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The Secret Of Fire

from Nature Myths And Stories For Little Children





A TREE STORY.


One summer night a great army of pine trees settled down in a quiet
valley to rest. They were a tall, dark, grave-looking company.

They held their heads high in the air, for they were the only trees in
the world who knew the wonderful secret of fire.

High above this valley, on the hillside, lived a little company of oaks.

They were young, brave, and strong-hearted.

When they saw the great band of pines marching into the valley, the
tallest one said:

"Let us make them divide the gift of fire with us."

"No," said the oldest, wisest oak, "we must not risk, foolishly, the
lives of our acorns. We could do nothing against so many."

All the acorns had been listening to what the tree said. Each one longed
to help in finding out the great secret.

One of them became so excited that he fell from the limb, down upon the
hard ground. He did not stop at the foot of the tree, but rolled over
and over, far down into the valley.

Here a brook picked him up and hurried him away; but as he stopped to
rest by a stone, he heard his good friend, the wind, talking to a pine
tree.

"What is the secret of fire which the pine trees know?" asked the wind.
"Don't you think it is selfish to keep it all to yourselves?"

The pine tree loved the wind and answered:

"Great wind, it is, indeed, a wonderful secret; you must never tell it."
Then she whispered it to the wind.

The little acorn went on and on down the stream.

He came to an old log, which was the home of a large family of
squirrels. The mother squirrel was very sad. The last flood had brought
her and her children far away from her old forest home. Her family had
all been saved, but food was scarce and winter was near.

The acorn felt very sorry for her and said:

"I am too small to do you much good alone. If you will carry me back to
my home, I will show you a forest with plenty of nuts. You can take your
family there in the fall."

This the squirrel was very glad to do.

As they went along the acorn called to all the elms, maples, willows
and hickories to meet that night on the hilltop.

"Come to the hill across from the great blue mountains," he said. "There
you will learn the secret of fire."

By evening they were all there, in great companies, ready for war on the
pines.

When the squirrel came to the forest and saw all the nuts she was much
pleased.

She offered to carry the acorn to the very top of the tallest tree. The
trees were all glad of this, for every one wanted to hear what he said.

When the acorn began to speak, even the wind stopped whispering and
listened.

"Friends," he said, "there must be no battle. The pine trees have only
the same gift of fire that you have. To every tree that stretches out
its arms the glorious sun gives this gift. But it was in this way that
the pine trees learned the secret of getting the fire from the wood:
They saw an old Indian chief with two curious pieces of wood. One was
round and smooth, the other was sharp-pointed. With all his strength he
was rubbing them together. Soon he had worn a groove in the round stick.
He rubbed faster and faster, and there in the groove was a tiny spark of
fire. Then the Indian blew his breath upon the spark and a little yellow
flame leaped up. All the pine trees saw it. 'See, it is fire!' they
said."

When the great company of trees had heard the acorn's story they shook
their heads in doubt. Then the acorn said:

"This is the true secret of fire. If you do not believe it why do you
not try it for yourselves."

They took this advice and all the trees learned that what he had said
was true.

They were so happy that they spent the whole night in singing and
dancing.

In the morning, when they saw the great blue mountains and the beautiful
valley, many of them settled down upon the hillside for life.

The pines looked up and saw hundreds of trees with their shining arms.
They were so frightened that they climbed high up on the mountain side.
There they stayed a long, long time.



They grew sad and lonely, and often sighed and wished for their old home
and comforts. But they were brave and strong-hearted, and helped each
other.

At last, some of them came down into the valley again. Through suffering
they had grown strong and unselfish. They gave their best trees to the
people and their fairest to the children at Christmas time.

Indeed, there is not a tree in the world to-day more loved than the pine
tree, who first had the secret of fire.





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