MY name is Jack. I am a green thing coming up as a flower, yet I know a great deal. For why? The birds come and tell me.
It is quite common for me to talk of what I hear and see, but very few creatures can understand--only the owls, for they are wise and keep silence, the fairies, who, alas! are rather flighty, and one or two clear-hearted children who sometimes run up to me laughing, and say, "Good-morning, Mr. Jack-in-the-Pulpit!"
But here, at last, is a chance. A little bird tells me that through ST. NICHOLAS the girls and boys all over the country may hear what I say. This is as it should be. Why, often I stand and talk whole days without ever a human being coming near me. How would you like that?
But those times are over now, and I'm as happy a Jack-in-the-Pulpit as ever waved. Hereafter, my dears, you'll get my messages by paragraph. The editors of ST. NICHOLAS have laid the paragraphic wires, whatever those are, and they say the sooner I begin the better.
Good! I've sent the birds off in every direction to collect information. Not but that I know a good deal already, understand, but a city sparrow tells me that nowadays young folks want everything done up just so. (What in the world "just so" means I can't understand, but probably the birds will bring some word about it.)
Meantime I'll tell you a few things that will astonish you if you are dear, sweet, stupid little folks, and not little Paragons. I don't like little Paragons. They know botany and pull flowers to pieces.
Hallo! Mr. Roundeyes, an owl friend of mine, says I must take that back. He insists that, of all things, a Jack-in-the-Pulpit shouldn't object to botany. It helps human beings to understand us, he says; sort of lifts them up to our level. All right. I apologize.
A BIRD that spends much of his time on factory roofs tells me that folks are beginning to make buttons, combs, door knobs, cups, canes, and all sorts of things out of leather. They chemicalize it, he says, chip it up and dissolve it in certain fluids till it is a pulp. Then they make it into useful articles by pressing it into moulds of the required shape. When they take it out of the moulds it is hard and tough. Then they polish its surface in some way and the articles are ready for sale.
So, my dears, you may yet comb your hair with your skate-straps, button your clothes with your boots, drink out of old pocket books and use a worn-out harness for your walking stick.
WHAT would you say if I told you what coal comes from? It is made of trees, and ferns, and twigs, and Jack-in-the-Pulpits--fact. Lazy work, though. It takes thousands of years to do it. Inquire into this business.
HERE'S a conundrum. A bird heard a man give it out in Canada:
I went into the woods and I got it. After I got it I searched for it. But I had it in my hand all the time, and at last went home because I couldn't find it.
JACK knows where there is a tallow tree.
"Is it a make-believe tree, made out of tallow, like candles?" you ask. Oh, no; the tallow tree is a real tree that grows from twenty to forty feet high. Its native place is China, but it has been transplanted into some of our hot-houses. The tallow comes from seeds. They are pounded and boiled in water, when something like fat rises on the top. This fat is skimmed off and when cold it is as white as snow and almost as soft. The Chinese mix this vegetable tallow with wax to harden it, and out of the mixture make candles, which give a clear, bright light. Now, then, if you want a candle, and you know any one who has a hot-house with a tallow tree in it, it would be better for you to buy a candle in a grocery store; for I do not believe you could make one without wasting a great many tallow-plant seeds.
IN parts of Switzerland, when two men have quarreled with each other, and their friends are anxious to see them reconciled, they endeavor to bring them unawares under the same roof. If the two enemies sit down at the same table they are pledged to peace. They break a piece of bread together, and are friends once more. It would be a good idea if every boy or girl who quarrels with another boy or girl, should "make-up," and become reconciled the moment they happened to eat bread together in the same county; at least, that is what Jack thinks about it.
HERE is a little news! Some clever children in New York, known as the Vaux Brothers & Co., have printed a book of their grandmother's recipes for cooking, printed it with their own hands and in the very neatest style. Their grandmother is the best cook in the country, they say. It is evident that they have grand visits at this dear grandmother's house, and that they are not willing to keep the secret of her wonderful dinners and suppers to themselves. They've very sensibly bound blank sheets in the book for the convenience of house-keepers, and I'm told the printed recipes are excellent, telling how to make good soups, salads, biscuits, and every delicacy down to the cake called snichadoodles. I object to this last. It takes three eggs, and that's nothing more nor less than murder.
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