers and simple explanations like these to give to all the questions which Georgie asked her. Sometimes, in reply to his enquiries, she answered that she did not know; but this very seldom happened, because, however, little she might know in respect to any subject that excited Georgie's curiosity, she almost always knew more than Georgie did, and it was precisely this, namely, what she knew and he did not know, that he was most interested in learning.
Juno acted on the same principles in answering Georgie's religious questions, especially those which arose from his lessons at the Sunday-school. How she did this will be explained more fully in the next chapter.
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