Young Folks' Library, Volume XI (of 20) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 349 pages of information about Young Folks' Library, Volume XI (of 20).

Looking back into the darkened past, of which we yet know but little compared with what we would like to know, we can see the great armies of living beings led onward from victory to victory toward the higher life of our own time.  Each age sees some advance, though death overtakes all its creatures.  Those that escape their actual enemies or accident, fall a prey to old age:  volcanoes, earthquakes, glacial periods, and a host of other violent accidents sweep away the life of wide regions, yet the host moves on under a control that lies beyond the knowledge of science.  Man finds himself here as the crowning victory of this long war.  For him all this life appears to have striven.  In his hands lies the profit of all its toil and pain.  Surely this should make us feel that our duty to all these living things, that have shared in the struggle that has given man his elevation, is great, but above all, great is our duty to the powers that have been placed in our bodies and our minds.

[Illustration:  A GLACIER.]




[Illustration:  COOLIE AND NEGRO.]

The Pitch Lake, like most other things, owes its appearance on the surface to no convulsion or vagary at all, but to a most slow, orderly, and respectable process of nature, by which buried vegetable matter, which would have become peat, and finally brown coal, in a temperate climate, becomes, under the hot tropic soil, asphalt and oil, continually oozing up beneath the pressure of the strata above it....

* * * * *

As we neared the shore, we perceived that the beach was black with pitch; and the breeze being off the land, the asphalt smell (not unpleasant) came off to welcome us.  We rowed in, and saw in front of a little row of wooden houses a tall mulatto, in blue policeman’s dress, gesticulating and shouting to us.  He was the ward policeman, and I found him (as I did all the colored police) able and courteous, shrewd and trusty.  These police are excellent specimens of what can be made of the negro, or half-negro, if he be but first drilled, and then given a responsibility which calls out his self-respect.  He was warning our crew not to run aground on one or other of the pitch reefs, which here take the place of rocks.  A large one, a hundred yards off on the left, has been almost all dug away, and carried to New York or to Paris to make asphalt-pavement.

[Illustration:  THE POLICE STATION.]

The boat was run ashore, under his directions, on a spit of sand between the pitch; and when she ceased bumping up and down in the muddy surf, we scrambled out into a world exactly the hue of its inhabitants of every shade, from jet black to copper-brown.  The pebbles on the shore were pitch.  A tide-pool close by was enclosed in pitch; a four-eyes was swimming about in it, staring up at us; and when we hunted him, tried to escape, not by diving, but by jumping on shore on the pitch, and scrambling off between our legs.  While the policeman, after profoundest courtesies, was gone to get a mule-cart to take us up to the lake, and planks to bridge its water channels, we took a look round at this oddest of corners of the earth.

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Young Folks' Library, Volume XI (of 20) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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